!!!Hooray for Halloween Contest!!!



Welcome to the very first

the Key to everything

Hooray for Halloween contest!


The rules are very simple.  Tell us the creepiest, scariest, most freakiestest thing that’s ever happened to you. Something you can’t explain no matter how hard you try.

Scare our socks off! 

Give us nightmares!

Whoever writes in the story that blows our judges minds the most, wins!

What do you win?

First prize

  • One signed copy of the Key to everything
  • One possessed squirrel  (Don’t worry. It’s made of yarn. It wont hurt you or anything. We hope!)
  • AND you get to be a character in my next book! Pretty cool huh? Forever immortalized as ink on a page and bytes on the screen. I can’t guarantee you’ll end up being the hero/heroine of the story but you will get bragging rights with all your friends. No one else will get to be as cool as you dude!

 Second prize

  • One signed copy of the Key to everything


How do I enter you ask?  Well, I’ve got an answer for that too!

Starting Today 10/4 through Friday 10/26

Send in your terrifyingly true tale to


We’ll read through all the entries and post the finalists right here on this very blog

On Halloween!


It’s better than getting rock candy from Grandma’s House!


Imageclick on the cover to get your copy of the Key to everything

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Dear Diary October 3, 2012: Back to School


Well I did the wrong thing this morning. While I was eating my raisin bran crunch I went online and searched for more info about Zombie Bees. Now I’m all freaked out. It’s a real thing! What the fuck man?

 In 2008 some beekeeper guy in California noticed his colony were flying around all herky jerky and flopping around on the floor. When they died he collected a few of them in a plastic bag and guess what? Yup. Itsy bitsy baby fly maggots were crawling around inside their bodies eating them from the inside out…and the crowd goes “ewww!”

 Scientists say the parasitic mommy fly attaches itself to the back of the bee (don’t ask me how) and injects its eggs. When they hatch the maggots eat their way from the inside out while the thing is still alive. Then they pupate into a hard shell around the body making it look like a fat piece of brown rice. A few weeks later, happy birthday killer zombification causing flies!

 I’m gonna go barf up some fiber now and then get the fly swatter I think we put in the basement.


 Tonight was Back To School Night! We got to go and meet the teachers and see all the other parents who still think we’re the Crazy L.A. Family. Admittedly, we kind of are. But I aint changing for nobody I tells ya! 

It’s such a beautiful school. There’s only one small building surrounded by trees out in the middle of the forest. So much fresh air I thought I might pass out.  Everything is lush and full now especially with the rain we’ve been having the last few days. The autumn leaves are changing colors so fast. If I didn’t see it with my own eyes I would have thought these colors couldn’t exist in nature.

They held their “big” meeting in the auditorium with all us parents to talk about their ambitious plans for the new school year. The man sitting in front of me raised his hand to ask a question, but when time the Principal called on him his voice sounded garbled and intelligible. His head jerked at strange angles and he looked pretty pale.

I tapped him on the shoulder to see if he was okay but he recoiled away as if I punched him. I got a few unsettling stares from some of the other parents in the room. Not sure what I did wrong, I just stared back at them quizzically. Our friends sitting next to us told me to ignore them and not to worry about it. 

When the meeting ended, we walked out of the auditorium and turned down the hallway toward my older son’s classroom. I glanced out the large window of the lobby as we passed by and saw the “jerky” man being helped into the passenger seat of a brown pick-up by who I assumed was his wife and three other parents. As they drove off I noticed a small cloud of black dots following down the road.

There is something strange about being in school when it’s dark outside. Even after all these years I still feel a familiar fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Never seems to go away. We walked to the car together in the cool air. I waved my hand at the flies swirling around my head. I had to wipe the gook from the end of my cane when I got in the car. Looking back toward the school I noticed small rice shaped stones along the pathway. Some of them crunched under the weight of our feet and indented with the same circular pattern of the rubber end tip of my cane.

