Tag Archives: tunes

Rough poem from Arizona

Years ago I wrote poetry, and I’ve been fiddling with it again over the last month or so.  Two poems have emerged whilst on holiday, and here’s one I just scribbled this morning, based on our drive last night from Tucson back to Phoenix.

 

“Night between Tucson and Phoenix”

 

Miles and cities and stars

all compete with truckers and truck stops

and night skies longing for a respite from heat, from scrub, from Pima cotton

grown in one of the driest places I have ever visited.

I thought the Princeton, California rice fields were odd.

Nothing prepared me for Pima cotton in the middle of the desert.

 

But in darkness cotton lies invisible,

as silent as mesquite trees and jutting rocks,

as yellow and purple flowers quietly decorating the highway.

All that remains is one of the darkest skies in my memories.

Stars shined halfway between Tucson and Phoenix, as if yet another

part of the country.

Phoenix is never hushed, but along I-10 a pitch-black

night overwhelms, subdues.

Big cities are too far away, miles of tarmac

broker two worlds.  I was in two worlds last night,

announced by hulking semi’s, their long cabs calling

the drivers to shut down and become

one with the night.  Fall into its blackness

and glory for a few hours.

The night only lasts a few hours.

The day lasts forever.

 

As we approached Phoenix, an eastern glow

beckoned, while the west remained cloaked in

black, beautiful night.  Black beautiful peace

was edgeless horizon to crescent moon with

an eyeless smile, noting the rightness of

stars’ correct placement in the universe.

In Phoenix stars are drawn by children

hoping for something glimpsed on holiday,

in books, as myths.

But halfway between Tucson and Phoenix, stars rule.

 

I’ve been listening to Endless Boogie’s “The Artemus Ward” and “The Montgomery Manuscript” as inspiration for this poem, and one other that has been written whilst on holiday.  Not sure what I’m going to do with them; if enough emerge, I might publish a collection.

Once I finish them, of course.  I feel like this one needs to be longer.  But for now, our last full day in Arizona, here’s a little of what’s on my mind…

Endless Boogie or: How I learned to stop worrying and embrace indie publishing

Endless Boogie in Santa Cruz, California  February 2011

Endless Boogie, February 2011 in Santa Cruz

Two years ago a couple of intriguing things happened to me.  I decided to go indie, and I met Paul Major, lead vocalist and guitarist from the New York rock-jammers Endless Boogie.  The latter occured in Santa Cruz, but not where my husband and I had first seen the band, opening for Yo La Tengo a year before that in a comparatively posh Santa Cruz theater.  This was in some divey industrial section of town, where we learned that Boogie, and the other bands, would be restricted to twenty-minutes sets to avoid breaching the local noise ordinance.  My husband and I laughed with Major and Boogie’s then bassist, whom I believe is known as Memories of Reno (which I gleaned from the band’s Last.fm page, as it’s hard to come by information) as all four of us stood in the cramped second floor hallway, waiting to use the bathroom.  We got to tell them of first seeing them with Yo La Tengo, and it was probably one of the most enjoyable restroom queues of which I’ve been a part.

Now, what does chatting with a Canned Heat-like bunch of rockers have to do with independent publishing?  Well, Endless Boogie’s third album was just released, and while previously I wasn’t a big fan, listening to Long Island has turned my head.  And made me consider just why people of any age (Major is fifty-eight years old, and guitarist Jesper Eklow looks at least my age) decide to let their hair down and make art, be it musical or written or whatever floats one’s boat.

As Major tells this month’s Uncut Magazine, describing Eklow’s talent: He’d been in bands before, but for the love of music, not with the ambition of ‘we’re gonna make it’.

Major further describes the rhythm guitarist as Danny Witten to Major’s Neil Young front-man status.  Now, that’s pretty rock nitty-gritty, but then so is Endless Boogie.  The new album is one I can enjoy while editing, endless guitar jams with Major’s growly vocals or just the hypnotic musical wave.  And on the new record Major employs his incredible voice more as gong, reciting names from the past in “The Artemus Ward” and “The Montgomery Manuscript” as if recalling history in a Ken Burns’ documentary.  If I was Robert Christgau, I’d give Long Island an A-.  Nine out of ten stars if I was reviewing for Uncut,  four and a half out of five if for Rolling Stone.

