Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Music/Art: Interview with Multi-talented Daryl Banner (music/writing/theater)

Today we will find out a little more about Daryl Banner, a true artist with multiple talents, who I had the pleasure of meeting in person during the Houston Authors Bash. Although I met Daryl as a writer, I found out he also makes music, so I thought it would be great to explore this side of his creative personality! Let's get to know him!

Daryl, tell us about you, where are you from and what is your background? 

I’m from Texas and have lived here my whole life (i.e. I’m immune to heat and can withstand the fury of four seasons that span a single day)

I have a degree in Theatre and Psychology from the University of Houston where my primary focus was acting and writing. While there, I penned several plays, two of which were selected from hundreds to be produced as part of the Edward Albee Playwright Festival, mentored by the late and great Lanford Wilson, who gave me some seriously awesome advice that I still employ to this day. I also was part of the Stuart Ostrow Musical Collaboration in 2006 where I wrote book, lyrics, and music for “The Walker-Through-Walls”, a quirky comedy-musical about a man who discovers he can walk through walls.

Let's focus on your musical talent! What music genre do you consider yourself to be? Do you have a favorite composer/musician, who has influenced your style?

I don’t think there’s a way to put myself into a genre, even with my books. I cross genres even with my music. Just like a game’s soundtrack, my music will be classical, and also somehow steam punk rock, head-mashing industrial, flittering into a techno spin, then finally ending in some digital mess of ethereal gospel. Seriously, I can’t pin what I do. But it’s sure fun!

I have many favorites. In terms of musicals and theatre, Sondheim inspires me like no other. Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda are my primary influences for video game music (as I’m sure they are for countless other composers in the world) as well as Koji Kondo and his legacy of Zelda and Mario music, which hold permanent residence in my head. Tori Amos taught me to love the piano, Ani DiFranco to focus anger and injustice into poetry, and Björk to be free and never say “no” to an idea. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails is also a big influence to me, his ‘technician’ approach to building music. Also, randomly, I like to attribute some of my artistic approach to Bob Ross. Seriously. Yeah, I know, he was a painter, but I think music and writing work a lot like a canvas, and he opened my eyes to a—dare I call it—way of conveying art.

Video game songs definitely sound like fun! I was listening to your YouTube channel and you have remixed lots of favorite songs of mine, including DM’s Personal Jesus! So creative and original! How did you have this idea, and what was the first song you experimented with?

I’ve been a huge gamer ever since I was a kid! Video game music has inspired me my whole life, ever since Zelda, and Metroid, and Final Fantasy … It’s shaped a lot of my own taste for music. I’ve seen a lot of Nintendo 8-bit renditions of songs, but to me, there wasn’t any creativity to them; it seemed more like they were pumped through a machine. I see my remixes more as “covers” of my favorite songs using only 8-bit instruments where a lot of creative liberty is taken. I’ve even remixed full albums, including two Garbage albums, Tori Amos’ From The Choirgirl Hotel, as well as Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. I think the very first songs I attacked in this 8-bit style were Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and a triplet of Lady Gaga tunes.

Is there a specific target audience for your music?

I have to say 80s-90s born gamers will certainly click with my style, even in my novels and writing. We come from a time when computers were just gaining speed, video game systems were evolving at the speed of crazy, and we didn’t yet have phones to "zombify" us in our formative years. But in truth, I kinda like sticking to this impossible idealist hope that my music could reach anyone.

Don't lose hope, after all, music is the universal language! What are your plans for the future as a musician?

I’m planning to perform in a 3-person comedic trilogy of musicals that will be touring around the country this year and next. I collaborate with the other writers with lyrics, ideas … In fact, I’ve written an original piece that will be performed in our newest show. I play a character within the show and also double as the pianist/accompanist and sing.

Good luck! I'm sure it will be a success! And since you’re both a musician and a writer, which do you consider to be your primary artistic skill?

I don’t consider either. I think of them like the same thing: I’m a storyteller. Even in music, I look at it like telling a story, a feeling, a person. 

What is the biggest difference between composing songs and writing novels in your experience?

One’s a feast for your eyes, the other a feast for your ears, and the both a feast for your soul.  =)

Excellent answer! And is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your talents?

When my “Hyper 8-bit” remixes were gaining popularity, I made an original video game soundtrack to an imaginary game called “Hyper 8-Bit World” and posted it on Bandcamp “http://darylbanner.bandcamp.com/” In the near future, I think I may do a few other “themed” imaginary video game soundtracks, since a lot of people seemed to take kindly to the first one. If you enjoy the “Nintendo” sound, these tunes never get old =)
Let us know where we can find your music and books!

