The Halfway Point

We’re about halfway through the month of November, so I thought I’d give y’all a little status update on Book 6.

I’m currently sitting at a little under 24,000 words on the book. About half of that was written before this month began, mind you, but things are proceeding apace.

I’ve already commissioned the cover, from the same artist who did the cover for Book 5. I’ve seen the rough sketch for it, and I’m pretty pleased. I’ll share the final art when I get it.

I’ve got the book plotted out. I’ve got lots of surprising revelations in store for you; I am, as always, doing my best to just put Hazzard through the wringer.

I’m excited for this book. I feel like it’s one of my strongest to date so far, and I really cannot wait for you to get your hands on it. In the meantime, Book 5 is available to buy!

NaNoWriMo 2019!

Hey, folks! It’s November, which means it’s NaNoWriMo time again!

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a full 50,000 word book during the month of November. I’ve done it a couple of times before: The Invisible Crown, The Hidden Throne, and Crooked Halos all started as NaNoWriMo efforts.

I’m working on Book 6, The Long Fall Into Darkness. I technically started it back in October, and knocked out a good 10,000 words before November even began. I’m currently sitting at just over 15,000, and I’ve got the book mostly plotted and figured out (I even wrote some plot points down, if you can believe it).

It feels good to be writing again. I’d forgotten how much I missed it until I buckled down back in September and got Book 5 finished. It kick-started Book 6 for me, and as I said, I’m well on my way with it now.

Will I hit 50,000 words before the end of November? You can find out by following me on Twitter (where I post NaNoWriMo accomplishments most every day) or at the NaNoWriMo website.

Book 5: An Ill Wind Blows Cover Reveal and Book Release!

It’s finally done! Book 5 has been edited, the cover is done, and I’m ready to publish!

So, first off, hows about a cover reveal?

Book 5!

Pretty swanky, right? I am right chuffed (as the Brits might say) with this cover. I’ll definitely be using this artist for Book 6 (and probably having them redo the covers to Books 1-4 eventually).

Hows about a synopsis? Well, your wish is my command!

Everyone wants a piece of Eddie Hazzard, Arcadia’s premier private detective and sometimes crime boss. There’s a price on his head, a team of highly-trained assassins on his tail, and now he’s suddenly wanted for a murder he definitely didn’t commit. Not only that, he’s been hired to find the fabled Jewel of Hakido, a priceless diamond, and everyone and anyone knows he’s after it. What will Eddie do? What is the connection between the Seven Ill Winds and Eddie’s ninja leader, Kimiko? Will he find the Jewel in time? Will he survive the case? Or will everything that’s been piling up on top of Eddie for the past several years finally crush him?

Anyway, the book has been submitted to Amazon, and will be live and ready for purchase sometime this week (probably Friday at the latest, I’d assume). I know I’ll be sitting here the rest of the day hitting refresh on the KDP page, waiting for it to shift from “In Review” to “Published.” Both the print and the ebook version are submitted and should be available for purchase soon! I’ll post a link as soon as it’s available.

Favorites: The Wallflowers’ Breach

On a whim over the weekend, I decided to listen to the Wallflowers’ Breach. In the process, I rediscovered something that I already knew: it’s a damn fine album; probably their best. Sure, there are folks who prefer Bringing Down the Horse, what with “One Headlight” and “6th Avenue Heartache,” but song for song, nothing beats Breach.

Let’s get this out of the way first: “Sleepwalker” is probably their best song. Like, in their entire catalog. Yeah, they’ve got plenty of other great songs (the aforementioned “One Headlight” and “6th Avenue Heartache,” for instance), but nothing that really reaches the level of “Sleepwalker.” If we look at the continuum of Wallflowers albums — from their trying too hard to sound like Bob Dylan debut to their trying too hard to sound like the Clash Glad All OverBreach is the album where Jakob Dylan finally becomes comfortable in his own skin and with his status as the son of one of the most famous singer/songwriters in music history. Everything about the album just clicks in a way they hadn’t before (and really haven’t since). Rami Jaffee’s keyboards are perfect, guitarist Michael Ward plays some of the best work of his career, and Dylan’s lyrics are both reminiscent of his father’s work and wholly his own.

Song by song, this is the strongest writing in the band’s catalog. Opener “Letters from the Wasteland” sets the tone: the keyboards are foreboding, as are Dylan’s lyrics. He sings of abandonment and isolation, of “Slow danc[ing] to this romance on [his] own.” From there, the band transitions into “Hand Me Down,” which could’ve been vintage Bob Dylan.

Then comes “Sleepwalker.” The minor-key, up-tempo number feels foreboding, right up until the song enters the chorus and Dylan’s vocals are accentuated with poppy hand claps. Then everything takes a turn for the worst in the bridge: “I’m in your movie and everyone looks sad/But I can hear you, your voice, the laughtrack/But you never saw my best scene/The one where I sleep/Sleepwalk into your dreams.” It’s a killer bit of lyrical genius, the sort of thing most musicians would kill to have written. And it’s not even the best bit of that particular song. Dylan is firing on all cylinders here, and the band rises to meet him.

From there, the album tracks are just as solid. “I’ve Been Delivered” is full of clever wordplay and jaunty, keyboard-driven instrumentation. “Witness” is a slow, dirge-like song that sounds — again — like vintage Bob Dylan, with the addition of excellent horns. “Some Flowers Bloom Dead” is probably the best album track the Wallflowers have ever released, with pitch-perfect guitar, keyboards, and rhythm section combining with Dylan’s vocals to carry the song forward and make you want to immediately restart the song and hear it again.

