Monday, December 31, 2018

True Tales of Terror--Goodbye 2018 and Happy New Year

I won't miss 2018 one bit. The year brought with it the deaths of family members, the deaths of friends, the deaths of friendships, job changes, creative frustrations, empty nest syndrome, family health concerns, personal health concerns (including the Oumuamua-sized specimen above, which I believe formed right around January first of last year, and finally left my personal orbit in hideous fashion mid-September). These and hundreds of other setbacks, irritations (the news, ugh), and defeats all conspired to make 2018 a more benighted and harrowing year than most in recent memory.. Good riddance.

Of course it wasn't all bad, it never is, and I've long ago shaken off the self-defeating pessimism that clouded most of my young adulthood. Since launching the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey from my body, I've been understandably less anxious and am running regularly again, writing more than I have in months, and even blogging as this post proves. I love the movie, Kim and I went to Europe twice, I've reconnected with a few friends I'd hadn't seen in years, and Aural History went up in the kindle store. Those were all good things, and I will continue to dwell upon those and the thousands of little kindnesses and positive moments until they swell to a size where, if they don't fully eclipse all of the dreck, they will at least obscure it.

I adopted New Year's Eve as a personal high holy day many years ago, and--artificial construct or not--I engage fully in the act of conscious reflection and projection. I feel much stronger going into 2019 than I did 2018 and I'm looking forward to the challenges, the struggles, and whatever victories my family, friends, and myself can earn in the coming year.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Dan's Favorite Heavy Metal of 2018

I'm wrapping up a two year stint as a reviewer for having reviewed nearly one hundred albums, and have contributed my 2018 "best of" radio show, which will air on New Years' Eve. Here's a sneak peak of my favorite releases of the year:

13-11. Judas Priest--Firepower, Dee Snider--For The Love of Metal, Lizzy Borden--My Midnight Things. I cheated and made my top eleven a top thirteen, putting these battle-scarred veterans and their commendable releases in a three-way tie for 11th.

10. Fantasy Opus--The Last Dream Complexly layered, epic in scope, reminds me of late Arch-era Fates Warning while sounding nothing like them.

9. Last Pharoah --The Mantle of Spiders A very NWOBHM sounding debut from an American band. Lots of fun and what a great title and an especially great title track.

8. Against Evil!--All Hail the King! A thrash band from India that has some sonic similarities to Death Angel, one of my favorite bands, all time. Punchy.

7. Sonic Prophecy- Savage Gods Another fun band with a classic metal sound. "Night Terror" is an especially good track.

6. My Regime--A Peek Through The Pines I fell in love with My Regime with last years' Deranged Patterns. This one is a bit less Slayeresque, sounding somewhat in between Deranged Patterns and last year's Shadows Remain from Band of Spice, ringleader Spice's other current product. He's had a prolific and varied career; check out Spiritual Beggars as well.

5. Witherfall--A Prelude To Sorrow Their second album; get last years' Nocturnes and Requiems also. Intricate, expertly crafted metal that reveals more nuance with repeated listening. "Portrait" off their debut was one of my favorite songs of the year.

4. Dark Hound--Dawning American stoner/thrash metal; seek out their first couple independent releases. Hard hitting and heavy.

3. Sin Theta--"No Allegiance" My #3 pick isn't for an album at all, but an unreleased demo track that I just happened to run across in the metalexpressradio folders. Eight minutes of metal bliss, stellar performances at every position in a song packed with great ideas and riffs. I must have run twenty miles on the treadmill this year just listening to this song. 2019 should see them release their debut EP.

2. Ascendant-A Thousand Echoes  Debut album from a Dubai-based band, three members of which grew up in Syria. Unbelievably good songcraft from a new band whose emotive power and song structures hearken to Powerslave-era Iron Maiden. Lindsay Schoolcraft lends vocals on the haunting "Morning Light", a standout track (a ghost story!) on an album utterly devoid of weakness. I can't recommend this one enough.

1. Voivod--The Wake Their best album, especially when packaged with the Post Society EP of a few years ago and a live set. The spirit of Piggy is strong in this one, an endlessly thrilling album from an iconic and sui generis band.

