Okay, it’s finally time to say something because it’s all getting close.
I’m in for a writing career reboot here, and it’ll likely all start happening by the end of the month. The retooling of this web site some months ago was the first step, but now there are others. I’ve slowly been putting things into motion, but it looks like they’re all going to converge at once.
So I have not one, but two major announcements — and a minor one.
First, my new novel, …and that’s the end of the news, is almost done. I mean it for sure this time. After 10 years, a long hiatus to take care of my mother (during which time I tried to re-imagine myself as a songwriter and learned that I hated performing live) and four drafts, I’ve gotten the book where I want it, where it should be. So it’s soon to be going out in search of an agent and/or publisher.
This book has been with me for so long that it’s hard for me to look at it as “the new book”, but it’ll be new to the 99.99% of you who haven’t had some kind of preview or were pressed into service as an early reader. Anyway, once and/news goes out into the marketplace, it will be time to start what really will feel like a new novel. This will likely be the project that I have discreetly code-named “The UFO Novel.”
Which brings me to the minor announcement. Just for grins, I thought I would post very short excerpts from The UFO Novel as status updates on my Facebook Fan Page. There’ll be one excerpt from each chapter as I finish writing it, and there will be lots of chapters. It should be fun. Or not. Tantalizing, perhaps? That’s the idea. So become a fan now and get miniscule glimpses of a book in progress (or be tormented by them – your choice).
So now it’s time for Major Announcement number two. If you’re one of the lot who has been to my Facebook Fan Page, you may have seen the fanciful logo for an outfit called Thief Media (you can see it now in the upper right hand section of this page). That’s the imprint that I have started to release my old, out-of-print novels for the Amazon Kindle and in epub format for all the others. This will begin with my first published novel, A Death of Honor – which I hope to have out by early March – to include all 7 novels over the course of the next year or so.
(Actually, they will appear as only 6 novels – Ferman’s Devils and Boddekker’s Demons will be issued as one novel, which was my original intent.)All of the novels will have new cover art, and all except for the Angel’s Luck trilogy will have some kind of bonus material included. A Death of Honor will feature the original epilog that I cut from the book before publication. The Company Man and Ferman’s Devils will feature short stories that overlap into the respective book’s universe.
In addition to my out-of-print titles, Thief Media will also be releasing two previously unpublished JCF novels. The Mushroom Shift is a profane and darkly funny novel about police work that was written between Honor and Company and will be released between them. Trust is a political thriller written in hopes of being published in time for the 1996 election. It will be released before Ferman’s Devils.
To celebrate this in a small way, I have changed the graphic in the banner above to a section of corrected page from the third draft of …and that’s the end of the news. There may or may not be other surprises and releases, but I’m going to leave things at this for the time being. After all, I have a lot of work to do right now.
Time to be creative again.
Once upon a time, not too long ago, I didn’t want to be creative anymore. The whole thing with chasing the creative process seemed useless and futile to me. I got so annoyed with having ideas popping into my head that I didn’t have time to do anything about that I seriously considered going to my doctor and asking for Prozac or the adult equivalent of Ritalin. Not that I was depressed or any more ADD than what I’m wired for, but because I have seen firsthand the creativity-numbing effects of both of these on other people. There was this switch in my head and I couldn’t reach it to turn it off, and for a while, that’s all I wanted to do.
Well, maybe not completely turn it off. Maybe it was more like a potentiometer, and I wanted to dial it down from 11, enough to take the clutter out of my head, leaving just enough so I could earn my daily bread at the agency. Say, down to 3 or 4.
And then my mother became ill and my ever-patient wife and I moved her into our home, and what little time I felt I had left for creative things became ether, and I really wanted to get that annoying buzz out of my head.
Well, before I had the chance to go to the doctor, something else came along. About the time Mom came to stay, I bought one of the first iPod Shuffles. I’d wanted an iPod since the first ones came out, but always managed to spend my money on other more important things, but the price point of the Shuffle was a good thing. It came in the mail, I loaded it up with songs, got into my car, plugged it into one of those FM transmitter thingies, and turned it on. “The Core” by Eric Clapton came rolling out of the speakers, and I never looked back. Not until later.
Later is when I noticed two important things. First, after I got the Shuffle, I noticed that my 25 – 45 minute commute, depending on traffic, no longer seemed interminable. It seemed to fly by with all of my favorite songs in tow.
The second thing I didn’t notice until much, much, much later. That was this: music in the car turned my creativity off.