Other than my Facebook where I post everything (www.facebook.com/DarylBannerWriter) you can find my music on these websites:

You can find my books here:

I also sell signed copies directly. All you have to do is pay a little extra for shipping and have a Pay Pal or credit card (I use Square)

Some YouTube links to my more popular Hyper 8-Bit Nintendo remixes:

Tori Amos’s “From The Choirgirl Hotel” full album remixed:

Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” full album remixed:

Garbage’s “Version 2.0” full album remixed:

Garbage’s debut album fully remixed:

Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your work with us! We wish you good luck and success in your artistic future! 


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Location: Orlando, FL - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Since we're in Spring break mode, I will publish here a post I had on an older blog of mine which is  no longer active. Nothing like a week in the middle of March to take a trip to Orlando... Enjoy!

Hogwarts castle is a MUST see attraction.
Usually, theme parks are not my first choice of travel. I'm not a big fan of roller coasters and prefer to see archaeological or historical places than man-made vomiting inducing steel monsters. But this time, Harry Potter won and I was convinced to take a magical journey to Hogwarts. Not to be missed.

The attraction, which is inside the "Islands of Adventure" Theme Park, was opened a few summers ago and is by far the most popular attraction at Universal resort world. So much so, that the "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" opens one hour earlier than the rest of the park for you, if you stay in one of the three hotels inside Universal resort. There are no "express" pass to skip the line and get to Hogwarts castle though, and even during spring break (mid March), the line is up to a wait of 2 to 3 hours during the day. But if you get up early and get there before 8 am, you can still get to the castle to a 10 minute wait - basically the shortest you can find. It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk around inside the castle to get to the ride's entrace - and most guests forget that this exploration of the castle is also a big part of the attraction. Walk slowly, watch and look at the walls, at the ceiling, and take photos. It's really amazing! You can see picture frames talking to you, for example, and experience magic from Harry and his friends, like snow falling from the ceiling in one of the rooms.

Inside Hogwarts castle
The ride itself is spectacular, and lasts about 10 minutes - but it feels like it's never ending, because it's so intense! You're flying with Harry while competing in one of their Quidditch games and running from competitors, from dragons and from Dementors. Scream!!! Try to go more than once if you can tolerate the line again... it's even more impressive the second time around.

Explore the town of Hogsmeade, where you can buy delicious butter beer (be ready for a long line at either one of the two Butter Beer carts), have breakfast at "The Three Broomsticks", and enjoy lunch at the "Hog's Head" pub. Don't forget to stop by "Honeydukes Sweetshop", where you can buy the original Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (it's really every favor, I had to spit out a few of them - ear wax and vomit were disgusting - yucky!) and the famous chocolate frogs, among other sweet delights.
Delicious butter beer!

And no, I didn't ride the monster dragon roller coaster, but ventured in the smaller version - "The Flight of the Hippogriff" - a couple of times, which was not so stomach churning, but thrilling enough for my taste.

Enjoy the park and don't forget to buy your own wand for a unique souvenir (expect to spend, though)!  Expecto Patronum!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Books: Interview with Author Daniel Wetta - suspense/thriller

Daniel Wetta is another Indie author I had the pleasure of meeting through Facebook and Goodreads. His first novel, "The Z Redemption" is on my TBR (to be read) list and I can't wait to get to it! Daniel is a life-long lover of Corvettes, Las Vegas, and living on the edge. He loves his family, and is passionate about United States and Mexican history, the Spanish language, and using social media. I'm honored to feature his interview here today! Let's get to know a little more about Mr. Wetta!

Daniel, when did you decide to become a writer and why?

When I was a kid, I invented stories in my head all the time. I used to make up lies about myself to my friends! I transferred this tendency to writing short stories beginning about the age of twelve or thirteen. I remember writing a parody of the first James Bond movie I had seen: "Goldfinger." Probably I was afraid of having an ordinary life. As a teenager, I dreamed of either being a drummer in a rock band or being a best-selling author of popular fiction. Instead, I became a CPA and hospital administrator. My younger brother, author Stephen Wetta, was wiser and spent his career writing and teaching.

I can see talent runs in the family! What genre or genres do you write and what is your target audience?

The first answer is "suspense/thriller." My stories will always have romance and steam and strong female characters. I want to grab anyone who will read! Finding readers is more of a challenge these days than it should be. Writing must be engaging. It has to compete with stories told in video games or in movies streaming over Netflix. The words of a book have to stimulate the senses like those media do.

