Monday, May 23, 2011

It Might Get Loud

Jack White, The Edge, and Jimmy Page

It Might Get Loud is the 2009 documentary featuring three guitarists talking about music and doing a bit of playing together. Those three guitarists being Jack White, The Edge, and Jimmy Page, those 98 minutes are freaking awesome.

Jack White might be the youngest of the three but it is very clear he has one foot in the past. A search for authenticity led the Detroit-born musician deep into the darkest of blues after discovering Son House. This clip explains pretty much everything you need to know to understand where the White Stripes were coming from, as well as Jack's other bands, solo work, and work as a producer.

The Edge has never been flashy and consequently doesn't get much credit for being a great guitarist. One of the most interesting parts in the film from him is when he talks about spending hours working to replicate the sound he hears in his head. It was a good bit showing how you need more than just a guitar to create a lot of the great signature sounds of rock.

The moments I enjoyed most belonged to Jimmy Page. He brings the camera crew to his home, into a room full of vinyl. The look of rapturous joy on Page's face as he played air guitar to Link Wray's surf rock classic Rumble was a terrific highlight.

The film spends time with each artist, with a "summit" between the three providing an entertaining and fascinating look at them talking and playing together. If Hogwarts had a class called The Magic of Music surely it would be something like this, with Jimmy Page as the professor. The film's best moments are when Professor Page schooled the younger musicians, showing them how this rock and roll thing is done. The expressions on the faces of Edge and White are priceless.

I've started making my way through the selection of music documentaries and concerts available on Netflix. This was definitely a good one.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I think this means I'm now a "local author"

I did something this year that I didn't have the nerve to do when my first book came out a year ago - I went to the local paper. I created a press kit, contacted someone I know who works at the paper (this is a small town so it's not really a big deal to know someone at the paper). I wasn't sure if they'd want to cover my books or not but they did and the story appeared in yesterday's paper. I was really nervous about it but it turned out to be pretty cool. They wanted a picture of me working at my desk so my dad came over and took one. I was so nervous about having my picture made, there was no way I could waited for my husband to come home from work. Also, I grabbed up the puppy so I wouldn't be in the picture alone. Of course he was more interested in trying to get at the visitors (my parents) so in the pic it looks like he's trying to jump down. The only pic that showed Jack well had me looking off to the side.

Here is the link to the story.

And a better pic of Jack:

I'm happy about this and I've been mostly successful in not letting my usual embarrassment about promoting my books and myself dampen it. I think there is a part of me that will always feel like promotion is wrong, that it is bragging and arrogant and various other bad things, but that's just low self-esteem talking and it needs to shut up. I'm proud of Mojo Queen and I want people to buy it and read it and enjoy it. And then tell me on Twitter they want the next in the series, like someone did yesterday. :)

Speaking of Mojo 2, I need to get some work done...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kill it with fire

You outline your novel, then start the writing. At some point the story goes off the rails despite having an outline and you can't figure out how to get it back on  track. What do you do?

This is not a rhetorical question - really, what do you do? Because I have no idea. At this point what I would like to do with Red House is print it out, take the pages out to the back yard, and KILL IT WITH FIRE.

Your characters can't be too perfect, I know that. And sometimes you have to bring them down to a low point. I can't spoil Roxie, I have to chase her up a tree and then throw rocks at her. Even if part of that process means she gets so low and feels so bad that she makes a mistake and does something stupid. People do that all the time, characters should be no different. But, oh, I hate it. I'm not sure anymore if this part of the story is working, even though it will effectively do what it's supposed to do. It may be too out of character for her. But then I think, well, this is about stress and chaos and the loss of control over your own life. She has lost her home in the flood (last year's Nashville flood) and her business office too. She's getting a few calls by word of mouth but her income has pretty much fallen in a hole. Then there's Blake and all I'm going to say about that is oy vey. Roxie's life has spun out of control and she can't even kick a ghost out of a house anymore. Its no wonder she might do something stupid, right?

The Stupid Thing should work, insomuch as it should accomplish what it is designed to accomplish. But I am hating writing this part and I am SO tempted to skip ahead. I wonder if other writers go through that, they hate putting their characters through the ringer in a certain way so they have trouble writing it. You may feel like the story demands it, but I guess that doesn't mean you have to enjoy it. I mean, I do this because I enjoy it, but I also do it because I'm a storyteller and stories generally have a point. The good ones do, anyway. I very much want Red House to be a good story, even if right now I want to kill it with fire.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Rolling in the Deep

My favorite song this week is Adele's Rolling in the Deep.

I love how its not just her voice that's strong, her attitude is strong too. This sounds like a woman who knows her own worth and is not afraid to demand respect. I like that woman. I want to be that woman. I wish every woman could be that woman.

There is a long history of English artists taking their love of African-American music and fashioning their own versions of blues and soul. This may be the best example since Dusty Springfield recorded Son of a Preacher Man. It's a song that gets under your skin, with its powerful, confident vocals and a driving martial rhythm. It makes you want to play it loud, clap along. Its near-gospel intensity makes you want to testify.

No wonder an artist like John Legend was attracted to doing his own version.

This acoustic cover will blow the doors off your stereo. The best music - whether blues, soul, rock and roll, jazz, or country - always has one foot in the sacred and one in the secular. This is a perfect example. I love both versions of the song, it is impossible for me to pick a favorite between the two. What I'd really love is for Adele and John Legend to perform the song together.

Legend's version is available as a legal free download here. Go get it!

What song are listening to over and over lately?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Recognize your weaknesses

Cross-posted from Write Club.

Every writer has strengths and weaknesses. Some excel at characterization, others are good at building suspense or crafting exciting action scenes. Some writers might be good at suspense and atmosphere, but have to work hard to forge a connection to their characters so that the reader can then feel a similar connection. You have to learn to recognize what you're good at and what you need to work on, and getting published doesn't mean you've mastered everything. There is always room for improvement.

At this point, I'm honestly not sure what exactly I'm good at, but I do know what I need to keep working to improve. Setting is something I have trouble with. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I never feel a particularly strong connection to places, having grown up on the move and never living anywhere for more than two and half years. I've been in the town where I live for many years now but it's still just "the town where I live" and not home. Trying to create a sense of place in my fiction is always a struggle for me. Every place has its unique features but all the moving I did growing up also taught me that there is a surprising amount of uniformity everywhere you go.

Another thing I have to keep working on is balance. I want my books to be a mix of different things: paranormal, humor, action, romance. If I find myself having trouble with one of those elements, I've noticed that I tend to over-compensate and use a lot of that element. For instance in my current work in progress Red House I started out having a lot of trouble with the romance part of the story. Now it's trying to take over. Recognizing this issue will help me fix it in revisions so that the story elements are balanced.

That's really important to becoming a better writer - recognizing your weaknesses so that you can work on them. What are some of your weaknesses?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Links and a review that made me giddy

Some new links to post for Mojo Queen. First up: for Kindle readers, it's now at Amazon. There's a "Like" button up there at the top of the page. I have no idea what clicking that does it but if you get the book from Amazon, clicking "Like" or leaving a review would be much appreciated.

It's also listed on Goodreads for those with an account at that reader's social network. I added the book to Goodreads yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to see it had stars today, but the review wasn't apparent on the book's page. After some clicking around I found the review but when I go back to the book's main page it's not there. I have no idea why. Some quirk with Goodreads, maybe.

The review I found is from Night Owl Reviews and it's a great one, 4.5 stars and a Top Pick. "The writing sparkles with wit and humor" and "If you enjoy paranormals with heaping dollops of mystery, suspense, danger, lust, and humor then this book should certainly be right up your alley." Y'all, I am giddy right now. Giddy is what I am right at this moment. Whee!

This calls for a loud and rowdy selection from my Mojo Queen playlist.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mojo Queen is out!

Mojo Queen is out! Today only you can get it for 30% off direct from Lyrical Press. If you're on Facebook there's still time to throw your name in the hat for a free copy by attending the release day event - I'll draw a winner at 3pm (CST).

In case you were wondering where I got the title, listen to this:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

4.5 Martinis!

"Southern attitude, great music, and sex appeal" earned Mojo Queen 4.5 martinis from Book Martini Reviews - go read the review here.

Tomorrow I'll be giving away one free copy to a random attendee of the Mojo Queen release day event over on Facebook. All you have to do is click "attending" and your name is thrown in the hat for a free book.

One more day!