Sunday, December 30, 2007
I actually like many bad movies--bad movies can be endearing because they are so bad. My favorite television show ever is Mystery Science Theater, which elevates the watching of rotten movies into a comedic art form. I don't know if even the comic genius of Michael J. Nelson and the writers of MST3K could find anything to laugh about in Chuck and Larry. Did I mention that I hate Chuck and Larry.
Adam Sandler, you used to make me laugh, but now you only make me cry.
Friday, December 28, 2007
The question bothered me for days, because I always thought that you really couldn't get any weirder than writing. The compulsion to write is in and of itself strange, and the end product of writing can be downright mystifying. I'm sure I'm not alone among people who write--whether they be avid hobbyists, seasoned professionals, or people who simply have no choice but to write--when I sometimes have no idea where an idea or a scene came from. Sure, I can track down the psychological or historical context for most of my work by rooting around in my brain, sifting through memories and tromping through the id. But some stuff...I don't know where it comes from.
And that, my friends,is weird.
But I guess writing doesn't qualify as a weird hobby for the little interview. I realized this in the act of adding the 24,959th song iPod, something I was doing by burning a track from one of my many albums into mp3 format. I was informed not soon afterwards that not only was the size of my music collection weird, taking the time to burn tracks off of vinyl onto mp3 when they were readily available digitally through iTunes or wherever else was weird. Owning vinyl is considered by some to be weird, although it is less likely to be considered so by people in my own age bracket, even those who donated their records to Goodwill soon after college.
I'm starting a new weird hobby. I'll try to embed a bit of music trivia into each post. In "Weird Hobby" lurks the name of a song that a British band who recorded on the Creation Label released as a single. Can you name the song and band?
So, what's yer weird hobby??????????
Monday, December 17, 2007
Or would that be colour me absolutely thrilled?
Pick any colour you like.
Simon & Schuster will be publishing Generation Dead and what is known contractually as "unnamed sequel". Unnamed sequel now has a name, and is ready for editing at Hyperion, which, along with the January road trip should make for an interesting kick off to 2008.
Special U.K. Tribute Bonus Music Question: I've embedded the title of a song by a great U.K. recording artist somewhere within this blog entry. Can you:
1. Name the artist
2. Name the album on which the song appears
3. Name the track #
4. Guess which member of the band I most resemble?
The first person to comment with all four questions correct will, um, waitaminute, let me see...
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I spent a few years working as a bookseller, a job I consider to be imbued with Noble Purpose (caps mine). Encouraging people to read, bringing reluctant or recalcitrant readers to "the good stuff"--such a task is chock full of nobility, if you ask me.
Those people work hard, and the sheer volume of customers can make for a stressful existence during the holiday season. People, please be kind, no matter what side of the counter you are on. Customers, be gentle if the clerk you are working with doesn't instantly recognize the title you are hunting for--the human mind was not meant to hold everything in the frontal lobe at all times. Booksellers, take heart. My mantra was "our customers read--or at least they know someone who does". Laugh if you will, but repeated that phrase fortified me when facing the hordes of desperate people pillaging the store for a last minute holiday gift. At the end of the day, what you've done is important. One deserving title in deserving hands that would not have been purchased without your effort represents yet another forward step in the progress of humankind.
Yes, I really believe that. To believe otherwise is madness.
So here's to the booksellers! I'm looking forward to meeting you!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
A few years ago I decided that I would try and read 104 books a year. Two a week, not so bad. I eclipsed that in September this year, which is pretty cool.
This year as part of my goal I read the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain(Evan Hunter). I still have four left, but I'll wrap them up by the end of the year. The series will account for fifty-five books of my list this year, about a third of the whole list. I had to read the series in order, of course, and had a lot of fun trying to track down some of the older ones, some of which are out of print, in used bookstores and libraries. I was intrigued by the idea of having a cast of characters recurr over so many books--not the mention that Mr. McBain wrote them over a half cetury. The first, Cop Hater, came out in 1956, and the last, Fiddlers, came out the year of his death in 2005. I'm amazed by how consistently good the series was, and how much I'd come to feel for his characters. I'm going to be very sad to finish the series, really.
By the way, I'd like to mention that my daughter Kayleigh, age nine, decided this year that she'd like to set a reading goal. She is at #49 of her goal and closing fast. I'm very proud of her!
Friday, November 30, 2007
Also animals. So many cool animals I sometimes feel like a character in one of the Thorton Burgess stories I read by the bushel when I was younger.
