Paul Recounts His & Michael York’s 12-9-2014 Launch of RENEWAL (via Facebook)
Doe = Drake: Paul Hopes to Tap Punk-/Roots-Rock Genius for “Unplugged”
John Doe—frontman/bassist/songwriter for the best-ever punk band, X, and cow-punk masters The Knitters; brilliant solo artist since 1990; and prolific indie-fave character actor both in movies (Great Balls of Fire, The Good Girl, Boogie Nights, Georgia, Roadside Prophets, etc.) and on TV (Roswell, One Tree Hill, Ring of Fire, etc.)—has been a hero and role model of Paul’s since the 1981 release of X’s album Wild Gift (four and a half stars from Rolling Stone; “The best punk album ever” from Paul’s mouth!).
Paul, at the front of the mosh pit with palms pressed against the bandstand, was sweated on by Doe during X concerts throughout the ’80s and ’90s, but the two didn’t become friends till ’98, when the latter appeared as a character in the story “Dear Susan Bauer…” in Paul’s first book, Twenty Questions. Four years later, with the publication of Unplugged, Doe contributed the short but sweet (sweaty?) back-cover blurb: “Unplugged is a rock ‘n’ roll book that isn’t about modern rock ‘n’ roll; it simply is rock ‘n’ roll.”
Back then, Doe told Paul that if the novel ever became a film, he’d “love to take a stab at ‘Drake’,” the Badlands rancher, retired stuntman, master woodworker—and father-figure to heroine Dayna Clay . . . the key male character in the story.
Now, in 2014, with development of the feature-film version of the novel finally under way, Doe looks likely to get his chance. “J.D.’s participation as an actor,” says Paul, “and hopefully on the soundtrack too, immediately raises both the level and the ‘cred’ of our product about four notches—one for each decade during which I’ve been a fan!”
Next up: Everyone, please light a candle or say a prayer for Billy Zane to play intrepid Rolling Stone reporter “Hugh McCarter” (he has told Paul “Nice cast suggestions. If this all firms up, and I hope it does, make the offer to my agent. Let’s make it happen!”) … and for Christina Ricci, currently reading the script, in the lead!
“Twin Peaks” Actor Billy Zane Meets His Doppelganger — ?
On April 26, 2014, Paul & Heather were thrilled to meet & hang out backstage with actor Billy Zane (David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, James Cameron’s Titanic, Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future films, TV’s Charmed, etc.) shortly after witnessing his tour-de-force portrayal of Capt. von Trapp in The Sound of Music at Chicago’s Civic Opera House. (They also got to chat with Edward Hibbert, who made for a perfect Max Detweiler but is best known as food critic Gil Chesterton on NBC’s Frasier, a longtime-fave show of P & H.) Circa Twin Peaks, people started telling Paul, “You look like Billy Zane”; when he mentioned this to B.Z., the actor graciously replied, “I’m flattered.” (Of course, you can’t spell “replied” without l-i-e-d.) See? A gentleman knows when to fib!
Paul since has approached Zane about the possibility of the actor playing J. Theodore Corcoran, MD, buttoned-down heart-surgeon father of teen protagonist Phil Corcoran, in the planned feature-film version of Planet of the Dates … and/or portraying intrepid Rolling Stone reporter Hugh McCarter in the upcoming feature-film version of Unplugged. Billy has not yet said “No,” so here’s hopin’!
“Unplugged” 2014 Re-Boot Tour Kicks Off in Cream City
Massive media coverage* helped pack the house at Marquette University on the night of March 25, when Maya Kuper & Paul (with guests Tim Buckingham on drums and Mike Holden on flute & electric guitar) performed the first of 12 nationwide “12 Scenes & Songs” programs in celebration of the 12th anniversary of Paul’s 2002 novel, Unplugged. Sponsored by the school’s Center for Peacemaking, the event raised mucho money (total-project proceeds for RAINN in Q1 2014: $660!) and awareness in the fight against suicide, depression, and rape.
Said Center director Patrick Kennelly, “In this transformation story and performance, protagonist Dayna Clay embodies the inner journey young people face as they come to accept themselves. Trekking through difficult real life issues of depression, abuse, identity and relationships, McComas & Kuper—in a serious, engaging, affirming way—encourage people to listen, accept, and take care of themselves and others.”
Bestseller! — for RAINN: Unplugged Charity-CD Debuts at #1
In mid-January 2014, “Dayna Clay: Words & Music from the Novel Unplugged” — the 12th-anniversary soundtrack for Paul’s 2002 book, and a collaboration with Chicago singer-songwriter/musician/audio-maven Maya Kuper — debuted in the top slot for Soundtracks at the music sales website Bandcamp.com. All proceeds from sales of the 16-track, 78-minute record — both as a CD ($9, postage included) and as a digital album ($7 per download) — go to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, on whose National Leadership Council and Speakers’ Bureau the author serves.
Says Paul, “The main reason I’m thrilled that we’re debuting as the Bestseller is that doing so helps us in our goal of raising both funds and awareness for RAINN over the course of this year’s Unplugged 12th-anniversary tour. My deep thanks to Maya, without whom this fine record wouldn’t be half as good — nor have reached #1. And congrats to Dale North, whose CD ‘Dragon Fantasy Book II’ held the top slot right before ours did.”
“There’s one of my favorite writers.” – Rick Nielsen
For Paul, meeting one of his most-beloved bands pre-concert on Dec. 27 was exciting enough. But when, during the show, Cheap Trick lead guitarist and chief songwriter Rick Nielsen paused between songs to point at his fan and speak into the microphone this story’s six-word headline, “exciting” took on a whole new meaning. If he hadn’t been so gobsmacked, Paul would’ve pointed right back at Nielsen and shouted, “And there’s one of mine!” As it is, he can only hope that the movie deal for his Cheap-Trick-centric novel Planet of the Dates moves forward, rewarding Nielsen (& Co.) with much-deserved attention — and royalties. As Planet‘s stoner-girl Cheryl Jantz would say, “Right on.”