The new album cover, quite intriguing, I believe.

The new album cover, quite intriguing, I believe.

But this isn’t just about rating an album.  It’s about how letting it all hang out changed my writing life.  Major and Eklow aren’t looking to be rock and roll superstars, they just love jamming, their guitars as extensions of themselves.  Long Island is the band’s third record, but they’ve been playing together since before 2001; in 2001 they performed at the Bowery Ballroom, but their first full album, Focus Level, didn’t come out until 2008, when Major was then fifty-three.  Age is irrelevant when it comes to the heart.

The heart of an artist is ageless, just waiting for the right time to do its thing.

I’ve been listening to a fair amount of Endless Boogie over the last week, since Long Island was mailed to our house, along with a bonus EP, what my husband was trying to record onto the laptop recently.  Right now “Coming Down The Stairs” from their first album is pouring through my computer speakers.  It’s never too early in the morning to rock, although I do need time to warm up for the writing.  But once I was ready to start letting my own hair down, boy, there was no time like the present.

Taken from the back of the room; to the left is where we paid.  The stairs to the loo were just to the right of that little table.

Taken from the back of the room; to the left is where we paid. The stairs to the loo were just to the right of that little table.

Everyone has their own reasons for how and what and why they write; the same can be said for publishing.  Maybe it’s the performance artist in me, as if I was Paul Major on a stage, letting those long brown locks fall where they may as a guitar conveys my pounding heart.  Except it’s a pen in my hand, fingers on the keyboard, a cuppa close to provide sustenance.  Size of the stage matters not; Endless played with just as much tenacity for hundreds as well as in that tiny space where maybe a dozen people wandered.  Yes, the second time we saw Endless Boogie there were probably twelve others wafting through the room.

Sometimes the crowds are big, sometimes not so much.  But the rock and roll emerged without regard to capacity, except for obeying the noise ordinance.

Two years ago I cut myself loose from queries, baggage much heavier than I had imagined.  A blessed lightness graced my shoulders, or was it freedom?  I have a hard time distinguishing as that seems like a distant past.  Now it’s a lively endless riff that weaves in and out of my ears, all in prose.  And hard work too; Endless Boogie played their short set, then dissembled their equipment, no roadies or stagehands nearby.  An indie author does their own grunt work, but even the most tedious formatting doesn’t feel like backbreaking, soul-crushing, good for nothing drivel.  It’s done while celebrating artistic liberty, accomplished from the sheer love for writing.

Time to close up shop, don't want the Santa Cruz cops on the tail.

Time to close up shop, don’t want the Santa Cruz cops knocking on the door.

Now, this is just how I like to publish.  Endless Boogie isn’t for everyone; it took time for the guys to grow on me.  Or maybe it’s my love for jazz that opened my mind to traveling rock riffs, an appreciation that life moves in unpredictable ways.  Did Paul Major think he would be fronting a rock band when in his fifties?  Maybe he dreamed about it when younger, but sometimes dreams stay trapped under lock and key.

Sometimes dreams are just simmering for the precise moment when they are fully formed, like butterflies escaping from their chrysalises.  Indie publishing freed my inner butterfly, and now listening to “The Montgomery Manuscript”, I’m feeling about ready to close this post, start adding to my own WIP.  Music gets made, books are written.  If these pieces of art, these parts of our souls are to be shared with others, no longer is that path long and treacherous.

It’s just a matter of unlocking the chest and letting the dreams fly free.

Just what am I so afraid of?

Yesterday I had a lot to ponder, thanks to Philosophy By Christy.  Her post about the fine line between fact and fiction prompted my comment about an idea that I’ve sort of shoved to the background (but haven’t completely shelved for eternity due to my love for its playlist).  The plot blossomed back at the end of 2010, while my husband was in an antique store in Capitola.  I was sitting in the car, minding my own darn business, when a story wound its way onto a few slips of paper.  Yet it concerned a brutal murder, a detective, ghosts.  I’m not scared of ghosts, but I am completely clueless when it comes to forensic study.

And I’m squeamish.  I can’t stand blood.