My wife called the kids and I to the window this morning because there was a fox loping across the neighbors' yard, a beautiful orangey-amber colored animal, a bit larger than our dog Bonny. We always get a little nervous when we see animals in the yard because we live on a very busy street. Sureenough, the critter wanted to cross--and this was just before school, where a seemingly endless parade of buses comes barreling down our hill to distribute children throughout the city's school system. We held our collective breath as the fox ran across just as a large furniture truck zoomed past. I'm happy to report it made it to the other side safely, and hopefully is ignoring the neighborhood cats along its way to the woods beyond.
A note about our dog Bonny before I go on: she is fourteen years old. She was an abused dog that my wife adopted from an animal shelter as a Valentine's Day gift to ourselves. We've had her thirteen of those fourteen years and we love her even though she's a little cranky as a senior canine than she was as a young dog. I invariably compare the size of any animal I see to Bonny, so from here on out I will use a new standard of measurement: the bonny. The fox was approximately one and a quarter bonnys. To help illustrate just how big a bonny is, here's a picture of Bonny:
Other critters I have seen in recent weeks in my yard include a woodchuck (one bonny, but fatter), a six-point deer, his wife and their fawn(nine bonnys, six bonnys and three bonnys, respectively), and the neighbors' cat Lucky (3/4 of a bonny). The woodchuck was around a lot in October, when our two apple trees were laden with fruit. He was a pretty regular customer, and I'd see him running along the hedge with a big apple in his mouth. The deer came because they apparently like the buffet we prepared just for them with our garden. I didn't mind losing the vegetables as much as I did the morning glories, the buds of which the deer seem to love the way I love Chinese food. I literally chased them out of the yard at midnight a couple times, waving my arms and hooting like the gorilla I'm said to resemble, trying to save my favorite flowers.
Lucky just comes because she likes to tease Bonny.
I also saw a ring-necked pheasant earlier this week, a few days after the holiday. I made a joke about it to a friend of mine who hunts, saying I was glad he hadn't been around lately. He told me that ring-necked pheasants don't inhibit our state. When I presented photographic evidence (seen below), he theorized that the bird was an escapee from a "stocking" program, wherein a buch of pheasants and turkeys are released prior to Thanksgiving for hunters. The one I saw must have been the wiliest of birds, because he'd survived past turkey day and he hauled tail ( a long, beautifully feathered tail, by the way) when I tried to shoot him with my camera.
Here he is, fleeing down Woodchuck Row:
I wish you well, friend pheasant. I wanted you to know you can hide out in my garage until the trouble blows over, if you want.
I love working at home.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Also flying fast and furious: the money out of my wallet in the dealers' room. Man, I love books, and this convention had all of the beautiful rare and out of print stuff right alongside the newest and noteworthiest releases--and the cool thing is that many of the authors and artists that created those works are right there at the convention.
Two of my major weaknesses are gently used paperbacks from the sixties and seventies and art books. The paperbacks are cool because you can usually get them on the cheap; I loaded up a number of great fantasy and horror paperbacks at the show (Fritz Leiber novels with the Jeffrey Jones covers!)and at a great local bookstore called The Lyrical Ballad. Not so economical are the art books, which unfortunately have the tendency to become Must Haves upon sight. The 2 volume Barry Windsor-Smith collection Opus was one such Must Have. I could have bought a lot o' paperbacks for what I paid for the set, but it is gorgeous beyond belief and what is money anyhow but a less attractive form of paper?
Buying books to get signed is always cool too, even though I am still prone to geeking up around people's work I admire. I totally geeked up when talking to Kelly Link, for example, who I think has one of the most unique and wonderful voices in fiction today, and also around Peter Straub, who consistently produces some of the best supernatural fiction ever written. I may be a professional writer, but I think I'll always be a fan first.
The panels were wonderful--I'm always amazed at how many story ideas I get from listening to creative people talk about subjects they are passionate about. Sometimes all it takes is an offhand comment to get the synapses firing.
I think they are firing now, in fact. Either that or I put too much sugar in my coffee again
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007
There was a big box on my doorstep this afternoon from Hyperion Books. The box was filled with advance reading copies, or "arcs", of my forthcoming novel Generation Dead. The books are beautiful, thanks to the stunning design by Elizabeth H. Clark and the beautiful cover photo shot by Ali Smith. You can click on the above image to see every nuance and detail of their work, as well as read a description of the book and all the whiz-bang promotion Hyperion and I will be doing as we approach the books' release.
I love the blue sky. Some of my favorite books feature blue sky on their covers--Infinite Jest and The Illustrated West With the Night come to mind. Really green grass is nice, too. Not to mention gorgeous blondes like the one on the cover of Generation Dead. I find I generally like books with gorgeous blondes on the cover, even if they don't have any words. My book has lots of words, and I'm happy to report they are easily readable, thanks to the twelve point Griffo Classico font. By odd coincidence, Griffo Classico is also my favorite brand of spaghetti sauce.
