Scares That Care, Part Four: Jack Ketchum and Brian Keene

Okay, confession time. I’ve been putting off writing this post because these are the two guys whose work I knew the best going into the Scares That Care Weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia, and it’s really difficult for me to set aside Fan Jonathan from Professional Writer Jonathan.

Then again, maybe I don’t have to.

Yeah, I probably embarrassed Bryan Smith and Tom Monteleone with my last blog post, but I meant every word I said, and I’m not very good at pretending to be something I’m not. I tried to be cool when I sat there signing books with Bryan Smith, but I kept thinking to myself, “This guy is one of the best writers working today. You’re sharing a table with him. This is happening.” When I talked to Tom Monteleone, I felt a similar rush of excitement and disbelief.

Basically, I have a hard time pretending I’m unexcited by interacting with people who helped mold me as a writer and who’ve given me untold hours of reading pleasure. Which means I wasn’t sure how to act around Jack Ketchum and Brian Keene. I think I did okay. I mean, neither of them took out a restraining order against me, so there’s that. And neither threw a drink in my face or ran screaming from my presence. So…how did they act?

Ketchum and Keene from the Stalker-Cam

Ketchum and Keene from the Stalker-Cam

Let’s take Jack and Brian in turn.

(*I’ve decided to call Jack Ketchum/Dallas Mayr by his real name at certain points in this post because, well, that’s how I think of him. I mean, I think of him as both Jack Ketchum and Dallas Mayr, so I’ll be using both names. Just to confuse you.)

Jack Ketchum is one of my primary influences as a writer. Stephen King calls him “the scariest man in America,” and I can’t disagree. In my humble opinion, he has written four classic novels (The Girl Next Door, Off Season, Red, and The Woman) and a whole lot of other outstanding novels and short stories. I wrote this post about Ketchum’s fiction a couple years ago and mean to write another one about his work soon. The title of that long ago post was “The Ketchum Blade,” so named because of how deeply his fiction cuts. I dare you to read The Girl Next Door and not be emotionally moved. Whether that emotion is outrage or sorrow or despair or something else, you will feel something when you read that book. More likely, you’ll feel a number of emotions, which shows how astute and versatile Ketchum is.

But what of the man?

Dallas Mayr, I’m happy to report, is extremely kind, intelligent, and…well, classy. You ever hear someone say “(Insert name) has It“? Well, that applies to Dallas Mayr. Most people couldn’t live up to the legend of Jack Ketchum. Cary Grant, for instance, never could live up to people’s expectations of him off-screen. But Dallas Mayr/Jack Ketchum does. Yet there’s absolutely no affectation to worry about with him, no elitism. He treats everyone with warmth and wit, and though I was deeply afraid of meeting him (you know, a guy doesn’t want to make a fool of himself in front of one of his heroes), his personality soon put me at ease, and I got to spend several wonderful moments just talking to him.

Standing with a Legend (the one on the left)

Standing with a Legend (the one on the left)

Did you know, by the way, that he was once Henry Miller’s literary agent? Half of you are gasping in shock, while the other half are frowning at your monitors. To the former group I say, “Yes, he actually knew and learned from one of the literary giants of the twentieth century.” To the other half I say, stop reading this blog post and pick up Tropic of Cancer. Now.

Anyway, hanging out with Jack Ketchum/Dallas Mayr was one of the biggest thrills I’ve experienced since becoming a writer, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to talk to him again.

So what about Brian Keene?

I’ll just be honest. Brian’s public persona—at least as I’ve always viewed him—is that of a rebel, a fiery and outspoken debunker of lies, and a fiercely talented author.

After meeting him, I can say it’s all true. He doesn’t suffer idiots, he doesn’t do things the way the system dictates one should do them, and he is indeed fiercely talented.

But one of the highlights of my summer was seeing another side of him. And by the way, if you want to cling to the above persona as his only persona, I suggest you stop reading now.

Photobombed by a Grand Master

Me and Kelli Owen Photobombed by a Grand Master

Here’s the thing you might not know about Brian Keene: He has a huge heart.

He might not like my saying that, and like Jack/Dallas, he’ll probably be embarrassed by this blog post, but I think it’s important for people to know the human beings behind the words. And the human being behind The Rising, behind Levi Stoltzfus, behind too many incredible books to mention in this meager space, is one for whom I have an incredible amount of respect.

