Status update

Been a while since I posted so I thought I would write an update.

This past weekend was pretty awesome thanks in large part to this A- Recommended Read review from Dear Author for GOOD TIME BAD BOY. When it was brought to my attention on Twitter, first I was terrified, then I was floored. This is the kind of review you print out and carry around in your back pocket forever. Needless to say, I’m pretty proud of my small town romance.

Someone asked if I’ve reconsidered writing another contemporary. Short answer: nah. Long answer: I mean, who knows? I may write another at some point. The genre’s not a natural fit for me. I don’t know that I could have written GOOD TIME BAD BOY without the music angle. So it’s a matter of the right story presenting itself. That’s not something I know how to force. Besides, I think the romance genre could use more standalone books. 🙂

I’ve also been asked about the Bradbury Institute paranormal series. That was something that started out as just for fun ages ago, and it’s going to stay that way. I’ve never had any intention of keeping that on a regular release schedule. I know that’s not how you’re supposed to do self-pub, but, eh, I never was good at playing by the rules. I work on Bradbury stories between longer works, so it’s not abandoned, it’s just not at the top of my priority list.

So what is at the top of my priority list? I had a couple of themes that I wanted to explore – a redemption story, and a story about a female hero. Not a heroine as in the female protagonist, but a woman who is a Big Damn Hero. (This might have something to do with the fact that Marvel won’t give us a damn Black Widow movie, damn it.) (Ahem.) The Magic Born trilogy was a weird hybrid of sci-fi and paranormal, and I’ve wanted to dive deep into sci-fi ever since. So I went through my folders full of story ideas, barely started manuscripts, trunked unfinished manuscripts, and other debris. By combining the threads of seven different story ideas, I found what I was looking for.

So now I’m working on CITY OF SECRETS (title subject to change, because I kind of suck at titles). It’s part crime thriller, contemporary sci-fi, superhero origin story, and romance. The superhero is a woman who escaped from a mysterious lab that performed experiments in human enhancement – gene therapy and cybernetic implants. The love interest/sidekick/dude in distress is a billionaire playboy she saves from a violent attack.

I have no timeline on when I’ll be done with this book, or what I’ll do with it. It’s not the kind of thing I see agents or editors looking for, so I may wind up self-publishing it. Right now I’m not going to worry about what comes after, I’m just going to focus on writing.

That’s all the news I’ve got. I think I’ll go read that awesome review again. 🙂

Advertisements

New release: GOOD TIME BAD BOY

190x285

 

Wade Sheppard was the king of country for nearly ten years. Now he can’t get Nashville on the phone, much less another record deal. When yet another drunken night onstage gets him fired from a casino gig, Wade is pulled off the road by his manager and sent home. Being back in the small town where he was born and raised, his every screw-up fodder for gossip, isn’t helping any. His family knows him too well, and the pretty, sharp-tongued waitress who catches his eye doesn’t want to know him at all.

Daisy McNeil has more baggage than most her age but she’s finally pulling her life together. College classes will be her ticket out of poverty and instability. She doesn’t mind waiting tables for the time being, but she could do without the rowdy rednecks who sometimes get handsy. When one of them crosses the line, she snaps and gives him and his stupid ten gallon hat the telling off he deserves, but causing a scene gets her fired.

Wade didn’t mean to cost Daisy her job. Chastened, he decides he doesn’t want his train wreck of a life to crash into anybody else. He offers the bar owner a summer of free shows if Daisy can have her job back. Now they’re spending nights together trading barbs and fighting a growing attraction. With a sexy smile and a powerful voice that can make any song his, Wade’s determined to show Daisy that he’s more than just a good time bad boy.

AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooksKoboScribd

Read the first two chapters here.

