I've posted a couple of essays at my website that have never before been available online. The first originally appeared in The Writer, and it explores the difference between fiction and non- by asking questions like, "What if Moby-Dick were a memoir?"
The second is a personal essay about my decision in 2009 not to mention a certain band's name in any of my marketing material. The essay is called "No Refreshments will be Served," and it originally appeared in Pear Noir!
I'm very excited about Brandon Hannifin's take on Hote. He has the gravity of a lead without giving up the neuroses inherent in a character who can't seem to drive onto an onramp. I can't wait to see more of Brandon as Hote.
Hearing Dead Hot Workshop's "Last Train Ride" almost makes me weep every time. No other band--and no other song--so clearly evokes the era for me. If you'd have told me in 1990, as I sat at Long Wong's nursing my pitcher of beer and watching Dead Hot, that I'd write a movie someday about that time and said movie would include "Last Train Ride," I'd've told you to slow down on the drinking there, pal.
Dan Kerege seems to be playing Lance for all the humor he can get out of him. Such an important role with Hote being so damned heavy all the time. I bet a lot of people are going to like this character.
I love the look here on Chris DeGreen's face. Chris plays Gad, who's a sort of super ego to the other two Fun Yungers. I've no doubt Chris--a lead singer in his own right--knows how to keep his sidemen in line.
If this movie is about two moments, one is right here, where Lola, played by Kat Bingham, drops the opportunity of a lifetime on Hote. Kat clearly knows what she's doing with Lola, and you can tell sparks are gonna fly between these two.
Second moment: "So what's it like, having people actually show up?" Every rock musician in Tempe in 1990 knew this feeling. Probably every rock musician in the history of the world ever.
Kudos to those who spotted the "Dare to Keep Kids off Drugs" T-shirt in the audience.
Big thanks to Producer Nico Holthaus, Elijio Ramirez and Rick Rothen for this time machine of a trailer.
Watching my friend Greg Robillard use Kickstarter to fund his most recent book project has me thinking I could do the same with my finished Novel 3 Badge. There are a few reasons why this can't happen now, but the main one is this: I've already participated heavily in a Kickstarter campaign this year for Stuck Outside of Phoenix the Movie, and I wouldn't feel right asking for funds for a new project before this last one is complete. We're all hoping that completion will happen soon.
The one thing I really like about Kickstarter-style campaigns is the shortening of the cycle of bringing a project to market. In one swoop, you get a project funded, notify your core audience of it, and get paid. The thing I don't like about it is that most of the money for the project would come before the project is finished, which could make me lazy about production and promotion post-Kickstarter. That would be a demon I'd have to fight.
Still, once Stuck the Movie is out, a Kickstarter or similar campaign for Badge isn't out of the question. Not eminent, but not out of the question. I'll keep you posted.
This past week, my short story "Blameless" became my first ever published short story when Bartleby Snopes ran it at their web site. Bartleby Snopes runs eight stories a month, and at the end of each month you can vote for your favorite.
I've gotten into the spirit of this, and as of right now I'm second in voting. Today is the second to last day to vote. If you haven't already, could you take a few seconds and go vote for "Blameless" at this link? It very easy, and it means I'll be in Bartleby Snopes's year-end pdf, where they compile all the stories that win.
But the real winner is you if you decide to take a few minutes and read "Blameless" and the other October stories.
In 1992 I submitted a short story to five literary magazines. It was called "But God is a Deaf Old Fellow," and it was about the owner of a farm implement plant trying to bribe a minister into forgiving his sins. The story was never published.
This past week (20 years later!) saw my first ever short story published by a literary magazine. The story is called "Blameless," and it's about what happens when your drummer's girlfriend takes a shining to you. You can read the story online right now at Bartleby Snopes.
Last year I promised Badgewould be released in 2013 at the latest. My thinking was, if nothing else, I'll self-publish it, which is what I did with both Ghost Notes and Stuck Outside of Phoenix. I've proudly self-pubbed for about a decade now, and I believe deeply in it as a means of communicating from writer to reader. If you don't believe that, look at the subheading of this blog.
Still, I've decided I will not self-publish Badge.
There are a number of reasons for this, which you'll no doubt be reading about in future essays, but let me outline the main one for you.
