Monday, April 20, 2015

Dante's got a bit hot this past Saturday.

Music is a driving force in my life. My tastes are pretty varied, but good old ROCK & ROLL is where my heart drifts to most often. Portland, Oregon is fortunate to have a very vibrant and thriving music scene. Even better, this is perhaps becoming the Tribute Band capitol of the world!

Big Words? A bit of a boast? Perhaps, but I think it could be proven as a fact with very little work. Saturdaynight was just another example. Iconic Portland nightspot, Dante's located on Burnside hosted a show consisting of Grand Royale, (Beastie Boys) Shoot to Thrill, (AC/DC) and Unchained (Van Halen). A bit of a confession, when the Beastie Boys first hit the scene, I was so against anything "rap" related, that I refused to even give them a listen. Then I heard one of the best albums ever...Paul's Boutique.

Saturdaynight was my first time catching Grand will NOT be the last. They were smokin' hot and had the act down cold. I have not had that much fun watching an opener in a long time, and I have a feeling they will be moving up on the venue slots before long. Jason Fellman told me about these guys a while ago, and he is (as usual) spot on with his assessment of the amazing talent. And how many other bands do you know that invite an audience member to come up and face them in a beer drinking challenge? Yep...probably just this one.

They nailed the hits and still pulled out a few of the non-pop gems. I would love to hear more from Paul's Boutique (High Plains Drifter comes to mind right away). This is a group that I think we will be adding to our "must see" list any chance we can. They even let me sing along on No Sleep 'til Brooklyn. That was kinda fun.

Shoot to Thrill was second to hit the stage in this 4 hour music extravaganza. This is the premier AC/DC tribute band in Portland, Oregon, and perhaps beyond. They cover both the Bon Scott and Brian Johnson eras. Evan is the voice and ever-improving front man for this group and has the showman chops of somebody much older. He has even worked in wearing the very recognizable Brian Johnson cap during songs from that part of the band's catalog. (You're welcome , Evan...I was the one who spotted it under the drum riser after the show and gave it to one of Jason's crew to return to you. It looks better on you than it ever would on me anyway.)

This band is perhaps one of the tightest musically with a very solid backing band that drives a fierce hard rock engine. They play a great set and own the stage from start to finish. They have a very loyal fan base and once you catch them, you will see why.

This is a band that puts a lot of energy into their shows. They pull off many of the signature show highlights from AC/DC's stage shows when they have room. The small stage at Dante's is fun because you are almost certain there will be a massive collision. One more thing of note, this is a band that features a father-son combo. Evan's dad is Angus. Very cool.

Closing the show was one of my personal favorites. Unchained tosses the audience into a time machine and shoots them back to the early 80s when Van Halen ruled the world of rock. They have the swagger and the personalities of the original four young punks from Santa Monica without some of the drawbacks of the old days like Diamond Dave's propensity for forgetting the lyrics or being too drunk to understand.

If I could win guitar lessons from one person in the Portland Tribute scene, it would be a toss up between guitar iron man Dan Bates or Brad "Shreddy Van Halen" Halleck, DDS. (Yeah...probably the coolest dentist in the entire world!) If you remember the old VH videos, Eddie always had a smile on his face. Brad shows off that very same grin throughout the show and just manages to look so damn cool the whole time. He is a reminder of why we all wanted to be Eddie when we were growing up, the big difference is that he gets to play him on stage with amazing effect.

By the time the show ended, Dante's was sweltering and the only cool thing in the place were the members of the three bands that gave one helluva show. If you missed it, then I suggest that you get your tickets to Harefest V. (They go on sale today, just an FYI.)

Here is the lineup:

Fri July 17

Appetite for DeceptionGuns 'N' Roses
Crazy TrainOzzy Osbourne
UnchainedVan Halen

Sat July 18

Stone In LoveJourney
Ramble OnLed Zeppelin
Grand RoyaleBeastie Boys
Petty FeverTom Petty
Shoot to ThrillAC/DC
SteelhorseBon Jovi
Jukebox HeroesForeigner

Friday, April 17, 2015

Let the waiting begin!

