Charley Patton, father of the delta blues, was born in Mississippi in 1891. He only lived until 1934, when he died of heart failure, but in that short 40-odd years, he transformed American music. According to this site, he recorded 57 tracks between 1929 and 1934, including the great “High Water Everywhere.”
Charley’s influence spread far beyond the Mississippi delta, reaching up into Minnesota and grabbing hold of a young Robert Zimmerman. Many, many years later, an older, more grizzled Bob Dylan would record a song that’s a bit of an ode to Charley Patton, “High Water (for Charley Patton)” off his album Love and Theft. The name and basic conceit came from “High Water Everywhere,” written about the great Mississippi River flood of 1927.
So high the water was risin’ our men sinkin’ down
Man, the water was risin’ at places all around
Boy, they’s all around
It was fifty men and children come to sink and drown
Oh, Lordy, women and grown men drown
Oh, women and children sinkin’ down
Lord, have mercy
I couldn’t see nobody’s home and wasn’t no one to be found
Charley Patton experienced the flood firsthand, and his original song is a harrowing exploration of that experience. Dylan’s own lyrical re-imagining takes that experience and renders it in a more expressionist way.
High water risin’, the shacks are slidin’ down
Folks lose their possessions and folks are leaving town
Bertha Mason shook, it broke it
Then she hung it on a wall
Says, “You’re dancin’ with whom they tell you to
Or you don’t dance at all”
It’s tough out there
High water everywhere
Dylan’s words are no less impactful for their more esoteric tone. He cracks a few jokes, throws in a few asides to the audience, and generally keeps things humming along. But there’s one particular pair of lines in the song, a moment that sticks out in my mind or maybe stabs into it like an ice pick of thought. I can’t shake it. It’s:
“Don’t reach out for me, ” she said
“Can’t you see I’m drownin’ too?”
It gives me chills, that couplet. It feels like such a universal sentiment. With my anxiety and depression, it sometimes feels difficult to keep my own head above water, let alone help those around me. “Don’t reach out for me, can’t you see I’m drownin’ too?” It’s overwhelming sometimes. Does that stop me from reaching to help others, or reaching out for help myself? No. We’re all drowning. If I happen to drown but help you survive, isn’t that a worthy sacrifice?
Ever since I got that awesome cover for Book 5 a few months back, I’ve been wanting to go back and redo all the old covers for my existing books. I revealed the reworked cover to Book 4 a few weeks ago, and today I’m excited to bring you the new cover for Book 1, The Invisible Crown.
Feast your eyes!
Awesome, right? It’s up for the eBook already, and should be live on the printed version by the end of the day. Like it? Love it? Hate it (please don’t tell me you hate it, because I love it)? Let me know! There’s still the covers for books 2 and 3 to redo, so it may be a couple more months before they’re all uniform in style. But I’m really excited about the new covers.
So turns out I screwed up the paperback on my children’s book pretty badly.
Apparently, I had the document set to the original text, which included lots of typos and misprints and such. After fiddling with the document for the better part of an hour today, I finally got it fixed so it contains all the edits my editor and I spent so much time and effort fixing.
Anyway, long story only slightly shorter, I screwed up and I’ve fixed it now. The changes should be live on Amazon by tomorrow. My bad, folks. Sorry.
Hey, I’m only a couple of weeks into 2020, so this isn’t too late, right? Right.
Anyway, here’s my favorite ten albums from 2019, in no particular order…
Gary Clark, Jr. – This Land
This guy just shreds, man. Plenty of chunky distortion and great guitar riffs, and his lyrics are pretty great, too.
The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons
A concept album built loosely around Dungeons and Dragons? By the Mountain Goats? Sign me up for that gaming session!
The National – I Am Easy to Find
If this album only gave us “Rylan,” it would still be one of the best albums of the year. That the whole album is fantastic, start to finish, is just gravy.
The Highwomen – The Highwomen
My god, these harmonies! An update on the Highwaymen concept from back in the ’80s (that of Johnny Cash, Kris Kristopherson, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings fame) with a scad of kickass women grabbing music by the horns and it like it. I want more of this.
