This changed everything

It’s Throwback Thursday. I thought it would be fun to go back and listen to some ground-breaking music, if not historically ground-breaking, then personally ground-breaking to my own music habits.

It was 1971. I was fourteen, a year into my teens, but still rather innocent musically. That fall I would be entering high school as a freshman.

My dad took me to a record store. Until this day, my musical tastes were poppish and bubblegummy. On the more mature side, I listened to the Beatles, but on the still chikd-like side, I had the entire collection of The Archies albums. I also liked the Monkeys, and most Top 40 hits that were played on the local AM radio station, WOKY, the Mighty 92! (920 on your AM radio dial.)

So who knows what I was looking for when I went in there? The Beatles had broken up the year before, so there would be nothing new from them. The Monkees technically were gone for several years. I liked Creedence Clearwater Revival and their breakup was still a year away, so maybe something from them. 

Hard to say. So I just browsed, which is a lost art today considering there are no more record stores. You’d start at A and work your way along looking at all the album art. Because back then, album art was just becoming a thing. In the ’60s, most albums were just graced with a picture of the singer or the band. Boring. But the drug scene changed that and album art became psychedelic, in many cases it was real works of art able to stand on it’s own. 

Maybe The Beatles pioneered that, with covers like the White Album (“It’s literally, just a white album, man!” “Far out!”) Or Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was a collage of many different pictures and great fun trying to find all the celebrities.

So often times while browsing you’d run across artwork on an album that was so compelling, you’d buy it even if you never heard of the band before.

Thus, when I got to the Bs, I flipped to this spooky cover. It was simple, really, just some woods, with a haunted looking house, and this blurry image of a green-skinned woman dressed like a witch. I was mesmerized. The only printing on the album were the words, Black Sabbath. What’s a Black Sabbath? I had to know.

“Are you sure?” My dad asked, who I have to believe knew about the band already because he was always kind of trendy.

Once home, I rushed up to my room and put it on my Realistic Clarinette II turntable. The album started with the gentle sound of falling rain, then thunder and the chime of a a bell, like a church bell bonging slowly as if announcing some impending doom. A moment later, the first deep, thunderous guitar note struck, reminiscent of the thunder that came before. Slowly, like a dirge, but powerful like a punch in the chest, the first three notes crashed against my senses and kept repeating, then they grew more soft accompanied by the drums, which were also soft like the rain.

Then came the vocals, deep, raspy like a death rattle, and they croaked out, “What is this, that stands before me? Figure in black, which points at me. Turn ’round quick and try to run, find out I’m the chosen one. Oh noooooo!”

It gave me chills. I could feel the terror of the song’s narrator. I was hooked! This wasn’t anything like The Archies at all! 

Even as I’ve grown in my music tastes, this is still my favorite. It has a strong blues influence, yet Tony Iommi’s guitar detuned a step and a half, gives an additional darker, scarier feel to it. 

In high school, I also discovered the writings of Robert E. Howard, specifically Conan the barbarian, King Kull, and Solomon Kane. It was like this music was made for it and I’d read those sword and sorcery tales while listening to Black Sabbath’s eponymous first album and also Vol. 4.

So today, when I listen to either of these albums, my mind makes a strong association with sorcerers, demons, black magic, and sword fighting. So strong is the association that I play them when I write in that genre because they not only make a great soundtrack to what I’m writing, but provide inspiration as well.

I mean, with songs like Black Sabbath, The Wizard, Behind the Wall of Sleep, and Sleeping Village, how could you not be inspired to write something demonic?

Here then, is that first album. To me, it still sounds as fresh as it did that day I first heard it as an innocent, pimply-faced kid back in 1971.

Enjoy.

Black Sabbath full album
#tbt #throwback Thursday

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Slow and steady writes the book

Slowly but surely, my novel is coming along. I’m in the final lap of the first draft. 

I began it on January 17, and I’ve worked on it a little bit each day. Some days I wrote a lot, maybe a few thousand words, other days I only wrote a few hundred, or I reread and edited what was already written. 

