Monday, May 25, 2009


Our imaginations are similar to the call of the sirens. Artists are the ones who refuse to cover their ears and are drawn to it. And if we allow ourselves, we get pulled into its spell. It can be a dangerously wonderful place to live though and rent is free.

"The cost of one admission is your mind" 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Zombie Update

Just a little update on the possible Zombie Blondes movie. I had a great conversation with the producer and screenwriter the other day. We were discussing some plot points that weren't included in the book, but feel like might be needed for the movie.

It's one of those cases of 1st person vs. 3rd person storytelling. For the book, I only needed to know what Hannah knew and only needed to figure out as much as she was going to figure out over the course of the novel. For a movie, the bigger picture needs to come more into focus in order to maintain a narrative stream for the screen.

It was interesting thinking about a world that I last really visited nearly two years ago. It was also interesting discussing possibilities for a world I created with other people. But I truly believe the story is in great hands. In fact, after we spoke, I had a great scene idea to solve one of the issues we were discussing. I emailed it along to them, and it turned out they'd come up with the exact same scene basically at the same time. Great minds think alike.

As for now, I will just have to keep my fingers crossed and hope it keeps progressing. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup

Back to the usual format, and with two weeks of music to pick from, there's some choice albums on the list this week. Last weekend I hit up a great music store in Philly. I found tons 0f stuff from my wishlist in their HUGE used section. I got 7 albums for under $35. Not all were great, but still I wish I lived near a store like that. Hell, I just wish there were stores like that around anywhere. As much as I can't argue with the dirth of available internet music, there's still nothing quite like browsing the racks and going up to the counter with a fat stack.
The Cool Kids - Gone Fishing (Mixtape): Finally the Cool Kids put out some shit...yes it's not the long delayed album, but in hip-hop, a mixtape is often better. The new rhymes are great and they're still keeping the beats fresh...I'll be gone fishing all summer long.

Swan Lake - Enemy Mine: Swan Lake is the side project of Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade) and Dan Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers). Spencer is one of most talented songwriters around and I eagerly await everything he works on, and though not everything he does is perfect, it's always interesting. This is Swan Lake's second album. I really enjoyed the first one. Their styles blend great together and create this sort of surrealist feel. This one is great as well...better than Spencer's last Sunset album, probably on par with the last Wolf Parade. Bejar is good on this. He's very hit or miss for me.

Ezra Furman & the Harpoons - Inside the Human Body: I'd been digging the single off of this for a while and finally got around to listening to the whole album. It's great Dylan-esque bit of Greenwich Village sounding folk but with some fun in it and though very derivative, it also feels very much of the times. 

Paul Duncan - Above the Trees: This is Duncan's newest (from 2007) and the third one of his I've picked up. This one might be my favorite. It's sounds like a very, very good Bonnie Prince Billy album (better than most of Bonnie's own of late.) A sort of country-folk dreariness that never fails to please me.

Damon McMahon - Mansions: This singer/songwriter acoustic album dates way back (to 2006) and I've had it since then. Damon was managed by a friend of mine who passed me this disc a few years back. I remember it getting a great review in Entertainment Weekly, but alas my friend admitted that "no one bought it." I listened to it once back then, but it wasn't what I was into at the time. I recently gave it another spin and have been hooked. I love his voice. I love the fractured construction of the songs. I love everything about it.

Piano Music - Speed the Road, Rush the Lights: Officially listed as a single (though it's more EP length in my opinion), this dates back to 2003, but I read about it first a few months ago. I picked this one up for $2.99 and it's been a steal. Sort of along the lines of Olivia Tremor Control, but more controlled. 

Pinback - Some Voices: This is an early EP from Pinback (from 2000) that I also picked up for the bargain price of $3.99. I really like this band. They play indie rock, but use some interesting drum loops and slight electronic efforts to great effect. If you don't know these guys, and like good indie rock in the vain of Built to Spill...check them out.

The Triffids - In the Pines: This 1986 album from Australian band The Triffids has been on my wishlist for about a year. They are often credited as one of the founders of the "gothic country" genre of which I'm so fond. This one didn't disappoint. It's very much like Nick Cave's albums from the same time (Tupelo, etc). And though I like me some Nick Cave, there still something special about this album that stands out above and beyond.

Eleventh Dream Day - Praire School Freakout: This little heard album from 1988 is one of those "influenced many, but hear by few" albums that I'm always a little skeptical about. Sonic Youth is a reportedly a big fan, amongst others. I sort of expected not to like it too much and perhaps that's why on the first listen, I didn't quite see what was so great about it. But then when I listened to again, I got it...and it was fantastic. It's like an entire album of Neil Young's "Down by the River" and "Cowgirl in the Sand" fever dream. 