“Hallow-wins” for Paul’s Two Latest Books in National Contest
At the Halloween Book Festival in Hollywood on Oct. 18, the 2013 prize-winners were announced — among them Paul’s two latest books, the 2013 novella Fit for a Frankenstein (First Prize in the Fan Fiction category), coauthored by Greg Starrett, and the 2011 50-story collection Unforgettable: Harrowing Futures, Horrors, & (Dark) Humor (First Prize in Alternate Futures). Two weeks later, Paul and Greg celebrated with a pair of Chicago-area “Franken-formances” from Fit: an all-ages afternoon show at Evanston Public Library, and a 21-and-over evening program to a packed and enthusiastic house at Hopleaf Bar’s monthly Tuesday Funk reading series in Chicago (where a backdrop of beer signs helped them get into the Bavarian mood). Watch a short video of the latter.
Scroll down 15 news stories to the “R.I.P., Richard” story, click on and read Paul’s eulogy, and you’ll see why he felt compelled to organize “Requiem for Richard/Rover Rescue,” a fitting (and rocking!) tribute to his friend, collaborator, punk-rock mentor (frontman for legendary Milwaukee art-punkers the Oil Tasters), and fellow animal lover Richard LaValliere.
The night of Aug. 17, 2013 saw 100 of Richard’s fans, friends, and family file into Milwaukee’s Shank Hall to laugh and cheer their way through the world premiere of Paul’s 48-minute film Time Trek (TT), for which Richard (in his final creative work) composed and performed the soundtrack music, and in which he played “Leader of the Cave People.” The other Requiem highlight was the six-song live set by Oil Tasters tribute band “the Taste Oilers”: TT co-producer/engineer/singer/voice-actor Maya Kuper on lead vocal; Tim Buckingham and Mike Holden (both of Paul’s punk-pop band The Daves) on drums and sax/guitar, respectively; and Paul on bass and vocal.
The event, and Richard’s legacy, attracted copious Milwaukee media attention, including killer interviews on Milwaukee Public Radio and WMSE-FM, plus stories in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, OnMilwaukee.com, and the Milwaukee Shepherd-Express.
On Sat., Jan. 18, 2014, Paul and Maya will resurrect the Taste Oilers (this time, with a NYC-heavy lineup — and a 12-song set) in Richard’s second, adopted hometown for a second Requiem/Rescue event and Time Trek screening, this time raising funds and awareness for the homeless pets of the Big Apple. Watch this website for further info.
Be sure to click the thumbnails below to view the full, glorious pics!
Paul’s Dog, Sam, Featured on Greyhound Rescue Website
The greyhound advocacy group Grey2K USA is using Heather’s and Paul’s co-authored essay about their beloved boy Sam as a way to get the word out about the need to end dog racing and, in the interim, the need to find suitable, loving “forever homes” for racers when they retire. Read the essay here.
Paul Headlines at A Diamond’s Heart’s “Night of the Arts”
Representing RAINN, Paul was honored to join a dozen stellar performance-poets, singers, dancers, and comics for “A Night of the Arts,” a June 29, 2013 benefit for the two-year-old, Chicago-based rape-survivors’ outreach/assistance/advocacy nonprofit group A Diamond’s Heart (DH). He read his “For Julia” essay from Philadelphia Weekly Press’ The Survivors Project anthology, then performed two scenes (“Descent/Ascent” and “The Answering Wind”) and a song (“Hand Over Hand”) from Unplugged. The event raised $1,100 toward advancing ADH’s mission of providing girls and young women with the necessary tools to overcome rape or sexual abuse/trauma, and empowering them to become successful members of society.
“In The Merry, Scary Month of May … “
The fifth month of 2013 moved from scary to merry, and was busy throughout:
May 7 found Paul sharing the bill with David Luhrssen (Mamoulian: Life on Stage and Screen) for “Forties Film Night at Boswell Books.” Aided by publisher Steve Sullivan (playing “Ygor”), Paul—sporting a Monstrous half-head—debuted his co-authored (with Greg Starrett) novella Fit for a Frankenstein to a packed and bemused house at Milwaukee’s premier book store.
Speaking of premieres, on May 16 Paul’s 47-minute movie No-Budget Theatre #8: Time Trek had its first-ever screening, namely at a party for cast and crew hosted by co-producer Brian L. Cox. Nearly 37 years in the making, Time Trek (TT) will have its first public screening in Milwaukee’s Shank Hall on the night of Aug. 17 at “Requiem for Richard [LaValliere] / Rover Rescue,” a memorial to the Milwaukee art-punk icon (whose last creative work was acting in TT and composing and performing its “SoundTrek”) that will also be a fundraiser for the WI Humane Society.
Four nights after the TT par-tee, Paul presented the first-ever Janet I. Martin Award for Excellence in the Teaching of English, as part of the annual Scholastic Writing Awards coordinated by StillWaters Collective at Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret. StillWaters and Paul co-established the Martin Award, which went to Riverside H.S. Teacher Robin Harris, in tribute to Paul’s beloved “first-ever mentor,” who died in August 2012. (Scroll down six News stories for his eulogy.)
Finally, Paul and Heather wound up “strolling through the [dog] park one day” (May 26) with their rescue greyhound, Sam, in celebration of the latter’s seventh birthday. One member of the trio—guess which one—sped through the fields of Shaggy Pines (in Ada, MI) at 40 mph while the other two, uh, watched.
Full House for Steinbeck Program at Marquette’s Peacemaking Center
On the night of March 25, 2013, one hundred people filled a ballroom at Marquette University in Paul’s native Milwaukee to catch his 90-minute program “Scribe of Social Conscience: Steinbeck Plus Seventy-Five,” sponsored by the school’s Center for Peacemaking.
Three-quarters of a century after the publication of “the great American short novel” Of Mice and Men (1937) and the epic Depression-era protest novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939), Paul performed dramatic readings from (and provided commentary on) both of these masterpieces, plus three other John Steinbeck books—East of Eden, Cannery Row, and Travels with Charley: In Search of America—emphasizing the author’s status as a master chronicler of, and avid advocate for, “the have-nots.” Says Paul, “With his unflagging insistence that each of us is, indeed must be, our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers, Steinbeck 75 years later could hardly be more timely … or more necessary.”