So, anytime a writer launches a new book, there is that waiting period where they check in as often as they dare to see the first reviews. It is good to know if you hit or miss the mark according to the readers. Those are the equivalent of a workplace performance review.

A few days ago, DEAD: Snapshot--Portland, Oregon was officially launched. While it is set in the same world created by the DEAD series, this book is its own animal. You won;t find Kevin or Thalia showing up. (Although there may be guest appearances from time to time in future installments.) Fans of the DEAD series might find references to familiar people and places, but this spin off is designed to stand alone.

That makes this something different, and any writer who has produced something even moderately successful will tell you that a new book or series does not usually equate to the sort of sales figures that you see with your big hit. Since this is how some of us actually make a living, it can be a scary experience as a beloved series comes to an end.

So now, I wait for those first reviews to start coming in. I already have one on and Both are very positive. I will continue to watch and wait. It did have a couple hundred pre-orders on release day, which actually surpassed my hopes (since this was my first go at pre-orders, I really had no idea what to expect).

If you have yet to read this offering, I look forward to hearing from you soon. If you have read it already, I hope to see your thoughts on it in the review sections. And stay tuned, I am in the studio recording the audio book version myself!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Portland, Oregon the first city to fall to the Undead in apocalypse.

Portland, Oregon has been overrun by the walking dead!

Yes. You read that correct. Well, sort of at least. As the DEAD series reaches the penultimate book this April 30, 2015 (DEAD: Blood & Betrayal), I am kicking off the newest adventures set in the world created in DEAD. The world that you came to know with the potential for immunity, strange behavior in the zombie children and so much more is all here to some extent. Today marks the official release of DEAD: Snapshot--Portland, Oregon.

Get yours HERE!
The difference is that the DEAD: Snapshot series will focus on a single location. No hopping all over the world, no multiple story lines (for the most part), just plain old zombie goodness. I started in my very own Portland, Oregon because it felt right. After all, this is home and who would not love to see the effects of a zombie apocalypse on their own home town? Judging by the emails, there are a lot of you who are anxious to see exactly that. 

I have a list of over 200 towns so far sent in by you, the readers who make all my dreams come true. And while I can't promise to get through all of them, I will certainly do my best. DEAD: Snapshot-- Leeds, England is actually next on my list. And I am chomping at the bit to get to it since I already have a villain, she will be quite horrible, I assure you.

Still that does not mean YOUR town is out of the running. I have some cities and towns with multiple requests. I even have one town that might possibly have their city council involved in putting on a DEAD day to commemorate the release of a book if their town is featured. There have been  some creative requests. So, feel free to drum up some local supports and let your entire town or neighborhood add spice to your request. I LOVE creativity and am easily swayed by such displays.

And now I must be going, I have cities to destroy, millions to wipe out. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Can you live with it?

Life is all about making mistakes and learning from them. Some can be devastating, but getting to the other side can make you a stronger person. It takes a lot to overcome some of the hurdles that spring up in our path. 

One of the things I learned over the years is that every one of those hurdles can be a defining moment. You just never know which one(s). It is also a hard truth that some of those hurdles are placed in front of us by others.

If you sat down and thought it over, how many hurdles have you placed in the paths of those around you? Sure, some might be very small. Barely a bump in the road as they say. But others can be crippling. 

You might have placed those hurdles quite by accident. If that was the case, did you go back and try to help that person over, or maybe at least slip in and attempt to lower it? And if you did it on purpose, can you live with that? Did you do it out of malice? Jealousy? Or some perceived sense of self-righteousness?

If you took something you thought to be true and used that as the impetus for your actions and later discovered that you were wrong...could you be okay with your actions? Perhaps the easiest way to truthfully decipher that question is to turn the table on yourself and see if you would be okay with having those hurdles thrown up in your path. 