Until tomorrow…



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Dear Diary October 2, 2012



I took Ambien for the first time last night. After all the stories of sleep cooking and driving, I was kind of hoping for something crazy to happen. Unfortunately all I got was a goon night’s sleep. I definitely needed it too. Rest seems to run away from me whenever I close my eyes these days. Either my head wont stop buzzing about this and that and this again or my apnea seizes my chest and wakes me up gasping for breath. So there’s that.


I heeded the warnings from my friends to stay off-line after taking the pill and watched some of the Bears game on TV. After we won (BEAR DOWN!) I watched a little bit of the news just to make sure the world wasn’t planning on blowing up during the night. Yeah, I’m paranoid like that. With everything going on in the Middle East these days, can you blame me?


Most of the stories were about the elections coming up next month with a boatload of commercials where “He stole from the voters.” and “She lied!” quotes floated around the screen over black and white images of politicians frozen in awkward unattractive poses. I don’t know the records of any of the local candidates, but I don’t think I can allow myself to be sucked into any of these smear campaigns.


There was one odd story I vaguely remember. I’m not sure if this really happened or it’s my first experience with an Ambien trip. Apparently this old Scituate farmer went into his field yesterday and found an enormous beehive stuck to one of his trees. Not that finding a beehive is an oddity in and of itself, but the kind of bees the newscaster described that pricked up my ears. These are what she called “Zombie Bees.”  I’m not exactly sure what she meant by that, but I do know it can’t be good.  Any kind of animal described as a “Zombie” does not bode well in my opinion.


Has anybody else ever heard about these things or was I just trippin’ balls?


Until tomorrow…


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Dear Diary: October 1, 2012 5:12PM


Went to the doctor today for a follow up on the sleep study I did a few months ago. Another day spent waiting for the doctor to show up while she charges me a crap load of money to tell me things I already know.  I sat in the exam room for an hour. Waiting. When she finally showed up, she hadn’t even read my chart yet. Yay.

I just remembered something weird. Before the doctor came in, the nurse came to check on me and was acting really odd. She asked me a few questions about how I was feeling and then her eyes glazed over focusing in two different places at once. She swayed to the left and mumbled a few unintelligible sounds before she bumped into the wall of the exam room. Watching her try to get through the door, she moved very stiff and forced like a robot. Her whole body jerked making her cat’s eye glasses fall to the floor. If the receptionist didn’t grab her by the waist I’m sure she’d have fallen down. I’m guessing they sent her home, but I couldn’t hear much after they closed the door.

I go see my other doctor on Friday and then a Sleep Study again on Monday. Fun Fun Fun!!!  More tomorrow…



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a math of mirrors



In the dream we’re in a museum. High white ceilings accented with soft light illuminating from an unknown source. Colorful and refined paintings hang on the long walls.  Important images by important artists held in high esteem by important people with important opinions. Details within the ornate frames hang illusive. Lines blur and colors swim together rendering their brush strokes undefined and mysterious. One large wall size piece hangs in front of us. In the mists of black and grey I can make out the abstract image of a nude man from behind. He flys at the bottom left of the gigantic rectangle arms spread wide with feet stretched closed together. A few inches above his lushly haired head he flies again. Only this time his shape has changed in small amounts. There is no longer a line dividing his feet or legs. They are flattening out, as are his arms and hands. The tip of his head reaches forward into a slightly rounded point. Above his head the man flies again. Morphing even more. Limbs almost unrecognizable as human now, they have gained straight edges.  I can almost see flaps and rows of rivets bulging out of the aluminum like skin. The outlines of numbers and letters are beginning to darken and show their identities on the fuselage like torso. In front of his/it’s nose the man/plane soars above now forming clouds and buildings far below on the ground. Other than wisps of hair and some muscular curves, the airplane is barely recognizable as a man. Looking higher up on the canvas there are four more rows of four man/airplanes evolving into and devolving out of finely detailed aircraft and back into male figures.

An unseen female voice comes from somewhere off behind us as I pick up a pencil.  The sound echoing from hard surface to hard surface made it virtually impossible to pinpoint the source’s location. 

“This painting…excuse me, Escher primarily used pencil or pen. This drawing is the largest Escher known to exist.”

