Sunday, November 15, 2009


While I’m waiting for Killer Cows to be released, I’m currently shopping around my next young adult novel, Shaken(though I'm thinking of changing the title). It’s about how a 9.7 earthquake (and subsequent tsunami) affects the lives of three troubled teens on one fateful night in a fictional coastal town.

Unlike the relatively upbeat and whimsical Killer Cows, this novel is a dark, violent homage to the disaster movies I loved as a kid (and still do), but this time through the eyes of these teenagers. While I love disaster movies and novels, their depictions of young people have always been pretty shallow. Either the characters are smarmy brats, helpless waifs, comic relief or so sickeningly sweet that they’d kill a diabetic.

Shaken tells its story almost exclusively through the eyes of these three teen characters. They don’t have snappy one-liners, don’t have any insights about their situation beyond their years, and definitely don’t provide funny or “awe, how cute” moments. I tried to make them as realistic as possible, meaning they aren’t always selflessly heroic, and often make the same errors in judgment real kids do (or real adults for that matter). Much of the book is about the personal changes these characters undergo in an extreme crisis.

At the same time, I wanted the novel to be loaded with the same action, destruction and violence as the FX-laden movies I love. Some of you may have noticed I have been comparing Shaken to movies, not other books. There’s a reason for that. Yes, I think there are some important themes of personal discovery present, but mostly, the book is intended to be fast and furious, best appreciated if read in one sitting (which a good reader could probably do in a couple of hours). In my queries to agents and publishers, I’ve called it Die Hard for kids.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Is This One of Those 'Circle of Life' Things?

“You wanted the best, you got the best...”

The first words uttered at the very first concert I went to as a kid, when I paid nine bucks to see Kiss at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon. And for me, it WAS the best. Gene Simmons spitting fire and blood; Ace Frehley’s guitar literally smoking during his solo; Peter Criss’ drum kit rising 20 feet over the stage; Paul Stanley demolishing his guitar during the encore.

Kiss was never my favorite band, but I always liked them, even during the late 70s and early 80s, when it was no longer fashionable to admit so. Yeah, there were ‘cooler’ bands, such as Iron Maiden, Rush, Van Halen and Judas Priest (at least in my circle of heavy metal friends). But live? As far as I’m concerned, no one ever touched Kiss.

Bombs. Fire. Explosions. Kiss was, and still is, the only band in which you were blown away by the show even if you didn’t know a single song they played.

Music has always been a big part of my life, especially heavy metal. It’s the first music that pissed off my parents, and is now the music that drives my wife and kids out of the room. I listen to a lot of new stuff - nu metal, death metal, etc - but I also listen to the bands I’ve loved for decades, and try to convince my oldest daughter why that music is still great. She hates a lot of it, except for The Beatles (but who doesn’t love them?) and a select few songs by Iron Maiden and Slayer she’s mastered on Guitar Hero.

But you know what’s cool? A lot of the bands I loved in my youth are still around, still touring and still making records. Not just new records, but records which sound like they always did, regardless of what American Idol jerkweeds determine to be popular. It did my heart a lot of good to see that Kiss’ first album in ten years, Sonic Boom, is just as dumb and juvenile as the Kiss records I bought in the 70s (I don’t think anyone wants to hear a band like Kiss suddenly shift to singing emo crap about how misunderstood they are). It also did my heart good to find out that same record, for one week anyway, was the biggest selling album in the country.

And I think I know why. Kiss is sort of the hard rock equivalent of a James Bond movie or a McDonalds Value Meal: There may not be any surprises, but you know exactly what you’re gonna get.

So when it was announced that Kiss was coming to my hometown for a show, I didn’t need to ponder whether or not the huge ticket price was worth it. I bought tickets for me, my wife (who hates heavy metal) and oldest daughter (her first real concert, not counting Hanna Montana a few years ago).

This is a big deal to me, mainly because it sort of brings me full circle, in a music sense. Despite the fact these tickets were fifty bucks each (as opposed to the nine dollars of allowance money in costed me in the 70s), it’s cool that my oldest daughter’s first real concert is going to be the same as mine, with bombs, explosions and in-your-face metal anthems. In fact, when I actually asked her if she wanted to go, and when she heard the name Kiss, she replied with a hearty and enthusiastic “Yes!” She knew what Kiss was about.

I can’t wait for the show, not just because I like the band, or that one of my daughters will get a taste of my childhood, but also because even though both me and Kiss are getting up there in years, some things are always cool, even if they aren’t always fashionable. I’ll take one Kiss over a thousand U2s or Springsteens any day of the week.