Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Phoebe Phan Art

I love the way you make my world go 'round

Wow! What a quick response! I'm thrilled to be able to show you the first GD-related pieces of art sent to the site, this one from undeadforlife (great tag, btw)

She writes:

My interpretation of Phoebe.

The model is my friend Erin...she most likely has more tatts than Phoebe would but I always kinda have this mental image of her when i read the book...

-The Most Awesome Zombie Loving Girl There Is,

Thank you, undeadforlife! And thanks to your friend Erin as well!

In other news, I'm still working on the New Year's Plan.

My 2008 in Review

Some of 2008's major accomplishments:

*Published a book (that was pretty cool)

*Lost thirty pounds (or the equivalent of two puppies)

*Finished Kiss of Life (cool)

*Wrote a metric ton (maybe some of it is cool)

*Read a hundred and eighty books (many of which were very cool)

*Managed to blog at least a couple times a month

*Met roughly three thousand, seven hundred and eighty-six cool people (roughly!)

That's on the personal/professional side--it was a great year for my family as well.

I'm not one for spontaneous bursts of enthusiasm, but I assure you--2009 is going to rock!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fan Art

Love is like oxygen

When I wrote about my friend Matthew Dow Smith the other day, I omitted the fact that I'm insanely jealous of him. Not because of his good looks, immense wealth, or exceptional taste in clothing, food and wine--but because he can draw. I can't draw. I always wanted to be able to draw, and I've put in countless hours of time trying to draw, but I just can't. Intellectually I can understand the mechanics of drawing and composition, but I just can't execute on the page. When I was younger I desperately wanted a career in comic books, but if I was ever going to get there, it wouldn't be through my artistic skill.

Second best is writing something that someone illustrates or represents through another artistic medium. Of the many wonderful moments associated with the publication of Generation Dead, the moment I received the jpeg of the cover (designed by the beautiful and obviously mega-talented Elizabeth H. Clark, who also did the stunning Kiss of Life cover) ranks very high up there. Especially because when I was told the concept for the cover, I absolutely hated it! But then when I saw the finished result, it was love at first sight, and from that moment on I decided I'd shut up and let people do their jobs.

This week I've discovered that other talented people have produced Generation Dead inspired artwork, which makes me even happier than the sugar and cream laden Tank of coffee that I just pounded (yes, I'm back on the bean). I ran across a website called, which has a few really, really nice GD inspired pieces. If you go to the site and do a search for "Generation Dead" (include the quotes, otherwise you'll get everything with either of those words in it) you can check it out.

Makes me think that I should find a place for so-called "fan art" here on the site. Hmmmmm....

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday

Make love your goal

My favorite Holiday? New Year's Eve. I use the holiday as a great excuse to participate in one of the great American pastimes: self reinvention. Beginning around Christmas Eve, I enter a week-long ritual of self-assessment and self-reflection, my long contemplative stretches offset by frenzied writing and note-taking. I review where I've been and where I want to go. I think about my family. I think about every aspect of my life, sometimes employing self-helpy, new-agey terms like "holistically" and "centering" and "enchilada", and decide this year, it will be different!

Guess what? Every year, I've been right!

Check out this cool review from Charles De Lint, which can also be found in the new issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction, here. A good review is always sweet, but having a writer that I admire as much as Mr. De Lint weigh in especially special.

Almost sixty degrees here in Connecticut. Went running this morning and a deer crossed my path yet again, maybe about ten feet away from me. Tried to catch her, failed. Next time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy of the Day--Special Gift Edition

Love, it don't come easy

What's the deal with all of these Happy Day moments? People are going to forget that I write about gloom, doom, and the living dead.

For many years, I've held fast to the idea that it is increasingly harder to make new friends as one gets older. The gave and take of true friendship, the willingness to have unguarded moments with people tends to go away, I always thought, once you you leave college and start putting on the trappings of adulthood. Then again, maybe I'm just a jerk, and always have been.

Flying in the face of my curmudgeonly beliefs is the fact that some of I've met some of my very closest friends just within the past couple years. Maybe it is because I have more opportunity to meet and spend time with writers and artists (i.e., freaks like me), or because I'm generally a more happy person than I was in previous career-incarnations, such as when I was a manager of various mall-based retail stores (shudder! Much love, clerks of the world! It will all be over in a few weeks!), but I've somehow been more able to make brandy-new friends recently. Plays well with others, that's me. But it is cool, because I really thought I was at an age where I couldn't make new friends anymore, in the same way I can never really enjoy a game of ghost in the graveyard or play in the sandbox with action figures (at least not with kids' my own age, anyhow).

Anyway, one of those friends is a guy by the name of Matthew Dow Smith, one of those scarily talented people who just seem to operate at a higher level of creativity than the rest of us. Matt makes his living as a comic book artist (Hellboy, X-Men, Supernatural), is a phenomenal writer, and can even play bass guitar. He's written for television and done artwork for computer games. He can probably lay a ceramic tile floor, bake better pies than your mom, and do reasonable forgeries of renaissance sculpture as well for all I know. I'm reasonably sure that he can't been his elbows backwards seventy degrees like I can though, so at least I've got that over him.

We met a few years ago at a writing workshop, a first for both of us, and basically were drawn together simply because we each liked the work the other submitted for the workshop. We ended up closing the hotel bar talking, and during our conversation we'd basically led very parallel lives, having grown up reading the same books, liking the same comic books, etc. We had such eerie points of similarity through our lives that I was almost afraid to shake his hand at the end of the night, in case we really were alternate universe doppelgangers whose touch would cause a cosmic cataclysm of universe-shattering proportions.

Luckily, we shook hands without incident, and we've been friends ever since, managing to get together at least a couple times a year for conferences and such even though there's many miles between us. And the workshop where we met ended up being, somewhat circuitously, the launch pad for my writing career, for first real "break" in the business. I can honestly say that might not have happened if I hadn't met Matt. At the very least, it wouldn't have happened in the same way if we hadn't connected like we did. The fact that we have remained friends makes the whole thing that much sweeter.

And sweeter still,today my friend Matt sent me one of the coolest Christmas gifts I've ever received, namely some of his original artwork!! The art features his character Fade, whose adventures began in the Negative Burn comic book and, God willing, will continue in the Fade prose novel that Matt is working on. It is a beautiful and touching gift, and I'm both proud and thrilled to have it.

Want to see it? Go to Matt's website HERE and check it out. That's the picture, right there on the homepage.

Someday, Matt and I hope to collaborate on a graphic novel together. We've got the ideas (crazy ideas! Mad ideas! But they just might work! )we just need that most elusive of commodities--time. Matt is busy drawing the upcoming Mirror's Edge comic for DC/Wildstorm and (God willing) working on the Fade novel, and I've been writing two new novels and editing a third.

Someday, though...someday!

Thanks, Matt! Merry Christmas to you, Claire and Sadie! Tell her that was a pretty sweet yeti she sent along for Star!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy of the Day/ My Wild Life Part XXIV

And they will never know, for love I sold my soul

I went jogging through the woods today--why not? It was a balmy sixty degrees here in Southeastern Connecticut! Someone had decorated one of the dwarf pines that lined the path through the woods; a dozen or so shiny round ornaments hung from the still-wet branches.

I figured out that I pass approximately .25 people in the woods each day I go jogging, and I actually go pretty often. Every other day at least, except I was sort of bad for a week or two after NCTE (I did use the treadmill once when I was down there, and walked about 17 miles up and down the river walk). What this means to me is that whoever decorated that tree is an exceedingly cool human being.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy of the Day

Our love is overdue

My editor sent me an email today letting me know that Generation Dead was named to Kirkus Review's Best YA Books of 2008.


I'm too stunned to even manage an adequate happy dance. Maybe with a little help from the Vince Guaraldi Trio, so fun to play at this time of year...

Thanks, Kirkus!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Gratuitous Puppy Photo!

I really love you, you're my best friend

Star had a ruff day helping set up the Christmas tree. Yes, we put her bed on the couch in case one cushion wasn't soft enough for her.

Why should I try to write anything entertaining on this blog? I have a beagle puppy.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Me and My Good Pal, Mr. King

And it made me love you, and it made me never want to go away

Hey there--

A couple of nice new reviews, one for GD from Anne at Starships and Books

and the first one I'm aware of on Kiss of Life from Karin at Karin's Book Nook

And check this out at Dark Scribe Magazine : Generation Dead was nominated for the magazine's Black Quill award, alongside Mr. King's Duma Key and others. Quite a thrill! There will be a "reader's choice" award alongside the editorial pick, so go ahead and stuff the ballot box for your favorite, even if it isn't mine!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Big Hearted Fun at NCTE

Burnin' love comes once in a lifetime

The NCTE convention was probably the most fun I've had at a promotional event this year, and not just because of the lack of anyone accusing me of corrupting the youth of America. I got to meet teachers and librarians from all over the place, including some who post on this blog (hi Sandi!), and San Antonio is just a very cool place.