The Jayhawks - Hollywood Town Hall: So as my previous TWO mentions of "Tomorrow the Green Grass" suggest, I've really been liking the Jayhawks. I'd been listening to (and been obsessed with) that album for months and held off for another dose. I finally felt ready about a week and half ago and plugged this one in. Chronologically it's the album right before "Tomorrow..." and has much the same vibe. I can see myself being obsessed with this one for a bit too.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Second Draft

No two words are more dreaded to a writer than "second draft." It's not that doing a second draft is something I particularly avoid. It's downright necessary...and somewhat fun in that you start to see the story take on a life of it's own. But it's just so much work!

It took me years to get on board with the whole concept of second drafts (and subsequently third, fourth, fifth, etc). I snickered at High School teachers when they'd mention it. I also got away with not doing them in college for the most part. Sure, I proofread, but that's not the same thing. 

It was in a mandatory writing course at NYU that I really learned how to read a first draft and work on a second draft. The course was called Writing Workshop and every freshman (no matter the major) was forced to take it for both semesters Freshman year. It was dreaded by most, but being a writer, I actually enjoyed it. It was (and still is to this day) the only writing course I've ever taken. It taught me that writing wasn't just a stream of consciousness. It was a process with many layers.

These days, I'm pretty proficient at writing many drafts, but I still partially dread that second one. It's the one where you need to be most selective...contemplating every phrase, dissecting each line of dialogue, and adding detail, detail, detail all while you keep asking yourself if the overall story is flowing at the right pace.

Needless to say, I'm currently going through the process on the latest novel I've finished. I'm actually really enjoying the book, but I must admit it's exhausting going through it so painstakingly. It's no wonder I usually end up hating every book I write by the time the last draft is approved by the least until the book comes out, then I usually love it. Time and distance is good like that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup (Sorrowful Soundtrack Edition)

I missed the weekend roundup this weekend. I was away, doing a children's book signing, so that's a pretty good excuse I think.

I did want to do this week's list a little different. Given the rough week I had last week, I spent most of it listening to sad music because I find sad songs to be comforting. So I put together a list of my favorite sad albums.

Elvis Perkins - Ash Wednesday: One of my favorite albums of all time, this one is tinged with sadness throughout.  "No one will survive, Ash Wednesday alive. No soldier, no lover, no father, no mother...not a lonely child." 

John Frusciante - Curtains: The last of the six albums John put out in 2004 and most definitely the saddest. He has a way of expressing the hurt of sorrow better than most. "There's so many careless angels responsible for me. They give me disease, They give me a pain in my neck to feed off me, saying pay us the cost and we'll be gone."

Jackson C. Frank - s/t: A folk album from my neck of the woods, made in the late '60's. It really has this lonely, gray day in the cold woods feeling. "The ghost of her, It floats over there. And the smile, the smile, It seems so lonely."  

Songs: Ohia - Didn't It Rain: Really any of Jason Molina's work would fit here, but this is the one I listened to this week. It's music that exists somewhere between here and the world where ghosts live. "When I die, put my bones in an empty street to remind me of how it used to be, Don't write my name on a stone, bring a Coleman lantern and a radio, Cleveland game and two fishing poles, And watch me from the shore." 

The Jayhawks - Tomorrow the Green Grass: This one isn't obviously sad like the rest, but it is so full of regret that in a sad mood, it's heart wrenching. "Didn't you feel so wise for awhile? Didn't you feel that your ship had arrived."

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - I See A Darkness: As the title suggest, this album is heartbreaking through out. " And did you know how much I love you? Is there a hope that somehow you, You can save me from this darkness?" 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Guest Blog

I wrote a guest blog entry on fellow scribe Andrew Smith's pretty awesome blog "Ghost Medicine". He and I were talking about the subject of what's appropriate when it comes to sex in YA fiction when he asked me to write something.

He'll be having other authors presenting their thoughts on the subject all week, so be sure to check it. It's a very fascinating topic with LOTS of varying opinions, so it should be fun to see what writers have to say about it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Still Sad

Sweet Dreams Doggie.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Doggie

Suddenly and without warning, I lost my cat of 10 years last night. I was completely unprepared and it left me devastated. All evening, she'd been very happy, playful, and her usual snuggly self. She was lying on the sofa with us, purring, when suddenly she passed. 

Her name was Doggie. She had a lot of peculiar habits, and anyone who met her probably thought she was the most unfriendly cat in the world. That's because she hated everybody except me and my wife, and us she adored with abundant affection. 

She was my best friend and I'm going to miss her terribly. 

She loved to climb into closets and sleep amongst the towels. She was a trouble maker :)

Doggie was the best snooze buddy ever.

Presents were her favorite...mostly for the boxes, wrapping paper, and ribbon.

