Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Cool Send Off to a Long Month



It’s 58 degrees Fahrenheit at 1:36 p.m. The cycle of drizzle/rain has started again. My throat is sore from post-nasal drip. Some hot decaf chai tea and a nap would be perfect right now. But first....

Is it hot where you are? Call the Ice Witch!
She'll cool your jets.
What a month. Seems like a year ago already since I did that last temp gig hustling fuel additives at King Sooper’s gas stations from South Academy Boulevard to the corner of North Union and Briargate Parkway. The Fourth was a curiously subdued affair, but I enjoyed having my grown daughter over to visit. 

I finally shouldered off the rewrite of Grace Among the Dead to Severed Press on the 7th, wrote the jacket copy on the 13th, and anticipated one more read-through. No, the publisher was done waiting on my slow ass (and who could blame them?) and my second novel hit Kindle on the 17th, with the paperback available on the 28th.

The first chapter to Book 3, The Wrong Kind of Dead, went into production on the 23rd. I’ve got so much bad craziness going on those eight pages I’ve had to take a break before moving on. That, and I landed another temp gig. I’m not yet in a position to turn these things down. At least I’m indoors this time.

Sometime around the 26th I got an email from the proprietor of Luzifer Verlag. The German translation of Bleeding Kansas is done, and the book is set to drop in the ancestral homeland on 23 October. It already has its own page at the (German) Amazon.de site.

I write all this, not to boast, but to remind myself the month wasn’t a total wash. It feels that way, especially when the weather is unnatural, you’re feeling a little sick, you’re tired, and that third book still isn’t writing itself. 

Mission accomplished. Now to find a photo of an attractive humanoid female and wind this up. Happy August Eve, everyone. The pagan first harvest festival of Lammas falls on Saturday this year. I hear dead Uncle Jim singing from beyond the grave.



Time for that nap.

###

“A Tale of Love and Redemption, the Living Dead and a Monster Truck”

I couldn’t let the night go without a peek at the back cover of my paperback. I’m damned proud of the copy. There were two more paragraphs that got cropped, but this works out better. There’s a lot going on with Grace Among the Dead, but why give it away for free when I can sell it?

A monster truck does get involved at some time during the conflict. A monster truck and the kind of accessory monster trucks are known for. I can say no more. Except that you really need to buy this. In Kindle or paperback, this is the legit shit for that zombie jones you just can’t quit:
Now with two exploding heads on the cover. Bleeding Kansas has one because it’s the first in the series, get it?


















###

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Weird, Wet Summer Winds Down

It’s safe to say we’ve endured the last of our 90-degree Fahrenheit days. I can also say I’ve seen the eeriest weather ever today: all-day rain in Colorado Springs. When I drove to Marietta, South Carolina, last year, my host apologized for all the rain we had during my short visit. Hell, I’d missed those peaceful, quiet days where the rain falls softly, but steadily all day and into the night.

Now it’s here in Colorado, and I have to say, this feels pretty damned unnatural. On the other hand, any year in which we’re not exploding into flames is a good one here in the land of 300 Days of Sunshine. I’ll take it.

The view northeast from my driveway 13 months ago as the Black Forest Fire set about destroying some 500 homes. The year before, the Waldo Canyon Fire laid its stench across us on the hot days so that we couldn’t open our windows at night—which is a royal bitch when you don’t have air conditioning.




























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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Second Promotional Image for Zombie Thriller GRACE AMONG THE DEAD

It’s a little better than the last time. I managed to get the Severed Press logo in there., but for reasons known only to the developers of Photoshop, it’s stuck in the lower center of the image. I couldn’t resize it, either. Just another couple of after-action notes I’ll need to follow up on.

On the bright side, I’ve got a mess of these brutal little pull quotes from Grace Among the Dead. This one really paints a picture:

Click here for the Kindle edition, and here for the paperback. Solidly entertaining zombie apocalypse adventure at reasonable prices!

















I wanted to put “from the author of BLEEDING KANSAS” in there but the design seemed busy enough. 

At least it’s better than the one before it. Here’s hoping the next one surpasses this.

###

Banned in the UK!

