Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Iron Maiden

For those of you who don’t know, Iron Maiden is a veteran heavy metal band from England. They’ve been around for over 30 years, they’re most successful period being the mid-80s. As a teenager growing up in those years, I loved them from the beginning...the crunching riffs, intricate guitar solos, soaring vocals, etc. And, of course, there’s the often lurid artwork of their album covers, which enticed kids and outraged parents and conservative groups. But what I really loved were their lyrics, which were a lot different than what most groups chose to sing about.

The band is still around, though the things which outraged so many parents in the 80s seem rather quaint today. I mean, as a parent, would you rather your child listen to a horror-inspired tune like “The Number of the Beast” (which, if you read the lyrics, is not a so-called ‘satanic’ song at all), or a gangsta rap song about killing cops or abusing women?

Being a long-time fan notwithstanding, as an English teacherr, I think that the music of this iconic band even has a lot of educational value, both in and out of the classroom. For those of you who only know the band through their image (depicted mostly by their long-time rotting corpse mascot, Eddie), you should really explore what this group has done. While other heavy metal artists sang of women and partying, Iron Maiden ventured beyond the usual hard rock cliches, writing and performing a lot of songs based on classic literature and/or real life historical figures and events.

They’ve written songs based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Frank Herbert and Allister Maclean, to name a few. They’re written songs about Alexander the Great, infamous battles in various wars, Greek mythology, events depicted in The Bible and the plight of the American Indian. And, as a teenager who’d never previously read The Bible, even their most notorious song (“The Number of the Beast”) inspired me to seek out its famous paraphrased opening passage

As a teacher, I’ve actually used some of their lyrics in the classroom, most notably “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” a 13 minute song based on the Coleridge poem. Keep in-mind I teach 7th graders, and to get them interested in a 300 year old epic poem would seem to be an impossible task. Yet, condensed as a rock song, with lyrics which touch on Coleridge’s themes using more ‘plain’ language than the original (yet still often quoting the poem verbatim), some kids actually want to read the poem on which the song is based.

Aside from literature, Iron Maiden have written numerous songs about war, both real and imagined, about its futility and its glory. They’ve written songs about the advent of the atom bomb (“Brighter Than a Thousand Suns”), battle from a soldier’s perspective (“The Trooper,” “Aces High”), infamous military battles (“The Longest Day,” “Paschendale”) and history (“Run to the Hills,” “Powerslave”).

As such, I would put forth that, more than any other iconic artist, Iron Maiden provides educators with a unique opportunity to introduce students to new ideas and concepts. Yeah, many of the songs are flat-out, aggressive heavy metal, but if one is able to look beyond the music itself, there’s a lot a inspiration to be found in these songs, as well as opportunities for both parents and teachers to challenge reluctant students to think about themes within these songs. Sure, a band like Maiden might seem archaic to a classroom of teenagers, but I'll bet they'd rather hear, read and analyze this tuff than just a lecture or textbook chapter.

I think, for a lot of educators who aren’t life-long headbangers like myself, you just have to get past the album covers (obviously designed to sell records, not educate children). There are a lot of great engaging educational resources to be found on their records if an educator is willing to explore them.

And, no, I am not stating the members of Iron Maiden have an educational agenda. Like all music artists, they write songs which they think their fans will enjoy. I just think, from an educator’s perspective, their music is worth exploring by creative teachers and parents, even if heavy metal isn’t exactly their own personal music of choice.

The following are just a few great Iron Maiden songs (along with the albums they appear on) which offer more than the usual heavy metal claptrap, some of which could be a fun inclusion for adventurous middle or high school teachers:

“Phantom of the Opera” (from Iron Maiden) - based on the classic story by Gaston Leroux
“Murders in the Rue Morgue” (from Killers) - based on the Edgar Allen Poe story
“Run to the Hills” (from The Number of the Beast) - a song about the plight of the American Indian, told from both perspectives
“Flight of Icarus” (from Piece of Mind) - based on the greek myth
“To Tame a Land” (from Piece of Mind) - based on Frank Herbert’s novel, Dune (Herbert refused to allow the band use of his title because he hated heavy metal. what a dork.)
"The Number of the Beast" (from The Number of the Beast) - inspired by the story, "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
“Aces High” (from Powerslave) - about the German invasion of England during WWII.
“Powerslave” (from Powerslave) - about the Egyption Pharoahs.
“Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (from Powerslave) - based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem
“Alexander the Great” (from Somewhere in Time) - based on the life of Alexander the Great
“Lord of the Flies” (from The X-Factor) - based on the novel by William Golding
“Paschendale” (from Dance of Death) - inspired by the Battle of Paschendale
“Brighter Than a Thousand Suns” (from A Matter of Life and Death) - about the creation of the first atomic bomb
“The Longest Day” (from A Matter of Life and Death) - about the Battle of Normandy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Killer Cows update

Just to give an update on the first week of the eBook release of Killer Cows...