I also was fortunate enough to meet dozens of the best authors writing YA fiction today, people who I've admired from a distance for years. I won't do a who's who for fear of leaving anyone out, but suffice to say I was pretty starstruck and probably babbled incoherently (or even more incoherently than usual) around many of the folks I met. I will, however, mention that I got to hang out with the fabulous E. Lockhart, who I was fortunate enough to begin my promo travel circuit with. E.'s book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was a well-deserved National Book Award nominee, as though you needed another reason to go read it. If you haven't, what are you waiting for?

And speaking of babbling incoherently, the folks at Hyperion shot some promotional footage of me, no doubt to capitalize on my radio-star good looks. Talk about a bizarre experience! For some reason I am pretty comfortable speaking in front of a group like I did at the panel I was on, and reasonably engaging one on one or in small groups, but I found hitting the grapefruits that Hyperion was serving me up during the "video interview" almost impossible to hit. At one point, when bungling yet another chance to describe Kiss of Life, I was asked "You did write the book, didn't you?" Yarg. Hopefully the Disney special effects team will take the footage and I'll come across as endearing as Wall-E. In fact, maybe they should just use footage of Wall-E with my voice over. Except my voice is probably pretty irritating so they should re-dub my answers in Wall-E's voice. Did I mention they played Wall-E on the airplane home? I love that movie.

Good times, good times. And I got home in plenty of time to act as my wife's sous-chef for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Say the word, love

I'm thankful for my family and my friends.

I'm thankful for everyone that took the time to read my book.

I'm thankful just to be here.

These were my thoughts walking around San Antonio last week, in between meeting dozens of brilliant and fascinating teachers, authors, and book people. How thankful I was. How very thankful.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

NCTE Schedule

I took the step to find love's great adventure

PLEASE NOTE THAT I NEGLECTED TO MENTION THAT THE SCHEDULED STUFF IS OPEN TO NCTE BADGE HOLDERS ONLY! DAGNABBIT! I will try to hang out in the lobby between 2:30-3:30 on Saturday and a couple times on Sunday if anybody wants to chat, get books signed, bring cake, etc. If you know you are coming drop me a comment with your projected time and email address and we'll figure something out.

My Official NCTE business:


Signing at the Hyperion booth: 11:00-12:00

Secret Stuff: 12:30-2:00

Panel "The Realities of Fantasy" 4:15-5:30

More Secret Stuff: 6:45-9:00


6:00-10:00 Still More Secret Stuff

And by "Secret Stuff", I mean publishers' dinners and lunches and such.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Texas is the Reason

I love the I misunderstood?

Today I sang, without accompaniment, the entire song "Astronomy Domine" to my puppy, Star. She was confused. As am I. Why do we do the things that we do?

Going to Texas in just a few days. I love Texas, so much coolness comes out of Texas it isn't even funny. I'm going to meet a bunch of great people, see a friend I haven't seen in (gulp)seventeen years, hang out with the dream team from Hyperion, and hopefully sign a few books. My favorite book concerning Texas? Texas Music by Rick Koster. My favorite pulp writer from Texas? Robert E. Howard. My favorite culinary delight from Texas? Texas Toast. My favorite horror punk band from Texas? Ghoultown. My favorite Texan nickname? Tex. My favorite sports nickname from Texas? Phi Slamma Jamma. Favorite basketball player from Texas? Clyde Drexler. Favorite sport statistic from Texas? Clyde Drexler's near quadruple double, Nov. 1 1996 vs. Sacremento:25 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 10 steals

Oops, I'll be in San Antonio, just a stone's throw from the Alamo. They might not appreciate all that Houston love, I don't know.

I could go on and on about all the great things about Texas, but instead I'll write later about all the great things I see and experience when I'm out there.

Generation Dead got some nice ink in Publishers Weekly this week, along with a number of other great books in a sort of "state of the YA supernatural market" article. You can check it out here: The Next Dead Thing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Discourse Breaks Down

I am hated for loving

My wife and I had a lovely time at the University of Connecticut this past weekend, participating in the UConn Children's Book Fair. The campus has changed an awful lot since we went to school there (yes, we are both alumni)but one thing hasn't changed: I love being there. I gave a short talk and then signed books and gave away every last T-shirt. The staff did a wonderful job with the event, which included a number of great authors and characters from kids books like Clifford, Strega Nona and one of the Wild Things. No zombies, though.

It was an almost perfect event. I say almost, because as I was starting to pick up and leave the signing table, an older man picked a copy of Generation Dead from the table and said, "Just what I like to see--horror stories for children." Then he picked up the book, cracked the cover,and read the first two lines of the jacket copy--"All over the country, a strange phenomenon is occurring. Some teenagers who die aren't staying dead."--said, "Great," and slammed the book shut.

I think I just have a face people want to punch.

I've written about a similar prejudgement made here, but I'm afraid my response to this particular gentleman wasn't as eloquent. I'd been speaking with a few of the volunteers, and thanking Nikki (sorry if I spelled that wrong!)for assisting me during the event and didn't really appreciate that sort of interruption, so all I said was "Well, you really don't need to read any further." The man stalked off.

The thing is, I agree with the sentiment that the man was trying to express. I do think there are materials, books, movies, video games, music, whatever--that are inappropriate for children in general. I think that Generation Dead is inappropriate for certain children of certain ages, and in fact tried to warn away one parent from purchasing the book for her 9 year old (the woman would not be dissuaded, however, and said she would read it with her child. I wouldn't let my own daughter, who is ten, read the book until very recently, and she reads more and more widely than most adults I know. I've seen the age recommendations for the book as 12 or 13 and I think, generally, those are good recommendations. That being said, I know my daughter at ten can handle the book. I also know certain 15 year olds I've met cannot.

There's a difference between something that is age inappropriate and something that is blanketly immoral, however. And I can't decide which would make me happier--someone, like this man, not reading the book and judging it immoral, or someone reading the book and judging it immoral.

I don't want anyone to read this and worry about me being thin skinned about these occurrences (and, as far as public visits go, I've had an "incident rate" of about 50%).I knew what I was getting into when I wrote a book about teenage zombies, believe me. The fact that the book (and continuing series, be warned!) examines, among other things, the "politics of inclusion" meant that I'd also catch heat from those who have and will take offense at some of the veiled societal parallels within, and that I'd have to absorb that heat with a smile on my face regardless if their reading matched my own. In the article I've linked to above, I stated part of the inspiration for the book and part of what I hoped it would accomplish. S'all good.

Of course, the man hadn't even finished walking away before a huge laundry list of "horror" stories that children of all ages should be reading sprang to mind. I'm sure even as you read this you are thinking of a few more.

I'm happy to say that I refrained from hurling any of these books (or my own, sitting so much more solidly in a neat stack at the edge of the table) in this man's wake. A list (although I think I will compile one, your suggestions are appreciated) would not have helped the situation. I think it is best to allow the man to continue to protect children in his way, and I'll try to continue the same in my own.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Shirt Off My Back

Is this love baby, or just confusion?

My wonderful publicist Jenn from Hyperion sent me some more Generation Dead shirts to give away at the UConn Children's Book Fair. I guess I'll give these to anyone with a copy of a book to be signed. Zombies, whether they have a book or not, will get a shirt. Zombie cheerleders will definitely get a shirt.

While supplies last!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Leaving the Cave

Just for you, here's a love song

I'll be making an appearance and signing books at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair, which is held at the University of Connecticut (my alma mater!). I'll be giving a short presentation at 11:15 on Sunday, November 9th, and then signing books at 12-1 and also at 2-3. For more information go here.

I'm also fortunate enough to be going to the NCTE convention in San Antonio later this month, to participate in events on Saturday the 22nd. More to follow on that as the time draws near.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Morally Questionable Advice of the Day

Love was the prime mover of their struggle

From "Ten Things To Avoid A Market Meltdown", an article on the AOL Money and Finance page

Investing Tip No. 6
Buy shares that sell products to addicts. Liquor and cigarettes do well in almost all economies. Many of the customers these companies have can't stop consuming even if the economy is bad. First on that list would be tobacco giant Altria (MO). The firm also has a 6.6% yield and tremendous earnings and cash flow. Brown-Foreman makes hard booze and wine. Diageo (DEO) is probably the most diversified booze company in the world.

Yes, by all means take advantage of the most serious economic downturn in nearly a hundred years by exploiting addicts. In addition to the tidy profit you may make now, you can have the added challenge in a few years of figuring out how to account for the increased demands on our health care "system" as these addicts you have helped to exploit look forward to various cancers, diseases, and rehab. Or just follow handy investing tip #4, which encourages investing in pharmaceutical companies, because they "will keep selling drugs to sick people." See? It all works out! More addicts=more sick people=better investing! Whether you go for McCain's health care plan or Obama's, one thing is clear--we'll have increasing numbers of sick people to test the plans out on!