That’s what it looked like, anyway. Three days straight without a sale. It got better, but damn! I know Grace Among the Dead is set in Colorado, but there’s got to be a way I can appeal to the UK zombies market. U.S.-based novels do sell over there, and I know mine is better written than most.

Normally, when a new book comes out, buyers flock to the new and drop the old. Yet Bleeding Kansas is still selling more-or-less steadily while Grace Among the Dead is having difficulty finding traction.

“Like I’ve got traction on you, my little beefsteak!”



Well, hell, we’re just getting started. Yesterday—two days ago, Severed Press time—Grace Among the Dead came out in paperback. No reviews yet, which is just as well. The haters have been busy with everyone I know. I suspect a lot of these reviews, which read suspiciously similar, are courtesy of lesser authors whose best chance to get their crap looked at is by making sure the superior product gets shoved aside.  I don’t know if this is actually helping their sales, but it is hobbling ours. 

Ah, spite! It’s a word you don’t hear much anymore, but the concept rules much of  human interaction.

I’ve yet to put out a call for good reviews on my Facebook page. I’m stopping short of doing that here. Meanwhile, I’ve taken on another temp assignment. It’s at the same university bookstore where I spent the Christmas holidays. This should carry me through the middle of next month, when regular school starts, and the summer is as good as over.

I don’t know what it is about these gigs, but no matter how short the hours, I come home with no desire to do any real work, whether it’s writing The Wrong Kind of Dead, putting together promotional material, or writing blog posts. If I want to be in a position where I can turn down all but the most lucrative temp assignments, I’ve got to find a way to buck this toxic lethargy.

Challenge accepted. I’m sick of my life shutting down in the face of Stuff Coming Up. Here’s hoping you’re feeling the same.

###

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Notes on a Pleasantly Warm and Quiet Summer's Evening

Apropos of nothing, but I’ve been slowly building Chapter 1 of my third book from outline, and what’s coming off my fingertips still surprises me. It’s true, structure really does unleash the creativity. Man, The Wrong Kind of Dead is going to be layered with all kinds of deep, dark goodness.

The downside of that is I already should be done with Chapter 1. This is taking longer than I’d like. Gotta pick up the pace! Summer’s almost gone.
___________________________________________

A layer of clouds has settled in, trapping the heat. Tonight must be race night on Woodmen Road, because I can hear the engines roar along those wide six lanes between the hospital on the high ridge to the east and the shopping center a couple of terraces down from me. 

It doesn’t bother us when we sleep. I rather like knowing there’s some kind of life going on out there while I quietly drink my beer and contemplate the best way to wrap Chapter 1.
___________________________________________

Crickets now. Back to work. I should be doing something to promote my books, but you know what? Let’s give it a rest. I think I covered it all pretty well in the last post. For the time being. Tonight, I drink beer, and push my way to the end of Chapter 1 of Book 3.

Y’all enjoy your evening. Ah, summertime.




###

Monday, July 21, 2014

“Do I Need to Read Book 1 First?” No!

Frequently Asked Questions About GRACE AMONG THE DEAD
You Frequently Forgot to Remember to Ask


Grace Among the Dead is Book 2 in The Saga of the Dead Silencer, but written in such a way that it can stand on its own. There are references throughout Grace to what happened in Bleeding Kansas, and though it would help to read that book first, it’s not absolutely necessary.

The idea here is if you like Grace Among the Dead, you’ll want to read the book that came before it, because I can tell a tale of the zombie apocalypse like no one’s business, and you like that. Demand, meet Supply. 



I saw one blurb for the book that went,  A TALE OF LOVE AND REDEMPTION, OF THE LIVING DEAD AND A MONSTER TRUCK. There’s another tagline that goes, IN THE HEART OF DARKEST HORROR, YOU’LL FIND GRACE AMONG THE DEAD. Is GATD a comedy? A dramedy? WTF?

Make no mistake, Grace Among the Dead is a dark and violent book, a horror novel that transcends its genre in terms of squirm-inducing scenes. The first act, “Decision Points,” is distilled from the most brutal narrative I’ve ever written, and I worry that I might put a lot of people off with that. Derek Grace has much to redeem himself for. But there is love and redemption to be had, and it won’t give us sugar shock.


