Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup (GNR Live Edition)

While visiting family in the Philadelphia area over the holiday weekend, I had tickets to see Guns N' Roses last night. The other time I attempted to see them in Philly was in 2003, the first tour with the then new-lineup. That tour had gone wrong from the beginning and the Philly show never happened because the band never showed up. Chair throwing, t-shirt burning, and riot police in the parking lot followed. The rest of the tour was cancelled and I was worried I'd seen the end of one of my favorite bands. Thankfully, it wasn't.

I saw them again in 2006, this time in NYC, and have been wanting to see them again ever since. This current tour had been rolling along without a hitch...until last week. The show in Albany was cancelled the day before it was scheduled. Also the band hadn't been going on until 11pm, and with this show being in Camden, NJ rather than Philly, it seemed like the city's midnight ordinance would run into a problem. But I kept the faith and was rewarded with an amazing show.

The band came on just around 11pm, as expected, opening with "Chinese Democracy" as they have during the entire tour. I love this song as the new set opener. It's a great lead-in to "Welcome to the Jungle," and the two songs make for a great start to the show.

Axl sounded amazing throughout the show. At times the vocals were a bit overwhelmed by the three guitar attack of this line-up, but boy can those boys play. Bumblefoot, returning home to New Jersey, was insanely good last night.

The setlist on the current tour has done a great job of mixing in songs from every era. And now that fans have been familiar with the Chinese Democracy songs that have stayed in the rotation, "Madagascar," "Sorry," "Better" and "Street of Dreams," are all tunes that blend well with the Illusion era songs. I do miss some of the Chinese Democracy songs that have been dropped this time around like "I.R.S." and "Rhiad..." but I don't see where they'd fit. The band played for 3 hours and there wasn't a song I didn't want to hear. They can't play everything. And I can't really complain with any of the choices.

On the other side, some older songs have reappeared, including "Estranged," one of their most underrated songs. "Rocket Queen" has also come back into rotation. Of course there will always be songs I'd miss, even in 3 hours, "Civil War" and "Move to the City" most of all. But they always do a good job playing the musts. In the above photo Axl is playing piano on "November Rain." The lead-in for that song was a cover of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall." The band also played a cover "Whole Lotta Rosie," an AC/DC song that they used to play in the early days. Also, Tommy Stinson covered "Sonic Reducer," which sounded real good.

The highlight for me was a great version of "Patience," a song I think they hadn't been playing. In the spirit of GNR shows, Axl told the crowd they wanted to dedicate the next song to their agent and manager, then added that he hated them both. Classic. They rocked all the way through to "Paradise City" complete with blasts from confetti cannons and pyrotechnics. Once again the hardest working band in rock delivered an unforgettable show...thanks guys.

Special thanks to the Missus for the great pix and for being my date.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fiction Friday (4)

I figured since the whole world tends to shop on this Friday (not myself of course, I can't stand crowds), why not use that spending power for good instead of evil and buy yourself some books, or buy books for others. My books make great gifts. But of course you all know that already. So I won't talk about my books. I'll talk about other writer's books. I've always been attracted to original myths, folklore and fairy tales. My earliest writing as a teenage were often attempts at original fairy tales. Seeing as the book I'm currently working on has a elements of that, I've been attracted reading these kinds of books again. Here are two Middle Grade books I recently read that I hope you might enjoy.

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
(Candlewick 2010)

A quick, delightful story about a night fairy named Flory who accidentally gets a wing clipped by a sleepy bat. Understandably, Flory then HATES bats. She hates them so much, she decides to become a day fairy just to avoid them. The charm of this story is the impulsive way in which Flory seems to form her opinions. Following a more traditional fairy lore, Flory is a bit stubborn and self-centered. But the heart of the story stems from the way she is able to adapt and overcome. The plot is slight, but perfect for 7-9 year olds both in content and pacing with just the right blend of sweetness and danger. MUST LIKE FAIRIES.