I don’t have exact word counts because I hand write everything with a fountain pen before I transcribe it to computer and incorporate it into the story.
It’s April, almost May, and as I said, the end is nigh, or the climax and denouement are nigh, yay verily.

Sorry.

I’m currently at about 71000 words and will probably be around 80000 when all is said and done. Not bad. I tend to write short and then have to go back and add more detail whereas some authors write long and then have to trim and cut.

This is an accomplishment for me. Usually it takes me many, many months to complete a novel. Years, in fact, and here I might have this WIP done in less than five months. Or is January to May only four months? See? This is why I’m a writer and not a mathematician. 

I think this version of my MC is better fleshed out than his predecessor from my trunk novel. That other one, I tried to give him a few human weaknesses so he seemed more real, vut i moght have gone overboard. I gave him a ton of flaws: he was shy, out of shape, ate poorly, seemed somewhat unaware of the feelings of those around him,  was a drinker and got drunk at least once, smoked cigars, was a wisecracker and never took things seriously, yet he was full of anger and had rage issues against his father, and so on.

The new version simply has ADHD. Period. Although that can cover a range of faults, I have tried not to be excessive about it and when he’s on his meds, he’s fine.
It’s when he’s off his meds that the trouble and fun happens. Imagine being a sorcerer who can’t focus long enough to create a spell, for instance. I hope it makes for some interesting situations. 

I also think the romantic angle where he runs (literally) into a faerie and they have a growing relationship has more depth and emotion than the previous story where that MC fell for a werewolf.

I’ve also eliminated werewolves and vampires from this story, since they’re overdone at the moment. Although I won’t rule them out in a future sequel.

Instead I have kraken and a troll, and of course, the antagonist, which is an ages old dragon. He was red before but I made him orange this time, because aren’t all tyrants who want to enslave mankind orange?

Have a good writing Wednesday.

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Writing about relationships

Welcome to another edition of Writing Wednesday! Last week I discussed my trunk novel and how I was disassembling it and using bits and pieces of it, including the main plot, in my current work-in-progess (WIP).

The new story, a blossoming relationship between the main character and a faerie is coming along nicely. I’ve almost completed the first draft.

My biggest problem is I’ve never written about romances or relationships. Not as the main focus of the story anyway. 

Snoopy knows

Most of what I’ve written, thrillers, action adventures, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, the main focus in on the main character surviving whatever the story has thrown at him. If there is a romantic relationship, it’s usually a very minor subplot hidden away in the main story’s focus.
And to be honest, I’ve never read a romance (closest l came was to start but not finish “Bridges of Madison County”) and in most of the stories I read, the relationship is also secondary, more like fill for the downtime between the action sequences. Something to simply make the MC seem a little human and vulnerable.

Take the romantic development in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars,” for example. John Carter meets Dejah Thoris, the most beautiful woman on two worlds, falls in love without really getting to know her, and spends the rest of the novel trying to rescue her from one predicament after another.

And considering I’m the nerdy bashful type, I don’t have a lot of personal romantic experiences to draw upon in writing this either.

So, its probably natural that I’m finding it difficult creating a believable relationship, a budding romance between two characters. It’s especially tough when the novel takes place over the period of only one week. 

I’m tasked with making the romance believable to the reader without them being pulled out of the story, “No one falls in love that deeply that fast!”

Sure, there’s a bit of Burroughsian boy meets princess, boy loses princess, boy fights to win back princess in it, but I don’t want to depend upon that cliche.

I want it to develop naturally into a believable romance that tugs at the reader’s heart strings. 

As I said, it’s hard. But then, if it wasn’t hard everyone would be able to do it.

Right?

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Weekly wrap up 

It’s Friday, so that means I’ve got a whole lot of random shit to throw at you. So, buckle up, buckaroo.

Short story released into the wild

I’m really excited to announce I have a short story appearing today in Stupifying Stories Showcase titled, “Without a Leg to Stand On.”

Linkie: http://stupefyingstoriesshowcase.com/?p=1450

Enjoy.

