Wayland: A Concert Review

December gets pretty packed over at Wicked Lil Pixie. Not to mention that I am usually elbows and assholes into an edit between holiday event breaks. But that doesn’t sate the need I have been feeling to do reviews. So, why not review the last concert I went to?

photo courtesy of Nico Zammuto*

photo by Nico Zammuto*

There could be one reason, which I will offer up in the spirit of full transparency. I’m a fan of Wayland. I have seen then more in the last year and a half than any other concerts put together during my “concert hiatus.” Still I feel my familiarity with their show gives me a different perspective on the concert this past weekend.

To give you an idea on just how much I wanted to make the show, I will lay it out for you. It was my 22nd anniversary. My wife had asked if I would mind her going to her mother’s holiday party with her, though (spoiler alert) I think she was going to regret missing this show. It was colder than sin and half as fun in Wisconsin that night, and on the road to getting worse. It was about a 40 minute drive to the place. And finally I was on my cane from the unfortunate fight I had with a patch of ice that shifted my knee out of joint. So hobbled, cold, dressed in my Band Camp shirt and Reno hoodie, and I went to the bar.

The opening acts were all good. I may do reviews on them later, especially Left of Reason. They have a weird karmic link with Wayland for me that isn’t that unusual, but I have little belief in coincidence. Sufficed to say, they were all solid and fit into the styles of music for the night. To large of a divergence from the style of the headliner is jarring for me. This wasn’t.

photo by Nico Zammuto*

photo by Nico Zammuto*

During the show, I would check Twitter from time to time between songs. Watch for my wife texting me that she was heading home from Milwaukee. And of course, to see that Wayland was making an appearance at Toys for Tatas at Silk Exotic. Easily the same 40 or so minutes away from the club as I had driven. That let a schedule looking somewhat like this:

7:00 National Anthem at the Janesville Jets game
??? Appearance at Silk Exotic for Toys for Tatas in Madison
11:00 take the stage at the Back Bar (back in Janesville)

And y’all thought I was insane going from 5am until after the concert was over. These guys were swinging for the fences just in the scheduling. And totally nailed it.

When they hit the stage, the show took on a different tone from the first three bands. Even more surprising, was that it took on a different tone for me than previous Wayland shows. Everyone was out and in place other than Mitch, the lead singer. Once they dropped into the song, he came out on stage, leading with his voice. Even more so than his singing, there was the power and presence. As if building up the energy f0r the show at the last minute, he paces. Quickly. It’s like seeing a lion or a tiger at the zoo stalking along the glass. A contained energy that seems to be on the edge of breaking out.

photo by Nico Zammuto*

photo by Nico Zammuto*

Now this isn’t to say that he was bouncing around like a teen with ADD jacked up on Monster energy drinks. Because during the ballad style songs he would level, being still and letting the lyrics and music do the heavy lifting. Like when he was solo on the stage singing a new song they recorded called “Follow.” Though someone in the audience called it “the stalker song.” Mitch replied with, “If she turns around, it’s not stalking.” And with a smile on his face said, “Yeah, it’s the stalker song.”

Keep in mind that whole exchange wasn’t a heckler. It was more of an in-joke. Something for those fans who have seen them live. A lot. On stage or over YouTube is the only way to have heard Follow as it hasn’t released yet. Which is how they do it. I saw that in the changes to the song Reno from the first time they played it on WJJO at a Sound Lounge from when it released. Writing it on the road means revising it on the road. Perfecting it. Though I can’t really see much that could be changed with Follow. It is a strong song with a compelling story.

Keep in mind that many of the folks who are coming to the shows have seen them before. They’ve bought the CDs. Many of them could sing the songs from memory. I have several in my writing playlists, so I know I can. The band knows this. Reno is currently the #1 requested song on WJJO, the rock station in Madison, WI. During their performance of it, Mitch was kind of taunting the audience to sing it. He held out the mic towards the audience at the pivotal line of “one road out of Reno.” Several times. It was more of a party with friends than a concert from your favorite band.

photo by Nico Zammuto*

photo by Nico Zammuto*

Though when the section came during several songs for a guitar solo, it was clearly a rock and roll show. Tyler and Dean had the solid beat and baseline going. The foundation with which a really great song can be built on. That allowed Phill, the lead guitarist to pull out the stops on a devastating guitar solo. Halfway through what was his best playing of the night it struck me how much it was like opening the doors to the stable on a wild horse and saying, “go play.” Watching the notes run and jump their way through the song. When Mitch pointed him out at the pause in the music before the end of the song, it seemed like even he was taken aback by it.

There are two final notes I have from the show. Two things that really set this band above others like them. Aside from the writing, the stage presence, the work ethic and their talent, there is more that sets them at the head of the pack. With all of their gifts, it could all fall apart if it wasn’t for one simple fact – they perform like they are a team. If something if off on the sound, even during a song, one of the others will catch the eyes of the sound tech and get them to adjust without breaking the song.

But there is something else that has less to do with their concerts, their music, and more to do with their fans. Much like other entertainers in other genres have done, they engage their fans. They stick around after the show to take pictures, have drinks, help the fans get the shirts and CDs they want. Autograph things for them. Hell, I’ve seen one fan with tattoos of their autographs signed on her shoulders. Around the Wayland logo Tyler had drawn on for her. And on December 7th, their table was packed at the end of the night.

