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(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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Year in Review, Part 1

So, at the start of 2014, I needed to find a way to motivate myself to do more of the 'little things' around the house, get organized, do so many tasks, etc, that I kept putting off. At the same time, the idea of keeping a daily log of normal, mundane things that would happen throughout the year as a way of journaling, or more to the point, simply logging what happened day to day for future posterity, appealed to me. I got this from a story in Monica Woods' amazing book Ernie's Ark, where a character inherits his late father's house and discovers a pile of desk calendars with these kinds of notations, and finds a way to connecting with the man's life more than when he was alive.

Anyway, I'd note what I did task-wise, cleaning the yard, painting a room, even doing dishes and picking up poop. I also made note of other, less domestic events that went on. Going through the calendar now, I'm surprised how much happened this year, good and bad. There were even some events I thought happened much longer than a year ago. In honor of those letters we sometimes get in Christmas cards highlighting the year, I thought I'd go through the highlights myself here, both for posterity and also because my handwriting in these calendar entries is atrocious.

Linda and I kicked off the new year going to First Nite in Worcester. She'd never been before and it had been a few years for me, so we hit the streets, watching shows in various churches and venues around the city, then stopped by Deb & Daeg Brenner's home for some soup, hang out, watch a movie and try to stay awake for the ball dropping.

We had our grand-niece Olivia over a quite lot, sometimes with her mom Lucy and/or her dad Enrique, who later in the year moved back to New York City for a number of reasons, including his health. Olivia's a wonderful kid. In fact, she'll be spending New Year's with us tomorrow (as I wrote this).  The beginning of the year also brought a belated Christmas / house-warming gathering at my sister Ellie's new house in Worcester.

At the beginning of the year Linda and I still attended New England Chapel in Franklin, but with gas inching towards $4 a gallon, we decided it was time to find a place closer to home. The search was on. In the meantime we were active in the youth group, called Ignite, at NEC and I was part of the men's ministry. After such an amazing mission trip to Alabama last year, we considered what to do this year, but as you'll see some things got in the way and we did not go. However, mission work isn't always far away, there were quite a few opportunities to serve locally, including working at a soup kitchen every few weeks and helping some friends of ours with much-needed repairs to their homes.

January saw my friend Al’s father, Albert Faul Jr, pass away. He was a nice man. Linda and I attended his funeral and visited with the family. It was a year of losses to be sure, for we also attended the wake of our friend Sandy Giroux's mother. It was here that Linda was finally able to meet a number of my old friends from home - the old "McDonald's Gang." Around this time I called an old friend of mine, Bill Howard, with whom I used to work and who taught me how to paint, only to discover from his wife Kate that Bill was dying. I never got to see him, for he passed away a couple of weeks later. I wrote about it here.

After having talked about it for a while, we began the process of becoming foster parents. The process takes a long time, with many visits and meetings, a month of training in June, and as I write this we're coming to the close of our official certification. 2015 should be quite interesting in this vein to be sure.

We went to quite a few movies at the beginning of the year, getting ready for our now-annual event, the Oscar Party. We managed to go see every Best Picture nominee before the end of February. Originally, the Oscar Party was just me and the kids staying up on a Sunday night watching the Academy Awards. Over the past couple of years, we starting inviting neighbors and friends who live nearby, to the point we had probably 30 people this year. Everyone gets a ballot and makes a guess as to who will win, with goofy prizes to the winners. We even had awards for best movie-themed food dishes. Word's starting to spread for next year's event... going to be interesting working out the logistics if a lot more people come. Still, it'll be fun. Always is.

Life wasn't perfect. There was our share of angst and stress as the year began, but all things work out when you have the right communication and goals in life. I had my days, ups and downs, and I was pretty happy to see the longer and warmer days of Spring come around.

Little by little, I worked my way out of a years-long writing slump. Not for lack of material, just wasn't writing. I went back to Plague of Darkness and began revision in earnest. At one point, using index cards, one per "scene", I reworked the entire story, tossing out what didn't fit, and adding new scenes, new meanings behind them. Overall, it became a much more unified and cohesive novel, thanks in no small part to my wife who was instrumental as first reader. 

I also went back, for a short time, to a new novel I'd started a couple of years before, titled Ezra. Still not sure where this one is going. I like the characters, but it needs to ferment for a little longer. 