She continues rambling about the artist’s history and methodology as I began to trace the outlines on the canvas with my pencil. “Maurits Cornelis Escher born in 1898 is one of the world’s most famous graphic artists. People from all over enjoy his skewed view of the universe.” At first I write gentle and soft, barely making any marks at all. “He is most famous for his so-called impossible structures, such as Ascending and Descending, Relativity, his Transformation Prints, such as Metamorphosis I, Metamorphosis II and Metamorphosis III, Sky & Water I or Reptiles.”  As I progress further along into the details of the images I press harder forcing the lead deeper into the paper, creating canyon like indentations around the man/planes.  “Mr. Escher became fascinated by the regular division of the plane, when he first visited the Alhambra, a fourteen century Moorish castle in Granada, Spain in 1922.” 

At the bottom right corner I see what appear to be a pair of eyes and a mouth looking at me upside down.

“You’re in the drawing.” I say to the docent. “That face there. It looks just like you.”

The woman glances down and shakes her head.

“It is you.” You say pointing to the eyes. “Can’t you tell?”

The docent continues her rambling list of important facts about the life of the artist. “While living in Switzerland during the Second World War, he drew 62 of his regular division drawings.  He enjoyed toying with perspective as well as impossible spaces.  In his work we recognize his keen observation of the world around us and the expressions of his own fantasies.  He died in 1972.”

We walk off towards another section of the museum. After what feels like miles and miles going up and down shallow and steep slopes we come to a large room with glass walls. We stand next to the glass just to the right of the left corner of the room. The floor of this room extends far below where we stand and the roof rises tremendously higher than that of the hallway we are in. Directly in front of us is a bright orange “O” about three feet in diameter. It is connected to a thick, grey metal wire attached to the floor by an intimidating looking hook connected to more wire wrapped tightly around the bottom in a coil. Above the “O” is a yellow “+” followed by a green “p” a blue “#” and a red “?”. The symbols radiate a soft sheen of their respective colors bringing a pleasant glow to the room. I take one step to my right to see the piece from the side and realize there are rows of hundreds of the same wires and shapes going back through the room off into the distance in every direction. They are lined up so perfectly that from the correct angle it appears as if there is only one of them in the room. We take in the shapes from several different angles. We marvel at the precision of craftsmanship.  The exactitude and painstaking obsession it must have taken to build such a glorious and mysterious structure.  I find it hard to blink.  Not out of a need to stare, my eyes physically will not close.  I tap you on the shoulder to get your attention but you are already looking at me.  The back of your head looks exactly like the front.  I turn you around and from all angles you appear the same.  Your hair stretches down straight to the same point just beneath your shoulder blades and the back collar of your shirt lifts up a small amount at the seam.  You are spinning around in a slow circle yet from every angle you appear the same.  Your shape does not change.  Your arms hang at your sides and the heel of your black shoe shows the same grey scuff at the side. 

I move on to the next glass walled room.  Two long black vertical lines stretch from a few feet above the floor reaching up to the same distance from the high ceiling.  As I move closer I can see the lines are the close edges of very long rectangles.  The rectangles are connected to the floor and ceiling by the same wire and hook mechanisms as the “O”, “+”, “p”, “#” and “?” from the previous room.  There are thousands of them.  The line of rectangles stretches out before me in an endless procession of straight black lines.  Perspective is playing tricks on my eyes.  The vanishing point does not seem to play by the same rules of physics in this room as the rest of the world.  The lines at the top and the bottom of the rectangles do not fade away into the distance at angles.  They move forward in perfectly straight lines keeping the corners all at perfect ninety degree angles onward and onward off into the distance.  I stop at mid center between the two closest rectangles and stare at the impossibleness of the piece in front of me.  Before I begin to ponder how the artist constructed such a feat of engineering, a man falls from above.  He dives straight down splashing into a pool of water exactly in the center of the rectangles before me.  He faces away from me and begins to swim.  His arms and feet move in slow motion, though he is swimming as fast as he can.  Water splashes high above him and out to the sides of the spot of water.  There is nothing beneath but the sides of the rectangles.  No water fills the rest of the room and I cannot see any of him slide beneath the surface of the water floating in the center of space.  The swimmer and the water are reflected in the rectangles that have now become mirrors.  The swimmer struggles to move forward and gains no progress in any of the infinite reflections to the left and right and stretching out ahead through the infinite row of doppelgangers moving out into the distance.  The reflections do not curve away into nothingness.  There is no cheap funhouse mirror trickery here.  Every muscle in the swimmers arms, the light reflecting off of his rubber eye goggle strap, the dirt under the corner of his right big toenail all appear in perfect detail in every reflection in every direction off into infinity.  The swimmer turns his head up for air.  I lose perspective.  I breathe.  You are standing next to me.  The mirrors go on and on.  The swimmer swims.  The swimmer goes nowhere. O+p#?