Samuel Johnson once said, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

Let’s be honest here. My writing career (hopefully) is in its early stages. I’m proud of what I’ve done so far, but I am far from a household name, and there are a great many more readers who haven’t heard of me than those who have. I do what I can for my favorite authors—I recommend their work to anyone who will listen, and I blog about their stuff here—but really, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be able to bring more wealth or fame to a guy like Brian Keene. He has written books that have sold more than half a million copies (!), and along with 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead comics, he was the guy who started the zombie phenomenon that continues to dominate popular culture. More importantly, his work continues to get better because he is devoted to his craft, he continues to read actively, and he has the discipline and the drive to always strive to improve himself.

So why would someone like this take the time to a) add me as a celebrity guest at an incredible charity convention, b) treat me like I’m someone special from the moment I walked into the Doubletree Hotel in Williamsburg to the moment we parted on Sunday afternoon, and c) invite me to every meal and allow me to spend time with him, his girlfriend, her son, and several other of his friends?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because Brian has a sincerely kind heart, and he remembers what it was like to know no one.

But I think what I appreciate most about Brian is how sincere and real he is. There isn’t one ounce of artifice with him. He did give me advice about writing, but mainly what he talked about was the importance of family. Speaking of family, one of my favorite memories of the convention was the moment when he dashed into the celebrity room mock-screaming because he was being chased by two newly-painted little girls who turned out to be my daughters.

The Girls Who Terrified Brian Keene

The Girls Who Terrified Brian Keene

And lest you think we spent the weekend in hushed conversation as he earnestly divulged the secrets of writing success, I should also mention he has a fantastic sense of humor and shared stories that made me laugh and gape, sometimes simultaneously.

So after writing nearly fourteen hundred words about two of my favorite writers, I’ll leave you with this thought: If ever I achieve a tenth of what these fine writers and men have achieved, I’ll remember my first Scares That Care convention. I’ll remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and that those who have the ability to make a newbie feel accepted and valued should do so in every way they can.

So thank you, Dallas and Brian. You made me feel like more than a fellow writer. You made me feel like I belonged.

I Wore This Grin for Most of the Weekend

I Wore This Grin for Most of the Weekend

 

Scares That Care, Part Three: Bryan Smith and Tom Monteleone

Yo. Comin’ atcha from da crib straight up gangsta—

I can’t do it.

What I can do is talk about two individuals I met at the recent Scares That Care convention in Williamsburg, Virginia: Bryan Smith and Tom Monteleone.

When I saw I’d be sharing a table with Bryan, I had two simultaneous reactions. My selfish one was, Yes! This means a bunch of people who know and love his stuff will be gravitating toward my table, and after they buy his stuff, maybe they’ll buy mine! My second reaction was something along the lines of the famous WAYNE’S WORLD mantra, “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”

Bryan Slash Smith

Bryan Slash Smith

See, Bryan is a well-known guy and for good reason. Plainly put, he’s a brilliant writer. And I don’t use that adjective lightly. I get the feeling folks think of him as a pulp writer, a guy whose pen squirts as much blood as it does ink, and yeah, it’s true that the stuff I’ve read so far from him does contain a good deal of violence. But man, what I don’t hear people talk enough about is how smart his writing is, how rhythmic. Bryan combines a razor-sharp intellect with an uncanny authorial ear. He’s like Guns ‘n’ Roses’s Slash with a keyboard rather than a guitar. I’m getting ready to finish KAYLA UNDEAD tonight, and I can tell you, it’s every bit as wild and wonderful as KAYLA AND THE DEVIL, a book I devoured recently and went gaga over last month.

KaylaUndead (1)

Bryan also happens to be a great guy. Thoughtful, soft-spoken, he really listens to what you say, and he treated me excellently all weekend, despite the fact that I probably annoyed the hell out of him with my constant chatter.

So buy his books. You’ll be supporting a great guy, but more importantly, you’ll be getting some of the best writing you’ve ever seen. Seriously, the guy is a virtuoso.

Which brings me to Tom Monteleone. I’d heard of Tom for years and had been aware of his importance to the field since, well…since my early-twenties. I’d read his short work and loved it, and I’d read books he’d edited and loved them too.

What I’d never done until fairly recently was read one of his novels.