Investing Tip No. 7
The world is still full of warmongers. Shares in defense companies will be okay. Whether it is the US in Iraq, Russia in Georgia, or rebels trying to overthrow the Nigerian government, weapons sell. Northrop Grumman (NOC) is the leader among this group which also includes General Dynamics (GD), and Lockheed Martin (LMT). War will always be with us and certain American companies mean to profit from that.

Yes, folks, war will always be with us, so why not get in on the action and make a little cake while we're at it! The world is full of warmongers, and if you can't beat 'em. join 'em! American companies mean to profit from war, so don't be a love-beaded sap, get in on that! Turn bullets into bling!

Maybe we should think about this a minute. Actually, maybe we should think about this a lot.

Where is our moral compass pointing?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My Wild Life, Part XCII: The Deadly Mantis

It's not love that left you standing

A few years ago, my son became a father at the ripe old age of six. He'd gotten a packet of praying mantis eggs at the Magic Wings butterfly conservatory and a couple hundred of the little buggers hatched, sending him running around in circles yelling "Dad! I'm a Dad! Daddy! I'm a Daddy!" It took some convincing that all of his "children" couldn't live with us permanently, but eventually he was persuaded to let them go, scattering them in the six or seven gardens we keep in the yard in the hopes that they wouldn't devour each other.

This summer and last we've been fortunate enough to find that the tribe of mantises that Cormac founded are still going strong, keeping our gardens free from nuisance bugs. My daughter found this healthy specimen outside the garden at the end of our driveway:

I think that that is a grasshopper or locust that the mantis is draining of it's sweet life nectar, but I didn't want to get too close in case it turned it's clacking, razor sharp mandibles on my own tender gut meat.

I have to admit, I'm nervous at the way my son whispers to these critters. He's been spending a lot more time with them since I limited his XBox time, and sometimes at night I think I can hear the ticking of a thousand stick-like feet at my bedroom window...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy of the Day: The Ting Tings

Yeah, riding high on love's true bluish light

I love when I find music that I can share with my children, because there is nothing quite so infectious as a child's positive response to new music--I played the new CD We Started Nothing from The Ting Tings on the way to get an allergy shot, and the kids were instantly hooked. This makes me extremely happy.

I'd love to be able to play the new CD from Buckcherry, Black Butterfly, for them, but it has a parental advisory, probably because it has the word %&^$#, also the word *&$#@! and the word %&$#@**, which they manage to use as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and somehow, a preposition. They also talk about using (&*^, putting a $%@# in a *&^#@#, and &&*&^$ sideways in a tree house. There are also some tender love songs.

I feel hypocritical denying my children the trashy, %$@#*&ing glory of Buckcherry, first because I've listened to it daily (One of my favorite bands, I sprang for the deluxe edition because it has two extra songs)since getting it, and also because I think I was about my daughter's age when I began listening to, um, "Rated R" music like AC/DC, Kiss and Van Halen, bands that today seem pretty tame on the overall-offense-to-society scale. Within a few years though, my taste--although quite broad--would expand to include the Dead Kennedys and Slayer, bands I definitely don't want my kids to listen to at this point--which of course just makes me feel even more hypocritical, because I think listening to the DK's at an early age helped shape, in a very positive way, my political world view--Jello Biafra's social conscience, although shrill at times, definitely got me thinking about social conditions in a way I might not have, and years later I'm greatly thankful for that experience. I feel hypocritical also because I really can't make any argument about Slayer being socially redeeming in any way--but I love, love their music, the visceral punch of it. My ringtone is "Rain in Blood". I have 27,209 songs on my iPod, and I'd let my kids listen to maybe 1200 of them. What a jerk.

Putting all this internal angst aside, I love the Ting Tings, and I love that my kids love the Ting Tings. Exuberant is the first word that comes to mind when I try to describe their music; We Started Nothing is the sound of a band (two insanely talented people, really--Katie White, who plays guitar, the bass drum, and sings, and Jules Di Martino, who plays drums,electronics, and sings). Katie, as the lead voice of the band, has an energetic delivery that is sassy and sharp. She has a wonderful voice; airy and sweet in "Traffic Light", punchy and forceful in "That's Not My Name" (my current vote for song of the year). From the opening tune "Great DJ", the Ting Tings (who took their name from a Chinese coworker of Katie's, how cool is that? And it is a Mandarin term for "band stand") the Ting Tings establish themselves as pure pop, pure fun. There isn't a bad song on the album, which alone is a rarity these days, but each song on the disc might actually be great. Like, stunningly great, so hook-y and smart. There are traces of some earlier woman fronted bands like Blondie and the B-52's here (and also not as widely known bands like Bow Wow Wow, Dee Lite and the Sundays, I think), but the overall effect is something fresh and new. I recommend it highly if you need a new happy music CD (and who doesn't) and/or something you can listen to with kids in the car.

Although, my kids were a little stunned when I played "Shut Up and Let Me Go", because of the song's liberal use of the "S-word" in the chorus--they think "Shut-Up" is the S-word, God love them.

I love my kids. I love the Ting Tings. You will, too.

Monday, September 29, 2008

David Foster Wallace

But my faith in love is still devout

This is my hundredth blog post. I wanted to do something special for #100 and so I’ve tried to write a little about my feelings about David Foster Wallace, whose passing I mentioned briefly in a previous entry called “Words Fail, Sometimes”. Please understand that the following was written through the blurry lens of grief. Grief has a scattering rather than sharpening effect upon me; so caveat emptor.


I’m a fan of David Foster Wallace.

At heart, even though I’m a professional writer, I am foremost a fan. I’ll have my photo taken with musicians and writers I admire. Typically I’ll have something I’d like them to sign, a CD insert, a record jacket, a book. The books I tend to have signed usually bear the scars of our relationship, with their spines bent, their covers creased, and pages marked with margin notes and bright yellow highlighter ink. When I'm at a book conference and supposed to be promoting my own work I'm usually looking for the opportunity to go meet or listen to other writers. I’ve always thought it was important to seek out people whose work has meant something to me, thank them for their creation, and let them know I look forward to their next creation.

For the record, I don’t believe I’m confessing to a character flaw when I write that I’m a fan (I have plenty of those that I can cop to in later blogs), although many of my friends are completely uninterested—and may even be embarrassed by—the sort of fandom I exhibit. It works out for me, because these friends dutifully will hold my gear and snap the photos at the concerts or signings or whatever, but I can’t help but feeling sad for them. I don’t know if they feel we are too old (is there something absurd having a CD signed by someone half your age?), too cool (unlikely) or that we should be too jaded and world weary for such activity. I hope, sincerely hope, that their lack of fan-response hasn’t anything to do with an inability to get truly excited, and truly appreciative for, anything other than ourselves, which is a condition I fear afflicts people in my generation (although better to be world-weary than to intrude on dinner, scream shrilly, or rend clothes and hair).

I’ve never really thought about meeting an author and having them sign a book as purely about “me”, any more than I thought it was about “them”. I always try to conceptualize the exchange as being about “us”—you created something that meant something to me, I let you know (briefly, there are fifteen other people in line) that your creation meant something to me, and for that moment in time, at least, there is a shared link of communication. Maybe that link leads to something else—I’ve gotten all fannish with people who are now friends of mine.

I set goals for myself and my writing career every New Years’ Eve, committing them to paper. It is how I set some boundaries around the playground that is my life, my way of imposing at least a modicum of order on something that my personality would quickly let fly into chaos. Over the past few years I’ve done pretty well with the goal list, managing to hit upwards of ninety percent of them. I’ll never achieve one of them for this year. The third goal on my list reads “to meet David Foster Wallace”.

At the time I wrote “to meet David Foster Wallace”, the goal seemed to have all the characteristics of a good goal, being achievable, realistic, and measurable. This year, thanks to some book touring, I’ve been able to meet a few (albeit unlisted) literary heroes of mine like Tobias Wolff and Ethan Canin, and have formed Internet relationships with a few others. I felt reasonably sure that I’d find a way to meet him this year.

I’m struggling, as I’m sure many people are, with expressing myself regarding how deeply his death is affecting me—I certainly have never taken the death of someone I didn’t know as hard as I am his (although when Joe Strummer died I was blue for days). Losing DFW is like losing Jimi Hendrix; there’s this sense that one of the earth’s true geniuses, with so much beautiful work left ahead, is gone, just when they were beginning to bloom as artists.

I was managing a bookstore and writing at night when I first read Infinite Jest (unlike at least 90% of the eulogists, who, against all reason, seem to make a point of saying they “could not get through it”, I finished it and have gone back to the fountain many times. I’ve read almost everything he published; I feel like a poser for not having read what others refer to as “the math book”, Elegant Complexities: A Complex History of Infinity). Sometimes in life, the readers among us—especially the readers who want to write—are fortunate enough to stumble across the right book at the right time, and that book will continue to act as a sort of literary bellwether throughout our entire lives. Infinite Jest was and is that book for me, in the same way that The Catcher in the Rye (and soon after, the rest of Salinger) was when I read a few years earlier. When I finished the book I immediately started reading it again, and then reached into the past to read his preceding work and then waited somewhat impatiently for more work to follow. He was, for a time, one of only three authors whose name alone on its table of contents could persuade me to buy a magazine.

