Publishers Weekly on IN REAL LIFE

From Publishers Weekly, October 3, 2014 (emphasis added)

Fifteen-year-old Seth aims to be the first American player to break into the professional online gaming circuit and readers will be swept into his struggle to find his niche in whatever “real life” may be. It’s murky turf for the math whiz, who has made his mark in the gaming world but questions his ability to measure up to the pros. Seth is even less assured in the offline world, where he feels overshadowed by his popular and athletic brother. His self-esteem gets a boost from Hannah — an artistic, intuitive classmate and coworker, and Tabak subtly and affectingly portrays the romance that develops between them. Seth’s decision to join a prestigious Korean gaming team jeopardizes their relationship, as well as Seth’s confidence. His candid and self-effacing narrative humorously exposes his seesawing emotions and sense of self: when he becomes an instant celebrity in Korea, he’s resented and shunned by his teammates, and Hannah’s long-distance aloofness compounds his loneliness. Tabak credibly navigates self-doubt, alienation, and resilience in his debut novel, which ends on a tantalizing open-ended note.



Just received the final cut — thanks for checking it out!

Also, my new postcard: InRealLifePostcard2_Page_2 InRealLifePostcard2_Page_1


Heartland Book Forum

Had a great time visiting with booksellers at the Heartland Book Forum in Minneapolis Oct. 1-2. Lots of amazing book store owners and staffers from everywhere from Kentucky to Missouri to North Dakota. Signed and gave away a lot of books — what could be more fun?



Uncategorized Talks with Tabak


For the author’s look at eSports and the story behind IN REAL LIFE check out this interview:


From — “Eagerly Awaiting IN REAL LIFE”

Thanks Meghann and!

                                          “Why I’m Waiting…

I feel like it’s been FOREVER since I’ve read about a male protagonist. I love my girls and all their fierceness but I’m ready to flip the coin. I love to travel so I’m really excited about the “culture shock” Seth is set to experience in Korea. Gaming, professional gaming is not something I’m super knowledgeable about however I know all about people distractions so the balance is real.”

New York Times and Gaming

For a comprehensive review of the pro-gaming world that is the backdrop for my YA novel, IN REAL LIFE, check out this feature from last Sunday’s NY Times. This story was front page, above the fold, with a huge picture from The International Dota2 tournament in July in Seattle.


Biggest eSports Event Ever

The International Dota2 tournament to be held July 18-21, 2014 in Seattle now has a purse of $10.3 million. This is larger than the men’s tournament at Wimbledon, or the Preakness, Belmont Stakes and Kentucky Derby combined.

Here’s the current (July 3) breakdown of the prize pool — keep in mind that the teams have at least 5 players. Note the cruel drop from #8 to #9 — not sure why this is so. Anyone out there know? Anyone?

1. $4,740,174 (46%)
2.$1,391,138 (13.5%)
3.$978,949 (9.5%)
4.$772,854 (7.5%)
5.$618,284 (6.0%)
6.$618,284 (6.0%)
7.$489,474 (4.75%)
8.$489,474 (4.75%)
9.$46,371 (0.45%)
10.$46,371 (0.45%)
11.$36,067 (0.35%)
12.$36,067 (0.35%)
13.$20,609 (0.2%)
14.$20,609 (0.2%)
15.$0 (0%)
16.$0 (0%)


Console Wars

When I saw the first notices for Blake Harris’s new book, Console Wars, about the battles between Sega, Nintendo and Sony in the 1990s, I immediately flashed back to my own console wars. My elder son was born in 1987, the year after Nintendo launched its first gaming platform, NES, with its addictive new game, Super Mario Brothers. He was three when the first Game Boy hit the shelves. By five, he was begging for both. Regularly, obsessively, unrelentingly. For years.

As this encyclopedic recap details, my son was part of a huge new, rapidly growing industry. The book, the result of hundreds of interviews, focuses on the executives at Sega and Nintendo and their often frantic efforts to keep up with the competition and the rapidly shifting technology. While not everyone will be intrigued by the weight of detail, much of it peripheral to the central strains of the story, it is chock full of revelations. For instance, who recalls that in 1990 only 15% of American homes had a computer, while close to 30% had a Nintendo console?

The central character, and one supposes source, for the book is Sega executive Tom Kalinske, a former Mattel executive who had helped put Barbie into pink bedrooms everywhere. He steps into what seems an impossible task: competing with the lock hold Nintendo has on the industry, with some 90% of the U.S. market cornered. Nintendo has the best game developers under exclusive contract, retailers in thrall by constricting supply below demand, and the iconic characters of the decade with Mario and his cohorts. The bulk of the story is how Kalinske and his carefully chosen colleagues wrest market share from Nintendo until they actually crown Sega and Sonic the Hedgehog number one. But not for long. As Console Wars expresses again and again, nothing is for long in the fickle world of consumer electronics where today’s hot product is tomorrow’s museum piece.

Here are some of our artifacts from those early days of computer gaming. John Madden football and Lemmings turn out to be important components of the story detailed by Harris.




My Basketball Essay Now Live At

Veterans Auditorium, Des Moines, March 1981

For the full story visit:



A Great Wisconsin Novel

  This book has had such great rewards that it’s paid for itself many times over. Of course, this is coming from a Wisconsonite, who will soon be driving, like one of the rotating first-person POVs, through the Dells, north through the pinelands towards Eau Claire, to pick up my son at UW-Eau Claire. But even if the physical terrain is unfamiliar, the psychic landscape of these 30-something characters will hit home, resoundingly. Is every voice of the rotating narratives convincing rather than uniformly literary? No, but cut Nickolas some slack. He tells the story with such warmth and heart that quibbles are soon forgotten. This is a book which beckons you back to it like a warm fireplace on a Wisconsin winter night. Cozy up and enjoy.

P.S. Went to hear Nickolas read here in Madison on May 6 at the new public library to a group of about 60 people. He did a nice job, reading for about a half hour (the wedding scene, if you’re curious) before answering questions, mostly about the intersection of his life and his fiction. He had glowing things to say about his two-year stint in Iowa City at the Writers Workshop and was very down-to-earth — just a grown-up small-town boy.