Monteleone

Monteleone

See, I’ll be talking more about this in a bigger blog post soon, but I think the single biggest issue facing horror today is a disconnect between modern writers/readers and their heritage. Sure, there are writers my age and younger who know their stuff, who understand how important a guy like Tom Monteleone is and who regard him with the proper respect. But I also get the sense that many more writers and readers don’t know why Tom Monteleone matters, who don’t know how great a writer and editor he is, and who don’t understand that he’s a freaking legend that everyone needs to read and study.

Before I go too far down this path, let me just say, I’m not trying to eulogize the guy here. He’s only in his sixties, and I reckon he’s going to be kicking butt for decades to come. And if you don’t believe me, just sit at a dinner table with him the way I got to twice, or hang out with him at a convention. Then you’ll see that you’re the one—not Tom—who needs to get your butt in gear, who needs to up the ante on your zest for life, who needs to become more energized and excited about books and people. Tom is a walking, talking live wire.

My revelation about his writing came last year. My fourth novel SAVAGE SPECIES had just been released, and a very astute reader named Andrew Monge (who’s a regular at the best horror forum in the world, the Horror Drive-In) likened my novel to a book called NIGHT THINGS, which Tom had written several years ago. That comment served as a wake-up call for me, for despite the fact that I think I’m fairly well read in (and out) of the genre, I realized I’d never read a Monteleone novel.

Experience the Terror

Experience the Terror

Honestly, that fact was unforgivable.

How could I, a guy who’s ravenously hungry to become the best writer I can be, claim to know my roots when I’d never read a novel by Tom Monteleone, a man whose writing is legendary, a man whose editorial eye has helped shape the careers of too many writers to recount, a man who can, incidentally, tell a story better than just about anyone I’ve ever met (if you do meet him someday, be sure to ask him about Theodore Sturgeon—I promise your life will never be the same again).

So I read NIGHT THINGS. And realized that everything I’d heard about Tom was true. He’s a writer’s writer, a guy who understands and maximizes every square inch of a tale. The characterization. The plotting. The building of suspense. The carefully crafted backstory. The balletically choreographed pay-off. All of it was there in NIGHT THINGS. Once I’d finished, I realized what an incredible compliment Andrew Monge had paid me by uttering SAVAGE SPECIES in the same sentence with Tom’s novel, and I continue to be honored by those words.

Ferocious Thriller

Ferocious Thriller

I’ll be reading more Monteleone fiction soon. Both SUBMERGED and THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB are burning holes in my TBR pile, and I can’t wait to dive into them.

You should too. Monteleone is a guy every writer can learn from. And a writer who can thrill any reader brave enough to check out his work.

 

Scares That Care, Part Two: Kelli Owen, Wrath James White, and Mary SanGiovanni

*Before we get to the main blog post, I feel compelled to mention my new release CASTLE OF SORROWS, which came out earlier this week. More on that soon, but if you haven’t read my smash-hit debut novel THE SORROWS yet, you can buy it here. Then go read the sequel. I think you’ll find them worth your while.

Back to Scares That Care.

The three people in this blog post title have three things in common:

1. They have big hearts; I suspected that going into the Scares That Care convention, but spending time with them all weekend confirmed it.

2. They’re excellent writers. If you’ve been involved in the genre for any length of time, you’ll have heard of all three of them. If you haven’t, it’s time for you to check out their work.

3. I hadn’t met any of them prior to June 27th.

So after spending a weekend with them, here are my thoughts:

kelli

Kelli Owen

Kelli is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. She’s extremely bright, and her sense of humor can be very caustic (in a good way). She spent much of that first afternoon showing me exactly how much I didn’t know about marketing, about setting up for an event, as well as my cluelessness about a dozen other topics. On Saturday she nearly murdered me for paying to get my picture taken with Chris Sarandon (aka Prince Humperdinck and Jack Skellington). But Kelli has a way of threatening your life while still showing that she cares about you. That’s an impressive skill. But having survived Kelli’s boot camp, I’m proud to call her a friend.