Tree Girl by T.A. Barron
(Philomel 2001)

I absolutely love the concept behind Tree Girl. Part original fairy tale, part invented myth, the story borrows from various folklores to create its own world within which to exist. The setup is extremely compelling. Nine year old Anna lives in an isolated cottage by the sea with a grouchy man who supposedly rescued her from forest ghouls when she was a baby. The two live in perpetual fear of the forest that surrounds them. Day after day, the man leaves her to go fishing and Anna finds life extremely lonely. Her only friend is the old tree growing near their house. That is, until she meets a sandy haired bear cub and discovers there are more secrets to the forest than she has been led to believe.

There is some wonderful imagery in this book. T.A. Barron is exceptional at bringing this strange forest to life with the slightest of prose. The story structure is purposefully simplistic, keeping in format with the idea of a myth, however I found myself missing a more intimate connection with Anna. Her fears, desires, and longing for companionship are made clear, but I never felt them as deeply as I'd have wished. That said, I think it's still a wonderful story that 9-11 year olds of a certain type would truly love.

Sidenote: The cover illustration by Trina Schart Hyman, for this edition, is beautiful.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Packing up the car and heading home.

Enjoy the holiday everyone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Grievances Before Thanks

A common compliant that I see with my books is that some readers find them to be 'too slow.' Though, I shouldn't feel upset about that, because reading reviews of other books, award winning pieces of fantastic literature, I see the same 'too slow' criticism popping up. It's almost as if any book that isn't filled with twists at every chapter, or bursting with plot, is labeled too slow.

Anything that requires one to think these days is 'slow.' Anything to values the language of a story and an intimacy with character as much as plot, is 'slow.' And when did reading become a race anyway? Perhaps since people started setting online goals of how many books they are going to read in a year, or tracking the progress of their page count as they read. One of the great things about books as opposed to film is that they allow you you're own time within the story. Some readers actually value that quality.

I will continue to write 'slow' books because I believe in order to capture the terrible beauty of life requires attention to detail.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

One of the things I truly miss about the days before music was digital is how each new album in a collection felt special. It was an event to get a new record and as a result, that record got played many times over the next several weeks even if it wasn't so great. Now it's easy to simply delete or move onto the next album. Lately I've tried resisting that urge by only loading a couple of albums per week. I did that this week to mixed results. But even though I didn't love some of the choices, I decided to live with them until it was time to review them. Of course, the opposite was true as well and a few discoveries were amazing. Enjoy.

Tom Waits - Bad As Me: The devilish howler's first studio album in ages, and first non-live album since 2006's outstanding three disc collection Orphans, this record has naturally received a lot of attention since its release late last month. Despite hearing the rave reviews, I went into it a bit skeptical. Artists that have been around as long as Tom, and who are as worshipped as him, tend to get undue praise when they do anything new. I worried that would be the case here, but how wrong I was. From the opening to the ending, this album is phenomenal. Musically and lyrically, it is what Tom has always done best, creating nightmarish tunes accompanied by his irresistible growl. Easily one of the albums on my short-list for best of the year.
Soft Machine - Volume Two: Released in 1969, this is the Canterbury progressive rock band's second album after the previous year's self-titled album. For the past year or so, I've been enthralled with the debut album and was excited to finally get my hands on this one. In the short time between the records, the band's mood shifted slightly away from rock to jazz fusion. The result makes for a less powerful record in my opinion, but equally as interesting. I feel like this album loses focus at moments, but I believe that's intentional as they try to expand what can be done within the context of the music. Not my favorite album, but a fascinating listen nonetheless.

Gwar - America Must Be Destroyed: From afar, I've had a fascination with this band since the early '90s. I love the concept of a fictional band of demons and knowing the songs are the voices of characters. That said, I never explored their music, always dismissing them as something of a comical sideshow until I recently heard one of their songs and realized they could really play. I decided to begin with this 1992 album, the band's third, and was quite blown away. As a metal album, it does everything it needs to. But beyond the driving riffs, there is also a lot of other kinds of musical influences that can be heard and are incorporated perfectly. On top of that, Oderous Urungus has an incredibly diverse voice. "Gilded Lily," "Ham on the Bone," and "Have You Seen Me" are stand out tracks. Look for many more Gwar albums to make this roundup in the future.