I kid. I would never eat store bought tomato sauce.
But if I did, it would definitely be Griffo Classico!
The arc is slick and cool against my cheek, and has the most interesting aroma, with undertones of oak, sandalwood and sage beneath the more bookish scents of newsprint and ink. A marvel of book design, really. If you ever tire of having Generation Dead on your bookshelf (unlikely, unless you are some Eco-monster who hates green grass and blue sky and gorgeous blondes) you could throw it in your sock drawer to keep your stockings, nylons and lederhosen smelling fresh.
Okay, I'm a little goofy, but it isn't every day you get an arc for your first ever soon to be published novel. In fact, it is exactly one day, and for me it is today, October 1, 2007. I'm a little excited.
Friday, September 21, 2007
I did, however, get to appear on a panel called "Selling That First Novel", which was hosted by F. Paul Wilson. Mr. Wilson's newest novel BLOODLINE was published this week and should be purchased by you, today if at all possible. I got to share a table with Sarah Langan, Mary Sangiovanni, Rhodi Hawk and Nate Kenyon (you should buy their books as well), and we all discussed our experiences breaking into the field.
We talked about some of the things we did to get our work "out there", and I got a few laffs when I related a true story about a conversation I had with Paul prior to me selling anything. I attended the first Borderlands workshop where Paul was an instructor, and as an instructor he had to read a section of my work prior to the class. When it came time for Paul to offer me a critique and advice on the work, he looked me square in the eye and said, "I can't help you."
Only later did I realize that it was a compliment.
(Maybe you had to be there...)
The conference was fun, I enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones. The absolute highlight was when Gahan Wilson drew a portrait of me in a book I asked him to sign. I wonder if Hyperion will let me use the portrait in place of my author photo for Generation Dead? As promised, I ran amok in the dealers room, buying stacks of yellowing paperbacks from the seventies. Other than the Gahan Wilson books (I bought two) my favorite scores were a book called Summer Sketches, by one of my favorite authors, Dan Simmons, and Kiddology, a fascinating book of art and biography from artist guest-of-honor Tom Kidd.
I'll be heading to my first ever World Fantasy Convention in early November, which I'm looking forward to as a number of my literary heroes are scheduled to be in attendence. And I might even have some promotional material for GENERATION DEAD which I can scatter around the conference center. You should go, too. Just don't buy any of the mouldering paperbacks from the sixties and seventies until I get to check them out, okay?
Saturday, June 30, 2007
I can't write about certain details of the conference, as the conference motto is "what happens at Necon, stays at Necon". This will be the twenty-seventh year that the conference is being held; why the organizers haven't sued the Las Vegas tourism bureau yet, I don't know. Suffice to say that the the conference is three hundred writers, artists and fans, and they are all staying in a college dormitory--you can fill in the blanks.
There are a few things that I think I write about without fear of reprisal; I don't think the conference omertà extends to the dealers' tables and Olympic events. My particular event is what the Neconites call Hi-Lo Jack. When I was in college we called it Setback, and my roommate and I were a formidable team, almost as formidable as my partnership with my cousin Matt. Hi-Lo Jack uses one deck of cards and has four points which the players bid on, the High, the Low, the Jack, and the Game. The High, Low and Jack are only worthwhile in the bid winners' trump suit, whereas all Game cards count for game. In totaling Game, Aces are four points, Kings three, Queens are two, the Jacks are worth a point, and tens are ten points. The game at Necon is Cutthroat, meaning that the four players are out for themselves and not partnered, and they play a version where the dealer can steal a matching bid, i.e. take a three bid away from another bidder for three and not four the way the rest of the non-dealing saps would need to.
Anyhow, I always considered myself pretty good at Setback. I'd never played it Cutthroat style, however, and I'd certainly never played Rhode Island Cutthroat Hi-Lo Jack, which left me pretty nervous, actually. Like I was afraid the Necon Police would drag me out and throw me into the bay if I didn't put up a decent showing.
Unfortunately, my nerves must have caused my already grim expression to set throughout the competition, because after I won the first round to advance to the finals I overhead one of the campers say, "What the heck is with that guy? You think maybe he could have smiled once, like when you dealt him Ace-King-Queen of hearts?"
Her companion, rightly, pointed out that there wasn't a whole lot you could do when one person got the cards, and the other three didn't.
I'm not normally unfriendly, and I'm not really shy, but there was something about playing in a tournament with a bunch of people (writers!) who knew both the rules and each other that caused me to present an unpleasant, boorish card sharp image to my fellow players, an unfeeling automaton like one of those World Series of Poker jerks who sits in reptilian repose, not even twitching as they coldly game their way through a million dollar hand.
