My Life So Far in Slackerville

Sorry I have not kept up with the blog in the last week or so. I’ve been busy. Down, but not out.

I’m making progress on the second edit for the novel and had my week filled up doing interviews. Now that’s out of the way and I can return to focusing on the edit. (Also missed an entire week of guitar practice, yikes!)

I’ve been going for walks now that the weather has gotten a little better. About 2.5 miles a day. I am also starting to think about what I will work on next. I have some stories I need to get out to people I promised this year, but the big thing might be a new novel. I am tinkering with an idea that revolves around Sumerian mythology and the hobo culture during the Great Depression.

I have been toying with an idea about the latter, sometimes referring to it as the Great American Hobo Novel on my Twitter feed. I have a lot of research yet to do. As I have mentioned before just because you have an idea doesn’t mean you have a story. I have the idea. I am still searching for the story. But I’ve done this before and I know it will come to me eventually.

But, first thing’s first. I have to finish this edit and, yes, Virginia, I am being a slacker.

Got some things I need to blog about, including reviews and life stuff. I don’t get as personal on this blog as I used to on Live Journal. But since I left LJ I haven’t had a venue for that. We will see.

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My Story in The Best of Frontier Tales!

The Best of Frontier Tales, edited by Duke Pennell, has been out a while and I wanted to let you guys know about it. Every story was chosen by  readers as the best of that month. I have a Haxan story in there, but I really wanted you to check out the rest of the fiction as well.

Frontier Tales Magazine is a pretty good site that publishes not only Spur Award winners but lots of other cutting edge fiction in the western genre. The editor isn’t afraid to take on new voices and new ideas for his magazine, and this is what attracts me most, I think. Nor do I mean to imply it is the only western magazine out there doing this, because it is not. But this post is about Frontier Tales Magazine and I want to keep it concentrated on that for today.

So if you want a good collection of western fiction that isn’t wholly dependent on Saturday morning John Wayne cliches, check out The Best of Frontier Tales. And when you do, be sure to give ’em a review!

The Best of Frontier Tales

Fado

For a long time I have been trying to think of the name of this music. Then, out of the blue, one of my writer friends J. Kathleen Cheney Fado, painting by Jose Malhoamentioned something about Fado. Kathleen has been working on stories set in Portugal, I believe, and has even go so far as to begin to learn how to speak the language. She’s a good writer and if you haven’t given her stuff a try then you should. She brings an incredible attention to detail and authenticity you don’t see enough in fiction.

Anyway, that was the name and style of the music. Fado is often mournful and the themes reflect the sea, or the poor, or longing and resignation. There’s a culture around this form of music I like a lot, too. Fado is traditionally sung in a dim, unadorned café. When the performer is singing everyone is required to stop eating and sit very still and quiet so she (or he) can concentrate.

I had a scene in an unpublished novel called Red Widow where a Russian-American spy sat in a Lisbon bar listening to fado. That was years ago, and I didn’t feel like going back and pouring through the manuscript to see what it was called. But I couldn’t remember the name of the style.

All this time I had been wracking my brain trying to remember it, haha. Thanks, Kathleen!

Anyway, here is some fado for you by Amália Rodriques, one of the best fadistas ever. Enjoy!

My First Guitar Lesson!

My first classical guitar lesson went pretty well yesterday. We didn’t do much. The instructor asked me some questions and we ran through some sight reading of music so he could see where I was. I played a little bit. He helped me see how my right hand was not parallel to the strings and my thumb not resting behind the neck. I knew I had some bad habits to correct and now I have to work on that. These changes help me to reach the strings better and cover the frets with my hand span.

I don’t know how it happened but I lost my Korg tuner so I had to buy another! It’s around the house somewhere, but I have looked and looked for  a month and I cannot find it. Of course, now that I have bought a new one (about $15) I will probably find the one I lost. It’s probably under my pillow or in a coat pocket that way. Some obvious place. It’s always that way.

He asked me and I told him my goals were to play Romanza and Malagueña.

Got some homework. He wants me to view some YouTube videos of other classical guitarists and watch their posture, hand positions, etc. Also check out some videos of the songs Jesu, Afro-Cuban Lullaby, Lagrima and Adelita. It’s to help me broaden my perspective of other kinds of music out there.

I also have a song to practice, Malagueña. Mostly be able to read the notes and play them, worry about tempo later. I can do that. I will also work on some other stuff as well. He said the two classical books I was already working out of, Noad and Hal Leonard’s Classical Guitar, were fine. I could keep on with them. He will bring music to the sessions and give it to me, stuff he wants me to work on. Sounds good.

So I’ve got a lot to do and I am being challenged. But that’s what I wanted so I can’t complain. I didn’t expect to be thrown into Malagueña this early, but, hey, I’m game to try.

