Live the Life

Another Weekend Tune

Here is a song that a bunch of old farts might miss if their offspring didn’t share a love of music. The band Coldplay was on my radar because of my boys, but I never really sought them out to listen to.
On a road trip to Pittsburgh a DJ announced that the new Coldplay song was up next. I decided to give it a listen. Little did I know that it happened to be #1 on Billboard. I think it deserves it. Driving beat, great lyrics; it is probably my favorite song from the past few years. I am glad I stumbled across it.
Coldplay’s official YouTube release won’t play in embedded mode. It is worth seeking out, however. The version I am presenting here is Boyce Avenue’s cover version: just two guys with a bass drum, an acoustic guitar and a keyboard loaded with string instrument sounds. Cool.

Viva la Vida – Coldplay (covered by Boyce Avenue)

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Blue on Black

Another Weekend Tune.

“Blue on Black” captured my attention the very first time I heard it. I didn’t know who performed it or even the correct title. Eventually I googled the lyrics and discovered who performed it, and was surprised.

Kenny Wayne Sheppard is a fantastic guitar player. Possibly the Clapton of his generation. In the following video he is on the left, black sweatshirt, black bandanna. The lead vocals did not sound like Kenny singing, and it was only when I watched a video of his band performing it did I realize that someone else, not Kenny, was singing. Noah Hunt provides the lead vocals. His voice has a fantastic quality, and I think Hunt is perhaps one of the most talented, yet unrecognized, vocalists around.

The album version of the song is fantastic, but I am presenting an acoustic version here. It shows the talents of both Sheppard and Hunt, and it still rocks. This is also one of the songs that inspired me to want to learn to play the guitar properly.

Here is “Blue on Black” – The Kenny Wayne Sheppard Band.

My new Vox Amp

I have a new toy.
I have been teaching myself to play the guitar. I mean really play it, not just hit the rock power chords of “Freebird” like I did way back when.

The toy? A Vox amPlug Headphone Guitar Amplifier – Classic Rock version.
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It is tiny, about the size of a standard deck of playing cards split in half lengthwise. I plugged it into my Peavey T-15 electric guitar and was amazed at the sound quality. And because I used my MP3 player ear buds I was the only one who could hear it. I can practice without disturbing the rest of the household.
I strummed “Horse With No Name” for bit, and then (ahem) hit the “Freebird” power chords.

Now I have no excuse not to learn to play.

This is so cool!!

Ordinary Average Guys

Continuing the Weekend Tunes posting of songs that FLH may have played if life had not intervened.

We covered several Eagles tunes, and I think we even practiced Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” (perhaps I just played it a lot during the FLH years), so snatching a later Walsh tune would seem to be a good fit.

I was talking to fellow band member Doug the other day, and our conversation drifted to how little spare time we have these days; still. Projects around the house, fixing cars, and the like (not to mention earning a paycheck) just get in the way. I am sure it is the same for Steve, Larry and John. Roger has been able to keep performing, so perhaps there is hope that the rest of us can return to making music again.

Next up: Ordinary Average Guy – Joe Walsh.

Perfectly Good Guitar

My friend Steve has been taking us on trips down memory lane with his Tuesday Tunes (Four Lane Highway edition).  Needless to say I have been on a big music kick for a few weeks now.  I have the itch to sing.

I got to thinking about songs that Four Lane Highway (FLH) could have performed, if we were still jamming and still picking up cool songs to cover.  And by cool songs, I mean songs that might not be part of the mainstream consciousness.  Regional bands like McGuffey Lane, lesser know national bands like the Danny Joe Brown Band; we covered songs from both.  I am talking about Wilco, John Hiatt, John Prine, Cross Canadian Ragweed and many others.

I listen to music when paying bills on the weekend and when a less than mainstream tune gets me to singing along, I’ll post it.

As part of the continuing coincidences that are my life, after I decided to do this, one of the songs I was thinking of played on the internet radio I was listening to.  It kicks off my Weekend Tunes postings:  John Haitt – “Perfectly Good Guitar”

‘How Odd’, I thought

I had a very odd thing happen to me earlier today.  I was working on a story that has a character I used in a previously written story.  That is not odd.  I have several serial characters.  When I am working on a story with one of these characters I try to keep the character consistent, often referring to the text files of that character’s other stories.  What is odd is that today I could not remember the exact name of a philanthropic effort of McKaleb Yazzie.  I spun in my chair, pulled a magazine off my shelf, and looked it up.  How odd it felt to be looking up information about one of my creations in a magazine sitting on my shelf.  McKaleb is the protagonist in “Language Barrier” published in Abandoned Towers #2.  I wonder if other writers have had similar experiences…  I got goosebumps!
I have been taking a break from making myself write every day.  I was thinking about doing it, when on April 1st I just didn’t squeeze in the time to tap out 100 words.  I haven’t written everyday, but I have written.  I have also been editing stories that I finished the first draft on.  When I start back to working on “writing” everyday on May 1st, I am going to either write at least 100 first draft words, or edit for at least a full thirty minutes.  I have five or so first draft stories waiting for polishing.  I need to get those out to slush piles.

And speaking of slush piles, I have two stories that have passed inital slush readings and are being considered for publication.  Each is at a venue I really like and want to break into.  Fingers crossed.

About that VPN…

My flash fiction story, “VPN Dosen’t Work” is up today at Every Day Fiction.

I find that I am just a little nervous about this story. It uses computer technology as its base to drive the plot. I am a computer professional. If I got something substantially wrong about the computers, it will be embarrassing. Luckily, the editors had me remove some computer jargon to make the story more accessible to non-computer readers, and that should help smooth over any problems. I can always claim poetic license as it were… but still… if I missed some detail…

I am exited about this story because I am hoping that its protagonist will be a publishable recurring character. He has been bouncing around in my mind since 1981 or so, thanks to Frederik Pohl and his Heechee Series of novels. Thank-you, Frederik (and thank-you Robinette Broadhead) for stories that have stayed with me all these years.