I saw—and here I’m relying on personal impression rather than actual scholarship—threads running between the works of Salinger and Infinite Jest. Hal’s last name, “Incandenza”, I took as serving a similar function as Salinger’s “Glass” family—“incandescent” having among it’s definitions “strikingly bright, radiant, or clear”. The Incandenza family, like the Glasses, are chock full of geniuses. Without attempting to turn this into a half-baked senior thesis, I saw many points of intersection among the smaller details of IJ and Salinger—tennis, cigarettes, boarding schools, etc.

In my blind, grasping way, I imagined IJ as an expansion and modernization (or post modernization, if you prefer) of some of Salinger’s pet themes. Whereas Holden and Seymour Glass are overwhelmed emotionally by seemingly insignificant details they pick up, details that appear to be outside the “plots” of the stories but are actually integral to them—a girl on the sidewalk, the color yellow—my sense of things was always that Hal feels these types of emotions just as intensely, instead suppresses them—for a time—through chemicals.

Another connection I’d always made between Wallace’s work and Salinger’s was with the title essay in A Supposedly Fun Thing I Would Never Do Again and the story “Teddy” from Salinger’s 9 Stories. The first is Wallace’s brilliant, hilarious account of a trip he took on a cruise ship, the second, a story about a child genius—a spiritual as well as intellectual genius—who also happens to find himself on a cruise ship. Beyond the cruise ship/genius points of intersection, I connected the two because I believed there to be a shared sensibility in terms of world-view and literary values between the two authors (although I should mention Salinger’s conceit that “Teddy”, along with The Catcher in the Rye, was actually written by Buddy Glass, the second oldest of Salinger’s fictional Glass family. Wouldn’t you love to know what old J.D. thinks of all of Himself’s films?). Teddy’s intelligence is such that he can predict the future, which one gathers is the end result of his being in tune with the universe, a sort of spiritual savant. From the first page of his essay, DFW establishes himself as truly “one upon whom nothing is lost”. There is such detail, technical and human detail, in the writing that I could well imagine DFW predicting tourist deaths, hijackings, shuffleboard winners, you name it.

I reread these two works after DFW’s death, and then came across, among literally hundreds of anecdotes, quotes, and outpourings of grief, a passage in an interview with DFW that I received a link to from a DFW list group that I’d joined, available on the Amherst college website. The interviewer, Stacey Schmeidel, asks DFW “What writers move you?”

His response is characteristically thoughtful; he begins by saying “The question’s verb is tricky,” and then differentiates the “moving” capabilities of works like It’s a Wonderful Life and The Bridges of Madison County versus more “top-shelf literary fiction”, and closes by saying that he’s never found anything as purely moving as The Velveteen Rabbit when he first read it.”

His answer reminded me of this exchange in Teddy, where Teddy is being questioned by a man he meets on the ship, Bob Nicholson, who has read accounts of Teddy’s interactions with various institutions that want to study him. Teddy uses the moment to drop some knowledge on Bob, and discusses his thoughts on the nature of God and love. After Teddy defines how he loves God, Bob asks him if he loves his parents. His answer:

“Yes, I do—very much,” Teddy said, “but you want to make me use that word to mean what you want it to mean—I can tell.”

Later in the story, Teddy and Bob discuss Teddy’s apparent ability to predict “how and where and when” someone will die. Teddy says (again, clarifying terms and definitions) that isn’t true, and that he was able to ascertain when someone should be careful, and that the deaths were not “inevitable”. Then he gives an example where he could be killed going to his swimming lesson.

“What would be so tragic about it, though? What’s there to be afraid of, I mean? I’d just be doing what I was supposed to do, that’s all, wouldn’t I?”

The story ends with Teddy dying in the very manner—(or so we imagine, the event occurs off camera)—that he’d just described. This death, regardless of whether or not you buy the implied metaphysical preordination that Teddy alludes to, always struck me as a sort of suicide. A few paragraphs prior Teddy says that the deaths he could predict were not “inevitable”, so why toddle off to his own?

But DFW was not a fictional character, he was a real human being, one, as “the truth” unfolds, had lived with a great deal of emotional pain and depression his entire life. With so many people rushing back to his work to seek “the evidence” of his pain, there are, undoubtedly, tons of lines and paragraphs he wrote that might be interpreted to give insight to his mental state, perhaps even some that could be taken as a plea for help, or evidence of a suicidal nature. But I think it is a mistake to think it possible that “we” could have “saved” DFW through a closer reading of his work, much as we all would have liked to. There’s a line in “Teddy”, where Teddy quotes a line of Japanese poetry that reads “Nothing in the voice of the cicada intimates how soon it will die”. Reading this days after DFW’s death was like a psychic rabbit-punch, one that left me dazed and incoherent (more so than usual) for hours.

Unlike in real life, where a person is defined primarily by their actions, in fiction an author is defined less by his character’s actions than by how those actions influence, change, and reinterpret their fictional world. An author can write about a psychopath without having actual psychopathic tendencies, but watch closely how the fictional world that the author has created reacts, responds to, and assimilates the psychotic behaviors, because the author could certainly be a psychopath. In Infinite Jest, there are addicts (recovering and otherwise), terrorists, phobics, and yes, suicides—but despite all this, and despite the downbeat beginning/end of the book, I come away from the book feeling positive about life, no matter what section of it I read, because Wallace’s was able to write so expansively, so insightfully, so authoritatively on the difficulty of human communication.

How difficult it is—how increasingly difficult it is—for humans to communicate! Much as Salinger’s work is concerned with the difficulty of true communication, understanding and being understood, Hal literally is unintelligible at the beginning (and chronological end) of IJ. In the essay “Greatly Exaggerated”, also from A Supposedly Fun Thing I’d Never Do Again (which, along with “E. Unibus Pluram:Television and U.S. Fiction" from the same book, are among the few essays I can point to that I believe shaped my “operant aesthetic” as a writer), there’s a line where DFW writes, in a critique of a book regarding the “existence of the author” (a subject which he warns might be of interest only to “professional critics and hardcore theory-wienies"), he writes “For those of us civilians who know in our gut that writing is an act of communication between one human being and another, the whole question seems sort of arcane.” Infinite Jest, for various reasons and traumas I was experiencing and had experienced, was an act of communication that I sorely needed at the time I read it (each time I’ve read it, actually). There is so much in the book worthy of commentary, but Wallace’s ability to communicate about communication is the one that really continues to draw me in, the one shining gift that actually made me feel less alone in the world.

Which is why, of course, it is hard for me not to feel utterly devastated. I’m saddened that there won’t be any more of his work, no more beautiful novels, no more trenchant essays, no more sharp stories, no more communication. I’m saddened that I never took the chance to say thank you, that I never communicated what his communication meant to me. But mostly I’m just sad he’s gone.


Although I’ve written as much about Salinger and DFW’s essays as Infinite Jest, it is really that book that is more the life-changer, the life enhancer, the life preserver for me. I’m kind of afraid to write about it, really, not because I might be wrong (as, I freely admit, I might be in the “insights” of this blog) but because what I write could sap someone else’s joy to read it for the first time. Criticism, even well intentioned criticism, can sometimes calcify hearts against subjects where the critic meant only to celebrate. So instead I’ll make a recommendation for readers of my blog, many of whom are much younger than I was when I first read IJ, with the “college experience” still ahead of them. Read Infinite Jest the summer before you go to college, and read it again the summer after you graduate. Um, and also you need to have read all of Salinger first (don’t worry, this will actually take less time than reading IJ).

I promise you will find the experience life enhancing in so many ways. I actually envy you.

Friday, September 26, 2008

My Wild Life, Part XXXIII

We got a love between us that is like electricity

A week ago I saw a skunk so large it should have its own entry in the Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual. It was at least two Bonnys in size, maybe three. I was at my desk writing and I saw the critter, whose head had so much long white-blond hair, or fur, that it looked not unlike that of C.C. DeVille, the guitarist from Poison (who must, come to think of it, be related to similarily-coifed Cruella DeVille). I watched as it loped beneath my window and went behind the garage, the same path that the giant woodchuck and the pheasant run down towards the apple trees.

Of course, I summoned my children, thinking they would be content to stay in the safety of my office and gaze out at the beast. Not so.

Still in their school uniforms, they ran out the house to get a closer look. They reached the corner of the garage. I could only see the bushy head of the skunk as it appeared, but it's mouth flopped open just like Muppet Beaker's whenever he was about to blow up the lab. My kids, screaming, turned around and ran back into the house. I haven't laughed that much in months.

