My Bookshelf

Monday, October 28, 2013

Lou Reed: In Memoriam

What can you say about an icon who died?

I couldn't resist ripping off the opening line from Love Story, because Lou Reed's death marked the end of the affair for me. I fell in love with the guy (there's no other word for it) when I picked up Transformer after being stunned by Walk On The Wild Side in 1972. I started my rock band The Spoiler in 1974, and it damn near became a Reed tribute band until I gave Broadway Turk Superstar  his shot onstage when I came out of Lou's spell. After my days as a NYC punk rocker ended, Rock and Roll Animal was still one of my Top Ten faves as the greatest track-for-track guitar album of all time. Was it any wonder that when BT Superstar resurrected The Spoiler in KC MO in 2005, my entire guitar style was influenced by Lou's subway sound?

There's not a single survivor of the Punk Revolution of the 70's who doesn't list Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground as their greatest musical influence. Although Reed, co-founder John Cale and Sterling Morrison were all classically trained, they institutionalized minimalism in rock by churning out two and three-chord wonders that were some of the most memorable songs in the history of the genre. His lyrics were immortal, weaving stories about the gutters, alleys and shooting galleries of NYC (we're talking hypodermics), and glorifying homos back when they lived in fear of being tarred and feathered. Though a commercial failure, almost every major authority in rock includes their anthologies among the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time.  

In my estimation. Lou hit his peak with Rock and Roll Animal. Although appearing emaciated onstage from meth addiction, his performances along with his guitar team of Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner were the best of his career. It earned him the lifelong adulation of rock critic Lester Bangs, whose explosive interviews with Reed catapulted him into international notoriety. His experimental work in rock opera (Berlin) and noise music (Metal Machine Music) increased his legend throughout Europe. Commercial success finally came with Coney Island Baby, and his innovative rap style was unveiled in Street Hassle. He rode the waves of success into the Grunge Era of the 90's, where once again he was hailed by the grunge rockers as one of their greatest influences. He was still creating music into the 21st Century, having collaborated with Metallica on their album Lulu in 2011.  

Losing him at the ripe old age (well, maybe not so these days) of 71 gives us the satisfaction of knowing that he lived a fruitful and fulfilled life. I just hope he accepted Christ before he died. For sure, he outlived not only many of his contemporaries but a Who's Who list of worshippers who came after him (The Ramones, The Heartbreakers, Stiv Bators, to name a few). At this stage of my life, with my Spoiler career just about over, I can say that Papa Lou met me at the gate, gave me a guided tour and walked me to the door.

Farewell, Lou. There are few who matter who wouldn't admit you were one of the greatest of all time.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Horror Too Horrible?

I just seem to be sailing from one uncharted course to another these days. This week, I've a contest deadline and a manuscript sample request guessed it, that good old horror genre. "I try to get out, and they pull me back in," Al Pacino would say in Godfather III. I also think of James Caan in Misery as a writer trying to break out of the romance genre, and Kathy Bates kidnaps him and breaks his ankle for it.

Bad Day Books' Rogue Writing Contest is offering a ton of promo vehicles to the winner. I've been in a mess of those types of offers with the Spoiler in Battle of the Bands scenarios. It's free exposure and impetus to finish up projects for beta testing, so what the heck. I'm submitting Transplant, which was originally part of my Tales To Astonish trilogy, but was so gruesome I pulled it out as the breakaway novel. The problem was, the storyline was so explosive that it left loose strings all over place in short story form. Tying them up will be the key to the final wrap in submitting the book, but even then it will be a Shakespearean challenge in keeping the separate tragedies befalling the protagonists from turning into a terminal case of maximalism. I'll have no problem reaching the 40,000-word minimum requirement, but don't want to be hitting 50k if I can help it.

What a coincidence that another publisher would want to see the first story of the Tales To Astonish trilogy. I hadn't even started on The Vortex yet, as I was concerned (as I was with my novel Wolfsangel) that I would be accused of writing Nazi apologetics. Actually, as I left port with this one, I realized that introducing Satanic possession as a factor in developing the Holocaust was a perfectly logical approach. I could have sent the completed  Transplant but it would have delayed work on The Vortex, which is coming along quite nicely now. The challenge now is finishing both works up by Halloween, and I think I'm right on course.

Living on Dead Man's Pond right now, being in a state of 'retirement' in devoting all my time to writing, is definitely a big plus here. Getting paid and staying alive after the 401k runs dry? We shall see.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Connecting the Dots?

Well, the release of The Fury didn't come without the usual hassles. The first reviewer I sent this to shredded it in short order. He caught a handful of errata before reading through halfway, and I was on the verge of screaming "Fire!" at my publisher before I thought it over...and I realized there's solutions to everything fiction.

Being somewhat directionally challenged (you should see me in airports), it seemed my tenants on the upper floors of the fictional 1313 137th Street in East Harlem kept getting misplaced. First they were on the third floor, then they were on the second floor. Then they were back on the third floor. How in heck, wondered the reviewer, did this get past the editor?

Here's Turk's solution (just too bad I didn't include it in the expository narrative)...