The standing-room-only crowd seemed to agree — as did the local media: in the ramp-up to the program, Paul was interviewed for an 18-minute segment on Milwaukee Public Radio and featured in both the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the Milwaukee Shepherd-Express, while the city’s Neighborhood News Service provided post-facto coverage.
Says Paul, “I’ve been a Steinbeck fan since age 13, both for his craft and for his commitment to social justice, and I couldn’t be prouder to now be serving, on occasion, as his ‘ambassador.'”
UPDATE: On Aug. 31, Paul reprised the show at the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Door County (WI) as part of its Emerson Literary Series. Seventy people filled the sanctuary, and $150 was raised for HELP of Door County. The Door County Advocate contributed a stellar article in advance of the show.
Paul, Other Essayists Contribute to Anti-Rape Anthology That’s Currently Receiving Pulitzer Prize Consideration
At the tail end of 2012, the landmark book The Survivors Project: Telling the Truth About Life After Sexual Abuse was published in electronic form by the Philadelphia Weekly (PW); the 315-page softcover version came out in early 2013. In all, 55 sexual-abuse survivors — or, as in Paul’s case, people close to survivors/victims — each composed and contributed a powerful first-person essay about her or his own experiences, all under the supervision of editors Nina Hoffmann (a PW Senior Editor) and her husband and fellow journalist, Joel Hoffmann.
The Survivors Project is currently receiving Pulitzer Prize consideration in both the Nonfiction and Public Service categories.
Paul’s essay is a slightly expanded version of the one that he recorded for Milwaukee Public Radio.
Hopelessly Devoted to . . . Helping Olivia Fight Cancer!
On the night of November 10, 2012, immediately after attending a terrific Olivia Newton-John (ON-J) concert in Aurora, IL, Paul and wife Heather — both longtime fans, as well as supporters of the breast-cancer-surviving singer’s pioneering, holistic ON-J Cancer and Wellness Centre — had the privilege of being invited backstage to meet Ms. Newton-John and thank her in person for her decades of activism on behalf of numerous health, environmental/conservation, and other worthy causes. (Olivia, incidentally, figures prominently in Paul’s coming-of-age-in-1980 novel Planet of the Dates, and lyrics from her song “Big and Strong” serve as the epigraph for the story “Strongest” in his collection Unforgettable.)
For more on the Centre and its vital work, visit oliviaappeal.com.
After 1/3 of a Century: Meeting a Hero-Against-Hate
Paul began supporting the Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC, at age 19 in 1981. But it wasn’t until an Oct. 4, 2012 SPLC event at Chicago’s Temple Sholom that he (and wife Heather) finally got to meet both the group’s founder and chief trial attorney, Morris Dees, and (not pictured) its president, Richard Cohen, who together delivered an inspiring presentation on “The State of Hate in America” and on their group’s vital work. At the reception, Paul and Cohen discussed plans for a substantial contribution to SPLC — the largest, most successful anti-hate organization in the U.S. — via a charitable trust for which Paul serves as the trustee.
Amid Summer of Drought: A Hard, Healing RAINN
Having been appointed to the ten-member National Leadership Council of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), earlier in the year, by summer 2012 Paul found himself up to his elbows in opportunities to serve his longtime favorite charity, which is the nation’s largest anti-sexual-violence organization. First, his RAINNMaker Page helped inaugurate a brand-new fund- and awareness-raising campaign, in the process generating (as of 9-1-12) $1,510 in donations. (The page, incidentally, is still “open for business!”) Second, on RAINN’s 18th birthday in late July, Milwaukee Public Radio invited Paul to read a personal essay explaining why he’s a part of the organizaton; hear the segment, which aired twice, at the Milwaukee Public Radio website. Third, in the wake of Congressmoron Todd Akin’s (R-MO) much-publicized anti-rape-victim remarks, Paul and Rape Crisis Center of Dane Couny Director Kelly Anderson spoke out in a 25-minute interview on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Kathleen Dunn Show”; listen in. Fourth and (for now) finally, Paul — who’s also on RAINN’s Speakers Bureau — was named the “Spotlighted Speaker” in RAINN’s August newsletter.
UPDATE: Paul’s “Year of RAINN” wrapped up with the organization
asking him to record its annual holiday thank-you video, which you can watch here.
R.I.P., Janet Martin, 1942-2012
To read Paul’s eulogy for his beloved friend, Modern Literature teacher (1977), and mentor, who passed away on Aug. 9, 2012, click here.
Paul recently received a blurb he’d never dreamed of getting: a glowing review of Unplugged from seven-time Emmy-Award-winning actor and liberal activist Edward Asner. The two met (and this photo was taken) right after an October 2009 performance by Asner of the one-man play “F.D.R.” in Skokie, IL; Paul, who’d grown up idolizing both Asner and his irascible-yet-lovable, ethically rock-solid journalist alter-ego (TV News producer on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, then the titular newspaper editor on Paul’s all-time-favorite TV show, Lou Grant), gave Asner a copy of Unplugged, inscribed with deep thanks for providing vital inspiration during Paul’s earliest days as a writer. Thirty-three months later (in July 2012), Asner sent Paul a handwritten letter thanking him for the “very enjoyable” novel and praising its “excellent descriptive writing.” Says the frankly starstruck Paul: “I’ve received grants from two major universities and a city arts council, but this is the best ‘Grant’ I’ve ever gotten!”
It was, in fact, their second round of correspondence: thirty-three years ago, Asner replied to a fan letter from then-17-year-old Paul with these words: “Best of luck in your first year of college; it’s an important step in what I hope will be a successful writing career for you.” Talk about coming full circle! Wait — that’d make a helluva story, wouldn’t it? “Billie! Rossi! Get over here; this is front-page stuff!”
Silver Screen, Silver Suit — ?
