Saturday, May 31, 2008

Moon-washed College Halls


I discovered this one soon after I went to college, and Fish's lyrics, although obscure at times, were very attractive to me as a wannabe writer. The album's conceptual themes of losing one's innocence and saying goodbye to one's childhood (and later reconciling with one's childhood) also resonated with me in being away from home for the first time. Throughout high school I listed mainly to metal, punk, and post-punk (and a few of the "classic" rock bands like the Beatles and Pink Floyd, but once at college I broadened my horizons in all directions, one of which was progressive music. I picked this up because Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden said Marillion was his favorite band. Kim wasn't really into Celtic Frost, Slayer or the Dead Kennedys, so Marillion, like Floyd, became something we could listen to while hanging out and studying. Most high school music memories are of times with friends or by myself, most college music memories are of Kim.

"Kayleigh" is a very sad but beautiful song about a breakup, and it was a favorite of ours throughout our time together at school, so much so that we knew what we'd name our daughter when she was born some years later.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Reviews and News

A new review at the wonderfully named site Necromancy Never Pays. Check it outhere. Lots of other reviews can be found in the "Reviews" section.

Also, a few more additions to the "Calendar" section.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Back Pages

I thought this was pretty funny. I had occasion recently to look at my high school yearbook (don't ask) and saw that I'd listed as my ambition: "To write profoundly, meaningfully, and prolifically enough to win love, respect, honor, and, above all, immense royalty checks."

Ah, callow youth. And so many adverbs!

My quote was the first two verses and chorus from "Wasted Years" by Iron Maiden.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

And Everyone You Meet

A few new reviews in the 'Reviews' section--check 'em out.

DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, by Pink Floyd,1973

My parents bought me a Sears stereo for Christmas, 1984. The Sears stereo was a paragon of utilitarian design, a lightweight box construction that had a turntable, eight-track player, and dual cassette deck. This was in ye olde dayes, kids, before digital music, when we used to dub music by hand--by hand, I tell you!--listening carefully for the exact moment to lift the needle or pause the cassette to conserve the maximum amount of usable tape. I think back to all of the hours I spent making mixtapes, when now I can make a huge setlist on my computer in about five minutes. It was painstaking work, and woe betide a sibling who walked past the stereo with heavy feet when the recording light was on.

My parents bought me three records that Christmas as well, two Iron Maiden 12 inch 45s, the Aces High and Two Minutes to Midnight singles, and Dark Side of the Moon. It was a gatefold record, which was a big deal back then, and it came with two posters and a bunch of stickers.

One of the many things that fascinates me about this album is how its meaning to me morphs over time. Already more than a decade old by the time I got it at age fifteen, it instantly became my favorite album to listen to on the headphones while doing homework, writing, reading, or just staring up at the ceiling. It was an album I'd put on when I started dating Kim and was background music throughout our time in college together. When my kids were babies, I liked to put Dark Side on when rocking them to sleep, always making sure to turn it down when the alarm clocks hit at the beginning of "Time", although usually they fell asleep before "Breathe in the Air" was over. Old Santana records used to knock 'em out, too. I expect that it will have another meaning for me when my kids grow up and leave the house.

Depending on my mood, I can listen to the album and summon up any of these memories, and more. If I feel the need to connect with my teenage self, or the me when I was a young man in love, or the me who held and rocked his babies, feeling their tiny hearts beating against my chest and hearing "Long you'll live and high you'll fly" play softly from the speakers, I can just by listening the the album. And if I don't want to reach back into the past, I can play the songs, open my mind, and connect with the present, or if I'm really fortunate, the future.

Some albums are static; I'll listen to them and they'll take me to a specific moment in time and that's great, but my favorites seem to be the ones whose meaning and "feel" grows and changes along with me. This is one record in particular that never seems to let me down in that regard.

Monday, May 12, 2008


I just read an article in Blender magazine about how emo kids are basically the most hated form of life in Mexico. The article mentioned that acts of violence against "Los Emos" were practically state sanctioned, and how they were frequently attacked "by everyone-an ad hoc collection of punks, skaters, gangsters, metalheads and goths." Whaaaaaat? Goths are beating up emos? I thought emos were just goth kids with no sense of history.

