Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Best Signing, Ever

The author reception at the ABA Winter Institute was pretty amazing. Jenn, E. and I got there a little early. Tables topped and skirted in black fabric ran in a large "U" around the room, where 37 other writers and I would commence signing. I was at table #7 with E., and there were little signs with out names, photos, and book covers on standees, and there was a large pile of my books on the table. It was very hard not to, in the words of my good friend, the writer Rick Koster, "wax cornescent" about the sight.

I was nervous that my pile of books would go unsigned and that folks would have no room in their suitcases once they scarfed the books from people like Augusten Burroughs, Tobias Wolff, Andre Dubus III, and Ethan Canin, but luckily E. was a huge draw. Within moments E. had a deep line, and was very kindly referring her fans over to me. It felt like I'd signed a lot of books by the end of the night.

I did have the coolest book signing experience ever when a bookseller named Jen came over to my table with a copy of the arc in hand. The book's cover had been ripped off, and the pages and binding were swelled and stained as though she'd dug the book out of a nearby swamp. Jen told me that she loved the book and had dropped it in the tub, hence its tattered condition, but she still wanted mne to sign it. That was definitely my happiest moment in a trip filled with happiness--signing a zombie version of my zombie book!

I hope it fits in on her bookshelf...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Three Graces and a Gargoyle

But first, a brief comment about strange synchronicities:

During a break in the ABA action, I went back to my room to engage in some profound writerly-type activities. Actually, I watched my Netflix movie Dodgeball on my laptop.

In the movie, the Dodgeball finals were held at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas. I've heard of the Monte Carlo, of course, but have never been to Vegas. There's a shot of the Monte Carlo in the movie where the hotel is seen from the front at a height that one assumes was shot from a helicopter. When the film was over, I turned on the television, and there on CNN there was a shot of the Monte Carlo, from the front, during the day, as though shot from a helicopter, except this time an ugly black smoke is billowing off the building. In addition, obviously, to being concerned for the people inside fleeing and fighting the fire, I felt the Twilight Zone music turning on in my head.

I don't know what moments of bizarre synchronicity mean, if they mean anything. I have them quite often, and I assume others do as well. It's fun to speculate--are they evidence of a purposeful cosmos, or merely the end results of a mind imposing patterns on a random world? Are they signposts along the way that remind us everything happens for a reason, or just wacky coincidences that mostly go unrecorded and unobserved.

I've got my own conclusions about the moments; suffice to say I'm happy when they occur and look forward to the next one.

Back to the ABA. The three graces are my traveling companions, the aforementioned E. Lockhart and Jenn from Hyperion. We're joined this time out by my editor Alessandra. The three graces are super-elegant and super-accomplished women, and they all Know the Drill when it comes to publishing/bookselling events. Even if I wasn't a rookie I think I'd still feel like a lumbering oaf, constantly smashing into furniture and smiling when he has spinach in his teeth. Luckily they are also super-gracious and just super-good company. I was feeling very special and fortune to be with them.

Especially we went out and I got a Hot Brown. Alessandra got one too, thus upping her own already high cool factor in my eyes. A Louisville Hot Brown, whatever horrible image your mind conjured up at the term, is a sort of open-faced sandwich, except it comes in a crock. It has chunks of turkey and bread and is covered with a heavy Mornay sauce, and then topped with cheese they then bake and brown. Our came with a garnish of a tomato slice and strip of bacon. Yes, the Hot Brown has a bacon garnish. I believe it is very important to sample native cuisines when in foreign lands like Minnesota and Kentucky, hence the cheese curds and Hot Brown. My world is expanded.

Oh, yeah. Booksellers are awesome! Awesome, awesome people. Even if I hadn't once been one I'd say that. On my next post, I'll tell you about the Zombie Book of my zombie book.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I Like Music

Just got back from the stellar ABA Winter Institute and I have a lot to write about, but first I wanted to post this mini-interview Brian Hallenbeck, an Arts writer from The Day, a stellar newspaper in nearby New London, did with me concerning some of the many treasures on my iPod. Mr. Hallenbeck does a column called "What's On Your...?" and the "..." can be just about anything--bookshelf, iPod, DVD player, etc.