I had picked up my shirt right after the last song. It’s my way of tracking how many shows I’ve been at. In addition to my way of supporting the band and keeping them on the road. I honestly feel that this crazy tour schedule (dubbed Always on Tour) of theirs is working for them. It was a really good show before. This week was a killer show. A face melter. I figure there were as many people packed in that bar as there was when they played Redneck Reunion Fest there a couple months back.

I considered sticking around to say hello to them if nothing else. My Warrior Wall at home already has a signed photo and signed guitar from them. (Got the guitar from the Band Camp VIP pass.) So I left it up to those I went with. I just knew that if I made my way up and into the people around the table, someone would knock my cane out from under me. And after four hours on my feet, I didn’t know how well that would have went. I did get a bit of a grin heading out to warm up the truck for the others watching the fans who were up there and the band interacting.

For me that is what makes a concert more of a show. There are good concerts, but then there are shows. And this was a show. In all the right ways. Totally five star rating, well worth seeing live. And they are really best seen live.


*Full photo accreditation: Nico Zammuto is one of Wayland’s biggest fans. And she was up at the front of the stage, taking pictures. Doing everything I cannot. She graciously agreed to allow me the use of her photos (which I found due to the band posting one of them). You can find all of her photos on her Facebook page. Including some of the other bands. Especially the holiday surprise Left of Reason brought out for their last song.

NaNoWriMo Prep – Non-Gazebo Edition

This is the first in my “get your ass ready” series of posts for my own benefit. Listing out what I personally need as a writer. You can attempt to follow my example, but results may vary. Or as I hear often enough in writing conferences to make it mantra… damn near dogma…

This is what works for ME. Find what works for you and run with it.

Bug-Out-Bag-homeThe first step in preparing a NaNoWriMo Survival Kit is pretty similar to setting up a Bug Out Bag for the zombie apocalypse. Identify what you need and start gathering them together. At one point all the stuff for my BOB rested in a single place. That only lasts for so long. Stuff migrates in Casa de Zombie. Usually not by my doing. Sometimes, but not usually.

There are two quotes that I have yet to get stitched onto my shoulder bag that I use for NaNo. Both form the Double Rainbow that is the theme of my writing experience in either NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo. They are…

You don’t need Neil Gaiman’s Fucking Gazebo.


Writing a novel is like making love to a gorilla. You’re not done until the gorilla’s done.

One was made PG in final edits (though the URL is still R), and the other is a quote from Craig Ferguson on novel writing. I am not PG, and I don’t choose who inspires me. So you get what you get.

neils-gazeboAs such, the two quotes present a dichotomy of sorts. Primarily, the act of preparing a Public Authorin’ Kit in itself is the definition of the gazebo. But at the same time is essential (for me) to succeed in the program. At least it isn’t building an actual gazebo. In additional, no matter what the challenge states, 50,000 words isn’t a full novel in my genre. Meaning that even once I hit that goal, “the gorilla isn’t finished.”

My plan is to get a nice bag set up with at least the gorilla quote after my first real sale. As I have a short story out there on submission, this could happen soon. But I won’t be holding my breath. For this year, I have my bag set out and ready to be stocked. I’ll be doing that this weekend since Halloween is pretty full this year.

After the pre-NaNo meet ups this week (also known as the Plotting Party), I’ll have an idea what I am writing. That means I will be able to load a playlist of music that will outline my story. Likely including the anthems for both the hero and the villain. Hell, in at least one of the ideas I am dancing with, those anthems may be the same songs.

I’m going out on a limb and will predict that the playlist for this project will contain at least one song from Wayland, one from Bobaflex, and probably one from Halestorm. In This Moment is a coin toss. Most of their music really needs a specific story or character to fit in. I’ve also been collecting up a lot of Nonpoint and Otep thanks to the influence of Biatch from the morning show. I may thank her by showing up at the station with donuts Halloween morning in my zombie clown getup.

So Step 1 is setting up the playlist, purchasing the music (if needed) and loading my iPod.  This is the kicking off point for all of my writing projects. At least the novel length ones. Poems and short stories are another issue entirely.

What music are you setting your story to? Or are you the kind of writer that needs quiet? Maybe experiment with it this NaNo.

An Open Letter to @WJJO


Many of my posts over the last year or so have been about music. Something about setting up a playlist for a story I am working on just clicked. It kept my mind focused while writing, and gave a real cohesion to the project. At the same time I became more involved in the music scene around my home town. I went to more concerts than I had in decades. I went to a couple of Sound Lounges at WJJO, the local rock station. I petitioned the help of morning show newsperson (and fellow zombie fanatic) Dee in coordinating a rock playlist for Under the Hood. And I went to remotes the show did. Beer, swag and music? What’s not to love, right?

rockfestAt one of these (a scavenger hunt of all things) I won a pair of day passes to Rock Fest in Cadott, WI. This past weekend my wife and I took our day up there, getting a hotel room to avoid camping on site. This was an extraordinary idea, but I will get to that later. In short, we chose to go Thursday. The first two days had the bands I was most interested in, but Thursday had both Aranda and Halestorm. And while I had seen Aranda at the Acoustic New Year (I wasn’t kidding about hitting the local music scene), I had yet to see Halestorm live. And what with me using a couple of their songs on the second Hood Series project, it made sense that I should go to see them.

umbrella-rockfestI was a little concerned by the fact the weather report was showing a heat advisory, with the index pushing close to triple digits, and thunderstorms starting around the same time Halestorm was supposed to take the stage. And no, the irony wasn’t lost on me there. But as I had sat in the rain during Bratfest to see Wayland, I figured I could easily do the same for Halestorm. Also, we were paying for the hotel either way. So I packed an extra full set of dry clothes (just in case) and we drove up.