We are a very reactionary society. Much of it (I believe) comes from not having to really ever interact with many of the people we so easily tee off on. Have you ever dealt with somebody in your life and then discovered YOU were the one who had it wrong? How did that feel? And then there are those warnings about being careful what you say since, once it is out of your mouth, (or fingers for this society of keyboard warriors) you can't unsay it.

Really, it can come down to a simple grade school begins with "Do unto others..."

Just remember, if the day comes when you find you are wrong, make sure that all you dished out will fit down your own throat.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Importance of Work by Lee Stephen

Find all your Lee Stephen titles here!
Before I turn this over to author Lee Stephen, I am thrilled to be able to be able to talk about his audio book , Dawn of Destiny. I can already feel a couple of you slump. You just don't want to get into the audio book scene. You want to hold the book in your hand, feel the pages. I get that, seriously. However, if I told you about some really cool radio drama with a cast and music, some of you very same people would be perking up.

That is what you get with Dawn of Destiny, by Lee Stephen. The slick production of the audio version of this book is a real treat. The story is some good old fashioned sci-fi fare like the classic tales we fell in love with. There is an entire universe here and we get a look at a very small part as this first book in the series unfolds. Stephens does an excellent job of introducing us to how thing work here, and his characters are guides as much as anything else.

The narrative is slick, fast paced, and full of enough action to keep you wanting to go on well past your bed time. There are a few times when I found myself stopping to really digest not just the story, but the depth of what was going on in the underlying tones set my Stephen.

Much like the real world we live in, you will meet hard working, and very "human" characters in this story that you can identify with and rally behind. This is not just one action scene on another with space as a back drop. This is a real, fleshed out tale that sucks you in and invites you to stay.

Get it HERE!

We all know the dream. We all have it. Quit the day job and become a full-time writer! It’s what everyone envisions when they set out on their writing journey. We can so easily envision our future selves, looking out the window of a log cabin over a lake, with a laptop on the desk and a coffee in hand. It’s a romanticized look at writing, but it’s one we all aspire to reach someday. And there’s nothing wrong with that! The pitfall comes when we prematurely decide, “now is the time,” and quit our full-time jobs to pursue writing with every fiber of our being and every minute in our day.

You see, there’s a harsh reality about writing as an occupation—and really, this could be said about art in general. It doesn’t pay much. In fact, most people couldn’t live on it for six months. Now, there are a lot of writers out there who sell very, very well, and they’ll be the first people to tell you that yes, it can be done. And it can! But there’s another factor in play that many of them don’t like to admit: that in order to sell very, very well, a certain degree of luck is involved. Now obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Some people are too good to be held down. But by in large, much like getting struck by lightning, a lot of author success has to do with being in the right place at the right time. So what are we to do?

Get a job, and keep a job. There are many writers who consider getting a job “surrendering” to the working world. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is, having a job can supplement your writing. It can give you the capital to pursue big things—to aim high. Editors cost money, designers cost money, cover artists cost money. Quality production can carry a hefty price tag! You want to be able to foot that bill. Because of my day job with Homeland Security, I was able to afford the production cost of a $10,000 audiobook adaptation of Dawn of Destiny, complete with a full cast of 30+ actors and full music and effects. Because I was able to afford that kind of quality without breaking my own personal bank, I was able to produce something that not every author has the financial capability to produce. The result? The Dawn of Destiny audiobook went on to win New Apple’s 2014 Audiobook of the Year and Best New Fiction. None of that would have been possible without my day job. My day job directly benefited my writing career and made certain things possible that wouldn’t have been otherwise.
Get your copy HERE!
But, maybe that’s not enough to keep you from handing in your badge at the workplace. If you’re dead set on quitting the job, at the very least, consider these things:

1. Getting a job is hard in today’s economy. If you have one at all, that’s a blessing.
2. A house note, car notes, and utilities could easily run you $2,000 – 3,000 a month. Food could run you another $500-1,500, depending on family size. Can your book sales guarantee you bring in that much income every month for the rest of your life?
3. What happens if something like the dreaded c-word (cancer) strikes? You’re not talking about a medical bill of a few hundred dollars. A year of treatment could cost well over six figures. Don’t think it can’t happen to you; it happened to me. Health benefits from an employer can literally save you from financial ruin.
4. A couple decades at an employer can ensure you and your family retirement paychecks for the rest of their lives. Though none of us can fathom it now, what happens if one day we don’t feel like writing anymore? Or if the market changes? Is what you have in the bank account right now enough to last forever?
5. What happens if you start a family? Think you’ll still have all the time in the world to write? HA! When you’re spending months sleeping in two-hour increments and using the bathroom with a baby in one hand and your lunch in the other (if you’re a parent, you know this is true), I’ve got news for you…writing is going to go bye-bye real quick. When you have kids, your job actually becomes a break!

Remember that there is nothing wrong or surrender-indicative about having a day job. I have one, and even if my writing skyrockets my bank account to never-before seen heights, I’ll still continue to clock in and clock out with Homeland Security. It’s a steady income, health insurance, and retirement. Why the heck wouldn’t I keep it?
The purpose of this is not to dash dreams. By all means, dream on! It’s what we do best. But take care of yourself financially and alleviate the stress that can come from having to support yourself with writing alone. The best way to do that, and to supplement your writing in the meantime, is with a job. You might find that the “dream life” is closer to the mundane than you think.

So tell me, those of you who write and have full-time jobs, how do you balance your time between the two? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Claire Riley, not just another pretty face.

Okay, I used that tag line to get you to come take a peek. And to be fair, just look at those little cheeks...makes ya wanna pinch 'em.

But seriously, Claire is not only an amazing person and very sweet...she is one of the best female horror writers out there. My dream project would be writing a book with her and Rhonda Hopkins. (Yeah, ladies...just throwing that out there in case you ever get the idea that doing a collaboration would be fun.) Claire recently released her third book in the Odium series. Odium III: The Dead Saga. And if you haven;t read that yet...stop wasting time here with me and grab a copy. Start at the beginning and spend a few days with some real talent.

Want a little peek?

"I reached the first one, side-stepping as it stretched its one bony arm for me. The other arm was barely a nub of bone left jutting out of its socket, yet it still moved. I managed to get behind it and I raised my katana high, slamming it through the back of the deader’s neck before it could turn around. The force of my blow knocked it to its knees but didn’t cut it all the way through, and I grunted as I struggled to wrench the katana free from the thick flesh and bone of its neck. I pressed down, begging the sword not to snap.

Finally the blade cut right through and the head fell from its shoulders with a resounding splat. The body slumped forward with a thud, and thick black gore that smelled like rotten eggs and three-day-old sewage pumped slowly from out of the hole in its neck. The mouth of the head continued to snap, and I slammed my sword through the side of its temple to end the deader’s eternal misery and then I moved on to the next one.

Nova was surrounded by two deaders and the ankle-biter, and I hurried across to help her. I jogged to her side, ignoring my own slow-moving deader, and I stabbed through the ankle-biter’s skull. Ankle-biters were scary, because you never freaking saw them coming. I had drawn the attention of Nova’s two deaders, but she stabbed one in the back of the skull before it could even take a step toward me, and the other followed swiftly afterwards.

I turned back to my one, sidestepping it and letting it follow me until its back was to Nova. She used both knives to hack either side of its neck in one swift movement, and the head popped up into the air like a jumping bean and landed on the ground with a small thud. It was still moving, jaws snapping away as it persistently tried to get to me, and I grimaced. It was possibly once a fairly attractive male. Cloudy blue eyes stared up at me hungrily, its teeth still relatively normal instead of broken and black. Even its skin, though pale and sallow, was still covering a full face, instead of having rotted away in parts, leaving us with a gory view of what lay underneath. I presumed this man had died from injuries other than the more standard facial bites, which were what usually got people killed.