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bucket of fish in peter ranch


Action Drum and Guitar. Every Thursday night for years. Kevin then me then Brett. Or it was Brett then me then Kevin. It changed a lot depending on baseball or soccer practice schedules. But we were all there. The Three Musketeers of Drumsetting.

John was our sensei. Among the paradiddles and page thirty two lesson sixteen’s there existed a brilliant glimpse into the rest of the world. We learned as much, if not more, about life in those half hour lessons than we did about how to play “The Trooper” or “Tom Sawyer”.

The Groove. Our most important lesson. Everything is all supported by the groove. You need to know when it’s time to throw in a fill, lean in for a kiss on a date, kick the band into high gear, leave her with enough mystery to be interested in a second date. John was the big brother I didn’t know I needed. Encouraging, supportive, disciplinary (when he knew I didn’t practice enough), and always ready with a really fucking filthy dirty joke.

Sitting around the table with our drinks last night, transported back to being ten years old again in spite of the beers and whiskey. We traded stories about music, family, drumming, politics, philosophy and of course, really fucking filthy dirty jokes. All of us married now. All of us dads. All of us still lost in the groove.

For us drumming has always been more than playing in bands, touring or making records. Our shared bond tighter than snares stretching across bottoms of drums sharper than sticks piercing through broken crash cymbals. Didn’t matter that more than twenty years passed since our last meeting. Just a break in the groove still playing on and on in the background of life.

Four different paths. Four different lives. Four different songs. One deep groove.

With me shoehorn stuffed in his tiny convertible, John dropped me off at the end of the evening we talked more about philosophy and the world. Much like two drummers playing the same song will never sound the same, turns out we have come to very similar conclusions about almost everything. After all, drumming is life.

everyone’s father



seven million eight hundred eighty nine thousand two hundred thirty two seconds.

one hundred thirty one thousand four hundred eighty seven minutes.

two thousand one hundred ninety two hours.

ninety one days.

three months.

one quarter of one year.

not enough time.

not when the doctor says that’s all that’s left.

it’s a blink. a sudden inhalation of breath.

then no more.

Dad had cancer. We found out less than three weeks ago. I didn’t cry. His doctors did the biopsy on his liver and gave him the results on August 13th. His 74th birthday.

“Happy birthday! Now guess what?”

I don’t know how to be with this. Sad angry scared frustrated nervous grappling for handholds anywhere I can find. I’ve known other people who’ve died. Friends, teachers and even other family members. But this is my DAD. The man who taught me how to ride a bike notch an arrow draw a circle kick a soccer ball read a map. The man who introduced me to reading Heinlein Tolkein Bradbury Shakespeare Twain Clarke Herbert Sagan. Showed me how to ride a motorcycle drive a car sail a boat ride a skateboard. Told me about science history politics geography design architecture typography sculpture painting drawing sketching. Played me Mozart Beethoven Glass Reich Peter Paul Mary Simon Garfunkel Cocker Gilbert Sullivan & the Beatles. Took me to see Star Wars Jaws Close Encounters of the Third Kind 2001 Raiders of the Lost Ark. Helped me understand Cosmos Roots Algebra Geometry Biology Geology History Politics Technology. Gave me the choice to go to Hebrew school or to play music. When I chose music, he defended protected and nurtured that passion until it became a career. Most importantly, he taught me everything I know about how to be a Good Husband and especially how to be a Father.