The drive was fairly uneventful. We stopped for gas and sodas. As we got closer, we stopped for coffee. My wife, getting her directions mixed up, told me to turn the wrong way for McDonalds. She loves their coffee. Me, not so much. But we were “up nort” as some of the folks up that way put it. Still, as we were going the wrong way anyhow, we stopped in to the cheese, liquor and antiques shop behind the gas station with the Arby’s in it. They claimed to have espresso. Surprisingly, they did and it wasn’t that bad.

rockfest-lightsWhy do I bring this up? I discuss this as only my wife can turn me the wrong way for coffee and wind up finding a vintage blowtorch and wrench for her steampunk costume. I am not even kidding. McDonalds would have been cheaper. Though, in her defense… the pieces she picked up were really awesome looking.

Getting to the motel at around 1:00, they had told us we could get our keys early so we can get in after the concerts. Of course they just allowed us to check in early since the room was open. Which was awesome. We got to unpack the truck, rest a bit and then head out to the show. They opened the gates at 3:00, so we had some time.

aranda-pointsIt was a pretty easy process to get in, get out wristbands and park for the day. And so we stood in line to get in. It was at this point I noticed the majority of the people were either in shorts and no shirt or women wearing bikini tops. That made the notice at the gas station that women had to wear something over their bikini tops make more sense. It made things painfully evident that the crowd was looking pretty similar to the crowds we used to get at Festa Italia. Crowds that I think we have lost the ability to draw in, but are working on bringing back.

Also, it honestly made me feel even more old than the grey in my beard did. 😉

aranda-singsRobin took her camera and went into the photo line to go up and take pictures when Aranda took the stage as the opening act. I stuck behind on the lawn with the camera bag. I figured the less space we took up there, the better chance she would have to take pictures. Turns out I was probably right. It was just before this we figured out that we should have brought camper chairs. In the immortal words of Rick Perry, “Oops.”

She came back to where I was standing on the lawn with a number of excellent shots. She wasn’t sure, but she thought that Gabe might have been hamming it up for the camera a bit. Which of course made for some of the best shots. During the rest of their set we picked up some water, grabbed drink tickets for the day and sat in the Leinies Lodge to listen to the rest of the set.

aranda-playsFast forward a couple of beers, several waters and Dickey’s BBQ later and we are spending a half hour between All That Remains (which was a pretty hard core set as well, much different than Aranda, but still good) and Halestorm sitting in the truck for the AC. No clouds on the horizon yet, so we may get lucky. Once heading back in to the festival to grab another drink before Halestorm takes the stage though we get hit by the wind. I don’t mean a breezy day wind, either. I am talking a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” kind of wind. Nothing damaging. At least not to structures.

halestorm-hitting-itThe storms avoided us, but what it did do is kick up the pollen. And around these parts, at this time of the year, that can totally mean snake weed. Not sure the scientific name, but it is a white ditch weed that had been used back before pharma-days to treat snake bites. In my case, it kicks me on my ass. Seriously, it is like zombie-boy kryptonite. By the time we were into Seether’s set I was in the middle of my worst allergy attack in a decade.

That said, Halestorm’s set was pretty awesome. Right before playing American Boys/Rock Show, she picked out a kid (probably around 8 or so) in the front area with his parents rocking out. Seriously, the kid was throwing up the horns and everything. Arejay brought out the “big sticks” during his drum solo. I swear it was like he was kicking the shit out of his kit with a pair of escrima fighting sticks.

joe-rockingRobin hung out and took a bunch of pictures (likely for longer than she should have, but that’s the reason you bring an SLR with huge ass lenses to the show). She didn’t get a picture of the “big sticks” but plenty of shots, including a couple with Lzzy playing in front of the drums, managing to get both her and Arejay in some shots. And most importantly, I was able to sit and watch them play the two songs on my Hood Series playlist for book two. Two of the three theme songs I set for my pissed off villain in the book.

Like putting the paddles to the muse.

lzzy-hornsEven with the allergy attack kicking my ass all the way to Sunday… (hell, I’m still recovering) I had a hell of a time. The people at WJJO have reinvigorated my muse and my love of music. Live music. There is a difference between good music and a band that puts on a show. And honestly this is one of the best prizes I have won from various contests and drawings. Ranks right up there with the Kindle Fire that is an invaluable tool for doing my reviews.

If you’re in the Wisconsin area (Madison specifically) and are into rock and roll, this is the station to listen to. It is also one of the places to check out for live music in the area. They book it, promote it and keep it going. Listen to them, support them, because art isn’t just photos, paintings and storytelling. It’s cupcakes, decorated and flavored to your theme or book. It’s live music, especially if it is a show and not just a band.

