Thursday, March 31, 2011


SONG #5: "New Soul" by Yael Naim.

I'm sure you all know and are sick to death of this song, since it was EVERYWHERE during the summer of 2009. But! I put it on the playlist like four seconds before it was everywhere. I so, so rarely discover any music before it hits big, so I have to brag about it when I can. (I'm looking at you, "How to Save a Life." I was like a year ahead on that one. Still pissed.)

So anyway, like four days before this song was on every commercial in the universe, I stuck it on IS's playlist as the first song of the 2nd summer. The initial reason was pretty basic: We have a new character this summer! As Mama McGill (this is not something she's actually called. I stole this from kids in high school who called my mom Mama Mosk) was super preggo in the last summer, I don't think this is a huge spoiler. Pregnant women have babies fyi.

So yes, on a basic level, this is about this kid experiencing everything for the first time. But it is really, like most of the songs on the playlist, about Chase and his experience in the 2nd summer versus that of the 1st summer. He's 15, almost 16 now. He's in a very different place. Because, you know, some fifteen-year-olds have sex fyi.

So this is a song about being a baby in a new world, literally and otherwise, and about feeling as if you're surrounded by people who are way more experienced than you are. This is also a dividing point in the playlist for me, not only because it's the new summer (because then it would have made more sense to have the dividing point before this song, rather than after) but because it's, in my mind, the end of a certain kind of tone.

This song is more first summer in rhythm and sound, which is how Chase goes in expecting his summer to be. It doesn't work out this way. The playlist changes after this and becomes very...focused on one thing, let's say. It changes again between songs 8 and 9, when SOMETHING BIG HAPPENS.


I'm a young soul
In this very strange world
Hoping I could learn a bit bout what is true and fake
But why all this hate?
Try to communicate
Finding trust and love is not always easy to make

This is a happy end
'Cause you don't understand
Everything you have done
Why's everything so wrong?

I unlock the front door with my free side while Lucy clings to the other. “Welcome home, Lucy,” I whisper to her.

“Forget something?”

I turn around in the doorway, and there's the college dropout herself, holding Lucy's car seat, that smile on those perfectly glossed lips.

--p. 79

1) "Turn Up The Sun" by Oasis
2) "Island in the Sun" by Weezer
3) "Just Like Heaven" by Gatsby's American Dream

4) "Bigger Than My Body" by John Mayer
5) "New Soul" by Yael Naim

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


SONG #4: "Bigger Than My Body" by John Mayer.

Okay, yes, John Mayer is a d-bag, but two points are important: 1. I wrote IS in 2009, when he was not quite so much of a d-bag and 2. it's still a good song.

The first time I heard Bigger Than My Body was when I was a kid watching Degrassi, back when they still played music videos in-between all the shows on The N. I hated most of them, so I always looked forward to "Fighter" by Christina Aguilera and Bigger Than My Body.

To me, Bigger Than My Body is a story about coming out of your skin. It's about being trapped, but with the tantalizing possibility, or promise, even, that you won't be trapped forever. There's the idea of escape.

It's a good song for Noah, my favorite character in Invincible Summer, especially during the first summer. While he comes across as overly cynical, there's a definite feel, at least to me, that he's cynical because being cynical is still a safe thing, because he doesn't truly believe it. He can bitch and moan and whine about how he's being pushed into a role he doesn't want to fill and nothing is in his control, but he still believes that he can rise above all the bullshit. He still sees himself outside of the context of the bullshit. He's a kid playing a cynic.

Also he looks kind of like a more funny-looking John Mayer in my head.


Why is it not my time?
What is there more to learn?
Shed this skin I've been tripping in
Never to quite return


“Look. Listen to my words of wisdom. College's only role these days, for an upper-middle-class kid going in for a fucking liberal arts degree, is very simple. Do you know what that is?”

“A diploma. A good job. Yay.”

“No. College exists only because it thrives on the hopes and dreams of the young and innocent. College is a hungry zombie here to eat your brains. It wants to remind you that your naivete is impermanent and someday, English major or no, you'll wear a suit and hate the feeling of sand between your toes.”

--p. 53

1) "Turn Up The Sun" by Oasis
2) "Island in the Sun" by Weezer
3) "Just Like Heaven" by Gatsby's American Dream

4) "Bigger Than My Body" by John Mayer

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


SONG #3: "Just Like Heaven" by Gatsby's American Dream.

Yes! Before you can get riled up, yes, this is a cover!