Apsostate of the Plains

When I was working on the novel Quaternity I came across an old picture from the 19th century of a Texas Ranger. Despite what some people may think now, Rangers weren’t held in great esteem back then. Many viewed them as rabble. I thought it was a good representation of Abrtexas-ranger-mexican-waram Botis, one of the characters in the story who brings them to the Llano Estacado. They are searching for the mythical city of Cibola, just like Coronado tried 300 years earlier.

I had fun writing this novel. Despite the setbacks and false starts which I blogged about before. Any time I write I always enjoy the research phase most. That’s the fun part for me.

Writers Come and Go, but the Story is Eternal

I’ve been practicing classical guitar lately. Mostly arpeggios and reading music in divisi. (See how handy I am with those terms, haha) I was lax while working on the novel, and I’ve been working on the novel a year and half. So my CG playing suffered.

I kept up with the guitar during that year and a half. I played the songs I knew and fiddled around with it. But a rigorous practice schedule? That had to fall by the wayside.

Which is what I want to talk about. I firmly believe if you are going to write you have to make strong choices. Which is more important? Writing, or something else. There isn’t often room for compromise, it seems.

Margaret Mitchell used to tell a story about how bad she felt when people invited her out to dinner and she had to beg off and they couldn’t understand why. It was because she was writing Gone With the Wind.

Writers have to make hard choices. It’s not you, it’s the story that is important. You can’t meet it half way. There’s no room for compromise. The story comes first. The story is all.

Every successful writer I know believes this to some degree. I definitely believe it. I probably go too far with it. People who do not write see it as YOU being selfish. They don’t understand. They will never understand. You have nothing to do with it. It’s the story which demands attention.

It’s crazy sometimes. How we get pulled in by a story. This happened to me with this latest novel. Despite all the problems I had writing the thing I always knew there was something there worth finding.

Writing is hard enough as it is. It is a very solitary exercise. A good writer has to be comfortable with that and willing to spend the time necessary to bring the story to light. Because it’s the story, not you, that is most important.

You are just the writer. The story is eternal. And it will always be that way.

I Don’t Do Resolutions, Except When I Do Resolutions

I don’t do resolutions. I don’t like limiting myself in that way. But there are things I want to concentrate on this year. I would be a fool not to view them and see how they might affect my life in the coming year.

First, I will be taking classical guitar lessons starting next Monday. I am looking forward to this. I used to teach. I know the value of having structure and someone to show you the right way to do something. I am sure I have built up bad habits in my guitar playing over the last few years, and I want to correct them.

I think I am drawn to classical guitar the same reason I was drawn to this last novel. It presented a challenge. Classical guitar is that way for me. The fact the music is beautiful and skips and patters like moonlight on a pond is another nice benefit. But it is hard and I want that challenge.

I have taught myself to read music. But I want to learn more about this playing style and that’s where a good teacher comes in. We will see how it goes, and another good thing is it will motivate me to keep up with my guitar practice. I have fallen by the wayside too much lately when it comes to that. I am usually pretty good about it, but it’s easy to get in the habit of not practicing.

Next, writing. I know I need to do a better job talking about the stories and books I have out there and are coming out. I don’t like people spamming me about their stuff. A little of that goes a long way. But I know I err too much the other side, I rarely talk about my available work. I can do better and I need to do better.

I know some writers mention their available books and stories every day. I can’t do that. I can’t. It’s not my nature. But I need to mention things and relate my stories for sale to other events happening in my life if I can. I’m always afraid it will be too much, but as long as I feel that way then I probably won’t go too far and wear people out and turn them off?

As for writing new stuff, there are a couple of short stories buzzing around my head. But lately I have been drawn to longer projects. I’ve been toying with an idea that takes place with the itinerant workers of the Depression Era. The hobo culture interests me. I feel there is story potential here if I can find it.

So I kind of have a background, but having a background is not the same as a story. Ideas are not stories. I’ve read stories that are nothing more than ideas. They tend to be forgettable.

I like to idea of investigating this hobo idea and seeing if I can find potential in it. The research always interests me more than anything else in writing. I like learning new things. Someone told me during the Depression families were forced to turn children out and let them fend for themselves. That might be a starting place.

Anyway, there’s something there, an investigation of the violence and hardship that could open itself to a novel-length work. If I look hard enough. This is in very nascent stages right now. Nothing may come of it. But it’s what I am thinking about of late. I might pursue it.

I also need to get a few short stories out, probably some short Haxan stuff. Quaternity gave me an idea or two about that. I don’t see myself working on another Haxan novel this year. Not a new one. I’m not done with Haxan, but the Great American Hobo Novel is starting to swim to the surface of my consciousness.

We will see how it goes. But what about you guys? What have you planned for  this year?

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