24 January 2015


Sir Michael of Mehalek tagged me in a ten question blog hop known as the LIEBSTER AWARD. So I'll answer the ten questions then nominate a few other people.

1. Where did the idea for your current Work-in-Progress (WIP) come from? 

Interesting question, because this one's been with me for a while. Probably since 1998. I was leaving UNIVERSE OF ENERGY at Disney's EPCOT, which was sponsored by Exxon at the time. (Could still be, haven't checked it out in a while.) On the way out, they had a bunch of stuff about tiger conservation, and I had an idea about a researcher in Siberia realizing that the subject of his study was hunting him. I know, it's brilliant.  Calm yourselves.

Fast-forward to 2015, and I have a LIFE OF PI meets THE THINGS THEY CARRIED thing going on. It's about a veteran of the war in Afghanistan coming to terms with his PTSD as the magic of Dia de los Muertos unfolds around him. So this book has been 17 years in the making, and I am very happy with the way it's developing.   

2. Quote a favorite line from one of your favorite books.

There's a lot that comes to mind, most notably the always-quotable Kerouac, but nothing that jumps out as a 'quotable line.' Sorry. I wish I had a favorite line that I could whip out at parties, but I don't. Does that disappoint anybody?

So here's my Kerouac quote: My witness is the empty sky. 

Now I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one of my OWN quotes as a favorite. After all, I wrote it. Most of my 'quotes' come from passages people have highlighted in the Kindle versions of my books, and I get a kick out of see what they did or didn't dig.

My favorite quote is one nobody's highlighted yet:

Here's how I'll tell you what I think—if you see white smoke then you know I picked a new pope. And if I'm drinking a Snapple then you know I don't give a shit. 

Fucking brilliant.

3. Now quote your favorite line from your current WIP. 

How about this, without any context at all:

I know horse shit when I smell it and this is horse shit.

4. What unique challenges has your current WIP had that your previous ones did not?

The fact that this has evolved over the last seventeen years is a unique problem. I finished a few drafts, sent it out to agents and editors, then put it in a drawer. And I'm glad I did, because this book is the most ambitious thing I'd ever attempted, and I'm really happy with the way it's going. The Beatles couldn't have attempted REVOLVER on their first outing because the ideas were too big, the sound too ambitious. That's where I'm at with this.

Of course, your natural inclination is to ask Is this your REVOLVER?

Fucking-A right, it is.

The ideas are bigger than anything I'd ever attempted. I'd gotten close with some of the stuff in REVELATIONS, but the setting and scope of this blow REVELATIONS away, and I love that book. So if you haven't read and reviewed it yet...


5. If you saw your main character at a party, how would you react?

This is a great question, because Heidi and I returned to Yucatan after I'd written a draft of this and it freaked me out a bit. Imagining my characters out there in the Mexican scrub made me a little nervous, because it had never occurred to me that by writing them, I'd made them real.

I'll never have the chance to encounter one of my main characters at a party. But if you've ever been to a party with me...

6. Who would play your main protagonist/antagonist if your current WIP were made into a movie?

I'd always imagined Paul Walker as Ben Collins, and that's all I'll say about that.

And I imagined Danicka Petráková Prochazka as Mila Kunis, of course. Who else could play this Slavic femme fatale?

7. What are your biggest inspirations for writing?

My wife, Heidi Ruby Miller, got me into this, and one of the biggest reasons I keep going with writing is that it lets me live many lives with her instead of the one I was given.

8. Summarize your WIP as a haiku.

Life gives us one shot, 
We squander it by living
As if it never ends.

9. What role does music play in your writing?

Music is the heartbeat of what I write. In essence, it drives me when I've lost my way. By knowing the themes of what I'm working on, I can construct a playlist that accentuates the emotions of the novel. If I get lost in the story, the music I've chosen can bring me back into it.

10. What’s one thing you’ve learned about the craft that you wish you had learned earlier?

That it doesn't matter what anybody else thinks.

