Playlist #2

Here’s this week’s playlist. I was feeling a little more melancholy this week than last, which I feel is reflected in the selections.

  1. Josh Ritter, “Come and Find Me”: Pretty sure most of this song is just a G chord with little variations to keep it interesting.
  2. The Lemonheads, “Into Your Arms”: One of my team teachers loves the Lemonheads (she’s seen them in concert dozens if not hundreds of times) and I learned how to play this song on the guitar for her. It’s a good and simple song.
  3. The Low Millions, “Eleanor”: Did you know Leonard Cohen’s son had a band? And it was this band? And they never put out another album other than the one this song is on? It’s all true.
  4. The Marshall Tucker Band, “Can’t You See”: I’m a sucker for songs with a real simple chord progression, and this one is just D, C, G, D the entire way through. That’s it. No variation, no chorus, nothing but those three chords.
  5. The National, “90-Mile Water Wall”: My favorite part of this early song from the National is that you can hear the lead singer breathing into the microphone if you listen for it.
  6. Neko Case, “Margaret and Pauline”: Such a beautiful song and character sketch. The juxtaposition of the two characters is sad and gorgeous.
  7. Sturgill Simpson, “Keep It Between the Lines”: Part of the album Simpson wrote ostensibly as advice to his newly-born child, this one advises the listener to, “Stay in school/stay off the hard stuff and/keep it’ tween the lines.” Good advice for anyone, really.
  8. Uncle Tupelo, “High Water”: There was a time in graduate school where I became more than a little obsessed with everything even tangentially related to the band Wilco, which included Jeff Tweedy’s original band Uncle Tupelo. This song, from their fourth and final album, is a good indicator of why I liked them so much if not really representative of what they did as a band (think “punk country” or “alt-country,” if you will).
  9. Van Morrison, “Wonderful Remark”: Specifically, the version from the Philosopher’s Stone collection of outtakes and rarities. The original version is awesome, too, though this one somehow feels more striped down without the overwhelming piano of the original (and this one has flute).
  10. Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, “Friends”: Ryan Adams, I think we can all agree, has some problems. Dude is terrible to women and suffers from diarrhea of the recording studio (remember those times he put out three albums in a single calendar year? Yeah, I said times, plural, ’cause he’s done it more than once). But this song, from the double-album Cold Roses (which I still insist would have made one of the finest single albums of his career if he’d just cut some of the fat from the two-disc set), is still one of the best he’s ever written or committed to tape.

Playlist #1

I’ve started creating weekly playlists, ten songs each. Trying not to repeat artists from week to week or on a playlist. Don’t want to replicate songs from week to week. Here’s last week’s playlist.

  1. Bruce Springsteen, “Ain’t Good Enough For You”: Uptempo and fun, a joyful bop to start us off.
  2. Johnny Cash, “Out Among the Stars”: Could anyone other than Johnny Cash write such a cheerful, uplifting song about a kid committing suicide by cop? No, they could not. And that chorus is awesome.
  3. Dog’s Eye View, “Everything Falls Apart”: You could have told me this song could have been written and performed by any of a few dozen guitar-based alternative rock groups from the ’90s and I would have believed you. It is so completely generic that you could replace the lyrics with gibberish and folks would still bounce around to it.
  4. Bob Dylan, “Positively Fourth Street”: The meanest kiss-off song in the business, even sixty or so years later. No one lays down a sick burn like a scorned Dylan.
  5. The Interrupters, “She’s Kerosene”: Who doesn’t like a little skank in their music? Commies, that’s who.
  6. Madonna, “Like a Prayer”: Remember how controversial this song and video were back in the ’80s? All those burning crosses and the Black Jesus! It’s a damn good song, though.
  7. Phoebe Bridgers, “Kyoto”: I dunno, I like the keyboards.
  8. Redbone, “We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee”: Native American band telling it like it is.
  9. Aimee Mann, “Great Beyond”: I absolutely adore the work of Aimee Mann and I’m kicking myself for the “no back to back songs from the same musician/band” rule I established for myself already.
  10. Hem, “Great Houses of New York”: Every song by this band feels like it belongs with a film. It’s all very cinematic. This song is no exception, except it’s exceptionally amazing. Like all of Hem’s work.

A Few Words At A Time

I started writing again today.

