Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Entertain Me

The month of March was rife will sickness for the Waters household, which is kind of strange because Fenbruary is usually the plague month for our household. I think about half the month was spent with me either taking care of sick children home from school or being sick myself, or doing something birthday related--the kids and I, my brother, and a few of my closest friends all have March birthdays. I find I can't work when one of my kids is home sick (even if it is just the sniffles); it just seems wrong to lock myself in the office while they lay about the living room quietly suffering.

So I ended up being highly entertained instead of working. Television, DVDs, etc. A few days rest and relaxation is great, but I am the sort of person who gets very edgy and cranky--irascible, even--when I go longer than 24 hours without working. I love work. Actually, I love writing, and I should get in the habit of calling it "writing" instead of "work" because it honestly doesn't seem like work to me. It seems like fun.

As a side note, such admission might get me kicked out of the Suffering, Heroic Organization of Writers (If they even consider me a member; I was recently denied membership in a "professional" writers organization!), because there are many writers out there who would have the reading public beleive that life as a writer is a life of pain, heartache, and despair, of repeatedly smashing one's head against a brick wall until all the ideas leak out. They'd have you believe that electing to be a professional writer is to court poverty, to invite public disdain and enmity, and to seriously weaken one's mental health. The will talk of long lonely hours, of crossing out and then rewriting the same word on the same page for twenty minutes, of self-doubt, of the sudden urge to set fire to the 90,000 word manuscript that not twenty four hours before seemed like a pretty cool thing.

And of course, all of these statements are true. But writing is also Fun, capital F.

Sure, it can be hard work. Waa, waa. Maybe people are afraid that if they admit to having fun while working, they won't get paid for what they do anymore. I think the reverse is true--those that have the most fun and therefore the most energy end up doing the best work and therefore ultimately get paid in just about any profession.

Anyway. I was doing my best not turn into Mr. Crankypants while taking care of the kids, enduring a constant steady stream of entertainment. With my daughter, it was mostly What Not To Wear and other fashion shows, Full House, and some fine Disney channel programming. With my boy, it was Spongebob, America's Funniest Videos, and various cartoons that even I, a lifelong lover of cartoons, found thoroughly incomprehensible. My kids are both great readers normally, but who wants to read with a headcold and various other ailments? At night when they went to bed I found that I wasn't able to jump into the writing like I hoped, so I ended up watching even more "entertainments" (note:I didn't actually find much of what I watched, with or without them, to be entertaining). I watched Tales of Terror from Tokyo vol. 1-3 and some other things I got from Netflix, music biographies and other Asian horror films mostly. I watched some basketball. I did manage to read a few books-- The Gum Thief, I am Legend, When You are Engulfed in Flames, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. A dozen magazines. Two dozen comic books. I snuck away to see The Watchmen at an IMAX theater, I bought a bunch of new CDs and listened to them. I played half a short season of EA Sports Basketball with a custom team on the XBox. I went to see Denis Leary with my father and brother. I've been entertained, entertained, entertained. Shoot me now.


I also started working on a new book at the end this entertainment gluttony. Prior to being a big time member of SHOW, I worked for a cleaning company, and it was there that I learned the concept of "dwell time". Certain cleaning products need time to begin the chemical processes neccessary to remove soils and stains, and I thought this was a great metaphor for the time I need to take for an idea to properly take hold in my imagination. I need dwell time (and here I picture caustic brain-acids eating through cellular walls, gobbling up objections, reacting with memories, exploding synapses, etc.)for an idea before I can properly begin to work on it. Maybe watching all that stuff and reading, being entertained, helped with the dwell time. We'll see.

I'm really, really excited about the new project, though. And I'm really, really sick of being entertained. Let's hope everybody stays healthy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kiss of Life Sneak Preview

There's a sneak preview Kiss of Life at the back of the paperback edition of Generation Dead, which will be out in a couple weeks. Now, it is a little-known secret in publishing, but the key to high book sales isn't actually big money ad campaigns, high profile reviews,or even brilliant writing. All of those things help, but the real key to sales is to have your book seen in the hands of attractive, interesting people. So here's where y'all can help me out--I know from looking at the avatars of folks who follow this blog and mysocalleduneath that there are hundreds of attractive, interesting people who are interested in Kiss of Life, so if you find yourselves in a bookstore, I'd ask you o pick up the paperback of GD, flip to the back, and read the into to Kiss of Life--at absolutely no cost to you! (Although, it would be even better if you bought say an arm's length of the paperbacks to disburse to all of your friends. I can't say I'd mind that at all.) Once everyone else in the bookstore sees Generation Dead in the hands of an attractive, interesting person--well, just be careful--I wouldn't want you caught in the inevitable stampede that will follow.