Yet I love the idea of a hardened detective faced with a determined spirit not wishing to quietly go into that good night.  Even if means rattling the cage of a man who doesn’t believe in the afterlife, much less an ethereal woman bugging the crap outta him.  I’ve been trying to ignore that tale, telling myself I can’t write that sort of novel, it’s not me.

Well, the angsty ghost and miserable detective are me all over, but…

Christy responded to my comment by reminding that even if I don’t publish it, it’s good practice.  And to not let the inner editor get in the way until after I’ve written the story.

Dude!  Like a brick up the head was that.  I’ve never had an issue with the inner editor while writing, but I had never considered how that sneaky ne’re-do-well could sabotage a project before it even got off the ground.

Christy and I exchanged a few more comments, which led me to Malinda Lo’s site, and a post about that inner critic, as Lo calls it.  I read a few more of Lo’s posts, then sat down at the kitchen table with the folder for my idea, post-it notes, the playlist wafting from my speakers.  And a heaping dose of courage; so what if I know jack-squat about murder investigations?  I wanna write this novel!

I’m listening to the tunes right now, silky Thomas Dolby from The Flat Earth, released the year I graduated high school.  There’s My Morning Jacket with “Honest Man” from their 2001 album At Dawn.  One Prince song, “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?”, The Everly Brothers with three hits from 1957, 1959, and 1965.  Then there is Roxy Music.

Music is my muse, and Roxy is one of the best.  Their 1973 album Stranded provides their presence within this tale, and as I allowed all these artists and songs into my brain, the doubts faded, the resolve strengthened.  What was I so scared about in the first place?

Blood.  Intricate investigative details.  Police protocol…

Oh yeah.  But I really wanna write about Shaun McBride and Felicity Reynolds and Shaun’s dead ex-wife Zinnia and Shaun’s as for now unnamed boss at the police station.

But you don’t even know what a detective’s boss is called, now do you?  You don’t read cop thrillers, you get queasy when you cut your own finger!

But it’s not just about a murder!  It’s about Shaun’s recriminations over his failed marriage, then Zinnia turns up dead, and so does Felicity.  Then Felicity starts pestering Shaun to solve her not-really-a-murder and and…

But you’d have to brush up (putting it mildly) on how cops gather evidence and how detectives take medical leave when they start seeing ghosts and…

But mostly Shaun spends his time drinking on a houseboat, trying to come to terms with two dead women, one he still loved and one who he can see through but hold as if she’s real.  And when Felicity kisses him….

What in the heck does that have to do with police investigations and forensic evidence collection?

My point exactly.

Now, does this mean I win the argument and write the novel, which has a title: Haunted.  I’m sure considering it.  Who cares if I’m going to publish it, I mean, that’s not entirely the point.  The point is the story, the idea, the principle.  My writing principle is to investigate (ha ha) new ideas.  I’ve written about all sorts of situations and people that I’ll never be or find myself a part of, why is this any different?  It’s a love story, check.  It’s got more angst than water in the ocean, yup.  It’s moody and atmospheric and has a killer playlist, yeah yeah yeah.

And it has a psychopathic killer and cops and tweezers.  Don’t murder investigators need tweezers and little plastic bags and…

Maybe most do.  Maybe mine won’t.  It’s a new genre of crime thrillers written by rather squeamish love story authors who aren’t scared of a little blood.

A little blood will be okay.  Sure it will.  I’ve written about a little blood before and I can do this.  I can really do this.

I really can; who’s here to say I can’t?

The inner-critic crosses her arms, sniffs disdainfully, and slinks away as Roxy Music’s “Street Life” blasts from the speakers…

The indie theory of relativity

Last week I had lunch with my friend Julie Rose; Lillie Mae’s House of Soul Food in Santa Clara was the place, and yes, football was on our minds, as she’s as big of a 49ers fan as I am.  After much commiserating, we left sport for authorial topics, which always warms my heart.  There are many good things in this world, and chatting with another writer nears the top of the list.

I was thinking about this last night as my husband pulled out boxes of 45s, searching for one specific piece of vinyl, bought in the UK, where most of his singles were purchased.  From completely obscure artists, like Southall Riot whom he was looking for, to collectible 45s, he had a heyday when we lived in Yorkshire, shipping so cheap from the continent.  Mostly he picked up local bands, like Subaqwa, but The White Stripes was found via his hunts, alongside other groups that faded into the background.  One was from Wales; Crak’s single was encased in black polka-dotted purple fur.  They sang in Welsh, not sure what the song was about, but it certainly was intriguing.  Of course this led me to considering indie musicians versus writers, one of the issues Julie and I mulled over last Friday.  Within the traditional publishing culture little room remains if someone wanted to release their novel in purple polka-dotted fur.  But it sure seems like a cool idea.