And to the staff over at JJO, I can’t thank you enough. See you at Band Camp!

Only One Road In…

Mitch Arnold of Wayland

Mitch Arnold of Wayland

“There’s only one road in and one road out of Reno.”

-Wayland, Reno

So I have been have working through further posts on my playlists. Part of what is halting me is Camp NaNoWriMo. Everything seems to take back-burner when you are writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days with a 40 hour a week day job. Also it seems to be the heart of concert season. Shown by the fact that I went to yet another concert for Wayland. This time in Janesville.

Okay, honestly it was a miniature music festival called Redneck Fest Reunion. Even though the later part of the night we were there for seemed decidedly non-redneck in nature, who were we to argue? The last three bands to play were Wayland, Royal Bliss and Bobaflex. A deal for the $10 at the door to get in.

Phill showing the guitar who's boss

Phill showing the guitar who’s boss

I know, get to the point. Part of the point was to share the photos my wife took at the event. Yes, every photo on this page was taken by Mrs. Zombie with her new SLR camera. We bought it last year to replace the first digital Rebel we bought her, with all the lenses being compatible. As we were closer than at the Acoustic New Year, she managed to get some awesome shots.

The other reason is to do my part to get #RENO trending. Reno is their latest single that releases on iTunes and the radio in the next couple of weeks. Honestly, I think this is one of their best songs. Ranks right up there with Welcome To My Head for me. WJJO already has an acoustic recording from the last sound lounge they did over there. In theory you can request it now. Once it releases, I am sure they will be playing it light crazy. But requests never hurt.

If you’re not from Madison, direct your station to their YouTube channel for a preview and the contact for them. For the acoustic version of Reno, link to this video below…

Now, you may ask yourself if Mitch is really singing Reno in the photo at the top. I am pretty sure he was. Like 83% sure he was.

Tyler Coburn of Wayland

Tyler Coburn of Wayland

Even though I have put their songs on the playlists for several of my stories under construction, you may also wonder why it is I am pimping this band out like one of my favorite authors. Maybe it is a belief that art is connected. Through the written word or the prose set to music. Possibly it is due to the inspiration their music has given me and the way it has grown on me over the past year and a half. Or the sheer number of shows they do in the area.

Dean Pizzaz of Wayland

Dean Pizzaz of Wayland

Honestly, I think it has to do with interaction. I see a few bands like Wayland that are dealing with fans in a similar way that Felicia Day did back at the beginning of The Guild series. They engage the fans. Interact on Twitter and Facebook. Hang out at the merch booth after a show signing things. If they see you enough at shows they will recognize you when you show up. I assume if they don’t they will treat you as if they did. Foremost, they appreciate you.

The concept of the statement of “I appreciate you” is a whole other can of worms, and topic of its own blog in the future. But these guys seem to embrace the concept wholeheartedly. Both on and off the stage.

They don't play, they put on a SHOW

They don’t play, they put on a SHOW

Any band that can type in four letters to a reply in Twitter and get me to bring booze soaked cupcakes to a show has got to be pretty good at inspiring and involving fans. I know some of you out there are thinking that isn’t a tough sell, but apparently I have many people fooled into believe I am not an introvert. I’m a writer. If I didn’t have a really needy older dog, I would write at home an even fewer people would ever see me. As it is, I still don’t feel right saying hello to any of them at a show. And my wife won’t act as my public relations as she tends to at conventions. Or at least how she used to.

Phillip Vilenski of Wayland

Phillip Vilenski of Wayland

Sure at Romantic Times I can hand out cupcakes to a bunch of authors sitting around an editor I know and then pick on them for accepting food from someone whose name they don’t know, but musicians are different. They are social people by nature. Or at least their art is. In my defense, I have practiced the art of indifference for decades. It was tempered in the fires of choir and drama class through high school and college. The art of public speaking, maintaining character and test taking were the best classes other than creative writing and English I took in school. But again, my introverted nature (or lack thereof) is a topic for yet another blog post.

Robin was getting artistic here...

Robin was getting artistic here…

The band I’m discussing is a touring band. Seriously a touring band. Like 320 or 330 shows last year. One of their standing hashtags (as well as themes on their concert shirts) is #alwaysontour. At 330 shows in a year, that’s no boast either. Check out the Wayland facebook page for information on the band and their touring schedule. If they are showing near you and you love classic rock, they are worth the time to go see. If you are a listener to your area’s rock station, call up and demand they play this music.

Dean playing the bass line

Dean playing the bass line

And if you do make it out to their show and you like it, stop by the merch table. Buy the EP for $5, or a t-shirt proudly proclaiming yourself as a Wayland Warrior. Get your CD signed, the guys will sign anything. Each dollar you spend keeps them on the road. It keeps them on the road, writing new songs, and singing. I have already bought 4 copies of the EP (and given away three of them to other people), and have more Wayland shirts than any other kind of shirt other than zombie shirts. Let’s face it, I am Zombie Joe.

For my part, I always make a point to spend money on some swag and usually $5 or so directly into the gas fund. The amount tends to weigh on how many people show to the event, the size of the venue, and how much money is in my pocket at the end of the night.