Spank Rock - Everything is Boring...: Released two months ago, this is the long awaited follow-up to 2006's YoYoYoYoYo and one of the most frustrating albums I've heard in a long time. The record opens with the stellar "Ta Da," one of the best electro hip-hop songs in ages, complete with grimy beats and Spank Rock's clever delivery. However, the album is downhill from there with each song getting progressively worse. By the end, it was nearly unlistenable and I wouldn't even review it here except that "Ta Da" is so excellent. I'm really not sure what happened here. Perhaps too much time was spent trying to make it perfect and the life was eventually sucked out of it. Hopefully the next album will be a return to form.

Esben and the Witch - Hexagons EP: The Brighton trio follow-up this spring's full length Violet Cries with this EP consisting of a twenty minute song divided into six parts. It's atmospheric dream wave type stuff that feels like a story told on a dreary winter day. I listened to this several times this week and though it's done quite well, it never really grabbed me. It seemed to pay too much attention to mood and by the time it was over, it felt as if it never played. Stick with the full length album unless you're a true shoegazer die hard.

Ruby Throat - The Ventriloquist: This is an album I've owned since it's release in 2007 and which I've returned to over the past few months, listening to it nearly every other day. One of my favorite albums when it came out, it is still a perfect album in my opinion. Katie Jane Garside (of Daisy Chainsaw and Queenadreena) delves into a folkish style on this album, but a haunting folk album as dark and twisted as any fairy tale. "House of Thieves," "Naked Ruby," and "Happy Now" are standouts on an album of flawless songs. Absolutely brilliant in every way, shape, and form.

Black Sabbath - 1969 Demo: The last of my Sabbath haul from a few weeks ago is this four song demo the band made before being signed. The songs on here never made it onto their albums, though parts of certain songs, especially the epic "Thomas James," would later morph into Sabbath tunes. These tracks showcase the band's blues roots. "When I Came Down," and "The Rebel" are both quite good, though the guys would show significant improvement on their debut release a year later. Definitely something every fan should have.

Nina Simone - At Town Hall: Released in 1959, at the very beginning of her long, legendary recording career, this concert album features many traditional songs like "Summertime" and "Black is the Color." Nina's voice is exceptional as always. The piano accompaniment is subtle and severs the vocal performance well. The album has a very intimate feeling, which isn't surprising given the venue, which still hosts concerts today. A solid effort by a performer who would go one to bigger and better things. Sometimes it's nice to hear where it all began though.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Day in Middle School

Yesterday, I spent the entire school day at a nearby Middle School, taking part in a career fair they were having. This involved an endless stream of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders wandering different tables in the gym and stopping at whatever careers interested them. There was actually an interesting mix of people who volunteered their time. There were the obvious, like the police, who hogged a lot of attention with their fancy toys and tazers. A DJ spinning a setlist of out-of-date songs that were played at my Middle School dances. A dental hygienist giving out toothpaste, etc. But there was also a surgeon, an upholster, a paint maker (I didn't know one could do such a thing), and a wig maker, among others.

Going into the day, as the "Author" at the event, I'd expected to attract a handful of painfully obvious future writers--other writers will know exactly what I mean. There are several breeds of us, but they can all be spotted by age 12. And though I certainly did receive a constant flow of those kids, what surprised me was just how many there were. An overwhelming number of the kids told me how they wrote stories and how much they liked to read. As one who typically finds things to make me feel things are going the other way in our culture, it was really encouraging and inspiring to talk to so many enthusiastic kids.

Now I wouldn't be doing justice to my experience without noting other observations. This was the first time I'd set foot inside a Middle School probably since I left mine for the last time in 1990. In those twenty years, I'm sorry to say fashion has come nearly full circle. Though it was "Crazy Sock Day" at the school which livened up the drab plaid and leggings and oversized soccer shorts. It was also impossible not to notice the stark difference between eighth graders and sixth graders. One set looked like teenagers while other looked like children. It's always amazed me how schools are organized in ways the place children of completely different levels of social knowledge together en mass.

