House of the Rising Sun – The Opera

I’ve taken sick with some kind of stomach bug, and when I crashed out on the couch, I left the TV on PBS, where I was exposed to Berlioz’s grand opera, Les Troyens… all 4 1/2 hours of it. While I was in and out of a fitful sleep, I learned that opera is all about taking a story that could be told in 20 minutes and stretching it out to three hours in song.

With that in mind, I have begun my first opera, based on the popular folk song House of the Rising Sun. It’s a little rough, but keep in mind this is only the beginning, and if sung in another language it will probably rhyme.

DIABETES, an adventurer (Tenor)
CORICIDIN, his best friend (Bass)
UVULA, lover of DIABETES (Soprano)
VELVEETA, the maid (Alto)

The scene is the house of UVULA. The time is any time period for which you can rent cool costumes on the cheap. UVULA sits on one of those half-couch things reading a scroll.

VELVEETA (entering)
My mistress! I bring you news of great joy! Diabetes returns!

He returns?

He returns!

Oh, weep for joy! Joy of joys! Diabetes returns!

Diabetes my love returns!
And he has been gone a really long time!

Forever, it seems.
And don’t say we didn’t warn you, girlfriend.

Where is he now?

He comes down the lane by your house
And now he is opening your gate.

He will soon open the gate of my heart!

Tee hee!

And now he comes up the sidewalk
And he is nearing the door
I think he will just walk right in
Because he usually doesn’t bother knocking.

No, he never knocks.

Diabetes! Diabetes! My love returns!

Her love returns!

(DIABETES enters with CORICIDIN and the MEN)

Diabetes! Can it be?

Uvula! My little grommet of love!

My love!

My love!

My love! My love!

I love to love my love!

And I love to be in love with my love, my love!

That’s nice.
I missed you, too.

Now tell me of your adventures
Of all the things you’ve seen
But maybe not everything at once
Save a bit for later, for my attention span is short.

I have traveled all across this world
And I have seen many things
Polar bears and narwhals
And devices that let you vote straight ticket
I have seen our enemies weep in big tears
And I watched as my bosun’s mate
Choked to death on a toothpick
But there was one thing I saw
A thing more tragic and terrible than anything else
I wish to forget it
But oh, my heart, my heart will not allow.

Tell me about it.

Tell us.

Yes, tell us.

I really don’t think you want to hear this.

Shut up. Who asked you, anyway?

You’ll be sorry!

I saw… this house.

A house?

What kind of house?

Yes, what kind of house?
We really don’t have anything better to do.

We’re heard this before.
A lot.
So we’re going for pizza, then.
We’ll be back later.

(The MEN exit. CORICIDIN tries to follow, but DIABETES pulls him back)

I haven’t had pizza in many days.

Nor have I, old friend.

I will make you a nice quiche or something
If you only stay
And tell me of this house.

The house… the house.

Tell us of the house.

It is a house in the new town of Orleans
Not the old Orleans in France
And not the band that sang “Amy”
It is a loud town of high water
And food that makes your mouth hurt
The music there is amazing
And they do interesting things with beads.

I spent many beads there!

And I have many beads from there!

You naughty persons!

Can I go get pizza now?

Tell me more of this house!

The house takes its name
From the first rays of the morning
But rather than a metaphor of hope
It’s the opposite, really
For it has drawn in the poorest of young men
And dropped them down
Grinding them into the filth with cruel heels.

You might say they were brought to ruin.

You might say that, yes,
But he didn’t.

Tell me more, tell me more, tell me more!

Wrong show!

As I considered the denizens of this house
I could not help feel
I was no better than they
And perhaps I was one of them.

He was one of them a lot.

What does Coricidin mean by this, my love?

He’s only speaking in jest, my love
Ha, ha, forever the kidder
Good old Coricidin!
Besides, I entreated the mothers of my crew
All except for the bosun’s mate, that is
Not to allow their sons
To befall the fate that befell others.

We have returned!
And the pizza, it was mightily good.
We saved you a slice.

Whoa, look at the time!
I need to go and debrief these men
I owe them many ales for their service
See you soon, my love!

