Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Heights is in Stores Today

My new book The Heights came out today and since I was in the area, I stopped by the nearest Barnes & Nobel to make sure they had it.

At first I didn't find it and was ready to walk out grumbling to myself. I was on my way out and thought "This is crazy, how could they not have it." 

So I checked again, sure enough it was there on the New Release shelf, but on the bottom shelf in the corner where it could easily be missed. I put Operation Stealth into effect, switching my book with some useless looking fantasy title. 

Ahhhhh...front and center. Nice. 

Lest you think I'm narcisistic, let me assure that I'm a habitual shifter of displays for any product I like. I'm the king of that in record stores and book stores. A little gonzo marketing on my part.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup

I've returned from two days in the city, which were great by the way. It was great timing. Summer hit the streets in a rush this weekend. I love being on the streets of NYC when the winter breaks and people coming filing out into the streets like so many rats and roaches to soak up the sunshine. I had the headphones on, Oasis in the eardrums, sunshine on the brain, and I went to the record store. So next week promises a lot of listening to do. 

Here's what went down in the fuzzy warbles last week.

A Mountain of One - Institute of Joy: This is a great new album that really nails that sludgy psychedelic sound that I love so much (ala Blackmountian). Very good.

Wolf & Cub - Science and Sorcery: A sort of heavy sound created with electro-rock beats. I liked the combination. A nice up tempo addition to the lo-fi catalog that's been dominating my airwaves recently.

Pterodactyl - Worldwild: This is one of those sort of mash-up albums (see Animal Collective) that borderlines on psychedelic indie weirdness. I truly wanted to love it, I mean that cover is perfect. But all in all, I found a little flat. But I'm admittedly not a big fan of that niche genre, which is why put here. For those who are, it's probably worth a listen. 

MewithoutYou - It's All Crazy!.... : I really enjoy this album. It's very much in the strain of current indie rock, but a very good example. A swirling rich sound to each song, very much creating it's own world as you listen to it. (sort of reminds me of mellower Yeasayer or Menemona)

Cotton Jones - Paranoid Cocoon: A little bit of a cheat here, because I'm listening to it no (last song on in the background). First listen from the city pick-ups and WOW! I love this album. Very sunshine dream folk sounding (ala Skygreen Leopards, or the Earlies,) This is going to get a lot of listens.

Cato Salsa Experience - A Good Tip for a Good Time: This came out in 2000, and I have had it since about that time. But in the reorganzing of the collection last weekend, I realized I didn't quite know this album as intimately as I'd like. So I listened to this week and really enjoyed it. It's straight up part of the garage rock revival of the early 00's, but a good example. 

West Virginia Slim Electric Blues Band: This self-titled release from 1970 was the band's only release, but it's all that is needed. Very much in the style of John Mayall or the Groundhogs. In that area there was this movement of redoing the blues with electric sound. I've always loved it. This is good obscure example.

Shallow - High Flying Kid Stuff: When the wife and first cohabitated ten years ago, there was the inevitable blending of CD libraries. There were some of hers that I just never got around to exploring simply because I'm constant junky for getting new things. Well, thanks to aforementioned reorganization process, I uncovered a lot of them (the next two are also from the same mold). Shallow is a band from mid-90's Kansas City. I listened to all three of the their albums this week and liked them all. They are American shoegazer sound (like Drop Nineteens). The singer sounds like a child, but in a good way, and it's great dreampop. Any fans of Slowdive's Slouvaki should enjoy this.

Moloko - I Am Not a Doctor: This 1998 album is definitely part of the so-called, oft-hyped, but never-happened Trip Hop revolution. Back then, I was definitely onboard with the revolution (Tricky, Portishead, Massive Attack, Mo Wax records, DJ Krush, etc, etc). This album fits in that genre. Where Moloko's first album is very Massive Attack sounding, this one moves away a little bit. The vocals become much more soul sounding, with better, darker beats. A must for a fan of that period.

 Marion - This World and Body: This 1996 album is understandably put into the Britpop realm, though it's a little darker than most Britpop. But like most Britpop, amazing vocals stand out on the album. Reminded me of the first two Placebo albums. Highly recommend it to any Britpop fans to see the seedier side of the era. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Well, I did it. 