Whenever a book goes out into the world, there are three basic tasks:
1) Writing the book (Writer)
2) Publishing the book (Publisher)
3) Promoting the book (Publicist)
As a DIY publisher, I've worn all three of these hats for both of my published novels, and by and large I've loved it. I've loved the challenge of trying to be a good publisher, which involves editing and proofreading and formatting the book. I've also loved booking readings and getting reviews and working social media, things ideally done by a publicity person. I've had some success, found some readers, won an award, sold some books. I don't regret any of it. It was an amazing way to learn the publishing industry.
But after a decade, I've come to realize that, while I did a good job for someone who is basically an writer wearing publisher and promoter hats, I'm really a writer who wears those other hats out of necessity. These past few months, as I've gotten closer and closer to having to address some of the publisher/promoter tasks associated with Badge, it's become clear I don't have the energy to wear all those hats anymore. I know exactly what it takes to make a self-published book go, and I'm past the point of being able to do it. (And short the $ to have others do it for me.)
So, what does that mean for the publication of Badge?
It means I have to find others to help me with these tasks. Finding these special folks could happen tomorrow, or it could happen years from now. Either way, it's my only real option at this point; I'd do Badge--a novel I've worked on for six years--a disservice if I didn't feel I could give it my all in every facet of the game. This novel (and every novel I write) means too much to me, so I'm not going to start shortchanging them now.
Know that I'm constantly looking for others to help me publish and promote Badge, and that I will loudly update you--here and elsewhere--when I know more about its eventual publication. Until then, know I'm searching.
First of all, the editor of Stuck Outside of Phoenix the Movie has fallen ill, which means the Nov. 5th premiere date will be impossible to make. No new date has been set. Please send all available good vibes, and I'll keep you updated here.
The movie version of Stuck Outside of Phoenix is being edited as we speak, and it's looking ready to premiere in Tempe in early November. Three or four possible premiere dates are being thrown around, with a lot of variables affecting the choice. It's very possible it will wind up between Nov. 1 and Nov. 12.
Also, a new trailer is expected to arrive this week. Keep your eyes peeled to Facebook and elsewhere for that.
It's hard to believe I'll be watching a movie version of Stuck Outside of Phoenix in less than two months. Very surreal. I first brought this project up to Nico Holthaus in May of 2010. That's about two and a half years from conception to (God willing) fruition. For me, that's major quick. I quit the Refreshments in 1998. Stuck the Novel came out in 2003. Ghost Notes and Songs from Memory came out in 2008...You can see how long it takes me to finish a major project. That something this big and complicated is getting done in half that time is a testament to Nico, and to everyone in the cast and crew for doing what it takes.
As part of the incentive package for contributing to Stuck the Movie's Kickstarter campaign, many of you got a copy of my second novel Ghost Notes, and I've been pleased a few times this past week as people have reached out to let me know they've read and dug the novel. This was totally unexpected, and totally welcome. It's nice to know people who wouldn't have otherwise read Ghost Notes got a chance to because of the movie. One more reason for me to be thankful.
Speaking of Stuck the Movie: Nico and co. are on track to have it edited and ready for a Tempe premiere in late October. See you there!
Ladies and gentlemen, here's the final installment of my seven-part summer-long exploration of a 1982 Van Halen YouTube concert video. This project meant a lot to me, and I hope you like it. If you want, you can start at Part I and work your way through from the beginning.
Also, some of the people who donated to Stuck the Movie's Kickstarter campaign are now receiving their incentives in the mail. Of course, not everyone's package is ready because rewards like the Stuck the Movie DVD aren't finished, but some of the other ones went out this week. Once again, thank you to those who donated, and thank you Nico for once again following through.
I have a piece forthcoming in Issue Eight of Pear Noir!, which is a very cool lit mag out of Pennsylvania that features great writing. Mine is an essay called "No Refreshments Will Be Served," and it's about the two-year span from 2009-2011--while promoting my second novel Ghost Notes and my solo CD Songs from Memory--when I didn't mention anything in my press releases or elsewhere that I'd been in the Refreshments. Pear Noir! publishes only 500 copies of each issue, so if you have to read this, it's best to order it before it comes out. You can order it here.
Also, producer Nico is setting up the editing phase of Stuck Outside of Phoenix the Movie, and right now he's drowning in issues of computer failure, amongst other things. Lots of data, and keeping it all in order is proving quite the headache. Wish him luck, and hopefully the movie will still be ready in September.
Much to look forward to in Part II of 2012. Namely, Stuck Outside of Phoenix the Movie is scheduled for a September 2012 premier in the Valley. That's going to be a blow-out. Keep it in mind as you think about your plans for the fall.