If you are on Twitter, link up to this with the #RENO hashtag to get it trending. Or, if you love rock and roll, click onto their website or Facebook page and find out when they are playing near you. You shouldn’t be disappointed.

Are you not entertained?

Are you not entertained?

Story Inspiration: The Playlists

Every author has a different process. The guideline that has stood the test of several writing conferences seems to follow the formula of – this is the one and only true way to do things… unless something else works for you, then do that. For me, music isn’t only a needed feature, but it is significantly related to the piece I am working on. Each and every project has it’s own playlist. While some have to avoid anything with lyrics, I embrace it.

I say this for several reasons. Well a couple of reasons. At least two. Halfway decent ones.

One of my favorite bands as of late has been Wayland. If you are following my feeds in Facebook or on Twitter you have likely seen several posts about going to their shows or cool things coming up from them. Around a year ago or so, I was unaware of them. My initiation into the Wayland Warriors revolves a lot around not only the music, but the band itself. They mimic many aspects of my favorite writers, or celebrities in general.

So let’s take it by the numbers…

1. Their Attitude

During the course of the year, I have checked out many of the videos the band has posted. In a couple of the interviews they related how much satisfaction they get when fans write them/tell them about how a song affected them or inspired them. While bringing in the money is always a possibility, and really should be a goal, this attitude is the target of an artist. A real artist.

2. Their Interaction

Before and after a set, the group is always around the bar or the merch booth. They talk with fans, engage them and seem to really listen to them. These are the people that will be financially supporting them and will potentially pass along the fever to join the Wayland forces like a zombie-infected bite, so it makes sense. This is a lot of what I think draws people to new media, and they are enacting a similar model.

3. Their Music

Describing the music is difficult. It boils down to the song they are playing. For my part, I see them as a rock band in the truest sense of the word. It can be hard and heavy; or it can be melodious and harmonized; or it can be something powerful that moves you from the gut – it all depends on the song. Several of the songs have lead me to the next point.

4. Their Inspiration

Remember my point on fans being inspired by something they played? After finishing up with Under the Hood, I was looking into a second book with those characters. One not for charity, but for regular publication. With the bad guy involved there would be a lot of empathetic and telepathic battles going on. When looking for songs to fill out the playlist that would live on the iPod/iPad for writing, I came up with a couple to represent the bad guy in question (Blood by In This Moment and I Miss the Misery by Halestorm), but for the hero I was looking for something. A song that would become Dukes’ anthem of sorts. And in going through the music I had on hand I came up with Welcome to My Head.

Welcome to My Head was one of their big singles off their EP. I bought it at the first concert I saw them in. It’s a thing with me, support local artists/writers morphed into a support touring bands rule. Especially ones that frequent your local area or are local to your area. It didn’t register at the time, but the lyrics to the song fell right into place with the idea I had for the climactic showdown between my Honkytonk Hunter and the Monster(s) he was to be facing.

Though I have linked it before, I’ll include the video below for those who haven’t yet heard the song…

5. Their Personalities

While all of this is good, the personalities of the people in question meshing well with mine will lock that association into place. It will draw me into going out to their shows. It will keep me listening. New songs coming out will likely find their way into my next projects if their themes mesh with whatever I am writing. Hell, it kept me out at Brat Fest, sitting in the rain to listen to their set. (It was a light rain, but still…)

Next blog post, I will go over some of the other artists that are sitting on my writing playlists. As well as picking apart what it is about these songs specifically that marries them to the stories I am working on.

Until then I have to run. I am making a bunch of my Iron Druid cupcakes (renamed to their original Irish Car Bomb theme) to bring to the concert tomorrow night. Yes, there is booze in them. No, they aren’t vegan. Yes, they use real sugar, real butter, and reach Dutch process cocoa powder. Photos will follow if I remember.

Second Post! Playlists!

I know. Two posts in one day!

No, the sky isn’t falling. Hell hasn’t frozen over. The Seventh Seal hasn’t been broken. (Really Demi Moore is alive and well.)*

Basically, blame Melissa Olson. She is working on the follow up to her debut novel Dead Spots and was looking for songs that readers felt personified Scarlett, her protagonist. This had me considering music, and my playlists. Well, that and the fact that I had no idea that Macklemore and Lewis were playing in Milwaukee last night. How did I not know this?

But I digress. *deep breaths*

The problem here is that I read 1-2 novels a week. I read Dead Spots a while ago. Which means Scarlett is blending into a haze of protagonists from a lot of different other novels. This is part of the reason I don’t wait before starting the review as a general rule. Especially for Wicked Lil Pixie, as those are full reviews.

At the same time, I have been working with a number of go to bands that have been sitting on my playlists quite a bit lately. I’ll drop a few of them into the post here. Leaning towards ones with videos I can post, because who doesn’t like music videos?

Bad Ass Female Protagonists (or Villains)

For this I have been going towards Halestorm and In This Moment. The songs are rough, raw and have that growling female vocals that just scream (literally in some instances) power to me. So, I’m just throwing this out there for Melissa as this is what I remember without confirming by re-reading a chapter or two. These songs say “powerful female protagonist” to me.