Many Bothans Died to Get This Picture

Many Bothans Died to Get This Picture

Wrath is bigger than I am. Like, a good deal bigger. I run nearly six-four, and I work out pretty frequently, but Wrath made me look like a malnourished hobbit. However, the coolest thing about him was how easy he was to talk to. It also turns out that we have a strong bond: fatherhood. Talking to Wrath about how it was raising his son (who is now twenty and is becoming a writer himself) was very heartening for me since Wrath did many of the same things I’m doing now (like assigning extra reading and math each day, despite the fact that my son thinks I’m insane for doing so). Anyway, Wrath is as nice as his work is ferocious.

wrath

Wrath James White

Mary SanGiovanni is one of the coolest people I’ve met since getting into the industry. She brought her son (a great kid) and was incredibly kind all weekend. I was lucky enough to eat dinner and lunch with her, Brian Keene, and others, and I also got to participate in a panel discussion with Mary (and Kelli) on Friday night. I guess the word that best describes Mary is thoughtful. She’s thoughtful and considerate toward others, and she’s thoughtful in every thing she says. I learned a lot just from listening to her, but most of all, I learned she has a great heart and a sharp mind.

Mary SanGiovanni

Mary SanGiovanni

So if you were hoping I’d have some horror stories to tell from my time at Scares That Care, I’m sorry, but the experience only served to confirm what I’ve already learned about the horror community. Sure, it has its wing nuts, but it’s mainly populated by awesome human beings.

Count these three individuals among the awesome ones.

Scares That Care, Part One: Hunter Shea

THE MONTAUK MONSTER. HELL HOLE.

Don’t those titles jump off the page at you? I haven’t read HELL HOLE yet, but I did start MONTAUK, and baby, it’s another winner.

montauk monster cover

Hunter Shea is one of the coolest guys I’ve met since I began to, you know, get paid for my work. Brian Keene was kind enough to pair me with Hunter for a reading and Q & A at the Scares That Care convention, which not only gave me a chance to hang out with a good friend, but also afforded me the opportunity to hear the genesis of Hunter’s novel THE MONTAUK MONSTER. It was a fascinating presentation, replete with weird pictures, disturbing trivia about Nazi scientists, and some wild possibilities about what might exist because of our government’s secret activity.

Okay, sure, I was going to read Hunter’s new book anyway, but the presentation bumped MONTAUK up my to-be-read pile several spots. Everything I’ve read by him (including FOREST OF SHADOWS, EVIL ETERNAL, and SINISTER ENTITY) has been spellbinding, and his new release is more than living up to that already lofty standard.

SinisterEntity

Another thing I really appreciate about Hunter is how easy he is. Um, I mean, how easy it is between us! *clears throat* He’s an easy dude to talk to, and every time something good happens to me, he’s genuinely enthused about it. And when Publisher’s Weekly named THE MONTAUK MONSTER the summer’s best beach read, I was almost as excited as I would have been had it been my own book selected. Almost.

Anyway, thanks again to Brian Keene for pairing me with Hunter (more thanks will be directed at Brian in later posts), and thanks to Hunter for not heckling me (much) during my reading of SAVAGE SPECIES‘s first chapter.

Experience the Terror

Experience the Terror

 

Tune in for more Scares That Care wrap-up soon…

Oh, and buy my new book! CASTLE OF SORROWS is available now!

My EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

My EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” or The Song That Reduces Me to a Trembling, Weeping Mess

Confession time. Oversharing time. Look away in embarrassment time.

But that’s why I’m here, right? To make everybody uncomfortable?

I have a powerful physiological reaction to certain songs. I’ve always been extremely sensitive and incredibly susceptible to…well, everything. Certain weather makes me shiver with delight. The mere mention of a movie can transport me back to my exact feelings the first time I watched it. A piece of art will transfix me, and I’ll be unable to look away (even when the museum has closed and the security guards are threatening physical violence). Books, poetry…well, they wallop me in any number of ways: maniacal laughter…a seeming fugue state in which I’m lamenting the state of mankind…tears of joy or heartbreak.

Percy Shelley, Soul-Toucher

Percy Shelley, Soul-Toucher

And music does it to me too.

There are several songs that hit me hard. I’ll write about others one of these days (like Journey’s “Only the Young,” Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle,” and Bon Jovi’s “Never Say Goodbye”). But Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” as played by Yo Yo Ma hits me so hard I can scarcely breathe. And I only wish I were exaggerating.