Producer Nico Holthaus is waiting for some funding to come through for the editing process, and he should know something within two weeks. For now, he continues the behind-the-scenes work necessary to make this movie a reality. Hard to believe it's come this far, but there are hurtles to jump before it's finished. It's slated for a September release in Tempe.
Also, I'm proud to have another piece in The Writer magazine this month. This one
explores the difference between fiction and nonfiction, posing questions like: What if Moby-Dick were a memoir? Available at most bookstores.
I had the pleasure this past week of seeing some of the dailies of Stuck Outside of Phoenix the Movie. Dailies are very raw footage from the cameras of the various takes. Of course it's hard to tell exactly what the movie will be like from this, but it's obvious the thing looks beautiful, the actors really know what they're doing, and the concert scenes are a lot of fun. It's very exciting to think the film is going to look this good and be of this quality.
Editing is the next step, which should start soon, and Nico is still shooting for a fall 2012 release. You know I'll keep you posted.
I spent about six months writing a 12,000-word essay on a Van Halen concert from 1982 I stumbled upon at YouTube. Part I of this seven-part essay, "In Search of Lost Rock," went up this past week at The Nervous Breakdown, and I'd be pleased as punch if you read it. I'll be posting Part II in a week or so. Get on this one early, and take a ride down Memory Lane with me this summer.
For a while now I've wanted to write about the nature of fiction. In light of some of the things that have been said about Stuck Outside of Phoenix the Movie, now seems a good time.
When someone writes about anything, he can draw from exactly three places. He can write:
A) facts; for example, "George Washington was the first president of the United States;"
things he's experienced or that people have told him; for example,
"When I was seven I went to Florida on vacation," "Bob said he fought
in the Vietnam war," etc.; or
C) things he makes up; for example, "A man from Mars came to dinner last night."
three areas aren't just the primary places writers pull from, they're
the only places she can pull from. If someone can name another place
where a writer can draw from to write, please let me know.
let's call these three places a writer's palette. If I'm going to write something, I'm going to draw from them.
They're the only choices I have.
If I draw my material entirely from category A, facts, what kind
of work would I be creating? Nonfiction for sure, right? Probably
How about Category B, things I've
experienced or been told about? The material from this category is probably most
closely aligned with memoir.
And Category C, things from my imagination? That's where fiction comes from, right?
Wrong, or at least incomplete.
notion that fiction comes (entirely) from the imagination is inaccurate. Sure, much of fiction comes from made up things, like my Martian friend, but a
good dose of fiction comes from the first two categories as well. We can't help but draw from facts, and things we've experienced or
heard about, when we write fiction.
Imagine sitting down and trying to write entirely from your imagination. Look at my fictional
sentence above: "A man from Mars came to dinner last night." Didn't
happen, totally made up, and yet look at the concepts within the
sentence. "Man," "Mars," "dinner," "last night." These are all things
that come from fact or things I've learned about through experience.
Even fictional categories like science fiction and fantasy can't avoid elements
from our world. If they did, we wouldn't be able to understand them.
So, the real world is always a big player in any fictional one.
In light of this, why would someone choose to write fiction? This is where
the painter's palette metaphor comes in handy. If you write history
or memoir, you're limiting the possibilities of things you can use in
your writing. For example, you can't say, "A man from Mars came to
dinner last night." (Unless of course he did.) In these two genres, there are
colors on your palette you simply can't use. You might want to, but
you're writing in a category that doesn't allow it. You can see the red
there on your palette, but you can only use yellow and blue.
But if you're writing fiction, you can choose any
color you want: red or blue or yellow, or combinations of the three. This is the beauty of fiction.
Not only is fiction the most
liberating category (for me), I also believe it's where the
richest stories come from. I could name a few hundred examples, but I suspect you can fill these in.
stated many times that the novel--and the screenplay based on the novel--are fictions, but if you
think fiction consists of things that are entirely made up, you might not believe my claim. "Wait, I recognize elements of this person," or "I remember that club," etc. When I call things
fictions, I'm not claiming I made them all up. I'm saying I'm drawing from all three
of the above categories throughout.
Why would I do that? Why wouldn't I just give
you the story of my life in the Tempe music scene in the early 1990s
and be done with it? Because I wanted to tell the best story, and
frankly, the story of my early 1990s in the Tempe music scene isn't all
that compelling. As a writer, I don't want to waste the reader's time. It tends to make them testy.
So, I write fiction because I want to write with the largest palette, which in my opinion creates the best stories.