The New Pornographers – In the Morse Code of Break Lights
Is there such a thing as a bad New Pornographers album? I’ve yet to hear one. Weird that it didn’t have a Dan Bejar-led song on it, though.
Andrew Bird – My Finest Work Yet
Bird continues to put out challenging, engaging music consistently with each release, and this one is no exception to that. “Bloodless” was one of my favorite songs of the year.
Wilco – Ode to Joy
A mostly-acoustic affair, but it finds the Chicago band writing some of their best songs in years. It’s cozy, comfy, rainy Sunday afternoon music. And Jeff Tweedy still keeps my dream of chunky guitar hero alive.
Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
Didn’t expect this one, did you? Well, I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that guy who really likes to listen to Lizzo play the flute like a badass.
J.S. Ondara – Tales of America
Sometimes, you say it best with just an acoustic guitar and minimal backing. That’s Ondara’s debut, Tales of America, which I found through NPR. The previous sentence is the whitest sentence I have ever written, and I used to write term papers about English religion and society during the theatrical reformation period.
The Black Keys – Let’s Rock
What? Sometimes, I just like straight-ahead bluesy rock. This is not an interrogation. Go away.
Welcome, one and all, to the year 2020! In celebration, I have a surprise for you: a new cover for Book 4, Crooked Halos!
Now, I updated the cover earlier this evening, so it may not show up on Amazon until tomorrow. But I think you’ll agree, from seeing the cover below, that it’s miles better than my original cover (which is not to throw shade at the original cover’s creator; she just didn’t have the resources available to make the cover I really wanted).
Anyway, behold! The new cover for Crooked Halos:
Pretty keen, eh? Here’s the full paperback cover, complete with synopsis and all that jazz:
Yes, you read that title right: books, plural!
First up is Book 6 in the Hazzard Pay series, The Long Fall Into Darkness. I just put it up for pre-order over on the Amazon this morning. It comes out March 27th (coincidentally, my birthday. And a Friday in 2020!). Assuming I can get KDP’s website to accept it, the print version will likewise be available that day.
Here’s the blurb for Book 6:
Life’s not easy for former Organization Boss and sometimes private detective Eddie Hazzard, especially when someone’s said the quiet parts of his identity out loud for him. Eddie’s been revealed as the (at least temporary) leader of the only criminal syndicate in Arcadia, and everyone wants a piece of him for it: the cops, the criminals, and this strange guy who keeps dying and being reborn over and over again. But if Eddie wants to clear his name, he’s got to get out there and confront the woman who’s behind all his misery: Carmen, the sister of his sometimes ally Vera Stewart, who has…well, there’s something mysterious and shifty about her, that’s all he knows. If Eddie doesn’t solve this case soon, he may not get a chance to solve any other case. Ever.
‘Cause he’ll be dead.
But hey, you say, I said “books plural” up there, didn’t I? Why yes, I did. And the second book is actually a children’s book that’ll come out this week!
The second book I’m here to talk about is called Dr. Jayne and the Missing Unicorn Horn. If follows the exploits of magical creature doctor Jayne Marie Forrester, whom everyone calls Dr. Jayne. She’s the best there is at what she does, and what she does is help out magical creatures. So, when Herman the Unicorn arrives at her office one morning missing his horn, she sets off an adventure to help him find it!
Hope you enjoy the sneak peak at the cover (minus trade dress, which is fancy author talk for “title and author’s name”). It was drawn by yours truly:
This morning, I wrote the last words on Book 6. It is officially drafted!
This one came easily, especially compared to Book 5. I wrote it in fits and starts, grabbing a few minutes here and there whenever I could, but it flowed and came together quickly. I’m actually quite proud of this book, and can’t wait for everyone to get a chance to read it.
That’s going to have to wait, of course. I’m sending it to my editor next week, and then I’ll have to do all the formatting and setup on the paperback copy and all that. I’m thinking I might make this one available in Kindle Unlimited, and maybe even go back and make all of my books available there again (going wide hasn’t done much for my book sales, so there’s really not much point to it).
All that being said, when can you expect Book 6? Probably around February next year. And I’m already elbow-deep in Book 7. I’ve got the rough plot outline done, and I know what I want to do and what’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of getting all the words on the page in the right order now.