The first day of August 2012 found Paul delivering a two-hour-plus-Q&A keynote-address version of his popular 75-minute presentation “The Anatomy of a Film” for Northwestern University’s School for Continuing Studies, as part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI)’s Summer Seminar “Film: The Moving Image and How It Shapes Our Lives.” Donning his “silver suit for the Silver Screen,” Paul provided the packed auditorium with a brief history of cinema and a comprehensive overview of “the language of film” (camera angles, camera directions, editing techniques and transitions, etc.) before screening and discussing the opening of the 1931 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (to demonstrate subjective camera), followed by one montage each from Dick Tracy (1990), Citizen Kane (1941), High Noon (1952 — Paul’s favorite movie), and Blue Velvet (1986). His “closer”: a screening and analysis of Rod Serling’s classic 25-minute Twilight Zone episode “Walking Distance” (1959), starring Gig Young. “Film isn’t merely ‘staged theater,’ Paul emphasized, “but a unique and spectacular artistic mode of its own. The study of film gives us new ways to understand a medium we’ve always loved. And if you love something or someone, then don’t you want to understand it as best as you can — and isn’t your appreciation and, thus, your love of it deepened in the process?”
Photo #2 above: In attendance was Chicago magician/filmmaker David Shareef, a.k.a. “The Baddest Brotha on the Planet” — a kind of modern-day, American Georges Melies — in whose short film From Beyond the Grave (2011) Paul played “the Ghost of Dr. Holes”; David and Paul are currently collaborating on the feature-length script for the former’s upcoming directorial debut, Pure Evil!
Thirty-Six Summers On, Logan Still Runs
. . . and Paul still watches. (Well, mostly he watches Jessica!) In the wee hours of July 20, 2012, at the invitation of the Musix Box Theatre, he delivered a six-minute spoken intro [read the pdf] to the 1976 movie Logan’s Run, prior to a midnight revival screening at Chicago’s most-beloved vintage movie palace. Nearly 100 Loganites were on hand to hear him read aloud a brief personal message to them from author William F. Nolan, in which Bill thanked them for “sticking with Logan,” and called his and Paul’s recently completed collaborative novel Logan’s Journey “the best Logan book since the first one, and possibly the best of them all .” Paul then opined about the pros and cons of the ’76 film version, including a passionate defense of its “charming” pre-CGI “practical” special effects (which won an Oscar in their day), involving “real sets and real miniatures occupying real physical space!” He also updated the crowd about Warner Bros.’ upcoming big-budget remake, which will star Ryan Gosling (Drive) and Rose Byrne (X-Men: First Class), be directed by Nicolas W. Refn (Drive), and — an especially good omen, noted Paul — be adapted by Alex Garland (Never Let Me Go) . . . that is, if it ever actually gets made! The Warner’s version (with which Logan’s Journey will be released in tandem) has been backburnered, postponed, and otherwise delayed for 15 years now — that’s halfway to the movie’s mandated death age, and just six years shy of the novel’s! Urges Paul: “Loganites, unite! Tell Warner’s to ‘Renew! Renew!’ their commitment — ‘Renew, and see it through!'”
Spoken-Word Scene’s “Class of ’86” Reunites at NPF Conference
A long time ago — though NOT in a galaxy far, far away — Paul “came up” as both a writer and a performer in Chicago’s storied mid-1980s-to-mid-1990s spoken-word/performance-poetry scene. In June 2012, the National Poetry Foundation annual conference in Orono, Maine, gave him a chance to reunite with longtime friends and colleagues Kurt Heintz (with whom Paul made the award-winning poetry video “H.O.D.”) and Tim W. Brown (Paul’s frequent book-tour partner); this trio, along with poet Tara Betts, comprised a well-received panel called “City on the Make: How Chicago Invented Slam/Spoken-Word in the 1980s.” (Paul, Kurt, Tim, and two others had presented an earlier version of the same panel at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual meeting in March, back in Chicago.)
“Damn These ‘Almosts’ All to Hell!”
At the same time (March 2012) that Paul made his pilgrimage to California’s Point Dume Beach (where the final act of the original 1968 Planet of the Apes was filmed), news arrived of a second Honorable Mention (HM) for Unforgettable from a second national competition: the 2012 DIY Book Festival. (Unforgettable received an HM from the Halloween Book Festival back in October 2011.) “Sure, it’s better than nothin’,” allowed Paul while getting back to his feet and wiping the sand off his knees, “but may I please trade in these two HMs for a First Prize somewhere?”
UPDATE: The almost-winning streak continues! On May 9, 2012, Paul and publisher Steve Sullivan were on hand at the Midwest Independent Publishers Association’s 22nd Annual Midwest Book Awards in Bloomington, MN, where Unforgettable took Second Prize in the Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror category. Paul extends hearty congratulations to Ruth Berman, author of the winning entry, Bradamant’s Quest (FTL Publications).
R.I.P., Richard LaValliere, 1952-2012
To read Paul’s tribute to his beloved friend, collaborator, and punk-rock role model, who passed away in Feb. 2012, click here.
Paul Hits the Half-Century with “Halfway WHERE?”
Photos by Teresita de la Torre, Frank Rodriguez, and Brian King. Click the thumbnails for larger versions.
Oct. 12, 2011 found Paul turning 50 in style at Milwaukee’s Woodland Pattern Book Center (literary capitol of Wisconsin) with the 75-minute mid-career retrospective “Halfway WHERE?” (1) Paul’s mom Hazelyn and childhood best friend John Scott (co-author of “Project: Android” from Unforgettable) embraced before a show that (2) the birthday boy kicked off with a grim reminder that his 50th coincided with National Fossil Day. Paul then (3) presented his high school Modern Lit teacher and mentor, Jan Martin, with a plaque and a hug before (4) donning the Stetson and smart-assery of his quirky cowpoke character Pike for a performance of “Desert Slacks” from Twenty Questions. Joined by (5) Tim Buckingham on drums and Maya Kuper on backup vocal, Paul performed the Unplugged song “Hand Over Hand.” Once he’d (6) closed the show with his musky-fishing tall tale “The One that Got Away,” (7) the crowd of 50 (no kidding!) went wild — then (8) lined up for (9) a “Twenty Questions, Fifty Birthdays” cake designed by (10) Paul’s niece Joelle Taknint, seen here with “Meet the Author” TV host Heddy Keith. After (11 & 12) accepting a woodcut-print portrait by Milwaukee artist Steven L. Hopkins, Paul (13) posed with his writing student Mike Moran, then (14) hunkered down to sign books beside wife (and “Collies in Space” co-author) Heather, who (15) was all smiles. Afterward, at dinner, (16) Paul’s “big” sister Rachel Taknint (Joelle’s mom) delivered a toast for the ages before (17) a second (and dinosaur-laden!) niece-made cake materialized — only to be swiftly devoured by author, family, and friends. Happy birthday? And how!
