Friday, March 27, 2015

The In-Betweens

Last week I completed a new novel and sent it off to my agent. It is, naturally, the novel that will “save” me, but maybe the saving happened while I was writing it and now that it’s written I need saving all over again.

Since sending off that book I’ve had a lot of doing little: a bunch of aborted blog posts, many hours of cruising the nets, repainting an antique toilet seat, talking to the dog, reading gloriously bad sci-fi, putting off getting a haircut, sorting through old story ideas and fragments—basically, bouncing softly from task to task, finishing little (I’ve been working on that toilet seat for ten days, stripping, sanding, painting, repainting…one day it will be beautiful.) and feeling a bit lost. I did manage to film and post a new book trailer, and that was fun in a feathery sort of  way.

My new book comes out in April, there will be a book launch at Wild Rumpus, and a trip out west for the L.A. Times Book Festival, some stuff at AWP here in Minneapolis, and I have a few other things coming up, but until then, I dither.

This is not a bad thing. Yes, I need to write another book. I have a few things started: An alternate history with elves that stalled out on page 120. A novel based on a popular song from the 1990s that is at present one paragraph long. A middle-grade comedy. A darkish mystery novel for grownups. A novel with a profoundly unlikeable protagonist that will require a road trip to Texas. I want to write them all, but I have commitment issue. They all seem impossible, but at the same time, until I pull the trigger, everything is possible.

I’ll be reading from one of these prenatal projects on April 9th at St. Thomas College. Totally WIPped, organized by the formidable Heather Bouwman, will feature several writers reading from their works-in-progress. It is likely that whatever I choose to read will become my next novel, and the cycle will continue.

This in-between time is precious—a time for getting caught up with loved ones, cleaning the laundry room, making ragu alla Bolognese and taking long, aimless walks. I will do all those things and more. Still, there is nothing like diving headfirst into a fresh new novel to give one a sense of purpose. I am looking forward to it.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Unboxing of Eden West.

It seems that "unboxing videos" are a thing. Naturally, I have jumped on board with the unboxing video from hell.

When I told my publisher that I wanted to do an unboxing of my new novel, EDEN WEST, I figured it would be an ordinary envelope-opening event with some amusing narration—just a fun way to show off the bound book. 

But I hadn't accounted for the intervention of Carter Hasegawa, an overly imaginative Candlewick editor, who decided to have some fun with this hapless author. The unboxing became somewhat more elaborate than I had anticipated...

I also made a "normal" book trailer that is much shorter and kind of boring, but it tells a bit more about the book itself:

Just three weeks now to publication!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

I Am Afraid. Very Afraid.

One month until the publication of Eden West, and I just received my first author copy. I haven't opened it yet because I'm filming an "unboxing video" in a few days. I made the mistake of mentioning my plans for a video to my publisher, and they decided to make it more challenging than I had anticipated. Check out the package they sent.

Scary, huh? The only thing they'll tell me is, "Be sure to open it outside."

I'm thinking about calling the bomb squad.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Flinkwater, just downstream from Bloodwater...

I'm putting on my middle-grade hat on this morning for a cover reveal, even though this book won't be published for another six months. THE FLINKWATER FACTOR is my first solo MG effort. It's the story of Ginger Crump, a very smart, very geeky girl who lives in Flinkwater, the smartest, geekiest town in Iowa. I'll be saying more about Ginger and her adventures later. But for now, let's just have a peek at the cover.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rick Grimes Wants to Kill Us All

I got hooked on The Walking Dead a couple of years ago, binge watched the first three seasons, and now I find that each new episode is the highlight of my TV week. For those of you who are not aficionados, TWD is the story of a small group of characters who are attempting to survive in a world infested by mindless flesh-eating zombies. The core group, led by former sheriff Rick Grimes, are constantly searching for a safe haven in a world gone mad. Along the way they encounter other groups who have attempting to build or defend their own fortified communities. In every case, something goes drastically wrong. Grimes and his crew are forced to defend themselves not only from the ever-present zombies, but from the people they encounter. There is a lot of killing. Grimes’s group eventually prevails, leaving behind death and destruction, and moves on to continue their search for sanctuary.

We root for Rick, Darryl, Glen, Maggie, Carl, Carol, and the others. They are good people, their decisions are driven by their need to survive as a group, and they kill only those who are trying to kill them. They run into a lot of those types of people: Merle, the Governor, Gareth—the list is long. In every encounter, ultimately, they leave behind bodies and broken walls.
I started out seeing TWD as a heroic story of redemption, hope, and triumph. I still do, to some extent, but now, as we near the end of season five, my perception is different.

Everywhere Rick & Company go, they encounter people who have created relatively safe, stable environments for themselves—bits of grit that might one day become pearls. Dr. Jenner at the CDC, who might have continued on for years. Hershel and his family on their farm. The Governor’s fortified town of Woodbury. Gareth and the people of Terminus. Dawn and her people at the Atlanta hospital.

All of these nascent societies are terribly flawed. Dr. Jenner is incapable of ever finding a cure. Hershel is a deluded optimist who believes the dead are still human. The Governor is a homicidal megalomaniac. Gareth has built a society of predatory cannibals. Dawn has created a micro police state.

In every case, the arrival of Rick & Company triggers disaster, destroying any possibility that any of these groups might one day grow into a larger, more stable, more productive society.

History shows us that many (if not all) great societies began as tiny, monomaniacal, xenophobic, chauvinistic, ruthless groups. Consider the ancient, bloody sect that after three or four millennia became the great state of Israel. Consider the beer hall origins of modern Germany, or the slave-based economy that eventually became the United States of America.

For the first couple seasons of TWD, I saw Rick & Company as civilized, as moral, as a force for good. But while I remain emotionally with Camp Rick, I now see them as an amoral group intent on promoting their own monomaniacal, xenophobic, chauvinistic, ruthless vision at any cost. The irony here is that they don’t know it, whereas the people they have destroyed—Dr. Jenner, the Governor, Gareth, Dawn, Merle, Shane, and so on—died knowing who and what they were.

In the current season, Rick & Company have joined yet another group. They are safe inside Alexandria, a well-fortified community led by Deanna, a former Ohio congresswoman. Deanna says she has invited the group to join them because of their experience on the outside. Rick is named constable, and the rest of his group take up various jobs within the community.

So far, Alexandria appears to be a secure place populated by “normal” people. We shall see. But whatever transpires, I am certain that Deanna will regret inviting Rick & Company into her world.