Missing Chapters

It's very hard to write the fourth book in a series knowing that a large portion of the readers will not have read the second one. Due to a disastrously muddled release and the general perception of prequels as supplementary bonus material rather than true links in the narrative chain, THE NEW HUNGER has been skipped by many otherwise passionate fans of the Warm Bodies story. Other than the common question of "What's the deal with that little boy?" it doesn't have a huge impact on your understanding of THE BURNING WORLD. But it will be a very big deal in THE LIVING.

So I have this strange authorial conundrum. Which set of readers do I write for? How much do I try to cover that likely gap in the narrative, and will I even be able to tell what needs covering? A scene that feels powerful to me may ring hollow for the readers who skipped the events that led to it.

Normally I would say to hell with them. If they expect a story to work with a quarter of of it missing, they're lost. But since the obscurity of THE NEW HUNGER is partially my fault—confusing release strategy, failure of promotion, and unusual narrative significance placed on a prequel novella—I feel a bit more responsible to hold their hands.

I don't know how it will turn out. I'm trying to find a middle road. But if you'd like to solve this problem the easy way...may I recommend this very quick read?

Book Soundtrack - The Burning World

One of the biggest advantages movies have over books is the ability to inject feelings directly into your heart via a well-chosen musical cue. I loved how the Warm Bodies movie used its eclectic and surprising soundtrack to convey layers that the dialogue alone couldn't reach.

But who says only movies can have soundtracks?

I listened to so much music while writing The Burning World that the songs have embedded themselves into the story for me. I always “see" what I'm writing but sometimes I can hear it too. This playlist is the soundtrack to the movie in my head.

The quotes will help you find the scenes, but this isn't meant to be played while you read or lined up with the chapters in some specific way. Nothing so technical. Think of it as sheet music for your imagination.  Listen to the songs, remember the moments, and combine it all in your mind—the best movie theater in the world.

(It's SPOILER FREE, so if you haven't read the book yet, you can still enjoy this emotional appetizer.)

(Sadly, you do need a Spotify account to play these. Or you can look them up on YouTube.)

 

 

“There are prettier places to live. There are softer and safer places. But this place is ours."

A newborn man struggles to rebuild a house, a mind, a life. A young woman works by his side, healing from fresh wounds.

 

 

“Death’s army is large and strong and deals harshly with deserters, but there are rumblings…”

An asthmatic orphan and a recovering corpse drive into the city, afraid but full of purpose. The curious Dead gather from all directions, blown in by a strange wind, a scent of change.

 

 

“There are disquieting shapes swimming in the depths, but the surface is peaceful: five unarmed ambassadors extending an offer of alliance. If there is a threat, it’s hidden somewhere behind those bright and earnest eyes."

The rotted hand of the old world order, reaching up through the mud of its grave to drag the world back down.

 

 

“Despite the multitude of dark memories this place evokes, the few bright ones I built with Julie keep rising to the surface and painting a dumb smile on my face."

Walking through nostalgic halls, the place where a new life began. A few warm moments snatched between horrors, a love gathering itself for the trials ahead.

 

 

“We’re coming," I tell the world, squeezing Julie’s hand harder. “We’re ready for you."

Fleeing one enemy to chase down a bigger one. Onward and upward, into the unknown.

 

 

“A boy is walking alone on the highway…”

A long journey on bare feet, tired, hungry, lost. A plane passes overhead—a fluttering of pages in an infinite Library. His compass needle turns.

 

 

“We walk down into the black city, and though it was razed years ago, I swear I can still smell the acrid perfume of a thousand burned things.”

The basement door creaks open. Secrets squirm in the shadows, hiding from the light.

 

 

“…glittering lines and clusters, earthly constellations that finally converge into the ecstatic galaxy of a city, pulsing and boiling with life.”

From up in the clouds, the world almost looks whole. Cities and streets. Fading echoes of a brighter age.

 

 

“I feel a chill through the wall of the plane, like clammy fingers pulling at my skin. That lonely necropolis that we avoided from above is suddenly uncomfortably close.”

An expedition into the oldest ruins of America. A sinkhole in reality. A city of ghosts.