What's On Your...iPod?
Dan Waters, Author


Brian Hallenback

• “COSMIC SOUNDS,” The Zodiac. This collection of “bizarre, short, trippy songs” tops Waters' list of favorite albums “you might not have heard.” The 38-year-old Norwich resident, whose first book, “Generation Dead,” a young-adult horror story Hyperion will bring out in May, says some believe this is the first psychedelic record, and the first one to feature use of a Moog synthesizer.

• “WEB OF DHARMA,” Michale Graves. “Perfect, two-minute punk songs powered by Graves' clear vocal delivery and sharply ominous lyrical sense,” says Waters, who already has a contract to write a sequel to the first.

• “ONLY THE STRONG,” Thor. “I bought this when I was still in (St. Bernard) high school,” Waters says. “I am an unreformed metalhead at heart, and this album was one of the reasons why. I'm proud to say I actually met Thor on a tour, and he used some of my photography on two of his CDs.”

• “RAISE YOUR SPIRITS,” The Rosedales. “My first writing for pay was CD reviews for Cemetery Dance publications, a column I called Dead Beats,” he says. “All my reviews were of 'horror punk' CDs. I listened to this type of music constantly while writing 'Generation Dead'.”

• “DUB SIDE OF THE MOON,” Easy Star All-Stars. “On paper, this sounds like something I would absolutely hate: a reggae version of Pink Floyd's “Dark Side of the Moon.” ... But it totally works for me.”

That's it for today. Tomorrow I will tell you a tale of the Louisville Hot Brown and record some more Moments of Bizarre Synchronicity

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sick of Being Sick

I almost never get sick. I hardly ever get colds. I think this has a lot to do with my rigorous diet and exercise regimen, which involves gallons of diet cola and pacing in ever widening circles around my home office. Either that, or my organs are so preserved by the many chemicals I ingest via brightly packaged snack treats that they have become resistant to bacteria and viruses. Whatever the reason, I'm very thankful for my strange mutant constitution.

The worst part about being sick for me, believe it or not, is that it interferes with work, although it hardly seems honest for me to call writing work. Not that it doesn't take effort, or that it isn't extremely frustrating or difficult at times because it is, but even when the writing is bad and the process painful I still have more fun doing it than almost anything else on Earth. Outside of being with my family, there's nothing I'd rather be doing. Given the choice between lounging in the shade of a palm tree on a white sand beach, frosted drink in hand, watching the sunlight play across a gentle azure sea, or having a solid day writing in my uninsulated office in New England with the heat off, I'd take the writing. Crazy, I know. (Note: If there's anyone out there that wants to set me and my family up so I can go write while lounging on your white sand beach, drop me a line.)

Anyway, I finally got back to work today, work as in actually putting pen to paper and fingers to keyboard, and it felt great even though I'm still not at 100% (maybe 83.6%). I had the records spinning, the keys tapping, it was all good.

There's something about a congested skull that prevents me from being able to write. Although I don't get sick often, I do suffer from hay fever, but that is something I can usually medicate pretty effectively. Nothing seemed to be touching this cold for a few days, so I didn't get much writing done. Trying to accentuate the positive, I had a lot of time to think, when I wasn't scrolling through my Tivo queue and sucking down chicken noodle soup by the gallon. I think I may have thought through some key problems I was having with a supernatural thriller I've been working on as well as reasoned out some issues with my next book for Hyperion. These solutions came forward when I wasn't trying consciously to think of them, either, which was really pretty cool. I'm glad my brain, which I thought had become one giant sinus, was still trying to write while my body was punking out.