The skunk must have been as terrified as they were, because it bailed on the scene without pausing to snatch one of the apples.

When I caught my breath I told the kids that that was without question the largest skunk I'd ever seen. My son, also catching his breath because of his rapid flight, made a beautiful comment that once again revealed to me that he has the soul of a poet.

"Yeah, Dad," he said, eyes wide. "He must be filled with stink!"

Thankfully, the skunk retained his stink without spraying my fleeing children.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More Self-Aggrandizement

True love is the devil's crowbar

Hi kids!

I'll be signing books (I say that, but who knows? people need to show up for me to actually sign anything!) at the Barnes and Noble in Canton, CT this Thursday at 6:00. I've got cool Generation Dead wristbands that I will give away to anyone who smiles at me. I told people at the NEIBA convention that the wristbands were good for one free drink at the hotel bar but a) I didn't specify which hotel and b) it was a total lie.

The B&N is at 110 Albany Turnpike #305 in Canton, CT. They have coffee and books, I have wristbands and a full pen. Any zombie that comes will get a wristband for each wrist.

Also, I'd like to thank Chris Ohm, who did an interview with me for his school newspaper. You can read the interview here atNews in a Click. Please check it out, if only for the really cool photo that Chris did that accompanies the interview. I think the girl in the photo looks very Margi-esque, how about you? And thanks, Chris, for trying to help me sound intelligent and interesting!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Oooo Weee Oooo He Looked Just Like that Dude from Winger

I was fortunate to be in Boston with an old friend (Lord, did he look old)last night, someone that I went to both high school and college with. Of the many halcyon memories that we sifted through, we did an extensive deconstruction of all of the concerts we went to back in the day, not only the big arena shows (Danny's Fun Fact: I was almost killed coming home from the Monsters of Rock--Metallica, Van Hagar, Scorpions, Dokken, Kingdom Come. I was sitting in the shotgun seat and woke up just in time to scream at the driver, who had fallen asleep and was in the process of drifting over three lanes of traffic towards the concrete barrier. After narrowly avoiding a deadly collision, he asked me how I managed to wake up just in time, and I told him that I had a dream where the ghost of Cliff Burton was yelling at me to wake up and get out of his dream. We pulled over and pounded a six pack of Jolt cola immediately after) but also club shows and the local stuff we saw while at UConn.

I asked him if he'd ever seen Avant Garde when he was there, and I was disappointed when he said he hadn't. Avant Garde looked like a hair metal band, all spandex and hairspray, and lyrically they could stray into hair metal territory with songs like "Never Forgot" and "Standing in the Paris Rain",which are songs about being all sensitive with girls. Musically, though, I thought they had more in common with bands like Fates Warning or Metallica than Poison--the song "Renaissance" off the demo tape in particular has a great twin guitar riffs and some wicked drumming.

They were five kids from the high school that bordered UConn, and I thought they were great. I heard them play two or three times, and ended up buying a tape they were hawking at the shows. Here it is:

I thought they had real promise. The songs were original and catchy. They cleary spent some time crafting both their songs and their presentation, but they also seemed to have a sense of humor and fun about what they were doing. There's a partial song on the tape called "Free Fall" that they sang as "Tree Frog" during one of their sets, which they and their fans, myself among them, thought was pretty hilarious. I remember being particularly impressed by their drummer, a tall red headed guy who set up his kit in this weird vertical way. I think he played at the front of the stage with his back to the audience, so that everyone could see what a titanic skin basher he was.

I think I saw them twice, and would have gone to see them again but they stopped playing locally. I heard a rumor that they'd all gone to L.A. to seek their fortune. I looked forward to them maybe getting signed and producing a whole album, but instead I never heard of them again until about a year ago.

I kept the tape, though. It was one of the few that I kept after my Great Cassette Purge of 1995. I listened to it quite a bit, and was smart enough to make a copy so as not to degrade the original, and I've since burned the songs to mp3 and have them on my iPod. And, ha ha! You'll never get them! And they're awesome! Ha ha ha ha!

Sorry. A year or so ago I read somewhere that one of the Avant Garde guys--the guy I actually bought the tape from--was Rivers Cuomo of Weezer fame. This kind of broke my brain for a bit, mainly because Rivers is now one of the least metal-y looking guys in rock, and also because I'm huge Weezer fan. I have most of their music on vinyl, which I mention to quell any doubts about how hardcore a fan I am. "In the Garage" off the blue album could practically be my biography.

My old friend (I was just kidding about him looking old, that was just me being bitter about him having retained more of his hair than I did--he showed me the bag he keeps it in) now works at Harvard, where Rivers graduated from not that long ago. Isn't that cool? Why do we say "small world" when the tiny moments of synchronicity like this actually expand the realm of possibility?

One of the other things that my friend and I talked about is some of the ways kids will differ from our generation (X) as time passes. X'ers use Internet tools like Facebook, etc. to track down a small percentage of friends we regret losing touch with. Contrast this with the youth of today, who have grown up attached at the e-hip with everyone they've ever gone to school with since the age of seven. Instead of tracking down forgotten chums and teen sweethearts, y'all will spend the rest of your lives trying to cyber-ditch all those people who just won't go away. I feel bad for you, too, because ditching is a lot harder than finding.

Sorry, kids, but history will prove me right on that one.

In the meantime, Weezer have a new album. You should get it

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wish You Were Here

Today the world lost Richard Wright to cancer. I've written often of my love of Pink Floyd and I'm quite sad about this.

But I've decided to become despair's greatest foe. On Saturday we invited a puppy to come live with us and here she is:

She's a ten week old beagle and her name, which we didn't change, is Star. My wife and daughter call her
"Stargirl" (Kim read and loved the Jerry Spinelli book of the same name) and my son calls her "Star". I call her, alternately, Deathstar, Superstar (a la Mary Catherine Gallagher) Ishtar, Starro the Conqueror, Dog Star, Meatloaf, or some other incredibly clever nickname I haven't thought of yet. Actually my favorite thing with her right now is to call "Starchild!" with the weird echo-ey voice Gene Simmons uses to tell Paul Stanley (Starchild) to use his mystic power of super-eavesdropping in the classic film KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park, which you can (and should) watch in it's entirety on Disc One of the second KISS Anthology DVD set.

Ole Starro is a good dog, she didn't come housebroken but seemed to know instinctively that outside is where the deed is done, and she hasn't whined or howled at night at all. The kids are pretty smitten, and she seems to be smitten with them as well.

Tonight I plan to sit Star on my lap, program Wish You Were Here, DSOTM, Meddle, and key selections from my extensive Pink Floyd bootleg collection onto the iPod, and start reading Infinite Jest for the fourth time.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Words Fail, Sometimes

I just learned through a message group I subscribe to that a personal hero of mine, the author David Foster Wallace, took his own life last night. His novel Infinite Jest is one of my favorite books. He was only 46.

I don't have the words to express how I feel right now.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Kiss of Life

May 2009!

WARNING! SPOILER ALERT! The jacket copy has spoilers for Generation Dead, so read that one first, or avert your eyes!

Click image to supersize:

Friday, September 5, 2008


I've had both a MySpace account and a Facebook account for three years. I can't even remember why I signed up for them, but a current friend send a friend request--my first--for these services a couple weeks ago. How pathetic is that, to be friendless for three years???? I feel kind of like Homer Simpson when he found out there was a "No Homerz" club. Anyhow, I'm now "Live" on those services now, although I'm not really sure how to use them and make them all pretty yet.

And in a delightfully synchronistic moment, a post came in here and in Tommy's blog today that I'm putting front and center here:

manicboo said...
Hey! I'm totally new here and I have no idea if this is the right way to be doing this, so apologies if I'm making some terrible faux pas...Basically I just wanted to let you know that my friends and I have created a group on Facebook for fans of Generation Dead, because we all love the book and want to share our opinions and ideas with other fans, as well as hopefully encourage more people to read it!The link to the group is below (hopefully I'm doing this right!) I hope you'll check out the group and approve of what we're doing - the group was only created a couple of days ago so members are a little thin on the ground as yet, but we're sure that'll soon change!Thanks

Wow, thanks, Maz! I'm honored and touched (in the head, but still)!

I hope they let me join...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Makes No Sense At All

I didn't see any Ouija Boards, deer, or pheasants on my run this morning, but I was beset upon by yamaglatchis. Only my mastery of the ancient art of Crewka Crewka saved me.

The things I do for good health.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Walking Around With Your Head in the Clouds

I try to walk to the library everyday. The journey is about three miles round trip, which is just enough to qualify as both exercise and a chance to clear my head (which is usually pretty empty, anyhow). The walk follows a busy street, but there are sidewalks and some great architecture along the way--two gorgeous churches, the high school campus, the town hall, and a few blocks worth of old Victorian homes, some of which are well-preserved historical homes, whereas others have fallen into extreme disrepair, making it look as though every fifth house or so is haunted or infested with witches. I also pass a street where one of America's most famous traitors lived, a big cemetery, and a two statues, one honoring civil war dead and the other honoring the Italian community in town. A pretty interesting three miles, all in all.