It’s…been a while, I know. Months since my last post here, ages since the last time I opened up the Word document for Book 7 and put words into it. I don’t know. Blame the pandemic, blame my executive dysfunction, blame depression and anxiety, or even just blame me. It doesn’t matter. I didn’t write anything worthwhile (or anything period, really) for about a year.

And I hated it. I would open up Dropbox, look at the file folder where the Book 7 draft is, and just feel…disgusted with myself. Like I knew I should be putting words on the page, even if they weren’t the right words, just so I could knock out the first draft and go from there.

But that’s not my process. My process is more…not a process? It’s sporadic and it’s mercurial and it comes and goes in waves. I don’t know how else to put it, really.

So the document sat there, unchanged, for the better part of a year. Nothing added to it. Nothing removed from it. Nothing about it changed at all. It mocked me. It sat there, unfinished, unfinishable, and I could do nothing about it.

I’ve written about 2000 words on it so far today. I think I’ll knock out another four or five hundred before the day ends. As the blog title suggest, I just want to knock out a few words at a time, see how it goes. See if I can get back into the story. I read back through it yesterday, remembering lines that I thought were amusing, changing a word or two here and there. And it suddenly hit me: that urge to write, to continue telling the story, to crack jokes and put Hazzard in the worst possible situation and see how he gets out of it. I want to write again. It’s a nice feeling. I hope it hangs around for a while.

I guess it all happened because I started thinking about #1LineWed, a hashtag I used to participate in on Twitter every week. You provide a line from your current work in progress (or #wip, if you’re hip to the lingo). I suddenly had an idea for one last night, one that felt perfect for a Hazzard story (maybe even this Hazzard story, who knows?). And I just wanted to get to writing again.

So, here we are. Let’s see if I can keep it up. I also have an idea for a recurring weekly feature to write about here. Maybe I’ll post that tomorrow.

Creeping Back To Life

I’m alive. Alive, and writing.

Like many people, I sorta circled the wagons and cut out the outside world when Covid-19 started. School went virtual back in March, and it’s stayed virtual through the start of this new school year. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Book 6 came out on my birthday. I probably should have posted about that here. So, uh, yeah, here’s that link.

I’ve started writing Book 7. You can follow my progress on the NaNoWriMo website. I’m XEYeti there, just like I am most places on the web.

I’m quietly hopeful about the presidential election. Maybe if we get the Cheetoh-in-Chief out of office, we can start to make some changes in society and maybe never have someone like him there ever again. One can hope.

Go read the books. There are six of ’em out there. I have plans to do a short story collection (which will ironically be the single longest book about Hazzard out there. I have a lot of short stories about him). It’s all set up; just needs the intro from my brother and a cover and it’s ready to go.

Giveaway Time!

So, I’ve been slowly but surely getting new covers for all of my books, as I’m sure you know. I’ve been doing the cover design and layouts myself and I’ve really enjoyed the process. Each book cover is unique, of course, but they’re also unified in design and type and stuff like that.

Anyway, I ordered a copy of Book 2, The Hidden Throne, for myself a couple of weeks ago. I was super-pleased with the cover and my work on it, until I took a moment to really look at the spine of the book:

Yeah, that’s not the right title at all.

So, I’ve since corrected it, but I’ve still got this (otherwise perfectly serviceable) book just sitting around, reminding me of my failures.

So! Giveaway time! Here’s the rules:

First, follow me on Twitter. I don’t tweet much, but I do let you know when my books come out or are on sale or whatever, and occasionally I post funny comments or comics or I rant about something for a moment. It’s a good time. If you already follow me on Twitter, congratulations, you’ve completed step one.

Step the second, tell me why I should give you the book. Just a sentence or two, whatever you can fit in a tweet along with thing the third.

Thing the third, use the hashtag #HazzardGiveaway.

I’ll give away the book on my birthday, March 27th, which is coincidentally the day Book 6 — The Long Fall Into Darkness — comes out! It is also the day I turn 40 and all of my bones turn to dust (I assume; I dunno, I’ve never been 40 before). Good luck!

New Book 2 Cover!

In my ongoing effort to unify the style and look of my books, I’m happy to reveal the new cover for book 2, The Hidden Throne! It looks a little something like this:

Pretty snazzy, eh?

Up next will be Book 3, Death Comes Calling, and then all of the books will have covers with the new aesthetic. I’m real excited to see what my cover artist is able to do with the third book.

High Water Everywhere

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?

New Book 1 Cover!

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.

Oops

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.

2019 (Music) In Review

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.