Thanks to all at for some great times and great music!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Aural History, Investing In Yourself, and Taking Risks

Buy Aural History HERE

Before I wrote Generation Dead, I wrote a novel about a college-age musician trying to make sense of life and art--and all of the ghosts haunting him. I hadn't yet developed the boss-level networking skills I would later in life (basically, I hid in my home office hoping that sunlight wouldn't touch me) and after a couple rejections I decided to self-publish the novel. This was before the days of kdp and CreateSpace, and I didn't realized that the "royalty" scheme was such that I would actually lose money if I sold a copy through a chain bookstore (I sold three, which nearly drove me to bankruptcy). I didn't know any better. I was proud of the novel and wanted people to read it, believing if they did it would lead to other writing opportunities. So I sank some money into the book and had them print off about forty copies, most of which I sold to family and friends, quite possibly testing the limits of their supportive natures. Even with their charity, I didn't come close to making my money back.

I held a few back for "marketing" purposes--a few I sent to publishers under the (then) mistaken belief that they would be wowed by how "serious" I was. Of those, I heard back from one publisher who didn't believe a "rock 'n' roll" novel, as she termed it, would sell but said she'd read something else when I was ready. Not much of a return on my total investment.

Flash forward a couple years. I've sold a couple short stories and have written a regular music column for pay. I've found gainful employment a job that has helped me develop some basic business skills beyond those in my previous retail-heavy background. I make the momentous decision to "leave the cave" and try and meet other writers and people in the industry. In a complete "jump and the net will appear" moment, I come across an advertisement for a new writing workshop sponsored by Borderlands Press. The instructors are three writers I had been reading and admiring for years--Thomas Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, and David Morrell, and the fourth guest is editor/publisher (and now Stephen King collaborator) Richard Chizmar. I send in a writing sample and--for the hell of it--my second-to-last copy of Aural History. 

I was accepted into the workshop, called the Borderlands Bootcamp. Maybe my acceptance had something to do with Aural History, which a couple of the instructors read, and maybe it didn't. But one thing is absolutely clear--my attendance at the Borderlands Bootcamp directly led to my first book deal (I attended twice; the second time I workshopped the first chapter and outline of Generation Dead), becoming agented (on a referral from one of the instructors), and all of the changes in my life resulting from having attained my most dearly held goal, and doing so at a level exceeding all my dreams and expectations. Tugging on the narrative thread, none of that would have happened had I not at least written Aural History, and maybe it would not have happened if I hadn't also dropped some cash, taken the time, and taken the risks on my creative self. Tomorrow never knows. I have no regrets; I cherish every dollar I lost in the early self publishing venture.

A few months ago, a good friend who also is a great reader let me know his favorite book of mine is still Aural History, and asked me why I didn't publish it again. My first reaction was to laugh until I realized he wasn't kidding, and then I thought, why not? I love the book, he loves the book, and at least half of the thirty people or so on earth who've read seem to like it. I spent considerable time cleaning up many of my youthful mistakes (but not the cover, which I shot wanting to summon the "DIY" spirit haunting many favorites in my record collection) and have tricked OMZ Press into offering a kindle exclusive of the book on Amazon, where it retails for the thoroughly reasonable price of $4.99. It skews a shade older than my other books--my protagonist is post-college age as opposed to being in high school--but if you've read my other stuff, or are a fan of music, or art, or ghosts, I think you might like this one, too. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

So Hollywood

So being the entertainment mogul that I am, I stopped at my local Walmart so I could pick up some copies of I Still See You, the beautiful movie based on my novel Break My Heart 1,000 Times (I coughed up the extra two bucks for Blu-rays cuz I'm a big spender). My first thought was to buy them all up so that nobody in my town could see my performance in the bonus features, but my second thought was that I'd just give them out as Secret Santa gifts.

The DVDs are still there if you want to get one.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Pete Shelley

A Different Kind of Tension by Buzzcocks was one of the primary texts/soundtracks of my college years, which of course inform everything that comes after. The rest of the catalogue, and Pete's solo material, is great, too.

Thank you, Pete Shelley, for your songs and your sensibility.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Starro Goes Hollywood

Starro the Conqueror has let this whole Hollywood thing go to her head. I have to hand-separate the kibbles from the bits or she gets all snooty. Or snouty. She hasn't even seen I Still See You yet, the lovable mutt.

She tells me: "There's a reason I was named Star, Dan."

Speaking of dogs, there are several of them in the Generation Dead series (not Star; her head is swelled enough already). The OMZ edition of GD1 is still on sale at the kindle store for 2.99. I have physical copies of the Disney first editions I can sign and send for cover price and shipping to anywhere in the U.S. if you are looking for a last minute holiday gift for that special zombie-loving someone. Like the cute Christmas-y couple below.