Paul & Pierce Pose for Public (Radio)
Paul could rightly paraphrase Saturday Night Live‘s Chico Escuela and note, “Public Radio been berry berry good to me,” including a 2007 appearance on The Tavis Smiley Show and numerous interviews with major-market NPR affiliates. Plus, his attendance at the Nov. 10, 2011 taping of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me allowed him to meet one of his literary heroes, panelist Charles P. “Charlie” Pierce. Paul calls “Greetings from Idiot America” — Pierce’s award-winning 2005 Esquire Magazine article — “the single best piece of editorial journalism I’ve ever read” and has used it as a teaching aid in Master’s-level writing classes; he also heartily recommends Pierce’s subsequent bestselling book Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free. (Nov. 10 was a good night for Charlie, too: he bested fellow panelists Amy Dickinson and Tom Bodett in the news quiz!)
Paul Named Fiction Finalist in Chicago-Wide Contest
Paul’s Twenty Questions story “Viceroy Girls” was named a finalist (one of just three) by the prestigious Guild Literary Complex of Chicago in its 2011 Short Fiction Competition, giving him an opportunity to meet the other finalists and to perform the piece live at the Guild on the night of Nov. 2. Wrote contest judge Rosellen Brown (author of Street Scenes and other books) of the story, “This piece is a delightful evocation of a time and place, its language just right for the absurdity it chronicles. I felt, reading it, like Mad Men was actually set in a Chicago wreathed in cigarette smoke.”
“Viva” Las Vegas — or Just the Opposite?
Paul’s stage adaptation of his Unforgettable piece “The Most Terrifying Three-Word Dystopian/Dark-Fantasy/Horror Story Ever Written” was one of six short plays selected by Vegas’ Brave Theatrics (BT) company for their stage show “Fearophilia,” which ran on four weekend nights leading up to Halloween 2011. According to BT’s Dave Surratt, “The Most Terrifying. . .” was “a real crowd-pleaser each time it was performed.” Great — but what we want to know is, Did Headless-Girl-Playing-with-Toy-Triceratops make a live appearance? Sadly, Paul was not able to make it to Vegas for the show, so he can’t say.
Making it RAINN in DC
The July 19, 2011 “Writers Read for RAINN” benefit brought (from left) artist/illustrator Stefanie Sylvester (“Collies in Space”—see her and Paul’s T-shirts here), author Tim W. Brown (Second Acts), Paul (a RAINN Leadership Circle member), Chelsea Bowers of RAINN, and an enthusaistic crowd (not pictured) to The Potter’s House in Washington, D.C., staffed by event hostess Meade Jones Hanna (far right). Upwards of $220 (and counting) was raised for the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, and rape prevention/treatment and survivor counseling/-advocacy materials were distributed. RAINN is America’s top anti-sexual-violence organization—and one of its “100 Best Charities” (according to Worth Magazine)—in addition to being Paul’s favorite nonprofit.
“Winners From Wisconsin”: Four Authors, No Waiting!
Oconomowoc, WI contained just one fewer authors than it did letters “o” when (from left) Paul, Angela Woodward (End of the Fire Cult), Douglas Armstrong (Even Sunflowers Cast Shadows), and Marilyn Taylor (Going Wrong, WI Poet Laureate, 2008-10) presented a July 2011 group reading. “The new Fab Four” appeared at a fab store, Books & Company, having joined forces a month earlier at The Mighty Twig in Evanston, IL; they subsequently read and signed (sans Taylor) at Avol’s Books in Madison in August; and their joint mini-tour will wrapped up in September at Next Chapter Books in Mequon, WI.
How’d all this happen, anyway? Paul and Marilyn teach together annually at Lawrence University’s Bjorklunden retreat center; last fall, she recruited him to serve as the Book-Length Fiction judge for the Council for WI Writers; Paul, who hadn’t previously known Douglas (except as a film critic) or Angela, selected their books as the winners — and the rest is, well, “theirstory.”
Fantastical Fable-tellers Flank Bookstore Blackboard
It was Hers-And-His Hard-Hittin’ Allegories on August 29, 2011, as Angela Woodward and Paul wowed the crowd at Arcadia Books of Spring Green, WI, with readings from Her award-winning novella End of the Fire Cult and His (& co-author Eric Greene’s) “Strongest” from Unforgettable.
It’s easy to “Support Your Local Book Store” with venues as cool as Arcadia — and audiences as appreciative as theirs!
Milwaukee Media Men Meet
Movies (including Paul’s 2011 favorite, Another Earth), meta-culture, and more were discussed when (from left) Milwaukee native Paul, AE writer/producer/star Brit Marling (in poster form), Milwaukee Shepherd-Express Arts & Entertainment Editor Dave Luhrssen, and Even Sunflowers Cast Shadows author Douglas Armstrong (the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel film critic in the ’80s) all converged on the city’s East Side on Aug. 8, 2011 for a “catch-up lunch.” The two-dimensional image of Ms. Marling said little, but Paul was overheard remarking to his other colleagues (who happen to be two of his favorite writers): “I’m trying to get my Unplugged screenplay to her; she’d be a perfect fit for ‘Dayna Clay,’ and maybe to produce and/or direct, too. So, if anyone hears of a way to reach her, please, let me know!”
Rockin’ the Retirees!
Paul’s income derives not only from writing and teaching, but also from his work as a very-much-in-demand public speaker. Here, he provides largely superfluous backup vocals for Chicago keyboardist/singer/songwriter and rising star Maya Kuper (engineer of Paul’s Amateur charity 2-CD set). Maya sang and played her original song “Trivial Things” at St. John’s on the Lake in Milwaukee during the Aug. 8, 2011 premiere of Paul’s 14th stand-alone, one-hour live literary presentation, “Writers You May Never Have Heard Of — Till Now!”
