Seeing It a New Way

In my teen writing class at the Mount Horeb Public Library last week, we segued into discussing Catcher in the Rye, and one of my students made the following observation (which I'm paraphrasing): Some of my friends have said that, since the characters in the book were rich, Holden's problems weren't that significant. But in so many other books I've read, Read more

A True Story of Frog-Gigging and Disappointment

I wrote the following piece for a memoir class taught by Michelle Wildgen, best-selling author of Bread and Butter and You're Not You (soon to be a movie starring Hilary Swank). When I was a kid growing up in rural Tennessee, my dad determined that I would follow in his footsteps and leave a trail of dead small animals behind Read more

For Halloween, Try EXORCISMUS

Every year around Halloween I try to recommend a horror movie you might not have seen, something off the beaten path and all the better for it. You can read previous recommendations here and here. This year, I worried that I wouldn't find anything. Then I discovered the 2010 film, Exorcismus. No, I can't explain the title, either. Yes, it's an exorcism movie, Read more

The Great Rock and Roll Secret

Suppose the great rock single had flickered over the airways just once, on the night you had passed out in the back seat?  Probably not, but still...rock and roll has always had this sense of possibility.  --Dave Marsh, Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story, page 93 I originally read the above quote in the 1980s, when the first edition of Read more

Review: The Making of Day of the Dead

When I heard there would be a book entirely about the making of George A. Romero's third zombie movie, Day of the Dead, I was surprised. The movie had not been a financial or critical success at the time, and while its reputation has risen since its 1985 release, it's still nowhere near as well-known as its predecessors, Night Read more

Seeing It a New Way

Posted on by Alex in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

unnamed-2

In my teen writing class at the Mount Horeb Public Library last week, we segued into discussing Catcher in the Rye, and one of my students made the following observation (which I’m paraphrasing):

Some of my friends have said that, since the characters in the book were rich, Holden’s problems weren’t that significant. But in so many other books I’ve read, the problems seem to come out of the poverty and economic situations of the characters, or at least be so connected to it that it all gets blurry. When the characters are rich, you know that that’s not the source of the problem, that it’s something from within the characters themselves, and it makes it their problems much more vivid and clear.

I’ll admit, this idea had never occurred to me. I really doesn’t enjoy reading about the “first world problems” of people with no economic worries, which is one reason why many books, not just Catcher in the Rye, irk me (for example, don’t get me started on Eat, Pray, Love). But my student forced me to re-evaluate my position with this simple observation.

This was reinforced when I discussed this with a friend who’s also the editor of the local paper.  He said that’s exactly the reason he likes Batman so much. Again paraphrasing:

People complain that Bruce Wayne is just a rich do-gooder, but that’s part of the point. He’s trying to correct the one thing that all his wealth and power can never fix: the death of his parents.

In my teen class, I try to share mainly the practical aspects of being a writer, stuff I’ve had to learn the hard way since I had no mentor to guide me when I was their age. I never tell the students what to write, or how to write about it. As I say at the beginning of each six-week session, I can’t make them great writers, but I can make them better writers.

But as this indicates, it’s not one-way learning. These students are not burdened with thirty-plus years of experience; they see with fresh eyes, and uncluttered perspectives, and to negate that as being foolish simply because they’re chronologically young would mark me as a fool.

So after this epiphany, what did we do?

We spent ten minutes discussing what sort of noise zombie ducks would make.

 

A True Story of Frog-Gigging and Disappointment

Posted on by Alex in alcohol, biography, children, family, fatherhood, home, memoir, Parenting, tennessee, Uncategorized, west Tennessee | 4 Comments

I wrote the following piece for a memoir class taught by Michelle Wildgen, best-selling author of Bread and Butter and You’re Not You (soon to be a movie starring Hilary Swank).

When I was a kid growing up in rural Tennessee, my dad determined that I would follow in his footsteps and leave a trail of dead small animals behind me. We never hunted anything epic, like deer or bear; we went after squirrels, rabbits, and the occasional quail.  And, in the hot summer months, we went frog gigging.