Violence based on music and style preference is pretty ludicrous to me. The article says that many who attack "Los Emos" do so in the mistaken belief that all emos are gay, which is equally disturbing.

I can remember some music culture clashes in my own youth. I can remember going to a Metallica concert where the Cult were the opening act, and a bunch of Metallicaheads started beating on some Cult fans under the then popular rallying cry of "Death to False Metal!". I listened to a lot of metal, but I loved the Cult and all sorts of other music. I still like a lot of "false metal".

My favorite bands at the time were Iron Maiden and the Smiths, so, keeping in the spirit of things, every so often I'd punch myself in the face for liking the Smiths. But because I liked the Smiths, I'd always follow this with a cutting remark to myself that would make me question the very nature of human interaction while laying my soul open to the very world that did not understand me.

Seriously though, folks--does initiating a beat-down on someone because of a haircut, a musical preference, or a fondness for guyliner seem like a reasonable response?

I thought the zombies had it bad.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day

I didn't exactly tell the entire story of my road trip on the May 6th road trip blog. A little more happened than just me hunting for my books and eating cheeseburgers. There was a moment where I lost my, um, stuff.

I lost my mother to cancer some years ago. She was the person in my life who most encouraged my love of reading and writing when I was very small, and as I continued to pursue my dreams of writing fiction she was always encouraging me. The day before she died, I was able to tell her that I had a book offer for a thriller I'd written and that the "writing thing" was starting to work. I think it was our last happy moment together; even through the incredible amount of pain she was in she had a smile and encouraging words for me.

The deal fell through about a week after she died. I was still grieving, and the deal collapsing made me feel as though the thing I'd told her to cheer her up in her last days had been a lie. I'd had no control over it, the publisher went bankrupt, but even so I'd felt like I let her down. I never stopped writing, but I did take a hiatus from submitting my work for awhile.

It was a very emotional experience seeing my book on the store shelves. All sorts of things were going through my head that day, among them regrets that not everyone I'd loved was there to see my dream realized. I was heading back so I'd be home in time for my own children, who my mom never got the chance to meet. "Return to Innocence" by Enigma (on a set list I'd named "Happy", ironically enough)cued up on the ole iPod, and I realized that I'd played that song for her the last time just she and I went out to lunch together a few weeks prior to her becoming bedridden. The song was playing, and my book was finally on the shelves, and it was just before Mother's Day and she isn't here to see it.

The road kind of got blurry for the next few miles.

Give your mom an extra kiss and a hug today, and whenever you get a chance in the days that follow. You won't regret it. And if you can't be with your mom, give her a call, and if you can't call write or send her an email or a smoke signal or whatever you can to get your message through, because your mom is someone who is always pulling for you, even if she is no longer around for you to see her doing it.

And sending flowers won't hurt, either.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Reviews + Blog of Doom Part Two

I've posted links to a number of online reviews of Generation Dead over on the right beneath the pictures. My sincere thanks to all of the reviewers for taking the time to read the book and write about it for all the world to see.

And now, for Blog of Doom Part Two: THE NIGHT DANNY GOT TO SEE HIS SKULL (Rated R for violence and gore).

I lost forty pounds the summer after I graduated from college (No, that was not the weight of my skull when it fell out of my head. It's my story, just try and be patient, willya?). I was working two jobs, writing late at night, and spending every moment I wasn't with Kim playing basketball. I really didn't start playing basketball until I was out of college, but I'd fell in like with the game watching the Huskies and then fell in love with the game watching the Bulls beat the Lakers in the '91 playoffs. I learned most of the rules and strategy playing the game on Sega Genesis.

By the end of that summer, I have to say I had skills. In fact, I'd even go as far as to say I had mad skillz, especially for a slow guy of average height, no vertical leap, massive allergies, and who'd never played in his youth. I'd still get lost in a team game, but one on one or two on two with my friend Mark G. I was pretty tough to beat.