Speaking of writing

My current work-in-progress (WIP), the novel I mention I was writing in Wednesday’s blogpost is coming along nicely. I’m “in the zone,” so to speak and the words are just falling all over the place. Good words. Meaningful words. Words that have me excited for the first time in a very long time.

It’s one of those instances where if I’m not writing the story, I’m thinking about writing the story. Characters and scenes are bombarding my head continuously, probably making me a menace to other human beings as I bump into them because I’m in a creative trance.

So if you see me walking down the street, make way!

Weigh-in Friday

I lost some more weight. Now I’m just ounces — OUNCES — away from breaking the 200 pound barrier! The scale reports in at 200.4!

Huzzah!

New writing instrument

No, I didn’t pick up another fountain pen. Instead, after much research and soul searching and penny pinching, I bought one of those 2-in-1s. Is it a laptop with a detachable keyboard or a tablet with an attachable keyboard? It’s like the old Certs commercials. “It’s a breath mint. It’s a candy mint. It’s two! Two mints in one!”

Anyway, it’s an RCA Cambio 10.1″ 2-in-1. It’s replacing the horrible Samsung Tab 2 tablet I received several years ago when Verizon was having a penny sale on Fathers Day. Hated it almost from the start. No wonder they were giving them away.

I had bought a cheap, half-assed Bluetooth keyboard for the Samsung and that just barely made it tolerable. Just barely. I could write, but not proficiently because the keyboard was a little too small for touch typing and had a few keys, the :/; and “/’ keys for instance, on a different row and I’d hit Enter every time I meant to put in one of those symbols, so I’d have all these random line breaks all over the place.

But this RCA is nice. For one thing, it has a Windows operating system, not an Android, so I can write straight into Word and not have to mess around with apps that just simulate Word.

I’ve done more writing with it in the last two weeks than I’ve done in the months prior on that tablet, which is why I got it in the first place.

I’ve read some reviews that complain the keyboard has a “plastic” feel. Well, duh. It is plastic. What should it feel like? Stone? Leather? To me, it feels solid, sturdy, unlike some others I’ve picked up that seem rather flimsy.

Maybe I’ll review it sometime, except since I only use it for writing in laptop mode, the review would only be useful to someone who also only planned to use it that way as well. I don’t use it for the surfing the web or for email or games or anything else that would distract me from writing.

RCA Cambio 10.1″ 2-on-1

Syria

What the Hell? Trump launched a cruise missile attack? This is why you never elect a bully with small hands and a small dick. In his mind, the use of military force compensates for his feelings of inadequacy.

Can we now invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment?

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Unpacking my trunk novel

I set aside a novel several years ago. Not because it was a bad story, on the contrary, I really liked it, specifically the Main Character (MC) and a few other secondary characters. Plus, the main plot, I thought, was interesting.

I still do. But I became disillusioned after receiving some 60+ rejections from literary agents.

During the revision process,  which happened after each rejection — “Maybe they didn’t like this.” or “I bet they wanted a different beginning.” despite not receiving any feedback indicating any of those changes were needed — I had the novel Beta-read by several writers and editors. 

They all liked it, except the last one who said it was a good story but it was so poorly constructed only a complete rewrite from scratch could possibly help it. Yes, instead of listening to the majority, I keyed in on that last critique. At the time, I couldn’t see how I could rewrite it without rewriting it exactly as it was already written.

So I trunked it. I gave up.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This was a novel, in the urban fantasy genre, that had started germinating in my mind back in 1993 or so, before I even knew there was an urban fantasy genre. It was the 90th anniversary of Harley-Davidson and Milwaukee was filled with the sound of rolling thunder. The excitement influenced my creation of a character, a sheriff, who rode a white pearlescent Harley. He became involved in a situation where demons were released into our dimension. I also created a secondary character, based heavily upon an old time radio character Chandu the Magician as well as the Marvel comicbook character Doctor Strange, a sorcerer who becomes involved and together the two characters join forces to battle the demons. The problem was, I couldn’t think of enough personal story to flesh out the sheriff to make him a three-dimensional MC and I had yet to create any backstory for the sorcerer to make him one. So I set it aside.