This sport (and I used the term loosely) is how you acquire frog legs. You carry a long, six-to-eight-foot pole with a barbed trident on the end. You also use a flashlight, or ideally a miner’s light worn on your head, and creep around the edges of ponds, lakes or swamps in the dark.  The goal is to spot eye shine from bullfrogs.  When you do, you hold the light on it, to make it stay still. Then you stab it with the gig.

Frog Gig on Stick

The business end of a typical frog gig.

I was one of those weird kids who liked to catch frogs rather than kill them, and had no real taste for their meat.  It was fun, in a macabre way, to watch the disembodied legs jump around in the pan as they fried, but not so much fun that I wanted to go get those legs myself.

The other issue was that my father had to be the worst person in the world to try to teach you anything.  He had no patience, no concept of cause and effect, and no idea why once he’d explained something, it might need to be explained again.  And he was a drunk.  Not an overt one, but one of those sneaky drunks who hid his drinking from everyone.

So on those few instances when he’d insist that I go frog gigging with him, I was a nervous wreck.  His disappointment in me was never violent, but it was always withering, and heavy with the sadness that I, his only son, was such a failure.

My dad (far left) and me (second from right) at about the time of this story.

My dad (far right) and me (second from left) at about the time of this story.

I was twelve years old the night we went to a pond that seemed to be miles from where we left his old station wagon. We crawled through weeds, under fences, and across fields before finally reaching the tiny round pool, which was no more than forty feet across and perhaps six or seven feet deep. The deep thrump-thrump of bullfrogs told us we’d come to the right place.

We fired up our head-mounted lamps and split up, each of us taking a different direction around the pond. We had to walk right at the edge of the water, and shine the light ten or fifteen feet ahead, watching for the distinctive eye shine.  I heard the snick-THUNK! of my dad’s gig right away, while all I managed to do was startle every frog within range.  They leaped from the shallows and dove gracefully into the safer, deeper water.

Finally, though, I spotted one that was big enough, and transfixed by my light.  I crept through the weeds until I emerged onto a flat patch of mud, almost in range.

Then something moved in the corner of my eye, by my feet.  I tried to look down without moving the light off my quarry.  It wasn’t a frog, and it was the wrong shape for a turtle. My brain classified it at the same instant my head involuntarily turned and shone my light on it.

It was a snake. A fat, poisonous water moccasin.

A water moccasin, also known as a cottonmouth, for obvious reasons.

A water moccasin, also known as a cottonmouth, for obvious reasons.

I had no time to react, because it was already reacting.  It struck out and sank its fangs into my foot, right through my rubber wading boots.

I’m not a courageous person by nature, and I certainly wasn’t brave then.  My recently-descended testicles shot back up to their original spot, and my voice grew high and shrill as I screamed, “Daddy!  Daddy!  Daddy!”  I jumped in the air and tried to kick the snake away, but it was well and truly determined not to let go.

My dad ran over to me as fast as he could, saw the snake and quickly stomped on it.  Then he pushed me down on the bank, tore away my wading boot and ripped off my sock, exposing my foot.

My entirely bite-free foot.

We both stared at it, pasty white in the combined illumination of our lights.  I wiggled my toes.

Then my dad picked up my boot.  The snake hung from it, smashed and dead, fangs still caught harmlessly in the rubber seam where the sole attached.

We went home after that.  Dad had gotten enough frogs anyway, and I waited for my testicles to decide it was safe to come out again.  I’d like to say this marked some sort of change in our relationship, but it didn’t.  Since I don’t know how drunk he was that night, I have no real idea if he actually remembered it the next day.  And I’d like to think there was some sort of symbolic aspect to it, mirroring our relationship.  But truthfully, it was just one more instance of a man with too many problems and a son with no appreciable life skills failing, as always, to meaningfully connect.

Dad's Cross

This cross was put up in honor of my dad’s service to his church.