She loved to be held like a teddy bear. She often woke me up so that I would let her under the covers and under my arm. She'd settle in for hours, purring away as if she were electrical.

Doggie could be very aggressive. She was brutal with her wasn't her fault, she just got a little bit over anxious sometimes.

She had the best stink of any animal I've ever encountered. 

She loved her canned food, which she only got every so often. She would follow me around the kitchen, screaming for at me and face rubbing the cabinet where her "fish dish" was kept. She did that last night too...thankfully, I caved and gave it to her. It was her last meal.

Over the years, I made up a bunch of songs that I used to sing about my Doggie. Perhaps my favorite was sung to the tune of "Tomorrow" from Annie:

"The Doggie, The Doggie! We Love Her, Our Doggie!"

Wherever she is, I'm sure she's raising ruckus. 

I miss you puppy.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup

I listened to a ton of new music this week, a lot of it really blew me away, some confused me and some left me feeling unsatisfied. There was definitely two weeks of material in the mix, so I'm saving some for next week after I have more time to study them. But here's a roundup of some of the more memorable ones of the week.

Hexlove - Pija z Bogiem: Ranging from lo-fi folk to break beat trance, to call this double album diverse is an understatement. During the listen, I went back and forth from thinking it sucked, to loving it. It was kind of like The Microphones Glow Pt. 2 album, only with electronica thrown in (and not nearly as amazing). There is definitely the potential here for this to become a has good "grower" prospects.

Azita - How Will You: Unlike the above, this was a no doubter. From song 1, I was hooked on the swirling sunshine beauty of this album. I picked it up in the used bin without knowing anything about it, except that it was released on Drag City (a favorite label of mine since the late '90s). A lot like the Earlies, or the mellow Elephant 6 recordings...something like the Sunshine Fix

The Von Bondies - Love, Hate, and Then There's You: I've been a fan of these Detroit garage rockers since their first release and finally got to listen to the new album. Though it lacks the grit of the first album and the sonic punch of the second, it's a decent enough third album. But definitely pick up the older ones before this.

Portugal. The Man. - It's Complicated Being a Wizard: This Alaskan band's newest album (Censored Colors) was one of my Top 10 from last year, so now I'm making my way through the back catalog. This is the album prior to that one and at first it felt so different. The perfect song structure from the new album isn't there and it's a kind of long spiraling opera piece. It confused me at first...but upon the second listen, I was loving it. 

Chris Bathgate - a cork tale wake: An acoustic singer/songwriter album tinged with the gloominess of a cold north woods winter. I'm such a sucker for that kind of sadness.
Yuichiro Fujimoto - The Mountain Record: super minimalist instrumental folk album (like 3 notes every 30 seconds minimalist) but it works because of the other sounds on the album. You can hear the wind. You can hear far off children playing. It's the kind of record that sounds like you opened your window on a lazy summer day and the world was cued a perfect soundtrack.

Sibylle Baier - Colour Green: A traditional sounding acoustic folk album that never gets dull. Sibylle's voice is amazing, the kind that gets into the center of your bones. This is the kind of album I always wished Jolie Holland would make, but never does. 

King Creosote - KCrulesOK: A lot like like the previous entry Azita...some genre of sunshine indie sound. Great for the summer.

Paul Duncan - To An Ambient Hollywood: Moody lo-fi from Brooklynite Paul Duncan. I have his album from two years ago, this is an earlier one. Both are worthwhile if your into that lo-fi sound. 

The Immortal Lee County Killers - The Essential Fucked Up Blues!: Part of the garage revival of 2001, this is an album I missed. It's dirty and raw garage rock along the lines of the first Soledad Brothers album, though I think I liked this better. If your into garage, this is worth picking up...but it's not going to be anything you haven't heard before if you're schooled in the genre.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Fun Fan Mail

This week I received a nice surprise in the mail! The kids I read to in Florida sent me a HUGE envelope of thank you cards they'd made. They were all so creative (some were even pop-up). I decided to share a few of my favorites. 

The above one is great...the illustrated scene is a pop-up. It's such a great likeness to the CatKid on the cover of the Three's a Crowd book. And she signed it "your catkid friend".

Introducing: DogKid (notice the German Shepherd ears). I loved this card. I love how CatKid became her favorite series after only 3 chapters :) 

This is one's a classic for obvious reasons.

The lightning, the fishing pole...genius.

Gotta love the S.S.S. Thank You. Another pop-up card, the whole ship stood up. 

These kind of things are one of the best parts about writing for kids. I love seeing how the books really take off in their imagination. Sometimes as I'm reading to them, it may seem like they're not paying attention, but then there's details in the cards that prove they were paying very close attention.

I've always said that I don't care if my books are bestsellers, just as long as the kids who read them, really enjoy them. That's why the package I got in the mail this week was such a nice surprise. It made my day :)