Ever get in a situation in an unfamiliar building with dim lighting where it was imperative you had to get out as soon as possible? You had an idea that one of the entrances was open but found it locked, and had to go throught the hassle of finding one that you could go through. Imagine running into the same situation with the stairwells. If you ever worked in security, you may well know the feeling. Now, beyond that, suppose you were having trouble with the building map. Suppose you went to the second floor and found it was the third floor, or what they told you was on the third floor was located downstairs?

I think you could develop a panic attack in short order...or a creeping sense of paranoia.

Pick up a copy of The Fury and judge for yourself.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Fury on Amazon?

Well, The Fury just went live on Amazon today through Netherworld Books, and I am one happy camper. This'll be my second publication of Campaign 2013, and hopefully it'll do a lot better than The Standard. I'm hoping that the Halloween season might help this on its way, plus the fact this publisher may give it a more aggressive push since this is their exclusive genre. We'll wait and see.

This comes just as I finished off Raiders and sent it to a prospective publisher. This may have been the hardest book I've ever written. The publisher said they'd like to see it last week, and I've been averaging 5,000 words per day to make it happen. The challenge was NOT to write a sports tale or hockey novel. I was out to make a statement about violence in sports and the effect of entertainment on our lives. I guess we'll see if that floats any boats.

I'm also doing the final edits on Wolf Man, which I expect to be coming in around the holidays. It's a coincidence that I've got two out of seven of my books coming out in the horror genre, especially since I don't consider myself a horror novelist. I'm hoping they might piggyback each other, like, if you liked that one then you'll love this!

One thing's for sure, I'll be up to my neck in exchange reviews for the next few weeks trying to get some feedback online. I just have a feelig that someone will come along and want to see something I haven't finished yet. No business like publishing business, right?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Death of Chopper?

My ex-wife and I saw the premiere of Chopper in 2000, and we both thought it was one of the weirdest flicks we'd ever seen. Even so, I named my mixed breed Manx kitten after him shortly afterward. I bought the VHS tape after that and barely watched it, but I still own it thirteen years later. The flick was on cable last night and I saw it again after all this time. When I woke up this morning, I found out that Mark Read died of liver cancer today. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Chopper was one of the quirkiest, most homicidal criminals in the history of crime. Eric Bana's over-the-top portrayal made you feel as if you were watching a homicide waiting to happen at any given moment. It probably had to do with the fact that he routinely carried around three handguns and a low-caliber sawed-off shotgun. He was extremely paranoid and would kill in imagined self-defense at the drop of the hat. He killed a Australian Mob figure in prison, starting a vendetta between Chopper and the Mob that ended with a score of 19-0, according to Read. One reason that Chopper fared so well is that he turned police informant, which he perceived as a license to kill. He hunted down every criminal supposedly looking for him, and knocked off a couple of others for good measure. All his victims were Mob enforcers, dealers, pimps and other assorted crooks, which undoubtedly was a reason for his police connections to look the other way.  

When they finally put Read away, he embarked on a career as an author, having an anthology of memoirs published in a no-holds-barred series telling all about his life of crime. His books sold over a quarter-million copies, making him one of Australia's best-selling authors. A number of TV interviews were conducted in prison, and eventually they made the movie. Chopper died in Tasmania, safe from retaliation from the Aussie Mob.

It struck me as odd that Tenth Street Press, based in Australia, didn't notice the unintended similarity between Chopper and Jack Gawain (my anti-hero in The Standard). You'd think they'd work up the connection and try to drum up a little publicity. I'm sure that'd be far too much to ask. Money, after all, is not what writing about. You could've asked Chopper.

Farewell, Mark "Chopper" Read. You may not be missed, but certainly will not be forgotten.

Monday, October 7, 2013

New Promotion - Old Worries?

I kept wondering why Generations, scheduled for publication in September, never got released. I was caught off-guard when Carly McCracken announced that she had sold Alpha Wolf Publishing to Solstice Publishing recently. Not taken by surprise---nothing comes as a surprise on Dead Man's Pond.

Immediately I checked my query sheet and, again, was taken aback by the fact that I had Solstice listed as a horror publisher looking for monster stories. In fact, I was planning on hitting them up with Vampir and Momia (The Mummy) as soon as the MS'es were done. I would've sent Wolf Man along but that got snatched in record time (by Turk standards).  I was pretty sure they would've been a firm next step in my horror-writing career, but Generations? Hmmm.

It will just really suck if they renege on the contract at this point. Not only was I wanting to get my family saga out, but I was hoping McCracken would have been plugging this harder than The Standard is being sold. If Solstice kicks (and there won't be a damn thing I'll be able to do about it), I'll have to market Generations all over again. Not to mention my list of publishing deals dropping back down to six.

Since I scored my 401k cash-in, I figure I'll be able to survive on Dead Man's Pond until the middle of next year. That should be more than enough time to see if the promise will be fulfilled. Still, with one's life work hanging in the balance, setbacks like these knock you flat on your ass, and each time it's a little harder to get back up. Sometimes you wonder if that's the object of the game, to see how many times you can get back up. After a lifetime of taking bumps, you certainly hope it's not the case.