THANK YOU JOE SOUTH!

I love it when I have one of those ‘out-of-the-blue’ and ‘ain’t-that-weird’ moments.

I’m in the process of tweaking a scene where my main character Evan Morris goes back to Edmonton, Alberta…the city he called home before he moved to Kamloops. I started off by walking him down a once-familiar street but then I hit a bit of a block and found myself wondering where I was going to take the internal narrative. I resorted to one of my usual distractions.

When I stumble with writing I’ll sometimes pick up a guitar and just strum random chords and stare at the screen. Normally it doesn’t take long to come up with something but today I found myself listening more to the chords I was playing and I realized that they weren’t all that random.

It took me a while to figure out the melody but when I did my ‘ain’t-that-weird’ moment arrived.

Oldguitar

It was a song I learned back in 1969 titled “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” written by Joe South. This is a song I haven’t really thought about for thirty or so years but it came back so easily and quickly. Of all the random chords or songs that those chords could have represented this was the one that I needed it to be. As I played it and recalled the lyrics I stared at my computer screen and everything started to come together.

Inspiration sometimes comes from the damnedest places doesn’t it?

http://www.joesouth.com/

A TALE OF TWO FRIENDS

One of the criticisms I received with White Wolf Moon was my depiction of Evan’s stance on drugs…that his anti-drug comments were invalid and I used him to preach my opinions on the matter. First, Evan does not necessarily speak for me on anything. That being said this is an example of people reading what they want to read and missing what was written. Evan isn’t preaching anti-drug…just that drugs weren’t for him. Yes he is negative about the culture based on his personal observations and that is what readers have keyed on. On various blogs and pages I have made statements in my name about hunting, wolf hunters in particular, and have been taken to task for those comments. It matters not how many times I tell people that I am not anti-hunting or anti-hunter, they read what I write, put their own spin on it then call me some of the most ludicrous and childish names, even threatening me personally. To set the record straight I do oppose trapping, poaching, and trophy hunting but I get angry when I read about a careless, irresponsible hunter who shoots at a deer and misses, sending the bullet across the street where it smashes through a living room window and hits a five-day-old infant in the head (and it’s considered a misdemeanor). That is when I have to speak out…and not all that kindly. http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2014/09/25/DA-5-day-old-infant-grazed-by-bullet-in-hunting-accident/stories/201409250337

But back to the point of this blog:

Friend number one…In the mid to late sixties I worked at CJCA Radio in Edmonton, Alberta. I produced commercials (among other things) and recorded musicians whether for their promo tapes or auditions and commercial jingles for local businesses. I was still fairly new at it when someone booked the studio to do a department store jingle. One of the musicians had a reputation for being hard to work with, mean, and demanding. He could play virtually any instrument and claimed he was qualified enough on each of them to have a valid opinion. I learned that his claims were indeed justified as over the next few years I recorded him playing keyboard, drums, violin, all types of guitars, banjo, harmonicas and even pan-pipes. He displayed an expertise with each of them that impresses me to this day.

To make a long story a bit shorter, during the recording session I was reprimanded by said musician (on drums) as I had pointed out he’d made a small beat mistake on the instrumental bridge and we should redo the take. He took me to task and shouted that when we played it back there had damn well better be a mistake…which there was. He called me into the studio and extended his hand. He congratulated me for noticing the error (which probably would have gone unnoticed anyway) then shook my hand again for having the guts to point it out to him. While there’s a lot more to the story the outcome was that we became close friends. He was demanding of everyone (especially of himself) and we battled a lot. Sometimes I won, but not very often. He continually pushed me to strive for something better when it came to production and I’ll always owe him for that. Physically he looked the lifestyle of the sixties rocker. He wore leather, rode a motorcycle, and had the long hair and beard…typical in those days. One big difference…he avoided drugs and refused to work with anyone who was high or drunk. Away from the studio or stage he preferred wine as his vice of choice and does to this day. He’s still got the hair and the motorcycle and he just celebrated his seventieth birthday by climbing some mountain in Hawaii (where he now lives).