Halestorm – Love Bites

In This Moment – Adrenalize Me

Halestorm – I Miss the Misery

In This Moment – Blood

Other Protagonists (mostly my male ones)

For the most part, I have songs that feed into a theme I am going for. In most of my stories the heroes have at least a bit of the feeling of being a freak. Not normal. To this direction, a lot of the songs lean towards being not normal or supporting the dual nature of a person. Which, when you think about it, is a lot of academic thought put behind the motivation and inspiration of a cool song.

Halestorm – Freak Like Me

Wayland – Welcome to My Head

In This Moment – Welcome to the Gun Show

Volbeat – Sad Man’s Tongue

Wayland – Reno (best video I could find – unreleased song – next album)

Volbeat – Still Counting

Honkeytonk Monster Hunter (inspiration)

In this instance I not only do a severe jump in genres, but this is a one-for-one. The artist singing these was the direct inspiration for the protagonist. Not much else to say here, other than… “That boy can sang!” 😉

Ben Dukes – Down in Flames

Ben Dukes – Old Fixer Upper


For the purposes of Melissa Olson, the top section on bad ass female protagonists works best. But it is far from the only playlists I work with. In an effort of full disclosure, most of my Halestorm and In This Moment songs are for my female villain/serial killer. But I stand by their uses. After all, the villain is the hero of their own story.

The New Playlist

I’m finalizing the new playlist tonight for the NaNoWriMo project. Most of it is In This Moment, but I’m mixing it up a bit. Really it’s just a list so I don’t forget to purchase them tonight and load them on the iPod.

  • Stone Sour – Gone Sovereign/Absolute Zero*
  • Halestorm – I Miss the Misery*
  • In This Moment – Blood
  • In This Moment – The Gun Show
  • In This Moment – Comanche
  • Disturbed – Behind the Fire (tentative)*
  • Bobaflex – Bury Me with My Guns On*
  • Wayland – Welcome to my Head
  • Royal Bliss – Crazy (tentative)*
*denotes the need to purchase

This time around I am pulling back on the country western music. Before I needed it to get into the mind of the new main character, but this time around if I need that I can go back to the same playlist from last time. Or simply play the Ben Dukes album I picked up off iTunes.

What are you listening to this November? Or are you just relying on whatever is playing in the coffee shop?

In This Moment…

I know, I owe a recap with photos of the conference in New Orleans, but this is one that has to be done while it is fresh in my mind. Also, with the ringing still in my ears it is the majority of what’s dancing through my noodle this morning. A Tuesday night show featuring In This Moment and no less than three other bands. Say what you will, but for the $15 ticket to get into the Majestic, it was a steal. And that is about as PG13 of a review of the night as I can give. It goes downhill from here folks. You’ve been warned…

In a stunning display of technology fail, I forgot to charge my phone on the drive home to pick up my son and head back into the downtown area for the show. I managed one blurry photo of my zombie totem Darrell the sniper at his first concert before my phone died. Luckily the band took a group photo that I hope they don’t mind me attaching. I can see where I am, but only because I knew where I was standing. And where I was standing was not too close to the pit. I’m not that demented, and while I like my neurosurgeon, I’m not buying him another summer home. 😉

The day started with lunch provided by my parents. Every couple of weeks my father calls to go to lunch, but my mother was with him this time. They not only paid, but my father told me there was nothing too important going on at the Italian Workman’s Club meeting that night. In short, giving me the green light to leave work, get some writing time in, and then make the show. Lunch and a hall pass, even in your 40’s its nice to have parents that “get it.”

During the day I sent my son a text. I told him they were playing and it was fifteen bucks, did he want to go. His reply was, “What time?” Now I know there may have been more enthusiasm that didn’t translate in SMS, but in my mind the proper response from a 21 year old would be, “Fuck yeah!” Baby steps… baby steps. (Yes, I understand it is going out to a concert with your middle aged father and not your friends. I’m not an idiot.)

Lacking in time after getting home, changing, picking up my son and then heading to the Majestic we were left with Taco Bell for dinner. Not exactly 5-star, but it is something that surprisingly fits into my nutritional schedule for the diet. Also, it’s fast. Parking downtown is… well… parking downtown. I decide to pay for the ramp across the street from the Majestic. The first sign of the night to come was when we were going around the ramp construction to get to the club.

I told my son, “I think this is the direction.” I was waiting for him to notice that the brick-to-the-head clue was Chris Howorth standing outside the tour bus parked at the back entrance to the club. It was either that or the zombie outbreak I wrote about in Under the Hood was actually happening and I left my multitool at home! Seriously, the outfits and the blackened eyes… no mistaking the band.

Grabbing our tickets and getting in line, I was ready for two opening acts. This was according to the web site for the venue. Getting in we found out they added a third. And at least one of them was a local band. I’m fairly sure the first two were locals. While the first band had some issues with the singer’s mic, the music was good. Unfortunately my Instagram Memory fuzzed out the name of the group and I didn’t go up to grab an EP before I left.

The second group started the pit in the front tier of the floor. Serious amount of roar coming from both the singer and the lead guitar. And the drummer? The dude transformed from a goof setting up the stage to a skeletal masked rocker when they came out to play. Seriously, it was as solid of a transformation as I’ve ever seen on stage. Unfortunately they said this was the last show they would ever play. Not sure the story behind it, but they definitely put on a show.

