Archive for May, 2012

Dan’s Giant Book Tour in July

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I have a new book coming out in July, plus I’m still not done touring for PARTIALS, so it’s time for a Big Giant Book Tour. This is by far the mosst ambitious tour I’ve ever attempted, and I’ll be visiting some places I’ve never been before. Coming soon to a bookstore near you:

July 3: Salt Lake City, UT – Weller Book Works
*This is the launch party, and we’re planning something special. You don’t want to miss it.

July 6: Birmingham, AL – Little Professor Bookcenter

July 7: Atlanta, GA – Peerless Book Store

July 8: Houston, TX – Murder by the Book

July 9: St. Louis, MO – Left Bank Books        
* This event, and the next few on the list, are part of the “Dark Days of Summer” tour, including me, S.J. Kincaid, Aprilynne Pike, and Veronica Roth. If you like YA, science fiction, paranormal, dystopia, or anything even remotely related to them, you want to be at one of these events.

July 10: Huntington Beach, CA – Barnes & Noble                    
*(Stop 2 for the Dark Days of Summer)

July 11: Salt Lake City, UT – King’s English Bookshop    
*(Stop 3 for the Dark Days of Summer)

July 12-15: San Diego, CA – ComicCon 
*(My full schedule at ComicCon will be announced as soon as we have it, but it will include at least one Dark Days event and a Hollow City signing. Brandon Sanderson and Producer Jordo will be there as well, so we’re going to try to record some Writing Excuses, but I can’t guarantee that it will happen or that they’ll be public events.)

July 16: Beaverton, OR – Powell’s Books

July 17: Denver, CO – Tattered Cover Book Store

July 18: Burbank, CA – Dark Delicacies
*I will be signing at Dark Delicacies with Chuck Palahniuk(!), which is one of those pipe dream fanboy kind of things for me. I will do my best not to act like a blathering idiot the entire time.

July 19: Seattle, WA – University Bookstore

July 21: San Francisco, CA – Borderlands Books

July 23: Orem, UT – Barnes & Noble

The tour ends on July 23, and on July 25 or 26 I will plop my little family on an airplane and fly to Germany. This could be your last chance for the next year to see me in the US, so if you can get to any of these signings, please come! II’d love to see you and deface your books.

ConDuit 2012

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

May 25-27, 2012
Downtown Radisson
215 W South Temple
Salt Lake City, Utah

You can find out more here: http://conduit-sf.com/

Dan’s schedule
Friday:
1:00 PM Writing Points of View
4:00 PM Podcasting 101

Saturday:
3:00 PM Playing in Someone else’s Sandbox – Universe borrowing and fan-fiction

Review: Neck of the Woods

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

As I mentioned in my post-apocalyptic playlist, my favorite band of the moment is Silversun Pickups. I learned about them the same time most people did, back when Lazy Eye was all over the radio; I picked up that Album, Carnavas, and their prior (non-studio) album Pikul and I loved every song on them. When their next album released, called Swoon, I loved it even more, which I suppose is fitting because everyone loved it more–the lead single off the album, Panic Switch, instantly became their biggest hit, and a #1 chart-topper; I admit I can never decide if Panic Switch or Royal We is a my favorite. The point is I like their music.

Last week Silverun Pickups released their newest album, Neck of the Woods, and in the past week I’ve listened to it extensively, writing several scenes of ISOLATION and FRAGMENTS with it (and, eventually, their other albums) as background music. It’s a great album, but my feelings on it are a bit conflicted. The best and simplest description I can offer is that Neck of the Woods is their Kid A–a more insular, experimental album coming on the heels of a hugely popular mainstream album. Just like Radiohead’s Kid A, which followed their enormously successful OK Computer, SP’s Neck of the Woods shows a band in search of its own identity, rejecting a bit of their broad appeal in exchange for finding something more unique and personal. I think it mostly works, with the caveat that the process seems to have smoothed their curve of quality significantly; the overall strength of the album is the best they’ve ever done, but no single song stands out as, for example, “the new Panic Switch.” Neck of the Woods is a brilliant album without a single.

The Radiohead comparison extends to some of their sound, as well, with tracks like Here We Are having a distinctly Radio-headish vibe to them. When Silversun Pickups first started they were often compared to Smashing Pumpkins, and their early songs bore this influence proudly. As they grow and stretch themselves they’re finding influence in other places, and in Neck of the Woods I can hear a lot of Temper Trap, especially in tracks like Mean Spirit. I don’t think they’re actively trying to emulate Temper Trap, just that they and Temper Trap are chasing some of the same sounds and techniques. Mean Spirit is, perhaps not coincidentally, the most radio-friendly song on the album, but it’s not the best. The best work on the album comes from their more experimental tracks, where they seem to be eschewing influence altogether and really trying to find their own sound.