Monday, December 3, 2018

How Mario Bava Saved Me

One of my favorite moments in Rome promoting Sei Ancora Qui, the Italian language version of I Still See You, the stellar film based on my novel Break My Heart 1,000 Times ,was a trip to Radio Rai to give an interview.  Gabriel, the publicist chaperoning Kim and I, let me know the interview would be live during our cab ride. This was only the second-most terrifying part, believe it or not. The most terrifying part was that the show I’d be appearing on was focused on films and not books like I’d foolishly assumed. The Italian edition of Sei Ancora Qui was coming out later that week and, because I am often an idiot, I assumed that people would be more interested in talking to me about that than the movie.
It has been a long, long time since I have been a movie expert. My days of being an assistant manager/usher at a local megaplex are in the distant past, and while I can speak definitively about the movies that came out during those years, I haven’t kept up. Writing, day job, writing, parenting, writing, reading--there hasn’t been nearly as much time for watching films as I would like. I’ve read far more books than I’ve seen movies over the past decade—hundreds of books; maybe three or four dozen movies. I try and keep up with del Toro and the Coen brothers and a handful of others, but that’s about it. My passive screen time has mostly been reserved for binge watching multi-season television shows and NBA basketball. So when Gabriel said that the interviewers would likely want me to talk about movies, I panicked. I felt like my brain dumped its hard drive; I couldn’t even recall any of my favorite ghost movies, which they would almost surely ask me about (The original Poltergeist, the original The Haunting based on Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, The Sixth Sense, and the remake of Thirteen Ghosts spring to mind. I hadn’t even seen my own movie yet!
Gabriel led us through the security checkpoint, where we admired the friendly guard’s origami handiwork, a collection of butterflies and bugs lining his desk, and into the studio. I was in a cold sweat, literally, when I sat down, and the interviewers started their show. It was amazing watching and listening to them work; they clearly enjoyed their jobs and were bantering back and forth in that delightful lyrical and physical cadence that characterizes Italian conversation. I looked through the glass into the mixing room where my wife and Gabriel sat with six or seven staff members, most of whom were engrossed in watching a soccer game on a screen set on the opposite wall. I smiled, weakly. No one wants to bomb in front of the woman they love, especially me.
Then the questions started coming—in English, thank God—and the main radio host had the unenviable task of translating my halting replies into Italian and make me sound interesting. My intro was encouraging, and they seemed to like my anecdote about wanting to write a “large-canvas ghost story”, because most ghosts stories are “small in the sense of being confined to a specific location, a haunted house or a church. I warmed up in talking about my trip to Canada and watching Scott Speer, I Still See You’s brilliant and tall director, encourage spectacular performances from Bella, Richard, Shaun, Dermot and many others—in scenes that scriptwriter Jason Fuchs had drawn directly from scenes I had written. Then they asked me about my favorite films and film makers.
“Mario Bava,” I blurted, truthfully.
It turned out to be a great answer.  The radio hosts both sighed and nodded appreciatively, and Kim would tell me later that the tech staff in the booth stopped watching the game for a moment and actually cheered my answer.
I really wasn’t pandering, although picking a native son like Bava (Black Sabbath, Black Sunday, Lisa and the Devil, Bay of Blood, Shock, to drop a few of the English titles) certainly seems like an obsequious move in hindsight. I think he came to mind though because when my mental hard drive crashed, taking with it most of my handy responses, stories, and anecdotes, images remained. Images that I’d seen in the trailers and bonus feature footage I’d seen of I Still See You.
Here’s the thing: the film looks gorgeous. It is wonderfully shot, framed—and this is especially important when trying to trace down the synapse that led me to say “Bava”—stunningly well lit. Every scene in Ronnie’s (oops, my Ronnie is Roni in the movie) house, the scenes in the water, the scenes in the No-Go Zone, the icy expanses—the cinematography is beautiful throughout and I feel especially fortunate that Simon Dennis brought his genius to the film. I so wanted to ask him during the filming if Bava had influenced him—the black and purples in the scenes with Brian, the amber tone in the last scene of Ronnie’s house—but I never got the chance. I recently watched Bava’s Black Sabbath for the fortieth time recently and I’d be shocked if Mr. Dennis hadn’t studied and loved Bava intensely, like I had.
Bava was a painter before he was a director, and that sensibility carries over to the best of his films, which look painted with light. One of the benefits in seeing Sei Ancora Qui before seeing I Still See You, and not speaking Italian, is that it allowed me to focus fully on the visuals and the look of the film. It’s gorgeous, in my only slightly biased opinion, composed with a similar painterly eye but enhanced by modern technique and technology. In retrospect it is quite clear why I made the synaptic connection I did between the I Still See You footage I’d seen and Bava’s work.
We wrapped soon after my sound booth ovation. On the way out, the mostly attentive guard had made a paper butterfly for Kim, one of the greatest treasures from a trip filled with them. We thanked him, thanked Gabriel, thanked everyone, and said our goodbyes. We had a movie to watch.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

