Thursday, December 31, 2009

Well, it's almost New Year again. What did I like this year? Hmm. Well, I had some great dim sum at China Pearl in Boston--best shrimp dumplings ever. I really liked having breakfast (usually polenta and eggs, but sometimes the world's best corned beef hash) at the Modern Diner ever Saturday morning with my wife. I enjoyed spending my Saturday nights watching old kung-fu movies and weirdbeard horror flicks with my friends Dave, Steve, Adam, and Dan. It was a cool experience going to ThrillerFest with author Nate Kenyon, and I had fun at Comic-Con in San Diego (where I got to be on a panel with Amber Benson, who is even more of a knockout than she was on Buffy), even though I stupidly missed my flight out. But once I did catch another plane, it was nice to visit San Francisco and spend time with my in-laws and my agent. I also liked going to New York and meeting my editor, Danielle, and hanging out with one of my comic-book idols, Bob Fingerman. It was great having my book come out for the second time (I have a feeling it's not the last), selling a short story to The Living Dead 2, and knowing my Xombies sequel is finally coming out. I liked the movies Avatar, No Country For Old Men, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Zombieland, and my vote for the best vampire movie ever: Let the Right One In.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Xombies: Apocalypse Blues | Book Review

Just saw two great movies over the weekend--that's always nice. The first was Avatar, which I saw at my local IMAX theater, so the 3-D was about as good as it gets. Even though I had heard some negative things, I still had high hopes for this movie, simply because it's James Cameron and because from the early previews it looked to me like the kind of movie I've been wanting to see since I used to read Heavy Metal magazine in the '80s: a Frazetta painting brought to life. And it is totally that. Not a whole lot more, but absolutely the apotheosis of Heavy Metal-style sci-fi/fantasy mythmaking. The whole planet looks like a Yes album cover. So while it didn't exceed my expectations, it definitely met them. Folks are saying this is Dances With Wolves in space, and I would add Pocahontas and FernGully, but just because a movie wears its influences on its sleeve doesn't mean it's bad. Like the recent 3-D remake of A Christmas Carol, the point of this movie is not originality of story, but originality of experience--it's a full immersion into worlds we've only seen in our imaginations.

The other great movie was Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Wonderful, insane cop film that's loosely based on an earlier film starring Harvey Keitel. I love anything Herzog does, but this movie is strange even for him, and it's a fantastic showcase for Nicolas Cage to get into his weirdest (and best) performance since Vampire's Kiss. There was one particular moment in this movie when I entered cinematic nirvana: Nicolas Cage is at the scene of a deadly car accident, in which a car has hit an alligator and flipped over. The alligator is still twitching, and the folks in the car are presumably dead. There's a confrontation between corrupt homicide detective Cage and one of the state troopers--fairly standard cop-movie stuff. But then Herzog cuts away to the edge of the swamp, where a second gator is watching the twitching body of what must be its dying mate, and you suddenly have a realization of this whole other dimension to the tragedy. It's hilarious, sad, and brilliant.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Wow--just got a great review for XOMBIES: APOCALYPSE BLUES on Book Spot Central--here's the link:

I also just did an interview for the site, because the questions were good ones. It wasn't just general crap like, "Why do you think people like zombies?" This guy actually read my book. It's risky to do interviews, because you get into personal stuff and can sound like a pompous jerk, but I don't get that much opportunity to talk about my work. Maybe if I'm ever as successful as Stephen King or Stephanie Meyers, I'll get sick of answering questions, but for now it's a treat.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Well, this is a nice surprise. I just got an email from Kimber An, author and administrator of the excellent book website, who tells me that Xombies: Apocalypse Blues made their top ten list.

Wow. I live such an insular existence, I sometimes forget there are actually people reading my book out there (although I do get wonderful emails from fans from time to time). But they must be, because I was also recently told by my editor at Penguin that my novel has been in the top twenty mass-market sci-fi bestsellers on Nielsen BookScan for over six weeks. I don't know what any of this means in terms of book sales, but if it allows me to keep writing then I'm happy.

Speaking of fanmail, ever since Xombies was first published in 2004, some of the most enthusiastic emails have come not from zombie fans but from older, professional people (doctors, lawyers, teachers, postal workers, business execs, and other authors) who picked up the book more or less by accident (one guy found a copy while he and his wife were cleaning out a friend's garage) and loved it.

I am so grateful whenever I hear from such readers, because it's always been my worry that the book is not reaching this audience, simply because they don't normally read "that kind of thing." But Xombies (original title: Dead Sea) was my attempt at squaring the circle: combining elements of literary fiction with the great pulp novels of my youth. I wanted to appeal to horror fans and Book Club readers alike. Unfortunately, the book came out right on the cusp of a huge (and ongoing) zombie craze, so it never had a chance to be judged on its merits, but only its merits as a zombie product. Zombies are great, but it's a pleasure to know at least a few mainstream readers have found my book, liked it, and took the time to tell me so.

Friday, December 04, 2009

A friend of mine, Cyrus Leddy, has been writing and recording this funny and very strange series of radio plays lately for Perishable Theater here in Providence. It's a fake call-in show called DeStefano On The Air, and I've been doing one of the character voices. I've been in Cyrus's stage plays before (the last one was Oedipus Rex), but this is kind of a lifelong dream of mine, acting in a radio show. We just finished recording the newest episode last night--in a parking-lot, to capture the ambient noise. In January we'll be staging a live version of the first episode at Perishable. That should be fun.