Work was busy, and quite rewarding. I enjoyed going to work - and they enjoyed having me there, lol. That says a lot. I even did quite a lot of traveling around the country this past winter for work. We're not supposed to talk about work in public forums, so enough of that topic. Except to add my old boss and friend Mark Lowell finally retired. 17 years before he was my project manager when I first started with the company, and we'd all worked together through this time. We still see Mark and his wife Jan from time to time.

Linda and I did the Daniel Fast twice, once in January and again in March. This is a sort of nutritional, and spiritual, cleanse. Pretty strict diet, all vegan, and then some. No caffeine, no sugars or anything to drink but water, but the food is delicious, and all natural. No program to pay for, just a lot of rules and a lot of recipes. You feel amazing afterwards. Why we don't just continue with it in some form when we're done I don't know. Laziness, or hunger for bad stuff?

Andrew came up from New York City to visit now and then and it was great to see him. Amanda came home from her first year of college, went back, now and then I visited her and we caught a movie or checked out some interesting foodie place. Audrey spent many weekends in the winter at the Reggie Lewis Center for her indoor track meets. She also was inducted into the national Honor Society and began visiting colleges, one last go around with this, and it was fun.

I hadn't been the most visible friend the past year, so made a better effort to see folks more often, either after work or whenever, including a fun 50th birthday party for Kathy Doiron, of the above-mentioned McDonald's Gang. 

Ok, that's enough for part 1....

2014 Year in Review, Part 2

The cold and snow slowly melted and the days got longer, always a good thing by the time Spring rolls around in New England.

In March, we visited a small church in Holden called Fellowship Church, after hearing about it from Sue Walker, whose daughter runs track with Audrey. The building was small and falling apart, but the people were like a family, and that (plus Pastor Marty's sermon and the service overall) is what brought us back again. We haven't left. It's weird that this was only ten months ago, so immersed in their community we've become. After only a few services, the building was sold - a plan they'd been brewing for the past year, and we're now meeting at Showcase Cinemas in Worcester. In a way, starting over. And the church has grown a lot since then. Linda and I transitioned from NEC to FC over the next few months, finishing up the season with NEC's youth and men's groups. Linda quickly hooked up with Fellowship's youth group and has been an integral part of it since. Over the year I've been involved in various aspects, from setup/takedown at the theater, to parking, to becoming a member of the creative team and will soon join the production team. Linda and I are also part of the new prayer team, which has been very cool.

As I'd been doing for years, I volunteered for the Interfaith Hospitality Network, a homeless shelter now located in Worcester, with folks from the Catholic church I used to attend (Prince of Peace) and the Congregational church in town. We do this twice a year for a week, playing with the kids and organizing volunteers for food, overnights, etc. I used to do their website ( but this year they let a student group from Assumption College take it over.

Linda turned 54 this year, and I turned 51. 'Nuff said on that. :)

We searched out and attended little events here and there to shake things up as the snow melted. We saw a student play at Clark called K.I.S.S.I.N.G. which was pretty cool, visited the Thomas Prince art show, attended a seminar on coffee farms in South America, stuff like that. On a snowy night we did hot-tubbing with the Brenners, shot all sorts of guns and rifles at the gun club with Al (scary how fun shooting things can be) and did more visiting with friends.

Audrey was confirmed at Prince of Peace, at a nice ceremony in Worcester. We attended a celebration for my sister Ellie for her 30th anniversary working for Holy Cross college, and a birthday party for my aunt Linda Gunn. We participated in a city-wide service project called Worester4Worcester as part of the Fellowship team, building a new playground at Lincoln Street School with fifty other volunteers from various schools and organizations. It was a lot of fun and a lot of work.

As Spring waned, me and daughter Amanda found time to get together, see films and stuff while she wrapped up her first year at college with a 3.9 average. In the Fall she'd add more classes to her triple major course-load and still end up with a 3.9. Andrew's job in NYC still went strong and he's more and more feeling like a New Yorker. :) Audrey finished up a good track season then attended her Junior prom with her on-again off-again boyfriend Cooper, who for some reason thinks I hate him. I actually think he's a good kid, but I'll let him think otherwise if it'll keep him in line! :)

Spring brought more sad things, our friend Brenda's brother passed away, and we attended the final burial for my friend Bill who had died in January. Afterwards we brought home a number of his paintings which his family was giving away. He was very prolific.