A postcard of the band was included in this single.

A postcard of the band was included in this single.

Now, a single isn’t the same as a novel; maybe 45s are equal to short stories or flash fiction.  My husband has five trainer-sized shoe boxes full of singles, some in simple paper sleeves, some in elaborate packaging  like that purple polka-dotted number.  One single was a 5-inch, CD sized.  It was on the Black Bean and Placenta label (no, I’m not making this up), out of Mission Hills, California.  No band name, no song title, but that was okay, it wasn’t all that great.  But it WAS.  Someone wanted to release a 5-inch single, and they did so.  Yeah for them!

Coloured vinyl didn't help decipher the Welsh lyrics, but it looks stunning on the turntable.

Coloured vinyl didn’t help decipher the Welsh lyrics, but it looks stunning on the turntable.

I started thinking about relativity last night as unknown songs wafted through speakers.  Maybe it was from one of the 45s that featured Einstein on its sleeve.  Relative means, among other definitions, a thing having a relation to, or connection with, or necessary dependence on another thing.  Writers, like musicians, harbor ideas.  We corral mediums to express those ideas.  Finally we connect with audiences, large or minuscule, to share those ideas.

Hence the indie theory of relativity.

It’s not a very big theory, no Nobel Prize in the works.  Just that as indie musicians thrive, indie writers are too.  Independent authors are a little newer on the scene, in the getting noticed sort of way, but writers have been publishing books without publishing houses far longer than vinyl records have even existed.  Yet history’s grand weight has weighed down on authors, as if traditional methods of publication were the only ones acceptable.  But that doesn’t seem to bother musicians all that much.

Number 8 was released, but number 10 never was, so sad!

Inserted into one of Southall Riot’s singles was this notice. Single number 8 was released, but number 10 never was, so sad!

I believe, and this is just me, it’s to do with rock music’s youthful spirit, its alternative vibe.  Parents in the 1950s were scared outta their skulls at Elvis; Ed Sullivan couldn’t even broadcast Presley’s whole form, filming him from the waist up.  Publishing is assumed for intellectuals, rock and roll for kids.  That’s a very broad generalization, but it’s mine, and I’m sticking to it, filing it under the indie theory of relativity.  Ideas exist, are expressed via language, transmitted through paragraphs and chapters, ’nuff said.

Well, not quite enough; the other thing I thought about last night, listening to The Cramps, Mohave 3, Black Tambourine, Subaqwa, Crak, and a few others, was how these records are a part of this world in which I live.  People wrote and played their songs, then turned them into 45s.  Subaqwa made an album, EPs too.  The Cramps had an illustrious career, only ended at the death of singer Lux Interior (may he rest in peace).  None of those groups were The Beatles, but thousands of stories exist beyond bestsellers.  Yesterday my husband was also listening to his Original Master Recordings of Beatles’ records.  He’s had that box for ages, never plays those albums, but yesterday was a day to dust off memories.  (Literally, as when he removed the singles box from under the stereo, a cloud was stirred.)  We enjoyed the Fab Four in the morning, indie artists that evening, relativity floating through the room, along with dust particles.

No artwork on the albums, sort of cheesy if you ask me...

No artwork on the albums, sort of cheesy if you ask me…

Specks of those songs travel as well, from The Beatles’ “Please Please Me” to “What’s Inside A Girl” by The Cramps, a Welsh band in between.  I’m gearing up for some writing in April, and by July, I’ll be celebrating two years as an indie author.  Maybe it’s my rock ‘n roll sensibilities keeping me enthused, maybe it’s a never-quiet creative spirit.  Maybe it’s music, well, I know it’s music; give me a song, I’ll tell you a story.  It’s the indie theory of relativity, far easier to digest than Einstein’s theory of relativity, but part and parcel of this great and grand universe.  Write your story, or make your music, and join the party!