Only the Young

Only the Young

You see, for some reason, even though it has no lyrics the song reminds me of my son. Bubba, we’ll call him. I guess it’s a well-known fact that the father-son bond is a deep and important one. But the bond between my son and me is so deep it penetrates the earth’s core, erupts through some crowded street in China, and burrows its way into deepest space. And every day it goes deeper, so much so that no number of light years could ever hope to outpace it. I love my Bubba so much it aches.

So…about that song.

I have an incredibly vivid and active imagination, and sometimes a song will spark it, will enflame it, will consume it. Until a full-fledged movie is playing in my mind. My inner eye takes over, and I might as well not be physically present. I listen and imagine and stare off sightlessly as the movie unfolds.

So what do I see when my I hear Yo-Yo Ma’s version of “Sheep May Safely Graze” (I won’t even try to type the actual Bach title)? I see this:

IMG_0372 2

And this:

IMG_1598

Only it’s in motion. Here is my little boy on my hip as we wade through a creek in Santa Rosa, California. There is Bubba staggering around in his diaper, his chubby arms thrown out for balance, his chubbier legs in constant but jerky motion. I see my boy falling asleep against my shoulder in a cab after our first Cubs game. I see him crying when he tripped and split his forehead open on a piece of the driveway I should have fixed before it hurt him. I see his sweet little smile as he makes a joke at age two, his hopeful look at my reaction. I see his frustration as he tries to learn how to read at age five. I see him all over the place, everywhere, the images on a vivid, haunting loop in my mind. And God, do I love him. So much that I can hardly stand it.

That song. Man…that song.

You and Yo Yo Ma...You two cut me deep, man

You and Yo Yo Ma…You two cut me deep, man

I’ll stop now and let you listen to Bach and Yo Yo Ma. It probably won’t do to you what it does for me. And I realize a large contingent of my readers might be cocking its collective eyebrow at me and telling me to chill out, dude, it’s just a song.

And it is. But also, it isn’t. It’s more. Much, much more. It’s a pair of calipers that plunge into my chest, pierce my heart, and drag it out into the open where I can’t conceal it, can’t hide it, can’t do anything but ache and try to breathe and wish I could take a version of my baby boy at every age and carry all those versions with me for eternity. Because I love him so much it destroys me.

I won’t even get into the song’s title—which I didn’t know until I went to write this blog post—and how symbolic it could be. I’ll just say to those of you who are affected by art, by nature, by music…

You know what I mean.

Peace.

The Toddler Roar

I posted a few days ago about my six-year-old’s tendency to sing opera whenever things get stressful. I figured today I’d post about my three-year-old’s habit of roaring, barking, or growling at me whenever she doesn’t get her way.

My wife calls her the Little Sergeant. I’ll call her the Peach, which was what I named her back when she was born (and then got really sick).

My Daughter in Command Mode

My Daughter in Command Mode

So Peach likes to get her way. I mean, we all do, but Peach reeeeaaalllly likes to get her way. She’ll ask for something: “Daddy, ketchup,” in a sweet voice. When I don’t answer right away, she’ll repeat it in a semi-sweet voice. But contained in those dulcet three-year-old tones is the looming thunderhead of an all-out fit. Because I still haven’t received the “please” I’m waiting for—and yes, she’s been reminded often enough to know she should say please—the request becomes a demand: “Daddy! Ketchup!”

At this point I’m often reminded of this scene from So I Married an Axe Murderer (“Head! Pants! Now!!!), and I’m sure as heck not going to be treated like a large-craniumed grade-schooler. So I remind her: “Peach, what should you say to Daddy?”

so-i-married-an-axe-murderer

She smiles and says “Peeezze.” (The sweetness of her smile at this point makes the missing L even more endearing.)

So I give her the ketchup. Peach figures, “Hey, I scored once. Let’s head back to the well again.”

“Juice, Daddy!”

I give her a deadpan look. “Have you finished your milk?”

Some of the sweetness vanishes from her blue eyes. “Juice, Daddy!”

“Peach, I can’t give you juice every time you ask for it. Otherwise, you’d spend the day in a sugar coma.”

Peach bats her eyelashes. “Peezzze?”

I falter a moment, my daughter’s inherent cuteness wearing me down. Then, knowing what her reaction will be, I take a deep breath and say, “I’m sorry, honey, but not right now.”