My Christmas Book

Passing Strange, the third novel of my Generation Dead series, features as its protagonist an undead teen lesbian who lost her battle with depression. She returns from death and must face not only her illness, but a myriad of other forces trying to destroy her. In retrospect, writing such a book with such a character was a bit of a career risk....

I think it is probably the least read of all my published novels, but it may also be the most deeply felt.  The reader correspondence regarding Passing Strange related many stories about how the novel had been helpful to the reader in facing and getting help with depression, in dealing with the loss of a loved one, and in one case, encouraging a reader in a decision to come out to her parents and friends. 

I've been carrying one of those letters folded up in my wallet for a number of years now, a letter that never fails to bring me to the verge of happy tears whenever I read it, which I  do in my own darkest moments. 

The idea held by Wallace and others that the purpose of fiction is to make readers feel less lonely in the world has always appealed to me. I believe the act of writing often produces the same result for the writer. I'm blessed to have had moments of real connection with readers which truly made that circle feel complete.

I made a number of mistakes writing Passing Strange, but I'm also very proud of it and grateful for the positive effect it seems to have had on some of the people who read it. Passing Strange is also a Christmas story in the same way that films like Die Hard and Gremlins are Christmas stories--part of the narrative occurs during the holiday season. My protagonist--Karen--even lands a seasonal job at the mall when she is mistaken for a living girl. Full disclosure, we aren't exactly talking The Christmas Shoes, but I argue that it counts! So if you are looking for a strange story set during the holidays to read or give as a gift, Passing Strange might fit the bill.

Monday, November 26, 2018

I STILL SEE YOU Bonus Features

Look how happy I am!

The home theater editions of I Still See You, the film based on my novel Break My Heart 1,000 Times will be arriving just in time to help Santa stuff some stockings. Above you can see a very exclusive production still from one of the stellar bonus features, Break My Heart 1,000 Times: From Novel to Screen. Can you spot the grim, cadaverous specter lurking in the photo? If that little peek behind the curtain doesn't convince you that I Still See You is a horror movie, nothing will.

Break My Heart 1,000 Times

Speaking of horror, one of the most terrifying scenes that I had the pleasure of watching being shot did not make the final cut of the film; I'm not exaggerating when I say that the scene left me gasping in fright. I'm hoping that it is included in the Deleted Scenes reel that accompanies the home releases. HORRORNEWS.NET gives an excellent idea of what's to come HERE

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Every Day Is Black Friday When You're Dead

Make holiday gifts of my books HERE

Or, message/email me if you would like to purchase signed first editions. Remember, it is always okay to be kind to yourself, especially during the holidays.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Too Soon?

I'm not sure why this special, one-of-a-kind Christmas edition of Generation Dead makes me so happy every year when I post it, but whatever. If you want to give the gift of zombie this holiday season to that special someone, HERE is a great place to start.

I do have a few copies of the first editions of the Generation Dead series, both paperback and hardcover, for anyone who would like to gift (or greedily keep) a signed copy. I may even have some of the Spanish editions, I'd have to check. Also some of Break My Heart 1,000 Times, I think. Cover price plus shipping but if you want a bunch I'll cut you a sweet deal. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Terrible/Beautiful Synchronicity

I posted about Hawkwind yesterday, and my post title a few days ago was taken from an album title of theirs. My obsessions, especially the obsessions that run over the course of my lifetime, can grip me intensely for days if not weeks, so of course I was listening to Hawkwind again today (Space Ritual, what a classic). This led to clicking around the Internet to research various minutia about the band, albums, and songs. One jaunt through Wikipedia brought me to Barney Bubbles, who designed the distinctive cover of Space Ritual and a run of Hawkwind's psych/proggy album art. Barney, or Colin Fulcher, was a graphic designer responsible for a great deal of iconic album art in the seventies--he was art director for Stiff Records in 1977, among other things. An interesting and creative guy who unfortunately took his own life in 1983 at the age of forty-one.

