Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Phoebe's Phavorite


In Generation Dead I mentioned a number of bands that Phoebe and Margi like to listen to--some of the bands were fictional, some weren't. The Rosedales--whose picture is hanging in Phoebe's locker, are thankfully one of the non-fictional bands. I say thankfully, because if the Rosedales didn't exist, I'd want to invent them--but the invention would never be as good as the real thing. They have a brand new album entitled Once Upon a Season . I've just finished listening to it a second time through and it is, hands down, my favorite album of 2009. And I got a lot of good stuff this year. If I had my way, the Rosedales would be doing the soundtrack for a Generation Dead movie, that's how much I like the Rosedales (of course, if I had my way, there would be a Generation Dead movie already in production).

I'm not going to do a typical track-by-track dissection of the album, I'm just going to urge you to use those iTunes and Amazon gift cards you'll be getting in your stockings this year on the new album. Give "Cold, Cold Heart" or "Nightgown" or "Never Coming Home" a listen if you are skeptical. Heck, give any of them a listen.

Off-the-cuff descriptions I've read typically lump them in with "horror-punk" or "horror-rock"; I first became aware of them from hearing a track on a horrorpunk compilation. "Horrorpunk", typically, is an industry term for "Misfits copy-band". Understand that I love Misfits copy bands--but the horrorpunk label applied to the Rosedales does them a real disservice, because they have a sound that is all their own. Clean, layered vocal harmonies, atmospheric arrangements, haunting lyrics, music that alternates between driving rock (mostly) and a few lush, quiet acoustic moments that are as breathtaking as they are unexpected, as in "Meet You There". And the thing is, your breath has already been taken away by the epic scope and relentless pace of the earlier numbers.

Okay, I admit it. I'm a total fan. But listen for yourself. Here's a video from one of their songs from their earlier release, Raise Your Spirits:

A ten-spot will cover the album download, and leave you a little change left. You can apply it towards the two new Misfits songs that came out last month, if you. Or if your richie aunt gave you the mega-sized download card, get the Rosedales 'Raise Your Spirits as well (less than twenty bucks for the two!); I promise you won't regret it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Few Notes About The Willing Suspension of Disbelief


I don't really like to give writing advice. I love to write about writing; I love to discuss my process and the experiences I have while writing, but I shy away from giving advice, because I don't really think I'm at the point where my advice on writing is valid (I'm a little more free with writing business advice. It isn't that I lack confidence as a writer; it is more that I'm still in a mode of self-discovery and not one where I believe I have real wisdom to impart. I write and I can usually tell where it works, but that doesn't mean I can tell you how to figure out what will work for you. The following blog isn't writing advice, really, but more the sharing of a flash of insight that may or may not help you if you are interested in writing stories.

And it is all true!

I came home the other day and the rest of my family was out, hopefully tracking down the seventy-three items on my Christmas list (I've been nice, not naughty). I filled up a cup with ice and my favorite caffeine-laden soft drink, walked into the living room and picked up the new Stephen King novel (lifting with my legs and not my back) and sat down for what I hoped would be at least fifteen minutes of reading bliss. I saw an envelope addressed to my son on the coffee table, a folded letter beside it. I read the letter and then began to dance around the room, hooting and whooping wildly, so much so that Starro the Conqueror (my beagle) joined in on the festivities.

This is the letter:

I read the letter the second time, and then ran to the computer to scan it in as a jpeg and then email it to a friend of mine. This was going to be the best Christmas ever! Seats on the floor, the week before Christmas! Kevin Garnett! Paul Pierce! 'Sheed! Rajon flippin' Rondo! With the money I saved on the tickets, I was going to buy official Celtics gear for all!

Then I read the letter a little more closely.

I started to think that it was a little odd that the company sponsoring the ticket giveaway wasn't mentioned. I mean, sure, Cormac had purchased a "western cap gun" (yeah, I know. Shame on me for allowing him to have toy weaponry. With explosives, no less. Shoot me), but it seemed odd that the makers of "western cap gun" weren't given any credit. You'd think after selling a 100,000,000 units (that's a lot of western cap guns) they would be a little more on the ball. Of course, the letterhead looked a little strange, and I was surprised they didn't have the NBA logo or any trademarks beyond the big leprechaun. And the signatures did look a little similar in places, but I figured that was probably because they had two or three college interns forge them all.

And then I noticed the phone number only had seven digits.

Visions of high-fiving Ray Allen after getting fouled on a three pointer (and maybe,just maybe, being called from the bench to take his place if he was injured)faded instantly from my mind. Someone was a scam artist. Someone had taken the time to pull a diabolical scam, an insidious prank. Someone had broken the heart of a little boy just before Christmas (my son's, too, I guess). I sent an angry email of retraction to my friend, along with a solemn oath to find whoever it was that hoodwinked my son. And when I found them, I vowed, i would make them pay.

As I sat there fuming, I thought of just how the insidious document had sucked me into it's web of deceit. Someone must have known what a huge basketball fan I was, of the Celtics in particular, and must have assumed (rightly) that my son would by proxy be a fan as well.

