Finally, after years and years, we have bought a house.  We had a house in Zimbabwe, but lost it and everything else we owned when we came to the U.S.  We immigrated with only $500.  We were so poor we didn’t even have a bed.  Harold, Daniel and I slept on a mattress on the floor with second-hand dog blankets for covers.  When winter came we couldn’t afford to put on a heater, so we curled up together and I read library books aloud for entertainment.  We didn’t have a TV or a car.  In fact we had to think twice about taking the bus because it cost all of 25 cents.  So you can see that owning a house is a huge thing.

The house is wonderful!  It is made out of thick straw bales reinforced by steel girders and keeps the temperature inside just right without heating or cooling.  The ceiling is 25 feet high, perfect for desert living because all the hot air goes up and a fan blows it away.  It used to be an artist’s place and next to the main building is another building with a large studio, large game room and an apartment for visitors.  All kinds of wild animals come to visit – Harold saw a herd of 20 javalinas nearby.  They look like wild pigs and are very curious and also near-sighted.  One almost came up to him.  In the evening dozens of rabbits come out.  There are coyotes and coatimundis that look like skinny raccoons.

The house is in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona just a few miles from where El Patrón had his summer residence and where the Oasis described in House of the Scorpion lies.  Unfortunately, the Chiricahua Mountains are a major drug-smuggling route so everyone has to carry a gun for safety.  I can’t see well enough to fire a gun and will have to trust to luck.  The other hazard is the rattlesnakes.  There are rattlesnakes everywhere and on cool nights they like to lean against the house for warmth.  That’s another reason to carry a gun and also a good flashlight.
   
Now I will answer some questions.  Thank you for wanting another Troll book and I will ask the editor about it when I finish the sequel to The House of the Scorpion.  It’s very difficult to work on two books at once.  When I am in one story, my brain won’t take in anything else.  I can’t even read novels.  All I see is blah-blah-blah because my own story rejects anyone else’s plot.  This is extremely tiring.  Sometimes I would like to take a vacation, but my brain won’t cooperate.

Ashley asked whether Matt and María are in love.  Absolutely.  When people are in love they don’t always talk about it.  They just know it’s true.

Several people have asked how you can keep a story going.  When they try to write, they run out of ideas in a couple of pages.  I was like that, too, when I was young.  I would get bogged down describing stuff and had no idea what I was going to do with the description.  After two pages I was bored and wanted to go for a walk or call up a friend.  Some writers start at an early age, but many don’t.  You can’t really write about things if you have no experiences.  I don’t mean exotic adventures like exploring Antarctica, but the closer-to-home experiences of observing your parents or siblings, getting a first job, falling in love, making a fool of yourself, or doing something brave.  When you find something really exciting, it’s easy to write about it.  And like learning to be an artist or a top athlete, practice makes perfect.
   
I was working on the sequel to Scorpion, but was interrupted by another not-too-scary eye operation and by buying the house.  The first draft of the book will probably be very close to the final draft.  I can’t give an exact date yet.  When I am set up in the new house I will plunge into writing full time.  This means I won’t cook, clean house or answer the phone.  Now and then Harold will steer me toward the shower or put a sandwich in front of me.  Writing can be intense.
   
I wish someone would make a movie of one of my books, but so far no one has shown much interest.  I honestly don’t know why.  The movie companies throw money away on awful remakes of old TV shows.  They think old people will go to see them, but they don’t. 

Special thanks to Jaspreet for his lovely letter.  More kids than you might think feel like outsiders, especially the intelligent ones.  Being an outsider makes you strong if you can get through it.  It’s the people who are content to be like everyone else in a comfortable herd who are missing out on life.
   
Early tomorrow morning Harold and I will travel to the Chiricahua Mountains to look at our new house.  It will take months to actually move in, but we can visit.  There is a forest fire about five miles away and the town is full of fire trucks, but at least it isn’t boring.