For Halloween, Try EXORCISMUS

Posted on by Alex in movies, reviews | Leave a comment

Every year around Halloween I try to recommend a horror movie you might not have seen, something off the beaten path and all the better for it. You can read previous recommendations here and here. This year, I worried that I wouldn’t find anything.

Then I discovered the 2010 film, Exorcismus.

Exorcismus poster

No, I can’t explain the title, either. Yes, it’s an exorcism movie, but as far as I know, it’s gibberish. It was also released under the even worse generic title, The Possession of Emma Evans.

But don’t let that throw you. The film is wonderful. It’s about a possessed teenage girl, and her uncle the priest who tries to help her, and yes, that’s about as basic as it comes. But as with many horror movies working in well-established genres, the fun–and the originality–is in the details.

Exorcismus 1

The movie is set in England, and despite being a Spanish production, is performed in English. Teenage Emma (Sophie Vavasseur) is, along with her brother Mark, homeschooled by well-meaning but oblivious parents (Richard Felix and Jo Anne Stockham). Right off the bat this is interesting, because the kids are not homeschooled out of religious beliefs, but out of a sense that the public schools are inadequate. Emma wants to attend regular school with kids her own age, since her only friends are her cousins Alex and Rose. She’s an unhappy, isolated but basically good girl whose possession is unexpected and, as it turns out, surprising for a number of reasons.

What makes this film work, and puts it leagues above the many other films that feature a similar plot, are the acting and the demonic manifestations. Every performer is spot-on, creating low-key, complex characters. You believe them as individuals, and as a family. When things fall apart, they do so with believable emotions: there are only a few moments that don’t ring true.

Exorcismus 2

We’ve all seen The Exorcist, so we know how possession usually manifests. Most of those tropes are here, but instead of being cranked up, director Manuel Carbalo dials them way down: when Emma levitates, it’s only about a foot off the floor, and when the demon takes control and makes her do things, they’re small and insidious, not grand gestures of evil.

And the plot, by David Muñoz (who also co-wrote Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone) really doesn’t go where you expect. The first exorcism session occurs pretty early in the film, so you know immediately that the story is about something other than the standard good versus evil.  I won’t spoil it by giving away more, but trust me: although the initial build-up is slow, the payoff is worth it.

Currently, Exorcismus is streaming on Netflix. You can find the trailer on YouTube, but if you really want to be surprised, don’t watch it: since, as I said, the movie is so low-key, they’ve had to cobble together a lot of the high points.

And if you do see the movie, come back and tell me what you thought.

The Great Rock and Roll Secret

Posted on by Alex in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Suppose the great rock single had flickered over the airways just once, on the night you had passed out in the back seat?  Probably not, but still…rock and roll has always had this sense of possibility.

 –Dave Marsh, Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story, page 93

I originally read the above quote in the 1980s, when the first edition of Marsh’s Springsteen book came out.  It’s stuck with me over the intervening decades, and at some level has informed a lot of my writing. That idea, filled with drama and potential, that I might’ve just missed the greatest thing ever, is one of the things that drives me to write stories that, regardless of their apparent genre, are at their hearts, mysteries.

But of course I thought about the idea literally as well as metaphorically.  What song might fit that description–a serious contender for the greatest rock and roll single that hardly anyone–well, anyone in my social circle–has ever heard or remembers?

And this is it:

 

This was also the very first music video I ever saw, sandwiched between two movies on HBO at a friend’s house.  MTV hadn’t been invented, and I remember wondering exactly what I was watching: a preview, or a commercial, or what?  And for years I had the actual 45 of this single.

Herman Brood

The late Herman Brood (1946-2001) is far from an unknown in his home country of the Netherlands. In fact, there he’s legendary. But it’s safe to say most music fans younger than me (which is most of them, sadly) have never heard of him. This was his one hit on the American charts, and even then it only rose to #35.