On the writing front, had a cool couple of months, having written a number of movie reviews for Cinema Knife Fight - a list of them can be seen here - and I continued extensive editing of Plague of Darkness and some more on Ezra, then stopped to focus solely on Plague.

A trip to watch The Revolution soccer team play at Gillette Stadium, and an awesome men's retreat with the guys from Fellowship Church wrapped up the Spring as summer shone ahead.

OK, I guess these sections have become seasonal. Let's do summer next...

2014 Year in Review, Part 3

Summer was a busy one. Audrey competed in a Pentathlon at school. Amanda came home from school and set out to work a LOT.

Linda's Camry was finally laid to rest after 260,000 miles or so. We found a "new" 2001 Honda Civic, standard, in NH and, after a quick visit to Portsmouth for the day after picking it up, brought it home and were pleased to find it gets 38 miles per gallon.

June was Foster Parent training month. Linda and I attended training every week during the month, including a couple of all-day Saturday sessions.  Met some nice people and learned a lot.

After a year break, Ned Utzig and his merry band of filmmakers known as Mad Ned Productions jumped in full steam with this year's 48 Hour Film competition, where we're given a genre, character, prop and line of dialogue on Friday night, and we have 48 hours to write, film and edit a 5 minute short film. Our end result: a movie called "The Running Dead" where the main character is a zombie. I played the evil coach for the competition. We didn't win, but it was our best film yet. Quite funny.

Graduations abounded, with my niece Erin Murphy graduating college, my godchild Andrea McCarthy graduating high school as well as our friend Nichole Weigers.

Daughter Amanda and her mom got a new cat, named Emerson, or Emmy, and we cat-sat for them while they went on vacation. He was a cute cat, and we miss him (Emmy got lost/ran away/was taken in the Fall and though now and then we get a call from someone who thinks they spotted him in town, we've never found him). Tough time, but they've since gotten two new cats.

On the writing front, more on Plague of Darkness and one more film review. Slow season for writing. I also pulled out another book I'd started years back, Plague of Locusts. My first foray into science fiction.

After a year living in Denmark, Audrey's best friend Erika came home to much fanfare, including a big party at our house welcoming her home. The best part was listening to her talk with her new Danish accent.

My hair had been LONG by now, and I finally went out and had it chopped off. Haven't had hair this short in a long time. But I like it like this. For now.

Linda, Audrey and I traveled to Canada for vacation, hitting Niagara Falls (one of the places on my bucket list and didn't disappoint) then into the wilds of Quebec where we did our best at speaking French. A fun, relaxing time all around.

Sports were a big ticket item, with World Cup soccer. I was never into soccer as a professional sport to watch (though always enjoyed watching and coaching kids' soccer), but now I'm hooked. Lots of running around and very few goals, but there's something about it. Quite exciting.

The house got one of many new facelifts planned. We painted what is now my office - formerly Amanda's bedroom, formerly the dining room where no one ever ate - and gave the old den a complete do-over. Came out nice. Next up on the agenda, this winter, the master bathroom gets new colors, then the big project: the kitchen.

Church life continued, with many cookouts and get-togethers, including a bowling fund-raiser, men's group cookout. I even got baptized - been on my list to do because I'd only been baptized as a baby and told myself over the years if I'm ever a part of a church that does adult baptisms I'd do it again. It's mostly symbolic, a public statement, but I wanted to do it and during one of the summer cookouts I finally was able to do this, dunked in a pool by Al Dancy. :)

Amanda traveled alone to Los Angeles for a week, attending the American Pavillion - I forget the name of the program - where she toured every major (and some minor) film and television studios, met some big names in the industry, even got to sit on the set of Brooklyn 99 and came away with a signed copy of one of their scripts. She wants to work in film & television and this was such a positive experience for her future career.

I got off my butt and did some signings - attending the Boston Comic Con with the New England Horror Writers, of whom I'm on the board. Three-day event and it was a blast! We also opened up submissions for the third NEHW anthology. I'm editing it along with authors Scott Goudsward and David Price (pictured here at Comic Con). Been doing quite a lot of reading of submissions for this, and making difficult decisions.

To the Fall and early winter, in my last installment....

2014 Year in Review, Part 4

We started Fall with little Olivia and a visit to the Sterling Fair, where she got to ride the carousel and Ferris wheel for the first time. It was also a season of more visits with friends and family.

