Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dave Interviews Dave

Okay, this is not really an interview or an exercise in nepotism. It is, however, a list of the most frequently asked questions I’ve gotten from people since I’ve signed with Quake/Echelon to publish my first novel, Killer Cows.

What is Killer Cows about?

That’s the biggest question a lot of students, friends and family have asked me since I announced its impending publication. What’s surprising to me, even though I knew people would ask, is how difficult it is for me to answer...at least succinctly. I often find myself a bit tongue-tied and fumbling for words.

Is it really about killer cows?

That’s the second biggest question, and a bit easier to answer. Yes, it is. Sort of. I actually have an easier time answering the question when kids ask, which is cool since that’s who it’s aimed at. I don’t really summarize the plot...I just say yeah, there’s cows...and flying saucers, car crashes, Harleys and lots of stuff blowing up. They seem to like that.

At the same time, the novel isn’t simply about cows. It’s also about a fourteen-year-old growing up in a broken home, dealing with stuff most teenagers deal with...bullies, first-crushes, trying to fit in, making smart choices. I’m making it sound like Killer Cows is a novel with a message to teach, which it isn’t. In the end, it’s just a fun read...part fantasy, part modern realism, part sci-fi, lots of humor. And of course, big nasty killer cows from outer space.

Is it a kids’ book?

It’s not a little kids’ book. No pictures or anything. It is aimed at young adults, probably age 12-16, though I think it’s suitable enough for kids as young as 10 if they are good readers. As far as any objectionable content goes, there are a few mild expletives and some violence. If Killer Cows were turned into a movie, it would probably be rated PG.

How long did it take to write?

Nine months, followed by another few months of edits and revisions, then even more edits and revisions after placing it with my publisher.

How many pages is it?

A lot of kids ask me that one, but since I haven’t seen the galley proofs yet, I don’t know. It was just over 300 pages when I finished the final draft on my computer. How that translates to the printed page is up to Echelon Press. I usually just tell kids it’s “longer than a Goosebumps novel, but shorter than Harry Potter.”

When does it come out?

Fall 2010, first as an ebook, then a paperback.

Why so long?

That was a question I had, too. Nearly everyone has been shocked at the length of time between signing a contract and publication. I usually tell them mine isn’t the only book slated for release, and putting together a novel isn’t the same as publishing a short story or article.

How much money are you getting for this? Is it a lot?

Depends on how much it sells. I have no plans to give up my day job. I’m no Stephanie Meyer or Gordon Korman. Nobody even knows who I am. Besides, if I quit teaching, I wouldn’t be able to see Killer Cows on the library shelf.

Do I get an autographed copy?

Sure, buy one and I’ll sign it.

I don’t get a free copy?

I’ll be lucky if I can afford a copy for myself. The only people getting free copies are my children, a former student who was the first to read it, and the Echelon editor who helped shape it into a better book.

Is Killer Cows going to be a series?

One student asked me this question, which goes to show you how young adults perceive books geared to their age. A lot of them expect books to be part of a series. I always hated it when authors, particularly sci-fi & fantasy authors, would pump out multiple books with the same characters. Couldn’t they come up with something new?

I originally intended Cows as one story, and that would be it. But as I finished it, I began to see why other writers continue to revisit the same world they created. It is difficult to let go of characters you spend so much time with. And as I was wrapping up the story, I was already thinking of other adventures I’d like to see these characters in. So, while doing the revisions to the novel, I added a plot element that would leave the door open for a series.

So, I guess the answer is yes. Depending on how well received Cows is, I have two more novels outlined, Apocalypse Cow (a direct sequel) and Killer Cows vs. Bunnies from Hell.

Have you written any other books?

Yes. I’m trying to place my second YA novel, Shaken (an action-disaster tale), while finishing up the first draft of my third, The Dark Ride (a YA horror novel...without vampires!).

Why don’t you just publish your second book with the company that’s publishing your first?

Doesn’t work like that. Just because Echelon bought Killer Cows doesn’t mean they’ll want Shaken. Besides, at the time I signed the Cows contract, I had already submitted Shaken to several other agents or publishers. It’s sort of my policy to submit to several at once, then wait to hear back from them before sending out another wave of submissions.

You still haven’t said what Killer Cows is about.

You are right, but cows are funny, and so is the book. And how can you resist a title like that? Regardless of what anyone thinks of the story, in my humble opinion, Killer Cows is the best-titled YA novel since No More Dead Dogs.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Last Christmas

On the eve of last Christmas I turned out the lights;
I tucked in my daughter and wished her goodnight.
“Tomorrow is Christmas!” she uttered with joy
“When Santa brings presents to good girls and boys!”

“That’s right, little princess,” I replied with a grin
“But you must be asleep for Saint Nick to come in.”
With a smile and a giggle, she closed her eyes tight,
Trying her best to fall asleep for the night.

After closing her door, I walked down the hall
To where my wife snoozed, oblivious to all.
I climbed into bed without making a peep
And stole back some blankets for a warm winter’s sleep.

As I began to drift off, my mind wandered free;
I pictured my little Natalie, circling the tree,
Gasping with joy when she saw her new bike -
A thank you from Santa for leaving cookies he liked.

I heard a sudden noise - it came from downstairs.
Could it possibly be there was someone down there?
I opened my eyes and stifled a scream;
I heard it again - not part of my dream!

I climbed out of bed and ran ‘cross the floor
And gingerly opened my top dresser drawer.
Heart beating madly, and quaking with fear,
I pulled out the gun I got for Christmas last year.