My favorite song on the album was, initially, the last one, Out of Breath, but I suspect this is mostly an effect of how new the sound of the album is in general–it took me until the last song to really get what they were doing at first, and in light of that Out of Breath was able to hit me when I was finally ready to hear it. This might be because the second-to-last song, Gun-Shy Sunshine, is their most traditional, and the closest in style to their older stuff, and the juxtaposition made me appreciate the new stuff that much more. As I’ve gone back and listened again and again I find myself most strongly drawn to some of the stuff in the middle, particularly Busy Bees and Bloody Mary, the latter being hands down my new favorite, and one of my favorite SP songs overall. It starts with a classic Silversun Pickups structure, the kind of slow burn dissonance that made me love them in the first place, and then takes it in a new and exciting direction. It’s the track where their new experiments blend most seamlessly with their signature style, and shows a promising future for the band as a whole.

And that’s really the question, isn’t it? “Where do they go from here?” Radiohead followed Kid A with Amnesiac, an even more insular, more experimental album that sent all but the die-hard fans running back to the familiarity of Ok Computer and The Bends. The later Radiohead stuff is great, but very few people, if any, will point to those later songs as their favorites. Will Silversun Pickups move further toward the Amnesiac end of the pool, or will they take the new sound they’ve discovered on Neck of the Woods and combine it with the chart-topping energy and appeal they showed in Swoon? I have no idea, and I hope the answer is “whatever makes them the happiest.” I’m a huge fan, and I’ll keep buying their albums regardless.

Until then, I go back to my own work, blissfully set to a playlist of all four albums–plus the mini-album of extra Swoon songs–all shuffled together. May their search for a uniquely personal sound help me find a little more of my own.

Review: The Sharp End of the Stick

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The most terrifying thing I ever do is tell people I like that I’ll read and review their latest work on my blog. What if I hate it? I don’t want to lie to you, so it would be better to just not review it at all, but I already promised I’d review it and I don’t want to lie to them, either, so arg. It’s usually easiest to never read anything at all–or, alternately, to just not promise reviews.

And then, like a chump, I told Howard I’d read his latest Schlock Mercenary book.

The good news is, the latest Schlock Mercenary book turns out to be my favorite story from the Schlock webcomic. BULLET DODGED. You see, given the nature of how Howard publishes, this story was online several years ago, and I read it then, and while I’d always enjoyed his work before this is the story that made me a fan. I love it. I won’t go into spoilery detail, but the plot begins as “in medias res” as it is possible to begin: a small group of our heroes is lost in a jungle, nearly naked and armed with makeshift spears, desperately defending themselves from a pack of hungry carnivores. And then the main character gets eaten and dies.

On, like, the third page.

What follows is a fascinating story combining science fiction, politics, medical mysteries, body horror, and the best romantic arc Howard’s ever done, all perfectly executed and tinged with a relentless sense of humor. The story bounces back and forth through time and memory, not just because it’s an effective storytelling technique but because it actually matters to the story, and could not be told in any other way. Punchlines turn out to be important science-fictional plot points; fascinating new technologies lead naturally to hilarious one-liners, and round and round in a circle of comics goodness. You might not have any idea where the story’s going, or how it could possibly resolve, but Howard knows exactly what he’s doing at every step of the way. And he does it very well.

Being his newest book, The Sharp End of the Stick is available right now for pre-order, and you should definitely pick it up. You’ll be glad you did.

Isolation: A Lost Tale of the Partials Sequence

Friday, May 11th, 2012

This is fantastic news, so I’ll just get right to it. The sequel to PARTIALS, called FRAGMENTS, is coming along nicely and will be released next Spring. You’re going to love it. But just in case you didn’t want to wait an entire year for another Partials book, we have a treat for you: coming this fall is ISOLATION, a Partials novella that will be released as an ebook. Even if you don’t have an ereader, you can read ISOLATION on any computing device (so unless you’re an archeologist, reading this in transcription after the Break, you can read ISOLATION). (And maybe even then….)

Want to see the cover?

Isolation

ISOLATION is a flashback to the time before the Break, and careful readers of PARTIALS can probably guess at least part of what it’s about. I’ll be revealing details slowly over the next few months, but for now here’s some teasers:

1) It’s about a minor character from PARTIALS, providing a lot of backstory for him/her (I’m not telling which).

2) You’ll get some hints about the state of the world leading up to the Break.

3) You’ll learn more about the Partials themselves than ever before.

If you’ve heard me talk recently about two secret projects I’ve been working on, this is one of them. The other just launched yesterday: a podcast I started with my brother, Robison Wells, called Do I Dare To Eat A Peach? Two brothers who both write science fiction, talking for an hour or so about their favorite books, movies, TV shows, music, comics, food, and everything else we love. The title comes from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, my favorite poem, in a repeated theme where Prufrock remains frozen in indecision. In a sense, our podcast is to help you eat peaches–to help you find something you may never have tried before, but that ends up being your favorite thing. The first episode is about comic book movies, but who knows what the future will bring? It’s completely free, of course, so check it out.

