Archive for February, 2012

LunaCon

Monday, February 27th, 2012

LunaCon 2012

The 55th Annual Convention of the New York Science Fiction Society

March 16-18, 2012

Hilton Rye Town, Rye Brook, NY

New York’s Oldest Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention!

Find out more information at their website here: http://2012.lunacon.org/.

PANELS

• What’s Hot – Podcasts (Panel), Sat 10:00 – 11:00, Westchester Ballroom A2

• What’s Hot – Young Adult (Panel), Sat 13:00 – 14:00, William Odelle

• RPGS: Better to Burn Out than Fade Away? (Panel), Sat 15:00 – 16:00, Westchester Ballroom A3

The PARTIALS Launch is Tomorrow!

Monday, February 27th, 2012

I am so excited, you guys. So excited. It feels like I’ve been waiting forever to share this book with all of you, and now I finally can. PARTIALS is a big book for me in a lot of ways–my first SF, my first real YA, my largest book, my biggest launch, and so on and so on–plus it’s just a plain old good story. I had a ton of fun writing it, and I hope you have fun reading it. I hope it makes you happy, I hope it makes you angry, I hope it makes you think, and I hope it makes you talk about all the things that made you happy and angry and thoughtful and sad and excited and every other reaction. If you want to talk to me personally, or even just get signature, here are all the events I have scheduled.

Note: last year I started going out to dinner after each signing, extending an open invitation to anyone who wanted to come along; this proved to be a big hit, and I met a lot of great people, so I’m continuing the tradition with PARTIALS. The rules are simple: suggest your favorite local place, no big chains allowed, and everybody pays for themselves (me included–I’m not in this to schmooze for free food). We’ll hang out and talk about reading and writing and whatever else you want to talk about, and it’s awesome.

February 28: Book Launch at Weller’s Book Works in Salt Lake City, UT
7:00pm

Weller’s Book Works is the new location for Sam Weller’s, now in Trolley Square. There’s great parking, a wonderful new store, and the same awesome people that make it one of my favorite bookstores. The signing starts at 7, and whenever we finish up (probably around 8 or 8:30) I’m going to head down the hall to Rodizio’s Grill for a “stuff yourself with food” party; this is the only signing at which I’ve already picked the restaurant, because it’s awesome and it’s right there.

February 29: Barnes & Noble in Orem, UT
6:00pm

This is my local store, just a few miles from my house; I even write there sometimes. I’ve had some of my biggest signings there, and the staff is always great. This is likely to end around 8, followed by dinner…somewhere. I’m open to suggestions.

March 9: Books & Books in Coral Gables, FL
6:30 PM

I have never been to this store, and in fact have never been to Florida. This event is the first stop of the March DARK DAYS tour, a really cool book tour with fellow dark YA authors Lauren Oliver and Claudia Gray. Their work is really great, so come and pick up some books. I’m complete stranger in Florida, like I said, so I’ll be relying on some really solid restaurant recommendations from you guys. I can’t guarantee that Lauren and Claudia will join us, but I will do my best to cajole them.

March 10: Barnes & Noble in Alpharetta, GA
2:00pm

I love Alpharetta; Georgia is consistently one of the most beautiful places I visit on tour, and I’m excited to be going back. This is the second stop of the DARK DAYS tour, so Lauren and Claudia will be here as well. Mid-afternoon is an odd time to go out to eat, but screw convention–I’m doing it anyway. At some point in the evening I’ll be stopping off to sign shelf stock at Peerless Books, and (if I can make it) Eagle Eye Books in Decatur.

March 11: Vroman’s in Pasadena, CA
4:00pm

Vroman’s is one of the biggest indie bookstores I’ve ever seen, and has a great staff that’s always reading and recommending new stuff. This is the last stop of the DARK DAYS tour, so again, Lauren and Claudia and I will all be there together, and it will be rad. It’s also relatively near one of my favorite barbecue places, so we might be going there after, but as always I am open to suggestions. Later that evening I’ll be signing shelf stock at Dark Delicacies in Burbank.