(He departs with CORICIDIN and the MEN)

Not again!

Do not worry, mistress!
I will step lively
And fetch a box of Klondike bars
And we can watch ‘Pride and Prejudice’ again.


The Company Man In Trade Paperback

TD-TCMI know the focus is on Drawing Down the Moon right now, but I should mention that a new edition of The Company Man – in trade paperback – is now available on Amazon… and elsewhere for order as time goes on.

The trade paper version of DDtM is in the works. Hoping for something tangible by the end of April.

Uncle Joe Wants You… To Review

As of yesterday1Drawing Down the Moon is officially available as a Kindle Book.

And now, my good, dear friends (yeah, you know… here it comes) I’m begging you – literally (not figuratively – see photo below) on bended knee – to post your review of the book on Amazon. Because we all know that the two things books live and die on in this modern age are reviews and word of mouth. Put ’em both together, and they spell buzz.

Now here’s the trick: it needs to be an honest review. Because if you write something like It’s a wondermous book and I gave it five stars because I can’t give it ten and I’d probably give it a hundred stars if I’d actually bothered to read it, but just owning it cleared up my hemorrhoids and doubled the value of my stock portfolio, Amazon is going to catch on. So will the readers.

So flex your fingers and fire up those keyboards. Please?

(If you can throw in some word of mouth, too, that would be great.)

JCF begging for reviews

Check this out. I’m literally on my knees begging you.

Once more, a huge thanks to you all of you who helped choose this book. I appreciate your faith in the project and your participation.

And yes, a paper version is forthcoming. I’m shooting for sometime in April.

Thank you!

1 St. Paddy’s day is an important date for me. On April 17, 1986, I went to my mailbox in Gillette, Wyoming and pulled out a short note from Del Rey Books asking me to call. When I did, I was told they wanted to buy my novel Amendment XXXI, which in the editorial process was renamed A Death of Honor.

Published: Drawing Down the Moon

DDtM-2I just received notice that Drawing Down the Moon is now available for Pre-Order. If you voted for it during the Kindle Scout campaign, you should have an invitation to claim your free copy in your email.

The official release date is March 17th, which is ultra cool for me: It was March 17th, 1986 when I got a note from Del Rey books letting me know that I’d sold them my first novel.

If you voted for DDtM, the important thing to do now is to claim your copy, read it and leave an honest review on Amazon – the higher the number of reviews, the better.

If you didn’t get a chance to vote for it, now’s your chance to snag a copy.

And to everyone involved… tell a friend!

Again, thanks to everyone who voted to make this happen! It’s been a really cool experience having you all in this with me!

Selected for Publication!

DDtM SelectedDrawing Down the Moon has been selected for publication by the Kindle Scout team. It will appear sometime in 2015, hopefully sooner than later.

I want to give my most heartfelt thanks to everyone who clicked through to the Drawing Down the Moon page, nominated the book, twisted friends’ arms to do the same, and used precious electrons and your more precious time to share my incessant posts about this. Your enthusiasm, along with God’s grace, has launched this project and you’ll soon get to see the fruits of your labors. And then it will be time to bug you for reviews!

It really is the last minute…

to vote/recommend Drawing Down the Moon. Stragglers welcome.

Final Days for DDtM

We’re down to the last two days of nominating Drawing Down the Moon through the Kindle Scout program. If you’re the kind of person who likes to do things at the last minute… the last minute is here!

Drawing Down the Moon at Kindle Scout

A Reading from Drawing Down the Moon

If you’re sitting on the fence about nominating Drawing Down the Moon for the Kindle Scout program, here’s a video of yours truly reading an excerpt from Chapter 6 – a bit I call the Doughnut Shop Scene. You can also read the first 5,000 words of the novel at the link above.

Enjoy! And don’t forget, there are just a few more days remaining to recommend Drawing Down the Moon. So Click, Vote, and Share!

Hot and Trending

Featured image

After just 12 hours, Drawing Down the Moon is now on Kindle Scout’s Hot and Trending list.  Let’s keep the momentum going!

Where to vote (with a link that actually works this time): Drawing Down the Moon on Kindle Scout.