Packing for Germany

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Time for an update on my move to Germany. First off, the schedule is more or less solidified: on July 3, my new book comes out (a new supernatural thriller called THE HOLLOW CITY, about a man with schizophrenia who realizes that some of the monsters he sees are real). I’ll be touring for three weeks, including a week in the middle for another Dark Days tour for PARTIALS, and then I’ll return home on (approximately) the July 23 and fly to Germany on July 25 or 26. We’ll be living in Stuttgart, or technically just north of Stuttgart in a town called Weilimdorf. I will be flying there with my wife and five kids, all of whom will go absolutely insane trapped on a plane for 14 hours, so if you’re planning to fly from the US to Germany I recommend you don’t do it on July 25 or 26.

Literally everything that we’re taking needs to fit in a carefully calculated set of luggage: 7 backpacks and 7 suitcases. Most of this space will be taken by clothes, but we’re throwing a few extras in there where we can fit them. Of special concern to me is my Boardgame collection–most of it is staying home, because it could more than fill seven suitcases all by itself, but I want to take at least a few things. I have some criteria to meet, and I’m open to suggestions:

1) It has to be something I can play with my kids. I’m leaving my game groups behind, obviously, and while it’s entirely possible that I’ll find a new one in Stuttgart (Germany has a much stronger boardgaming culture than the US), I figure anything they want to play they’ll already have. My family is who I’ll be playing most of these games with, so I need to take something they like.

2) It has to be small, or at least have a very high game-to-volume ratio. Something like Fireball Island would be awesome, because my kids love it, but it’s enormous (and kind of crushable) so it wouldn’t work. Something like Battles of Westeros, on the other hand, is pretty hefty but packs a ton of replayability into the space, so it might be worth it.

3) I don’t want to step on any cultural landmines. I’m not talking here about the difference between Eurogames and American games, but of more large scale cultural issues. Maybe this isn’t a concern at all, and I’m overthinking this, but please enlighten me: are World War II games, for example, totally tasteless in Germany? My son loves Memoir 44, which is another good “lots of game in one box” option, but it has Nazis in it. I can see how that might be a big cultural taboo, but I can also see how it might be no big deal, like playing a Civil War game in America. Please let me know in the comments.

So, in light of those requirements, and my current Boardgame collection, what do I take? My two top-rated games are Battlestar Galactica, which wouldn’t work with my kids at all, and Last Night on Earth, which would. LNoE also has that great replayability factor, making it a good match for requirement #2, so I think it makes the cut.

Of my ’9-rated’ games, two are expansions, one is a minis game I don’t currently own minis for, and one is a big wargame I don’t think I could find the room for. 7 Wonders, on the other hand, could be a great choice: my kids like, it, my wife loves it, and it’s not enormous. That might make the cut as well. We’ll put it on the shortlist.

My 8-rated games are more problematic. My son is campaigning heavily for HeroClix, which I would LOVE to take, but it’s completely out of the question. Big Boggle‘s a great option, and not necessarily “big” so we might be okay. Agricola‘s a good choice, as is Vegas Showdown, though I’d want to repack it to reduce the size (it doesn’t come anywhere near filling the box it’s in). Battles of Westeros is one of my favorites, but fails the “my kids like it” test; I’d be better off with BattleLore, but now our list is getting pretty big, and I don’t know if I can feasibly fit this much in my luggage. It’s time to take a look at games I know my kids like, and work from there.

Let’s see, here. Going through the collection and pulling out the best candidates, I get Castle Ravenloft and it’s two twin sisters, Fill or Bust, Set, Small World, Ticket to Ride, UNO, Zombie Dice, and Zooloretto. Castle Ravenloft I should strike off the list right now, because it’s huge, but if I found a way to consolidate all three games into one box it might be worth it. Fill or Bust and Set are tiny card games, and a no-brainer; I should throw in a few other card games as well, like Guillotine and maybe Zombie Fluxx. Zombie Dice is a similarly easy inclusion, as is UNO (which is also a card game, but a biggish one). Ticket to Ride is on the iPad, so I don’t think I need a physical version; besides, it could be fun to pick up a Marklin edition in German while I’m over there. Small World could be good, as it would be the only wargame-ish thing I’d have, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the at this point extremely limited room. Zooloretto is one of my daughters’ favorites, and another one I could consolidate into a smaller box, so that might have to go as well.

My list at this point is too big:
Last Night on Earth
7 Wonders
Big Boggle
Agricola
Vegas Showdown (repackaged)
BattleLore (size issue)
D&D Adventure Games (repackaged, and still probably a size issue)
Small World (size issue)
Zooloretto (repackaged)
Fill or Bust
Set
UNO
Guillotine
Zombie Dice

Those last five are about as big, put together, as the smallest other item on the list. I’m going to strike the D&D games and Big Boggle, the former for size and the latter for language inconsistency–if we play any word games, they should be something that helps the kids learn German. Small World might still be too big, so I’ll put that in a maybe pile. The others are totally doable.

Of course, we haven’t even discussed my Warmachine models. Painting models is not only a great solo hobby that I’d love to keep up with, it’s a very popular one in Germany that I could easily maintain at local shops. It’s huge, though. I don’t know. Maybe I could ship it to myself?