When I was five years old I really wanted to play soccer. The league didn’t have enough coaches and Dad knew nothing at all about the game. He signed on anyway so I would get a chance to play. Record wise, The Hot Feet ended up being the worst team in our division. We were awful. I think we only found the back of the net enough to win one game that season, but we definitely had more fun than anybody else. Dad made sure of that. 37 years later, I still have friends from that team. And almost any time I talk to them, they bring up that team and ask about my Dad. My parents made some good friends that season that are still around too. Over the years, they became much more than friends, they became Family.

I played more concerts and little league games growing up than I can count and Dad cheered from the sidelines, announced from th booth behind the plate or sang along in the audience at nearly every single one. He never let himself forget the one show he missed though. He needed to go to China on business. I told him it was okay, but he wouldnt hear that. He never forgave himself for not being there that one time. He needed to be there to support me. This translated down to his grandsons too. Where he went to every one of Brendan’s soccer games and all of Gabriel’s baseball games up until we moved to New England.

When Jodi and I were kids, our house became one of the main hang outs for the neighborhood kids. We always had the coolest toys because Dad worked at Mattel, which was rad. Obviously. Everyone would come over to raid my room and see what was new. I remember having sleepovers and burying a lot of them up behind the bushes in our pretend fort behind the pool. If he got in trouble for it back at the office, he never told me. We threw huge pool parties, rocked out in the garage and played whiffle ball tournaments on the cul de sac. For Jodi’s sweet sixteen they brought in a local rock band to tear up the backyard. The police came to shut it down. If my folks weren’t cool before then, they sure were after that night!

Every summer break, Dad would take my sister to the office and they would spend the day together. Then he would take me along sometime the next week or so. I have such incredible memories of those times. He’d give me the tour and introduce me to everyone. I got more free Hot Wheels than I could carry. He even introduced me to the woman that Barbie was designed to look like. She was much older then, but still beautiful.

A few years later, he and his team were developing one of the very first electric cars. It had three wheels and the driver provided power to the engine by pedaling off and on. Of course it was the greatest thing since cheeseburgers when he let me drive it. I made three easy laps around the underground test lot. Then i pressed the pedal down, picked up speed and let go with one hand. Mr cool right? Well, Mr cool proceeded to crash into a pole and broke the front left wheel off. Dad didn’t get mad. Instead he laughed, grabbed his tools and dove right in with his team to fix it. Then they all took me out for ice cream so I’d feel better.

After he left Matel he was an early pioneer in the video game industry. Since he designed games, he needed to study them. So he went to the arcade a few hours every week to play the hottest new trends that kids were dropping their quarters into. I remember him picking up this heavy black velvet bag full of quarters. He winked at me and said, “Let’s go Tiger.” Not a bad job right?

As we walked into the arcade, all the teenage skater punks turned and stared. Here was this middle aged dude wearing a tie with his little red headed kid in tow. I thought for sure they were going to jump him for the quarters. But I heard their voices whispering all around us. “It’s SDK. Look, it’s him. Hey man, that’s SDK!” they parted like the red sea in front of him as he stepped up to the Defender machine. He handed me the bag and reached in for a quarter. Other players left their games. Taller kids let the shorter ones stand in front. The orderliness of it was a well rehearsed dance. The professor had arrived and class was in session. Every high score listed on the screen was followed by the same three initials:


The Mohawk and pierced crowd watched in awe while he absolutely destroyed that game. It was spectacularly cool.

One note about that particular adventure to make it even more spectacularly cooler… Almost every single one of the skater punks crowding around that brilliant Defender demonstration were riding skateboards that Dad designed. Yeah. THAT kind of spectacularly cool.