I was rarely, if ever, the best player on the court, but I would wear people down with my intensity. I would never stop, I would never quit, and I was a terror on defence. What I lacked in speed, height and vertical, I compensated slightly for with good footwork, quick hands and a good handle. I can shoot pretty good, too. I would scrap and scrum for every single point and play. Basketball and writing were a lot alike for me in that way.

Anyhow, one night I was down at the schoolyard shooting under the lights, half-watching a rowdy five on five game in the next court. A couple other guys were shooting around too and one of them says, "Hey, let's play Canadian basketball." I'd never heard of Canadian basketball, but apparently it meant the three of us were playing against each other, with shooter's outs. I scored two before tossing a brick that one of my opponents rebounded. I moved into position to cut off his lane to the hoop, and then I discovered that Canadian basketball must have gotten it's name because it ended up being a lot more like hockey.

WHAM! The guy whipped around, trying to evade his other defender, and the top of his head, smashed into my forehead just above my left eye. I'm certain now that his head must have been covered with bony protuberances, similar to a Styrachosaurus, because instantly my head split and a long spray of blood fell spurted from me onto the asphalt.

Mr. Bony-Head was sort of wobbling around, but both he and the other each gave me a train-wreck expression. the five-on-five next court stopped also so everyone could get a good look.

"Man," one of them said, "you need to get to the doctor."

"Really?" I said. I felt great, actually. No lights, no headache, just a waterfall of blood in my eye. I walked over to my car (the Storm, this was before the drunk totalled it, and me--and saw Something New.

My skull.

I walked to my mother-in-law's house, which was right next door to the courts. She started to say hi, and then saw me and kind of shrieked. I was actually very calm despite the gore and the literal vision of my own mortality, and I cracked some jokes and tried not to notice her hands shaking as she sped me to the emergency room.

The hospital is only five minutes away, so before long I was on a table getting stitched up. The doctor thought my injury was really neat so he invited about seventeen of his doctor buddies to form a ring around me and watch him work. That was real pleasant--I fear doctors the way other people fear clowns. Still, I kept up with the joking, leaving them in stitches while they put stitches in me. Twenty-one of them later, and about as pretty as I was when I went in, I was ready to roll.

I passed Mr. Bony-Head on my way out, he ended up with a concussion. I think I got the better end of the deal, especially because after seeing my skull I had all these great ideas for stories, many of them having nothing at all to do with skulls. Plus now I could also see the future, move small objects with my mind, and fly. I'm kidding (about the flying part). But much like the encounter with the drunk driver a few years later, actually getting to see one's skull makes one think about life and how to live it in new and unanticipated ways. At least it did for me.

I still like to play basketball, although it is fair to say I've lost a step. I'm happy to say that my skull has remained inside my head where it belongs in every game since.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Book of Tomorrow...Today!

Ok, so in retrospect being at the bookstore the exact moment it opens might not have been the smartest move in order to see GD on the shelves. I used to manage a chain bookstore, and to be honest, there were many days where the weekly "changeover" did not happen as fast as I'd like. Or even in that week, actually.

Of course, that was back in the day, before the age of the Book Superstore, where there are a staff of 24-hour Killbots that shelve the books all through the night (I don't know why the superstores insist on buying Killbots, when plain old robots would do. Only the ideas are dangerous at a bookstore).

The Killbots were busy, but there were a ton of new releases set for May 6th, many of them by established authors with three or four or two dozen books under their belt, so I'm sure the Killbots had to set all their stuff up before giving some love to the rookie.

Here's the breakdown of what I saw and experienced:

Bookstore #1, 9:30 a.m. No Generation Dead on the shelf. In-store computer says it is "likely" in the store. Clerk thinks there might be a box of them. I resist the urge to kick the castle that the Killbots have built out of copies of a certain other book with a May 6 release date at the front of the store when I leave.

Bookstore #2: 9:45 a.m. I spy five copies of GD on a rolling cart. The clerk asks if I need any help and I scurry away, drawing my cloak over my face.