Death brought on the zombie infection, not saliva or blood transference, and a chunk out of the face or neck was almost always a sure killer.

Nova’s boot made contact with the head and sent it flying through the air and into the fields to the left of us. Black blood trailed through the sky in an arc and she whooped and fist-pumped the air.

“Touchdown!” she yelled ridiculously. She raised her hand in an attempt to high five me.

“That’s not cool. You need to go find that head and end it.” I bent down and wiped my blade across the now headless deader’s body, cleaning it free of the gore.

“What? Why?” She bent down and cleaned her knives on a different deader’s back. “You’re just miserable. You’re always miserable, especially when you’re sick,” she huffed.

“You don’t know what I’m like when I’m sick.”

Nova rolled her eyes. “Well you’re sick now, and you’re a moody and miserable, so looks like I was right.”

“Whatever. You can’t leave a dangerous head out in the wild like that. What if someone is walking through here and doesn’t see it? What then? A dangerous head like that could kill someone.” I scowled and stood back up, releasing a hearty sneeze. “Go find the damn head.”

Nova stood back up, giving me a hard glare. “No, you go find the damn head if it’s so important to you.” She turned away and started looking through the pockets of another of the dead bodies at our feet, looking for anything useful. “No one would be stupid enough to walk through a field barefoot anyway. People wear shoes, Nina!” She pocketed several items, not bothering to show me what they were, which only pissed me off more, since we were supposed to be sharing everything.

“That’s a dangerous head, Nova. Go kill it.” I bent back down and started to fumble in my deader’s pockets, finding some gum and a lighter, plus a picture of a pretty woman. The picture did nothing to temper my growing anger. “Do they not deserve any goddamn respect?” I muttered to myself more than her. So I was surprised when Nova replied.

“No, no they don’t. I hate them all and they deserve to die a horrible death.”

My eyes snapped to hers. “You’re being a dick now.”

“Since when did you become a union leader for the Undead Society? These aren’t humans anymore,” she snarled.

So do yourself a favor. Grab Claire's book and be prepared to enjoy.

Claire C Riley is a Bestselling British Horror Author, whose work includes: Odium The Dead Saga – book 1, 2 and 3, Limerence 1& 2 (The Obsession Series) Odium Origins A Dead Saga Novella – book 1, 2 and coming soon 3, and several other full length novels including Thicker Than Blood co-authored with USA Today Best Selling author Madeline Sheehan.

She writes characters that are realistic and kills them without mercy.

Claire lives in the UK with her three young daughters, husband, and scruffy dog.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Too big for your britches.

Portland is a quirky town. They also suffer a bit from an inferiority complex with Seattle to the north and San Francisco to the south. When we get a taste of fame, our town can squeeze it for all it is worth. A few years ago, Voodoo Donut got featured on a Travel Channel episode. Feel free to check it out by clicking the link if you would like.

The thing about VooDoo is that they offer what (when they first began) are a variety of odd and unique donuts. Some have clever names and some can't be mentioned in polite conversations. They are manned by hipster types that have seemed to forget that they are still in some aspect of customer service. They can actually be downright rude. Hey, they are a tourist destination...everybody knows who they they don't have to try any more. Right?

Enter Blue Star Donuts.

Imagine walking in to a donut shop with AMAZING flavors, still manned by the younger, hip types. Only...they are POLITE! They smile, answer questions, and treat you like they actually want you to return. Our first visit assured that it is unlikely that we will ever return to VooDoo. Let the tourists have it. Let them leave thinking that Portlandians are too hip to care if they return. 

When we have friends come in from abroad, we will naturally take them where they want to go, but when they mention VooDoo, we will suggest that they save their money and their appetites. Grab a donut, let the counter person sneer and give a derisive snort if you ask any questions. Then...we will take them to Blue Star. I am confident that they will be converted just as we were that first time we entered the bright, white CLEAN bakery. And we will arrive early. When they run out, the shop closes. Who knew that it was all about quality, taste, and REAL customer service?