I'm done the first draft of the story I've been working on. It clocks in at nearly 270 pages.

Now, I'm off to NYC to meet with my editor regarding a different project involving fairies and then cold lampin' with some good friends for the evening. 

I'll be back in time for the Weekend Music Roundup.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Beginning of the Ending

I've been working feverishly on my new book. I'm making a short trip to the city on Friday for a little bit of business and a little bit of fun and I really want to have the first draft of my current manuscript done by Thursday night. So I put together a mental schedule of scenes to get through this week. It's sort of like a director with a shot list.

So far so good. Everything's been coming together. Tomorrow I'm going to tackle the big climatic scene. The premise for this scene was something that I took from a dream I had several years ago. Here's hoping that I dream of it again tonight.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup

This past week produced a good crop of new and old albums that I imagine will get some frequent spin time in the old fuzzy warbles player. In other music related news, I took the plunge and decided to reorganize my 2500 cds. For the past five years, I've had them alphabetical and I've always hated it. Though practical, I find the ABCs to be drab and often tend to skip entire letters due to unfound prejudice. I'm attempting to arrange them by "sound" which is a modification of my previous structure of "mood" that they were organized by before the dreaded alpha. It's been a daunting task, especially when I'm staring at something for a few minutes before I realize, "I have no idea what this sounds like."

Graham Coxon - The Spinning Top: This is Graham's (formally and furturly of Blur) seventh solo album and the first that I've really loved since the first (The Sky is Too High). It recaptures the Syd Barrett feeling of that first album, which has been missing in the 5 in between. Those leaned toward a lo-fi punk sound. That's okay, but sort of boring. This album is once again dynamic, lyrical, and beautifully odd. 

A Hawk and a Hacksaw - Deliverance:  The newest release the from Budapest folk band is a strong effort in my opinion. I'm familiar with them from other releases and from their connection to Neutral Milk Hotel. They play a variation of traditional instrumental Balkan folk which I find very great play when I'm working. 

Stinking Lizaveta - Sacrifice and Bliss: This didn't blow me away. It's standard stoner drone ala Kyuss (though without singing). I gave it a shot because they're from hometown Philly. I only list it here because I think I'd have enjoyed it a ton more if it wasn't something I felt like I'd already heard a million times. But if you're not proficient in stoner rock, check it out and you might really like it. 

Joker's Daughter - The Last Laugh: I really liked this one. It starts off pretty tame, female singer/songwriter with a eerie pop/folk but the album builds into something great. It reminds me a little of Sunfighter (the Grace Slick/ Paul Kantner album) but more melodic in a 2009 sort of way. 

Low - I Could Live in Hope: I've been a fan of Low's slowcore sound for years, but never got my hands on this one, their first album. It's not as if they've ever departed very far from the sound created here, but there's definitely something special going on in this record. Just beautiful, sound, expansive music created in the most minimal of ways. 

Au Pairs - Playing With a Different Sex: I've had this album from 1981 sitting around in my stack since the Fall and somehow never played it. I realized this when I put it on this week. From the first song, I knew I hadn't listened to it before...I knew because it was really damned good. Female lead post-punk outfit that gets it right. Similar to Gang of Four and other contemporaries. Smart lyrics, great sound.

Bonnie Prince Billy - Beware: Bonnie (aka Will Oldman) has been a legend in my mind since 1997 when I first heard a Palace Brothers release (his former incarnation). His voice is like something out of time and suits his brand of alt. country/folk to perfection. Though since his 1999 release of I See A Darkness, (one my 20 favorite albums of all time), there's been some hits and misses. Well, none have really been misses, but just less impressive outings. I'm glad to report this one feels like one of the top tier Bonnie releases.  

Songs: Ohia - Axxess & Ace / Songs Ohia: Didn't It Rain: Got my hands on two releases from one of my favorite bands over the last 5 years. I have around 20 releases of Jason Molina's work (Songs:Ohia changed names to Magnolia Electric Co. a few years back) and every release never fails to blow me away. A sort Neil Young inspired slowcore that always gives me the feeling of a dark star-filled night in some Kansas of the mind. 