Usually, he’d try to keep me and my friends out of his office at home, but we’d all eventually end up with some tracing paper and his secret stash of brilliant prismacolors on his drafting table. He’d take the first letter of our names and turn them into a spaceship airplane submarine alien cowboy grizzly bear dinosaur helicopter or intergalactic superhero. I couldn’t walk into somebody else’s home without seeing something in there that he designed. Ceiling fan silverware toy telephone boat outboard motor car truck motorcycle skateboard roller skate or bow. I bragged a lot back then. Probably annoying the crap out of more than a few people in the process.

Everyone loved my folks. I’d see them sitting at the kitchen table with one of my friends trying to help them out with one problem or another. Something they might not be able to deal with at home. I knew a guy in high school who had a particularly bad home life. When I told Mom and Dad about it, they invited him over. They told him that he could come and stay with us for a while if he needed to and even offered to call the police. It ended up not happening, but it gave him the strength to get away from his situation and make things better for himself.

Every holiday Dad made us all cards. Every holiday. Without fail. He made them by hand, drawing cutting pasting beautiful things in his studio using Exacto knives markers colored paper watercolors. He’d find something that we were interested in at the time, make a fun scene and place us right in the thick of things. Everything in crazy unrealistic proportions so he could fit cartoon versions of our faces in there. Lots of oddly shaped drums howling guitars soccer balls screaming through the air at the goal baseball gloves making that last second catch to save the game. Princesses starship pilots graduation caps high school mascots wedding bands. Along with the grandsons he gleefully transitioned to digital prints etched with laser ink but not without the exact same amount of love and care. Jonah flashing a wand in a Harry Potter poster or Gabriel attacking the Death Star in an X-Wing Fighter.

The one card I remember most wasn’t made for me or my kids though. He gave it to my Mom on one of their anniversaries. The message was short and poignant and I steal it every now and then on a note to my wife. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. Mom kept the card in a place of honor in the hallway of their house for years. It’s still my favorite. It said simply,

“Always the same. Always new. I love you.”

I’ve never been religious. I do consider myself spiritual though. Is there something after this? I think there is. I mean we’re all made up of energy right? Everything came from the energy of exploding stars. We know that energy never disappears or dissipates. It transfers into something else. It turns into water air color earth sound fire. I am part of my Dad. My sister is. So are my boys and her son too. We may not be able to have two way conversations with him or sing his favorite songs together like we are used to, but his energy, his life will always be here. Nothing can change that no matter what religion or fath you cling to.

He described Fatherhood to me as one very long experience of opening your arms and letting go. I didn’t understand that for a long time. After having my own children, I realized that all we can really do for our kids is teach them what we know and hope they take enough of the good things to make a happy life for themselves. We cant control their choices or mistakes. We can help them only as much as they allow. Sometimes I didn’t listen to him. Sometimes I did. Sometimes the advice was good and sometimes not so much. That’s life for everyone I guess. The most important thing to me is that he was always there for me. Always.

He ocasionally made some not so suble hints that our lives would be better if only he’d made more money. If only he’d been more successful. But I know people who grew up with tremendous amounts of money. Among the large houses, elaborate vacations and bottomless trust funds, they were always missing something. Something urgent and important elluded them at the cash registers. They never had anything remotely close to the loving family relationship my parents showered us with every day. Dad was the most successful person I’ve ever met in the ways that really matter. Great friends. The respect and admiration of his peers. Children who love him no matter what. An extended family of siblings nieces nephews cousins aunts uncles who adore him even when they argued about politics. And above all, he had Mom. She was his best friend. He was so deeply in love wi her at he used to hide behind corners so he could watch her walk when she didn’t know it. He loved her more than I ever knew was possible.

My wife Melissa told me that Dad restored her faith in men. Once she met my parents, she knew she could trust that I would be good to her. I learned from the best. One of my best friends recently told me that he learned how to treat women by watching how Dad treated Mom and Jodi. Love with everything you have. Never hold back. Especially in the difficult times. Love when it’s hard, not just when it’s easy. If I end up being half as good an example for my boys as Dad was to me, I’ll consider myself incredibly successful.