March 14: Orem Writes at the Orem City Public Library, UT
7PM
The Orem City Library is doing tons of writing related things this month, and I’m going to be there to talk about ‘The Publication Process’ (or whatever comes into my head at the time). This will be in the storytelling wing, and I’d love to see you.

March 16-18: LunaCon in Rye Brook, NY
Times TBA

I’m spending this weekend in NY to meet my editor and do some research for the PARTIALS sequel, and since that’s the same weekend as LunaCon I’m going to stop by whenever I can to hang out with their artist Guest of Honor, Dr. Howard Tayler. I don’t yet know when and where you’ll be able to catch me, but I’ll post it on my calendar here (left sidebar) as soon as I do.

Panels
• What’s Hot – Podcasts (Panel), Sat 10:00 – 11:00, Westchester Ballroom A2
• What’s Hot – Young Adult (Panel), Sat 13:00 – 14:00, William Odelle
• RPGS: Better to Burn Out than Fade Away? (Panel), Sat 15:00 – 16:00, Westchester Ballroom A3

March 23: Signing at Hastings in Ogden, UT
6:00pm

We’re still locking down the details on this one, and we’ll update this post and the calendar when we know more.

March 24: SLC Nerd in Salt Lake City, UT
From 2:00pm ’til the party stops

SLC Nerd is kind of like an SF convention with all the convention stuff stripped away; it’s a party full of gaming and geekery and local bands. This is the first year, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I don’t have a reading or a signing or anything, but I will be there playing a public exhibition session of my L5R RPG campaign, featuring local luminaries Larry Correia, Paul Genesse, the guys from Elitist Book Reviews, and more. Come say hello, and maybe get roped in as a minor character.

March 29-April 1: World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City, UT
Times TBA

The World Horror Convention is back in Utah again, and I’m especially excited this year because Mike Mignola will be there. Two years ago I kind of shy-stalked him at DragonCon, meaning I followed him around and went to his panels and was too shy to say anything. I talked to his editor, though, so that’s something. Anyway, come to the con see him, and then maybe say hi to me while waiting in line or something. I’ll have at least a signing, probably a reading, and a couple of panels as well.

April 6: Signing in Logan, UT
Times TBA

We’re still locking down the details on this one, and we’ll update this post and the calendar when we know more.

April 18: Books and Co. in Dayton, OH
7:00pm

I have another DARK DAYS tour in April! This time around I’ll be touring with Kimberly Derting and Jill Hathaway, who are both awesome writers. I’ve been through Dayton once before, but don’t really know anything about it, so I look forward to meeting you and hanging out at some awesome local place.

April 19: Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, IL
7:00pm

The second stop of the DARK DAYS tour with Kimberly and Jill. Again, I’m a total stranger in Illinois, so I’m excited to get to know everyone. As always, food will be eaten afterward.

April 20: Barnes & Noble in Burlington, MA
7:00pm

The final stop of the April DARK DAYS tour with Kimberly and Jill. I’ve never been to Massachusetts, though I’ve always wanted to visit. If you’re in the area, please come say hi, pick up a book, and hang out.

That’s the full schedule for now. You’ll note that some of my traditional tour stops (the Northwest and most of California) are not on this list, but never fear: when THE HOLLOW CITY comes out in July I’ll be hitting all of these places, culminating in a couple of events at San Diego Comic-Con. That tour will also see a return to Alpharetta, Houston, and anywhere else I can reasonably make it. If your area isn’t on any of these lists, by all means tell me which city and bookstore you’d like me to visit, and I’ll do my best.

SLC Nerds

Friday, February 24th, 2012

SLC Nerds will be very cool. RPGs, bands, cosplay and more. Starts at 2pm.

Writing for Charity

Friday, February 17th, 2012

I will not be able to attend Writing For Charity this year, but it is a fantastic event and you should all go if you can. I will be contributing where I can, including putting an ARC of THE HOLLOW CITY (my new thriller that comes out in July) into the charity auction.

March 17, 2012

Provo City Library

9:30 am to 6:00 pm

What is Writing for Charity?