One site has posted a review of the novel. It can be found at . Once you’re there, go to the ‘Random Things’ link. It was exciting to read this review, which was mostly positive, mainly because these people don’t know me. They aren’t relatives or friends who’d be tempted to simply give me some ‘attaboys’ for writing the book. And I wouldn’t have cared if Mars Needs Writers wrote a good review or not. Like someone once said (probably a rock star), there’s no such thing as bad press.

Here’s the review:
Killer Cows by D.M. Anderson. Guest reviewer: Rachel Ruiz.

This is a well-written book. It's fast-paced, entertaining, with interesting characters. A lot of it is far-fetched but, since we're talking about a sci-fi novel for young adults, it's very forgivable. And it's not as far-fetched as you might think, considering its title.

Not that Killer Cows is a perfect book. Some of the characters had quirks I found annoying but not so much that it detracted from the overall book in a huge way. You know, it wasn't Dean Koontz' magic super dog/perfect amazing gorgeous humble wife/genius psychic-powered kid trifecta annoying -- and it's definitely worth a read if you're into the sci-fi YA thing. In terms of the quality of the read, it wouldn't be out of place among all the traditional paper-published YA stuff you see on the shelves; it's the kind of thing that would have appealed to me back when I was in the target age bracket, if that tells you anything.

I'm the Killer Cows readin' kind of person, I guess. And the non-g usin' kind of person, too. So I give it my recommendation. Thumbs up for Cows!

As I’ve stated before, the ebook can currently be purchased at either or for $6.00. As of today, according to Omnilit, Killer Cows is their second best selling young adult novel right now, and the seventh best selling book overall. Granted, I don’t know how that translate in numbers. For all I know, the BEST selling YA novel sold three copies today and Killer Cows sold two, but seeing the cover and title on their charts definitely strokes the ego.

It sure sounds like I’m ballyhooing myself again, doesn’t it?

It’s just that, all my life, my dream was to publish a book. In my youth, I spent a lot more time talking about it than actually trying to do it. It wasn’t until these past few years that I got truly serious about it. My first finished novel was a piece of crap, but at least I took that step to write one after years of simply talking about it. That book remains safely in a desk drawer where it belongs (in fact, I never even tried to submit it anywhere), but at least it gave me the confidence to try again, in a genre I never thought I’d pursue...young adult fiction. And when I finished Killer Cows, I had no illusions as to whether or not I could place it with a publisher. In reality, it’s the first novel I felt was actually worth trying to sell. The fact that, after over a year or submissions and rejections, I did sell it, was the greatest moment of my writing career.

The second greatest moment is what I’ve mentioned already...a few people I don’t even know think my work is worth buying. It gives me incentive to keep it up, that I can do this. And at this point, I’d love to do this for the rest of my life. But until that day comes (if, indeed, it ever does), it sure feels cool knowing I’ve touched a few people.

I personally still think my second YA novel, Shaken, is a better than novel Killer Cows, even though I have yet to place it with a publisher or agent. But over this past year, I’ve learned to never say never.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Killer Cows eBook now available at and

Things are really exciting right now. Killer Cows is now available to order as an eBook at , and now I’m going into self-promotion mode, which is something I’ve never really done before. Ballyhooing my own self. Still, it’s part of the game for a new author these days. Like I’ve said before...I’m not exactly Stephanie Meyer yet.

But it’s been fun, posting the cover, sending the sell-sheet to friends, keeping this blog and my Facebook page updated, sending review copies to those who requested it (thanks, by the way).

I loved seeing my own IBSN number, loved seeing the retail price listed on the sell-sheet, loved it all so far.

I just spent the last two days sending emails of the sell-sheet and pre-order form to every independent bookstore with a web presence on the West Coast. I don’t know if this is the right way to create awareness of my book, but it seems like it. I’m halfway through the list of shops in California, and plan on branching out east over the next several days.

I had my first interview the other day, by the school newspaper where I teach. It was actually kind of amusing. I teach 7th grade, and it’s always amusing what kids want the answers to. I had more questions about my hair (which is pretty long) than about the book. Still, it was fun.

One of my colleagues bought a copy of the eBook, then printed, trimmed and bound it, then asked me to sign the cover. My first honest-to-goodness autograph. I could get used to that.

A blogsite called asked for a review copy of the book. They, too, have a YA title coming out from Echelon at roughly the same time. They also asked why I chose Echelon Press. My response was posted this week...the first promo for Killer Cows that wasn’t originated by me. Cool!

I love seeing Killer Cows offered among the other YA titles on the Echelon website, where you can now order it by going to Also cool was seeing it available at, which specializes in electronic fiction. The cost is $6.00 at either site.

Still, a have a lot of friends, students and colleagues who’d rather have it in paperback, which will be available this summer. I prefer paperbacks, too (love the smell and feel of them in my hand), and it can be pre-ordered right now by writing to Echelon at The paperback is $13.99, though there are discounts for retailers and libraries, hence my efforts to email as many of them as I can with ordering info. By pre-ordering before April, you’ll get the book long before it’s likely to appear in stores.