Dad travelled the world designing products that not only made people’s lives more enjoyabe and simpler, they often saved lives too. Children grew up hearing his voice as Porky Pig on the See n’ Say. People flew in his airplanes rode his motorcycles rollerskates and skateboards. We stayed cool under his ceiling fans watched television using his satellite dishes and unsuccessfully attempted to beat his scores on Defender. He designed drums and orchestral bells. Dad sang opera, played guitar, made Mickey Mouse pancakes and swam back and forth across the pool really, really, really slow. He was threatened in a jazz club once by Miles Davis. Dad hosted a radio show and announced for WTTW Public Television in Chicago. He was a “Naviguesser” in the Civil Air Patrol. And Dad always brought home a Hot Wheel for me when I stayed home sick from school. Even when he knew I was faking it. I faked it a lot.

August 20, 2012.

Dad died seven days after his 74th birthday. 83 days earlier than the doctor originally estimated. When I went in the bedroom to check on him in the morning, his breathing had grown very shallow. So I woke up Mom and Aunt Marcia. I held his hand willing so hard to feel him gripping my fingers in return. Mom kissed him on the forehead over and over. I said it’s okay now Dad. We love you so much.

Then he was gone.

I leaned over him and kissed his cheek. Aunt Marcia ran a finger over the Naval Aviation Pensacola Florida logo on his t-shirt. “You can fly the greatest plane in the world now Stevie.” she said. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face, “He’s even wearing wings.”

I finally cried.




“You should really get that hickie looked at!” or “All the cool kids are in the Mantacore club”: My interview with Steven Luna


Before I go any further I need to ask if you like vampires?  Yes?  Good.  How about laughing?  Do you like to laugh?  I mean grab your sides, you need to pee, lung collapsing guffaws?  You do?  Then you must read Joe Vampire by Stephen Luna aka ‘Mantacore’.  (Don’t ask me how he got that nickname.  I haven’t been invited into the cool club to find out why yet. Soon as I learn the hi sign and secret hand shake, I’ll let y’all know!)

Joe is an under achiever.  He’s lazy and sub-handsome with not the best track record of girlfriends. I won’t give anything away, but his nicknames for them are some of the most hilarious in history.  If you’ve ever had a broken heart, Joe has your back…and quite possibly your neck too.

Luna and I recently became friends over the digital ones and zeroes.  He’s intensely funny and a terrific writer.  Don’t you love it when you can tell your friend you loved their book and really mean it?  For instance, I’m reading Joe Vampire for the second time now and laughing just as hard as I did the first pass.  It’s liters of fun. (See what I did there? Liters? Ha!)

I recently interviewed the soon to be too big to remember me author, about words, characters and the pursuit of groovy tuneage.  Check out how cool this dude is…

Where did you find Joe?  Is he based on you or anyone you know in particular?  He’s such a great character.  

Thanks, Alex!   Joe came to me after a comment was made by a Twilight-loving co-worker…she is a Team Edward-er or however you say that.  Can’t remember what her original statement was, but my reply was: “Not all the vampires sparkle, you know; some of them are just average Joes.”  It struck me that this would be a fun topic to blog about, how a work-a-day dude would deal with the challenges of being stuck with vampirism. And it was originally a blog only, sort of a conceptual art project where the character would chime in with observations, advice and information about his daily doings.  After nine posts, I saw a story emerge and decided to plot it out as a novel instead, and from there Joe just started speaking out and telling the story himself.  Makes the work so easy when it happens like that.    

How would you describe your relationship with writing?  What drives you to do it?  

Writing is a constant in my life…I’m continuously composing something in my head, all day long. Sometimes I even edit my to-do lists because I don’t think they’ve been worded properly.  It’s habitual for me.   But it took a long time for me to evolve “writing” into “storytelling”, because I realized how huge and daunting a task it is to get everything connected properly and have it all make sense.  I had to train myself one paragraph at a time.  Now, storytelling has become my default mode of thought, a way of organizing information in the world around me regardless of the situation.  As for writing novels, I used to want what I write to be transcendent and to reveal some grand insight about the human condition (don’t we all, though?)  That did nothing but block me, until I realized entertaining my readers is the greatest manner of transcendence my work could possibly provide.  It all made sense after that. 