 

 

“It occurs to me that Julie might want to die. The scars on her wrists prove the desire exists, but I’ve always believed it’s a harmless fossil buried beneath miles of time. Will this unearth it?”

An impossible dream, a preposterous cruelty. A girl unraveling.

 

 

“I don’t know how to stop it. We are lost on old paths, caught in old snares. We should be walking side by side through these dark woods, but I feel our distance growing.”

Hearts retreating into private caverns. Love stretched, frayed, hanging by burning threads.

 

 

(unavailable on Spotify)

 

“How did this happen? Not even the wretch in my basement wanted to live in a world like this…”

The world’s greatest city, rotting alive. Human cattle. Rabid wolves behind the big desks. Child kings. Madness as law.

 

 

“I am almost gone. I am a head and a heart floating in space, surrounded by cold stars.”

The last days of a young man’s life. A flight above a writhing planet. A final realization. A promise that transcends death.

 

 

“…and should they ever decide to say something, it will be the new law of the land.”

The storm clears. Bruised and bloody friends catch their breath, bracing for what’s next. The Dead watch, waiting for a sign they don’t yet understand. Earth’s mantle flows west.

 

 

 

Closing the book. A song for R and J.

 

 

THAT TRUMP TWEET

I thought this thing was over but my Trump tweet has resurfaced and people are yelling again. There are mostly three reactions:

1. Know it's a joke and think it's funny

2. Think it's real and want to defend/support me 

3. Found out it wasn't real and are pissed about it

Reaction 1 is the only one I expected or wanted, so I'd like to make it clear (again) that the tweet was part of FICTIONAL dialogue I wrote channeling Trump's infamous online persona for some silly tweets about my book. I thought it was absurd enough to be obvious as parody—Trump attacked an obscure zombie novel? Trump read a book?—but I underestimated how far he's erased the line between parody and fact.

Share it as satire if you want but PLEASE don't share it as sincere activism. It was NOT intended to win me sympathy sales or make me into a false martyr, it was just a ridiculous scenario I wrote to highlight the book's topical elements—which are very real and sincere—in a lighthearted way, a small joke that got blown up FAR beyond its intended context.

In context (see the series below) I think it's it's pretty clear that this was not a “lie" or “fraud" or anything remotely so dramatic. I didn't submit it to CNN to be reported to the world. It wasn't “fake news" because it wasn't “news" at all, it was just a guy goofing around on Twitter, which does not hurt anyone when that guy is not the president.

Transatlanticism: My UK Tour

I haven’t done a lot of touring as an author. WARM BODIES was my publishing debut—not counting a review of Kellogg’s Peanut Butter Pops that I wrote for McSweeney's in 2007—so when it was released, almost literally no one cared. I would have loved to travel the world and meet the fans, but there were no such people. I did a couple readings around Washington and Oregon and that was it.

Then came the prequel novella, THE NEW HUNGER, with its absurdly tortured release, first as an ebook-only exclusive with experimental startup Zola Books, then as a UK-only paperback a year later, then finally—years after that—a paperback in my home country. There was minimal promotion and definitely no touring.

And then there was…nothing. Four years of cold, lonely silence while I wrote THE BURNING WORLD and THE LIVING.

But now! It’s 2017. I’m burrowing out of my snow cave and poking my snout into the sun. Winter is over! I smell seal blubber! I am a polar bear in this analogy! And I’m swimming to the UK!

That’s right, after nearly 6 years of answering eager UK readers with a sorrowful shrug, I am finally going abroad. Starting March 6th: three stops in England, one in Scotland, and who knows, maybe an informal jaunt into Ireland if someone offers me a nice sheep field to sleep in like they did when I visited back in 1999.

Yes, I have been here before. The first time I ever left North America was a UK journey at age 17, with two weeks and two hundred dollars to circumnavigate the entire kingdom. (I rode in a lot of stranger’s cars and slept in a lot of fields.) My mission was twofold:

 

1.     Drink beer.

2.     Find the portal to the Otherworld located in a cairn whose location is described with surprising detail in the Celtic fantasy series The Song of Albion and get the hell outta reality.

