Tuesday, February 25, 2014

To Touch the Sun

It's finally here. The day To Touch the Sun, my vampire novel set in Chicago is released on Amazon. As you can imagine I'm very excited.

And now I'm officially on YouTube. My editor posted my reading of the prologue for the book today too. So since this is a blog about listening as well as looking, I thought I'd post my humble reading effort on here. Hope you enjoy it.

I might work on more audio to promote the book, whether it be reading a few more excerpts or just talking about the book. It's all as time permits. The book is available in paperback and Kindle format at Amazon.

And if you'd like to know a little more about the series or what went into writing the novel, you can check out my Sentient/Feral Vampire Series blog.

I hope the novel is as enjoyable for people to read as it was for me to write.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

On Feb. 25 there will be a Facebook launch for the release of my novel To Touch the Sun, my vampire novel set in Chicago. I'm pretty excited about this. It took me many years to find a publisher for this novel but I finally found Dagda Publishers who've been great to work with. And the novel has been getting some good advance reviews on Goodreads.

Stop in at the Facebook launch and say "hi." There's a free book up for grabs to people who attend. The novel will be available beginning Feb. 25 on Amazon for Kindle and paperback format.

In honor of this release, I thought I'd post one of my favorite bits from Eddie Izzard regarding movie vampires. Eddie Izzard is one of the best comedians out there. He has an almost rhythmic quality to his stand up, which touches on a variety of topics from culture to politics to entertainment. I first "met" him when I picked up a VHS (yes, that long ago) of "Dress to Kill" on a whim. Kill he did in this concert and I was an instant fan. Enjoying later concerts like "Glorious", "The Definite Article" and "Circle" to name a few. He's a comic I can listen to over and over and never get tired.

In his bit on horror movies he addresses the points we all consider when we're watching them at whatever a.m. in the morning. Hope you enjoy it. And I hope to see you at the Facebook launch of To Touch the Sun Tuesday. Just click on the link above.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Beatlemania: Fifty Years and Going Strong

Let the record show that I arrived in Chicago five months and two days before the Beatles did. During their North American tour, they arrived at Midway Airport at 4:30 in the afternoon Sept. 5 greeted by 5,000 screaming girls. Well, 5K screaming girls, probably some jealous boyfriends, some perplexed parents and a smattering of bemused reporters who know doubt wrote clever stories about this musical "flash in the pan" descending on the town. I mean, no one had seen anything like it, so how could it be anything legitimate or lasting? A year later, who would even remember there were a Beatles?

The Beatles beat my arrival in America by less than a month. I was still cooking when they played that historic Ed Sullivan show on Feb. 9. I later asked my mom what she thought of them as she watched the telecast, and she said she really liked them (I wonder if some of those good endorphins the show produced in my mom made their way to me). One of my regrets in life is that I never talked to my mom about some things, music being one of them. She was quite a good singer and claimed, though I'm not sure how true this was, that she had been asked to go on tour with a big band. Whether it was because these topics didn't come up, or because of the various bouts of nastiness going on in my household forced me to simply wish to tune it all out, there are things now that I wish I had asked both my parents about. The Beatles arriving in America would have been on the list of lighter topics I wish I could talk to them about. 

Bottom line: The Beatles and Laura L. Enright arrived in America the same year, 1964, though I suspect that the Beatles had more of an impact. Of course, you never know. The day is young. I can say that my arrival had quite an impact on my family since when my mom went into labor with me, my dad had a heart attack. 

Maybe when it comes to impacts I should give myself more credit.

Anyroad, my sister recently reminded me of the connection of time that the Beatles and I shared suggesting that it could be why I'm such a huge fan of the group. In terms of age I generally don't think of it. I think that's one reason why hitting the milestones never really fazed me. Thirty, forty. Actually, I had a rough time of it in my teens and twenties so my thirties and forties, at least emotionally and in terms of confidence, were a treat. What my fifties will bring, is anyone's guess. I remain hopeful. 

But my sister may truly be on to something here, though if I was bitten by Beatlemania during that golden year of 1964, it took ten years to incubate. I became conscious of music close enough to the group's music being played in normal radio rotation to gain an appreciation for it. And I seem to remember a yearly viewing of Yellow Submarine shown around Easter. I loved that movie, though I'm sure, at the time, a lot of subtext was lost on me.

No, I can't remember what age exactly, it may have been when I was 11, but it wasn't till about a decade later that I was overcome by full blown Beatlemania. WGN Channel 9 had an afternoon showing of "A Hard Day's Night." I think at this point I had already fallen in love with various British things like Monty Python, Doctor Who, etc. It was the first time, however, that I saw this movie and it blew me away. 


Okay, the music was fantastic. The dialogue wonderful. And even though for much of it, acting wasn't necessary (the movie was specifically meant to be a "day in the life" sort of look at the group's life after all), they were incredibly natural with sharp comic timing. 

