My photo
(pronounced Ko-Hane)
Dan is the Bram Stoker-nominated author of Plague of Darkness, Solomon’s Grave, and the critically-acclaimed Margaret's Ark. Writing as G. Daniel Gunn, he released Destroyer of Worlds and the novella (written with L.L.Soares) Nightmare in Greasepaint (Samhain Publishing),. His short stories have appeared in Cemetery Dance, Shroud Magazine, Apex Digest and many more. He and his family live in New England.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Rehearsal

When I first had a website, circa 1998 or so, long before the term "blog" was around, I would write short essays or simply jot down my thoughts as the muse struck me. 1998. That was 14 years ago. Yikes. Anyway, on June 21, 1999, a couple of weeks after my daughter Amanda's very first dance recital I wrote the following essay (which had been lost for so long I feared it was lost forever, until now). Remember, this was 1999, Amanda was 5 years old and it was the end of her first year dancing at Chickee's Dance World (where she still dances today, at the ripe old age of 17). Aside from a couple of minor grammar corrections, the following is the original essay word for word. Since she is heading out this weekend for another dance competition, seems an appropriate time to look back to a wonderful parental moment, one I'll always cherish:


About six months ago, at the half-way mark of the school year, my daughter Amanda's dance class had an open house. It consisted of a couple dozen parents politely battling for the best vantage point in three square feet of changing area, and observing their daughters partake in a typical weekly dance lesson. As I've mentioned, it's the half-way point in the season, and a pre-cursor to the year-end dance recital. A way to get the kids used to being watched, ahead of time versus having the recital be the first time. Just in case.

Amanda is four years old at this point, as are most of the other dozen or so girls in her class. That morning, I found a snazzy spot for video-taping (though at times I had to film her reflection in the wall-length mirror because the girl beside her kept moving in the way).

(No, this isn't a pompous, deep lecture on the nature of the universe. Just a nice, tender moment in the life of yours truly. If you find yourself getting bored, feel free to hang out in the lobby and have a smoke.)

So, the dancing went about as well as could be expected, every parent being drowned in a tidal wave of cute. Amanda's primary move during each number was to very slightly shift one or two toes, and scratch her neck. It took me a while to figure out that the neck-scratching was going on because Amanda must have figured out (chalk one up for the child making a good decision) that it would be more beneficial to the group as a whole if she scratched her neck rather than scream in terror and pass out after vomiting on the instructor's tap shoes.

Nevertheless, it was a tender moment between father (and mother, brother and sister) and daughter. Now and again while scratching Amanda would venture a look at me then visibly cringe in pure unadulterated fear. It was sweet.

Time passed. Amanda knew she'd scratched more than danced (she saw the video, of course) but it really didn't matter to her because she survived the ordeal. As the weeks ticked toward the end of the season, the recital loomed on the horizon.

Now, for those of you daughter-less folks out there, at the end of every dance school season, they all get up on a stage, under spotlights, and dance, dance, dance. Teenage students, instructors, two-year-olds and four-year-olds. The younger kids are usually on and off early, with one or two numbers done with the rest of their class.

Amanda's class would be performing third and seventh (roughly). As the weeks became days, I noticed Amanda moving and dancing around the house as if following a choreographer only she could see. She really loves to dance, that much was obvious. She just hates an audience.

The open house being a fairly good indicator of what was to come, I quickly showed signs of pre-rehearsal jitters. Amanda promised us, though, that she wouldn't be all upset and nervous. But we could NOT talk about the rehearsal nor the recital. We don't mention it, she doesn't drop out. Fair enough.

Thursday evening, June 3rd. My Dad's birthday and the rehearsal for Amanda's dance recital the following day. Open seating. We all fidgeted in our seats with excitement. (Let me say, as an aside, that Andrew is a wonderful big brother: he sat there, as nervous as me. He wanted his little sister to do well. We all did.)

We all wanted that bright miracle to happen: the one you see in expensively-done movies, where the wallflower comes out of her shell at the last moment and shines for all to see.

We really wanted that to happen.

And it did.

Amanda's troupe came marching out in their tights (no costumes for rehearsals) and tap shoes, stood there holding each other's hands like nervous statues. The music started, and they danced. Amanda, like her classmates, kept her eyes riveted to the instructor who crouched along the front of the stage, arms moving rapidly in visual instructions for the children's feet and arms to follow. They watched her, sang quietly along with the song, and moved their arms and legs and danced the dance they'd rehearsed in class for the past two months. Amanda, too. Not once did she make even the SLIGHTEST gesture which looked even REMOTELY like neck-scratching. Now and then, she'd dare look over at us, see our obviously-wonderstruck expressions, and smile (looking exactly like her Auntie Ellie when she did, I might add).

Amanda was in her glory, doing what she loved, and doing it very well. Unlike the first time we'd seen her dance, when she barely moved her legs and didn't DARE raise her arms too high, here she was, less than six months later, arms moving deliberately in time with the song (an old 1930's number, by the way -- dance classes love music from that art deco era), looking like she was exactly where she wanted to be.

And four rows away, her Dad's heart split apart at every seam. I sat there, in unrepentant love for my daughter who danced upon that stage. Amanda, my sparring partner, the one I've battled with so often and most often (for no other reason than we're too much alike).