How does your fictional world interact with your real world?   

Wow…good question.  Everything I write has some fantastic element or, at the very least, a touch of magical realism, so the interaction is primarily in the character voices and the compositional details.  Several scenes in Joe were based on real-life experiences – the details of the Halloween costume thing is 100% true, for example, right down to the costumes and parade described.  In the book I’m working on now, the main character is a rock star abducted by aliens, and I’ve been fascinated by both forever, so all of my casual data collection over the years is flowing out into it.  That’s a different sort of interaction, for sure.  And most recently, I’ve started incorporating cameo appearances by friends into my work, as a fun inside joke (with their approval, of course).  Sometimes they’re mentioned by name; sometimes their characteristics are encoded into a figure or descriptive passage.  In every instance, it’s a way for me to show my gratitude for their friendship.  It’s a lot of fun to work them into the madness.      

When you write, how do you block out enough of the stresses of daily life to submerge yourself completely into the story?  

I almost always compose the story in my head during “white noise” moments – sitting in traffic, doing yard work, in between day job tasks – which makes for a totally thought-consuming day.  But it also makes the moments when I sit down to write it all down much easier…so much ends up being there for me from the get-go, even if it’s just a series of major plot points that I can start connecting, and snippets of dialogue or descriptive passages.  I also block out early morning time to get as much finished as I can, knowing that evenings are prone to hectic activity.  That doesn’t keep me from pushing bedtime back by a few hours if needed, though.  And yeah, it hurts in the morning, but the feeling of having accomplished something is entirely worth it.

How important is music vs. silence when you write? If you do listen to music, who are some of your go to artists?  

Music is a total must-have when I write.  Generally I find plotting/planning/note-taking can be done to anything, so I’ll let Pandora or my own collection roll with a mix of all my artists and stations.  It’s a diverse mix – singer-songwriter stuff and electronica, metal and classic rock, Rat Pack standards and rap all coexist and make for a satisfying blend.  But I noticed when I was writing the sequel to Joe Vampire that the true writing process smoothed out completely when certain songs came up on the player.  All of them turned out to be related in some way to Sleepthief, an ambient-electronic project by a talented guy named Justin Elswick that features the voices of Jody Quine and Coury Palermo.  Something about that music in specific balanced out my brainwaves, and the storytelling just flowed.  I appreciated the effect of their work on my work so much that I wrote the three of them into the sequel.    

If you could think of one moment in your life that led you to being a writer…

Several years back, my wife asked me what she thought I could see myself doing as a long-term career.  I told her “painter”, since at the time I was knee-deep in illustration as a hobby.  She told me she saw me being a writer.  So I picked up some story ideas I had put down long before in favor of painting, and I just kept running with it.  Turns out she was onto something.  

Head on over to grab a copy of Joe Vampire You’ll laugh so much your sides will ache, your heart will go potter pat!


Here is a small bit of bragadociousness from the Mantacore his own bad self… 


Steven Luna was relatively quiet when he was born; that all changed once he learned to speak. Now? Good luck getting him to shut up. He’s also known for not giving straight answers, but those around him are accustomed to ignoring him anyway, so it all works out.  He’s currently writing another book…really, though, aren’t we all?


And now run, don’t walk, RUN to one of these places to pick up a copy of Joe Vampire.  It really is a great book.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Joe-Vampire-ebook/dp/B00736WAZW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340715824&sr=8-1&keywords=joe+vampire

Barnes and Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/joe-vampire-steven-luna/1108479183?ean=2940014071277

You can always check in for more of Joe’s exploits on his very own blog here… http://joevampire.blogspot.com

He’s on GoodReads here… http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5757470.Steven_Luna

The prototypical Vampire Facebook master here… www.facebook.com/thestevenluna

And if you are a twitterer, he likes his 120 characters fresh and preferably Type O Negative… @joevampireblog

Incidentally, I summoned enough courage to enter into the Mantacore’s lair and let him ask me a few questions too.  Check it out HERE.  Fortunately for me, I was able to escape with only small visual scars!