A lot of head banging and a lot of “fuck you” lines were in their music. At the same time, they were tossing shirts, guitar picks and drumsticks out into the audience. Clearing out the leftover merch is my guess. It left me wondering why these “blue collar rockers” (their term) were hanging it up. There has to be a reason for a group saying “fuck you” to The Man is leaving the stage. I didn’t see any animosity between the musicians, so that tells me there’s a story there. Without knowing it, I suppose I’ll have to make up my own. Sounds like a short story exercise.

The last band before In This Moment hit the stage (whose name I am also drawing a blank on) and seemed to drop the energy that had been building a bit. Until they played Let The Bodies Hit The Floor. During that song the floor seemed to go back to shaking from all of the jumping. Overall they were a good band, just not as high energy as the one before them. They did close with a song called Zombie Town, so I can cut them a lot of slack. 😉

They were definitely more fauxhawk than dreadlock. Their singer also had a deep baritone voice (for a fairly lithe guy too), but didn’t really do the primal screams that every other band was doing that night. It left me wondering if this band was traveling with In This Momemnt (as they were from Denver and not local) or if they were put on the ticket that night by the venue. Again, without knowing the story, I am left with having to make up my own. We’ll see if I get around to that short story.

So, after the stage prep (which was extensive), In This Moment was hitting the stage around 11:00 or so. At this point I had been on my feet four straight hours. Those new to this blog thinking, “So?”… I had spinal surgery several years back. I have a limit, and pressed past it last night. But, after hearing Blood on the radio I knew that it was going to be part of the playlist for the next book for my Under the Hood characters. Seriously, I bought the song on iTunes before getting on the train for New Orleans on the 7th. I held off on buying the full album.

In hindsight, I’d love to say it was because I knew I’d be going to the show. I’d love to, but I had no clue. Getting up that morning I hadn’t even planned on it. Once I was there I did pick up the CD from the merch booth. And a zombie themed shirt they had there. Hey, all the money goes to the band and who doesn’t need another zombie shirt. Right? All that aside, I’m not above spending some at the merch booth to ensure touring bands are touring. Local or not, it plays into supporting the Make Good Art initiative.

By the end of the night Maria was shouting for everyone to be moving and jumping up and down though. I knew I was lucky I was still standing. In my mind that immortal 20 year old was jumping up and down.  And for an encore they played an old song that is totally going to see use on the next playlist. It may not be in line with the new protagonist’s style, but it is totally in line with his mentor’s. Welcome to the Gun Show is one of those songs with a strong primal scream of a voice to the lyrics that embodies a lot of what goes through my head in the violent scenes. They always seem to be tempering the violence in them with as much discipline as they can, but do their best when they let it all go.

Philosophically my favorite part of their set was when they prompted to crowd to let out a yell of their own. Maria wanted to hear all of that which was pent up inside everyone. Everything that makes going to these live shows such a release. All that stress, anger, rage… whatever. All burst out from everyone at the same time in three simple words. “Hell. Fucking. Yeah.” At this point I should say I don’t shout in public any more. Ever. If you hear me shouting in public, it’s for a reason. A good one. But I have to say I was living vicariously through everyone else’s shout.

I had expected to hear one from my son. I know he has no problem saying those words in front of me. Next time. 😉

I would have loved to stuck around to meet the band, maybe gotten the CD signed, but we both had work in the morning. As it was I didn’t get to sleep until nearly 2 in the morning. Up at 6:00. Yeah, it was totally a 2 cup of coffee morning. And was so worth it. I may be an old man. Close proximity to the pit is a dangerous endeavor for me now. But at the same time there’s an energy to a show like that you need to experience to reproduce. It was that energy that kept me going and thinking of it kept me moving the entire day afterwards.

Even though it is too blurry for use, I’ll end with the one photo I managed at the show. Darrell my zombie totem at his first concert…

Toughest Scene in the Book

If you’ve read my other blogs on the subject, you know that my camping trip didn’t help out my word count at all. Hell, each day of towing literally killed it. But this wasn’t my only challenge. In fact, it wasn’t even my strongest one. I know you’re all dying from anticipation. Read ahead, but keep in mind that I love a good challenge.

So my wife’s friend from college donated into the charity for the story. She did so to the point of wanting the character to live at the end. Wounded was okay, but she had to live. She also sent me a character description. The name is taken from hers, but is not her name. Challenge came when I read the description. A nomadic, Nordic woman who was a unicorn herder (but only if someone paid to have rabid unicorns be the monsters). If not a unicorn herder, then some other form of herder.

Let’s address them one at a time, and then I’ll reveal the final character after giving you the bits.


Seriously, we have migratory workers in this country, but the closest thing we have to nomads are retired people who go from place to place in their RVs taking odd jobs when they need a little extra cash. And yes, I do have a pair of friends who do this. (Hi Leslie and Bill!) So I had to address having a nomad in present day Wisconsin. Present day Wisconsin with monsters, but still.

The fix? Her family were all nomadic Norwegians with her parents being the first to travel to America. She grew up going from ranch to ranch helping others raise animals until her father passed away. Once all of her family was gone she purchased a ranch of her own to raise horses. In other words, the first in a family of nomads to settle down. The ranch is just north of Madison.