“Twilight Empire” In The Limelight
Says Paul in his back-cover blurb of Stephen D. Sullivan’s recently released The Twilight Empire: Robinson’s War: “Handsome heroes and white-hot warriorettes; brutish baddies and menacing monsters; colorful combat and romantic romps; multi-dimensional mischief and shape-shifting shenanigans … plus a formidable yet uber-lovable GWA (griffon with attitude) named Bill! The characters are archetypal and the themes tried-and-true, but Sullivan and company toss in enough quirky twists to create something at once timeless and brand new. Fifty deftly wrought, three-page gems that, together, tell a tale to be treasured.”
Replies the book’s author: “Gee; thanks!”
Simian Cinema, Anyone?
At 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 5, 2011, the trio of Gorilla (Paul), Klingon (Frank Rodriguez, left, seen here in human form), and SF SuperFan (Robert Kruck) converged upon an Evanston, IL movie house to catch the first area showing of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The Gorilla’s enthusiastic thumbs-up was seconded by his compatriots — as well as at the box office, where the seventh (and, to Paul’s mind, “second-best, edging out Escape and Conquest“) film in the series whomped the weekend competition, pulling in close to $60 million in North American receipts. “Hail, Caesar!”
Say it Five Times, Fast: “Sci Fi Fan Con, Sci Fi . . . !”
On Saturday, July 30, 2011, Paul “headlined” at Evanston (IL) Public Library’s first-ever SFFC. (Hey, that acronym sounds like “Suffolk!”). After an intro by EPL’s Juliette Swett and Paul’s “micro-keynote” address to the assembled Fan Nation, his friend/colleague (Martian Knights, etc.)/publisher (Unforgettable, etc.) Stephen D. Sulivan premiered a crowd-pleasing story, “A Sci-Ant-ific Problem,” and held a crowd Q&A. Then Paul re-took the podium for a trio of short pieces from Unforgettable, including the live-performance debut of “Icemare” from the upcoming McComas/Nolan collaborative novel Logan’s Journey. Paul closed by belting out his own lyrics to the Classic “Star Trek” theme (which words can be found in Unforgettable‘s “Maim that Tune” section). Mint Oreos and Tang were served, books were signed and sold, and an out-of-this-world time (-travel) was had by all!
“. . . And the World Will Live (& Write & Publish & Promote) as One”
Central Park’s sweltering Strawberry Fields was the site of an impromptu authors’ summit between Paul and noted Belgian historical writer Freddy Joris (Dying on the Scaffold: The Collective Sensibility About Death and Perceptions of Capital Punishment from the Early Middle Ages Till the Ancien Régime; Pierre Fluche and the Workers’ Movemement in Verviers Under Leopold II) and his jolie famille on July 22, 2011.
Conversing in “Pidgin Franglais,” the duo discussed The Beatles, then negotiated an Unplugged-for-Scaffold book swap. Can a deux-langue collaboration be far behind? Meeting a Belgian counterpart, says Paul, was like “looking into a glass onion.”
Lennon would be tres heureux!
It Ain’t Letterman, But…
. . .the tapings did take place in New York. (Well, Albany.) Paul recently taped three consecutive episodes of Ion cable network’s “Today’s Authors” program. In the first (not pictured), he was interviewed by host Gary McLouth about Unforgettable; in the second, Paul donned Gary’s sportcoat, the “Macs” traded seats, and Paul interviewed G.M. about his books Natural Causes and the new story collection Do No Harm (featuring a Foreword by Paul). Finally, Paul — who apparently refused to depart from the host’s seat! — interviewed Tim W. Brown about Second Acts. All three episodes will air in late summer or early fall 2011; check your local listings (and/or this website) later for details.
“Aldo Vesper” Brings Da Heat to Already-Hot New York
What to do when Manhattan experiences record-setting heat (104 degrees F, with a 111 F heat index) the very night you’re set to perform? Go shirtless! Paul’s July 21, 2011 segment at KGB Bar’s infamous Drunken! Careening! Writers! series ended with his storied fishin’-guide monologue, “The One that Got Away.” What better time to draw upon one’s 13 years of nude-figure-model experience — well, halfway, anyway — and charge into the (duly startled) crowd? In the words of “Aldo Vesper” (pictured), “Ooo — yer gonna git it!” (The girl with the beautiful blonde head-back is Paige Neumann, daughter of Paul’s sometime co-author Ben.)
Live, at Castle Dracula!
Actually, it’s the stately Ames Free Library in scenic North Easton, MA, where Paul and Tim W. Brown presented a July 20, 2011 author event.
In the “action” shot, Paul and longtime friend and co-author (“Love Spores”) Ben Neumann read/perform the final line of their story “Big, Two-Fisted Jungle”: “Her eyes were light blue.”
Paul Wins a Bradbury for “Levitation”
Not the Bradbury — but a Bradbury nonetheless! Highland Park, IL Councilman Larry Silberman (at left) hands Paul the One Book, One Highland Park Fahrenheit 451/Bradbury Award for Best Science Fiction Short Story — specifically, the post-apocalyptic hot-air balloon tale “Levitation” from Unforgettable — at a presentation/reading event on May 4. (In related news, Paul then drove up to Milwaukee in record time — 70 minutes! — for a reading/signing at People’s Books. Lucky he found that wormhole on I-94! Kids, don’t try this at home.)
“SEWI” Ain’t A Pig Call!
One year after meeting, co-paneling, and striking a deal for Unforgettable at June 2010’s first-ever Southeast Wisconsin Book Festival in Waukesha, Paul (far right) and publisher Steve Sullivan (far left) celebrate “the beginning (year) of a beautiful friendship” at SEWI II with Steve’s wife Kifflie Scott, publicist Liz Ridley (standing), and the unnamed “musky puppet” Paul uses during live performances of his piece “The One that Got Away.”
We’ll Take Manhattan
The second date on Paul’s 12-stop (Brooklyn-Manhattan-Cleveland-St.Louis-Chicago x 2-Milwaukee-Evanston, IL-Washington, D.C.-Albany, NY-Boston-then back to Manhattan!) 2011 joint Unforgettable/Second Acts tour with longtime friend and colleague Tim W. Brown found the Two Tall Tale-Tellers at New York City’s Cornelia Street Cafe. Paul’s first, second, third, and fourth books all came out within a few months of Tim’s; this is the second time they’ve toured together, having shared ten dates in 2008 for their then-new releases (respectively) Planet of the Dates and Walking Man. Wa-a-a-ay back in the ’80s, Paul and Tim “came up” together in the Chicago performance-poetry scene, where — being fiction writers — they never quite fit in. Some of Paul’s short stories and prose poems of that era first appeared in Tomorrow, the literary magazine Tim edited and published from 1982-99.