Her eyes flash with something ancient and disconcertingly sinister. “PEEZE!” she barks, like a drill sergeant breaking down a new recruit.

“Honey, I—“

“WHUH!!!!!” 

Now, with perfect diction this would sound like “Ruh,” or something uttered by a mezzo soprano golden retriever. But Peach still inserts Ws for Rs, and the result is the above roar.

lion-roar

Actual Picture of My Daughter Roaring

I try to reason with her.

“Honey, Daddy’s not being mean, he just wants you to be healthy.”

“WHUH!!!!!”

“Because if you drink too much juice, you’ll—“

“WHUH!!!!!” 

“—and you won’t grow the way—“

“WHUH!!!!!” 

“—and would you stop barking at me?!”

A pause.

“WHUH!!!!!”

Anyway.

You might have noticed that I haven’t posted about my work much in the past couple weeks. That’s because I’m about to assault you over a long period of time (not unlike my daughter and her roars) about a) my new SAVAGE SPECIES audiobook, b) my upcoming July novel CASTLE OF SORROWS, c) my September novella, d) my January novel THE NIGHTMARE GIRL, and e) the two novels I’ve been working on this month.

The Return of Gabriel

The Return of Gabriel

So remember to roar at your loved ones when they deprive you of juice. It brings the family together.

Stress Opera

My middle child, my first daughter, she’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. We’ll call her Sparkle, for her sparkly blue eyes. I can’t begin to describe her in a short blog post, but I’ll share these quick details:

She’s six.

She’s never in a hurry.

She is addicted to pickle juice and our puppy.

She loves to sing opera at full volume whenever things get stressful. This has the effect of augmenting the amount of stress everyone else feels. Tenfold.

It's not too late to get help.

It’s not too late to get help.

For example, my three-year-old daughter shrieks like a limbless, honey-covered rabbit in an ant farm every time I wash her hair during baths. Never mind that I’ve been bathing her five times a week since she was born—each rinsing is a new exercise in aquatic terror. And as my youngest is flailing and screeching and generally doing her best Shelly Duvall-in-The Shining impression, Sparkle begins to belt out a tune that sounds something like this one from Carmen.

My Three-Year-Old's Reaction to Hair Washing

My Three-Year-Old’s Reaction to Hair Washing

Or, when the puppy decides to machine-gun large dollops of diarrhea in a series of splats that somehow spans three rooms, and I begin to grumble and growl under my breath as I wipe it up and try to keep my three-year-old from tromping through the minefield of foul-smelling slop, Sparkle will begin to serenade us with her Pavarotti-on-heroin vocal interpretations.

Even better, just the other day we were on vacation, and we got stuck in traffic for twenty minutes. Gridlocked. Inhaling the unwholesome stench of the black exhaust-vomiting diesel truck directly in front of us. Three of our five family members had to urinate—okay, one of them might have been me—and we were all hungry. And just to make the entire situation even more pleasant?

From the back seat: “LAHHH-LOH LEWWWWWWWW LO DA DAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Sounds from the Back Seat

Sounds from the Back Seat

Now I know many of you are well-intentioned, and that many of you are furthermore stroking your chins and tilting your heads and psychoanalyzing the situation thusly: “You know, Jonathan. It seems to me that Sparkle’s explosive, ear-splitting opera singing is actually just a coping mechanism to help her handle the stress she’s experiencing.”

To which I say, I KNOW!!!!! But does that make it any less stressful for her audience?! For the rinser of the shrieking three-year-old’s hair, for the collector of the witheringly malodorous canine fecal matter, for the bursting-bladder driver and inhaler of diesel fumes?!?!?

Eco-Friendly Ambience

Eco-Friendly Ambience

Not that it’s all about me.

Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest, please know that this was all in good fun. I love Sparkle endlessly and find her Stress Opera quite hilarious (after the fact).

Have a great night, friends. And remember to belt out some opera whenever things get tense.

It’s wonderful therapy. Especially for the listener.

A Word about Today’s Youth

Some of you know that I’m a teacher as well as a writer. I keep those two positions separate, not because I’m trying to live a double life, but because I don’t ever want it thought that I’m trying to push my work on my students.

Anyway.

I hear folks—mostly in the comments section of websites—bemoaning how terrible today’s kids are. They’re technology-obsessed, they’re entitled, they’re weak, they’re evil. You want the truth from someone on the front lines?