But as a contender for Marsh’s award, it’s perfect. It’s about something universal in rock and roll (i.e., Saturday night, the night the rules are broken and the boundaries shattered in so many other songs). It has an instantly recognizable guitar lick for a hook. It’s the perfect single length at roughly three and a half minutes. The name of his band–His Wild Romance–is so good I truly wish I’d thought of it. And it makes you want to enter the nighttime world it conjures, where the deadness of your mundane existence would vanish in a night of “chicks dressed to kill/surrounded by the boys like bees and their honey.” That, to me, is always at the heart of real primal rock and roll.

But that’s my take. What’s your contender for the greatest rock and roll song that no one’s heard of? Tell me about it in the comments.

Review: The Making of Day of the Dead

Posted on by Alex in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Making of day of the dead cover

When I heard there would be a book entirely about the making of George A. Romero’s third zombie movie, Day of the Dead, I was surprised. The movie had not been a financial or critical success at the time, and while its reputation has risen since its 1985 release, it’s still nowhere near as well-known as its predecessors, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Still, it’s one of my favorites, and I was very curious to see what the book would be like.

 My initial response is…wow. No, wait, that should be…WOW.

A bit of background here: I’m been a longtime fan of several genre directors: I admire John Carpenter for his clean visuals and amazing genre range, I used to like Tim Burton before he became a parody of himself, and if James Wan continues as he’s started, I’ll add him to the list. But George Romero has always been special.

For one thing, he introduced me to horror, via a Sunday afternoon broadcast of Night of the Living Dead. And I’d never seen a midnight movie before I saw Dawn of the Dead in 1979, made memorable by a nurse loudly announcing to her date, “I see this shit in the ER all day, I ain’t paying to watch it now!” before she stalked out. But it was his non-horror film Knightriders that made me a real fan. It’s Arthurian tale of an SCA-like troupe battling the dragon of the modern world resonated (and still does) with me, to the point that it was one of the movies I showed my wife on our honeymoon. (Read my about my real-life encounter with this film’s Merlin here.)

That meant Day of the Dead, as the third film in his original zombie trilogy, came with high expectations. The first time I watched it, I was uncertain if I really liked it; although it was particularly suspenseful in its final twenty minutes, the prior seventy were about as different from Night and Dawn as you could get. Finally, though, I realized that was part of the point: why do the same story over? It’s a lesson I’ve tried to internalize as a writer, so that my own series don’t just repeat themselves.

Then there was the character of Sarah, played by Lori Cardille. A full year before Aliens made a splash, Romero gave us an emotionally tough yet entirely believable female lead who–and this was especially notably in the 80s–never takes off her clothes (not even for a shower scene), never relies on a man to save her in a pinch, and is resourceful, but not unrealistically so, in a crisis. It’s a shame that Cardille wasn’t able to use this as a career springboard, because she, again like Sigourney Weaver, was basically a total unknown who effortlessly carried her first film.

Lori Cardille

The Making of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead by Lee Karr is the kind of obsessive tome that (and I’ve seen this observation elsewhere) I wish I had for all my favorite films. Not only did Karr collect the usual stories that all fans have heard, but he recreated day by day (no pun intended) the shooting of the film. Each day of principal photography is covered in detail, richly illustrated and laced with interviews from the participants. It’s also well written, with little of the amateurishness that tends to mar fan-driven works like this.

When I was a kid, in the days before any sort of home video, every major movie had a “making-of” book, usually written by someone in the studio publicity department. These tended to be just as one-sided as the “making-of” documentaries you now find on most DVD releases, so none of the really interesting stories got told. But this book is no PR fluff piece; it’s cinematic archaeology. The raunchy hijinks of Tom Savini’s makeup crew are detailed, as are the contentious relationships between writer-director Romero, producer David Ball and cinematographer Mike Gornick. You get a real sense of what it must have been like working in the Wampum mine during the winter of 84-85, creating what is now rightly regarded as a classic horror film.

I don’t know if a casual reader will enjoy this as much as I did, or even a student of filmmaking in general. This is for fans. And I sure hope there are enough of us to make it successful, because this book deserves it.

You can read an interview I did with author Lee Karr here.

The Manic Pixie Pout-Pout

Posted on by Alex in children, children's books, pop culture, reviews, storytelling, writing, zooey deschanel | 1 Comment

Since I now have another two-year-old, I’m back to reading the simplest books to her at bedtime. Most of these books are innocuous, if occasionally incompetent (i.e., Big Snowman, Little Snowman, a Frozen tie-in book that probably takes longer to read than it did to write). A few are brilliant, such as Room on the Broom. But I’m here to talk about the New York Times bestseller (it says so right there on the cover) The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, and especially what it’s like to read this book to a daughter.

 

Pout Pout 1

 

So, here’s our hero, featured on the cover: the Pout-Pout fish. The plot, such as it is, has various sea creatures essentially telling the pathologically depressed Pout-Pout Fish to cheer the hell up, to which he repeatedly replies:

Pout Pout 2

 

I admire a fish who sticks to his…fins, I guess.

Anyway, with no warning, a female fish shows up.  She says nothing, but simply swims up to our hero and plants a smooch on him.

 

Pout Pout 3

 

This kiss totally turns him around.  One kiss from a total stranger, without reason or explanation, causes him to exclaim:

Pout Pout 4

 

The last page shows him kissing the nameless girl-fish again, but it’s unclear if it’s real, a fantasy, or simply a memory of the first kiss. But that wasn’t what bugged me. It was the idea that somewhere I’d seen this plot before…

Oh, yeah!

Garden State…

Elizabethtown…

Sweet November…

And Autumn in New York, and (500) Days of Summer, and Almost Famous*, and The Girl Next Door, and…

This other fish–unnamed, unidentified, with no function other than to cheer up the protagonist–is…

A Manic Pixie Dream Fish!

(NOTE: if you’re unfamiliar with the term, “manic pixie dream girl,” check here.)

Okay, on the one hand, I’m sort of kidding. This is a kid’s board book after all, not the place to look for psychological depth or meaningful social interaction. It has funny animals and it rhymes, and I’m certain author Deborah Diesen had no ulterior motives.

Except on the other hand, I’m not kidding at all. The female fish exists for no other reason than to kiss the main character. She’s not identified as his mother, or his sister, or his girlfriend, or any other sort of character who might legitimately have a reason to kiss him. And while some of the other characters who complain to the Pout-Pout fish about his attitude are female, she’s the only one who takes any sort of action in the story, and the only one who gets to dominate a two-page spread. Is this, then, icthy-objectification?  And further, if the genders were reversed–if a strange male fish swam up and kissed the female main character–would we accept it as the wonderful thing this book presents? Isn’t it a kind of harassment?

I’ll keep reading the book to my daughter, because at her age, it’s a) essentially harmless, and b) counteracted by the things she sees around her, such as her dynamic and empowered mother. But when she’s older, I plan to show it to her again, and ask her what she thinks. If she’s the girl I think she is, she’ll be as amused/appalled then as I am right now.

The Omai Gods: the story behind the story

Posted on by Alex in writers, writing | 1 Comment

One of my favorite and oft-quoted bits of writerly advice comes from novelist/filmmaker Nicholas Meyer: “Art thrives on restriction.” Meaning that if you don’t have enough of something–usually money and/or time–you’re forced to compensate by being creative.

steampunk world

Here’s a story that shows how that works, at least for me.

I’ve never written steampunk. I honestly don’t even know if it’s a literary genre; it seems more like a fashion statement. Still, it’s certainly prominent right now, and there are even subgenres like diesel punk, atomic punk and so forth. Whenever I’m asked to contribute to a steampunk anthology, though, I usually demur. It’s a genre for which I have no affinity.

That is, until editor Sarah Hans approached me with the concept for the anthology Steampunk World. The conceit: steampunk with no connection to Western civilization. No Victorian England, no post-Civil War America. In other words, none of the stuff that steampunk seemed (to me) to be founded upon.

That sounded like a challenge. So I said yes.

Then the panic set in. What was I going to write about? And in the time I had? I began thinking about the rest of the world in pre-twentieth century times, and how strange technology might manifest there. I kept coming back to one image.

Illustration by James Ng

Story illustration by James Ng

I’d always been loosely fascinated with Easter Island and its statues, so I had the idea that those statues might be something else, something technological…like robots. Robots left behind by…who? And what would prompt them to rise from their slumber? That was the genesis of my story, “The Omai Gods.”

Except I didn’t have time to properly research Easter Island, and also no time to look into the world around it, to find out who would likely show up on its shores to precipitate the events of my story. So I did something else.

I made it all up.

I made up the island. I made up the nature of the statues, although their description is pretty clear. I made up the cultures of the two groups without getting too specific and bogging down in detail. This island and its people exist only in my mind. The advantage to this, of course, is that I could have anything happen that I wanted to without worrying about historical accuracy.

So “The Omai Gods” is not about any real world island or any particular statues. And to me, the restrictions of time and knowledge made the story better.

It also meant I was able to hit my deadline, which I know Sarah appreciates.

Guest post: Charlie Holmberg on Aqua Notes

Posted on by Alex in writers, writing | Leave a comment

Homegrown in Salt Lake City, Charlie Holmberg was raised a Trekkie with three sisters who also have boy names. She writes fantasy novels and does freelance editing on the side. She’s a proud BYU alumna, plays the ukelele, and owns too many pairs of glasses. Her first novel, The Paper Magician, is now available. Follow her on Twitter for the latest news.

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***

There are millions of places a writer can go to get an idea: museums, national parks, Wikipedia, even other writers’ books. The “what ifs” and crazy combinations of stuff in this world are endless. (Jim Butcher’s Furies of Calderon, for example, came from shoving Pokemon and a lost Roman legion into the same story.) Ultimately, the question of, “Where do you get your ideas?”, is relatively moot, because ideas are everywhere. Though, alternatively, I’ve recently discovered that sometimes the best place to get an idea is inside my own head.

The human brain processes thousands of stimulants and chunks of information daily. All of these—news articles, your strange new neighbor, that weird pear tree that smells like a corpse*, the story of your best friend’s cousin’s most recent breakup—leaves involuntary dregs inside your mind, much like a snail trail. Whether you’re actively thinking about the information or not, it’s all sitting inside your skull, forming piles of puzzle pieces that don’t seem to fit together. It’s surprising how many ideas I can come with when I’m forced to stand in a locked white room with my own brain, staring at said puzzle pieces until I see a bigger picture.

Ever heard of Aqua Notes?

unnamed-5

This product is ingenious. I can’t think of how many times I’ve gotten a great idea in the shower and have had to repeat it to myself over and over so I could remember it by the time I got out. We’ve all been there. But why do great ideas come in such a strange place? Because [usually] we’re alone. Just us and the ceramic. Just me and my brain.

Road trips are even better. Instead of twenty minutes alone with your thoughts, you have hours. Long, boring hours of dry southern Idaho countryside. After you’ve played the alphabet game and forty rounds of 20 Questions, it’s either white-room-brain-time or jumping onto the pavement whizzing by at eighty miles per hour.

unnamed-4

Charlie N. Holmberg

I’ve “discovered” so many story ideas just by letting my thoughts drift until I reach one that’s especially unique or bizarre. It was during the long, twelve-hour trip from Moscow, ID to Salt Lake City that I came up with the idea for The Paper Magician: the idea of using man-made materials to cast spells. The idea of making the setting of the story an internal organ. The idea of giving a man a paper heart.

An idea is like good wine (or so I’ve heard, I’ve never actually had wine). The longer it ages, the better it tastes. And sometimes, when writers step away from the world and stare at the bottle long enough, they discover a blend of flavors that makes their writing excel.

Go ahead, try it. This drink’s on me.

*These are all over BYU campus.

*****

Thanks to Charlie for stopping by my blog, and be sure to look for The Paper Magician.

Talk like a pirate, win a book

Posted on by Alex in Eddie LaCrosse, writing | 39 Comments

So this Friday, September 19th, is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Now that’s something I can really get behind.

Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow

I love pirates. From The Black Swan to The Sea Hawk, from Raphael Sabatini to William Goldman, from Errol Flynn to Johnny Depp, I dig them all. And not just the fictional ones: I’ve seen Blackbeard’s cannon and Black Sam Bellamy’s bell (that sounds vaguely homoerotic, doesn’t it?).

BloodyAngel_comp1

In 2012, I wrote my own pirate novel, Wake of Bloody Angel, part of my Eddie LaCrosse series. I put as much awesome pirate stuff in it as I could: a tough lady pirate who could’ve been played by Maureen O’Hara, a pirate hunter based on Woodes Rogers, a mysterious captain every bit as scary as Blackbeard, and of course sword battles at sea, treasure hunts on desert islands, ghost ships, and even a sea monster. I wanted to jam the story full of everything that, to me, makes pirates cool.

So in honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, I’m giving away a signed copy of Wake of the Bloody Angel, along with The Mammoth Book of Men O’War: 18 Stories from the Age of Fighting Sail.

Men O'War cover

In the comments below, tell me your favorite pirate*, or your favorite bit of pirate trivia**, or your favorite pirate joke***, and you’ll automatically be entered to win. Deadline is midnight on Sunday, September 21.

Against All Flags

*for me, it’s Long John Silver. I love reading Treasure Island aloud to my kids.

**pirates kept barrels of urine on their ships to help get out bloodstains. I put that in the novel.

***A pirate applies for a job as a tanker captain. He has a peg leg, a hook for a hand, and an eye patch. “A shark took me leg,” he tells the interviewer.  ”And a crocodile took me hand.”
“What happened to your eye?” asks the interviewer.
“Seagull. It flew over and pooped right in me eye.”
“And that blinded you?”
“No, but it happened on me first day with me hook.”

A Tale of Two Curls

Posted on by Alex in Jennifer Goree, music, Tufa, video trailer, writing | 1 Comment

Sometimes a song inspires a book. Sometimes a book inspires a song.

And sometimes–okay, this is the only time I’m aware of this happening–a song inspires a book which inspires a song.

There are two wonderful songs out there that share a title with my upcoming novel. Don’t ask me to pick a favorite, because I can’t. But I can tell you the story.

First, if you go here, you can read about my introduction to the music of Jennifer Goree. She’s an amazing songwriter and singer, currently part of the group Trembling and Vine. She has been kind enough to approve the use of her song titles and lyrics for my Tufa novels, including “Long Black Curl,” from her 1998 CD Don’t Be a Stranger. My novel Long Black Curl will be out next spring.

Don't be a stranger cover

This album cover, although it predates my novels, could easily be an illustration from a Tufa story.

Recently she was also kind enough to produce a brand-new video of that song, with a beautifully minimalist setting that perfectly complements her haunting performance.

Now we jump forward to 2014. The band Tuatha Dea has produced a wonderful CD called Tufa Tales: Appalachian Fae, based on the world of my Tufa novels. The first three tracks share titles with my first three books: “The Hum and the Shiver,” “Wisp of a Thing,” and “Long Black Curl.”

Tufa tales cover

Their “Long Black Curl” is a totally different song, with nothing in common with Jennifer Goree’s except the title. But it’s just as haunting, and it’s the first time anyone has recreated the world of the Tufa for a video (you can even see the books’ recurring characters Rockhouse and Mandalay).

I can’t tell you how proud I am to be associated, however tangentially, with both these songs. Since almost everything I write has some relation to music that I love, to have this book series feed back and inspire such great music is a real honor. I hope you also enjoy both these songs, for their very different but equally magical qualities.

And if you should happen to read my novel Long Black Curl when it comes out next year, I hope you enjoy it, too.

You can buy Tufa Tales here. And you can get Don’t Be a Stranger by contacting Jennifer through Trembling and Vine.