Saturday, February 16, 2013

Promotional Giveaway

     In early 2006, John Connolly and his publisher released The Black Angel, a Charlie Parker thriller. It was unique in two respects. Firstly, it was more overtly supernatural than the previous Parker installments and secondly, the hardcover edition had bundled with it something I'd never seen before: A music CD.
     In having his publisher secure the rights to release a promotional CD of music, Connolly explained for the first time that when writing certain chapters in the Parker series, he'd think of a certain song. It was a full-length CD of roughly ten songs that are intended to be played while the reader read certain chapters in the Charlie Parker saga.
      I thought that was a helluva good idea and still do. It was original and, from a business standpoint, it was a very savvy move. Connolly's music CD probably not only stimulated sales, it helped heighten what was already a suspenseful, visceral experience. The Parker series, in my mind, are better written than just about any detective series today, better even than Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme series. And, while Connolly's taste in music isn't exactly in synch with mine, his idea to include a CD with the hard cover edition was inspirational.
     I had this in mind while I was drafting American Zen in early to mid 2008. The idea of a soundtrack was inevitable since the book is about a hard rock band from the late '70's. At various times in the narrative I'd described through Mike Flannigan's words how they'd sounded while playing these songs both as kids in 1978 and as middle-aged men in 2008. But even the most skilled writer can't supplant music with mere words. This is why we have musicians. Describing music is as largely pointless as watching food and porn. If it's not interactive and if you can't actually enjoy it, what's the point?
     So the idea of assembling a soundtrack was an inevitable one. Connolly's idea, as I'd stated, was a terrific one but the songs had nothing to do with The Black Angel and it required taking previous Parker novels off the bookshelf and playing the songs during certain chapters. I saw where Connolly was going but it seemed like a cumbersome proposition, all the same.
     American Zen, as far as I know, is the first book to have its own soundtrack. They, too, should be played at certain moments but, unlike Connolly's idea, you don't have to take down books and fumble for certain chapters before you can get the full good out of them.
     So, while still revising the novel in 2008, I had a family member burn for me the first of a series of music CD's using Light Scribe. I'm a writer, not a graphic designer, so the first attempt was Godawful. I tried to create my own Zen font and it came out looking like something an epileptic chicken would make in its death throes. So I had my kid look up a real Zen font and had him use that instead of my abortive custom-made one.
     The sound track is a pretty standard length 41 minutes, consisting of 10 songs. Although both Mike Flannigan and I are head bangers from way back, it's a surprisingly eclectic selection of music, ranging from White Zombie to Neil Diamond to The Allman Brothers to Billy Swan to Queen to Norman Greenbaum. Yeah, it runs virtually the entire gamut of popular music since the mid 60's and every song in it has its proper place. There are other great songs that are referenced and even described such as Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors", Black Sabbath's "Iron Man", ZZ Top's, "Lagrange", Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" (actually a stolen Willie Dixon song), and "Roadhouse Blues" by the Doors. But they didn't make the cut because I didn't think they illustrated the Immortals, Mike's band, as both a music group and a unique dynamic of friends. The songs that made it have an emotional impact and personal significance for Mike, the rest of the group and, lastly, for me.
      As far as emotional impact, the ones that do me in are the songs the boys play when they meet Drew Carmichael's band at the very same night club where the Immortals had played their last gig in 1978. At the same time Jo Jo was trying to save his friends in the final days of his life, Mike was also trying in his hamfisted way to save his childhood friend Jo Jo when he found out he'd given up rock and roll and played organ for Provincetown's Catholic Church. So it's with great joy that I imagine Jo Jo playing in the final minutes of his life the electric piano of "Jessica" and, finally, the group's old signature song, Stevie Winwood and
the Spenser Davis Group's "So Glad You Made It", the one that actually inspired American Zen.
     Likewise, earlier in the book, listen to White Zombie's unforgivably profane "Supercharger Heaven" and think of Mike and the boys performing that at St. Peter's to the pastor's (and Jo Jo's) mortification. Or Billy Swan's "I Can Help" played by a 19 year-old Jo Jo playing on Mike's car stereo while he helplessly watches his best friend die. Then, in the Coda or epilogue, when Mike walks into Dave's old barn and remembers the group's first full rehearsal as they pulled together and played a kick-ass cover of Emerson Lake and Palmer's "Karn Evil 9 First Impression". As he visualizes the younger men they used to be, he plays their cover on his iPod and listens to it at the same time you can. And I dare you to maintain two dry eyes while listening to Jimi Hendrix's "Angel" and reading about Mike, Rob and Billy's rendition during Jo Jo's memorial service at the very same church they'd desecrated just days earlier.
     The tracks are:

1) "Everything Zen" by Bush, the only song not played by the band or referenced by me except in an epigraph.
2) "Gimme Some Lovin'" by Stevie Winwood and the Spenser Davis Group
3) "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum
4) "Bicycle" by Queen
5) "Supercharger Heaven" by White Zombie
6) "I Can Help" by Billy Swan
7) "Jessica" by the Allman Brothers
8) "Hello" by Neil Diamond
9) "Angel" by Jimi Hendrix
10) "Karn Evil 9, First Impression, Part 2" by Emerson Lake and Palmer

     So here's what I'm going to do: Everyone who orders either the physical Create Space edition or the Kindle version can contact me at and I'll mail you a free CD that I absolutely guarantee will heighten the American Zen experience and enable you to better share my vision. This promotion will necessarily be on the honor system so I'll have to assume you're telling the truth about having bought the book. But I don't imagine anyone would resort to disingenuousness just to get a CD of old music.
     But wait, there's more! If you buy a copy of American Zen on Kindle or on Create Space, I'll include with the music the prologue and first chapter of American Zen 2: Rock of Ages including the cover art. Or, if you want, I can embed a little extra surprise, sort of like an Easter Egg studios put into DVD's but easier for you to find.
     American Zen is truly a very good book and I'm not saying that because I wrote it. I freely admit my first two novels were Godawful but I stand on firm ground when I say that American Zen is my most brilliant sustained effort and it's a truly incredible "memoir" of a week in the lives of four old friends in search for redemption, no matter the cost. When you play the music as you read the chapters that make up the dramatic spikes, it'll drive home that point much more effectively than even mine or Mike's words can.

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