In 2008, Author Shannon Hale held a professional writing conference at the Salt Lake City Library in hopes of raising money for those in need. She invited other local authors to come and lend their support. The event was a success, and WRITING FOR CHARITY was born!

On March 17th, 2012, the ROCK CANYON writers of Utah and the CHILDREN’S LITERATURE ASSOCIATION OF UTAH are hosting the fourth annual WRITING FOR CHARITY event at the Historic Provo Library. Yes, it’s on St. Patrick’s Day, and we hope you’ll consider yourself lucky to attend!

Learn more about Writing for Charity at their website: http://writingforcharity.blogspot.com

PARTIALS Launch: Dan Wells, in Musical Form

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

We are now less than two weeks away from the launch of PARTIALS! I’m having two big signings to kick everything off:

February 28, 7pm
Sam Weller’s in SLC
*please note that the event is at 7pm, not 6pm as originally posted*

February 29, 6pm
Barnes & Noble in Orem

The characters in PARTIALS live in the ruins of the world you and I leave behind, eleven years after a devastating plague wipes out 99.9% of the human race. They scavenge through the old, empty stores and houses to find things they need, like clothes and canned food, and one of the characters, a girl named Xochi, collects music players—iPods, Zunes, and so on. This is one of my favorite little quirks of the novel, because a music player is so much more than a song or an album: it’s a record of who you are, reflected through your music. It’s a little piece of your personality that survives the plague and reaches out to future generations.

So this got me thinking: if somebody found my music player in the wreckage of the old world, what would it say about me? I’d love to just plop my entire iPod up here for you to listen to, but it’s several gigs and way too big. What I can do, though, is create a little mini musical portrait of myself—a representative playlist to show you who I am and what I’m about. I’ve painfully narrowed it down to 15 songs, and here they are.

Everlong, by the Foo Fighters
We might a well start at the top: “Everlong” is my very favorite song. I’ve included both the standard version and the acoustic; the acoustic video includes clips of an anime called FLCL, and I watched it every day while writing I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER.
The video
The acoustic version, with FLCL

Tu, by Shakira
Before she came to the US and got all big and flashy, Shakira was a simple Columbian singer writing beautiful, personal, confessional songs about life and love. I discovered her back when I lived in Mexico, and over the years her second album, “Donde Estan Los Ladrones?” has become my favorite album of my collection. “Tu” is sweet and sad, a love song with an almost Country-like sound. I love it.
The video

A Day in the Life, by The Beatles
Now you know my favorite song and my favorite album, so how about my favorite group? It’s The Beatles, hands down, and this is one of their best songs—though not, I admit, their most accessible song. “A Day in the Life” is about living in a world that’s too fast, and too disconnected, and too artificial. I respond to it very strongly.
The song predates music videos, but here’s the music

Common Reactor, by Silversun Pickups
My other favorite group (hey, I’m allowed to have two) is the Silversun Pickups, and holy crap was it hard to pick just one of their songs to put on this list. I eventually went with “Common Reactor” because it’s the most-played song in my iPod, and it’s a great choice. Nobody does a delayed resolution like these guys.
They never made a video, but here’s the music

Gimme Shelter, by The Rolling Stones
I write apocalyptic, dystopian fiction, so there’s got to be at least one raging protest song on here, right? My pick goes right back to the source, the seething anthem of social unrest: “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones. Bonus PARTIALS connection: the woman singing backup sang so hard she miscarried the next day.
There’s plenty of live versions on youtube, but the studio version has the best sound quality

Over the Confluence of Giants, by DJ Earworm
I’m a huge fan of musical mashups—taking two or more songs and splicing them together to make a new one. A lot of mashups are just “the music from one song and the words from another,” and I love those too, but “Over the Confluence of Giants” is the song that convinced me the art form could go so much further. DJ Earworm took five or six different songs and created something entirely new and amazing.
There’s no iTunes link because it’s free. Here’s a direct link to the file on DJ Earworm’s website