The other thing that fascinated me was the flood of memories it brought back. There were so many students that immediately registered a counterpart from my memory. I thought about some people that I hadn't thought about in a long time. All in all, it was a good day to spread good karma. I was also able to outline the next three chapters of my manuscript during lulls.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Life is But a Dream...Teaser (1)

I've always been different from other kids my age--from everyone, really. Special is one way to put it. The word is attached to me like a shadow. It's a halo hovering over me as I sit in class or walk through the halls at school. My parents always said that I was special too. Special in a good a way, like I was delicate or rare--not special like something's wrong with me. Not before. Not like now. -Life is But a Dream page 5

In four short months, my new novel will be out and available in stores. In honor of over 500 people already marking it 'to-read' on Goodreads, I've decided to share a few quotes from the book on selected Tuesdays between now and its release on March 27th. I'm also planning a giveaway of a signed Advanced Reader's Copy sometime before the holidays...more on that to come.

I'm pretty excited about this's been nice to see so many others excited about it too.

Monday, November 14, 2011


When writing a novel, there a comes a point in the middle when you must evaluate what you intended a story to be and what it has become. A story takes on its own life once words are put to the page, sometimes that life is different then the one you set out to give it, much like the way children never follow the plan parents establish for them.

You can force upon the story themes that you wanted to include, but that's not my style. If the confines of the story don't make room for them, then my feeling is that they weren't meant to be discussed in that situation. As I continue to work on my new manuscript, I realize that one of the ideas that I thought would be central to the book is completely absent. Maybe in the past that would have driven me crazy. Stepping back, I now see those ideas were never really compatible and the ones that have replaced it feel more natural, and more focused.

Sometimes ideas are best left as ideas. Plans never work perfectly went put into practice. Writing is a survival sport...adapt or perish.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

This was one of those weeks where I spent most of my time listening to albums I've had for a few weeks. I tend to go on binges with new music and as a result I sometimes have a backlog of records to review. So rather than seek out anything new this week, I decided to pay a little more attention to some things that have been waiting their turn on the Roundup. Most of it belongs to singer-songwriter category, but there are few other genres thrown in to mix it up a bit. Enjoy.

Mr. Gnome - Madness in Miniature: This is the Cleveland duo's third album. Following up 2009's Heave Yer Skeleton, the band expands the psychedelic elements of their blend of folk rock. The result is an improvement on an already solid format. Where the last album felt a little like a warped Yeah Yeah Yeah's record, this one sees the band developing a more original sound. Stand out tracks include "House of Circles," "Run for Cover," and "Watch the City Sail Away." And once again, spectacular cover art.

Andrew Bird - Norman Soundtrack: A master of chamber pop songwriting, Andrew Bird breaks away somewhat with this original score. The instrumental pieces are sparse, but full of mood and atmosphere. The more traditional songs on the album feel right at home with the rest of his catalog. There are a couple of songs from previous albums and few songs by other artists, including a great collaboration between The Blow and Richard Swift, and a remix of Wolf Parade's "You Are a Runner."

Noel Gallagher - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds: The other half of Oasis's sibling rivalry released his solo album a few months after the rest of the band, reformed as Beady Eye, released theirs. With the fantastic first single, "The Death of You and Me," my expectations were pretty high for this album. But here's the problem with being a devoted bootleg fan of Oasis, when I listened to this album, I found that many of the songs were already familiar to me in earlier versions. "If I Had A Gun," "I Wanna Live in a Dream...," "Everybody's on the Run," and "Stop the Clocks" all exist as Oasis demos and/or releases. They songs are improved on here and are easily the best songs on the record, along with "The Death of You and Me." The new songs on here are merely okay and that disappointed me and left me worrying about the things to come. A good record, but somewhat troubling for that reason.

Katzenjammer - Le Pop: The 2008 debut from Oslo's all female gypsy folk-punk outfit, while interesting, can feel a little gimmicky at times. When their songs work, they deliver a raucous sound of murky moods that resembles a deranged Tom Waits. On other songs, it just sounds confused and manipulated. An interesting listen for anyone into the movement, but much room for improvement.

Nina Kinert - Pets & Friends: Ignore the electro-dance looking cover, this 2008 album from the Swedish singer-songwriter is a beautiful downbeat collection of sad songs. Her voice is amazing and the lyrics are heartbreakingly sincere. This is one of those albums that took a few listens before it really grabbed me, but around the third listen it did and I haven't been able to stop listening to it since. It's not revolutionary by any means, but what it does, it does very well.

Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: My revived obsession with Sabbath continued this week as I moved onto the band's fifth album, released in 1973. By this time, the band had perfected the heavy metal sound that shines on the title track. Though not as stellar all the way through as some of the albums that came before, this is still a solidly good album. At times it sounds like the band is a little bored (releasing 5 albums in 3 years might do that). This is also the beginning of the band's slippery road to self-destruction. But even so, a damned fine effort.

Nico - The Marble Index: Released in 1968, this is the second solo album from Nico. As a follow-up to Chelsea Girl, this album seems to fail in all the places that album succeeded. On her first album, there were moments where the record threatened to unravel into a sonic mess of strings, but managed to hold it together for the most part. This album seems to lose its center from the beginning and never finds it again. Musically, it's certainly an intriguing album that attempts to capture the feeling of a dream. But too frequently it gets lost in its own maze and never escapes.

The Apples in Stereo - Fun Trick Noisemaker: The 1995 debut album from the mainstay band in Denver's branch of the Elephant 6 Collective is an indie pop pleasure. Borrowing heavily from The Beatles and The Beach Boys, the band has always delivered powerful hooks and a sunshine feel to their music. On future albums they would play a little more the psychedelic aspects of their songs, but this album is a bit more straight forward. Like their other albums, a very fun record.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Luck Shines Brightly on a Day Like Today

In my own personal warped religion, 11:11 am or pm is a sacred time when all wishes made will eventually be granted, provided they are made with sincerity. Given the date today, this figures to be one of immense good fortune for all fellow believers.

As readers of my books will know, I'm a firm believer in luck. It's a trait I often pass onto my characters. In my novel Thief, I invented a form of wishing for the main character where she writes her wishes on a piece of paper, drops them in the Hudson River to allow them to float out over the ocean, waiting for the day when seagulls will carry the wish back to her. One of my readers once told me they began practicing this ritual with her daughter. I felt honored to have contributed to the pantheon of good luck.

I'm also a devoted follower of the moon and often direct my concerns to it. Over the course of my life, I've noticed how my dreams are more involved and extremely vivid leading up to the full moon. Last night was a full moon...on 11-11-11. Good omens abound and I wish you all the best on this rare holiday.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No So Perfect

Part of the process for creating interesting characters requires the writer to face their own insecurities and bestow at least a portion of them onto the characters. I've never been a believer in perfect characters, or even perfect relationships between characters. Characters need flaws and need to make mistakes. It's through their failures and struggles that the reader grows closer to them.

I refuse to write novels where everything happens the way we might hope for them to happen. Life doesn't work like that and neither should fiction. A book shouldn't have to give the reader exactly what they want in order for it to be satisfying.

Lately I feel we live in a climate where fewer readers are willing to challenge themselves. They want characters who are veiled versions of themselves, only in a slightly wittier, smarter, or sexier model. There seems to be a need to reaffirm their own worth rather than examine their own possible misgivings as a way toward personal growth. That's find every once in a while, but sometimes entertainment should do more than should also make you think.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup

There was a lot of great music released in the last few weeks and I'm finally catching up on my listening. I've also been catching up on reviews for the splurges of vinyl I bought in the past month. Somehow, this week ended up as a pretty steady diet of folk. Mostly because the weather and the manuscript called for it. As I've mentioned before, this is the time of year that I gravitate toward darker, moodier acoustic music. But there's so many different moods in a week, so I made room for some other kinds of albums as well. There's some really exciting stuff on here that I hope you get to check out. Enjoy.

The Decemberists - Long Live the King: This six song EP, released this week, is a companion to the Portland band's album The King Is Dead, released earlier this year. Like the full-length album, these songs continue the band's country rock phase, hearkening back to early to mid-70s California movement. There's even an amazing cover of the Grateful Dead's "Row Jimmy," a classic of the genre. "Sonnet" feels a little like a song that could have been on Five Songs, the band's first release, a sound of theirs I've missed. There are no weak songs on here and it once again affirms this is a band still at its peak. I've been listening to this non-stop this week and love it more with every listen.