Tagging Lana Hechtman Ayers, Jay Massiet, Stephanie Wytovich, and Matt Betts. Your turn. 

22 January 2015

MIX TAPE: The Dream of the Nineties!

Was talking to Mikey Rega (of the concert t-shirt debate fame) and I was telling him a little about PORTLANDIA. Not sure whether or not he'd seen it, I sent him a link to the season one intro.

But I had been in a bit of Nineties nostalgia mode prior to this discussion. Has something to do with the idea of, "...it was twenty years ago today." A few weeks ago, I dug out PJ20 and listened to a bunch of old shows. Then I Googled pics of Lisa Bonet from A DIFFERENT WORLD. (Damn, girl.) All of it got me thinking what WERE the 90s and why do I care?

I turned 20 in 1994, and I know that has a lot to do with it. It was a golden era for me, as I'm sure it is for most twenty-somethings. I had killers jobs--whitewater raft guide, record seller at National Record Mart, bookseller at Waldenbooks, seller of Timberland boots, Guess jeans, and Oakley shades at American Outfitters, where I met the lovely Heidi Ruby. I am also keenly aware that my current age has finally given me perspective enough to realize the passage of time makes any era distinctive. Because news and pop culture are fluid events, eras tend to blend until we get enough distance to stand back and take a look at the collective material from the culture rather than a snippet or two.

So, how do I define MY Nineties?
In no particular order: NORTHERN EXPOSURE, Patagonia clothing, Tevas, the Alice in Chains three-legged dog cover, Nalgene bottles, SUPERUNKNOWN, PULP FICTION and its amazing soundtrack, beaded necklaces, Baja shirts, THE CHRONIC, Bill Clinton, Woodstock '94, Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, Lemieux, Jagr and the Pens, Drew Barrymore's Guess ad, Adam Sandler, Mudhoney, Structure, FREAKS AND GEEKS, Sony PlayStation and JET MOTO, Kurt Cobain, Silverchair, THE X-FILES, the Jennifer Aniston ROLLING STONE cover, OJ, coffee, SEINFELD, CLUELESS, THE LION KING, Netscape and Lycos, this Chicago Blackhawks jersey I loved and can no longer find... I could go on, but why?

I suppose one of the things I find most inspiring about the time period is the way some of these artists have continued to pursue art on their own terms, shunning the corporate ideals and commercialism that has reared its ugly head in some of the current era's art with seemingly greater frequency. (I know the money was present back then too, but Pearl Jam's fight against Ticketmaster is an important symbol, to me at least, of idealistically pursuing creation over money.) If nothing else, it gives me great pleasure to see MY heroes subtly rising through (with?) the ranks of Mileys and Pharrells to their rightful places as creative icons and veterans of a vicious industry. Maybe it's more a Gen X thing than a Nineties thing, but as somebody engaged in creative pursuits, I believe the ideals of that era are as important to me now as they ever were. Writing is about a fierce independence and living on your own terms. I feel like those are Nineties ideas.

Here's a little of the music I missed the first time around. (And it takes us back to PORTLANDIA.) Been loving Sleater-Kinney's new album. But here's a little taste of some older stuff to get you in that mode.

Sleater-Kinney - Live @ Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, USA, 30-04-2006

Source: Soundboard
1.     What's Yours Is Mine 
2.     Jumpers  
3.     Rollercoaster
4.     Sympathy 
5.     Oh!  
6.     Modern Girl
7.     Get Up 
8.     The Fox  
9.     Step Aside
10.  Let's Call It Love  
11.  Entertain 

Check it out here: http://livebootlegconcert.blogspot.com/2013/04/sleater-kinney-live-coachella-valley.html

14 January 2015


For a while I'd done a really good job (if I do say so myself) of 'curating' content from a wide variety of sources for this blog. Free material, cool stuff, hidden gems, and esoterica that appealed to me in some ways, which I felt compelled to share with people who enjoyed my books or stumbled upon the blog from elsewhere on the net. I'd done a few BEATLES COVER PROJECTS, where I'd scour YouTube for the best versions of Beatles covers for each album, starting at the very beginning and working toward ABBEY ROAD. For a while I was big on the 'Top 9' list, where I'd shared links to videos based on a particular theme, like Veteran's Day or guitar solos. I'd compiled essential concert bootlegs as a way to connect readers to the music in my books, AND to share some of the things that I love in an attempt to expose interested parties to new artists. The net is full of free, high quality shows that a lot of people don't know about, or have the energy to seek out on their own. (Usually a bit of 'digging' is involved, in order to avoid crappy recordings.) When I figured out how to embed Spotify playlists into the blog, that became one of my favorite things because I didn't need to stick with a specific artist or theme. I'd linked to PDF downloads that I'd found when I thought they might be of interest to writers and/or readers. My most favorite things ever are some of the self-mocking mash-ups and memes I'd begun to compile on this page: WRECK THE NET! The best was the 'Virtual Halloween Costume' I did this year. It even took my mom a moment to figure it out.

(Sorry, Papa.)

Until now, I never really thought about unifying all of that stuff under one header, if only to make it all easier to find. That's where the MIX TAPE idea comes in. Here's where I'm going to curate in one place the items I'd been scattering throughout the blog over the last few years. It's all going to be material that I love, or things that are very personal to me. The idea of a 'mix tape' gives me carte blanche to move beyond the realm of digital media, and I hope to review books, movies, museum exhibits, restaurants here as well. (I could've called it STUFF I LIKE) but the idea of a mix tape is a little more dignified, a little more Gen X, whatever that means.

Please note that I don't own, or host much of what I'll be sharing here. I'm simply collecting the things that please me.

I'm going to start with a little gem from Pearl Jam. Listening to it now, and it sounds great through headphones. I picked it because it was a soundboard, and because I'm thin in Pearl Jam stuff from the late 90s.  

Confession: I'm also in a bit of a PJ kick because the writing things are beginning to evolve in a number of different ways. I'd always admired the way PJ treated their fans, and the way they've fought, and changed, the system.

Disc 1:
01. Throw Your Arms Around Me (Ed pre-set)
02. Release
03. Brain Of J.
04. Hail, Hail
05. "To John"
06. Given To Fly
07. Dissident
08. MFC
09. Corduroy
10. Wishlist
11. Even Flow
12. Faithfull
13. Spin The Black Circle
14. I Got Shit
15. Improv
16. Habit
17. Off He Goes
18. "Lawn Orgies"
19. Present Tense

Disc 2:
01. Black
02. Do The Evolution
03. Porch
04. Go/Quarter Rant
05. State Of Love And Trust
06. Better Man
07. Alive
08. "Thanks"
09. Last Kiss

Check out the how here: We Got Shit...A Pearl Jam Bootleg Site

For some of these shows you're going to need a RAR extractor. I've been using this one: RAR Extract Frog

03 January 2015

Amazon Countdown Deal is in full swing!

The PRESTON BLACK MIX TAPE bundle is a literary box set! (Almost 220,000 words of Preston Black goodness.) You get both Preston Black novels—THE DEVIL & PRESTON BLACK and THE REVELATIONS OF PRESTON BLACK, plus two short stories that were only available in other anthologies. ALMOST A NEW YEAR is a vignette that shows how family and friends deal with the loss of a deployed soldier, in this case Stu Croe. RHYTHM OF WAR is Ben Collins’ first person account of his role in the Battle of Fallujah.

In addition to the stories above, you get the following essays, articles, and non-fiction bits I’ve published in various places over the course of writing the first two Preston Black novels:
THE DEVIL & PRESTON BLACK Reading & Resource Guide
Because You CAN’T, You WON’T, You DON’T Stop: ADAM YAUCH
Murder Ballads and Old Magic