Sabotage, by the Beastie Boys
I’m kind of a metalhead, and this is my pick to represent that vast portion of my music collection. Whenever I needed to write a big action scene for PARTIALS (and there are several), I always listened to “Sabotage” to get me in the mood.
One of the best music videos ever made

At Seventeen, by Janis Ian
One of the things I love about art is the ability to make your audience feel two different emotions at once: love and fear, or joy and sadness. The dissonance in those contradictions is a powerful experience. “At Seventeen” is a gorgeous 70s pop song about a girl who thinks she’s ugly and nobody likes her. It’s beautiful and heart-wrenching, and that combination is one of my favorite things in the world.
No video, but here’s the music

Me and Bobby McGee, by Janis Joplin
While we’re in the 70s, let’s listen to the opposite end of the spectrum, a woman so raw and powerful she helped define an entire era. When I set out to write Kira Walker, the main character of PARTIALS, I used a lot of Janis Joplin for inspiration: the strength, the refusal to compromise, and just a touch of the apocalyptic abandon in the chorus of “Me and Bobby McGee”: “Freedom’s just another word for ‘nothing left to lose.’”
None of the youtube versions have very good sound quality, but this is the best

The Finale of Swan Lake. Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky
I love classical music, and more specifically the Romantic era with it’s intense, emotional waves of sound. Swan Lake is, yes, a ballet about swans, which makes it sound like the non-manliest thing ever created, but listen to the finale. There’s a beauty and a power in here that moves me every time.
A clip from the American Ballet Theater

You Can Call Me Al, by Paul Simon
Being a writer, I like to pay special attention to the lyrics of a song—good music is good music, but if it also has amazing words I will love it forever. Paul Simon is one of the best songwriters in the business, and Graceland is one of my favorite albums: simple yet experimental, light yet clever, and lyrically brilliant. “You Can Call Me Al” never fails to make me smile.
The official music video was improvised with Chevy Chase on the set of SNL

Seria Feliz (Nortec Remix), by Julietta Venegas and Bostich
This is the weirdest song on my list, and not coincidentally the one that probably represents me the most directly. It’s techno, but it samples mariachi instead of traditional electronica; it’s a mashup; it’s in Spanish. I believe that art can come from anywhere, regardless of genre or convention or medium, and “Seria Feliz,” remixed by Bostich, demonstrates that more clearly than anything in my collection.
Make sure you’re ready for a face full of awesome

Houston, by Visqueen
This song is here to represent two giant chunks of my iPod: the chick rock section and the kind of hipstery “you’ve probably never heard of them” indie rock section. Visqueen’s biggest song was “Blue,” and that’s the one that got me to check them out, but “Houston” is my favorite. Why? Because sometimes you don’t need a reason to love something.
No video, just music

Helena, by My Chemical Romance
Another representative selection, this time showcasing my goth rock tendencies. My Chemical Romance does incredible videos, especially for “Helena” and “I’m Not OK.” “Helena” in particular is not only goth but a screaming mix of punk and emo. So many people hate goth, and emo even more so, but you know what? Be who you are.
If I ever go goth, this video will be why
And why not, here’s “I’m Not OK,” because linking to stuff is easy

Fake Plastic Trees, by Radiohead
And Radiohead brings us home, returning to the sentiments of The Beatles “A Day in the Life”: we live in a world that’s artificial and disconnected, where we try so hard to fit in, to look different, to be something we’re not, that we lose ourselves completely. Do you say things because they’re true, or because other people expect to hear them? Are you real, or are you a fake plastic version of yourself? “Fake Plastic Trees” is epic and tragic and a perfect cap to my playlist.
The official video

So there you go: If you found those songs in the rubble of some lost, forgotten house, I think you’d get a pretty good idea of who I am, and what I value, and what makes me tick. How about you? What does your music say about who you are? Which songs will reflect your personality to the rest of the world?

Why I Like What I Like, Part 2

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

As I promised in Part 1, I’m back to talk about two of my favorite TV shows, not just currently but of all time: Breaking Bad and Parks and Recreation. These shows seem on the surface like they couldn’t possibly be more different from each other, and indeed there are some significant differences, but the reasons I like both shows are almost identical. They both have incredible, well-written characters that I absolutely love.