Today I started the walk with my iPod playing my '50's-early '60's playlist, because music from that era is fuel for a project I'm working on. I stopped at a yard sale about a half-mile into my walk, and I found a book called Populuxe by Thomas Hines, which has a tagline that reads "The look and life of America in the '50's and '60's, from tailfins and TV dinners to Barbie dolls and fallout shelters." I read the book years ago and loved it, so was thrilled to get it (for a whole buck).

Now, I understand that it probably sounds terribly contrived to be taking a stroll, thinking about a project I'm writing concerning the 1950's, listening to 1950's music, and then finding a great reference book which has the exact sensibility about the 1950's (for a whole buck) that I'm incorporating in the project, but that's the way life is. I'm a great believer in synchronicity. The universe provides; one just needs to sharpen one's awareness of that fact.

But finding the book wasn't even the weird part of today's trek.

On the way home I was approaching a home that had a "apartment for rent" sign on the lawn. Many of the Victorians have been converted into multi-family homes. At this particular one where the sign was, the lawn was overgrown and the hedge was reaching out over the sidewalk. A flower garden along the foundation was sprouting onto the porch, and there were a few decorative trees and bushes in the yard that were sorely in need of trimming. The house is still gorgeous, well-shaded and set back from the street. All the house needs is a little yard work and horticultural attention.

I started thinking about a down on his luck character who offers to do the yard work in exchange for a reduced rent, and the owner of the home, a kind but stingy elderly lady who remembers when our town was in it's heyday, reluctantly agrees, but only if the man also agrees to do "some repairs" to the house itself. He agrees, and in re shingling the roof, he finds...

I know, I know. I was supposed to be thinking about the 1950's project. It's a long walk, and I'm not always the most focused of individuals.

Anyway, when I pulled even with the sidewalk-encroaching hedge, I looked down and saw there was a Ouija board laying on the grass. As if that was creepy enough, a leaf floated down from the big maple tree just inside the hedge and landed on the board.

One doesn't normally find Ouija boards taking a walk, I think. I've written before about my nebulous belief in signs and portents; I'm not quite sure what this would auger. The tip of the leaf was pointing at the "H", if that is any help.

I wonder if it will still be there tomorrow? And I wonder just what I will do if, as I approach, "Pledging My Love" by Johnny Ace playing through my headphones, another maple leaf drifts down, alighting on the board to point starkly at the "I"?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

More Fun in the New World

A few appearances for September:

New England Independent Booksellers' Association (NEIBA) Regional Trade Show: Sept. 19 at 2:30, Hyatt Convention Center, Boston, signing.

Barnes and Noble, Canton CT: Sept 25 at 6:00, signing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Wild Life, Part XVII

I was jogging in the park near my house today. Their are some trails that cut through the woods around the park, which I enjoy because they are not well travelled so no one has to listen to me gasp and wheeze. I don't even have to listen to me gasp and wheeze, because I use my iPod to blot out the my death rattle. Plus, I sweat like Shaquille O'Neal during the playoff and who wants to see/experience that? I'm really quite unpleasant.

I like to listen to the same playlist that I write to when I jog, which currently is five hundred and fifty five loud songs. "So Far" by Buckcherry had just come on (which would be a contender for my personal theme song, if I could have one--that or "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock and Roll) by AC/DC) as I started up the steeper of the two hills on the trail when I surprised a family of deer. The buck was pretty big and bounded off to the left, the doe wasn't so big and bounded to the right. Their fawn kind of took two steps to the right and stopped alongside the path.

What beautiful animals! There arrival seemed portentous in a way I wasn't sure of at the time. Here I was, in the third month or so of a serious health kick, and I'd just read a bunch of outdoorsy Hemingway, and I'm still aching from the loss of my own beautiful animal. I'm a big believer in signs and omens, and am very superstitious. For example, my superstitions include wearing my underwear backwards on Thursdays, wearing a tiny effigy of myself on a silver chain around my neck, and saying a quick prayer to the Great Pumpkin, gourd almighty, whenever I eat yams (note: none of the proceeding is true; I'm far too superstitious to tell you any of my actual superstitions).

I slowed my pace and tried to sound a little less like a rapidly deflating Moon Bounce, not wanting to startle the deer any more. The parents had stopped their flight to keep an eye on junior; when I was at the crest of the hill. I turned back and all three were rejoining on the path. Awwww.

It took me awhile to figure out what the appearance of the deer family in my life meant, omen-wise, but I think I've got it:

The bucks and dough will always flee from me, but kids will enjoy watching me suffer.

Or maybe they were just a particularly sparkly point of beauty in an overall great day. Who knows? I hope I'm having yams tonight.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rest in Peace

Actually, we don't really know when Bonny was born. She'd been an abused dog; my wife got her from the humane society. She had relatives that worked there and said that she might make a good dog for us. They'd taken her from a home where she'd been locked in the closet with a half dozen or so of her puppies. The puppies, thankfully, were all adopted prior to Kim going to meet her. She was our Valentine's Day gift to each other soon after we got married.

They were wrong about her being a good dog for us, though. She was the best.

Quiet, gentle, and friendly, Bonny weathered all manner of changes with us--new homes, new jobs, new babies, life and death. In great health for most of her relatively long life, this year was a bit of a struggle for her, she had developed a number of ailments that meant that she would not be with us much longer.

A month or so ago I took her out for one of our midnight walks, and somehow she slipped the leash. I live next to a very busy street (even at midnight), and in the past her infrequent escapes would be major cause for alarm, and I would typically give chase as soon as I knew that she was "off the hook", usually catching her in an open field about a half mile down the road when she was too tired to run anymore. I was always amazed at how my fury and rage at her unwillingness to stop would give way to thankfulness that she hadn't been squished by a passing semi the moment I scooped her up in my arms.

Anyway, a month or so she got away. You'd think I'd be able to outrun an arthritic, 112 year old dog (human years) with kidney problems, but not so. She was off like a shot, the Bonny of old, and down the hill before I even knew she was gone.

I didn't take after her that time, I just sat down under an apple tree in my yard. About twenty minutes later she came bounding up the hill, a look of pure joy on her face as she slathered me with her tongue. This was a dog who had not been able to get up the stairs for the past few months, leaping and dancing around like she'd discovered the fountain of doggy youth (and not sewer run-off, like usual). She was spry as a puppy when I brought her inside and gave her a treat, although about ten minutes later she zonked out on her bed and slept straight through until morning.

She looked about as happy as I'd ever seen her after she returned that night, about as happy as she when we first brought her home and she realized that my wife and I weren't monsters who were going to lock her in a dark closet.

I didn't realize it at the time, but now I know that I was every bit as happy as she was.

Goodbye, Bonny.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Oprah Loves Zombies

Well, sort of. Generation Dead is on her recommended reading list, along with the spectacular book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by the very reputable E. Lockhart and a number of other cool books.

Check it out here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Zombies Take Manhattan, Part Two

My wife and I went on a scavenger hunt for Gen Dead posters in Manhattan yesterday. We found zombies all over the place!

The person on the left may or may not be a zombie; he wouldn't leave the frame when my wife was taking the picture. I think Duffy behind him is trying to squeeze his ego back inside his skull.

We liked this one, with the parking signs pointing right at Karen (yes, I think of the cover girl as Karen). Then again, I think of my coffee pot as "Trixie" and my lava lamp (the pink one) as "Bubbles".

Remember: a free Generation Dead T-Shirt to whoever sends in the best picture of a poster from Seattle! The campaign starts there today.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

At Fates Hands

I’ve gone a little crazy with CD purchases lately, mostly trolling through the used Cd bins. A trip to Northhampton got me the first Byrds boxed set, the new B-52s album, and the Damned’s Phantasmagoria, which you might have noticed was the first (admittedly intermittent) “Album of the week”. Yes, I already had the vinyl, but the CD had two remixes I didn’t have. That version is out of print, and it was only seven bucks!!! What was I supposed to do? Not get it? Hah? I’ve also been getting a lot of neat Pink Floyd related stuff, like The Body from Roger Waters and Ron Geesin, a weird 4 song sampler from a recent David Gilmour show that was on PBS, and the Zabriski Point soundtrack, which I’m dying to listen to because it has a whole bunch of “lost” Floyd tracks. I also picked up a CD reissue of the first Sweetwater record, a CD from a German prog band named Jane, and the just released remaster of Perfect Symmetry from Fates Warning.

PERFECT SYMMETRY, Fates Warning 1989

The new CD comes with a bonus disc of demos and a bonus dvd of concert footage. I’m one of the stars of the dvd!

Well, not really. But I think my jaw hit the floor when I looked on the back and saw that some of the concert footage was shot in New Haven, because I was at that show! How cool! A chance for a rendezvous with the much younger me!