Years later, the story idea morphed into something closer to the novel I ended up subbing. Now the MC was the magician, both stage and real, who is called in by his friend on the Police force (no Harley) simply to identify occult symbols at a crime scene and everything took off from that point. 

It took me two years to write the novel and a couple more to edit and polish it to where I thought it was submission-worthy. 

I liked the MC and other cast of characters so much, I even wrote a complete sequel to the first novel, and started writing a third.

Over the next five or so years, I subbed the novel to agents, rewriting and editing after each rejection whether I got feedback or not, until that fateful critique when I trunked it for several more years out of frustration.

Recently, I started writing a new idea completely unrelated to the trunk novel about an ordinary guy who runs into (literally) a fairy, injuring her, and takes her home to nurse her back to health. It is a romance, of sorts, and the story has slowly taken shape in my head and on paper. Then one day, I had an epiphany. 

I could combine the two stories using the main plot from the trunk novel and this fairy story as a subplot. I could resurrect the MC from the trunk, making a few changes in his backstory, keep him a widower with a daughter, keep his Police friend, and get rid of the rest. The demon plot would provide the action and suspense while the fairy story would provide character development. 

So I’m writing that story. I’m writing most of it from scratch, too, except on occasion, I’m snatching snippets of dialog or scenes from the trunk novel and with minor edits fitting them seamlessly into my new work-in-progress.

And I’m excited again. Even more excited than I was when I first wrote the trunk novel, because the subplot is providing the missing piece of the puzzle that I think the trunk novel was lacking — the human interest part.

I am writing and I’m actually enjoying it.

Write, Ferret, Write!

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New year same old goals

Yes, yes, I’m well aware it’s already the 6th of January and I haven’t posted my 2017 New Year’s resolutions yet.

That’s because I don’t have any. Not really. Not any that I sat down and agonized over.

My goals for this year are the same as last year and the year before. Just keep getting better and better, every day in every way.  But if you want something more specific than that wonderful life philosophy, then here, they fall into the following categories:

Health & Fitness: My goals here are simple. To keep losing weight. To try to eat healthier, with more fruits and veggies and a lot of pasta and cheese. To keep improving on my running, distance and speed. And to keep trying to sculpt my aging body through weight training by adding muscle as I lose fat.

Writing: Again, simple goals. Keep reading and keep writing. Try to write something every day. Maybe go back to keeping a journal of ideas and stream of conscious thoughts, like I did back in my early days of writing. I will also try not to get discouraged and try not to take Rejections as personal insults. That last one is a hard goal, because every Rejection sends me into a blue funk. I need to change my thinking that they aren’t rejecting me, they’re rejecting my story.

Mental Health: Yes, OK, let’s move on, nothing to see here. I’m working on dealing with my ADHD in all its manifestations.Maybe I’ll try to get back into meditation or something.

And that, as they say, is that.

Well, I do have one new unspecified goal and that’s in regard to politics. I intend to get more involved, contact my Representatives more often on issues of importance, and to join the resistance against the big orange turd in an attempt to prevent him from destroying all the progressive advances we’ve made as a nation over the past 100 years. He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and only won the Electoral College by 80,000 votes in three states. He does not have a mandate. He’s disliked more than any other incoming President in history. He does not even deserve to be President. He represents the worst qualities of Mankind: hate, bigotry, intolerence, zenophobia, homophobia, and sexism.

Join the fight. Let your voice be heard. The election is only lost if you give up and normalize ignorance  and racism.

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The Edge of Tripe

I apologize for not posting much recently, but I’ve actually been doing some real writing, fiction-type writing. 

And no, I wasn’t participating in NaNoWriMo. I don’t need an artificial challenge to write shit. I can write shit all on my own, thank you very much.

And speaking of shit, I thought I’d do a long term review on my smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. I first reviewed it here. OK, it wasn’t a review so much as I savaged it.