I love science fiction, and I hope you like this latest attempt of mine within the genre. Let me know what you think!

Abandoned Towers has Language Barrier

My flash fiction story “Language Barrier” is now available in Abandoned Towers #2.

Abandoned Towers #2, March 2009

Abandoned Towers #2, March 2009

This marks the second time a story of mine has found a home in print medium.  This apparently is important to me.  I grew up seemingly with books in my hands.  I was, and still am–time permitting, a voracious reader.  Over 95% of my recreational reading is off-line, with a book or magazine in my hands.  I will read on-line fiction, but nothing of any great length.

This is perhaps why I submitted this story to the print version of Abandoned Towers.  Or perhaps it was because the pay was better.

In either case, there are some very good stories, in addition to mine, in this issue of Abandoned Towers.  Click on the image of the magazine cover to purchase a copy if you are so inclined.

While you are at it, go ahead and check out the stories in the free online version of Abandoned Towers.   But if you want to read any of the stories in the print version, you have to buy a copy.  The content of the two versions do not mix.  Print is print, online is online.

I had a lot of fun writing “Language Barrier”.  Because it is flash fiction I can’t say much about it, other than it focuses on myopic bureaucracy.  It is part of my Warp Lane milieu, and is contemporary (time-line, not location) with my story, “The Journey”, which focuses on myopic social attitudes.

If you happen to read it, let me know what you think.

Winds of Time

In this neck of the Southern Ohio woods we had a big wind storm on Wednesday.

It blew my stepladder across the yard.  A lawn chair went on walkabout, and another decided to hide in the bushes.  The new fancy high-gain radio antenna provided by my broadband internet provider turned its back to the wind and almost wiggled loose from its roof-line mounting bracket.

Of more importance trees, cracked and stressed from the recent ice storm, gave up hanging onto their limbs and disrupted power lines.  We were without power for over 12 hours.  I feel lucky because the weather was warmer, and if I had to choose, I would choose to lose power during a warm wind storm instead of a bone chilling ice storm.  So, believe me when I say that I am not complaining.  Not one bit.

There was an interesting thing that happened while the power was out.  After I assured myself that we were not going to suffer any catastrophic damage, and Doris and I had set out candles; after the sun set and the doors and curtains were closed against the dark; after the power returned for a flirtatious fifteen minutes before vanishing again; after all of this I found myself curled up on the couch under a warm quilt reading by candlelight.

Except for the light source, the evening reminded me so much of the many evenings I had as a kid.  I grew up–well lets say ‘went many years’–without a TV.  Our entertainment was reading.  That is what I did while the wind howled outside.  I read.  I finished off a novella I had started.  It was the longest sustained reading period I have had in recent memory.  Close to three hours straight, just me and the story.  It was a blast.  I have gotten into the habit of reading in snatches; a few minutes here, maybe a half-hour there.  I am going to try and block off bigger chunks of time to devote to just reading.

After I finished reading I had a strange experience.  I have written some fiction every single day since the first of the year.  I had not gotten around to writing earlier in the day and with the power off my brain sort of shut off as well, informing me that my streak of days of continuous writing was over.  It wasn’t until I went to write “wooden matches” on the grocery list that it, um, occurred to me that pen and paper did not require electricity.  I grabbed a spiral notebook, ran through my mind the story I am currently writing, and filled a page.  261 words later, the streak was still intact.

The winds gave me time to destress as well.  Something I didn’t realize I needed before the power went out.  Work has been getting to me a bit.

Editing a ‘Feral’ story

I have had an interesting experience the last few days.  Sort of an epiphany on a better way to approach my editing process.

I mentioned before that I stopped writing a story targeted for an anthology when I realized that I had discovered the open submission call for the antho. much too late and would not be able to finish a polished draft of the story in time to meet the deadline and submission criteria.   The story idea was so good it wouldn’t leave me alone, and I realized that I could rework it into a tale for my science fiction DuaLine/WarpLane milieu.  (I still can’t decide what to call it.)  This story, “Feral”,  is contemporary in that universe’s timeline with “The Journey” and “Language Barrier”, flash fiction stories that I have sold.

I knew where the story was going, so I started adding new material where I had left off.  When I hit spots where I had to contemplate what to write next, I would go to the beginning and edit the story to fit the new material–switching the background setting, revising characters and terminology.

For the first time working on a story, I realized that I was subconsciously thinking about things like plot cohesiveness, and strong characterization and point of view.  During the edit, based in part by the new bits I was writing, the story changed from a plot driven story into a character driven story.  The original ending morphed into an additional conflict for the protagonist to deal with.  The new climax/ending (which I am in the process of finishing the first draft of) is not only is a proper ending for the story, but it also very strongly continues the theme and reinforces the overall conflict that defines the DuaLine/WarpLane milieu.  For one the secondary characters, “Feral” is a prequel to a story where he is the potagonist.  This prequel is currently out in the wilds of submission.  I have plot ideas for this milieu and I am sure the main protagonist from “Feral”, Samantha, will pick up some of those for her own future tales.

Epiphany, ‘ah-ha’ moment, the light bulb came on; whatever you want to call it, I think I have found my editing legs.  I know I still have a lot to learn about this process and about the craft of writing, but this feels so comfortable.  I am very glad that I decided to finish ‘Feral’ before I tackled edits for a few stories I have that are nearly finished.  Editing is going to be much more fun now, I think.