The footage was shot in 1989, and in 1989 Fates Warning was second only to Iron Maiden in my personal pantheon of rock gods. Like Maiden, they had endured after the potentially devastating loss of their first singer, John Arch, who stayed on for one more album than Maiden’s Dianno did, departing after the brilliant Awaken the Guardian. Fates came back with Ray Alder and No Exit, an album that got them some Headbanger’s Ball play on MTV with “Silent Cries”, and also had an eleven minute opus in “The Ivory Gate of Dreams”. Their music was riffy but intricate, and the lyrics were introspective and interesting. Perfect Symmetry picked up where No Exit left off in terms of it’s subject matter, with guitarists Jim Matheos and Frank Aresti writing songs about loneliness, alienation, and growing up. PS was the seventh CD I ever owned, the first of their releases that I didn’t own on vinyl.

I watched the concert while on vacation in Maine. I think I saw myself a few times—I think that’s me, the hulking blond brute headbanging and pounding his fist in the air near the front of the stage by Matheos. It’s hard to tell, as there are a number of hulking blond brutes, with hair equally as medieval and long as mine was. I wish I could remember more about the show beyond thinking it was great—not the details of the show as much as the details of my own life from that time period. What was I thinking? What was I feeling? Was I worried about a test or a term paper? Was I going out with Kim the next day? What story was I working on? When was the last time I’d been home? Had I switched majors yet? As I started to scrutinize the footage looking for my younger self I started to worry—what if I looked right in my younger eyes and didn't recognize me?

I don’t even know for certain who I went with, which is terrible. I have a pretty good idea, but I don’t remember. I do remember who I went with to my second Fates Warning concert, though. I remember this because I never made it to the show. My roommate Freddy and I borrowed a car, a VW Rabbit, from a guy that lived on our floor, filled the tank and went. We were about halfway to New Haven when the car started acting funny, so we pulled over and noticed something we should have noticed before, namely that the car was a diesel. Oops! Freddy called his dad, who performed one of the most amazing feats of mechanical might I’ve ever seen—he actually removed the gas tank so he could drain all of the engine-destroying unleaded fuel, replaced the now-dry tank, and poured in a gallon of diesel. We drove back to the dorm, handed over the keys, and held our breath for about a week. Our friend never mentioned having any issues with the car.

I think I was supposed to carry that story to the grave with me. Sorry, Freddy, wherever you are! I miss you, man!

Watching the concert again, I remembered that I thought Ray butchered “The Apparition”, one of my favorite John Arch songs, but that he was devastating on the newer material like “Nothing Left to Say” and “The Ivory Gate of Dreams”. The video evidence seems to corroborate my sometimes Swiss-cheesy memory. Strangely, I own guitar picks from both guitarists from this very show. Matheos’ tossed his to me after one of the acoustic breaks in Ivory Gate of Dreams (this would have been a perfect video moment, alas, the camera’s eye did not witness it)and I found Aresti’s on the floor after the concert. One is blue, one purple—I don’t really know whose is whose--they are pictured below, along with a couple other hard-won picks from my collection:

In the video, a mosh pit breaks out every so often, and a few people dive on the stage and are promptly rushed off by the bouncers. The footage is dark and a little grainy and it is hard to make out any faces other than those right in front of the stage, but from time to time a shaggy Great-Pumpkin like head rises out of the mullet sea and I think that it might be me.

This hazy apparition makes me wish that the dvd had one extra bonus feature—the ability to transport the viewer back in time. What would I say to Young Danny, in the moments between when he’s banging his head against the stage? What would I say to alter the course of his life, which, a few moments before writing this, led to me scanning the Perfect Symmetry DVD for proof of my youth?

I’m reminded of one of Matheos’s lyrics from the album, from the song “Chasing Time”:

I’ve watched in silence
As a stranger within me grew.
Detached and distanced from the day
While youth’s precious years flew.

It doesn’t take me very long to realize that I wouldn’t say anything to young Danny. I’d offer no cautionary tales, no wisdom of ages, nothing that would bump him off his current trajectory, floundering and directionless as it is, awash with heavy metal music, comic books, and static acts. I wouldn’t change a thing.

But maybe I would shoulder my way through the crowd, throw my own fist in the air, and bang my head alongside of him.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Zombies Take Manhattan!

Did I mention that I love my publisher, Hyperion, and everyone that works there? Look at the newest marketing they have done for Generation Dead, a sweet postering campaign in New York City! Just click on the photo for a better view.

The campaign also runs 7/21-8/4 in Seattle--I'll send a Generation Dead T-shirt to whoever sends me the best jpeg of a Seattle poster to TommyWilliams17 at

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kiss of Life the title of the sequel to Generation Dead. My brilliant editor Ari and I are working hard on the book right now!

Big changes are in store for Phoebe and the gang...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Danny Waters--Now 10% off

Way back in an early blog post I stated my goal of losing 10% of my body weight. Well, through an iron will and herculanean effort, I've achieved that goal only seven months late.

I love change, and I'm endlessly fascinated by renewal and reinvention. In addition to getting all svelte, these are some of the opportunities for change in my life the past year: I became a househusband, had my book published, learned to levitate, helped coach my son's basketball and baseball teams, all but cured my allergy symptoms through the wonder of nasal irrigation, read 93 books, saw three ghosts, cooked 103 more meals than I did last year, met dozens of fabulous authors, and mastered the ancient martial art of Crewka Crewka as perfected by sensei Dee Dee Ramone.*

*Disclaimer: Not all of the preceding statements are true

Monday, July 14, 2008

The New York Times on Zombies

Yesterday the New York Times reviewed Generation Dead and Brian James' Zombie Blondes!

Read all about it here.

Also, I've added an Interviews section to the links on the right. I appreciate the various interviewers' attempts to make me sound intelligent.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Chasing Manhattan

Today I'm home from New York, after an action-packed day and a signing at the well-named children's book store, Books of Wonder. So strange to be in New York fresh after a week in Maine by a secluded lake--what an incredible contrast. Which do I like better? The tranquil, sylvan glen, or the world's most thriving metropolis? It is a dead-even tie.

The event was a lot of fun, and I got to meet four other authors, ANNA GODBERSEN, author of The Luxe, RACHEL VAIL, author of Lucky, SUZANNE WEYN, author of Reincarnation (and also The Bar Code Tattoo, which she was sweet enough to give me a copy of, and J.M. STEELE, a fellow Hyperion author who wrote The Market. I did not meet the sixth author, F. PAUL WILSON, author of Jack:Secret Histories, only because I met him a couple years ago when I was trying to launch my writing career. Paul was instrumental in helping launch that career. I attended a writing workshop where Paul was one of the instructors. The workshop was really my first attempt to "leave the cave" to advance my writing career, and I really didn't know what to expect. After Paul read my sample, he said "I can't help you." I gave him the deer in the headlights look, and then he went on went on to say that as far as my writing went, there wasn't anything major he thought I needed to work on. I was ready, in other words, for publication. Paul has written over forty wonderful novels and countless wonderful short stories, so for him to give such encouragement was and is a high point of my writing life thus far. His influence on my life and career since has been dramatic.

So it was fun when the panel of authors was asked the question "who has inspired you to become an author?" and I got to answer, truthfully, "Paul".

Later that night I walked a dozen or so blocks to my hotel, which was across the street from a couple nightclubs. The street in front was of cobblestones, and there was a courtyard dividing the streets with a functional stonework art installation where people could sit and talk. I took the highest seat and watched the city flow by for an hour or so, just as I had sat on the deck at the place we rent in Maine to watch the lake,which is fed by two rivers,flow. Both sights were awesome to behold.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Generation Dead on Television?

Generation Dead was featured on the Good Morning America show yesterday as one of their "Summer Sizzle Reading Picks for Kids"! Did anyone catch the show?

Here's a link to the article: Good Morning America.

Some of the comments people left on the article are interesting, in a Nathan Mather-esque way.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Ever Changing Life


The booksigning at the Borders Express in Waterford, CT for June 28th has been cancelled due to a scheduling mishap. Hopefully I'll get there at some point.


I'll be at Books of Wonder in NYC on July 10th for a YA event with at least two other authors, Anna Godbersen (The Luxe) and Rachel Vail (Lucky).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Under the Influence Part III

After reading Night Shift by the dim porch light at the lakeside cabin in Maine, I went on a King-frenzy, reading all that had been released up to that point. The Shining, Carrie, and The Stand were my favorites from that period of his work, but probably the book that had the greatest impact on me as a writer was his nonfiction homage to the horror genre, Danse Macabre, wherein he relates his thoughts about the societal impact of horror (and perhaps more importantly to me, on horror), spicing the analysis with plenty of great King-ian anecdotes concerning his childhood, dealings with fans, the business, or other writers. In the last section of the book he discusses modern horror literature, and the books and authors he wrote about were ones I read eagerly.