Bookstore #3: 10:00 a.m. No visible copies of GD, but the clerk is sure he's seen it over the weekend, and even describes it as being "the one with the cheerleader, right?" I resist the urge to have him describe it further, even though there are approximately 857 books in the Teen section with a cheerleader on the cover. Anyhow, the in-store computer says there aren't any in the store, and the clerk thinks he remembers selling one over the weekend, so he tells me that "they must have sold out. I resist the urge to ask him how many copies they had, what the buyers were like, and was he certain that they were going to good homes.

Notice How many urges I am suppressing? That can't be healthy.

Bookstore #1 10:15 a.m. Because my other favorite hobby is smashing my own head against my desk, I go back to bookstore #1. Still no GD in sight.

Bookstore #2 10:20 a.m 5 copies of GD are now displayed on the "Hot New Reads" wall. Yay!

I start the long drive towards home. I stop at a favorite fast food chain of mine and have a truly awful meal.

Bookstore #4 11:30 a.m. There is a nice "Teen Reads" table with lots of great books, and a stack of five copies of Generation Dead. In the main YA section, there are another five copies of Generation Dead on the shelf next to some of Scott Westerfeld's books. I'm excited about this because I really like Scott's books. Well, really I'm just excited to see GD on the shelf, but I really do like Scott's books. The clerk tells me that they actually sold a few over the weekend, and she speaks with, um, more credibility that the clerk from bookstore #3.

My spies and emissaries from far afield have called and emailed to say that they've seen the book in stores as well. Some of them go as far to say that they have purchased the book--bless them. Has anyone seen the multi-copy display? They had a few such displays (or "dumps", to use the common retail parlance) in bookstore #4 but not one for GD. I'd really like to see what that looks like, if anyone spots it.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Tomorrow Never Knows

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone. Celebrate responsibly.

Tomorrow, Generation Dead will finally be released. I plan to take a long drive to various bookstores to see it on the shelves, and in the places where they don't have it to throw a childish tantrum.

Yesterday this blog received more unique user hits than any other day, which is very cool. I wish that there was a web tool that could measure how unique each user was, then I could tell if normal people were checking the site as well as all of you exceptionally wonderful people.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Three days until Generation Dead hits the stores...

My good friends at Girl's Life are running an animated banner ad for GD that looks really slick. See it at here. You might have to refresh the page a couple times because it rotates with a couple other banner ads.

There is a new review of GD that actually makes me blush at The Story Siren that you can read here. Even I wanted to buy the book after reading it.

Speaking of buying books, I've kind of been going on a tear lately. My TBR pile looms and leans, threatening to crush me under weighty words. I've read 51 books thus far this year, and I've got at least that many more waiting.

I don't throw that number out to brag, although non-readers generally gasp if the sheer volume of my reading comes up. "Wow!" the exclaim, and I ego trip for a brief moment until they continue with "So that explains why you are a pale, myopic hunchback!"

Much of what I read is not Great Literature, although much of it is. I like steak and cheeseburgers (actually I'm not real big on red met, but it's late and that was the best I could come up with. I read for pleasure, but I'm lucky enough that my business life and my pleasure life have intersected and merges.

There are three things that a writer needs to do. There may be many more, but there are three that I am absolutely certain of. The first is obvious, but you would be surprised at how many aspiring writers overlook this simple fact: a writer needs to write. Second, a writer has to read. This is a law I am certain of. I'm less sure of the laws based around what and how a writer should read, but I'm sure of what works for me, in the same way I know "Crushing Belial" or "Where Eagles Dare" will get me going at the keyboard.