Nor is our hero’s redemption of the religious kind, although Derek Grace owes much of his rehabilitation to a friendly pastor. A megachurch settlement is the setting for most of the novel, but, contrary to that old and busted narrative cliché, the church is not evil. A megachurch, good, bad, or indifferent, has the organizational tools (e.g., small groups) to survive the apocalypse. Abundant Life has unwittingly taken in a corrupting influence, and the good people there are counting on Grace to clean up the town. In this respect, Grace Among the Dead is a classic Wild West tale.

But the living dead are very much a presence—an evolving presence, at that—and it doesn’t make the narrative any less serious, either.  As for the monster truck, I’ve said all I dare say for those who haven’t read the book yet. 


Here’s the tl;dr: There are humorous moments, but Grace Among the Dead is not a dramedy. It’s an action-adventure story involving zombies and a moral quest. There’s a good deal of outright horror. But there is heroism, too. And a monster truck.

___________________________________________

You will be hard-pressed to find a more professionally written tale of the zombie apocalypse. This is not Guns and Ammo porn with two-legged targets (although I’d really like that police-issue Remington 700 with the bipod and scope to shoot Mountain Dew cans with). You can read passages aloud from Grace Among the Dead and not feel like you’re making fun of the developmentally disabled. 


I cross the little bridge over the creek and nearly hit three ghouls stumbling over to check out the commotion. One of them used to be a little girl, judging by what’s left of the dress hanging on her scabbed-over bones.
You don’t often see undead children, but when you do, it’s a mess. Not having a lot of mass and meat to begin with, they’re usually thoroughly gnawed over when they’re not (as is most often the case) pulled apart entirely. 
The two used-to-be young men reach out towards my open window high on the truck, moaning through their dried scab-beards in frustration. The little girl-thing, though, she’s all business. She’s zeroed in on the screams and small-arms fire of the feast ahead. 
A mile away at the main road and the gunfire is loud enough to wake the dead. Here they come, one here, three there, pushing through the littered, overgrown fields, limping up the highway, homing in on the sounds of desperate, frightened food.

Grace Among the Dead is a book written by a guy who’s read books, and has a good idea of what they should look like. It’s from Severed Press, a small, indie publisher, but I don’t own the company. Someone else thought they could make money from my story. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

So let’s roll out our Call to Action here, in case you haven’t already been clicking on the links I’ve put in with mentions of the title. This is Grace Among the Dead, Book 2 in The Saga of the Dead Silencer:


Only $4.99 in Kindle! Less than a pint!

And this is Bleeding Kansas, Book 1, which you don’t have to read first to enjoy Grace Among the Dead. It simply would be nice.


Only $2.99 in Kindle!

For those for whom it is never dark nor edgy enough, this is the controversial first edition of Bleeding Kansas, with more snark, more dark, and a questionable death in Chapter 9 that I was asked to remove by the publisher due to reader complaints. It’s only available in paperback, but it’s a neat study in creative editing when read alongside the second edition.


Only $9.49 in paperback, with one available used!
Controversial, yet rated half a star higher than the second edition, and with more reviews!

And last , but not least, my gift to all of you who have scrolled so far, here is a photo of a young and attractive Carrie Fisher rocking serious cleavage in a Princess Leia gown, because my First Friday Blues post still gets mad Internet love, and I need all the help I can get. Please help me pay down my credit card debt, O ample bosom of young Carrie Fisher. You’re my last, best hope, because simply writing a good book isn’t enough.


I forget where I got this. It's not Copyright to me, so let's say I reviewed this photo and found it good.



###


Photos from 2009 Colorado Springs Zombie Crawl, taken and
Copyright © 2009, 2014 by Lawrence Roy Aiken

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Happy 81st Birthday, Cormac McCarthy

I have to remind myself that most of the writers I like were born in 1920 or so, which puts them in their 90s, if not dead already. Cormac McCarthy was born in 1933. I don’t know if this is an in loco parentis thing I have with my favorite writers, but I find it difficult to even think of looking up to writers born long after 1940. I know a lot of it has to do with these writers being soft, smug, gimmicky little snots who never encountered anything I would call adversity in their soft, smug little lives, but that’s a rant for another time.