That was a fascinating discovery. But there it was. And once I made it, it made perfect sense. After all, when were the two places I said that most of my ideas came to me? In the shower and on my commute. What do these two things have in common? Well, I’m performing a mundane task and am alone. For almost all the productive showers, and fifty percent of the commute, it’s in the morning. I’m a night person, and my standard dodge is that my brain doesn’t start working until 10 am, so during shower and commute time, it’s struggling to make sense of the world (on thinking about this as I write, the evening commutes don’t seem to be nearly as creatively productive as the morning ones). So faced with all of that, my mind just wanders off into that strange and wonderful land that gives me the idea to write a musical based on the O.J. Simpson murder trial (you think I’m kidding).
But when you bring music into the picture, everything changes. I’m doing a mundane task, but apparently the part of my brain that does creative wheel spinning is not skylarking in the rigging. Instead it becomes occupied with what is coming through the speakers. It’s either making me sing along, or analyzing lyrics, or following the bass line, or making envious note of how the song is constructed. I didn’t realize it until a few days ago, but I had inadvertently found what I was looking for – a form of Prozac to turn down the potentiometer – although it probably went down to 2 or 3, because the prolific songwriting I’d been doing in place of writing novels or whatever slowed to almost nothing.
This means the last couple of years I’ve been at peace, and I didn’t even know it. I hadn’t even thought about going to the doctor and asking for pharmaceuticals because the noise had been turned down and I didn’t even notice it. And with the noise down, that whole Prozac/Ritalin idea vanished.
Well, now some time has passed. I graduated from the Shuffle to a 30gb iPod. My son moved to the great frozen north. My daughter graduated from high school, went to and returned from Russia, and started college. The Lord called Mom home, making my wife and I true empty nesters. And the time at home that I’d been filling with TV (we didn’t have cable until Mom came to stay because it was a staple of her day, and I bought into watching it because if I got called to do something during a rerun of Third Rock From The Sun it was no big shakes, but if I was in the middle of writing a chase scene, that was something altogether different)… is still being filled with TV – and I’m just now realizing it.
There have been signs of the impending return of the urge to create. Back in September I started my webcomic, The Home World – but it’s important to note that the spark for it hit about two months after we could no longer take care of Mom and moved her to a nursing home. Then there was that Zombie game I came up with in November and December. Where did that come from?
It seems that when unfettered leisure time started to trickle back, my brain knew what to do with it even before I realized I had it.
It’s like I’ve gotten a whiff of the forbidden fruit again. The urge to read is coming back – but I’m trying to put it off until I get a Kindle. Some of the time I need to use for projects around the house that need done, but… still…
This morning on my commute I went to turn on my iPod and it seemed… like noise. Clutter. Only there wasn’t a potentiometer. I just wanted it off.
So I turned it off.
Then I started singing songs.
Ones that I had written.
And before I got to work, I had worked out a creative solution to one of my problem songs, A Free Man In London Town. It has been finished for a long time, but I couldn’t quite figure out how it should be performed. But while I was singing, I slipped into a reggae beat… and… it… worked. Bringing a nice, odd, almost ironic counterpoint to what the song is about.
The really odd thing? That creative noise didin’t seem like noise anymore. It was welcome back, old friend.
So I’m thinking it’s time to turn it on again. Maybe I’ll still listen on the commute home since that is the one that always seems the longest, and is less productive creatively anyway. We’ll see.
Meantime, I’m anxious to see what direction the return of insanity brings.
In the last two weeks, two people have told me that I really should post to the blog more often. So I guess it must be time for an update, even though I don’t have much to report, and what there is is probably insubstantial if you’re sitting on the other side of the screen reading.
For example, my mother has been in and out of the hospital again, draining time and energy. She’s okay for now, thanks, with specialist appointments coming up to see if they can figure out what is causing these spells of hers.
The Darkest Month is over, but I don’t know if my mood has changed any. My wife had me taking B Vitamin Complex, saying it might boost my mood. I didn’t notice any difference, so I quit taking them. She says she noticed a difference. I started taking them again. Then we ran out. I still feel about the same as I did when this whole enterprise started.
Maybe I should save this for the other blog I never update, but a family of raccoons has again moved nearby, making attempts to pillage the goat and chicken feed, the chicken eggs, and the chickens themselves (relax, the chooks are okay, just so frightened they want to live on our front porch). The racs don’t like the layer mash, which has brewer’s waste in it (kind of beery smelling), but they go for the sweet feet and chicken scratch. Picked up a new set of traps at Tractor Supply over the weekend. Have capped two young racs since, and will have to dispose of a third when I get home from work tonight. If it goes like it did last year, I’ll run out of the kids and pretty soon momma will blunder into the trap.
If it hasn’t been finished already – I don’t keep count, and just check every now and then – I’m about to complete my 50th song. Still no progress on recording it or the 49 that came before, and no progress playing out. Between mom and the raccoons, where’s the time?