Following “Some Flowers Bloom Dead” are a pair of slower, more stripped down songs: “Mourning Train” and “Up From Under.” Both are atypical of the album, featuring pared down instrumentation (especially “Up From Under,” which is almost entirely acoustic guitar and strings) and thoughtful, introspective lyrics. From there, things pick up a bit once more for “Murder 101,” a bouncy tune about learning how to kill people.

The final two songs share some thematic elements. “Birdcage” features some of the best guitar work of the album, and it’s a damn shame the song fades out just as Michael Ward really gets going. It’s a slow, thoughtful song, meditative and deliberate. And it’s followed by “Baby Bird,” a hidden track that features plinky toy piano and a plea for the baby bird to “come back home.” It’s a beautiful, poignant way to end the album, and a perfect final track.

The Wallflowers are one of my favorite bands. I wish they’d put out music more often (their last album came out in 2012. Two thousand twelve! That’s too damn long for more music from these guys). They’re put out decent albums since then (aside from the clunker that was Red Letter Days), but nothing has come close to reaching the heights of Breach.

Favorites: Wilco’s Summerteeth

Wilco has become, over the past twenty or so years, one of my absolute favorite bands. I first heard about them in a weird way: Glen Phillips (of Toad the Wet Sprocket fame) name dropped them in a song, which got me wondering about them. Long story short, I started with Summerteeth and never looked back.

Summerteeth was the third Wilco album. It came out originally in 1999, following the double album Being There. It’s a more refined album than Being There or their debut, A.M., with more organs, pianos, and odd little blips and quirks that presaged what was to come on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born.

The album kicks off with “Can’t Stand It,” which features keyboards, bells, and chugging guitars. “It’s all beginning/To feel like it’s ending,” Jeff Tweedy sings. At one point, he essentially howls, leading into a great instrumental break. From there, things slow down with “She’s a Jar,” a meditative, melodic tune which features a beautiful harmonica solo. “A Shot in the Arm” picks up the pace, starting off with a squall of static and noise and featuring heavily-strummed acoustic guitar.

Other standout tracks include “How to Fight Loneliness,” a song that encourages the listener to “Just smile all the time,” but the admonition feels rather hollow, as if the singer doesn’t quite believe that’s really the best way to fight loneliness. “When You Wake Up Feeling Old” is a lovely tune reminiscent of the Beatles’ “When I’m 64” in theme and general tone.

The title track is one of the best songs on the album. “It’s just a dream he keeps having/And it doesn’t seem to mean anything,” Tweedy sings over an upbeat tune, and the bird chirping and chorused “Oohs” and “Aahs” really make the song for me, as does the jangly, Byrdsy guitar figure played throughout.

The album closes with “In a Future Age,” a song that meditates on things ending and all falling to entropy. “Some trees with bend/And some will fall/But then again/So will us all.” The lyrics are simple, but very evocative and moving. Tweedy’s vocals are pitch-perfect for the song, and it rounds out the album in the best way possible.

Following “In a Future Age,” there are two songs that act as something of a coda: “Candyfloss,” a sugary ditty that features keyboards quite heavily, and an alternate version of “A Shot in the Arm.” Both are excellent and a wonderful way to actually finish out the album.

Ultimately, Summerteeth reflects Wilco growing in confidence and trying new things. The band shows growth and the album predicts the strange left turn their next couple of albums would take. I highly recommend it as a starting point for exploring Wilco’s discography. You could do far worse than this particular album.

The band has actually posted the entire album on Youtube. You can find it here.

Books 5 & 6 Progress Report

I rolled over 10,000 words on Book 6 today. Just blew right past it. It feels good to be writing again, to put words on the page that I’m (mostly) happy with. The story is shaping up pretty quickly, and I’ve got most of the book plotted out in my head already.

I’ve also commissioned a cover for Book 5. Yeah, I don’t even have it edited or formatted yet, but I don’t see why I can’t get a cover image figured out ahead of all that. I already knew what I wanted it to look like, so I went ahead and pulled the trigger on getting that started. The plan is to have it ready to publish by the end of November.

All of which is to say: things are progressing. Things are progressing very well, and I’m looking forward to the start of November and NaNoWriMo (when I’ll really kick the Book 6 work into high gear). Wish me luck!

Book 6 Underway

Good morning (or afternoon or evening or whatever. It’s morning as I write this, so “morning” is part of the salutation)! As you may recall, I recently completed the first draft of Book 5, which is fantastic news and gladdens the very cockles of my heart. But did you know that I have already started writing Book 6? It’s true! I’m about 5,000 words into it, which doesn’t sound like much (and, frankly, isn’t actually that much), but this is coming off of a stretch where getting any words to page was a big victory, so I’ll take it!

Book 6 sees a lot of the status quo shaken up. I don’t tend to let things sit for too long in the story if I can help it in general and I’ve been building to this particular book for quite some time. I’ve got a lot of the broad strokes planned out already, and a few fun subplots to keep things interesting while I turn Hazzard’s world upside down again. And all of that leads to Book 7, the culmination of the Hazzard Pay story. Does that mean Book 7 will be the last we hear of Eddie and company? Heck no! Just that the story I’ve been crafting has a definite end game in mind, and we’re moving towards it. In the meantime, I’ve got a dozen or so short stories I’d love to get out there in the world, like Bad Press. I’ll eventually collect all of those into a single volume, too (or maybe two volumes; let’s see how many of them get out there).

All that being said, I’m hoping to have Book 5 ready to go before Christmas. Wish me luck!