I should write something what-the-fuck-did-I-just-read ultraviolent in McCarthy’s name today. Better still, I should work harder on getting a handle on what he, Shirley Jackson, and Flannery O’Connor alone among authors understand/understood and were able to convey better than anyone, the sheer, perverse meanness of people. The Sisyphean hopelessness/worthlessness of saving the human race will be a major theme in The Wrong Kind of Dead.

Yeah, check me out, a zombie apocalypse hack writing about the America’s Last Great Literary Lion. I look at it as one sick fuck wishing Many Happen Returns to the Sickest Fuck of Them All (seriously, did you read Blood Meridian?), with all the respect and affection you couldn’t force out of me at gunpoint for these weak, “politically correct” little fussbudgets out there killing the joy of reading for everyone else.

Happy Birthday to Cormac McCarthy, the only writer alive today I feel obliged to read:





###

Hibernating Zombies Awaken Ravenous

Production Begins on The WRONG KIND of DEAD


I will remember this as that time in 2014 when the last of the Ramones turned up dead, and the media was really pushing the Let’s Hate the Russians meme. Humans walked on the moon for the first time 45 years ago; don’t hold your breath for anything like that to happen again. A woman I knew, who was one of only two morbidly obese people I knew in the 1980s when such people were not the norm, would be celebrating her 60th birthday today had complications from said obesity not dropped her four years ago.

Of that latter item, I’m impressed she lived as long as she did. “Healthier” people have died younger. There’s nothing complicated about a heart attack. You can have the fatty build-up in your pipes without being fat. People get these things in their 40s, whoops, surprise!

Also, I know people who are turning 60, if not this year, then the next. Sixty. Ain’t nothin’ middle-aged about that.


Ready or not, whoomp, here it is.
As yet another cool, wet week gives way to the normally relentless July sun, I begin writing the third and last novel in my zombie apocalypse series. I would have started it on Thursday but I got caught up in the surprise release of my second book. I tried to get busy with promotion but came up mostly flat. Looking at my blog posts for last week, I’ve had trouble writing, period. It’s like something got broken over the last couple of weeks. And here I am griping that I didn’t get to do a final read on Grace Among the Dead! It’s probably better I left it alone.

Besides, I pissed away an hour yesterday reading one of the more popular zombie e-books out there. It wasn’t too bad, but it could have stood for more editing than my book needs. Yet this guy gets eight 4-star reviews? Goddammit!

It’s 20% writing the goddamned thing and 80% promotion. I just pulled those numbers out of my ass, but it sure seems that way, doesn’t it? So that’s one thing to address if I want to break out of credit card debtor’s prison in time for Christmas.

Problem #2, and every bit as urgent, is my need to learn how to write a novel in far less than a year. What few fans I have waited too damned long for Grace Among the Dead

This is the part where I set arbitrary deadlines for myself which I will in no way meet. Never mind that. All I can do is put myself to work, and work as fast and as hard as I can. I’ve got a plan this time, more detailed than any mere outline. All I have to do is connect the dots.


They’re not nearly this pretty, either.
“Love Bites” Copyright © 2014 by Matt Dixon
Enjoy your Sunday. I’ve got to make one and one-half pages into a full chapter by bedtime. (Dammit, did I just set a deadline? Right.) The zombies at this point in the saga have been hibernating over the winter (residual bodily fluids freeze and seize the limbs of the dead, especially in Colorado Springs) and have awoken crazy hungry. They will fling themselves to pieces coming at you. And then another visitor appears, and in Chapter 2 he will present a message of hope—and a warning.

For Derek and Agnes and Elyssa and Brother Christopher and the whole merry crew, The Wrong Kind of Dead will be a worlds-shattering experience. All of human civilization will hang in the balance of the final conflict. And that’s all I can say about it other than I’m excited to be back in the post-apocalyptic world of Derek Samuel Grace. The “saga” in my series title will no longer be ironic by the time I’m done. Hell, in this first page and a half I’ve got here, you already know things aren’t right.

Tommy Ramone is dead. Cormac McCarthy is celebrating his 81st birthday. Nobody knows who shot down that passenger jet with all those children on board (so many children!) but the Propaganda Ministry is damned sure it’s those dirty mean Russians, yes, it had to be them! It’s 84 degrees at 9:10 a.m. MDT and I have to buzz by Costco for eggs and cat litter sometime before it closes at 5.

