Summer Wrap Up- The Musical Burial

Today is the day of the "totality" eclipse. I happened to be around and was asked to lunch by my son- an event nearly as rare as the eclipse itself- so I took the offer. We ate and he showed me how to reverse the camera on my phone to safely take a picture after scolding me for looking into the sun. I took a couple shots, we parted and I took the dogs out to experience the eclipse as well. They were not into it and I was 258 miles from maximum impact, so we made due with a walk.

Looks like a picture of the sun to me.

So here I come back to my computer. Back to writing. Back to reality? Maybe. I am looking at the inevitable end of summer. Yay. Not yay. I'm not sure. I journey back to the beginning of this blog and think about what I was doing and why. I was writing about things which inspired me. Why? There was no clear why. I was doing it for some kind of self-therapy, maybe even introspection. As I found subjects of interest, I would blog about them. It was fun and interesting and I won't say pointless but I think it has been an interesting discussion all along. 

Where have I been since the launch of Gender in Fiction? Great question. 

Buried in music. In a good way. This spring we auditioned students for a "show band" to put together a set and perform at a bunch of shows. It was a lot of work and a lot of rehearsals, a lot of great music and a bunch of shows. All of the performances were packed in from June until last Thursday. During the course of it all, we tried to add new material and perfect the existing. On top of this, the group I play and sing in (The Roadhouse) had several commitments to perform as well which kind of kept me trying to be as good as I could while adding new material and perfecting existing too. This whole thing was very eye-opening. Some of the student Show Band gigs allowed us to get involved in some high profile shows, a couple of which were a haul from the school at different types of venues than our kids (and I) were accustomed to. Kind of exciting and exhausting. We also hosted a touring group for a performance in the midst of it all. It is so encouraging and exciting to see young people with a passion for music having a chance to perform in front of a crowd that includes their peers. It truly was inspiring.

Students I coach at performances this summer.

The Roadhouse at a gig in June.


Earlier this spring The Roadhouse needed a drummer. Things happened, I talked to a bunch of people and nothing was working out quite right. An old friend (Jeff Groll) from my youth put something on Facebook for my birthday. He and I were in bands together all through school but had not spoken since 1985 when we graduated. We got talking and next thing I know- he's drumming for us and it's like we never parted. Our musical chemistry came back in very short order and we have been catching up personally along the way. It turns out our paths had been crossing for a very long time but we never knew it till now. We both enlisted in the Army a few years apart he was a tank mechanic and I was a tanker, both fairly uncommon jobs. We were stationed at two forts at overlapping times in Georgia and Kentucky and never knew it. Then we went on to Michigan State University at the same time and never knew it. You get the idea. Pretty bizarre but we are back playing music and remaking our friendship. Good stuff.

Jeff is the skinny one.


Another aspect of the musical burial began at the beginning of the summer as well. I found myself writing songs with another person in another set of near unexplainable circumstance. We had some help here and there with chord progressions essentially but the writing has been just the two of us. We have about a dozen songs put together for an upcoming record so far. We have done some scratch track recording, almost what I would consider a rough draft in my fiction. But... I strongly feel some of these songs are going to be good. Actively doing something collaborative in this way is nothing like I have experienced. Collaborating in fiction I do all the time. I send some email back and forth and my friends help me out. Being in the same proximity as the whole thing is hatched is quite a different interaction. The oddest thing about it all is this- I had not written songs since I was really young. Yes, I am writing all the time, but writing songs was a dead thing. I write a book here and there, blog posts fairly often- but there is something more visceral and immediately gratifying about writing and singing a song with an acoustic guitar and piano that resides in a different world from writing fiction. I never saw this train coming until it ran me over. The experience is so different from novel writing I could barely explain it. It has been a very interesting diversion and has definitely allowed my mind to expand in a different direction from the norm.

Something else of interest, I finally finished putting together our recording studio. The aforementioned project prompted its completion. Yes, this happened this summer too. It could still use a little of this and that, but it is up and running and has even been used a few times. The whole sound isolation thing is a study of its own. I can keep the sound in quite well, but keeping other noise out as they say- not so much.



So what about that whole novel writing thing? Hopefully, it gets better as my mind grows more in an artistic direction. Sounds good anyhow. Harbinger of Calamity, the sequel to Firetok, is essentially done. During the musical avalanche, I did finish the book. A couple minor formatting things were very recently fixed and now it is ready to go. My plan is to read it one more time, or not, and launch it later this fall. This is the same book I once thought would launch in the winter of 2016. Enough said. Let everyone get settled back into their non-summer routine, including myself, then let her go.

The time has come. So that's what has been going on here. I'd love to hear from you and thanks for reading.

Still Learnin' about Writin'


Have I abandoned the blog? 


No, that is not what is going on. The last big event here was the Gender in Fiction project and its time to move on. I am continuing to edit Harbinger of Calamity. At this time the book is in the hands of Jim Ferguson who did the first edit of Firetok many years ago.  He was my journalism teacher back when we had one computer for the whole class, now he's is helping me put my unconventional into convention. (RE)Teaching the wizardry necessary to put my storytelling in a form that won't make a reader with a much better understanding of how things are done cringe or dispose of my book. I welcome the help. I have also had a couple trusted advisors lend a hand along the way. The story is definitely where it is and where it is going. Now it's just a matter of polish. I have begun to write the follow up as well, part three I suppose. There is just so much left to tell it forced itself upon me.





What have I learned? 


I am still overusing words. I have been in "had" therapy for years. It's such a nothing word. I can use had in every sentence I write and pull it out and nothing changes. Kind of like offering advice to a kid. So the "had" thing is nothing new. Like and that abuse worked its way in around my had abuse. I think had was a gateway word which led to stronger more addictive things like using t-h-a-t- all the time.  Those are a couple words I tend to overuse and have taken a look at how and when I really should.

Redundancy. 

Yes, I write redundantly, especially in rough draft- but I don't care at that point it's about getting the story out of my head. I do begin to care later on in the process. Using the same word in two subsequent sentences rarely makes it past my read aloud. Here is one that the automated grammar checker wasn't liking though- started several sentences with the same word. This one has been slipping by under the radar. When I look at three sentences each beginning with "the" it starts to sound pretty children's bookish. Not like Dr. Seuss but more like a child wrote it. Relooking at that whole thing.

Mr. Ferg has also been suggestion some compound-complex sentence therapy as well as some other treatment. I went to a couple meetings, ate a couple doughnuts- but they kicked me out. The moderator suggested I didn't know enough English mechanics to write copy for Chinese cookie fortunes. It didn't turn into a fist fight but I got his message. I'm working on it. I'll keep studying.


The last thing I want to do is get into an English lesson with me being the teacher for reasons already mentioned. What have I found to help in my polish process? A couple things. I use LibreOffice for all my editing. There are a few different extensions you can add to look for mistakes. After the Deadline is a good one. I will admit it took me a bit of screwing around to figure out how it works but when it does it's at least helpful. Grammarly is pretty sweet but it seems only to work online, forcing me to work around it. It has been extremely helpful in helping me understand these English rules and conventions I seem to have forgotten or reinterpreted incorrectly. There are others for certain the discussion of each could make for its own post.

As always thanks for reading.