As always, thanks for your support.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sick of Easy Fashion

Spent the last week sick and/or taking care of my sick children. Which is to say, I watched a lot of television. I don't normally watch a ton of television at the moment, which isn't to say I'm one of those TV is the end of civilization as we know it folks, either. My TV watching waxes and wanes. I'll overdose for awhile--years, sometimes--and then walk away with barely any TV at all. Right now there aren't any shows other than the Simpsons that I watch even close to faithfully. Except maybe Ghost Hunters, but I fast forward to the reveal so I can see and hear all the EVPs, MVPs, LEDs and full-body apparitions in approximately 37 seconds. Yes, I'm aware how lame this is, and in fact have been told by a close friend how lame this is, and I don't disagree with him. But I have to tell you, for those 37 seconds I'm absolutely terrified!

So I started watching one of my daughter's favorite shows with her to pass the time, a show called What Not To Wear. For those who are unfamiliar, What Not To Wear is a show hosted by two super snarky fashion gurus, Clinton and Stacy. The idea is that there are many non-fashionable people in the world who must be corrected on their non-fashion, so what will happen is a "friend" will set an intervention of sorts in motion by narcing on the "fashion victim" to the fashion police. Clinton and Stacy will send out spies who actually go film the fashion victim, with the victim being completely unaware they are being filmed! Once enough evidence of sartorial wrongdoing has been amassed, Clinton and Stacy will swoop in like two impeccably groomed and coiffed hawks to confront the offender, usually in their place of work. In the 27 episodes (or so it seemed) I watched with my daughter, I was able to see the public humiliation of teachers, lawyers, hairdressers, actors. It was great!

One thing that I noticed was that Clinton and Stacy, both of whom are filled with a wonderful, Wildean sense of humor, with their quippery as sharp as the creases in their clothing, had a tendency to reserve their most venomous comments with those that fought back against their advice. Those who went with it, or were clearly lost sheep left dazed in the aftermath of their trip to the pillory, were granted hugs, kind comments, encouragement. Those who claimed to have a good fashion sense (and to be fair, they were sadly mistaken--all the participants I saw were either formless frumps or showoffs confused "provocative" with "ridiculous") or worse, actually questioned the fashion choices made by Clinton and Stacy, were all but eviscerated by their sharp tongues and pointy shoes.

After being mocked for awhile by their hosts (all of their clothes are thrown in a big bin, my daughter says, and then are then given to charity) the guests are sent out onto the streets of New York with a $5000 credit card. This gave me pause to reflect, because I think that, except maybe the two suits I've bought over the years, I think it is actually possible that I haven't spent 5 grand on myself for clothes in my entire lifetime. I actually started adding this up, starting with all of the basketball sneakers I've owned over the years. I have one pair of Air Jordans, from his second year with the Wizards, but I got those on clearance for something like sixty bucks. I had a nice leather jacket but that was a Christmas gift. I paid a hundred bucks for a pair of sunglasses once--do sunglasses count?

I started writing all of this stuff out (meanwhile onscreen a hairdresser was buying a two thousand dollar Prada dress, and an earlier episode had a man whose first outfit, a nice casual affair, something you'd wear out to a movie or party with friends--was said to cost $550) and then my daughter tells me that I should be on the show.

"What?" I said, instantly suspicious, wondering if she and my wife have been having me filmed. What would What Not To Wear's producers uncovered something with their P.I. work? A murder, or a conspiracy? A mother of two who spends her evenings knocking over headstones at the local cemetery?

"You should be on this show. Look at that shirt."

I did. It was my Charlotte Hornets t-shirt, the one that I bought when they drafted Larry Johnson.

When they drafted Larry Johnson twenty years ago. My God.

"It has holes in it, Daddy," she said. And she's right. Three of them, two completely irreparable. But twenty years of hard use has warn the threads down to that perfect grain of comfort and...

Who am I kidding? The shirt is almost twice as old as my daughter, is twice as old as my son.

"You have to go out in public now, Daddy."

By public, she meant more than just being a fixture at hers and my sons' basketball games, where I can conceal the holes in my shirt with a heavy coat because the gym where they play is actually pretty cold.

"Couldn't...couldn't you and Mommy just get me stuff? I'll pay!" The only decent clothes I own are those that she and her mother have bought for me, usually just before we go on a family trip where they can't bear to see me in the same stuff that I wore in college.