This is a good time to mention that I am a HUGE fan of using covers in playlists. It's a great solution for songs that you're too familiar with but still want to use. Put a different band and a different tempo behind it, and you're forced to listen to the words in a way you ordinarily wouldn't. Plus, sometimes a cover has a more necessary vibe than an original.

But this doesn't mean that I don't know/love the originals. I promise that I am fully aware that every cover I use is a cover. The Cure yaaaay. I know what's up.

Also, how great is the name Gatsby's American Dream? For Real.

So. Just Like Heaven for me is a carnival and kissing song. This is possibly due to the scene in Adventureland. It's a song about first love.

And carnivals. Also there's a ton of ocean imagery.

How convenient.

This is the first example of a song directly influencing the book. This song is the reason this scene is set at a carnival. Later, the songs become way more blatant in their relationship to the plot. Yeah, I make songs do my work for me sometimes.


"Show me how you do that trick
The one that makes me scream" she said
"The one that makes me laugh" she said
And threw her arms around my neck
"Show me how you do it
And I promise you I promise that
I'll run away with you
I'll run away with you"


There's no one else under the pavilion, and with the amusement park bouncing off Bella's eyes and the dusty pink of her skirt, I can almost pretend we are a hundred years old and we know everything. When, really, the only thing I know is that I'm going to kiss her, but I'm not going to try anything more. And she's smiling because she knows it too.

--p. 48

1) "Turn Up The Sun" by Oasis
2) "Island in the Sun" by Weezer
3) "Just Like Heaven" by Gatsby's American Dream

Monday, March 28, 2011


SONG #2: "Island in the Sun" by Weezer.

A lot of the appeal of this song is the image that flashes in my head when I hear it. Though it was by no means the first time I heard the song, the most memorable time was at my very first concert, when I was fourteen.

The lights went off all of a sudden, and when they came up, Rivers Cuomo, Weezer's lead singer, was standing on a platform in the middle of the audience. He played this song alone, with one spotlight on him and his acoustic guitar. Around him, everyone was screaming, cheering, singing along, but Rivers was quiet the whole time. For him, it was him and his guitar.

It's one of the most peaceful songs I know, which made it ideal for following "Turn Up The Sun." Because the gritty grungy rock feel of "Turn Up The Sun" is the tone of the entire book, but Chase's first summer is notably more peaceful.

There's an idyllic feel to "Island in the Sun." This is a song without any obvious conflict, but there's a strange undercurrent of unease throughout the entire song. There's something there that isn't quite right.

It's a song about pretending things are okay. About standing in a platform in the middle of a crazy audience.


On an island in the sun
We'll be playing and having fun
And it makes me feel so fine
I can't control my brain

We'll run away together
We'll spend some time forever
We'll never feel bad anymore


"You don't want your new sister to be born on the beach, do you?"

I look at Mom, practically bursting through her maternity swimsuit, chatting with Mr. and Mrs. Hathaway, sipping a Diet Coke. By the ocean, Shannon's holding Gid by his waist, twirling him around, and Claudia's crying, "He'll get dizzy! He'll get dizzy!"

I kind of can't think of a better place for her to be born than right here on the beach, but I know that's stupid. I know babies need hospitals, but right now I can't imagine anyone needing anything more than this.

Dad kisses the top of my head. "Where do you think Noah goes?"

"Anywhere. He sits in bookstores or sleeps on people's couches or something. He doesn't care where he goes. I get that part."

"You get that part?"

I nod, tracing my initials in the sand.

"Which part don't you get, Chase?"

I clear my throat. "Why he goes."

--p. 36

1) "Turn Up The Sun" by Oasis
2) "Island in the Sun" by Weezer


SONG #1: "Turn Up The Sun" by Oasis.

The first song on my playlists has to set the mood. Which usually means that it needs a really great intro.

There are few songs with better intros than "Turn Up The Sun."

I started listening to Oasis when I was about fourteen, and this was the first song of theirs I knew. I heard about it on a music blog I used to read, and it said that there was one correct way and one correct way only to listen to this song.

The advice was:

--Wait for a sunny day.

--Find a door, preferably a set of sturdy double doors, that you can push through to get outside. Something like the front doors at a school or the lobby of a theater.

--Get it as dark as you can inside.

--Put your headphones in.

--Count 37 steps back from the doors. Stand there. Press play.

--Slowly walk forwards. One step per second.

--At 37 steps/37 seconds, push those doors open and step out into the sun.