In a couple days I head off to the American Booksellers Association Winter Third Annual Winter Institute, being held in Louisville, Kentucky. I expect to be hale and hearty for the event!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Danny Invited into the JLG

No, not the Justice League of Greenville, although they probably could have used me, as I have powers. Awesome powers.

The JLG in this case is the Junior Library Guild, which is an organization that makes recommendations and sells to public libraries and school libraries. I'm honored, as the JLG has an impeccable list of books. Generation Dead will be offered by the Junior Library Guild as a Spring selection. Sweeeeeeet!

Did I say things got interesting after we left for the airport? Maybe I exaggerated a little, although I did find it interesting that a little tub of maybe eight Pringles could cost three dollars.

I think I'm on the down side of my cold now, and hopefully will shake it completely before the trip to Kentucky. I don't enjoy writing or reading when I have a cold, and that might be the only time I don't enjoy those activities. Basically all I do is laundry and catch up on my television viewing, pretty dull stuff.

But hey, I did learn something very interesting on the trip from Jenn, the delightful publicist at Hyperion who is working with me on Generation Dead. She mentioned that there was an entire squad of goth zombie cheerleaders for the GD cover shoot, and that Hyperion's offices were filled with these willowy, spooky cheerleaders, roaming the halls! I'm hoping that I can get photographic evidence--I love the idea of these girls drifting along, and wonder what some of the "rejected" shots look like.

You know what is really, really weird? I found another twenty dollar bill today, right outside the school gym where I'm the assistant coach of my son's basketball team. Nobody was around, and when I asked the few parents' and kids by the gym door if they'd lost the money, no one said they had.

This money thing is starting to freak me out. I'm wondering if people are tossing money at me because they assume I am a vagrant.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Most Literate City in America, Part 3

After lunch, I find two five dollar bills in my sport jacket. Then Tim drove us to the University of Minnesota's Andersen Library, which houses, among other things, their Children's Literature Research Collections, an absolutely amazing collection of books, original manuscripts and art. The collection is housed in an enormous underground warehouse carved into the limestone beside the Mississippi river. Walking among the rows and rows of shelving and acid free boxes, we're told that the basement library would be the safest place to be during an atomic war. The most fun, too. I'd spend the last days reading through the Hess collection, which contains 60,000 dime novels, pulps, and early series books for children. Somewhere in the collection is the Detective Comics with the first appearance of Batman.

I find a ten dollar bill in front of part of the Sherlock Holmes collection. I turn it in, and later I realise that it is my change from breakfast. Easy come, easy go.

Then it was back to the hotel to rest before dinner with booksellers from a variety of great stores--Red Balloon, Bookcase, Wild Rumpus, and Barnes & Noble--at the Town Talk Diner. It is there I first encounter the Midwest phenomenon known as cheese curds, which are basically deep fried blobs of cheese. I am a fan of both deep fried and cheese, so life is good. Because I worry that my diet is perhaps a little shy of cheese, I also order a grilled cheese which comes with tomato soup. The soup rules, especially as I appear to be struck with a sinus infection or a head cold.

The booksellers are a warm, charming group of people. I used to be a bookseller, so after hearing a few tales from the trenches I risk telling Danny's Slightly Off-Color Bookseller Story. Luckily, it is a big hit, so much so I'm asked to tell it again. Emily and I are presented with Town Talk Diner drink cozies, which is great because I just threw out my Homer Simpson one because it left blue rings on my desk.

Once at the hotel, I go straight to bed, a bit worried because both of my ears are blocked and I'm expecting a painful flight home. I take an Advil and wake up sweaty, but my ears are miraculously free from pain. I wake up again at five a.m., take a quick shower, and meet Emily and Jenn in the lobby for the taxi ride back.
I find a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk, and Emily spots another one a few feet away.