That night, as she finished her first dance and momentarily came out with her class for the second, I saw her, more than any other time, as an independent person. Not "My Daughter Amanda", or "My Second Child," but Amanda Keohane. Dancing means something special to her. Whether it's a towering passion or a simple pleasurable experience, I don't know, and for that matter it's none of my business. She went out there and poured it on for no one else but herself. Sure, pleasing one's parents is a pretty powerful force behind humanity. But, honestly, I think it was more than that. After the initial open house, seeing Amanda so nervous, I could never be sure whether she would ever be able to come to grips with the fear of being the center of attention.

But in the end, I suppose, her love of dancing overcame all that. I know, I know. In a year or two she may have forgotten dancing and moved on to softball. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe years from now she'll still be dancing on that (or some other) stage spinning in a solo. (By the way, the actual recital was a treat, costumes and all, but it could never have the same impact as the rehearsal did to Dear Old Dad.)

And maybe I'll have forgotten all about that moment on June 3, 1999. But I don't want to. At least not yet. What I observed that evening was just too special, too bright a spark in the slow moving river of life to simply let fall away. That's why I'm writing this.

So I'll remember my daughter, and the moment she became real.

June 21, 1999.
Amanda's dance solo, age 17

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reading in Princeton MA this Sunday

I'll be joining other Wachusett-area writers and readers of all ages from from 7-8:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 29, for an "oral celebration of the written word." Not sure what I'll be reading from yet, but should be fun.

Anyone can bring a piece of writing they enjoy — a poem, short-short story, essay, paragraph, scene from a play —to share with the audience. Original writing is welcome, as is the work of others.

Sponsored by the Princeton Arts Society, the readings will take place in the PAS Room of the Princeton Center, 18 Boylston Ave. princeton MA. For more information, e-mail contact@princetonarts.org.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What's So Funny? Everything, If You Let It

 Been talking with writer Matt Mikalatos about possibly posting as a guest-blogger on his website THE BURNING HEARTS REVOLUTION soon - OK, well, he asked me last September, via email, and like everything else these past couple of years I said, "Sure" only to be distracted by something shiny across the room. In cleaning up my inbox yesterday I found the email chain. Jumping to the end of this off-topic intro, I'll be posting something over there soon. Now, back on topic: Matt's first book is called IMAGINARY JESUS which sometimes has a "MY" preceding it... I read the opening chapter- brilliant, and Funny! I laughed. Then I went to his website to get a feel for his entries. I laughed some more. His second book is NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD CHRISTIAN with a subtitle that takes up the first couple of chapters - another book I'm also going to snap up.

Matt is funny. Actually, Matt is funny, and it shows. Important clarification. He's happy, too... Well, I assume he is - he actually might be a psycho with a great public persona to get people to like him... regardless, it shows. The happiness, I mean. Of course, in the brief glimpse of his bio he seems to be doing work he loves and doing some great stuff for the kingdom.

I've been going through a bit of a crisis - not so much of faith. That's been getting a good work out lately and I feel I've improved enough to be considered a sucky Christian - a vast improvement from yesteryear. No, I mean a Crisis of Life.

I have been metaphorically sitting in the middle of a deep pit in my backyard (to steal an image from a story written by a friend of mine - the identity of the friend and story is eluding me at the moment) moping about life. Granted, over the past decade Life has been dark, what with a divorce and everything leading up to it and all the chaos around and after it, worrying about the kids and how they're adjusting - meeting the wonderfully quirky and spiritual Linda Busby, falling in love and now planning a future together, worrying again about how the kids are adjusting to it all.

My day job (computer programmer) is like a conversation that's gone on just a little too long and although you want to sneak away to go to the bathroom then get some punch you keep nodding your head - afraid to stop because the conversation is paying the mortgage and your son's college tuition.

And there's the rub. Worry. Fear. I've been sitting in the friend's story's pit letting Worry and Fear spill into it from all sides like demons peeing into.. ok, that's the third bathroom reference... hang on....

...there, that's better. Once upon a time I used to be a happy guy. I used to be kind of funny... a friggin' riot, in fact.... well, most of the time I'm just weird with a skewed worldview but I LIKED THAT - I made myself laugh. That's all that really matters. God loves laughter, too - not at the expense of others, of course, but laughter in general. (also, hopefully, He likes ellipses...).

Enough, then, of Worry and Fear. Love is Joy. Christ is Joy. God is Joy. Time to be more Joyful, eh?

Kids: relax, life is good. Your Dad is happy - so be happy for him. World: I'm going to be happy and not worry about you anymore. Readers: I'm going to try and be a little lighter in tone and am climbing out of this stinky hole now. Maybe I'm going to start writing again. At the very least, I'm going to smile. Lord: You are my identity. Not my job, not my kids, not my fiancée Linda, not my writing. You. Time to toss the bushel into the hole and shine a little more.

Wow... CONTENT on Dan's blog... cool....

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Movie Review for LOCKOUT at Cinema Knife Fight!


Hi, everyone. There's a new movie review of mine for the newly-released LOCKOUT over at Cinema Knife Fight. Check it out, let me know what you think...