Paul and Partners Barnstorm the Big Apple
Paul (center) and co-authors Richard LaValliere (“Class Reunion”) and Lisa Janis (“Maw”) smile for the camera and say ‘Ma-a-a-aw!'” after Paul’s reading at Word Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY, April 2011.
And Greyhound Makes Three
Just one day after adopting (in mid-December 2010) their retired race and rescue greyhound Sam (who raced—quite successfully—under the name “N.M.S. Underdawg”), Paul and Heather posed with him for this shot, which became their holiday card.
“Gorzak” Grabs the Gold
July 2010 found the short film Gorzak’s Grab-Bag garnering Most Innovative Program at the Alliance for Community Media’s annual Hometown Video Festival. Paul (writer/director), Heather (“Gorzak” puppeteer and voice), and “The Big G” himself all made the trip to Pittsburgh to accept. Said the ever-gracious green star: “Gorzak DESERVE prize!”
Blood of the Wolfman Wins Best Short Film Prize at International Film Fest
Paul’s movie Blood of the Wolfman (1975/2007, 14 min., black & white & red) was awarded the prize for Best Short Film at the 2009 international Talking Pictures Independent Film Festival in May.
The movie is one of Paul’s “intergenerational self-collaborations.” In 1975, at 13, he scripted and shot (on Standard-8mm film) the original, silent version of this film; one-third of a century later, he wrote, shot (on Super-8), and inserted new footage with his nephew, Henry McComas (Crooked Lake Productions), and added sound with Dub Vox Studio Service’s Joshua Avila. Equal parts poignant, unsettling, and (due to the actors’ youth) kind of adorable, Blood of the Wolfman honors the Wolfman and voodoo films of the 1940’s while exploring – through familiar monster-movie tropes – the interplay between violence, guilt, forgiveness, empathy, faith and redemptive love. Of all his “resurrected/restored/updated” kid-flicks, this one is the closest to Paul’s heart. CAST: The late Julia Sackin (to whom the film is dedicated), Paul, John Scott, Leah Barnum, David Shareef, Rachel Taknint, Joelle Taknint, Hazelyn McComas, Bill Kestin, Dan McComas and Kelly Avila.
Says Paul, “This is a huge surprise. I was happy just to be included in the Fest; I never expected to get a prize. I know the film didn’t win for its prodution values! Maybe for industriousness…possibly for ‘heart.’ Would that I could go back to 1975 and tell my 13-year-old self — ‘auteur’ of the film’s original version — that this was going to happen!”
In related news, Paul and Brian Cox were honored in the Political Awareness category of the Alliance for Community Media’s 2008 Philo T. Farnsworth Awards competition for Beyond the Planet of the Apes (1976/2008, B&W, 22 min.), their scathing satirical indictment of George W. Bush, Abu Ghraib and the Iraq War. (Josh Avila did the sound for this film as well.)
Blood of the Wolfman, Beyond the Planet of the Apes and six other films of Paul’s (including prior award-winners Vader andShock Theatre) are available, all together, on the $10 charity-DVD “No-Budget Theatre: The Best (?) of P.C. Productions,” which so far has raised $700 for blood donation services. The “Store” section of this site will be restored soon with full details.
From Paul McComas’ film Blood of the Wolfman, which was screened May 1, 2009 at the Talking Pictures Festival in Evanston. From left to right: Real-life Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (Rachel Taknint), Paul McComas as the Wolfman, and Priestess Evelyn Laveau (Joelle Taknint) at her voodoo altar.
“The Daves” Celebrate Their Silver Punk-versary
Paul’s college punk band The Daves — so-called because nobody in the group was or is named “Dave” — played a 25-year reunion gig back at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, on June 21, 2008. During a 50-minute, 15-song concert, members (group photo, from left) “Paul Velcro” (bass, vocal), Ross Wydeven (a teenage “ringer” on guitar, from Madison, WI), Kim Hah (lead vocal) and “Tiny Dr. Tim” Buckingham (drums) played covers by Gang of Four, the Cramps, X, Nirvana, the Pretenders & Soft Cell, as well as Paul’s “Dayna Clay” songs “Give Me Oblivion” and “Virtual Virtue,” plus such Daves originals as “(You Killed My) Goldfish,” “Sacrifice,” “A Song (Cecilia)” and the thrash-classic “In the Hospital” (hence, Paul’s scrubs in the accompanying photo). Present in spirit were Daves members Tommy “Feedback” Schroeder, “Amy L. Nitrate” (Amy Smith) and Robyn “Roulette” Hoyt. “Ka-RAR!”
photos: Lee Salawitch
Paul Got Hitched!
On Sept. 27, Paul married Heather Jo Swartz – a fellow fiction writer, Obama-backer, long-distance runner, prehistoric-mammal enthusiast, Wonder Woman fan and committed simiophile (that’s someone who digs apes) – outdoors at sunset in the South Dakota Badlands, with a reception that evening in Wall, S.D.
[click photos for larger versions – all photos by Sheldon I. Miller]
Further Persons Imperfect Story Does Perfectly Well in Competition
“What You’re Looking At,” a gripping short story by Heather Swartz (Paul’s fiancee) that appears in the Paul-edited 2007 anthology Further Persons Imperfect, recently won the Leo Love Merit Scholarship for best prose piece (encompassing both fiction and nonfiction) submitted in advance of this year’s Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. Heather will be attending the conference — for free, thanks to the Love Scholarship — in July and studying with the outstanding short story writer Pam Houston (Cowboys Are My Weakness). Says Heather, “I’m thrilled and honored; this recognition means a lot to me.”