Whoo! So this book was a big departure for me – it’s a contemporary romance. I found myself needing a creative detour, so I decided to try a different genre. I loved writing this book, especially the music-related parts. It allowed me to work out some things about writing without actually talking about writing, if that makes sense. Plus, big music nerd here. 🙂

At first, my intention was to make this book the start of a new series and query agents with it. I did query a few, while trying to write the next book in the series. After two attempts at writing another contemporary, I realized I was ready to go back to speculative fiction. I liked writing a contemporary, but I don’t have another one in me right now. I don’t know, it may be the only contemporary I ever write. So I decided to take this book off the query/submission mill and self-publish it.

In a lot of ways, this is a really personal book. Small town life, family relationships, music and what it can mean to both the creator and the listener – all filtered through the lens of my own experience. Add in an emotional love story that had me crying as I wrote several of the scenes, and I’ve got a book I’m deeply proud of. I hope readers enjoy it, too.

Inspiration in the blues

Tags

As both a music lover and a fan of all things that go bump in the night, some of my favorite stories can be found at the crossroads of music and the supernatural. When you talk about the crossroads, you have to talk about Robert Johnson.

I have two images in my head of Robert Johnson. One is the stuff of myth. Born in Mississippi, steeped in the Delta blues, Robert made a name for himself as an itinerant bluesman during the Depression. The earliest stories of him playing guitar in public say that he was terrible, and was essentially run out of juke joints for being so bad. Then he left the Delta for a time, anywhere from one to two years, no one is sure. By the time he returned, he’d become an extraordinary guitarist. No less than the legendary Son House himself remarked that Robert must have sold his soul to the devil to be able to play like that.

Over the course of two separate sessions, Robert recorded twenty-nine songs. Several became blues classics, dark, existential nightmares that decades later inspired an entire generation of young British rockers. The tale of his Faustian deal excited imaginations as much as his music. Then there was the mystery surrounding his death. Was he poisoned by a jealous husband, or did the devil come to collect his due? The fact that Robert died at the age of 27, making him a member of the infamous 27 Club, only adds to the mystery around him. In the mythos of American music, the legend of Robert Johnson looms large.

 

gravestone collage

I’ve visited all three of Robert Johnson’s grave sites – these photos were taken on my honeymoon ten years ago.

 

But the legend is only one image. Robert Johnson, the man, was a complex and fascinating individual. Before becoming a musician, he tried his hand at sharecropping, during which his wife and baby died during childbirth. After that there are no known attempts by him to keep a steady job or apply himself to anything but music. Born illegitimate, Robert called himself by many names, frequently going by R.L. (his middle name was Leroy). He traveled all across the US and even into Canada. Sometimes he traveled with another musician. Frequently his only companion was his guitar. He was known for turning his back to audiences so that other players couldn’t discern his techniques. He had no trouble finding women to put him up for a night or even longer, but never stayed anywhere long. Many of the songs he recorded had the self-awareness of an artist struggling with both his art and the world around him, but he was also known to be a consummate entertainer. On street corners and in juke joints and house parties, he could play all the latest hits and keep the dance floor full.

And as for that crossroads story? It makes for great fiction, but if you ask me, the truth behind his vast improvement is even better. After being told he was a lousy guitarist and leaving the Delta, Robert returned to the town of his birth, Hazlehurst, Mississippi, supposedly to search for his biological father. Whether he found Noah Johnson is unknown, but he did find Ike Zimmerman, who mentored him in the blues. Ike would take Robert to a country cemetery at night where he’d have privacy to practice on the guitar. Can you imagine spending every night for a year, maybe two, your only company the departed in their graves and anything creeping through the surrounding woods in the dark, as you practiced chords and songs until your fingertips bled and the sun rose in a ball of fire to break the spell cast by you and your guitar? How badly would you have to want something to do that?

After his death, Robert became known as the quintessential journeyman blues musician, the lone guitar-slinger who made his home nowhere and everywhere, who made his way through the world alone. But he left behind friends and family who remembered him, a surviving child who never knew him, and countless obsessed musicians, musicologists, and fans. And rumors that he was playing with a band toward the end of his brief life. He is considered one of the grandfathers of rock and roll, but we don’t know where he would have wound up, musically speaking. Perhaps rhythm and blues, perhaps jazz. Another mystery.