Loving the characters of Parks and Recreation is easy, because they are all good people. Every single one of them, with the arguable exceptions of Ron’s ex-wives, are good, nice, loving people who go out of their way to help each other. I hadn’t realized how rare that was in a TV show until this one made me look back and try to remember another one like it. When the show debuted I assumed it was an Office clone, and in some ways it was; it has the same documentary shtick, it has the same veneer of workplace humor, and so on. Since I never liked The Office I didn’t bother with Parks and Rec, but when I finally gave it another shot I saw that the two shows have very different feels. The humor in The Office is about how none of them get along, and they fight all the time, and hey look at how uncomfortable we made THIS situation. The humor in Parks and Rec is about the ridiculous lengths people will go to to do what they think is right, which slides it into farce territory: the tragic pursuit of a humorous goal.

(Sidenote: Are you familiar with that classification system? A drama is the serious pursuit of a serious goal, a comedy is the humorous pursuit of a humorous goal; a tragedy is the tragic pursuit of a serious goal, and a farce is the tragic pursuit of a humorous goal. I honestly don’t know if that system provides any meaningful benefit, but I learned it in high school and I’ve always remembered it.)

The government angle of Parks and Rec is a big part of what makes it work: it contributes to the farcical nature, and it gives the characters something to fight against without requiring a specific villain. Perhaps more than that, though–and this goes back to the whole Care Bear “I love shows about nice people” thing I was talking about before–it is endlessly delightful and sometimes even inspiring to watch the main character, Leslie Knope, never give up hope in the American government. Our country is seriously messed up right now, and I’ve already wasted too much of your time whining about all the things I see going wrong with it, and yet Leslie always sees a bright side. Even while the show makes fun of bureaucracy and town meetings and everything else, it does it with a loving smile. Leslie believes in something, she works for it tirelessly, and the people around her recognize that and do what they can to support her. As the formula for a snarky modern sitcom this seems too antiquated to even exist, let alone work, and yet it does. That’s practically a miracle.

Which is not to say that all the characters are bubbly and happy like Leslie. One of the best characters on the show is April, who begins as a jaded teenager and slowly grows into a jaded adult; she aggressively refuses to care about anything, because that’s the personality she’s chosen for herself (you’ve probably met plenty of teenagers just like her), and yet inside you can tell that she does care, very much, about a lot of things. As the seasons progress she falls in love, and her pursuit of that man is one of the sweetest, most wonderful things I have ever seen on TV–not because it’s sweet, but because it earns its sweetness. The show spends so much time driving home the points that “April doesn’t care about anything,” and “April doesn’t smile,” so that when you finally see her care about something, or on those rare occasions when she actually smiles, it means something. You haven’t just witnessed a character on a sitcom do something nice for someone else, you’ve witnessed a foundational shift in the way a character interacts with the world. Which is a long and winding way for me to get back to the reason I love this show: the characters are so well-drawn, so real and human and flawed and lovable, that you feel like you know them. Perhaps more importantly, you feel like you want to know them.

The characters in Breaking Bad, on the other hand, are not characters you’d ever like to hang out with or even meet–but they’re still incredibly “good” characters that I am endlessly drawn to. I am using the word “good” here to mean “well-written,” because no one in the show is really “good.” They are, on the other hand, incredibly sympathetic. you never agree with any of Walt’s decisions, but you can understand why he makes every single one of them.

The stated purpose of Breaking Bad is to show a protagonist become an antagonist. It’s about a chemistry teacher in the throes of a midlife crisis (lame job, second lamer job, unexpected baby, and of course cancer) who starts making meth. He starts mostly on a whim, then continues because he wants the money, and by season three is doing it because it gives him a power and control over his life that he’s never felt any other way. Step by step, choice by choice, you watch Walt make a series of decisions and actions that feel entirely justified in context, yet are completely unconscionable when you step back to see the whole picture. My friend Steve calls it “the ultimate supervillain origin story,” and that’s not far off. In simpler terms it is classic tragedy, the fall of a good man trying to keep up with the consequences of his actions, as compelling as Oedipus or King Lear and every bit as brilliant. The fact that you don’t like the main character is beside the point–you don’t like Othello either, as a person, and you’re not supposed to. Tragedy is about knowing someone’s going to fall, watching it happen, and feeling the catharsis on the other side.