Collaboration with Bill Nolan on “Logan” Novel A Childhood Dream-Come-True
William F. Nolan — award-winning author of the best-selling novel Logan’s Run, and author/editor of 80-odd other books (as well as a terrific Foreword to Planet of the Dates), is currently co-authoring the fourth Logan novel, Logan’s Journey, with Paul — who’s been a hardcore “Loganite” since the age of 14!
The first new book in the seminal dystopian-s.f. series since 1980’s Logan’s Search, Journey is currently planned for publication in 2010, to coincide with the projected release of Warner Bros.’ big-budget cinematic remake of Logan’s Run. The new book comprises three linked novellas: “The Mission,” co-written by Bill and Paul; “The Challenge,” written by Bill and revised/expanded by Paul; and “The Gun,” written by Paul and revised by Bill. Said Paul in late July 2008: “‘The Mission’ is done, and ‘The Challenge’ is nearly done, so we’re about 2/3 finished. It’s going to be the longest Logan so far…and, honestly, one of the best; Bill and I co-write very smoothly and very well.”
Previously, Paul wrote the Foreword for Nolan’s 2005 multi-genre short story collection, Ships in the Night [ISBN #1-59266-020-7], and Bill wrote a killer back-cover blurb for Unplugged.
Unplugged Screenplay Garners National Prize
The feature-length screenplay that Paul adapted from his 2002 “critics’ darling” of a novel, Unplugged, recently took Third Prize (out of some 400 entries) in national competition through the New York City-based The Writer’s Place. Says Paul, “This was some of the hardest writing I’ve ever done: getting a 92,000-word novel down to the length of a two-hour screenplay, without losing the heart and soul of the material. It took me six ever-shorter drafts; the first one was a freakin’ mini-series! But it was worth it, and I’m hoping that Planet — now that it’s been optioned — might open a door or two for an eventual movie version of Unplugged.”
No Budget Needed To Win Movie Prizes!
[2008 Update: Paul’s collaboration with Brian Cox and Joshua Avila, the scathing anti-Bush, anti-Iraq-War, scifi/political satire Beyond the Planet of the Apes, took an award in the “Political Awareness” Division of the 2008 ACM Awards. Takethat, Dubya!]
Paul’s & Brian Cox’s comedic cable-TV series “No-Budget Theatre” was awarded First Place in the “Best Original Teleplay” category by the Alliance for Community Media. Paul went to Fort Wayne, IN, in November 2007 to accept the award.
As of mid-October 2007, Further Persons Imperfect was, according to Amazon.com, its 15th-best-selling current anthology title! And on October 20th, Further Persons Imperfect received an Honorable Mention in national competition at the 2007 DIY Book Festival in Los Angeles!
Paul Wins (faux) Academy Award!
Following a recent public screening of his 11-minute Star Wars sequel, Vader (which Paul made in 1977 at the age of 15), the “auteur” was presented with a cardboard Oscar for Best No-Budget Special Effects. After doing his best Adrien Brody impression, a visibly flummoxed Paul thanked his cast, his crew…and, oh yes, George Lucas.
Not bad for a movie in which the “spaceships” were modified ping pong balls!
Ivana award……two, in fact!
On October 8th, 2004 in Troy, Michigan, Shock Theatre – a short film adapted from the “Ivana Viktimm” subplot of Paul’s novel Unplugged – received two first prizes from the Alliance for Community Media-Central States Region. The piece, an affectionate homage to low-budget UHF horror-movie shows, was written by Paul and co-produced with Brian Cox; it took top honors in both the Entertainment and Original Teleplay categories. This marked the second time in as many years that an Unplugged-derived video by Brian and Paul took two first prizes in ACM-CS competition.
Bill Nolan’s Ships in the Night
William F. Nolan – award-winning author of the best-selling novel Logan’s Run, of 70-odd other books and of a most gracious blurb on the back of Unplugged – recently asked me to write the Introduction for his new, multi-genre short story collection. It was my great honor to accept!
Ships in the Night is an engaging, eclectic story cycle – highly recommended. For more information or to order a copy [ISBN#1-59266-020-7], go to www.caprapress.com.
“Characters defined through their actions; storylines that unfurl with alacrity and grace; expository description as concise as it is complete…This is an ambitious book, for in Ships in the Night Nolan tackles no less a topic than humanity itself.” – Paul McComas, from his Foreword.
Erin Walsh, Paul and Heather Mell (pictured here left to right) performed Dayna’s songs at most of the bookstore events for Unplugged.
At most Chicago-area performances for Unplugged, Heather Mell and Paul were joined by drummer David Rothenberg (at right).
(photo by Laurie Starrett)
Kyla Baruch and Michael Whiting join Paul at Fact & Fiction Books in Missoula, MT, Sept.12, 2003.
(photo by Elwyn Otter-Raven)
Another Interview with Paul
Here’s a link to an interview conducted by Charles Shaw (editor-in-chief of Newtopia Magazine) that appeared in 3am Magazine….
Paul & Jake
During a December 2003 retreat to the Badlands (where he wrote Chapter 11 of Planet of the Dates), Paul visited Jake Sharp, owner of Badlands Ranch & Resort and partial inspiration for the character “Drake” in Unplugged. The closest you can come to riding horseback on Drake’s land is to do so on Jake’s — and he has the horses to make it happen! For info, go to www.badlandsranchandresort.com.
(photo by Judy Sharp)
RAINN-ing in D.C.
At a November 2002 Washington, D.C. event presented in cooperation with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, (left to right) RAINN Projects Coordinator Kerry Naughton and D.C. vocalist Nikole Yinger helped drummer Chris Kozlowski and Paul present a rousing bookstore performace (the tour’s inflatable mascot was in attendance as well).
(photo by Lee Salawitch)
At the 2003 Alliance for Community Media/Central States conference in Akron, OH, Paul and video producer Brian Cox accepted First Prizes in the Inspirational and Performing Arts categories for their short-form video “Symmetry,” adapted from pp.132-133 of Unplugged. The video was also a Finalist for Original Teleplay.
(photo by Christine Cox)
The cast and crew of Paul’s 1994 movie Desert Slacks reunited for a 10th anniversary screening at CapriCon 2004 (an international science fiction and fantasy convention). From left: Neal Katz, Eric Diekhans, Pattie MacKenzie, Paul, Mark Mallchok and Bernadette Burke.