It’s no mystery why the crossroads myth is still so popular. It adds to the legend, turns Robert into a dark, tortured figure who tried to take the easy way out and paid for it with his life. But if there was a crossroads it was only within his own heart, and he by no means took the easy way. Robert worked hard at his craft, hour after hour, night after night. He understood the blues, musically and symbolically. He knew how to make people dance, make them laugh, make them drop their hard-earned coins into a cup, brings tears to women’s eyes and fan the flames of desire. There’s beauty in even the darkest songs he recorded, the ones where he’s having conversations with the angels and devils that lived inside him.

That, even more than the crossroads myth itself, is the real reason Robert lingers in the imaginations of musicians nearly eighty years after his death. He is a symbol of the question, how far are you willing to go for your art? How deep within yourself, how far outside of your comfort zone? Are you willing to work at it until you bleed? Are you willing to find yourself alone in the dark, surrounded by shadows, old nightmares and faded dreams? Are you willing to give up pieces of yourself in songs and stories?

Of course, it’s not just musicians who wrestle with those questions. Writers do too. Robert has been something of a spirit guide for me for twenty-five years now, since I first heard the opening notes of Kindhearted Woman, the first song on The Complete Recordings. I was a kid who knew music, all kinds of music, but this was like stepping into another world. I’ve studied his music, read books about him, visited all three of his grave sites. Been enthralled with the crossroads story but ultimately discarded it because it feels like it cheapens the work he put into his craft as a guitarist and songwriter. From Robert I learned to never stop working on your craft, because there is no easy path to being good at something. Bleed on the strings, and don’t be afraid to put your heart and soul in the stories you have to tell. Those are useful lessons for every kind of storyteller.

(But just to be safe – never make deals in the dark with anyone but yourself.)

 

Note: This was originally posted at Here Be Magic

American Epic

I am ridiculously excited for this.

The history of American music is the history of America. Immigration, geography, economics, race and class and religion – it’s all tied together in our music. Even something as seemingly simple as the Sears Roebuck catalog was hugely important to rural America because it allowed people to buy cheap guitars which was probably the most important ingredient thrown into the cauldron of American music. Preserving this part of our history is so important and I really think that studying it can shed some light on the technological upheaval we’re going through now. Amazon is the current version of the old Sears catalog and the internet is surely the wildest thing since border radio and I need to stop now because I am seriously nerding out, LOL.

One of the reasons I decided to start blogging again was so I could finally untangle some of my long-held thoughts about music. It’s kind of a mish-mash in my head and I’ve never really given myself the chance to make it all coherent. Plus I figured since I’ll never get that musicology degree of my dreams, I might as well blog about music, heh. Some of the posts will be short, some will be a rush of emotion (like this one), and some will eventually be longer reads as I have the time. For instance, there’s several ideas in my initial thoughts about American Epic that I’d like to unpack further.

Music won’t be the only topic on the blog but it will be the main one. I’m thisclose to starting a new book, so occasionally I’ll post excerpts, too.

Amy

Tags

I keep thinking about the teaser trailer for this documentary about Amy Winehouse.

I don’t think I’m going to be at all famous. I don’t think I could handle it. I would probably go mad.

God. That is a punch to the gut. I loved Amy from the first time I heard her. Much was made of her throwback style but to me she always seemed both timeless and very much of the now. What I found most remarkable was that she was just such a mess. We’re not allowed the luxury of being a mess – women. We have to pull it together and take care of everybody but ourselves and never step a toe out of line and meet everyone’s expectations and if a woman is in the public eye, she’d better by God be a good role model whatever that means. Amy was just Amy, an addict and a mess and lovestruck and a dozen other things and most of all, to the public at least, she was this blazing, incandescent talent with an amazing voice made of sharp angles and raw vulnerability. Her music felt boldly honest to the point of being subversive, full of things nice girls aren’t supposed to admit to feeling. I loved the honesty and vulnerability and attitude of her songs and I hate it that we’ll never know how she might have grown.