I don't blame you if you don't actually do that. I didn't. I still haven't. But every time I listen to the beginning of this song, I feel like I'm doing it anyway. I feel the dark and then the doors thrown open and the sun beating down like an attack. I feel grungy and grimy and I taste like sunscreen.

It's that good.

SAMPLE LYRIC: Yeah it's not about the lyrics.



I'm sticking to the sheets with sweat, and the smell of Noah's sandals attacks my face. It is so summer.

At home, we each get our own rooms, but here, Noah and I share, even though there are enough rooms for us each to have our own. Part of the feeling of summer depends on waking up when he wakes up, or putting on a shirt gritty with sand and sunscreen that might not even be mine.

--p. 14.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Very Musical Countdown to INVINCIBLE SUMMER


A lot of people make playlists for their books. I am one of them!

I've been trying to figure out the best way to show you guys my INVINCIBLE SUMMER playlist, because I'm pretty damn proud of it, and because it was hugely, hugely important to the creation of the book, even more so than most of the playlists I make

So here's what's up. Tomorrow, I'm going to run a post on the first song on INVINCIBLE SUMMER's playlist, and I'll keep on doing that until I run out of songs.

Here's the thing.

Tomorrow, when I start these posts, there will be 23 days left until INVINCIBLE SUMMER comes out.

I am not sure how many songs are on this playlist, but I *think* it is either 20 or 21.

Which means! I am going to run out of songs to post before time runs out! What to do what to do OH I THINK I KNOW WHAT TO DO.



And who even KNOWS what the prizes will be.

Will they be petite lap giraffes?

Will they be copies of INVINCIBLE SUMMER?

Will they be bushels of fresh fruit?

Will they be FIRE??

Will they be CDs of INVINCIBLE SUMMER's playlist?

Will they be some combination of two of the above suggestions??



So here are my rules for making playlists. I'm not enforcing them on anyone else! I'm just listing them because this is my blog and I can say whatever I want la la la la la la la.

---MAKE IT BEFORE YOU START. You make the playlist during the plotting stage. You can alter it later, but this happens before you get started. This is how you get the story in the head. This is how you let it roll around and chew on you and all that good stuff stories do.

---DO IT IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER. I don't write outlines. I make playlists.

And it works. If I don't know what happens next, I check the playlist. If I'm listening to the middle of the playlist and I realize I have four songs in a row expressing the same thing...uh, maybe something needs to fucking happen at that point in the story. Time to check iTunes for possible plot points!

---NO FAVORITES. If you know me at all, you'll know I love Motion City Soundtrack more than any healthy person loves anything. Which means I've listened to all of their songs a zillion times. I know them backwards and forwards.

You can't use songs you know that well. You need songs that you still have to listen to. When I'm first making a playlist, I put in tons of songs I've downloaded but never listened to if they have titles that sound like they might possibly work. If they don't, it's pretty damn easy to delete it. But The Music Gods make it work surprisingly often.

On that note:


---LISTEN TO IT WHENEVER. Sometimes I like to listen to music while I write. Sometimes I don't. Most of the playlist listening I do happens outside of actual writing time. It's the only music I'm allowed to listen to while I'm writing the first draft of the book.

You will get sick of it. You will hum the songs in your sleep. You will discover favorite bits of songs you don't even like all that much. You will discover that you actually hate songs that you thought you kind of liked.


Just in song form.

I'll kick off with song #1 tomorrow.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Look what IIIIIIIII have....

(click to enlarge)

Zombie Tag. My first MG. December 2011.

Ever since Wil Lowenstein's older brother Graham died a few months ago, Wil's spent most of his time fighting off imaginary zombies with spatulas in Zombie Tag, the Mafia/Capture the Flag hybrid he invented with his friends. What Wil doesn't tell anybody is that if he could bring his dead brother back as a zombie for real, he would. In a heartbeat.

So when Wil finds a way to bring back all the dead within five miles, he seizes the chance. But the Graham who comes back isn't the same. None of the returned are. At first they're just
emotionless, apathetic - lifeless. But then some of the zombies slowly start to get one emotion back - anger. And Wil is going to have to find a way to fix zombie-Graham and turn him back into the angsty teenager he's supposed to be before it's too late.

Because some of the zombies are banding together and plotting something. And Wil isn't sure his mom's spatulas are really going to do the trick if the zombies really do want to eat his brains.


Oh, and if this sounds like your thing? You can add it here. Just sayin'.