That’s utter, unadulterated crap.

The Leadership of a More Responsible Generation

The Leadership of a More Responsible Generation

Kids today are like kids fifty years ago, which were like kids a hundred years before that and a millennium before that. They’re products of their environments and their genetics (I’m more of a nurture guy, but I’m not ruling out a smattering of nature too). If a kid is technology-obsessed, that’s because he’s allowed to be. Or his parents are technology-obsessed too. If a kid is entitled, that’s because he has learned to be. If a kid exhibits other negative traits, well, were the rest of us perfect when we were that age? Are our memories really that short? I was a screaming mass of insecurities and paranoias and issues in my teens, and I was considered fairly well-adjusted.

The Shining Example of Reality TV

The Shining Example of Reality TV

So let’s drop this pretense that kids are just different these days. They’re not. You know what they are?

Awesome. Yep, I said it. I think today’s kids are growing up in a scary time in which any mistake they make can be revealed to everyone they know or ever will know in the blink of an eye. They’re exposed to the terrible behavior of adults on television, on the Internet. Heck, in their own lives.

Priorities

Priorities

And the kids I work with, for the most part, see it for what it is—unacceptable behavior. The kids I work with aren’t perfect—they’re people, remember?—but they’re doing their best to be the best people they can be.You know, kind of like the rest of us? I wish everyone could see the kids that I see every day and understand just how much passion they have, how much sincerity, how much intelligence. How much heart.

So no, I’m not deifying today’s kids, but I am saying that, at the very least, today’s kids are as good as other generations have been. And there are many moments when I suspect they might be even better.

That’s all. Have a great night. And stop shouting at those vicious hooligans to get off your lawn.

Scares That Care Weekend

Howdy, friends and countrymen and women and out-of-countrymen, and why did women have to come third? Have I just exhibited blind adherence to an outmoded syntactical tradition or unintentionally perpetuated a symptom of patriarchal oppression? I don’t know. What I do know is I think women are awesome, and if my manner of address came off offensively, well, doggone it, I didn’t mean for it to.

*mops brow, sighs*

On a less exhausting note, I have an awesome announcement to make. You ready? Here goes…

ScaresThatCareWeekend-Logo
I will be a celebrity guest at the upcoming Scares That Care Weekend event in Williamsburg, Virginia from June 27th to June 29th.

Jack Ketchum Fanboy

Jack Ketchum Fanboy

“But Jonathan,” you say, “you’re not a celebrity.”

To which I respond, “SHHHHHH!!!! Don’t tell anyone!!!!”

The Grand Master

The Grand Master

It is surreal to look at this page and see my image (scroll down to the Authors section) under the same heading as Brian Keene, Jack Ketchum, and the other amazing authors listed there. It’s also surreal to share the page with Tony Todd (Candyman), Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th), Yaphet Kotto (Alien), William Atherton (Ghostbusters), Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth), and Chris Freaking Sarandon—ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! The star of Fright Night and The Princess Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas?!?! I’m on the same page as that guy?!?!

Childhood Nightmares

Childhood Nightmares

Okay, sorry. I got a little worked up there. But you can see why I’m excited, right?

For those book lovers out there, check out this list of authors:

Brian Keene
Jack Ketchum
Tom Monteleone
Brian Moreland
Kelli Owen
Kristopher Rufty
Mary SanGiovanni
Hunter Shea
Bryan Smith
Wrath James White
Jonathan Janz

Legend

Legend

I put myself last because, well, I went with alphabetical order, and by some strange turn of events I ended up first, and one look at my name above any of those authors—not to mention directly atop Keene and Ketchum—felt too bizarre for words. But the point remains…what an incredible lineup!

You should make your plans now to attend. Proceeds from your tickets will go directly to families who need it, so the event is for a fantastic cause. I’ll be signing all weekend, participating on a Friday panel, and doing a reading on Saturday with my good friend (and kick-bootie writer) Hunter Shea.

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I’ll end by saying two things. One, it’s an incredible honor to be a part of this event. I’m deeply thankful and grateful to be included. Secondly, if you’re anywhere near Williamsburg this summer, I’d love to meet you. The event is going to be amazing, and the people involved all have generous hearts. I can’t wait!

*runs off to stare fixedly at my shrine collection of Jack Ketchum books*