And here’s a promotional video that explains a lot.

Real or Fake?

jackalope1So I’m reading a Kindle sample of a novel and in the beginning pages a character is listening to a song on the radio. The singer’s name is made up, the popular song being sung is made up, as are the equally unimpressive lyrics1. Then I find out that the singer got famous when she was on a TV program called Popstar! and, well, that along with some of the other problems I felt the book had, it kind of did me in for wanting to read the rest. I mean, why not just say American Idol?2

Why not indeed? I mean, doesn’t Stephen King, who some people praise for his immersive style of writing, sometimes drown you in brand names – Louie sat in his La-Z-Boy recliner with a Budweiser and a bag of Doritos, and turned his Sony flatscreen on to ESPN, waiting to see the start of the Boston Red Sox game… I think King’s point is to have people believe his creepy stuff could happen in the real world, so he throws in real world stuff in the name of verisimilitude. And it works for a lot of readers.3

On the other hand, you have writers who throw in fakes, and, well, I can’t really explain why. Years ago I was really excited to start reading James A. Michener’s Space, his novel about the U.S. space program. But early on it described a character going outside to look at the night sky “in the state of Fremont” – and my suspension of disbelief came crashing down like a house of cards. I mean, yeah, it’s a novel, but it’s a novel about NASA, it takes place in the United States and some of the other characters are real people, like Werhner Von Braun and Lyndon Johnson… then why make up a state fercryinoutloud? Why not just say Kansas or Nebraska or Iowa?

Now there are times when you definitely want to fake it. If you’re an insider to history or popular culture and you want to vent your spleen on the subject from an insider’s point of view, the roman a clef is the way to do it. Just change the names and everything is good to go. And if you want to keep your job, better fake your name, too – Anonymous is very popular among this set, and you can join novels like Primary Colors and Elimination Night4, along with all the attendant “who wrote it?” publicity.

Unfortunately, to me novels like that become a jokey guessing game with no real point. Everyone knows which Presidential candidate is really Bill Clinton, which recently rehabbed rock star grasping for relevance is really Stephen Tyler. if you’re going to this, I have two pieces of advice: first, make sure you have a really good lawyer. Second, if you’re going to fake the names, go all the way. Don’t play the assonance game and make William Clinton into Wilson Fenton (Primary Colors makes him Jack Stanton). Doing that strikes me as being too cutesy and cloying. Make him Frank Stevens instead. And if you’re going to have a cameo by an iconic figure, you have to be consistent and play it out ’till the end, changing his/er name, too. Just don’t call him Rob Snopes.

In Science Fiction it’s easier to get away with fakery. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing about things that sound different in the future because, well, things will sound different in the future. Except when they stay pretty much the same, as evidenced by the brand names that pop up in films like 2001 and Blade Runner.

Still, when you’re in the future you need to play nice. While working on the Pembroke Hall novels, my editor asked me to change the way that I talked about Timex in the book. They were afraid the watchmakers would be offended by things and the lawyers would come out. I made the alteration because she had a point, it was an easy fix, and I didn’t really have anything against the company or their products.

If you’re writing Historical Fiction, then it’s probably best not to fake it at all. Readers of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist partly did so to watch how the characters interacted with a future President who at the time of the novel was Police Commissioner of New York City. They didn’t want to guess which leader Theophilus Rosenfeld turned out to be. The trick to not faking it here is use the real person’s character to enhance the goings-on – a recent episode of Downtown Abbey centered around a meeting with playboy Prince Edward, whose womanizing ways contributed to the plot in an ironic way.

So if you’re going to be real, play nice and be consistent. And if you’re going to fake it, well, go in all the way and don’t be ridiculous about it.

That concludes my thoughts. This is Joe Clifford Faust, signing off from the state of Midlandia.

  1. But then, I’m at the age where most of the lyrics I hear on the radio are unimpressive.
  2. And I have problems with ALL these shows that grind out cookie cutter singers, but I’m not going there today.
  3. See, I can write about King and not say anything nasty!
  4. Which I always thought was a really lame fake name for American Idol. Popstar! is much better.

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