He phoned me about four years ago after having no contact for over forty years. All he said was “Hey man, what’s happening?” and we picked up right where we’d left off decades before. During that call we talked about auditions we’d done. He remembered the names of the musicians, the titles of songs we recorded and what instruments were used. I confess I didn’t remember a lot of it until he reminded me.

Friend number two…Around the same time as my phone call another friend touched bases with me. He was also a part of that old recording scene and a few years younger than me. Unlike friend number one he lived the complete lifestyle back then and, as of our reunion, still did. We got together for a drink and I spent what I still consider to be the longest hour of my life listening to the paranoid ramblings of someone I used to know.  It was an uncomfortable barrage of disjointed conversation that culminated in an offer to “do a joint” in the parking lot. I refused…then came the real reason for the reunion. He wanted to borrow some money to get bus fare to Vancouver where he was going to crash for a few weeks with some friends.

Friend number one spent all those years honing and working his craft, retired to Hawaii with a huge bank account and remembers all the good times we had. He is also one of the driving forces behind the Evan Morris and Danny Mann characters in White Wolf Moon.

Friend number two spent all those years doing the same-old same-old. He was one of the peripheral characters in the book and, like Carl Perry, was written out of the story-line far too early.

Yes these are two extreme examples, or at least I’d like to think they are extreme, but I’ve seen this scenario play out so many times over my years that my attitude is much like Evan’s. It’s your life and you can do what you want…just don’t involve me in it.

Hat

 

IT WAS FIFTY-YEARS AGO TODAY….

It was a time of uncertainty. The Cold War lurked in the shadows and visions of ICBMs criss-crossing the globe were burned into our young minds. JFK was still more than fresh in our memory and in general the world around us seemed dark, cold, and bleak. Then came that Ed Sullivan show.

As White Wolf Moon is less about wolves and more about 60s music/culture and this is the 50th Anniversary of that Beatles appearance I thought I’d share a small bit of my Beatles collection. Working at CJCA radio in Edmonton, Alberta back in those days I was fortunate to get some of these 45s after they’d been replaced with new copies so they aren’t in great condition but it’s still cool to have them. By the way Del Shannon’s “From Me To You” is included as it was the first Lennon & McCartney (credited McCartney – Lennon) song played on North American radio, before the Beatles’ version.

45

I remember that night so vividly. I even wired my reel-to-reel tape machine to the speaker on our television so I could record the audio and listen to it over and over…which I did.

I remember going to school the next day and everyone was singing Beatles songs and although I didn’t realize it at the time I know now that I was there for the ‘change’. The kids seemed happier and there was more activity in the halls. Scuffles broke out between the Beatles fans and those that pretended they weren’t Beatles fans just so they could scuffle in the halls. There was a different ‘feel’ that day…the day it all changed.

The Beatles changed me and the rest of the world. They inspired me to try to learn how to play guitar and, after 50 years, I’m still trying. John Lennon inspired me to write and to look at the world through different eyes although my visions were not necessarily welcomed by English teachers.

I also realize how fortunate I was to be around in those days although these damn birthdays that keep creeping up on me are a bit of a pain. I was there and part of the ‘mania’ and it’s something I won’t ever forget. I don’t think there’s been anything since then (except for perhaps Michael Jackson) that has impacted the music scene that much (oh puhleease don’t infer that Beiber is any more than a dust speck on my “White Album”).

I have every Beatles lp (12” round vinyl thingies in cardboard covers), their eps, (7” round vinyl thingies in picture covers), and most of the singles (7” round vinyl thingies in various covers). I have two and three copies of some of their albums but these duplicates are mostly European releases which were hard to get in those days. I didn’t get as much into the merchandising as to me it always will be about the music and the atmosphere of the times…something you can’t put into a book or a cd collection. Yes I have the anthologies and the re-mastered cds but honestly I listened to each of them once. You can take all your current audio technology and put it back on the shelf. I’ll drop “Meet The Beatles” or “Sergeant Pepper’s” on the turntable and crank it up and remember how I felt when I first heard both of these milestone albums.