Stephen King is one of the main reasons I wanted to be a writer, and I think it has a lot to do with me discovering him when I was so young. In much the same way that Mr. King and many of the horror writers of his generation claim that E.C. comics and Ray Bradbury inspired them to pick up pen and paper, I believe that many people of my own generation--if they are being honest--would point at Mr. King and credit him for similar inspiration.

And, callow youth that I was, I must admit that it wasn't just King's writing that attracted me--it was also his celebrity. More accurately, it was what I perceived his celebrity to be. I remember seeing him in his cameo in his movie Creepshow and thinking that, in addition to earning his living by the pen (and what a living it must be!), he was also doing it entirely on his own terms. The avuncular (albeit creepy-uncle avuncular) come-along-with-me style in which he wrote the forwards to his own material made him seem to be another presence in the room once I started reading the stories themselves; I could picture him (always the hulking, bearded guy of the early book jacket photos) wringing his hands, looking on with feverish glee and waiting to see my reaction as I read the next page. So on one hand I thought he was a writer who worked on whatever the hell he wanted, openly contemptuous of certain editors, critics, and armchair psychoanalysts, but on the other he seemed to me to be a writer who had a real fondness and respect for his readers. This rather unique duality in his work and persona was something something I would think about as I developed my own ideas of the writer/reader contract.

From King, I read just about every modern horror novel I could get my hands on for the next few years. And as this was during the 80's, I had an endless supply to choose from, and I read many that were great, and many that were not great but I still managed to enjoy, and I read many, many that were not great and not enjoyable, either. And when these began to outnumber the good ones, in my mind, at least I started reading...other things.

The summer before college I read a number of books, outside of what is typically classified as "genre" fiction, that began to affect my life dramatically. I was writing daily by graduation, with two novels, a few notebooks full of short stories, and a pile of rejection letters, mostly from indie comic companies, to my credit. I knew what I wanted to do with my life before I even set foot in a college classroom.

And it was around this time that I read what, for me, was the most terrifying passage I'd ever read in a book, for worse than any of the fiction King or his contemporaries had written.

It was in a book written by Dan Simmons, I writer who I began reading around that time and have never stopped reading, one whose books I scarf up as soon as they hit the stores. In this book, Mr. Simmons wrote about his "discovery" by Harlan Ellison at a writing workshop he was attending (or possibly it was Harlan's version of the same story; I think both authors have written about their fateful meeting).

Apparently, before Mr. Simmons was up to have his work critiqued, an elderly gentleman had his story read, and was told by Mr. Ellison that his time would be better spent pursuing an endeavor that he had a greater aptitude for. I remember reading that there were those who "mistake a love of reading for a talent for writing."

Ouch. Those words haunt me every day I sit down at the keyboard.

My reading wasn't all horror stories, though in the early going the horror stories were what I emulated. Late in high school and on into college I started reading more widely and fell in love with a number of authors and books that would influence my work heavily. I'll write about some of them in a later blog.

Friday, June 20, 2008

We Have A Winner

iGoth!!!! If you are out there, please send an email with your address to so I'll know where to send your new shirt! Congrats!

Still no "Under the Influence, Pt. III". I went to Yankee Stadium yesterday and saw one of the most amazing games I've ever seen, from the nosebleed seats way up on the third tier. Well played by both the Padres and the Yankees, Joba fanned 9, and Rivera K'd all three batters he faced in the 9th to end the game.

You know what? The nosebleed seats are pretty cool. We were close to the plate on the first base side and when a batter would pop one back foul the ball would seem to hover at eye level a few moments before falling back to earth.

Plus, free hat day!!!! Yeah, boooooiiiiiii!

I see I'm remiss on my album of the week as well, so I'll keep it mercifully brief.

REVOLVER, The Beatles, 1966

Revolver is the best album ever recorded. Any questions?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Keep an Eye on Summer

I'm having some trouble coalescing my thoughts for "Under the Influence, Part III" and didn't think anyone would be interested in reading the ten pages I'd written thus far. What is a blog, anyhow? Is it entertainment? Information? Infotainment? Edutainment? Entermation? Mindless blather? A masochistic form of therapy? None of the above?

I'll edit, and post. In the meantime, some interesting bits of Generation Dead infoedutaintionment available on the web:

An interview with me at Yapping About YA:here.

An interesting website which breaks down some of the tropes in GD, TV Tropes. Many books and movies are discussed on the site and it would probably be useful for completing homework assignments or possibly broadening one's reading/viewing pleasure. Warning: Mild Spoilers: here.

The website of CJ Bott, Ms. Bott is an educational consultant who "uses literature to start the discussion on bullying." I was honored that she selected GD for reasons I've written about elsewhere in the blog. You can check it out here.

The first review from across the pond, that I'm aware of anyhow, at I absolutely swooned when the reviewer said that the style "is kitchen sink drama with humour." Read ithere.

Speaking of the the U.K. (which I often do, and with great respect), rumour (note special pandering U.K spelling) has it that Generation Dead will appear there in full flower (ahem) on July 7.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Under the Influence Part II

Who are my writing influences? What are my writing influences? And are we talking about subject matter, theme, style, or general world view?

My sugar and caffeine intake (or lack thereof)have an influence on my writing as well, but let's ignore that for now.

To answer these questions I first considered where one of the essential tools for a writer came from, namely, a love of reading. My mother read to me when I was very young, and my father always had change for me to buy comic books or Mad magazines when I was young. I'm not sure exactly when I became an independent reader, but I know I was pretty young. The first book I can recall reading on my own was given to me by my esteemed Uncle Ron and honored Aunt Beth, D'aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, which has stunning pastel pictures to accompany some of the most fantastic stories ever assembled. Every home should have one; it gets Danny's vote for Best Book for Children, ever.

From comic books and Greek myths, I had a tendency to drift towards series books--Dr. Doolittle, Thornton Burgess, Tarzan, the Three Investigators, the Hardy Boys. Birthday celebrations at my house were far different from the Laser Tag/Chuck E. Cheese/Mini Golf/Roller Skating extravaganzas of today--for my birthday when I was a kid, my cousin would get to sleep over, and my Dad (or my uncle, when it was my cousin's birthday) would take us out for a pizza and a movie, and we'd get to split five bucks at the arcade. But the highlight was a quick trip into Caldor's where Matt and I would each get to pick out a Hardy Boys book, which we'd trade back after we'd read it. From the Hardy Boys I went to reading all of Ian Fleming (I remember getting in trouble in 5th grade for reading From Russia With Love during indoor recess) including his travelogue Thrilling Cities which was my favorite. I read all of the Philip Marlowe stories, and I started branching out into science fiction, and I think by around the age of ten I'd read some Heinlein, Bradbury, and the Tolkien novels. I read Doc Savage novels by the dozens. I was a fiend for reading.

One week each summer we would go to my great uncle's cottage in Maine, which my father had been going to since he was a little kid, and where I now bring my own children. Back then, the cottage seemed like the last outpost of humanity in a thrilling wilderness; it sat on a pine shaded lake, only accessible by a winding narrow dirt road. Once on a drive back through the woods to town an owl flew inside of the open window of our station wagon, its wings flapping against my father's neck in a panic, sharp talons inches away from my father's neck. My grandfather, the most gentle man I'd ever known, was sitting beside him in the shotgun seat. He leaned over and, without hurry or malice, calmly flicked his wrist at the owl, and the bird tumbled back out the window and flew off. The incident, in addition to convincing my young brother and I of our father's bravery and grandfather's incipient heroism, lent yet another aura of adventure to the mystique of the cottage and surrounding woods.

The days on the lake were the brightest ever, the lake glittering silver and gold in the sunshine, and the nights were darker than in the development where we lived back home in Connecticut.When not warding off deadly birds of prey, we'd swim, go canoeing, hiking or swimming, and after a day full of physical activity, the best conclusion was to sink, muscle-tired skin still tingling from sunshine and lake water, into one of the soft-cushioned chairs on the screened porch and read. Some of my best memories of my weeks in Maine are of the literally hundreds of books I've read there over the years.

One year, maybe I was eleven or twelve, I brought along a new paperback that looked pretty interesting to me, a book of horror short stories. I'd also been reading everything in the library with Alfred Hitchcock's name on it) had a blue cover with die cut holes in it where various sized eyes peeked out. You'd open the cover to find that the eyes were on a gauze-wrapped human hand. One of the eyes was at the joint of a finger, and for some reason I'd fixate on it and wonder what would happen if the eye-hand guy made a fist. I thought that maybe I'd find a story inside about old Argus, my buddy from D'aulaires Book of Greek Myths.

The book was Night Shift, by Stephen King.

Stayed tuned for Under the Influence, part III, where I'll write a bit more about Mr. King, and also of the most horrific thing I've ever read. Also, don't forget to leave a post under the T-shirt contest blog. I'll pick a winner, randomly, next week.