All of which I learned about fifteen minutes ago. The terrible synchronicity part comes in because today, November 14th, is the 35th anniversary of his suicide.

Why did the universe conspire to send me surfing through the Internet to find and learn about Barney on the anniversary of his death? I've no idea. Coincidences, serendipities, and synchronicities like this seem to happen  regularly to me. Of course, the tendency to attach weight and import to events and occurrences that most likely are just random happenstance in likely a common affliction of writers, or these intersections loom large simply because one is attuned to them, or they have a greater likelihood of happening to someone who is constantly absorbing and sifting through vast amounts of information, trivial and otherwise, like most writers do.

I'm thankful for these strange moments. I find them both comforting and unsettling, which, I now realize, is probably my favorite state of being, especially when I'm trying to write. Space is deep.

So thank you, Barney, on the anniversary of your tragic end, for the art that you left behind. 

Learn about Mr. Bubbles HERE

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

I Live My Life by Hawkwind's Teachings

Went right for the treadmill after work today--hmm I never noticed how irony-laden that statement is--and put on Hawkwind's Coded Languages: Live at the Hammersmith Odeon November 1982.  I love Hawkwind, but especially live Hawkwind. The band's roster has changed dozens of times over the 49 years of their existence and, more so than just about any other heavy band I can think of, each permutation utterly transforms the live sound. I was listening to the album above, Glastonbury 1990, in my car, and although both it and Coded Languages have a few of the same tracks like "Brainstorm" and "Angels of Death", they sound almost nothing alike. Only two of the musicians--mainstay Dave Brock and Harvey Bainbridge play on both of the sets, one  a furious headlong aural assault (with barking dog), the other more an introspective, atmospheric journey through time and space. 

By mile two I think I was in another dimension. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Periphery

Prior to my current careers (yes, I have several), I spent most of my twenties in various occupations I'd refer to as "peripheral". I briefly managed a CD store named after a fruit. I also managed several chain bookstores while concurrently working my way up from usher to head popcorn guy to assistant manager at a local theater. These jobs were peripheral jobs as I felt I was always on the periphery of a creative field that I really wanted to be in, circling like a buzzard around my hungry dreams and diminishing prospects. I was of the worlds of music, writing, and film, but not truly in them.

My goal was to write and publish books and in my most unguarded moments would admit to desperately wanting to have a story of mine adapted for film--Achievement unlocked!--and it often felt  that each shift spent at the mall or the megaplex took me further from my goals. wasn't all bad, because during those years I read hundreds of books, watched dozens of movies, and wrote thousands of words in my notebooks while on breaks in the food court. Living for your dreams in the moments you can't live your dreams isn't a bad life strategy, and I never had a shortage of creative fuel for the fire while in those peripheral gigs. 

And now my home is filled with some of that fuel--the books I'd read and loved sit on my shelves, posters from some of the movies hang on my office walls, and I even kept the standee for the movie Cool World so cartoon Kim Basinger could watch over me when I write.

Because of my previous work experiences, I had a complex reaction on seeing the above photo of the gorgeous 3D standee for I Still See You (I haven't seen it in person; In Rome they had electronic billboards and a nice big 2D standee; in Danvers they didn't even have a poster). My second reaction was that I'd love to drag it into my office. My third reaction is that I'm no longer on the periphery.

But to be honest, my first reaction was that I should probably go get my dustpan and whisk broom and go clean up all the popcorn in cinema seven.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Amazing Sounds, Amazing Music--the I Still See You Soundtrack

I never dared dream there would one day be a soundtrack to a movie based on a book I had written, but if I'd been so daring Bear McCreary's soundtrack to I Still See You would have been my dream. In one of those strange moments of serendipity, I learned  Bear would be doing the soundtrack when I was watching season four of Black Sails, a show Bear scored. The I Still See You soundtrack is haunting, beautiful, and inspiring. I like to write with music playing, and so to write and be inspired by music that in some way was inspired by something I'd written is a special thrill. 

Tracks eleven and twelve are "Break My Heart" and "A Thousand Times".

Listen to Bear discuss his work and process with I Still See You 's brilliant and tall director, Scott Speer: 

The I Still See You Soundtrack is available for download at iTunes and Amazon.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Break My Heart 1,000 Times Trailer

I Still See You: