Hello Again From the Writing Swamps!

I’ve been remiss from blogging these pages and I want to apologize. But it’s not like I’ve been sitting idle. Got lots of news coming up on the publishing front which I hope interests you.

First, my new Haxan novel Seven Devils will be published by CZP sometime next year. As I get more information I’ll let you know where to pre-order, etc.

Also, the black metal love story Litha will also be published next year. I’ll have cover reveal and all sorts of stuff for that, too. I’ve had lots of interest from fans for this work and I hope you’re as excited about its release as I am.

I am also planning to launch a YouTube channel in which I will do let’s plays, riff on writing, reviews, and maybe even free audio stories for my fans. It will be a fun place we can get together and share ideas and have a good time. I’m looking forward to it.

I have a few other things in the works but I can’t talk about them right now because I’m under NDA. But I think you’re going to be excited and will welcome more new content coming from me in the future.

I’ve also taken up classical guitar again. I’m working through the Noad book. Now I get to obsess over my nails again. (Yay?)

Lastly, I’ve done a lot better over the year with depression. Things have settled down for me quite a bit and believe me that is extremely welcome. Depression isn’t sadness. It’s much, much worse and I’m really grateful to be feeling better.

See you next time!











Моя маленькая “My Little One” by Polina Agureyeva

From what I have been able to glean, Polina Agureyeva is the singer. The song is “My Little One” from the Russian film “A Long Goodbye” by Sergei Ursuliak.

This song is beautiful and so moving. It’s not classical guitar, but that doesn’t take away one iota from the moment. I’ve been humming this song for a couple of days now!

This song has hooked me. I want to see this film.

Segovia’s Master Class

Wanted to share this video with you. As you know I am learning classical guitar. I found this video of Segovia’s master class back in the day. Believe it or not something like this is very helpful to a student learning CG. It’s not only the historical perspective, but as a student I can watch their fingers and how they hold the guitar, etc.

Especially for those tricky barre chords!

I geek out over stuff like this. Enjoy. 🙂


Tension and Compromise, the Charybdis and Scylla of Art

Speaking only for myself, but I find it’s important to find a workable balance between perfection and compromise. I was responding on a Finding a balance between compromise and perfection is a necessary ingredient in your writing.classical guitar forum earlier tonight and it got me to thinking about this problem in more detail. Not only how it affects facets of our lives, but, since this is primarily a writing blog, how that dynamic between perfection and compromise can affect our art.

This came home to me last week before a guitar lesson lesson. I was home practicing “Malagueña” in the bedroom. Someone poked their head in the door and said, “That was really good.”

I thanked her and said it was kind of hard for me because of all the triplets. But later I wondered about this. She was being honest. She thought it was good. But for myself…all I could hear were mistakes.

Later, I had a lesson with my classical guitar teacher and related this experience. He said it was normal and while he didn’t use the phrase “find a balance between perfection and compromise” he meant as much.

I told him all  could hear were the mistakes. I told him all I ever heard were the mistakes. He also said ordinary people listening to you play the guitar don’t always “hear” the mistakes you make. Not in the sense you, as the player, does. That’s not what they are listening for. He told me a story how he had performed on stage and honestly believed he had played the worst he ever had. Yet people in the audience, and one of them was a Big Names Musician, told him he was very good.

I thought about this and I imagine there might be some truth to it. Of course, you will always have severely critical people who will find fault with everything you do. I am very critical of myself as I related earlier. When it comes to writing, or playing the guitar, or anything else, you have to find a balance between perfection and compromise.

An excellent example of perfection gone wrong is when you meet a writer who has been working on the same story without moving on. They keep rewriting it, editing it, “perfeFinding a balance is necessary in art. cting” it. The result is the story never gets finished and never gets sold.

And when it doesn’t get sold it doesn’t get read.

Now I am not saying you should write a story and throw it out on its little baby feet and expect it to run a marathon.  But there comes a point in editing and rewrites where you reach diminishing returns.

Every successful professional writer I know, every one of them, writes a story, makes it as good as they possibly can, and then moves on. They never obsess over that one story trying to perfect it into a diamond. Yes, they spend time on it, they sweat blood and tears over it, they open their hearts to it, but they reach a point where they know it’s time to move on and they do.

Every successful writer I know writes a story so he can move on to the next one. That’s their main goal. The next story. That’s what they are always thinking about. That’s what is always on their horizon.

I think it behooves us as artists to be aware of our limitations and strive to correct them and work through them. That’s what I’m trying to do right now with my classical guitar playing. I already do it with my writing.

I am not always successful, but I am going to keep trying. If you truly believe in your artistry, failure is not an option. It can’t be.

Passacaglia and Barre Chords in Classical Guitar

My classical guitar lessons have been going well. I honestly feel I am making good progress. I’ve memorized the two main sections of “Malagueña” Malaguenaand have to work on the lento (slow) section. The other song I’ve been working on with my teacher is “Romanza” or “Spanish Ballad”.

Malagueña is the feminine form of the Spanish port city Málaga. I think the tune was also used by Ernesto Lecuona in a piece of music. It has been featured or used in many other pieces of music as well. The song itself is pretty old, unless I am mistaken, and has its roots as a traditional piece from the port city of the same name in Spain. De Torres painted a picture he titled Malagueña in 1917 so it has been popular for a long time.

Aside from “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams, “Malagueña” is the second most requested song by audiences. There are a ton of different renditions and arrangements, but I am concentrating on the one by Christopher Parkening. My guitar teacher, btw, used to study under Parkening.

“Romanza” (Romance) or the “Spanish Romance” is of more questionable origin.  It appears it first appeared in the late 19th century, but other than that we don’t know the authorship. I am studying the minor section right now, and trying to get myself to mastering barre chords. Agh, they are my bane! (But I refuse to be deterred. I will master them.)

The third big piece I am working on (for myself, not my teacher) is “Passacaglia”. This is another musical form which originated in Spain and is derived from the Spanish pasar or “to walk” and calle (street). Even so it looks like there are Italian sources to this musical form sourced to 1606.

So it’s old no matter how you cut it. Again there are many different arrangements to this, but I am studying the one in Hal Leonard’s Classical Guitar Method. I like its strong, haunting quality. Any passacaglia has a brief sequence of varying chords over a bass line, which itself may vary.

Anyway, I like it. I am having fun now that I have committed to CG but I would be less than honest if I said there wasn’t some frustration along the way. CG is one of the most difficult forms of music to master. I don’t know what the most difficult would be. (Flamenco, maybe?)  But CG is difficult enough. I love the music and I love the structure inherent in the form. I am probably practicing about 2.5 to 3 hours on average a day. Sometimes longer. I’d say that feels about average. I am not interested enough to keep a record. It has probably has been longer of late because I have the opportunity to put in the time. That won’t always be the case, though, once the writing picks up again.

One final note, classical guitar doesn’t necessarily mean you have to play classical music. I kind of agree with the modern interpretation that says any kind of music can be played in a classical style.  To show what I mean, here is Per-Olov Kindgren playing Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” in classical form.

Maybe someday I can do this! (in about a million years) 😛

Big Day of Edits

Late roundup posting but I was busy today. I got up before 3 a.m. and I did 150 pages of edits on the new novel. It went pretty well. The novel isn’t perfect. Well, I guess no story is perfect when you get right down to it. Though some classics come awfully close and I would argue probably do reach that bar. Anyway, for me the story is coming along. I have nothing to complain about.

Which is not to say there are not problem areas. But the fact I recognize them as such gives me hope I can ultimately correct them. Botis’s sermons are a little too long and they need to be tightened up and relate thematically to one another. This is one problem I have with electronic manuscripts. It’s easier for me to see separate pages from the manuscript when they are in paper form. That way I can jump from one to the other and compare each page in either hand and find the themes I need. I find it quicker than scrolling through a manuscript and something about bookmarking a manuscript doesn’t feel right. It feels clunky to me.

Such is my burden. So I might print out those sections and take a look at them and hand edit them for clarity.

The day wasn’t entirely spent on edits. I practiced classical guitar for about three hours, broken up into individual sessions. Mostly worked on “Malagueña” and arpeggiated Emi and Ami chords to build up my fundamentals.

Hope to have news about writing conventions I will be attending later this year. Keep tuned for that.

Off to bed.

Finding Which Way to Turn in Classical Guitar

Part of the problem I run into when teaching myself classical guitar is I will bounce from book to book. What I mean is, there are many good solo books out there to learn from. I have several. I lean toward Solo Guitar Playing by Noad and Classical Guitar by Hal Leonard. They are both good. But on top of all that are etudes by everyone and his brother you can work through, not to mention all the resources on YouTube.

Having an instructor would help but that is not an option available to me right now. Then again this is only a hobby for me and not a total commitment.

So in the interim I bounce back and forth between books. I’m not saying this scattershot approach is smart. I have never been accused of being smart. But for a dedicated hobby it works. I can work on one section in one book and match that up with a similar session in another. As long as I do that I feel I am making progress on some level.

Without a doubt having professional instruction would be beneficial. I don’t have the resources or the time for that. I do not even know if I would make the personal commitment if I did have the opportunity. I’m still a writer. I don’t think I am ready to push that aside so I can concentrate fully on classical guitar. I know I am not.

When all is said and done I am making some progress on learning how to play classical guitar. I would like to advance a little faster, that much is true. But it is what it is and I can’t change it right now.

Classical Guitar and Memorization

As I posted a day or so ago I am at present learning how to play Sor’s Opus 60 No 1. The reason I mention this is because I haven’t yet decided if I am going to commit this song to memory.

Playing a song from sheet music is one thing. Committing it to memory is another. I can play quite a few simple songs, but I don’t memorize all of them. It takes something special about the song before I go that extra step. Maybe it’s something to do with how I connect to it on some level.

I wish I could understand this more because I’d like to pin it down as to what makes me pull the trigger on something like this. Here are the songs I have learned to play without needing the music in front of me:

Gunsmoke Theme
Red River Valley
Streets of Laredo
Minute in G
Blood on the Saddle
Barbara Allen
Wayfaring Stranger
Ashokan Farewell

There are one or two others I can’t remember. When I look at this list there is an obvious western theme at work. Not surprising since I am currently so involved in working on that genre, I guess. But even so I would like to figure out what it is about a song that makes me move toward memorizing it. Not that I think it will help me play or anything, but knowledge is power, right? 😛

Back On Classical Guitar: Sor’s Opus 60 No 1 and Spanish Study

I’ve changed the furniture layout in my room and one of the happy results is I sit a lot closer to where I keep my guitar. I say this is a happy result because I am by nature lazy. But now that I am closer to the guitar I have more reason to pick it up and practice and read some theory.

I’ve been practicing quite a lot in the last few weeks.

It’s a mindless activity to play scales or arpeggios when I am watching an old film on TV or the news or the odd sports broadcast. I just let my fingers do the walking across the fretboard and build up muscle memory. But I’ve also been more actively engaged in practicing technique and playing as well. So I am pretty happy about that. Right now I am learning how to play Sor’s Opus 60 No. 1 along with Spanish Study from Noad. I also play through my repertoire about every other day to keep those songs fresh in my mind.

Both songs, Opus 60 No. 1 and Spanish Study, are coming along well. I am getting the first half of each song down but the second halves are presenting a problem, especially the triplets in Spanish Study which may be beyond my current skill range. Even though I may learn to play a song I do not always do the extra mental gymnastics to commit the song to memory. I am inclined to do that with these two songs, however, because I like them. I don’t commit every song I learn to play to memory, just the ones I like. So there! 😛

Technique is important with any musical instrument, I guess. In classical guitar technique is everything. I am reminded back in the day when I used to play golf. Okay, I played a lot of golf. But I not only played a round I really did enjoy working around the practice green chipping and putting and hitting a bucket of balls on the driving range. I could fill up two hours with a bucket of balls on the driving range (I would take my time, check my setup, my swing, work through the clubs) and the putting green. I liked that as much, if not more, than playing an actual round.

I must say either I have gotten older (although I think I would still enjoy just practicing at the golf range and I have been wanting to get back to it, but I have no time because writing is a total time sink) or something because I don’t feel that way about the guitar. I was happy enough just practicing golf as opposed to playing. I would rather play the guitar than practice. I don’t know what it says about me or about the two different activities, but there you have it.

Either way, I am practicing and playing more classical guitar than I have been recently and for my money that can only be a good thing. I am not very good, of course, but I find it relaxing and enjoyable. Those are reasons enough for me to continue pursuing the music. I’ve included two links to YouTube of Sor’s Opus 60 No 1 and Spanish Study to give you an idea what the music is supposed to sound like…as opposed to what it sounds like when I play it currently.

But practice makes perfect! Or at the least drives you bonkers….

Medical Update and Publishing News

I got through the medical procedure okay today. I’m just tired and not really interested in messing around on the Internet for a while. So I am going to unplug from the Matrix, relax, read, decompress, and practice my guitar because that relaxes me as well. But I will be back to regular posting in a day or two when I regain my strength. Promise.

I also hope to have some much anticipated updates as regards Argo Navis Publishing and some of my stories that will appear. We have finally gotten the covers back for the first ten stories and we are working to put them into the pipeline for immediate publication. We will also launch the Argo Navis website and twitter feed as well. So a lot is planned for the next week or so.

We will keep you up to date on all the changes coming.  🙂


Dolly Parton has a superb voice, clear as well water and bright as sunshine. She is also a phenomenal guitarist. When I was little I remember watching her on television with Porter Wagner, he in his sparkling suit and she in her bouffant wig. She is the perfect Gibson Girl, but it’s her music which endures, and for me, one song has special meaning.

Her song “Jolene” was the inspiration I used to write “Vengeance is Mine,” published in the anthology Beauty Has Her Way edited by Jennifer Brozek.

I wanted a villain who could meet Magra Snowberry on equal terms. I wanted to show in an understated but emotionally powerful way how much Magra loved Marwood and to what lengths she would go to keep him safe. I not only wanted to show her supernatural power, but her raw emotional power and why it was the stronger of the two. The problem was how to do it?

I remember sitting across the coffee table with writer Melissa Lenhardt. We were talking about this song and how I wanted to use it as an inspirational device. I bounced some ideas off her, which is what a good writing buddy is always for. But I didn’t want to use the name Jolene since it was already so iconic, I told her.

“Why not call her Carlene?” Melissa asked.

And thus Carlene Stride nee Minker was born: Magra’s arch nemesis.

I was pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction this story got from readers. Many of them have told me it’s their favorite Haxan story by far and I think I can see why. I am rarely surprised by a story I write. I always feel I am in control. In this story Magra definitely surprised me. She revealed layers I didn’t know were there. I think Magra came into her own in this story in a very big way. Haxan is about many things. I reject all simplistic definitions that try to pigeonhole Haxan. On the other hand, Magra, and what she stands for, is prominent.

Magra, not Marwood, is the foundation of the series. I found that out when I wrote “Vengeance is Mine”.

I still get emotional when I hear this song because of the close creative ties it has to “Vengeance is Mine” so that’s I wanted to share it with you today. I hope you like both the music and the story. 🙂

I got a new guitar!

Last weekend I bought a brand new classical guitar. It’s an Orpheus Valley Sofia handmade by Kremona, a small company in Bulgaria. Yes, you heard me right, Bulgaria. Kremona makes some beautiful instruments and I’ve got one!

I’ve been practicing and playing with it. Wow. The sound is fantastic with deep and tonal quality. It’s a true classical quitar so the strings are a little farther apart for the intricate fingerwork that style demands. It has a cedar top, mahogany bridge, bone nut and Savarez strings. It’s magnificent and I think I’m in love. The rosette around the sound hole is simply gorgeous, too.

I just love it. Here’s an Internet pic. Maybe someday I’ll take one myself with my camera when I’m not so lazy.

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