Unicorn Herder

So nobody asked for rabid unicorns. Apparently nobody enjoyed that scene from Cabin in the Woods like I did. (And thank you for not making me write killer unicorns.) So that left out her being a unicorn herder. It also freed me from having to explain why there was a unicorn farm north of Madison, Wisconsin.

The fix, as you can read above, was to make her a horse breeder. Most of the horses she has aren’t “champions” but each called out to her in some way. While she’s settled down, she is still using that nomadic gut instinct in her decisions.

Why is she in the book?

Yeah, so I have a Nordic nomad who settled down in the area. She’s breeding horses. But what does this have to do with the spreading of Bath Salt Zombies in the state? I could stage an attack there, but she has to live. And let’s face it, if one of them bites you it’s just as fatal as the Romero zombies. Faster acting, too.

My solution was to use the character. The herd of horses she’s breeding are special. In times of need they are imbued with a bit of the power of the lost Norse gods. They fly. They also bond with heroes. In the case of this character, she becomes a Chooser of the Dead. Sort of like a Valkyrie, but instead of choosing fallen heroes for Valhalla, she simply chooses who the dead are. She will also have the ability to put the dead to ground again. This should minimize the chance of me getting her mauled and infected. It also helps me to deal with a bit of a corner I wrote myself into. (To explain it would mean spoiling parts of the story.)

So what’s the problem?

I know, it sounds pretty solid, right? Sounds like I know what I’m doing? The problem is that I didn’t have an opening or scene in mind to introduce this character other than *POOF* “I’m here!” (For the record, I’m not a fan of the *POOF* Gambit.)

The real issue was that this scene was dragging down my speed. I wasn’t really into it and I wasn’t getting a voice. And, as she was a sponsored character, I couldn’t just write her out of the story. I stuttered three starts at the scene. This morning was my last attempt.

What pulled me through it.

The playlist. You know, Dukes playlist from yesterday? I wasn’t picturing her as a country western fan specifically, but the themes of the songs gave me some insight to what she was thinking. And although she has no real vocal religion in the scene, “I Can’t Pray” gave me her voice, a catalyst and a motivation. It also started to make me feel bad for my character. And when you write in public, its best not to get yourself choked up over your writing.

Trust me, I’m not a fan of the wonderful white fitted jackets that help you give yourself a big hug.


For those keeping score, the scene is written and the character will have an outcome integral to the story. She is a settled down nomad with a penchant for training horses – a Horse Whisperer if you will. As she enters the story, the land and power of the Norse pantheon will be reaching out to her, binding her to a horse and naming her the Chooser of the Dead. She will ride her flying horse into battle against the undead. Now I can’t fully promise she lives, which may give you a bit of stress as you read about her in the book. Although the lady did pay for her to live, so in all purposes, consider her to be like a third protagonist that is only in a small section of the book.

This is one of a couple sponsored bits that took a larger role in the big picture than I initially anticipated, but I am really happy with the outcome.

Scoresheet for Dukes Playlist

  • I Can’t Pray – backdrop for protagonist, parallel for valkyrie side character, came damn close to getting me an observation appointment at the local hospital, made my wife cry at least once
  • A Man Comes Around – inspired a duel of wits between Big Badâ„¢ and Dukes, fleshed out my valkyrie, gave me a backdrop for the danger in the story
  • This Cowboy’s Hat – gave me an accessory to focus on with Dukes, gave me an aspect to his guitar case I hadn’t planned on, had a single line that altered the character’s destiny (not necessarily in this book)
  • A Country Boy Can Survive – gave a bit of country personality to Dukes tenacity in the story
  • You’ve Got To Stand For Something – was the starting theme of my story, but went to really loosely stringing it all together now
  • The Lord Knew Me First – give a parallel between Dukes and the detective, added a bit of snark to the character to temper the country charm
  • Down in Flames – this will totally be the theme song to the final act of the story, I can totally see it
  • number of times this playlist saved my ass: too many to count

Duke’s Playlist

I know, I’ve been talking about it for a while. At this point, I’ve been knocked far enough in the dirt that taking a break to complete the playlist and post it wasn’t going to hurt me much. I’m still working on a way to link it so that you can go to iTunes and purchase it. Not as point-and-click as I thought it would be. Although you can go to iTunes and pick up Down in Flames by Ben Dukes. Of the seven songs on the playlist, three of them come from that album and they helped me to shape the story while waiting for playlist suggestions. Well that and the Johnny Cash song, since I knew that one would be there.

I’ll list them all individually, but once I have the direct link to the playlist, I’ll link it through the playlist title below. At least two of the artists have passed, but I’m sure Ben would appreciate anyone taking to his music.

Under the Hood – Duke’s Playlist

  • When The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash
  • The Lord Knew Me First – Ben Dukes
  • You’ve Got To Stand For Something – Aaron Tippin
  • I Can’t Pray – Ben Dukes
  • A Southern Boy Can Survive – Hank Williams Jr.
  • Down in Flames – Ben Dukes
  • This Cowboy’s Hat – Chris Ledoux

Note: I may have screwed up the order as I was doing this from memory. If so, I’ll correct it.

I’ll leave you with a little teaser for the detective’s playlist. Enjoy…