Tonight I will watch the special. Tonight I’ll shed about fifty years and just let everything else go.

Tonight is for yesterday.

THINK BEFORE YOU YAP….

About a year ago I posted a quote from the introduction of a study written by Berton Hernie (a renowned British animal biologist) to one of those ‘intellectual’ anti-wolf pages. I received quite a few responses but surprisingly only one that asked for a link to this study…only one. I suffered a lot of sandbox-caliber names and was criticized for using quotes from someone who doesn’t live in North America (which is a fair comment). “It doesn’t apply…what would a British *** know about the wolves of the west”…you know, the usual rants from the usual list of suspects. One poster informed me that she had read the study and accused me of “cherry-picking” the “pretty line” that suited my argument (again, fair enough). I had a comment from the moderator of another anti-wolf page suggesting that Mr. Hernie’s research applied only to the wolves of Europe and if I’d read the full study I would have known that. In fact I ended up with seventeen comments in the hour before my post mysteriously vanished. Seems someone finally realized that there is no such person as Berton Hernie and if you say his name over and over you’ll realize to whom I was referring.

All I was trying to do was make the point that some folks are more eager to argue about something they know nothing about than to think. I honestly didn’t believe anybody would fall for it but I was wrong. I didn’t do it to embarrass anyone although I’m not about to apologize to any of those people that took the bait (especially the two that actually “read” the study).

By the way here’s the quote I used (taken from the ‘introduction’ of Mr. Hernie’s ‘paper’): “To fully appreciate its value one must only venture into the backyard of the wolf. There you’ll find a garden of beauty, harmony, and balance. Scientific terms fail to describe the splendor of nature untarnished. That task might best be left in the hands of the poet unfettered by prejudice and with open eyes, heart, and mind.”

This goes back to my previous post about research. I stated that without doing my research for a scene set in Edmonton, Alberta, anyone residing there could have taken me to task for my lack of knowledge of the city even though I’d lived there most of my life. My “Hernie” comment prompted only one person out of seventeen to research what I had quoted but sure as shooting she would have been the one to pick up my book.

As writers of fiction we actually need people that will pull apart what we’ve written. They keep us honest and on our toes. Another quote from Berton Hernie: “It isn’t what the writer puts into the words; it’s what the reader takes out of them.”

Playback

RESEARCH? Why bother?

The current way of thinking pertaining to the Canadian Grey Wolf on certain anti-wolf pages is that the Canadian Government decided (wolf) generations ago that it was going to design and breed a super wolf…a hybrid killing machine that would eliminate the ungulate population in the U.S. so that a) hunters would have to come to Canada to hunt and spend their money and b) the American government would cite that “without any hunting there would be no need for guns” and therefore would implement gun control measures.

I love America and the times I’ve visited I’ve found the general population to be genuinely friendly and real folk but this is just one of those absurd issues that make me wonder what the hell is going on not only there but here…and everywhere.

I have to keep reminding myself that this type of thinking is spouted by a minority with a collective big mouth but I also look at the number of people buying into these fairy tales. I’ve come to the conclusion that a certain segment of the world’s population needs bad stuff to make them feel good. I’ve grown weary of all the conspiracy theories surrounding JFK and 911 but now Sandy Hook was all a conspiracy? The Boston Marathon bombing was a conspiracy? I suppose if you buy into these then Canadian scientists developing DNA for a super-wolf pack back in the late forties makes a lot of sense. I can picture these three or four science guys sitting around plotting how they can destroy game herds in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho in 2014. And they acquired the technology needed to carry out their nefarious scheme from a flying saucer that crashed through the roof of Maple Leaf Gardens during a Stanley Cup final game. It killed about 3,000 people but of course we had to cover it up. Okay I made up that last part but I’m sure someone will believe it.

Since this non-native super wolf story unfolded there have been countless reports of these 250 pound killers (no actual proof though) showing up on people’s back porches and chasing elderly women from bus stops. Stories about a fully-grown wolf “trying” to get through a patio screen or, my particular favorite, a hunter and his son breaking through heavy underbrush only to “surprise” seven wolves lined up in a clearing ten feet in front of them. My God…paranoia fodder or what? These fables have become common and are accepted as Gospel by the disciples who worship these pages.

ginn2

I write fiction but even fiction needs a firm grasp in reality if it is to be believed. My son has a Pit-cross that is probably half the size of that wolf “trying” to get through the patio screen but his dog went through our screen like it wasn’t there. And before you make up a story about “surprising” a wolf pack you might want to research the wolf’s hearing and sense of smell then tell me you could get within ten feet of them without them knowing you were there. I won’t even get into the configuration of a wolf pack at rest. Suffice to say they wouldn’t be “lined up”.

Research is all important if you’re writing anything. I daresay the fiction writer does nearly as much research as someone writing a fact-based book. In the book I’m currently finishing I refer to Edmonton, Alberta for one chapter. I lived there most of my life until I moved in 1994. Even though the area was clear in my mind after I’d completed the chapter I googled all the landmarks I’d referenced…then had some re-writing to do. Most of them were gone and the street I referred to is now one-way and an action I had presented would not be possible. Studying the google earth photos gave me a clearer reference and helped me add the touch of realism I wanted.

Is this important? Yes. Without me checking up on myself someone from Edmonton could pick up my book and see right through me but as it is they can now follow the story-line in a setting that they’re familiar with.

It’s all in the details.

PREQUEL or SEQUEL?

blogsignI have been rather lax in keeping on top this blog due to foreseen circumstances. I started out writing the sequel to White Wolf Moon but I decided to do a “real time” chapter that takes the reader back to the music scene in Edmonton, Alberta, in the mid-sixties. This introduces the characters as they were and lays out the events that created their current day situations. From the beginning I wasn’t sure how I could work this chapter into the sequel but it was so easy to write that it came together quickly and now I’m kicking around a few more chapter ideas. It was also fun to reminisce. I was involved in that business back then. I worked in radio and I’d also recorded my fair share of music demo tapes and a couple of records so I know the people, places, and how things were. This would obviously be considered the prequel.

The sequel is moving along just as easily. I feel good about what I’ve done with it so far.  It responds to comments and questions that I have received from readers of White Wolf Moon. They want to know more about certain characters and events. I have addressed all of their questions and expanded on the relationships and situations they have asked about.

Here’s my dilemma. The prequel explains a lot about the central characters that, unless you have read White Wolf Moon, you might not pick up in a sequel. The sequel also rounds out the modern day story in regards to characters that aren’t in the prequel (two of which are the most commented on). This has me considering combining the two in one book as two different yet related stories…both prequel and sequel in one binding.

I’ve never heard of anyone doing this, which, of course, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

I’ve also considered doing the prequel as short stories, each one concentrating on just the background pertinent to events in the new storyline but I feel this might be a bit confusing and probably not as easy a read.

So this is my explanation for not being on the blogs lately. At this point I’m treating both storylines as two separate novels which they easily could be, except I have no intention of doing a trilogy.

But then who knows where this will lead?

CELEBRITY NAMES IN FICTION?

OldguitarI’ve just spent an hour or so researching the legality of using celebrity or famous names in a fiction novel and there seems to be many schools of thought on the subject. In “White Wolf Moon” I referred to many famous people but only as references to a specific conversation, much the same as if I mentioned to a friend that I’d just heard the new Maroon Five song on the radio. According to one article this is okay as it would come up naturally in a real-life conversation. Could these famous people object? Of course they could but unless you slander or tarnish their image, why would they? I can’t see Yoko coming after me because of my comments about John Lennon in WWM:

“So Lennon and Dylan influenced you?”

“They influenced everybody, more so John Lennon with me. He was the word-meister. He could play with the English language in a way that I’m not sure anyone else could in both his books and music.”

I have shown Lennon in a good, if not admiring light, so there could be no reason for her to object. Plus I imagine John is mentioned in countless writings every year so she probably wouldn’t have the time to pursue each one.

This subject came up because of my sequel. Part of it is more of a prequel as I refer back to Edmonton based rock groups, artists, and clubs of the Sixties:

Evan snapped the clips of the beaten case and arched his back. “Either of you heard the new Lords single?”

Danny nodded. “Yeah, “Blue”. Pretty cool track…sounds a little old though, not 1967.”

“That’s not the point…it’s on the radio…they’re on the radio and we’re on our asses waiting for those other two idiots to get here. The Nomads just put out a “Hits” album, Barry Allen’s on every bloody radio station, Willie and the Walkers just got signed to Capitol…and we’re on our asses waiting.”

Jack tapped the high-hat. “I think it sounds pretty new…almost has British feel to it. It’s nice to see local guys making it, y’know?”

Again I see no reason for objection. Everything I mention is real, musical history in fact, documented all over the web, and could reasonably be part of a real conversation.

If I say “Joe Celebrity was hooked with a DUI as he left a house of ill-repute” then sure, sue me…especially if it’s an unfounded statement. It’s slander, plain and simple, and everybody has the right to fight that one. But if I casually drop in the fact that “Joe Celebrity donated half his concert earnings to local charities” why would Joe object?

Celebrities are more of a “brand” now and perhaps this muddies the water because most “brands” generally don’t want you using their name without compensation. “Cola” is fine…“Coca-Cola” could get you in trouble (if they chose to pursue it).

The few court cases I’ve found lean toward the author citing that the celebrity is, by the nature of his/her career, a public figure and in fact seeks publicity. (These cases were regarding books, not checkout mags.)

I guess it really comes down to how would I feel if I opened a book and discovered I was referenced as part of the story. I don’t know. Depending on how I’m depicted I would have different reactions I suppose but honestly…I’d probably be flattered.

But then I’m not Joe Celebrity.

THE LOVE OF THE GAME

So…the NHL lockout is over. Hundreds of high-priced players are heading back to the rinks. I for one haven’t missed them and while countless fans that have been interviewed over the past week say they’re upset and won’t support the national game, they will. Arenas will soon be filled again and all will be forgotten and forgiven. That bodes well for the game…not necessarily the participants.

I used to be a big hockey fan. Twenty years ago it didn’t matter who played on what channel, I watched. I knew the names and the stats. Today…I don’t really care. Yes I’ll still watch the Edmonton Oilers. I lived in Edmonton during the rise of the franchise and met most of the players from back then. They were THE team and I’m not sure you could live in that city in those days and not be a fan. We haven’t had too much to cheer about the last decade or so but I’m still hanging in there with them. There’s a good basis for a great team right now, if management can keep them together. But I digress….

I played a little hockey when I was a kid. I played goal because I couldn’t skate all that well and I fell down a lot. It was handy, this falling down thing. In those days at our level you weren’t allowed to raise the puck so as a goaltender that spent most of his time stretched out on the ice between the goal posts I made it pretty tough for opposing players to score. My only reward for a good outing was hot chocolate but I loved the game. Today’s NHL players, those that have been sitting around for half a season trying to get a few more million in the old bank account, love the game too…or so they say. I think back over the years and a few interesting things stand out.

One…an interview with the coach of a team that had just won a berth in the Stanley Cup Final. His comment was that his job now would be keeping the “boys” motivated.

Excuse me?

Isn’t this what we all wished for back then…on our outdoor rinks with our toes frozen? Didn’t we dream of playing in Maple Leaf Gardens and skating that cup around in front of twenty-thousand fans? Okay, I would have still been falling down but I could have walked it around. I think it’s pretty sad when you have to motivate “boys” who “love the game” at any time, let alone the finals.

Another thing I enjoyed hearing was that hockey players have a short career, relatively speaking, so they have to make their millions ASAP. So you’re earning, say three million a year (low by some standards) and you play for ten years. Thirty million dollars in a decade and still it’s not enough? Guys…none of the people that pay to sit in those seats make thirty million in a lifetime, let alone a decade. They manage to survive quite nicely and still have the money to spend on those exorbitantly priced tickets. There was talk about the NHL hiring consultants to teach players how to manage their money. Give me five million and I’ll show you how to make it last for free. On the other hand I’m 65 years old…just give me a million…I’ll make it work.

Owners and management are probably equally at fault when it comes to lining the pockets but we never seem to hear too much about that. I know that when I went to watch the Oilers in the old days I could sit back and enjoy Gretzky, Currie, Messier…the top names, many times over a season. Now I might be able to take in one game for about the same amount of money but I’d better smuggle in my own drinks and snacks.

Playing in half-filled arenas for the next little while would deliver a wake-up call but other than perhaps a few smaller markets in the southern U.S. where hockey doesn’t have quite the draw, I don’t think this will happen.

I don’t know the terms of the proposed agreement and really I don’t care. I do know that in some way whatever this deal contains will filter down to the fan through increased ticket prices, parking fees, or concession costs. Somehow all the grandstanding by player and management reps…all the apologies and appreciation for “your understanding” will result in more money coming out of the little guy’s wallet.

Yeah, the little guy will be there. Maybe not this month or next but one day those seats will be filled…by annoyingly forgiving fans who love the game.

READ SOMETHING BAD TODAY….

I recently commented on a post at http://bottledworder.wordpress.com/ titled “How to Fail at Better Writing” and decided to expand on my response here.

The above photo was taken back in the Sixties. I worked for a radio station (CJCA) in Edmonton, Alberta, at the time. I produced commercials during the day but my evenings were sometimes spent with local musicians who needed demo tapes for a record company or promotional materials for local clubs. Some of what I was involved with actually made it to vinyl.

One night a musician friend of mine walked in on me listening to one of the most badly produced records I’d ever heard. He was accustomed to seeing me trying to tear down “Sgt. Peppers” to figure out how the Beatles did what they did but he couldn’t understand why I was listening to “that trash”. I feel it’s just as important to understand what makes something bad (in my opinion) as it is to figure out what makes something else good. I had an ego that demanded that I make what I produced in my antiquated studio/control room better than anything put out by those with more modern set-ups and most of the time it worked.

I appreciate that in this case “wrong” or “right” is subjective but it’s sometimes fun to learn from what you consider to be the mistakes of others. Sometimes you can learn far more by figuring out how something was done wrong than studying near perfection. This applies to art, photography, writing, music, television (see bottledworder’s blog post), and writing.

I have a book by another self-published local author sitting on the desk beside me. The first page is made up of three sentences with the occasional comma and a few ellipses. The whole thing is nicely packaged in two paragraphs. Reading it is like trying to find my way out of a corn-maze. To me it’s an exercise in what not to do and although I can’t find the inspiration to finish the book I have managed to struggle through the first eighty pages. The unfortunate part is that the story-line isn’t bad, it’s just badly presented.

I’m not an expert writer and White Wolf Moon is certainly not perfect. I’ve read it through with as much critical distance as I could muster and have found areas that need to be improved the next time around. Reading a book as I described above makes me feel pretty good about what I’ve done and about how far I’ve come but now I’ll settle in on the couch with some T.C. Boyle and realize how far I have to go.

SUPER STORM SANDY

October, 1987…Black Friday in Edmonton, Alberta…I was there. While I wasn’t in the direct path of the tornado our house suffered hail damage and a flooded basement. I only had to drive about twenty blocks to realize I was lucky. Massive oil tanks were flipped; houses completely destroyed…devastation like I have never personally witnessed, before or since. All I had to do was pump out a basement and get a new roof…a lot of people had to start from scratch.

My thoughts are with all those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. While I can’t 100% know how you’re feeling, I have a pretty good idea.