My last cup of coffee is done. It’s hero time.


###

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Embryonic Promotions for the Greatest Zombie Novel You Haven’t Read Yet

It needs the Severed Press logo and a working link. I’m just getting started here.


















You like your zombie fiction dark, with possibilities for redemption? I have likable characters this time — unlike mean old Bleeding Kansas — but a few get killed.

It's a tale of love and redemption, the living dead and a monster truck. Grace Among the Dead turns the zompocalypse freak up to 11 and breaks off the knob. Check it out!

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

GRACE AMONG THE DEAD Available in Kindle!

I thought that this might happen. Hell, why wait another week? Forget the final read-through; I’ll be tweaking everything when it comes time to package the omnibus edition.

Today’s headline was supposed to be about production starting on Book 3, The Wrong Kind of Dead. Then I found myself added to the Google circle of another post-apocalypse writer, whose interests focus on survival in a world without technology. These interests have “cross-pocalypse” applications, and are of especial utility for those real-life apocalypses as they may occur. 

These items deserve posts of their own. For right now, let’s jump and shout for the release of Grace Among the Dead on Kindle. It’s been a long year’s writing and an even longer four weeks post-production.



I don’t have a copy of the back cover yet, but this is the text I wrote for it Sunday. The first graf serves double-duty as the logline:


A TALE OF LOVE AND REDEMPTION, THE LIVING DEAD AND A MONSTER TRUCK

Derek Grace returned from his Kansas adventure too late for his teenage children. Losing himself in booze, books, pills, and the occasional killing spree among the undead, a stowaway and her fatal secret flush the Dead Silencer out of hiding and back into a busy post-apocalypse in progress, where he must decide whether life is worth living when he’s already lost everything that matters.

Grace is taken in by the leadership of Abundant Life, a former Colorado Springs megachurch that has established a settlement of survivors in the shelter of a high wooded ridge to the north of the city. Another outsider, Isaiah Sparks has corrupted the church with “necessary” brutality in his capacity as Deacon of Security. Younger, stronger, smarter, he’s determined to run the settlement his way behind the scenes. Grace is Abundant Life’s best hope to return the settlement to its benevolent beginnings —and he knows he’s outmatched.

Yet two women, a young, blonde ditz and a widowed, PTSD-haunted veteran, come to Grace with good news. Agnes speaks in terms of “force multipliers,” and the one she has in mind had better be good, because a rogue deacon is the least of their worries. The living dead who rule the world at large are changing. Becoming more aggressive. Smarter. More than one man with a 20-inch African cane-cutter can hope to handle.

IN THE HEART OF DARKEST HORROR YOU’LL FIND




Let it be known for the record that Thursday, 17 July 2014, was a very good day.

###

Random Observations and Another Panga Sighting

BLOGGIN’ OR SLOGGIN’?

Too many f-bombs, too many black-and-white graphics in a row. That’s what the blog was looking like. It still looks like that. I was going to take down one of these offending posts, then I figured, nah, it’s better than dead air.

It’s a violation of Law 30 of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power, but I think it’s not a bad thing to show that I have to bang my head against the wall from time to time to make things happen. From time to time, that is.

Time’s up.


___________________________________________

MY ZOMBIE JACKET

The jacket copy for Grace Among the Dead turned out mighty fine. So fine, that when the editor cut off the bottom grafs for the logline, he had a decent logline. Somehow, I had built my three-graf jacket copy in a classic journalism story pyramid. I don’t think I wrote that well when I worked city desk for the Imperial Beach Times.

I’m still waiting on the final read-through. Sometimes I wonder if we’re going to do that, or if Severed Press says, fuck this shit, we’ve waited too long already, and just puts it out there. Any minute now....
___________________________________________

YOU CAN CHECK IN ANY TIME YOU LIKE, BUT —
IT’S NOT A GOOD IDEA


While I’m checking my Gmail, I decided to follow up on notifications for the various authors’ groups I made the mistake of joining in LinkedIn. 

Joining LinkedIn itself wasn’t something I wanted to do again. I’d joined years ago when I naively believed I had a chance a getting a normal person’s job. All it got me was abuse from temp agencies. It turns out I’m too old, and have too little “experience” in a job market in which entry level jobs now require two years of experience. (No, I’m trying to be funny. HR departments put this forehead-slapping-stupid shit up in their notices and dare your poor desperate ass to laugh.) So I quit LinkedIn.