It's pretty impressive when you think about it. Here are these four young men, recently having entered this maelstrom of fame, and not only are they fantastic musicians, they're naturals on the big screen. Just one example of why the Beatles are so compelling even 50 years later.


You see, when I really discovered them, I was the age I should have been when they first arrived in America. It was bound to happen, it was just delayed a bit. So there and then I was overcome by Beatlemania. All the collecting I would have been doing in the 60s, I did in the 70s. Records, books, magazines. The thing about the Beatles is, they broke up in 1970 but they continue to be a force to be reckoned with. Listening to their music still lightens my way a bit. That's why you have a big celebration in the U.S. fifty years after their first visit here. There's something about them and their music that keeps them relevant and exciting.

My first Beatleish album was a compilation titled Rock and Roll Music. It had some of their earliest music on including, much to my surprise, "Got To Get You Into My Life," which I had only heard performed by Earth Wind and Fire (one of the bands able to adequately cover a Beatles tune). This Beatles version was completely different. I liked it. The album also featured several covers the Beatles did of other songs that illustrated how versatile this band was and cemented my belief that they could take any song and make it their own.

My first Beatles album was The White Album. This could be why it might be my favorite album of the group even though it was a clear indication of the members themselves moving off in their own direction. The White Album showed the full range of what the individual members were capable and it was quite varied. McCartney, author of "I Will" and "Ob-La-Di Ob-La Da" also penned "Back in the U.S.S.R." and "Helter Skelter" for heaven's sake. John went from "Dear Prudence" to "Sexy Sadie" to "Yer Blues" And Let's not forget "Revolution #9" which, say what you will, has a musical charm all its own. George's contributions are equally interesting. "Savoy Truffle" "Long Long Long" "Piggies" and the exquisite "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Ringo never was much of a songwriter, but the songs he performs "Don't Pass me By" and "Good Night" remain favorites.

I was so blown away by the album that I insisted my older sister listen to it while my younger brother and I were off on vacation with our parents (she was old enough to stay at home). When I got home I quizzed her on it. "Wasn't this song great!" "Wasn't that song great!" And she dutifully nodded and enthused over songs that I now know she probably never listened to cause she wasn't a fan of them. 

Well from there it was just a matter of collecting the other albums, and being impressed at how much their style changed in so short a time. The band was only together for ten years, but it's stunning to think about the work that was produced in so short a time especially when you consider how young they were. George Harrison was only 17 years old when they started cutting their teeth on live performance in seedy Hamburg clubs (these gigs being one reason they were so incredibly tight when playing live). In fact he was deported from Germany for being underage. They were musical, but never studied music. Paul, whose father played trumpet and piano in his own band, was perhaps the closest to a trained musician. None could read music. Paul and John lost their moms at young ages. John and Ringo were both fatherless. Ringo spent a good deal of his childhood battling one illness or another. 

Despite all this, they had a drive for music that couldn't be denied. I love this part of the story because considering where they came from, it makes it all the more amazing to think of what these guys accomplished. They wrote their own songs at a time when that was unusual. They made albums with songs that were all equally good (not just a couple of singles and the rest filler, as was often the case at the time). It would have been very easy for them to stick with the sound that had given them such success and milk it for all they could. They themselves didn't know how long it would all last and they were very open about this in early interviews. Rather than stagnate, they chose to grow. Their willingness to experiment was one of their greatest strengths and it encouraged others to follow suit.

Of course all that growth eventually led them to grow apart. Even though I read them long after the fact, that's the part of the bios that always made me misty: That part where the Beatles called it quits. It's tough even for a little Beatlemaniac late to the game.

In 1976 Lorne Michaels, producer of Saturday Night Live, took a moment on the show to offer the Beatles $3,000 to reunite on the show. According to Paul McCartney, a week later, while he was visiting Lennon, they were watching SNL and debating making a surprise visit to the show (it was a live show) just for fun. One of those, "Yeah that would be great! Ah, never mind" moments.

Four years later, John would be dead, shot outside his apartment building by an obsessed fan.

The three remaining Beatles got together for the Beatles Anthology project and even produced a couple of new songs using vocals John had recorded years before for his own songs. The documentary was shown in 1995.

George Harrison died in 2001 of cancer.

Today, fifty years after their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Beatles will be feted, the two surviving Beatles on hand for the accolades. Interestingly, the two remaining Beatles are the two who seemed to have an easier time of coming to terms with their Beatle history. It's hard not to consider the "what if" though. What if Lennon had not died so young and the four Beatles did come together again to make music? At least for a short while. Not to fulfill any contracts. Just for themselves. I'm not sure whether or not it would have been great, but I bet it would have been fun.