We get in the cab, and zoom off to the airport. And then things get interesting...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Most Literate City in America, Part 2

Game day for Danny. E. and I travel to a restaurant called Zelo with Jenn, our publicist from Hyperion. Jenn just got married . Congrats, Jenn! We're going with some people from the Disney Book Group and meeting people from Target for lunch. Everyone from the Disney Book Group is young, attractive, and passionate about what they do. Everyone from Target is young and attractive, and very passionate about what they do. Daniel Waters is, well, passionate about what he does.

When we sit down, I have the painfully acute realization that A). I am the oldest one at my table, B.) No one seems to know what Mystery Science Theater is and C). It could be said, fairly, that I resemble Pumpkinhead, except Pumpkinhead after he has been left out bleaching in the sun way past his freshness date. Did I mention everyone else is young and attractive?

Luckily I can overcome these differences, mostly, with my sparkling wit. I get to talk about my book, my kids, my prowess on the basketball court, and video games. Going with the recommendations of the Target people, I order the something-or-other encrusted sea bass, and am a little worried when a scoop-sized portion of what looks like wasabi is on the plate. I'm suddenly fearing that I haven't been half as witty as I thought I was, and have blundered into some insidious wasabi-based hazing ritual. I'm assured that the dollop is wasabi mashed potatoes, and upon trying them, discover they are excellent. All in all, fine company and a fine meal.

And, oh yeah, I get to sign books. It's the first time I've signed Generation Dead for strangers, which was actually kind of emotional for me. But I wasn't crying; that was the wasabi.

In part three I will regale you with Tales of Cheese Curds! Take Courage!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Most Literate City in America, Part 1

Day 1 in Minneapolis:

I avoided the dread Nor'easter with an afternoon flight and a hotel stay near the airport. The flight itself is blissfully uneventful and we actually arrive a half hour early. I spend the flight reading, listening to music by Echo and the Bunnymen, the Gathering, and the Detroit Cobras. I sketch out not one, not two, but FIVE short story ideas featuring my pals from Generation Dead. I also play Klondike, which is the iPod version of solitaire. I notice that I play Klondike instead of being nervous. I play Klondike often lately.

For dinner, I eat a grilled Stiltoncheese sandwich at a place called Brits Pub after trying to take a walk but quitting after two blocks. Some of my companions on this trip are vegetarians and I'm trying to get into the spirit of things. A little boy at the next table informs me that this is the coldest day of the year in Minneapolis, perhaps catching inspiration upon seeing my elephantine red ears. There is a large bottle cap-shaped emblem on the wall with a bantam rooster and the words "Take Courage" beneath. The cheese sandwich and pub fries are quite good.

No events for Danny today, but I am fortunate enough to attend a reading/seminar at Hamline University given by the vivacious and delightful E. Lockhart who I mentioned in an earlier post. I'll admit, I find some readings painful, but Emily (E. is a secret code name. Ssssshhhhh!)has such charm and stage presence I'm riveted the entire hour, in which E. reads from a selection of her many works. Beyond her obvious rapport with the crowd, a mixed bag of students, readers and people that Tim, our media guide, describes as "book junkies", what shines through the most to me is Emily's voice. Her narrative voice, and the voices of her characters, ring very clear and true to me.

I think voice is one of the most difficult things to capture and develeop when writing fiction, and, for this reader, anyhow, it is usually the element that pulls me in the most. Hearing Emily read from a number of different works, introducing the reader to a variety of characters, it is easy to hear that she has voice aplenty--and stories to match. Her forthcoming The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks may be the only title of hers I've yet read, but I plan to remedy that soon.

Watching Emily was as inspirational as it was entertaining, although when I try to picture myself doing the same sort of thing someday and what pops into my head is the pastry chef who would fall down the stairs on Sesame Street after announcing, loudly, that he has "eleven custard pies" or some similarly unweildy pile of confectionary.