Hard not to get inspired by this, pink vinyl to boot!

The smallest nudge

Last week was busy with posts, editing, considerations.  I was pondering the work, my family, music; twenty-five years ago I married my husband, which is still some fixed point that cannot be altered.  Sort of Doctor Whovian, okay, sure.  There are fixed points in time from where all change occurs.

Of course those points don’t mean squat to any but those directly affected, or do they…  I’m writing this somewhat fuzzy post because I said I do; no way would I be where I am in my life, location and sanity-wise, if not for that man.  We wouldn’t have the kids we do, I wouldn’t have logged the experiences that touch all aspects of my writing.  The writing, huh!  I wouldn’t be writing if not for that chap, because while he wouldn’t read one of my books to save his life, his life centers mine, which in turn allows for all this authorial blog-blogging.

More fixed points: when my daughter told me about NaNo.  When my husband called me about jobs in England.  The first record album I bought in the Chester Rexall Drugstore; it was either Paul Simon or Elton John’s Greatest Hits.  Fixed points can be little or large, but they are immutable, no matter the size or their presumed positive or negative appearance.

Last week another fixed point occurred.  In the future, when I think back to it, I will always combine it with my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, an additional marker enhancing the meaning.  I will probably recall what I was editing at the time, hopefully I will not conjure a recent football loss.  I will most likely tie it with the latest musical finds, “Hickory Wind” by The Byrds (I’m on a Gram Parsons kick right now, in addition to Subaqwa), alongside “Alive and Kicking” by Simple Minds.  I came across Parsons as he’s on the cover of the most recent Uncut magazine my husband just received.  The headline is “Gram Parsons: The Untold Story”.  Really, how can anything be untold at this point about late 1960s-early 1970s musicians?  But for some, hearing Gram Parsons for the first time is a fixed point, or his death is a fixed point.

For me, it’s an anecdote.  Later, when I muse the most recently fixed point, “Hickory Wind” might waft through my head.

This doesn’t have much to do with writing proper, not today.  But it will down the road; how many further manuscripts will emerge due to one fixed point, like planets aligning, that sort of claptrap?  Except it’s not rubbish, it’s life.

It’s reality, which piles on itself, sometimes like a brick, other times imperceptibly.  I had no idea when I wed my boyfriend how that would alter my world, just like when I bought that Greatest Hits record, or my eldest causally mentioning a writing competition.  Well, I sort of knew getting married was going to be a big deal, but it wasn’t a fancy ceremony, just a guy and gal pledging their lives together.  I was twenty-one years old, that seems like…  Well, not to offend any young twenty-somethings, but I was just a kid back then, or maybe it was only me.

I’m not a kid anymore, fixed points and all that sort of grown-up thing.

My husband took the photo below last night at dinner.  I turned it into black and white on my smartphone, but it’s just a snippet, one moment of time that is already long gone.  Yet every time I see that picture, I’ll know what we were discussing, I’ll probably recall what we were eating (cottage pie and oh was it good).  I’ll remember why that smile was so… telling.  It was one of the first smiles after another fixed point, where all that is known is something is going to be different from here on out.

Black and white writer

If nothing else, it’s the next chapter with my husband.  Maybe another twenty-five years, maybe far less.  Whatever it is, writing will be involved, music too.  He bought albums yesterday, a binding thread of our days together.  That some of those records were unlistenable was par for the course.  Some were treasures that will follow us the rest of our lives.  Maybe they’ll be fixed points one day.

Or maybe fodder for a garage sale.  Or novel fodder; it all ends up in a book one way or another.

Plugging back in

Breaks are necessary and reviving, but routine is my best friend, next to my husband.  As my daughter, son-in-law, and Buttercup left this morning, I gave hugs and kisses, belly rubs too.  Buttercup was edgy as her folks were in and out, loading the car.  She seems to crave routine too, along with walks, food, and copious palms laid along her back.  I don’t need excess stroking, but as I sat to write, once the last goodbyes were said, a strange, lovely energy ran through me.  I read over what I’d written yesterday; yes, I snuck in some work on Boxing Day afternoon, after mulling over the WIP.  It’s going to be a few chapters shorter than I planned, with a sequel to follow.  All that time not writing or prepping The Timeless Nature of Patience was usurped by family, the dog, Christmas, or pondering the novel-in-progress.  Enough thought went into it that I was left with no other choice; end the novel well before I originally decided, then write another to finish (or elongate) the tale.  No, I’m not looking at another six-book saga like Alvin’s Farm, maybe just one more to follow Where The Ball Is.  I’ll know when I get to the end of the next one, Where The Heart Is, although I assumed The Thorn and The Rose, the second Alvin novel, was going to be it.