"See how they talk about proper fit?" she says to me. I bought the Hornets shirt when I was considerably heavier than I am today. What actually happened was I left college pretty heavy, lost a ton of weight immediately after, gained a little of it back, then had kids, messed up my back in a car wreck and took a job with a lot of travel, three factors that helped me balloon up again. I was heavy throughout most of my kids' lives until last year, when I dropped a big chunk of weight and got in shape again. And yet somehow managed to keep basically the same wardrobe throughout all of these changes, from endomorph to ectomporph to endomorph again, and now I'm fairly mesomorphic. With the same clothes, only older and shabbier (the clothes--but yes, me, to a lesser extent).

"Proper fit, right," I said. "Got it."

"I could help you." My daughter loves to shop. This might be one of my greatest failings as a parent, I don't know.

They could be deadly sarcastic, in a very Mean Girls way, but at the end of the marathon I decided that I liked Clinton and Stacy. Maybe it was because they gave the teacher an extra grand to spend and then donated 2G's to her school, or maybe because when they spoke with conviction about how appearance can contribute to a positive self image (which they said was achieved through proper fit and use of color, rather that a specific designer label, although they didn't exactly look down on the designer labels), but they won me over to their 'cause'. I've always had a pretty cynical outlook towards the whole "live better through conspicuous consumption" school of thought, but somehow I got the sense that they believed in their work. That they weren't just removing blights from our collective landscape; they really seemed to believe they were improving people's lives.
Some of the people they had on really were transformed in a way that seemed to precursor important beneficial changes in their lives--they were on the cusp of getting the job, the promotion, the more meaningful relationship.

So I believe in their sincerity, anyhow. That isn't the same as not believing that their entire enterprise is a sham, though, or that people should be able to derive self-esteem from something other than personal appearance. Inner beauty is what counts and all that. But, in the two or three times I actually looked good out in public, I have to admit that I felt good as well. Maybe they have a point.

I just hope I can do it for less than 5 grand...

"I think Clinton could really help you," she says. Giggle, giggle.

She might be right.

NEWS FLASH: I just received copies of the paperback edition of Generation Dead and they look sweeeeeeet. Tell all of your friends who were too cheap I mean too impecunious to buy the hardcover. In fact, you may wish to buy a couple copies for yourself, just in case. Just in case what I'm not sure, but I'd really appreciate it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Danny Talks Zombocalypse

Today on this blog I'm blogging about blogging on someone else's blog. The wonderful Sharon of the wonderful Sharon Loves Books and Cats asked me to write a guest blog about a zombie apocalypse. You can read it HERE, and if you want to you can leave Sharon a comment there or a leave me a comment here or both. We don't mind.

I noticed that yesterday Tommy went over the five hundred subscriber mark on www.mysocalledundeath.com, meaning that he is nearly five times as popular as I am. But I'm not bitter; that is as it should be. I certainly like him more than me!

Thanks to everyone on Facebook and here that made comments regarding my Magical Mystery Tour. Your comments might actually influence where the tour goes at this point, so keep 'em coming. I'll go anywhere. Even this one town I used to have to go to every so often that I hate that I won't mention by name because I think it is the armpit of the nation. Being an amateur glutton, I'm especially interested in visiting towns that have unique regional foods. Last year Hyperion was kind enough to send me to Louisville, Kentucky where I stalked the elusive Hot Brown and to Minnesota where I was able to sample (makes it sound like I had one or two instead of a bucket full) cheese curds. Does your town have anything different and delicious?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Grandparents: Decidedly Pro-Zombie

Here's another piece of genius artwork from Bryony. I love how Bryony works the UK cover art into every piece. Thanks, Bryony!

This was a nice surprise-- Grandparents.com named Generation Dead one of their ten best books for children for 2008. Check out the rest of the listHERE. This is cool for a number of reasons, one of which is that grandparents are generally much more in tune with what kids want, because they spend most of their time giving kids what they want. And also, again generally, they have more money to spend on things like Generation Dead for their grandkids than say a parent does.*

*The italicized opinions above were formed by conducting an informal poll with the children in my household, and should in no way be construed as being the actual opinions of the author of this blog.

Now that that's cleared up, the news. There is snow on the ground. A lot of snow. I haven't seen any yetis yet. Yetis have yet to appear. I won't be running for a few days, it looks like (I fear snowplows and knee injuries) but I did get some exercize running the snowblower and shoveling the walk. And that's the weather and sports. In national news, I get to go on a book tour! Wheeee! I love traveling across this great nation of ours. Don't know where I'm going yet, but wherever it is, there I'll be.

I'll post the dates and locations as soon as I know...