Well, time hasn’t improved matters. After six months of ownership, I’m chomping at the bit to replace this piece of shit. It is by far the worst smartphone I’ve ever owned and I’ve owned a few.

My first “smartphone” was an LG something or other with a slide-out keyboard. it wasn’t an android device, it had a weird user-interface and to get online (which I rarely did because we didn’t have a data plan at the time) you clicked on the LG browser icon and were launched into an AOL-style experience. Anyway, it came out about the time the iPhone first did, before android, when Crackberry dominated the market and touchscreens were still in their infancy.

My next real smartphone was the first generation Samsung Galaxy S. I liked it at first, but quickly found it didn’t like the area where I had just started working: downtown in the mall.

Thus started my love/hate with smartphones. The building I’m in is, as I’ve mentioned, like a Faraday Cage. Reception within sucks. Although some people seem to do it, I haven’t been able to. 

That first gen Samsung Galaxy S wouldn’t connect to the Internet until I did a hard restart by yanking the battery once I stepped outside my building. 

My next phone was the iPhone 4S. Oh, yay, Seri! Personally, I don’t get the whole fad of talking to your phone (or those Google home devices where you can turn on the sprinklers to get rid of annoying people on your lawn). I don’t like to talk. Period. Not to people. Not to my devices. Seri, therefore, was a wasted accessory for me. But beyond that, and at first I was thrilled with the iPhone, I soon came to loathe it. For many reasons which I won’t get into. I’m sure I ranted about them four or five years ago. But the iPhone’s reception sucked, too. I had to do a hard reboot all the time to connect to the Internet.

At this point, I’d tried Android and the iPhone and found both lacking, so I picked up a Nokia Win7 phone. If memory serves, the hardware was pretty decent (Yay Finland!), but the disappointing part was the lack of apps for Windows phones.Basically, with that phone I could get online, but the apps sucked so bad it didn’t really matter that I’d gotten on.

My next phone was the Motorola Droid Turbo. I liked this phone, except the camera sucked. it was like time warping back to 1998. This phone suffered from severe digital lag. Snap a picture and seconds later the picture takes. Forget action shots unless you could anticipate when something would happen. “Oh, my son’s shooting a basket!” *click!* And by the time the phone reacted, all the players were already at the other end of the court. “Hey, nice shot of an empty court, dude.” Shut up.

So I traded that in for this, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Yes, it takes excellent pictures. I have a great portable camera.

But for anything else? It sucks. As I mentioned in my first look post, the receiver is THE worst. (Pronounce it like thee for full effect.) I have to restart or do a shutdown all the time so it’ll find a signal.

Wi-Fi isn’t any better. I can sit right next to my wife in our house and she’s Facebooking and Instagramming like all get out, but there I sit only a few feet away unable to get a fucking signal. It can’t find the Wi-Fi. And she owns the standard Samsung Galaxy S7! WTF?

Does hers have a better receiver? Because her phone is thicker, was Samsung able to squeeze a bigger, more powerful receiver in hers and we S7 Edge owners get stuck with inferior crap?

I don’t know. All I do know is I hate this piece of shit phone and I can’t wait until I can trade it in for something else. Maybe the new Motorola Droid Turbo 2, if they’ve improved the camera. Or possibly the latest LG (which I was looking at until the Verizon Wireless rep talked me into this POS. “Oh, the S7 is so much better!” Or maybe I’ll get the latest HTC, that one with the stereo speakers, because the speaker on the S7 Edge is horrible. No. Horrible would be a improvement. You need headphones to listen to videos because it its one weak ass tiny speaker on the bottom can’t be heard unless you’re isolated inside soundproof room.

Okay. Sorry. That really wasn’t a review so much as as rant about every smartphone I’ve ever owned, was it? This phone really has me on edge. Pun intended.

Maybe one day I’ll find a phone I can be happy with. 

What do you have? Are you happy with it? Whose your carrier? Are you satisfied with them? Feedback it’s appreciated.

Until next time.

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