Yes, I release that reference may date me. You'll see that I'll have even more reason to feel dated on day two of the adventure, but I'll Take Courage. The rooster demands it!!!!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Spin the Black Circle

I'm home a lot more, so I find myself making more use of my record collection than in years' past. This morning I put on a record and was blown away by how much more muscular and rich, how 'fat' the sound was than of the CD. I like to have music on when I write, and I like it loud enough to obliterate all other background noise but my own voice and the tapping on the keys (I'm a heavy-fingered typist).

Certain CDs really just sound anemic compared to the original records. There's a valid reason for remastering CDs, one that is beyond making a buck off the consumer for a second (or in many cases with me, a third or a fourth)time or acquiring the special bonus tracks that were deleted from the original albums. If you bought CDs of classic albums when the technology was just starting to take hold, or if even if you bought a recent rerelease of a more obscure album, than you quite likely got a vastly inferior sound product than the original records.

I know this is old news for audiophiles, but I was really struck by the difference when listening today.

Sometimes it isn't just the sound quality that stinks. I've a few CDs where the audio mix is actually different that the original, and that is not usually a good thing. Others have tracks out of order, or worse, track deletions. This things can drive an obsessive like myself bonkers.

Some of the remastering packages have been exceptional. I'm a huge Fates Warning fan, and remasters of those albums (which were quite murky on the initial CD releases) were great. The Cure have done an amazing job by their fans with their remasters, which are filled with rarities and alternate takes and the like.

Some great albums have yet to be remastered; if I could pick anyone out there to be remastered, it would be the Smiths. To my knowledge, the Smiths original CD releases have not been updated sonically. I think they had a Greatest Hits collection that had remastered tracks, but I'm not aware of the albums themselves being remastered--probably due to legal wrangling among the members.

Ah, well. I've still got the vinyl.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Generation Dead Pre-Pub Tour: Spreading Zombie Love

Next week it begins, when I get to fly out to Minneapolis to meet with book buyers and booksellers. I'm incredibly excited about the trip, not only for the chance to meet these folks, but also for the following reasons:

1. I've spent time in twenty-eight states. Minnesota is not one of them.

2. Minneapolis was named the most literate city in America in a recent study, found at What better place to begin promoting one's book?

3. Minneapolis was where Mystery Science Theater 3000 was created and first aired, so Minneapolis must be teening with brilliant, witty people.

4. I get to travel with the fantastic E. Lockhart, author of number of great YA books, including Dramarama, The Boyfriend List, and Fly on the Wall. She will be promoting The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, due out from Hyperion in March. I was lucky enough to get the arc of Disreputable History, which I found to be a well-written, clever, and hilarious book. You should obviously purchase it the moment it comes out, even though E. is a little disappointed that I am not the Daniel Waters who wrote Batman Returns and Heathers (for more on this tragedy, read my first blog entry). Alas, I can only be the best Daniel Waters I can be.

I love flying, and I always get a lot of writing done in the air and in the terminals. One of my favorite moments of last year was looking up from a scene of Generation Dead and realizing that I was flying home beside a spectacular lightning storm that was hovering over New York City. I stopped writing to watch long, blue-white branches of electricity arc out over the night sky, backlighting the bank of fluffy gray clouds and descending towards the glittering city below. The song "Saudade" by Love and Rockets was playing on my headphones, which I've come to realize is the best possible mile-high lightning storm soundtrack available.

"Saudade", BTW is a Portuguese word,and among the definitions out there, my favorite is this partial one I found on Wikipedia "is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist."

Saudade, then, comes as close to describing the drive behind "why I write" for me as anything I know...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

This Year Will Be Different

I love New Year's Eve is my favorite holiday of the year. Not because of the Bacchanalian revelries I engage in (like having nachos and pizza) but because I make a ritual of reviewing the year that has past and then envisioning the year ahead. 2007 was a banner year for the Waters household, and I fully expect 2008 to be even better. I don't really make resolutions, but I do make plans.

BTW, Kayleigh surpassed her reading goal with 53 books. Happy New Year to all