My family came home a half hour or so later (a half hour that I could have spent reading pages 11,045-11,082 in the Stephen King book). I met them in the kitchen. clutching the letter.

"Did you see this?" I said, brandishing the letter.

"Did you like it?" Kayleigh, my daughter said, a little warily. "I made it to play a trick on Cormac."

"I wasn't fooled," Cormac, world-weary, said. "It looks so fake."

After I picked my jaw up off the linoleum, I told them about my emotional roller coaster ride of the past hour, and then we all laughed until tears were coming out of our eyes. "Daddy is so stupid!" One of them said. Or maybe that was me.

Daddy may be stupid, but he likes to learn from his experiences. Looking again at her clever forgery, I tried to figure out how I was duped so easily. How had I willingly suspended my disbelief for so obvious a piece of fakery? A letter signed by the whole team? A western cap gun? What was I thinking?

Two key elements must exist for the WSOD to occur.

1. Establishing a reason for the reader to be willing to suspend his/her disbelief is critical.
Front row tickets for four? For my favorite team? Check. I was more than willing

2. There must be some element of plausibility for the reader to latch on to.
Here's the thing--as (retrospectively) silly as the idea of the Celtics giving up front row seats because of a partnership with a cap gun company is, the other part of the premise--my son winning some out-of-the-blue prize, is entirely believable to me. His winning is plausible because his history of winning every possible school and church basket raffle is well documented (I may have even blogged about it). He is the kid that will catch the t-shirt fired from the t-shirt cannon at the local minor league baseball game. he is the kid that will be selected out of the crowd of five hundred to help the magician with his trick. He wins us free pizzas, nights of fun at the bowling alley, and all sorts of promotional sportswear, so the idea of him winning, by itself, was not outside of the realm of the possible. And I have to admit, the "western cap gun" thing struck a certain chord in me, some nostalgic yearning for the days of yore where there were kids' radio promotions and secret decoder rings to be found in cereal boxes. I didn't get to live in those times, but I heard they existed, and they sound pretty cool.

So, writers, think on these elements if you are looking to have readers work with you. Getting your reader to voluntarily turn off the old nonsense detector is key if you are writing about fantastical things like wizards, front row tickets to the Celtics or,um, zombies. And it would be helpful if you could find an audience as willing to believe as my daughter found in me.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Interactivity and Live Chat

I'll be doing a online live chat-y type thing over at the Haunted House this Thursday at 8:00 EST. The wonderful and talented Raschel will be moderating, so be sure and log on and ask me all sorts of potentially embarrassing questions. Not too many people know where the Haunted House is, but you can get directions HERE.

Also, my super-talented friend from Wales, who goes by many aliases but I know her as Yazzie, is looking for volunteers that she can zombify for a Generation Dead photo project she is doing. You can contact Yazzie directly to be zombified at neko-kyuuketsuki at Yazzie did my author zombification!

Other cool things abounding on the Internet:

An interview with me as conducted by writer and editor Alethea Kontis, HERE. Alethea also has a beautiful new website and you can check it out at

I read a lot. Such activity is encouraged at one of my favorite book blogs, The Book Smugglers. They invited me to partake in the feast of Smugglivus to discuss some of my favorite books of the past year and I did. You can check it out HERE. Next up, the Airing of Grievances!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Multimedia Fun Day Part Two

The Kiss of Life book tour took me to the World Fantasy Convention in beautiful San Jose this past Halloween weekend. Among some of the highlights: meeting new friends for breakfast (Hi Lita and George!), sneaking off to go tour the Winchester Mystery House with my friend and sometimes mentor F. Paul Wilson, and buying too many books in the dealer room.

But I also was given the opportunity to participate in some of the programming, including two panels. The first of these panels was recorded and the audio is up at what has long been one of my favorite websites,which is Rick Kleffel's The Agony Column, which to my mind is just about the best website covering speculative fiction out there, and has a huge archive of interviews and podcasts with many of my favorite authors in the field.

At WFC, I had the privilege of being on the "Invention vs. Tradition" panel alongside John Kessel, Richard Lupoff, Beth Meacham and Delia Sherman.

Here's a link to an article with a downloadable audio file of the entire panel discussion. You can find it at the bottom of the 11-20-09 article, just before the article on S.G. Browne's Breathers. I met S.G. (Scott) at the convention, and he is truly a rock star and a great guy.

Among the brilliant things that my illustrious co-panelists' say, you
will get to hear me hold forth on:

* why I would like to buy Stephenie Meyer lunch

* the profound impact the remake of 13 Ghosts has had on my life and work

* what I think of as my favorite zombie novels

* the thrilling origin story of how I became a YA author

* just what parents' think about me trying to corrupt their impressionable children

Put it on your iPod today!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sheffield Rocks!

Look what I got in the mail today, all the way from the U.K.:

An actual Sheffield Children's Book Award! Generation Dead was named "Highly Commended" in the Longer Novels category!

I'm touched and honored, Sheffield! Thank you!