Fellowship has smaller groups that meet weekly, called Life Groups, to get to know people better, do Bible studies and share meals. We joined a new group in Sterling, and it's been great. Met some awesome new people, and got to know others on a more deeper level. One of our goals is to do service projects together, and we did a couple already, going to people's houses and helping with repairs, painting. It's a tremendous group of people, and the food... my word. We eat well those nights!

There's a group of fellow writers who meet up in the Andover area, folks who I know from Necon (a writer's conference I've been missing these past few years), known as the Vicious Circle. Since the passing of our dear friend Rick Hautala the year before the group hadn't met much, and this dinner gathering was a great reunion.

On the home front, a project I'd put off for too long was finally accomplished. I built a small set of stairs into the hillside leading up from the driveway to the door. Over the years, this is where most people walked, ignoring the flagstone-demarcated path further down the drive. Now, we can walk up the hill on brick steps. Came out pretty good, if I do say so myself.

More college visits with Audrey, and then the infamous college application process. She's gotten one acceptance so far, waiting on more coming soon. Speaking of Audrey, she is now in her final year of high school, enjoying every moment. Amanda moved back to school for her Sophomore year, and was busy preparing for her Spring semester - she's traveling to France as an exchange student next semester.

Another place on my bucket list to visit was Foxwoods Casino - not a big gambler but wanted to see what it was like. We went for the day with Kevin & Connie McCarthy, and had a blast. It also happened to be their... hmm, I think it was their 25th wedding anniversary! Maybe 24th. I'm bad with dates.

I tried to keep the momentum going in my writing, doing a speaking/signing event at the Tewksbury Public Library, with ten other writers from the NEHW. Had a great time, and sold a lot of books! At the end of October I also did a reading/signing at an upscale wine & beer store in town called the Thirsty Lab. Linda read from Plague of Darkness and I read from a new novella called "Nightmare in Greasepaint", written with L.L.Soares and which had just sold to a new novella series of a major horror publisher called Samhain (Gaelic for 'Halloween') coming out next year. On the heels of this major sale, a story I'd written for a new anthology last year is now going to see the light of day: Madhouse, after a major kickstarter fundraiser was a success by its new publisher. I got paid for this story and everything! Both this story, called "My Dearest Gwendolyn" and "Nightmare in Greasepaint" will be published under my pseudonym G Daniel Gunn, which I'm using for my straight horror stuff, to delineate it from my christian-horror line under my real name.

Speaking of that, Plague of Darkness was officially released in November. I did as much lead-up for it as possible, even had an official release date and virtual online "party". It's an awesome book, and I promoted it knowing it would be well-received, but people / readers are funny. Sales have been mediocre at best. And that's sugar-coating it. I need to figure out a way to get sales up. But the few folks who've actually read it so far love it, so it might just be a matter of time. I have sold some to friends recently as Christmas presents, though!

Buy the book and read it. You'll like it. :)

We did some other fun things, like watch the silent film Nosferatu with the Brenners at the Hanover Theater, accompanied y a live performance of the Hammond organ like in the old days.

Ok, so I started National Novel Writing Month with a bang, cranking out 15,000 new words for Plague of Locusts, then, as I've done in the past, lost steam. :(  But it's 15,000 words I didn't have down before. One major event this Fall/Winter was the annual Holden Road Race with takes place on Thanksgiving morning. Linda is now the new race director for the event, and spent many hours learning the ropes from outgoing director Mark Helfrick. Even with a major snow storm the night before we got our volunteers from church (Fellowship Church is the primary organizer/sponsor of the race, not counting the extremely generous corporate sponsors) and the race went off without a hitch. 1500 runners signed up and even with the snow we got over a thousand people running the streets of Holden - special thanks for the town for getting the roads cleared! $30,000 was raised from the event, and all of it given out to four local charities.

Thanksgiving at brother/sister-in-law Joe & Beth followed. We were exhausted but it was a great day.

The next day, Linda and I traveled to New York City and stayed the weekend with Andrew, crashing at his apartment, then venturing out the next day to visit the 9/11 memorial, then a visit to the Museum of Natural History and dinner out afterwards. Sunday morning we searched out and attended Tim Keller's church, Redeemer Presbyterian, something long on Linda's bucket list. Overall a great visit with Andrew in NY. We made it home to Massachusetts by the afternoon in time to meet Amanda, Audrey and Janet who had just come back from a week-long cruise.