In contrast to some of these other shows I’ve been talking about, Breaking Bad is deeply serialized. It’s a show about change, and that kind of show can’t survive with a stable status quo. People come and go, people live and die, people keep and tell secrets, and every single one of those events has consequences the characters will have to deal with. One of the most devastating things that happens to Walt comes at the end of the very first episode, when his reckless experiment cooking meth DOESN’T end in a shoot-out with the cops. He gets away with it, but he was kind of hoping to go out with a bang–”suicide by police.” He thought he could do something stupid, die, and not have to worry about it anymore, but that’s not the way life works. Tomorrow the sun comes up, and you’re still here, and you have to live with everything you did yesterday.

Plot and character aside, I would watch Breaking Bad just for the writing. One of my favorite episodes involves an old man in a wheelchair who can barely move, but he can ding a little bell, and the writers wring Hitchcock levels of tension out of that sound effect. Another great scene had two heroin junkies desperately happy about a windfall of money, babbling on and on about all they things they were going to do and how they were going to flush their heroin down the toilet and never touch it again; the word choice and the pace of the dialogue make it obvious that they really, really, want to do this, but at the same time it’s painfully obvious that they won’t. And when the character of Saul shows up, the Platonic ideal of a greasy lawyer, holy crap: every word out of that man’s mouth is pure gold. Even the visual structure of the show, a huge part of writing for screen, is brilliant. One scene cuts from a man laying out clothes for his daughter’s funeral, a blue blouse on a pink bed, straight to another man’s newborn baby girl in exactly the same pose and background. The writers care about this show, and they pay attention to everything from the tiny details to the apocalyptic climaxes. I do not exaggerate (nor am I alone) when I call it one of the best TV shows of all time.

Because I’m on the subject, I’ll close with a quick list of my “favorite TV shows ever.” Presented in no particular order:
Breaking Bad
Arrested Development
Dead Like Me
Cowboy Bebop

I didn’t plan for those to be the first four letters of the alphabet, that’s funny. Sorry I can’t think of a fifth–there’s a lot of shows I love, but nothing I really feel like putting in this company.

Dark Days Winter: Partials Book Tour – Massachusetts

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Dark Days Winter: PARTIALS Book Tour
With Kimberly Derting (THE LAST ECHO), Jill Hathaway (SLIDE), and Dan Wells (PARTIALS)

April 18th @ 7:00pm: Books & Co (Dayton, OH)

April 19th @ 7:00pm: Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville, IL)

April 20th @ 7:00pm: Barnes & Noble (Burlington, MA)

Dark Days Winter: Partials Book Tour – Illinois

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Dark Days Winter: PARTIALS Book Tour
With Kimberly Derting (THE LAST ECHO), Jill Hathaway (SLIDE), and Dan Wells (PARTIALS)

April 18th @ 7:00pm: Books & Co (Dayton, OH)

April 19th @ 7:00pm: Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville, IL)

April 20th @ 7:00pm: Barnes & Noble (Burlington, MA)

Dark Days Winter: Partials Book Tour – Ohio

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Dark Days Winter: PARTIALS Book Tour
With Kimberly Derting (THE LAST ECHO), Jill Hathaway (SLIDE), and Dan Wells (PARTIALS)

April 18th @ 7:00pm: Books & Co (Dayton, OH)

April 19th @ 7:00pm: Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville, IL)

April 20th @ 7:00pm: Barnes & Noble (Burlington, MA)

Dark Days Winter: Partials Book Tour – California

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Dark Days Winter: PARTIALS Book Tour
With Lauren Oliver (PANDEMONIUM), Claudia Gray (BALTHAZAR), and Dan Wells (PARTIALS)

March 11th @ 4:00pm: Vroman’s (Los Angeles, CA)