 

Sadly, only one of these goals was achieved. The portal remains tantalizingly out of reach somewhere in the forests of Nairn, but maybe this time…this time…

So! Do you live in the UK? Do you want to hang out with me, ask me some questions, get your books signed and perhaps doodled upon? Do you want to buy me ale and single malt and watch me descend into delirium? Do you want to show me the twisted alleys of London that lead to ancient secrets? Do you want to show me where that damn cairn is so we can become mighty heroes in the Otherworld? If the answer to any of these questions is YES, have a look at my event schedule and let’s make our dreams come true!

Thank you! I love you! I’m sorry about that line in WARM BODIES about British teeth! My teeth are terrible too! Also sorry about how terrible America is right now! I promise not to bring the plague with me!

See you soon!

-Isaac

 

 

THE BURNING WORLD

It's here.

And I made a movie about it.

 

You can buy it on this site. You can buy it on Indiebound. You can buy it on Amazon, or Wal-Mart, or whatever godforsaken retailer you like best.

I've probably done all I can to convince you this book is worth reading, so I won't say any more on that. But I will say: if you ARE planning on buying the book...will you buy it now?

This opening week is probably my only chance to get on any bestseller lists, which aren't just vanity prizes; they vastly increase a book's visibility. They aren't just a recognition of success; they create it. So the books I sell THIS WEEK could determine my whole future as a writer.

No pressure.

I'm not begging for sales. You're going to buy the book or you're not. All I'm asking is that if you ARE going to buy it, please don't wait. Don't push it to back of your mind to get around to someday, don't wait to stumble into it in a bookstore in some distant future...there's no time like the present, my friends!

Thank you. I hope you love this book and feel even half of the things it made me feel.

-Isaac

 

My (FICTIONAL!!!) feud with the president

Last week, I wrote an imaginary dialogue between myself and Donald Trump in which he assumes my apocalyptic novel is about him and proceeds to insult me in classic Trumpian style. I posted this dialogue on Twitter by replying to faked screenshots of Trump’s attacks.

You can read it here.

From my perspective, as an obscure author with no political influence and 1/6th the Twitter following of @Charmin toilet paper, the idea of the president somehow getting ahold of my zombie novel and yelling about it online was pure absurdity. It was a parody of Trump’s well-known penchant for petty feuds on Twitter, taken to a ludicrous extreme by imagining ME as his target instead of the usual high profile influencers.

For anyone who knows who I am, the joke was clear. For anyone who read to the end of the increasingly absurd sequence, the joke was clear. What I didn’t consider is what would happen if just one of those tweets—the first and therefore the least outlandish—happened to go MASSIVELY VIRAL.

What happened was a lot of people who knew nothing about me saw that tweet and, assuming I must be someone worthy of Trump’s notice, believed it fully and rushed to my defense. They spread it around and added their own commentary and when it dawned on them that this was all a joke…they got mad.

Oh boy did they get mad.

My mentions became a stream of hate—not from Trump supporters but from outraged progressives. I spent a day trying to explain myself, but as the thing escalated and the limitations of 140-character discourse became apparent yet again, I had to evacuate from Twitter and seal it off like Chernobyl. I’m told there have been a few big think-pieces written about my reprehensible stunt, but since none of those writers reached out for my perspective, I feel no desire to reach out for theirs, and I have not read their pieces.

From what I’ve gathered, though, I’m charged with three major offenses, and I want to answer them. Maybe everyone's forgotten about it already and I should just let it fade, but this is half explanation and half apology and I feel a need to get it on record.

My crimes:

 

1. I TRIVIALIZED THE REAL VICTIMS OF TRUMP’S ATTACKS

 

Trump has many victims. His election acted as an official endorsement of bigotry, giving bigots an imagined license to harass and assault, and many people have already suffered. Many more are living in fear of what’s to come in the next four years of political and cultural regression. And Trump has quite likely victimized a few women personally.

All of that is terrible...but it has nothing to do with my tweets.

If I'd pretended I was harassed or assaulted or in some way disenfranchised, that WOULD be reprehensible. But the joke was about Trump’s TWEETS—his hilarious, self-parodying rants against his “enemies"—which have not truly victimized anyone. It’s been well documented that everyone he’s attacked on Twitter has BENEFITED from it, and it seems unlikely that any of them were emotionally stung by the inane ravings of this cartoon man. There have been and probably will be many victims of Trump’s presidency, but as far as I'm aware, the only victim of Trump’s TWEETS is his own reputation.