There are of course other, more nefarious reasons to write
fiction. You could want to get back at people by using elements of
their personalities in your fictional characters, and portraying these
characters in some negative light. This happens, and I suppose there are always going to
be people who want to believe it's happening with Stuck. People will think whatever they want to think, and I can't claim perfection, but with
Stuck--both the novel and screenplay--I tried simply to tell the best
story I knew how to tell at the time, using the categories above. Producer Nico Holthaus and I agreed early on that Stuck the Movie would be the story of a kid trying to get out of Tempe--with the Tempe music scene of the early 1990s as a backdrop--and would not be a dig at anyone or anything.
So read Stuck, or (soon) watch the movie, and if you
notice elements of the real world in them, don't assume it's meant to represent or reflect upon those elements in the real
world. Like a painter who mixes blue and yellow to make green,
it's more complicated than that.
Big thanks and congrats are due to the Stuck Outside of Phoenix the Movie cast and crew. They wrapped the shooting of the film on May 4th (my birthday!), and I can't tell you what a relief that is to me, and no doubt to Nico Holthaus, who's been running the thing from the beginning. Thank you, Nico, and everyone who expended so much to help make this movie happen. The story now is as much yours as it is mine.
What's next? The movie has to be edited, and Nico is wrestling with his options for this phase. The plan is still to have something for you to see by the fall of this year. As you might know, I take forever to write a novel, so that this thing might be done in about two years from its inception is mind-bogglingly quick from my vantage. I think I like this movie thing.
I'll continue to keep you apprized at this blog of further Stuck the Movie developments. But know it's coming, and sooner rather than later.
This one goes out to the folks who donated at least $19 for Stuck Outside of Phoenix the Movie via our Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns, and to any other Tempean who has Wednesday night free. Folks, we need you.
Okay, if you want to be in an extra in one of Stuck Outside of Phoenix the Movie's big concert scenes, the date and location have been set. It will happen on May 2nd, all day and all night, at Rocky Point Cantina, which is at the old Sun Club location of 1001 E 8th St. in Tempe. If you want to come, you should sign up here. Be prepared to wear your pre-1992 clothes, make-up and hairstyles (break out the Faith No More T-shirt). And if you have a pre-1992 vehicle, it will likely be in the film too. So, sign up, tell your friends, and get ready to party like it's 1992!
First and foremost, Stuck Outside of Phoenix the Movie is into its second week of filming. Nico and co. have shot in places like Hote's car, the convenience store where Lola works, and an indie stand-in for the Waffle House. According to the schedule, this week promises more Hote and Lola scenes and/or Hote and band scenes.
I can't tell you how much fun it is to watch my novel come to life. I've seen only random pics on Facebook, and it's very surreal each time. It's like I'm on some expensive designer drug. I'm definitely not in Kansas anymore.
Most importantly, Stuck Outside of Phoenix the Movie is still on track to start shooting on April 7th. That's this week! It's a Nico miracle we made it this far. I'll keep you posted here on developments as the shooting progresses.
Secondly, I get asked occasionally if/when the Refreshments' debut album Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy will go gold. For those unfamiliar with gold record status, it's when an album has shipped 500,000 copies from the record company to retailers (or at least that's what it used to be). No one know for sure except the record company (in our case, Mercury) how many units an album has shipped. That zero records "ship" in digital form makes everything even more confusing.
So, I have no real idea if we're at or close to gold, but that hasn't kept me from speculating in the past at this very blog. My go-to person on these subjects is John Principale, who works at CBS radio and is a fan of the band. It's been five years since we last explored the issue, so here's the latest on Fizzy, according to Soundscan, which supposedly tracks about 90 percent of all album sales. Take it away, John.
Fizzy has sold a total of 386,453 [Soundscan] units to date. Back in 2007 it was showing as 374,790, so you’re looking at 11,663 sold in the past 5 years alone. For those 5 years, it breaks down to approximately 2,300 copies per year and about 44 copies per week. That number actually holds pretty true. Check out the last month:
Of the total 386,543, I’m seeing 42,558 cassettes (8 more than last time!), 332,777 CDs, and 11,074 digital. Year to date sales for 2012 are 453, with 432 of those coming digitally. Top 10 markets for sales since 2/27/96 are as follows:
Phoenix: 40,168 (30 copies in the past 4 weeks) Denver: 12,300 (6) New York: 11,671 (1) Boston: 10,798 (5) Los Angeles: 10,797 (1) Portland: 9,613 (3) Atlanta: 9,485 (0) Chicago: 8,720 (3) Detroit: 8,196 (1) Philadelphia: 8,078 (2)
Looking at your old blog [post], it seems the order remains unchanged except for Portland and Atlanta swapping places. There’s also a field in the report that’s simply labeled “Tracks,” which I’m thinking could be digital downloads of individual songs. They obviously need to keep separate track of this number to pay Apple, the labels, and maybe the artists. This box shows 374 for this week, 3,877 for 2012 year to date, and 123,624 release to date.