Ha ha ha ha ha!

Anyways, back to what I was saying.  This morning, around nine thirty or so, I had read over yesterday’s installment of the WIP.  All I had to before starting to write was plug in my ear buds, listen to today’s song, then let my fingers do the work.  Living Colour’s “That’s What You Taught Me” was supposed to document Kendall’s meeting with his former soccer coach, laying the seeds for Kendall’s possible return to sport.  Instead it was Kendall telling his parents what he had asked his girlfriend Sarah.  Listening to the song, I could feel renewal flowing through my arms, right down to my fingertips, my brain engaging, as if I had actually been hooked back into some writing pipeline.  I have never felt that sense so strongly, and it was shocking.  I know this is my gig, no doubts there, but I had reveled in those days off, both from writing, also publishing Timeless Nature.  Yet, when the moment presented itself yesterday, I scribbled over 3,500 words.  And today I hit nearly 5K.

You can take an author from the keyboard, but you can’t take the words from a writer.

I had a fabulous Christmas and Boxing Day, spent with those I love most, rain falling more often than not, quite British actually.  We watched Doctor Who on Christmas night, a hot mess my friend Julie rightly described.  It was sort of a Doctor Who Christmas in this house; I received a book of spoilers journal and a Vincent van Gogh exploding Tardis mug.  My husband got Dalek socks, the newly married couple Tardis and Dalek salt and pepper shakers.  We played the Alan Turing Edition of Monopoly last night, another gift for that new couple.  My youngest kicked butt with the green properties, I was the second to go out.  Which gave me time to finish reading over yesterday’s work, then plopping a quick post about the merits of time off and how my brain managed to sort a new direction for that novel.

But today is December twenty-seventh, Christmas is over.  Even in the UK, it’s just another day.  And for this writer, some truth, that while a holiday is required, so is that which fuels quite a bit of my heart.  Family is foremost, but another rush beats right under them.

Sometimes it takes a special moment for the fire to return.  One of the best parts of “The Snowmen” was the one-word test Clara was put through.  As a writer, I hooted as she chose the exact piece of language to best prod The Doctor off his cloud, a brilliant touch in an otherwise chock-a-block episode that did pique my interest in the second half of season seven.  No use shooting more shows if everything is wrapped up in one Christmas treat.

(But there is something to be said about letting an audience digest what has been proffered; Strax is alive!  Vestra and Jenny are married!  Clara is…  Heh heh heh, no spoilers…)

In my book of spoilers, lines break up blank pages, but I’m not looking to record what River Song needed to document, at least not on paper.  I capture plots and people on Word documents, it’s what I do.  It really is, my goodness, how humbling and wonderful it was to realize that this morning, like a delightfully gentle brick upside my head.  Music does it, just like now, Hans Zimmer’s “Up Is Down” from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.  I’m listening to that tune, but not imagining Johnny Depp and friends.  I see a legion of women young and old saving San Francisco from imminent doom.

Yes, my creative brain is always ticking.  Descendants of Maidens is the title of that tale, waiting for its moment in the sun.  And in the meantime, as I finish a slice of double layer pumpkin pie and a refreshing cup of decaf Yorkshire tea, I’m back on the horse, ready to see out 2012 with a heart-pounding, dramatic flourish.  Where The Ball Is is nearly done; what will 2013 bring?

(A post detailing those plans coming soon…)

Who will live your dreams

If you don’t?

Just a short post this morning, warming up for the writing.  Day #14 of NaNo, and I’m listening to “Let’s Go”, but not by The Cars.  Dum Dog Run is singing, from Substitution Mass Confusion: A Tribute to The Cars.  Before “Let’s Go” was “Drive”, performed by Chris von Sneidern, and there’s a line in that song similar to today’s title.

Okay, back to it.  Oh, and if you can, donate a little something to NaNo today.