 

2. I SPREAD FAKE NEWS THAT MUDDIES THE WATERS OF A SERIOUS SITUATION

 

I am not a media outlet. I am a fiction writer. I wrote a fictional dialogue and posted it on my personal Twitter account, without any surrounding context to suggest that this was a real occurrence rather than just another bit of nonsense theater squirting out of my brain. If anyone thought it really mattered, a quick click to my profile—or Trump’s—would have revealed the truth. But no one bothered to do that because IT DIDN'T MATTER. I didn't fake anything shocking or slanderous. I didn't fake a policy announcement. I faked a Trump Twitter Rant, in-character and on-brand and absolutely meaningless in the wider context of Trump.

So someone tells you Trump bullied someone, and you believe it. Then you find out it didn't happen. So what? He bullies people all the time. Maybe it didn't happen today, but it happened yesterday and it'll happen tomorrow, so does it really make any difference? It's like a touch-up on a painting. That specific area is a forgery! But it's absorbed into the surrounding context, and the painting remains authentic.

Very post-truth, I know. But this is the melting dreamworld we’re living in.

 

3. I LIED ABOUT BEING ATTACKED IN ORDER TO GAIN PUBLIC SYMPATHY AND BOOST MY BOOK SALES

 

This is the one where I apologize. I didn’t do those tweets to become a fake martyr. I wasn’t trying to get sympathy sales. Trump’s Twitter attacks are essentially a meme at this point, and I was using that meme as a comedic framing device to talk about my upcoming book. Sure, I thought it'd be great if people believed it for a minute before the escalating absurdity made the joke apparent...but that only works when I'm tweeting to my usual tiny handful of followers. The joke wasn’t designed for a viral scale, so a lot of people ended up investing genuine emotion into it, then felt tricked when they learned what it was.

I apologize for that. It wasn’t my intention to hijack sincere activism to help me sell books. It was my intention to create a funny satirical scenario to help me sell books. And I DON'T apologize for trying to sell books. It's my job to sell books, and since I try to write them about things that matter, I believe selling them matters too. I don't apologize for tapping into global anxieties to boost my sales, because my book is ABOUT global anxieties. It's a product of the cultural climate, and it speaks to the cultural climate, so yes, I’m going to involve the cultural climate when I promote it. Just because someone profits off something doesn’t make it exploitation.

 

Speaking of profit: if it makes anyone feel better, my massive viral fraud earned me a dizzying sales spike of…22 books. So don't worry about me scamming my way to stardom. There’s Twitter and there’s the real world, and rarely do they meet. Donald Trump is now the president of the United States and I am still a low-selling author in a leaky old house, so please accept my partial apology for my partially misguided joke, and let’s move on to realer fights.

Love, (really)

Isaac

The Burning World TOUR!

Well friends, it's really happening. THE BURNING WORLD, my second novel and the biggest creative undertaking of my life, hits shelves in 25 days. And after 5 years of popping up all around the country for random and contextless appearances that leave you wondering "What the hell is he doing with his life?" I am finally acting like an adult and going ON TOUR.

I will be doing an eclectic mix of events, from the standard Q&A/signing to hosting a theater screening of Warm Bodies. I won't be doing any readings, because apparently no one wants those anymore, so don't worry, you won't have to listen to a nervous anti-social weirdo trying to be a virtuoso actor. What I'll be doing is talking a little about my personal story as a writer, "how I got here" etc, then opening it up to your questions. And of course, signing your books with weird jokes and cool doodles.

Sometimes there will be snacks!

Sadly, it's a pretty limited tour at the moment, mostly the west coast with one surprise jag out to Kentucky. I'm hoping to do a more expansive second leg after the urgency of opening week settles down, but no guarantees! So if you're anywhere near any of these locations and you want to give me a high five and spill wine on my shirt, I suggest you make it happen!

See you soon!

TOUR SCHEDULE

 

R's Rmy takes a holiday

Did you know Warm Bodies has a street team? To my amazement, dozens of people have volunteered to hand out cards and put up posters for THE BURNING WORLD. I never expected that kind of hands-on enthusiasm from you guys, so...wow. Thank you.