Very true indeed! How many books have you published and which is your favorite?
(Smiling.) I have only published The Z Redemption and a short story using one of its characters. That story is "Awakening from the Golden Sleep," and it is set in Mazatlán, México during the 1980s. Next month will be published my new novel, Corvette Nightfire, set in Las Vegas, Barbados, and northern Mexico. The latter novel was a lot of fun to write. I exchanged story ideas with the editor, Robert Selfe, throughout. A climactic scene takes place with young Corvette Nightfire at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Since Robert is a poker player, he came up with the hands described during some of the dramatic scenes. I really enjoyed working with him.

Let's talk about your novel, The Z Redemption, with 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. It deals with kidnappings in Mexico and the drug cartel. You lived in Mexico and had a traumatic experience - how did the writing of the novel help you deal with your pain during that period?

I had not had the kind of life where any of my friends had been kidnapped from their job, tortured and killed. My friend Israel was 26 or 27 years old when this happened to him. I found out by reading the newspaper and seeing a picture of his body in an abandoned vacant lot. I kept thinking how alone he must have felt when it was happening to him. I loved the people I met and got to know in Monterrey. I wanted to tell their story. In order to write about my friend Israel's death, I told the story through the eyes of a fictional best friend and other people to show the horror in a reflected way. The story moves in a positive direction through dark events. The ordinary people in Monterrey at that time dealt with life in extraordinary ways. They were, and are, true heroes.

Since you mentioned heroes, “Let's Not Just Be Heroes! Let's Be Heroes Who Lead!” is a prominent quote from your book. What/who does it describe? Who is your hero?

My character, Ana Valdez, uses that as a rallying slogan in the victims' rights and peace movements that she leads in Mexico. She is addressing ordinary people who have had to bear pain that no one wants to think about. They are heroes for the courage that they have shown, but Ana insists that more than that is required. Heroes must lead. Many people in leadership positions are not leaders and not heroes. We are all human. Sometimes our leaders fail us. My heroes are ordinary people who show courage even when they are afraid. I especially admire ordinary people who discover that they are leaders.  

Great answer! Your story sounds very intriguing. And now, you have a new novel coming up next month, Corvette Nightfire. Can you tell us anything about it? Is it a follow up to The Z Redemption?

Okay, Andrea, you get the scoop! Here is what the rear cover of the paperback version will say to describe the story:

"Can Just One Dance Change Destiny?
As Corvette Nightfire approaches the casino in Las Vegas, the doors burst open to the sound of gunfire. A beautiful woman rushes to him and thrusts a heavy bag into his arms. Instructing him in Spanish, which he doesn't understand, she runs past him to a waiting car. A professional poker player in town to play in the Final Nine in the World Series of Poker, Corvette soon discovers that he is inexorably connected to Valentina, this exotic woman who has just put his life into a tailspin. He disappears into a vortex of international intrigues, a complex world of ordinary heroes and heinous cartel thugs, in a desperate race to find and rescue her.
They cannot speak each other's languages, but on the romantic evening on which they meet, Valentina tells her story through dance images. She becomes an animal spirit, an amber-eyed black jaguar that Corvette must ride to find the woman he inexplicably loves. His heart reveals that the millions of dollars in prize money in the tournament mean nothing compared to Valentina’s life. Not understanding what is guiding him through the vortex, Corvette comes to an unexpected destiny, one of reconciliation to generations of family sins.
A suspense-thriller, Corvette Nightfire takes up where The Z Redemption leaves off and straps the reader into another bumpy, exhilarating ride!"

Are you optimistic/hopeful/romantic?

My previous answers may have given me away, but I am hopelessly romantic and optimistic! I believe that in our darkest times, there is positive energy that we can grab to move us in the right direction even if our feelings have not caught up with our forward motion. The miracles that we witness in life all can be traced back to love. Physicists continue to search for the "unifying force." If we open our eyes we can see it. I describe it this way: Love is the ultimate healing force.  

I totally agree and I think you just create another quote! So, what are your plans for your future as a writer?

Robert Selfe and I this year are going to collaborate on the third novel that has some of these characters. After that, I would like to write one novel a year, always striving to juice the adrenalin in any reader who would get into one of my books!

Now that you've teased us enough about your writing, please let us know where we can find more about you and your books!

It's easy: Visit all the pages of my website on www.danielwetta.com. There is a lot there to enjoy, plus contact information for me, and instructions how to obtain the novels. I put a lot into making the website topical and fun.

Thanks, Daniel, it has been a pleasure welcoming you today! Good luck with your novels and keep on writing!