As my wife snoozed away, thinking all was well,
I crept to the hallway and loaded some shells.
Determined prevent being totally robbed,
I was gonna put a cap into this thieving slob.

From atop the stairs, footsteps I could hear
Of a man trying to rob us of our Christmas cheer.
I crept down the steps, cursing my bad luck;
Dammit - that bike costed one hundred bucks!

I saw a black shadow, bent over the tree;
Consumed by his task, he didn’t see me.
Raising my pistol, I drew careful aim;
I squeezed off a shot, screaming, “Here comes the pain!”

With a big burly grunt, he fell to the ground,
And I roared in triumph, having put the perp down.
From upstairs my wife cried, “Hey, are you okay?”
I said, “Never better, ‘cause I saved Christmas day!”

I began to breathe easy, thinking all would be right,
But all of that changed when I turned on the light.
I stared at my victim and became suddenly sick;
Rolling ‘round on the floor was good ol’ Saint Nick.

Through angry clenched jaws, he stared up at me;
Clutching his wound, he screamed “You shattered my knee!”
I rushed to his side and cried, “I didn’t mean to!”
With an agonized breath he roared back, “Screw you!”

A cry from behind - and I turned to see
My horrified wife and a bawling Natalie.
“Daddy shot Santa!” she wailed in surprise;
My wife simply glared with hate in her eyes.

My mind in a panic, I threw down my gun
And ran to the phone to call 9-1-1.
My wife yelled at me, “You yuletide louse!
I knew this would happen with a gun in the house!”

I heard coming sirens, then a knock at the door;
As I answered it my kid cried, “I love you no more!”
“Report of shots fired!” said a cop in dismay;
And then he saw Santa, knee bleeding away.

Drawing his sidearm, he said with a frown,
“You shot Father Christmas and you’re goin’ down!”
I said, “I’ll explain, please listen, for God’s sake!”
He said, “I’ve busted some bastards, but you take the cake.”

They slapped me in handcuffs and hauled me away
For shooting Saint Nick and ruining Christmas day.
My wife sold the bike to pay for court costs,
Then into a filthy cell I was tossed.

I’ll always regret the shot that I fired,
For Santa said, “No more,” and then he retired.
I’m now serving time, doing twenty-to-life
With a cellmate named Bubba, who calls me his wife.

Copyright 2009, D.M. Anderson

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ode to Dio

Ronnie James Dio has been one of my idols for nearly as long as I’ve been into heavy metal, roughly 35 years. I’m sure a lot of you reading this have no idea who he is, even though he’s been the lead singer of three of the most influential hard rock bands of all time (Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his own namesake band, Dio). He isn’t a vocalist who merely screams; he truly sings. He isn’t a lyricist who boasts of parties and drinking and bedding down women on the road, but despite the Dungeons & Dragons words he’s often known for, to me, his words were defiant and encouraging in the face of adversity under the guise of majestical settings. His voice and words have inspired me over the years, not only aspiring me to achieve my personal best, but to hopefully inspire others.

When I heard, just recently, that Mr. Dio had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, I felt a pain in my heart I hadn’t felt since the death of Dale Earnhardt.

No, I’m not signing Dio’s death warrant. He’s only been recently diagnosed with the illness and may fully recover. Yet, at the same time, like Dale Earnhardt, who represents my second greatest love (NASCAR), I tend to look upon my idols (even at my age of 46) as invincible, like nothing in the real world can touch them. I think, as one gets older, seeing one’s idols as being physically fallible is something of a wake-up call. It is like admitting your own mortality.

When Dale Earnhardt died, I was devastated. While he was alive, I was not a fan, even though I knew what he meant to the sport, which meant his untimely death dealt a blow I still feel to this day.

Ronnie James Dio had an even bigger impact on me. He was the first true celebrity I ever met (during a signing party of his first Dio album in Portland, Oregon). Though I only spoke to him for a few brief starstruck moments, I truly felt like he was interested in what I had to say, and took the time to answer my questions about his lyrics. I always told myself, if for some reason I would ever become famous for something, I’d like to do it with the grace and humility of Ronnie.

I discovered him through my teenage infatuation with Ritchie Blackmore, the Deep Purple guitarist who left the group to form his own band, Rainbow, with Dio as his singer. While I’ll always love Ritchie, I was blown away by Dio’s vocals and lyrics. The words themselves may sound a bit trite in the wake of Nirvana, but I think he understood that what makes great lyrics isn’t always the message, but simply how the words sound in conjunction with the music. And never did I doubt his sincerity when he sang...that was the important thing.

I’m making it sound like his lyrics are banal, while just the opposite is true. Ronnie James Dio wrote some incredible lyrics. Just check out “Heaven & Hell”, “Stargazer” and “Bible Black.” He can be as activist as early Dylan, as commentary any rap artist you’d care to name, and as down and dirty fun as any party band, often within the same album.

Above all else, the guy can really sing his butt off, even though he’s now in his 60s. Even if you aren’t a fan of the heavy metal genre, it doesn’t take a genius to know this man can sing.

As I get on in years, it does my heart good to see so many of my childhood heroes still plugging along, doing what they do best. Some don’t do it as well as they once did, but Ronnie James Dio has never let me down. Unlike a lot of other artists, I still pop open the CD booklet to read along as he sings, and I still love the way he turns a phrase and emotes certain lines in a verse for dramatic effect.

Here’s hoping Sir Dio continues doing what he does best, for many years to come. His is a voice that deserves to be heard for as long as there are ears to listen.