I read writers I admire obsessively, and if a work catches me I will probably rush out and get more from the same author, so I'm the proverbial "loyal reader". If I really, really like a book, I'll read everything the author wrote even if I hate the next couple I read. I take notes when I read. I read a metric ton of genre fiction every year, a lot of horror and science fiction. I will read a few classics I've somehow avoided each year, and I'll reread a handful of books each year. About a quarter of what I read is nonfiction. I'm a sucker for mystery novels with recurring characters, and I look forward to each new Spenser, Elvis Cole, Derek Strange, Sunny Randall, Dave Robichaux, Easy Rawlins, Jesse Stone, Nick Stefanos,Joe Pike, and Fearless Jones novel that comes out. I read books that I know are bad and sometimes I enjoy them. Sometimes I enjoy them because they are bad. I suspect that the bad books won't make me a better writer the way the good books have the potential to do. I read the Hot New Writers. I love old paperbacks from the 60's and 70's. What I read is usually, but not always, completely disconnected from what I'm writing. I'm in the library at least every other week. Strangely, I have read very little YA fiction, and am slowly beginning to correct that fact. I write a mini review of each book I read.

Again, that's some stuff that works for me.

A short review: 1. A writer must write 2. A writer must read.

I'll tell you the third thing later. I'm kind of tired and this writer must sleep.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

How to Write Like Danny Waters, PT. 1

I was talking to a writer friend the other day who told me that most of the people that visit writers' websites are people that want to write and are looking for inspiration, guidance, or the "magic bullet" that will bring their own writing into print. I love reading about writing. I'm also a process junkie; I love to listen to people talk about how they write, why they write, what they write about, any of it. I'm always looking and listening for new techniques and habits to try in the hopes that doing so will make me more productive, my writing more moving, my desk less messy. So, in the spirit of giving back to the universe that gave me so much on the topic, today I give to you the first in a series that will inform you how to write like Danny Waters.

Please note that the *How* in this case refers to my work mannerisms and process, not style. I would never suggest that an aspiring writer should write like me. You should only write like yourself. Or Shakespeare. Or maybe like Jack Handey, the guy that writes Deep Thoughts, only because I am really greedy for more Deep Thoughts because he doesn't write enough of them for me, and if there were an army of Jack Handey clones then I could have an endless supply of Deep Thoughts.

Oh wait, this was supposed to be a generous post, not more evidence of my overwhelming selfishness. Ahem.

How to Write Like Danny Waters

1. Take seat in front of computer or blank paper (note: seat optional)

2. Begin blasting "Crushing Belial" by Shadow's Fall from whatever electronic device is handy. If no such device is present, start singing "Crushing Belial" as loud as you can

3. Start typing or writing

That's pretty much it. Lather, rinse, repeat. People who have observed me working say things like: "How can you even think with that crap playing?", "What is that awful song?", "Must you torture me?" and "I guess proper hygiene was the first thing to go for your 'art', huh?"

Little do they realize that the reason I listen to loud music isn't because it helps me think, but because it drowns them out and ideally drives them away (the bad hygiene is good for that, too). Which, come to think of it, helps me think.

I kid. But usually I've thought so much about what I want to write so much before I get in front of the computer or the paper that I'm ready to go, and the adrenal charge that loud fast music gives me helps me go quick. I fall into a rhythm, a cadence. By the time I get through the scene that I'd been thinking about I'm usually so deep into that weird world where it begins to feel more like channeling than writing that the process just starts to take over. After about fifteen minutes I couldn't even tell you what the last song playing was--and if the writing is going really well I couldn't even tell you what song was playing right then without stopping to listen.

Sounds crazy, but that's how I roll. Many people I know need total silence to write--I can't stand silence. I need noise, but not random noise. I'm not recommending my method, nor am I saying Don't Try This At Home. If you want to write, try anything and everything, and then settle on what works for you.

Five more days...five more days until Generation Dead is out. I really can't be held responsible for anything I write on this blog until then, including this entry.

BTW, I use the process above for writing, but not for editing--which takes me much, much longer and is where the rubber really meets the road. And yes, I've often suspected that maybe the editing wouldn't "take much, much longer" if I didn't listen to bone-crushing heavy metal when I write, but that's what works for me.

Also btw, I actually have exceptional--some would say fastidious, even--hygiene. I'm very clean, and I have a collection of pleasing colognes that I wear in liberal but not overpowering doses.

Just thought you should know.

Five days...