Mazzy Star - Common Burn: When this single was announced a few weeks back, needless to say I was pretty excited. These two songs are the first material released by the band since 1996's Among My Swan, which is one of my favorite albums of all time. Despite the 15 year hiatus, the band doesn't miss a beat, picking up exactly where they left off. Their magical blend of dream folk sounds like nothing else in my opinion. Hope's voice is one of the best ever put to record. Simply beautiful. I can't wait for the new album.

The Wooden Sky - City of Light: Released last week, this EP is the first release from the Toronto indie folk outfit since 2009's superb album If I Don't Come Home..., one of my favorite albums of that year. The five songs on here follow the same direction as the band's previous work, straight-forward beautiful folk songs with a Midwestern feel. Definitely a great grab and a nice addition to their catalog of work.

Slowdive - Hide Yer Eyes: I picked up the bootleg vinyl a few weeks back and it's been hard to find any information on it. Judging by the feel of the songs though, I would say these ten tracks date earlier then their 1991 debut Just For a Day, or at least from the same period. Still present is their unique take on the Shoegazer genre, very moody and beautifully muddled songs. Not their strongest set by way of writing or performing, but still quite good. The band would later go on to produce such masterpieces as Souvlaki and Pygmalion. This hard to find, vinyl only release is most likely for fans only, but that said, fans won't be disappointed with this lost album.

Dave Van Ronk - Gambler's Blues: Originally released in 1959 under the title Sings Ballads, Blues & a Spiritual, this album was re-released in 1966 under this title. Dave Van Ronk was a NYC native and an early figure on the folk scene that developed there. He has a remarkable feel for the blues and turns many traditional folk tunes into killer blues tracks on here. Last week I reviewed a bootleg of Nick Drake home recordings consisting mostly of covers. Six of the songs on that album appear on this album, and my theory is Nick Drake had this album (as well as Jackson C. Frank's album), not the originals. Truly a great folk blues record from someone who deserves more recognition.

Smif-n-Wessun - Dah Shinin': The 1995 debut from Brooklyn's hardcore hip-hop duo was a staple in the streets of NYC during the mid-90s. Along with Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang, Nas, and Biggie, this album was part of the great hardcore awakening taking place at the time with "Bucktown" being the hot single. I recently revisited this album, and though it's certainly uneven, the best songs still hold up. Hard hitting lyrics and dope beats, that's what NYC hip hop's all about.

Mando Diao - Above and Beyond (MTV Unplugged): This career spanning set, with nearly twenty tracks, is a great overview of a relatively unknown Swedish band here in the States. I've been following this band for nearly a decade, and though they haven't progressed much, they are at least consistent, putting together a string of Oasis type power pop rock records. It's nice to hear some of their best songs in this format. "Song for Aberdeen," "Ochrasy," and "Dance with Somebody" are particularly good. There's also a nice guest appearance by Ray Davies (of the Kinks) and a surprising good version of "High Heels" with Juliette Lewis. Overall, the album does run a little long, with songs that probably could have been cut, but still a nice addition for fans.

Nico - Chelsea Girl: The debut album from Velvet Underground's Nico, released in 1967, is easily the best of her solo work. The songs, a combination of lo-key moody folk with complicated string arrangements, suit her strung-out tone perfectly. There are some truly groundbreaking, iconic songs on this record including the title track, "Somewhere There's a Feather," and "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams." The lyrics feel like an ode to depression in some surrealist underworld. There are still a few songs that are bit of a rambling mess, but unlike with some of her other work, I feel they don't detract from the power of the record as a whole. Definitely the one must-have in her catalog.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Save Me a Seat at the Mad Hatter's Table Please

I haven't been posting much about my writing process lately. That's not because I haven't been writing...(I have, I swear I have). In fact, I've been writing quite a bit. The new manuscript has passed the 75 page mark and shows no sign of slowing down. What's fascinating for me is the way the book continues to shift away from the vision I had for it over a year ago when I first conceived of it.

With this book, I've followed the same process of letting my characters wander that was so successful for me during the writing of Afterworld. As a result, the cast is shaping up to be one of strange and intriguing individuals. Naturally, their oddness serves a purpose to the greater story and has contributed to a greater number of horror elements working their way into the book. It's as if the story is feeding off their madness, shaping their world into something more suitable to their personalities. In the end, I think this will be a darker book than I envisioned...but a more powerful one.