Tiny Masters of Today - Skeletons: The second album from brother & sister Kidcore garage outfit in Brooklyn keeps the same sort of vibe as their previous release from two years back. But as the siblings move from being preteens into teenagers, their playing has gotten more dynamic and they've moved beyond the 3 chord garage rock to create a more complex sound. I liked it...long live Kidcore!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Heights: First Review

So the first review came in yesterday and overall, I think it's quite positive. Of course, I don't much care for the "melodramatic cliches" quip. For the record, I did a google search for the phrase they referenced, exactly 1 hit showed up, so how cliche can it really be? 

I think the reviewer really understood what I was trying to do with the book. I found the observation about Hindley's character to be interesting. I would say the reviewer's impression has more to do with the fact the book is told in observation from two other characters' points of view. His character is one dimensional per each's perception because that's how they see him. Though, when considered from the two different points of view, I think he does have more depth. 

All in all...a good start :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

I Love When It All Comes Together

As I've mentioned before, I've been working on a middle grade novel for the last several weeks and have recently passed the 200 page mark in the manuscript. The basics of the story were mapped out last Fall and as is my usual process, I've been working with an revisable outline as I've been writing. 

I'm entering the final stretch of the story and things are seemingly clicking effortlessly. There's times when a story takes on a life of its own as it unfolds. Certain aspects only become illuminated as you play out the story on paper. These are things that you might never have thought of in the outline stage. But then when they pop into you're mind, it's this incredible feeling of fate and you wonder how you envisioned it any other way. 

This is the way I usually tackle the final pull of a novel. I never like to settle it beforehand, because I trust the story to take me where it needs to go. It always does....but that doesn't lessen the excitement each time it happens. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Weekend Music Roundup

I neglected the Roundup last week, mostly because I didn't have much new music to report on. I was still heavily into the Natural Snow Buildings epics and also listening to a bunch of older stuff since I've been trying to clear out some CD space in my office. I was busy giving albums that had been in here since last summer their "one last spin" before they get filed into the library. You see, I always feel a little guilty filing an album away because I know it might not resurface for some time. But thems the breaks...gotta keep on keeping on.

So, here's what I've been up to this week:

Peaking Lights - Imaginary Falcons: More drone folk ala NSB, but this is a standard length release. It's a good listen, but lacks the full-on transportive powers of the Snow Buildings.

The Felice Brothers - Yonder is the Clock: A folk band from around my parts of the Catskills. This area of the country has a very unique feeling to it and I love hearing how it's interpreted in music. This album was good...but I already own 20 Bob Dylan albums, so not really necessary. Though worthwhile if your into that sound.

Zola Jesus - New Amsterdam: Lo-fi singer/songwriter from Madison, WI that I really enjoyed. It's an unusual album, kind of eerie. I has an early '80s gothic feel, but done in a folkish way. I've been digging it. (Warning: my cat Doggie HATED it.)

Alasdair Roberts - Spoils: Hailing from Scotland, Alasdair Roberts is a singer/songwriter specializing in a very mellow songs. I've been following his career since my college days when his previous band, Appendix Out, released their first album (The Rye Bears a Poison) which is still among my 100 favorites of all time. I have 2 of he previous 4 solo albums and found both to be lackluster, so I wasn't expecting much of this...boy was I surprised. This was a great album. It recaptures some of that children's storybook aesthetic that I loved from Appendix Out's work. 

Mumford & Sons - self-titled EP & Love Your Ground EP: This is a London band with a fun bluegrass sound to their music. 

Bang Gang - Ghost From the Past: On my wishlist for awhile, I finally got this third album from the Icelandic bang (they sing in English). This is sort of shoegaze-pop that I really like. It has also has the darker shadow hanging over it as does much of the music from Iceland. I do love me some shadows hanging over my tunes.

Langhorne Slim - s/t: I've been digging on Langhorne's Daytrotter Sessions (daytrotter.com) for a few months and finally went for the whole album. There's a decidedly Cat Stevens influence on his style, but in a good way. Very sing-a-long-able. 