Thanks again, John.
Fascinating, eh? If Soundscan is listing 386,453 sales, and Soundscan is still considered 90 percent of the market, then that would put the total shipped of Fizzy at something like 430,000 albums, which is still 70k short of where we need to be to be certified gold. So, not yet.
And only Mercury knows for sure.
The good news is the album continues to sell, and at this point probably will continue to do so. Still, no one should be holding their breath waiting for it to go gold.
And if you're one of those eight folks in the last five years who bought Fizzy on cassette, shoot me an email explaining your rationale.
After fifteen years of working with Hote, Lance and Gad, I had my first conversation with them on Friday.
Yes, I chatted on the phone with the actors who are playing these three characters in Stuck Outside of Phoenix the Movie. The "band" was rehearsing lines and playing music over at Nico's, and I got a chance to chat with each. I didn't really know what to say aside from "thank you," but all three seemed intelligent and funny and anxious to make a great movie. What should I have said to them? What would you say?
In other news, more sources of badly needed funding for the movie are surfacing, which is a necessity and a godsend. More on these as they become realities.
We're still looking for a Waffle House-like restaurant and Circle K-like convenience store whose owners want to be part of Tempe music and movie history. Shoot me a line if you know someone who might be interested.
Also this past week, our producer Nico Holthaus worked diligently on budgeting. The movie will cost $30k.We have a little over $20k. Nico hopes to raise the rest soon, with the help of places like Phoenix Art Museum. As always, never be shy to let me know if you have a lead on someone who might be able to help with $. Again, email me.
Perhaps Nico's biggest casting challenge has been finding Gad. This is for myriad reasons, but mostly because of the unique combination of traits the actor needs to be able to deliver. Here's a list of Gad traits off the top of my head:
Still, Nico lined up a few potential Gads for tryouts last Wednesday, and I'm happy to say we now have a Gad. That means the last of the major roles is filled, as well as most of the minor ones. It's safe to say we have a cast.
I have a few more edits to do to the script, and the actors will be working with each other over the next few weeks learning their parts. Shooting starts in early April.
And Spring Training started too. Things are heating up in the desert.
First of all, in all the movie hub-bub, I forgot to post a link here to a recently published piece of mine. It's called "The Year I Lost Math,"
and it's about my first year of college, when my math ability abandoned
me and I was forced to scrabble for identity. PANK did the honors this time. For those of you who liked
some of my more personal stuff at The Nervous Breakdown, you'll like this piece.
this, there's still a great deal of concern about financing--like, do
we have enough. If you'd care to donate to the cause, there's an ongoing
campaign at Indiegogo
where you can donate. The cool thing about this campaign is there is no
minimum goal; all donations will go to the movie no matter what the
final tally is. So, if you'd like to donate, please do.
has finished two casting calls, plus a little get-together with
the lead actors and some musical instruments at his place. As of this moment, we
have a Hote, a Lola, a Lance, and Nico is going to play Digs.
We're working hard to nail down the few final roles, but having so many
principles pegged already is a big load off. I've seen the head
shots and resumes, and I'm thrilled we're getting such quality actors.
Nico even found a couple who are so good we need to find roles
for them, so I'll be spending the next few days expanding current parts,
or writing in new ones. It's going to be fun to watch these folks develop into the characters.
Next, Nico focuses on fun, sexy stuff like budget,
insurance, and no doubt a hundred other things. Actual shooting begins
in (gulp) March.
And last but not least, my longtime friend and cohort Jim Gerke is back in action in Tempe. Yep, the Gerkester is teaming up with David Rhodes (Phil Rhode's little bro) to bring you a night of solo acoustic euphoria at the Tempe Tavern tonight and every Monday night. Jim is one of my favorite singers in the world, and it's great to hear he's back where he belongs, which is entertaining you folks. The tunes start at 8:30. If I were in AZ, I'd be there.
That's it. I'm going to try to post a Stuck the Movie update here every Monday. Be sure to check back.