My son and daughter are having adventures. Son is being laid off with two months’ notice by the giant corporation he works for. They’re giving a generous severance and retraining package, so he’s changing career course while he’s still young enough for his bones to bend. Daughter is still in Russia and faced getting run out a couple of times due to changes in their Visa policy. So recently she had to step out of the country long enough to get her Visa stamped, and now everything should be spinning in its bureaucratic groove. I’d tell you more, but she has been adroitly chronicling her adventures here.
I have a work colleague who thinks I should turn one of my novels into a graphic novel. I’m poking at that idea with a sharp pencil.
Meantime, the big project on the plate is this year’s Vacation Bible School adventure, which will feature a wild west theme. I haven’t told any of the principals at church this, because they won’t understand it, but I don’t have anything on paper yet. That’s because I’ve been working on it in my head. I’ll start typing hopefully soon, with an eye toward having a finished script at the end of April/beginning of May, Mom and Raccoons permitting.
Finally there is that novel that needs a final draft and that play that needs another draft. Sheesh, you look at all of the above and tell me when that is going to happen.
So there’s the update. Told you it wasn’t much. Y’all sure you want more frequent updates?
Because of my recent increasing involvement with Random Acts of Music (I’ve been made the director, or another producer, or head writer, or whatever other hat I end up wearing – it’s a small crew), I relented and now have an account on MySpace.. I have absolutely no affection for it, but it allows me to set up something of a network with the musical guests we’ve had on the show. I posted a demo of one of my songs, Another Year, there, but I don’t have it set to play automatically when you go into the page. Maybe I should, but I really hate that aspect of MySpace, and whenever I visit a page, I always head for the player first to shut the music off until I’m ready to hear it. As for the song, it’s a demo version, and my vocal sounds more nasal than usual (I have a deviated septum that accounts for part of it) – I seem to recall thinking I was over a period of allergies when I recorded the lead, but listening later I realized I wasn’t. Oh, well. It’s a demo.
Coming across better is Salad Days, a newer song in which I try to channel Mark Everett of Eels. Recorded on an allergy free day. It is posted on GarageBand, and can be heard by clicking here, or on the handy banner up there on the left. This demo was recorded with one mike, in one take. I’ve since rewritten the final lines of the lyrics, so what I sing and what is posted differs. Maybe when I record the real version, I’ll correct it. Unless I decide to use the demo. I’m thinking now I’m a lo-fi artist, after all.
Now I suppose I should load Salad Days onto MySpace as well, but it’s just not in me right now. Then I’d feel obligated to set up the random autoplay of the music so I can be a pain in the ear like everyone else. I don’t know. It’s late. I’ll think about it.
With all the work and thought I’ve been putting in on the play, I thought that the lull between finishing the second draft of A Father Christmas and the Reading Party would give me a chance to cool my heels creatively.
But this hasn’t been the case. I finally have gotten to pick up the guitar for a bit here and there, and I realized this morning that, after a long dry spell, over the last couple of days I’ve got three new songs in various stages of completion. There’s Seasons of Discontent, which spins off of the opening line of Richard III and goes from there. It was supposed to be about guys my age whining about their lives, but it’s evolving into a brief history of 60’s counterculture. The music is in place for this one but I need to finish the lyrics.
Then there’s a random portrait of a character song called Woman in a Red Coat, which I realized after writing most of the lyrics should be called Woman in a Black Coat – but it’s too late now because I’ve filled the words with red imagery that black just won’t do justice to. Lyrics mostly done, needs music.
Finally, another character piece called Three Fingered Mickey. I was scrolling fast down a web page a few days ago and my eyes caught the phrase Three Fingered Mike. Or so I thought. I went back to find it, but it was just a trick my eyes played on me. So I wrote the phrase down. I thought it sounded like a good song title, so I started to strum out a progression for it. Words followed. It’s probably 90% finished.
So much for a vacation.
I suppose this brings up the question of when you’re going to get to hear these. Well, I’m going to have to finish them first. And there are lots of unfinished and unfulfilled notes on songs in my song notebooks. Then there’s the matter of recording them, or at least performing them at an open mic night (when I’ve only done that once so far). And then there’s the matter of whether I choose to perform them or one of the other originals that I’ve already finished and pretty much nailed down.
On the other hand, there’s the theory of obscurity, which states that art is only pure when you remove the need for public consideration.
Art, schmart. These are folk songs (of a sort). The people are supposed to hear them.
So again, when are you going to get to hear them? That’s a really, really, really good question.
Don’t take any wooden nickels
When you sell your soul
A devil of a time awaits you
When the party is over
you’re on your own
(via iTunes shuffle play)