It didn't help my likability at all when I won the finals in four hands. First to eleven wins (and you need to win by two), so I would have needed to have at least three three bids and a two bid. Not bad when you consider that the quickest you could win a game of Hi-Lo Jack is in three hands.
My fellow players were a gracious bunch, and were very kind to me after I explained that I was really not some grifter playing a short con, that it was really just nerves and social awkwardness that caused me to play like the Borg. They joked with me about it over drinks in the quad, and even clapped and cheered for me when I accepted my gold medal (although there was one fellow camper who I think was gritting her teeth at me throughout the ceremony, and I thought about the ladies' at my Mom's bingo hall when I was ten years old, how they pinched my cheeks with intense fervor on the night I won the forty dollar fill-the-card Blackout jackpot).
There actually was a gold medal, and I'm thrilled to say that it was designed and cast by none other than Gahan Wilson, whose cartoons have graced The New Yorker and Playboy among others. Mr. Wilson has created a few of my favorite cartoons ever, including my all time favorite, the caption of which is "I paint what I see, child."
Had I known about the actual medal ahead of time, I think I would have been even more nervous and loathsome, because I would really, really have wanted to win.
Here's a picture of my *ahem* Hi-Lo Jack Gold Medal:
I'll write about my adventures at the dealer tables a little later. Gripping, edge of your seat stuff, I know.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
I'm not the Dan Waters who makes pottery, nor am I affiliated in any way with Dan Waters Auctioneers. I'm not the Dan Waters who is a poet, printer and printmaker on Martha's Vineyard. I'm not the Dan Waters who formed the Cool Waters band with his brother Greg, although I'm a little jealous of them.
I'm not the Canadian politician, but you can read all about him on Wikipedia. I'm not the track star or the pitcher (these two might actually be the same person, but I've been too lazy to check). I'm not the guy who writes software, or the Dan Waters who is the Director of Retail policy at the Financial Services Authority. I'm not the Dan Waters who is a cowboy in Fayette, Missouri and is nicknamed "Big Muddy", although my brother Mark, who is a fireman, is called Muddy by his pals at the station. Most of my nicknames are unprintable.
I'm not the Methodist pastor, the member of the Royal Asiatic Society, the guy who wrote Faces of Hong Kong or the other guy that wrote That's Life in the Big Ten, each available on Amazon.com.
I've now gone through twenty five Google pages of Dan Waters entries, and the only one that is actually a reference for me is a listing on the NECon registration page. And me, with my grand life of accomplishment! It hardly seems fair, but I refuse to be depressed. Somewhere out there a Google hit awaits me. The real me.
In seventh grade my world was rocked when I learned that another Dan Waters had enrolled in my school. This upstart Dan Waters did not look like me or talk like me, and, frankly, did not like me. Not that I can blame him. We sort of circled each other warily, giving each other a wide berth in the rare moments we would cross paths in the dim halls of Murphy Junior High, as though we were afraid actual physical contact might annihilate us both. I would see him at the corners of my vision, talking to a mutual friend or eating from a small bag of Doritos, which happened to be my favorite brand of snack chip at the time. Was that a mocking smile on his lips as he bit into the folded over ones, my favorites? Even eye contact with Dan Waters was painful to me.
Thankfully, we ended up going to different high schools, so we only had to endure two years of each others' abhorrent company. But every so often the phone would ring and it was not me but that other Dan Waters that the girl on the other end of the line was asking for. I would wonder: is his father named Jeff Waters, like mine? Did he, like me, have a beagle mutt named Pennies that would jump up to take a piece of cheese (and sometimes, I admit, a Milk Bone) from his clenched lips? Did he read comic books and watch hours of cartoons after school like I did? Probably not, which was why the girls were calling him, and not me.
I often wondered what became of Dan Waters--maybe he is the poet, or the cowboy, or the doctor that I read about in Wisconsin. Wherever he is, I wish him well. I'm feeling a bit more self-actualized these days, and I no longer resent my many namesakes' their varied accomplishments, even if Google is kinder to them than me. We seem, over all, to be a pretty decent bunch of guys.
I finally cheated to get the Dan-o-centric Google tag I wanted, the one with the announcement of my novel sale to Hyperion on Publishers' Lunch Deluxe, by putting in "Dan Waters Generation Dead". Even then I have to go to the second page to find it. Generation Dead, by the way, is not the sequel to That's Life in the Big Ten. That's a different guy, remember.
So I eagerly click the link, feeling again the pleasant little stomach flip on reading the teaser announcing the sale, but again, disappointment looms. The link brings me to the login page for paying members of Publishers Marketplace, which I am not.
I wonder if Dan Waters is?