I have been printing stuff and addressing envelopes for the last couple days, and if you filled out the form, you're on the team, but I wanted to let you all know I decided to wait until January to actually send the packages.

December is such a noisy mess, everyone is harried and overstimulated, and if anyone does actually get around to spreading these materials, no one is going to notice them in all the holiday chaos.

So I'm going to pause the campaign and let December run its course. When we clear this final hurdle and wake up January 2nd, healed of our hangovers and purged of all 2016's poison, that will be the time to move.

Until then, enjoy your holidays! And thank you all so much for your support. You have no idea how much it means to me right now.

-Isaac

 

 

Your stupid stories at a time like this?

It's awkward being an artist when the world is falling apart. It feels clueless and crass to hawk fiction while everyone's out fighting for real and urgent causes. Whatever your political leanings, these are scary times. Stakes and passions are high, there are dozens of global crises that demand our attention, and luxuries like art can seem remote and unimportant.

I have been struggling with that feeling throughout this year. What is my role in the world's problems? Is it my duty as a conscientious American to drop whatever I'm doing and go join the political process? Is it wrong to sit here tinkering with fictions instead of feeding refugees and protesting atrocities? Or are my energies better spent in my own field of expertise, where they can have a quieter but potentially deeper influence?

I've spent the last four years writing a story that's very much a response to these times. It's not a “political" novel; you won't find cheap jabs at public figures or snarky satires of current events, but I pumped it up from an aquifer that's been bubbling beneath our surface for a while now, and I've never written anything that turned out to be so timely. Watching 2016 unfold has been like watching a bad dream come true. But I want to believe the good parts of that dream are as prophetic as the bad ones. Maybe the resistance in this story could be some inspiration for the one in real life, a little gleam of hope as we stumble toward the apocalypse.

So rather than abandon my work to go out and take action, I've decided to make this book my action. My 500-page protest sign. This isn't an excuse to sit out the struggle; I'll keep doing whatever I can in the real world, but I'm not going to feel guilty for being an artist instead of a soldier. I'm going to keep pouring my heart into my writing and do whatever I can to get it into people's brains, because for whatever it's worth, fiction is my clearest language and my most effective tool. Some people are orators, organizers, journalists, activists. I write stories.

If you'd like to help spread the word about this story, you can join the Warm Bodies street team.

Thank you, everyone. Stay alive.

-Isaac

Flammarion Immersion

Writing has been my priority for may years now, but there was a time when I split my energies equally between writing and music. I've been in many bands, and recorded a few albums, but I've been on a long hiatus from the world of sound.

I have started a new project—my first in ten years. It's called Flammarion. It will eventually become an actual band with songs and vocals and records and all that, but for now, it's the foundation for a musical experiment I'm calling Flammarion Immersion.

Flammarion Immersion is a different kind of show. It's not a band inserted onto a stage to pump music through the house PA while the audience drinks and talks. It's a focused immersive experience.

You sit or lie down on blankets in the middle of the room.

There are 5 amps placed in a circle around you.

 

Each amp plays a different signal, singing to you from distinct positions in the room, creating a spatial, three-dimensional sound that envelops you.

The sound is a soft, lush swirl like sinking into a warm ocean or floating through vast spaces. I play a vintage electric piano (Fender Rhodes) and a unique analog synthesizer (Theravox) run through many effects and loops to create rich organic tones with more grit and character than typical ambient music. The emotions are gentle and warm, with moments of yearning and occasional soaring peaks.

 

It does not go dark. There is enough darkness in the world right now. It nods to pain but continues to lift upward.

Everyone is quiet—the lights are low, your phone is off—and you just backfloat in this sound for 30 minutes. Maybe you close your eyes and dream for a while. Maybe you meditate. Maybe you let yourself cry in the safety of this melodic cloud, where no one can see you, no one is looking at anyone, but you can feel their comforting presence around you.  

 

All of this is very new and still developing, but I'm really excited about the concept.

I'm performing Flammarion Immersion for the first time at the Fremont Abbey in Seattle, tomorrow (11/13) at 8:30. It's FREE.

Just show up, lie down, let the chaos of this week wash away, and wake up Monday ready to fight.