The Dolly Rocker Movement - A Purple Journey Into the Mod Machine: My favorite neo-pyshce band from Austrailia's first release. I've been loving their second for about a year and finally found this one (not easy stateside). My obvious attraction to the band was initially their name (taken from a Syd Barrett song for those who might not know), but the music had staying power. The first listen of their other album was one of those "I've been searching for this album for years" feelings. This album wasn't quite that, but perhaps it might have been had I not already been familiar with their sound. Highly recommended to any fan of retro 60's pysch.

Manic Street Preachers - Turning Rebellion Into Money: Bootleg of early Manics demos that I searched out because I'm having trouble containing my excitement for their new album to be released next month. Granted, the Manics hadn't hit their stride yet in these early tunes, but there's still some great gems on here. Both versions of Suicide Alley are great. Bored Out Of My Mind, Behave Yourself Baby, Razorblade Beat, Under My Wheels, and a brilliant acoustic version of Little Baby Nothing. Admittedly for Manics fans only, but if you are one of them, this is worth checking out. 

Super Numeri - Great Aviaries: This is project put together by Pop Levi that I'd been meaning to check out for quite some time. I knew little about it, but judging from the cover and Pop, I thought it would be a little out there. SURPRISE...it wasn't. It's actually quite a melodic instrumental piece. Decent enough soundscape to warrant a listen. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Updating a Classic (2)

-Everyone always says San Francisco is so romantic . . the Paris of America . . they only say that because they don't hear the song this city really sings. It's the sound of something beautiful dying . . the last breath of an angel before the ocean swallows her . . before an earthquake breaks it off from the rest of the world and drowns it. Really it's the romance of saying good-bye forever- page 197-98 The Heights

The setting of a novel often acts like another character. It influences the action in subtle ways, helping to guide and shape the story. I've written before about how the main character is always the first thing I think about as I start gathering ideas for a book. There's a voice that I want to explore. Well, setting works in a similar way for me. There's places that I've been that I want to incorporate into a story. Choosing which depends on what the setting needs to be, but in the end, my books are usually just as much about the place as the characters.

Pure Sunshine is about Philadelphia. 
Tomorrow, Maybe and Thief are about New York.
Perfect World is about the town I grew up in.
Zombie Blondes is about the kind of small New England town in which I now live.

For The Heights, the setting is San Francisco. It really needed to be. Fog and mist play such an important role in the original, which was set in the lakes region of England. I visited that area the month before writing The Heights. It's the place where Wordsworth wandered on his long walks and became the father of Romanticism movement in British poetry (my favorite period). There was a mysterious charm to the area that made it feel like you weren't there even when you were. San Francisco had a similar feeling for me.

I spent a long weekend in San Francisco in 2001. I was living in NYC at the time, and it was one month after September 11th. The plan out there left from Newark and was the same flight as one of the hijacked ones. There were four people on the plane, so already it was a strange trip. I was visiting a good friend out there. I arrived on a Thursday night and he had to work on Friday. So Friday, I woke up, got stoned, and wandered the city for the whole day. 

I got on a bus and got off a mile or so from the Golden Gate Bridge. I spent most of my time walking that area. There was a strange feeling about the place. It felt almost like part of me was becoming a ghost. I didn't know it at the time, but six years later, that day would serves as the basis for The Heights.  San Francisco captures that tragically romantic feel for me that story needs. 

Sunday, April 5, 2009


The last week or so, I've been challenged with coming up with an idea for my next novel. My editor and I have been discussing the project for some time and decided on doing something unconventional and eerie. 

I'm attracted the concept, having written 6 novels that are heavily based in realism. This new book will be more in the realm of Zombie Blondes. I'm eager to tackle the genre again, having learned lessons from my first attempt. 

I've been making a list of vague aspects and thoughts that have always intrigued me. Then last night, while reading, I had a sudden breakthrough. 

The new novel genre from France in the '50's and '60's has produced many of my favorite books, especially the works of Robbe-Grillet. One of the things he does so well is this idea of repetition, where scenes are repeated with slight differences. Though he does it for a different intent, I realized that with a lot variation, this technique could be used effectively in a supernatural way. A horror can easily be found in the loop of repetition. 
I'm happy to report that a story is beginning to unfold. I truly love these first moments of creation.