It‘s June, and it’s all about summer road trips. What’s better for road trips than music? In June, my most musical fiction will be on sale/free. My science fiction/horror/comedy called Playlist of the Ancient Dead is on sale for a limited time! The kindle edition is 99 cents June 3rd-8th on amazon. If you loved Time Burrito, I would say that PotAD should be your next stop. If you are trying hard to see how music fits into this book, I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but it plays a big part. Here’s the description:
Caroline, a post-graduate student, waits for her grand adventure in life. While she’s waiting, she walks the dog down the same path every day, avoids her dippy ex-boyfriend, and ponders her mundane march towards middle age. Her dream comes true when a magical doorway appears before her in a drab brick building. There is something on the other side of the door, and it beckons her inside.
Also in June, I’m giving away two free short stories. On June 3rd-5th, the kindle edition of One Way Trip to Solasoma will be free! Then on June 6th-10th, Our Final Days on Bellicus Prime will be free! Both of these stories accompany a song by the same name from my band Spiral. You can hear the songs on just about any music service or by clicking the beautiful album artwork to the right.
Finally, I want to let you all know that I have three projects in the pipeline. One is a reincarnation story with a comic twist. The other is the sequel to Atmospheric Pressure. And the last is a YA multiverse trilogy (this one, I plan to wait until all three books are done). I really don’t know when any of these will be done because for the time being, I do this in my spare time.
If you like what I do, and want to help, consider leading a review, telling a friend, or better yet gifting a copy to them. Give a friend a book for a buck. You can’t beat it!
Enjoy the sun-baked highways and turn it up loud!
You know when you’re a kid and you hear a song lyric incorrectly, but you swear that your version is the right one, and the fiction turns out to be more wonderful than the truth? Werewolves of London is that song for me. I had always thought that he was saying Werewolves of Thunder. How cool would that be? Werewolves of Thunder! Maybe they could even showdown with the Thunder Cats. Alas, my childhood fantasy of thunder werewolves was not meant to be. However, in a lot of ways, the character of Jasputin Trotsky is much cooler in the story of his head than in reality.
Jasputin was a character brewing long before I decided to get back into writing science fiction again. When we first started dating, my wife had a small 18 pound dog named Jasper. It took one weekend of watching him while she was out of town to earn his love. Now he sleeps on my shoulder as I type this post. When my wife and I first moved in together long before we were married. We got a nice slice of the ghetto near Burton Park. Since the neighborhood on the other side was nicer than ours, we’d muse on our walks about what was going on in the dog’s head.
We had created this inner monologue of this great hero who guards the house and called my wife, mommy, and me, “man”. Since our dog seemed to take every task with a grave sense of importance be it barking at the mailman, or walking through the park, we amused ourselves for hours with a “dog” voice about what Jasper thought about the world. We had visions of our dog sitting in a large stuffy chair in a gentleman’s sitting room, smoking a cigar and sipping cognac, talking about the rise and fall of bone prices. We created mysteries perpetrated by an “m-man” only to be discovered later that it was mailman all along. He was a dog PI named Licks Waggert. A Russian revolutionary named Jasputin Trotsky. A landed gentry named Sniff Barklington with our cat Mura Purmewsmith.
Though Jasper’s appearance in my novel almost never happened. In the first draft, the dog was flavor text for the first chapter. Later on (spoiler alert), I realized that actuators would probably need some helpers who could take the equivalent of the employee corridors of a haunted house. If a building was designed to test, then someone had to reset the test and clean up the bodies. The “friends” were born, and if there was going to be a character from the core group who was destined to join the friends, why not use this larger than life character my wife and I created together. My only regret is that I didn’t get to use more of our silly dog related creations. Maybe one day, I’ll write a dog fantasy novel with a hardened PI named Licks Waggert.
This song and band are the perfect introduction to Murphy. There is something over-the-top and larger than life about ZZ Top. Like their beards, they don’t do anything halfway. Murphy is not a partial commitment sort of guy. When he finds his focus, it’s all or nothing. Strangely enough, the man in this video is probably the same age as Murphy now:
On a completely unrelated note, ZZ Top was my only near death experience going to a concert, and I was at a Black Sabbath with Ozzy reunion tour where you could hear the roar of a massive adrenaline soaked mob echoing through the city streets towards you after their New Years show. Despite having been to metal shows that were banned by Satan, ZZ Top was the one that almost did me in. I was near the front row, and two mosh pits a had broken out on either side of me. In the chaos, I was knocked off my feet and tumbled to ground. The audience began to trample me.
A hand of a very large Native American man picked me up by the scruff of my jacket. He lifted me off my feet and set me back down again. “You better be more careful,” he said as he charged through the mosh pit cheering and screaming. In a daze, I wandered towards the back of the show, and watched the rest the concert from a safe distance. In case you’re reading this, thanks random guy large enough to burrow through a crowd to save a near trample victim. You’re the sharp dressed man.
Chapter 2 of Playlist of the Ancient Dead reveals my and Rashid’s disconnect from the rest of the world. Rashid is so hyper focused on the world of physics; pop culture has passed him by. Pop culture also passed me by. When Weird Al’s Mandatory Fun was released, I had not heard any of the original songs lampooned on the album. My wife created a playlist of all the original videos on YouTube, so I would know what Weird Al was parodying before we watched the comedic versions. I realized the original songs had a couple billion views. Somehow, most of the planet Earth had heard these songs that I was about to hear for the first time.
Why not turn that disconnect from the world of pop culture with an out of place opening credit song? Back in the eighties and nineties, I remember almost every movie having a pointless aerial camera view of urban landscape to a song that didn’t fit the movie. Even Groundhog’s Day, one of my favorite movies ever made had the cityscape credit sequence. I decided to choose a song from the last time I knew anything about popular music (the nineties) to not only have a disconnect with popular music, but also because in the back of my brain I’m hearing Santa Monica to pointless aerial footage of Albuquerque. That is why Rashid is from Santa Monica and not Brooklyn like I had originally wrote. But I think California makes sense. With overbearing parents, of course he’d go across the country for college.
In case pop culture has passed you by here is the song:
Did they break up with each other because they were so nineties?
I needed to pick the perfect song. If I was going to write a novel where music was the actual plot device, then I had no choice but to embed a playlist into Playlist of the Ancient Dead. The music had to represent parts of my life and fit into the novel. So each chapter heading became a song title. Each song fit it in its own peculiar way, and one song changed the name of the main character. That song was Caroline by the Espers:
It wasn’t easy picking Caroline. My main character was named Marissa in the early drafts, and I didn’t want to change it. I was going to change Murphy’s name before I changed Marissa’s. But like all prolific writers, I decided to deal with the problem by ignoring it. The first song in the playlist within the Playlist needed to set the tone of the book, and introduce the main character. But there wasn’t a song about a Marissa that fit the description, so I turned to music to mull the problem over. Often when I felt particularly introspective, I’d listen to Caroline and other songs like it on repeat. One such evening, I noticed a comment on youtube about the Espers:
And that’s when it hit me, I had to name my main character Caroline, and no other song could fit better than Caroline as the first song in the playlist within the Playlist. There was something truly ominous hiding within plain sight of Caroline. It was a building she walked by every day, yet failed to understand the significance. Not only did I find the song that fits the tone of the story, but I also found a song that would annoy Caroline’s parents. It also gave me a nice character moment. I could hear her parents now, “why’s it got to sound so depressing!”
Caroline only rebelled against the song of her namesake because of all the embarrassment she suffered at baseball games:
If you are curious to find out the artists of the rest of the playlist within the Playlist, please follow this blog or one of my social media outlets. You may be surprised by some of the artists on the list.