The year finished up with some fun events, like a Livestrong fundraiser with the YMCA where Linda works, and later in the month their annual Christmas party. Also, Audrey had her final cross-country awards banquet where she, and her two fellow captains, said goodbye to their team. We went to a concert with our old youth group from NEC, along with sister-in-law Donna and her friend Michelle, seeing Casting Crowns, Mandissa and Sidewalk Prophets in Providence. We stole Olivia for a day and brought her to Edaville Railroad - I'd never been there before. It was cute, and cold!

Christmas was crazy busy and had some nice surprises. First off, big congratulations to my nephew Joey Keohane and his wife Andrea on the birth of their new baby Joseph Robert on Christmas Eve. Little Joey is the first great-grandchild for my parents, Joe & Marilyn, and everyone's thrilled and doing fine. :)

Also, we had three Christmas Eve services at Fellowship Church - in three different towns! Since we're a mobile church at the moment, we borrowed a church in Sterling for what was dubbed the "Christmas Adam" service on the 23rd, then an afternoon service on the 24th in Spencer, followed by a frenzied pack-up and setup back at Showcase Cinemas in Worcester for a Standing Room Only service at 7:00. Kudos to pastor Marty Holman who did all three services while battling the flu! And the dozens of volunteers who setup, took down, worked the parking lots, worked the services, and slept well that night.

Christmas was busy, and a little different this year. Andrew couldn't make it home, so he attended Christmas morning via Skype, while the girls and Janet came over the house and we did presents and breakfast. Me, Linda and the girls went to Mom & Dad's for Christmas in Burlington, then Linda and I left early to visit the McGuinesses in Worcester who were having their annual open house. We then raced home by 6:00 in case anyone came to what we're now calling Christmas Chill, where anyone could swing by for Christmas night and just hang out. About a dozen folks of all ages came by and we chatted, drank various eggnogs and even got a game in before the night ended.

I drove down to NYC the next day and stayed with Andrew for the night then we headed back and he's here now visiting through the new year. Linda's off scooping up little Olivia, and she'll be staying with us until Saturday, when her family will come up and we can do one more Christmas before 2015 kicks off in earnest.

Not much on the writing front this late winter. I saw (and enjoyed) Exodus: Gods and Kings with pastor Marty (a fellow movie buff) then later Linda, Amanda and I met her friends Victoria and Nate (fresh from their semester tour of Europe) to see the final installment of the Hobbit trilogy. I wrote a review for this for Cinema Knife Fight. The most I've written since then is this long, four-part year in review.

Well, that was 2014. Not sure if I'll do this again next year. Part of me thinks writing all this down in a 4-part blog is a little, I don't know, who-really-cares-but-us-ish? But I suppose it's like breaking out the vacation slides, back in the day, but here you can read or not. But years from now, barring any apocalyptic event that might wipe out the Internet, it'll be here for posterity. Next year, maybe I'll just be better about posting stuff throughout the year. But it's life. These were mostly the major ups and downs, and there was plenty of white space in between.

Here's to seeing what next year will bring.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Pre-Christmas Promotion #11: Mark Onspaugh

The official “Pre-Christmas Writer’s Promotion” for 2014 is now underway. Working with a group of horror writers, every day until Christmas we'll post information on a fellow writer's novel currently for sale, to give you some ideas for some interesting stocking-stuffers.

The Faceless One by Mark Onspaugh

In 1948, when he was just a boy, Jimmy Kalmaku trained with his uncle to be the shaman of his Tlingit village in Alaska. There he learned the old legends, the old myths, the old secrets. Chief among them was that of a mask locked in a prison of ice, and of the faceless god imprisoned within: a cruel and vengeful god called T'Nathluk, dedicated to the infliction of pain and suffering.

Now all but forgotten in a Seattle retirement home, Jimmy finds his life turned upside down. For when an unwitting archaeologist pries the mask free of its icy tomb, he frees T’Nathluk as well.
Stuck in spirit form, the Faceless One seeks a human to serve as a portal through which he can enter our reality. The Faceless One can control—and mercilessly torture—anyone who touches the mask, which means there is no shortage of slaves to ferry it across the country to its chosen host.

Yet the Faceless One has foes as well: Stan Roberts, a tough New York cop whose pursuit of justice will lead him into a dark abyss of the soul; Steven, Liz, and Bobby, the family of the doomed archaeologist; and Jimmy Kalmaku, who must at last become the shaman of his boyhood dreams.

The Faceless One by Mark Onspaugh