Except you never quite quit LinkedIn. That is to say, you can take your profile down, but you’re still getting requests by e-mail via LinkedIn from people wanting to join your network. Attempts to resolve this proved futile.

So I made a new profile. Look up Lawrence Roy Aiken and if you don’t creep me out too hard, we’ll connect.

This time around, I made the mistake of joining some author’s groups. God, all these poor, supplicating little things. Watch the language! Be positive, keep it upbeat, you’re not desperate, you’re Searching for Opportunities!

Let me tell you something, boys and girls. If you play by those rules, you’re playing like a slave. And slaves deserve every bit of the abuse they allow themselves to suffer.

So, if you’re one of those poor, cringing souls from one of the many authors and book marketing groups, and you’re horrified by what you read here — I’ve earned this attitude. I came into my dream job because my back was against the wall. Moving from one “opportunity” to another, head down, pretending pride in the most abject obsequiousness, was just inviting insults upon very real injury.

I will write the way I want to write. I will talk how I want to talk. I’m in my 50s. I could drop of a heart attack at any time. Or cancer. I decided a few years back that if I’m going to live, if I’m bothering getting up in the morning, I’m doing it for me. Not to please some empty-headed little HR manager. Not to live live a chump, changing this and that and acting such-and-such a way for people who have already made up their minds about my “place;” they just get off on watching a grown man squirm. 

Swear to fucking God, I have half a mind to ditch every goddamned one of these weak-ass little groups and pages. All this timid talk, not one nugget of useful information. 

Not one soul I have anything in common with, except we’ve all written books. Of course, I’m the only zombie author I know on LinkedIn. Maybe I’ll figure a way to leverage that.

I’ll give it another two weeks. Grace Among the Dead will be out by then, and we’ll see what these and those just-as-bad Facebook groups do for me. One way or another, I expect some changes to be made in my social media profiles. It’s the natural order of things.

___________________________________________

Meanwhile, thanks once again to the good people at Pulp Covers, we have another panga sighting:



Man, bad luck gripping the edge of the blade like that! This does not look like it will end well.


###

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

#MySummerJam: ANIMALS by Pink Floyd

His face is blue from holding his breath.
They are that damned bad.
Pink Floyd is easily the most misunderstood band of the Classic Rock era. They were misunderstood when they were rolling at their peak from 1973 to 1980. Beginning with Dark Side of the Moon, they were largely considered a stoner thing. You dropped a Pink Floyd record onto the turntable and listened with the headphones for all those sound effects going left-to-right-to-left. You laughed at the farting helicopter zipping through your head on “On the Run,” you giggled along with the lunatic in “Brain Damage.” Good times.

Whoa!
For years, it seemed like that one album would define them forever. When Wish You Were Here came out in 1975, it was of momentary interest listening to the thickly muffled sounds of machinery pounding away, but I found the album as a whole the sonic equivalent of watching paint dry. I remember listening to it at a friends’s house on his badass state-of-the-art stereo, and struggling to keep from passing out. It wasn’t just that famously shitty ditchweed we smoked back then. Wish You Were Here needed fewer four-note riffs languishing in ambient synth washes and more farting helicopters. And a roomful of chiming clocks all going off at once. Cash-register noises mixed into a rhythm track. Giggling lunatics!

As a prog-loving, pseudo-intellectual stoner kid, I respected Pink Floyd, but I would never think to own their albums. Nearly everyone else I knew already did and, bless their hearts, they were likely to play them when it was time to “burn one.” (Spark a jay, bowl, etc.)  Come to think of it, maybe the reason I never came to properly hate them was I associated them with getting stoned. That, and the wacky sound effects. They were the band with all those trippy noises ‘n’ shit in between their music. Only this, and nothing more.

Portrait of the author ca.1977.
And then, in the Last Summer of My Childhood, 1977, my 15-year-old ears beheld something wondrous. It was pure, hate-you-die rage such as I never heard anywhere else, sung in what might as well have been all-caps:

BIG MA-AAN, PIG MA-AAN — HA-HAAAHHHHH, CHARADE, YOU ARE!

He was describing damn near every male authority figure I knew growing up in South Carolina, and on the same radio station that played Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight” ad nauseam the summer before. It was a true mix of genres on the radio in the mid-to-late 1970s, though, when you could hear Blue Oyster Cult back-to-back with Neil Diamond, so it wasn’t that big of a surprise.

The surprise was that this was Pink Floyd. There’s the freaky sound effects, okay, grunting pig noises — but that sinister organ! The seething anger of that echo-boxed guitar! Holy shit, did this guy just call someone, “YOU FUCKED-UP OLD HAG, HA-HAAAHHHHH, CHARADE, YOU ARE!” He just described damn near every female authority figure I knew, using language one did not dare use in front of a woman, no matter how much the evil bitch pissed you off. (These were very different times.) 

This guy is so angry he sounds like Yoda gone full Dark Side three years before we’ll even meet that syntactically challenged Muppet. It’s a good thing its after 10 p.m. and maybe only a few thousand people listen to FM radio in 1977. Its a better thing that Im one of those people. I need to hear this:

Pigs (Three Different Ones)


There is passion here, something Id never heard in Pink Floyd before. You might have heard it in the fade as the bass line runs furiously up and down the fretboard while the guitar screams in rage. Guitarist David Gilmour likely handled all these parts, as he’s credited with the bass on this song, too—and, frankly, Roger Waters, while a decent concept-and-story guy, isn’t known for being a great bass player.

One of my Pink Floyd pals got this album when it came out. I borrowed it from him. I’m not sure I ever got it back to him. He and my other Pink Floyd-loving friends didn’t seem as enthusiastic about this. Me, I played the fuck out of this all summer long.

As with most concept albums, it’s best to hear the thing in its entirety, but if time is a factor, I’ve got the tracks broken down after this embed:

Animals by Pink Floyd
Full Album



The album is bracketed by halves of one song Roger Waters supposedly wrote for his then-girlfriend. It’s a theme most of us should relate to, i.e., we live in a world of animals, most of them mean and stupid, and while love doesn’t necessarily conquer all, it damn sure makes the barnyard a more tolerable place.

Pigs on the Wing, Part 1


Next up, listen to an anxious acoustic guitar chugging along like a man fleeing for his life, limping, and running out of breath as “Dogs” fades in. Blame that for this post. As I got deeper and deeper into rooting out bad passages from my novel I kept hearing these chords in my head, along with Rick Wright’s spooky keyboard. No groovy sound effects, at least not until the first part of this album-side-long piece is over. No, just several minutes of weapons-grade tension and fear until the sobbing release. It makes a great musical backdrop for any post-apocalypse you’re reading, and especially if you’re composing and editing one.

I remember being struck by these lyrics on the record sleeve:

      And in the end you’ll pack up, fly down south
      Hide your head in the sand
      Just another sad old man
      All alone and dying of cancer.

It was the first time I ever saw this cruel fact of life mentioned in a song, anywhere, that people die of cancer. If I’ve seen anything like that since then, I don’t remember it.

Dogs


For all the fear and dread and sadness of “Dogs,” it is at least sympathetic. The song that opens side two of the album, “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” is the hatred one wishes people would learn to cultivate against the real-life pigs making our lives miserable in 2014.

Alas, the revolution that happens in the final verses of “Sheep” shall never come to pass. Still, Gilmour’s guitar fanfare at the coda is a joyous relief after so much fear and rage, and if you need a little poignancy to cut your cynicism with, remember that this album came out in the first year of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. The long, sloping road to the pens and slaughterhouse that began with Reagan and Thatcher at either end of the pond was years off.

Sheep



Nothing left to do now but take your lover’s hand and skip off into the sunset, always keeping an eye out for the...

Pigs on the Wing, Part 2



Whereas Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here were musically bombastic, when not altogether emotionally removed from their themes of alienation and loss, Pink Floyd’s Animals is where the band grows a real beating heart. A little less than three years later, Pink Floyd would ditch the albatross of Dark Side of the Moon and become forever identified with the double-album epic that is The Wall, but I’ll argue the passions that enliven that album first found their voices with Animals.


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A Rebuttal to My Last Blog Post by "Weird Al" Yankovic

“Weird Al” Yankovic has been around at least 35 years—I remember first hearing him on Doctor Demento’s radio show in 1979—and, no shit, he’s hitting harder and funnier than ever. Best of all, he’s embraced the Internet. This is supposedly the last album he’s doing for a major label; he’s gotten the notion to take his act directly to the people. Based on the two videos I’ve seen so far he stands to do very well for himself.


After the Nirvana parody and the usual polka
medley, there wasn’t a lot to work with musically
in 1991. One thing that works against all his albums
is they remind the listener just how bad a lot of pop
music was at their time of release.
Two ironies here (not to be confused with coincidences): first, I figured Weird Al to be on his way out in 1992 with his album Off the Deep End. I wrote a review of it at the time for this zine from which this blog takes its name. To be fair, a lot of the music was so weak it didn’t even work as parody. Also, all he had to work with was his usual go-to themes of food and TV.

Now there’s all kinds of stuff on the Internet to riff on. It turns out the Internet is also where people do the great bulk of their book and music buying these days, so that’s where he’s setting up shop. George Takei is 80-something years old and understands this better than people one-quarter his age. Yankovic is savvy, too, and he’s gotten good people to make videos for him. 

The second irony was this comes on the heels of my recent post against grammar nazis. Okay, so it isn’t an irony, it is a coincidence that a buddy of mine posts this video which manages to slam the proudly illiterate while schooling the rest of us in aspects of language we abuse, the day after I post my “Grammar Nazis, Fuck Off!” rant. [UPDATE: I deleted that post for the space-filling weaksauce it was. Sometimes dead air is better.]

In case you missed it—I was tired and in a foul temper, so I probably wasn’t as clear as I needed to be—my beef isn’t with correcting grammar and punctuation so much as with the attitude that one is superior for knowing such things, to such a degree that the very fact of using superior grammar wins the argument on moral grounds alone.

The hell with all that. Let’s have Weird Al take us to school, where we'll thrill to the mention of those particular abuses of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage that torque our metaphorical goats.



As a bonus for all who read through to the end, here is the original Robin Thicke song Weird Al is parodying, the Number One Song of the Summer of 2013, according to Billboard, “Blurred Lines.”  The video for this is...much different. 


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Monday, July 14, 2014

Stuck in the Chunky Peanut Butter Swamps of Time, Part 2: The Long Unsticking

It feels so strange. I get up, and there’s no narrative to unfuck. No little vertical lines to look for in the margins, no searching for invisible points of insertion or deletion to Accept/Reject. No more search-and-destroy for periods following exclamation points, duplicate quote marks, etc. 

I can’t believe I’ve pissed away an entire month on this. This last week alone was devoted to a refit, then a complete re-do on my penultimate chapter. Indeed, if I was to give a name to last week, it would be The Great Unfucking of Chapter 29.


How’s this for a magic trick? I took a 12-page chapter, which I felt was too long, and turned it into 17 pages. Yet I managed to keep the overall page count down to 263 and drop the overall word count 394 words by ruthlessly tearing out modifiers and useless asides from previous chapters. At 94,817 words Grace Among the Dead is still within shouting distance of 95,000, and still the longest sustained narrative I’ve written.

The bottom line is it reads a lot faster, all the loose ends are wrapped up, and I’m set up for the big world-shattering thermonuclear clusterfuck that will be my third and final book for the series, The Wrong Kind of Dead.


“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty....”
I wrote the jacket copy for Grace Among the Dead last night. I was so burned out I had to warm up to the job by writing the precis to The Wrong Kind of Dead. This turned out to be a very enjoyable task that I took to with more enthusiasm than I expected after my horrible month-long slog after spending a year and a day writing Grace Among the Dead.

Unlike my previous books, I’m mapping everything out. I want to see how fast I can knock out a 100,000+ word narrative connecting pre-established narrative dots. Aside from the excitement over a change in process, I like that I’m destroying one world and building another. Grace Among the Dead ups the ante and the stakes of Bleeding Kansas. The Wrong Kind of Dead will take us to another narrative dimension altogether. It’s stuff I’ve never written before, in a way I’ve never written before.


There’s only one way to find out if this works. Time to find a picture of an attractive humanoid female and get crackin’.



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