19 March 2011


You'd think finding a song named after you on an old record would be kind of cool. But that's not how it goes down for Preston Black.

What starts out as a search for his old man turns into a quest for an original version of "The Sad Ballad of Preston Black". Turns out the song is about his deal with the devil, a deal Preston doesn't really remember making.

When the devil decides it's time to cash in things get really interesting. People he loves get hurt, and Preston starts to wonder if a long fall into an icy river is his only way out.

Lucky for Preston, he has help. A music ethnographer with connections in some of Appalachia's darkest hollows convinces him that his salvation can be found in the music. Preston can buy that. It's the hexes, curses and spells he has a hard time with.

And it's the ghost of John Lennon who convinces Preston to do something about it.

      I wish I could say I found that record the first time I walked into the joint. But honestly, I'd been going into Isaac's every week since he'd hung his shingle out. Ever since I started giving lessons next door, at least. Killing time at Isaac's was easier than killing time with Mick's Strats and Twin Reverbs. The guitar shop had become too much like work, Mick too much like a boss. If I showed up early he always found meaningless little jobs for me to do, like tuning the Guilds and refilling humidifiers. If I showed up a minute late he was all, 'Get yourself a watch.'
      So I'd hide out at Isaac's until my lessons arrived, soaking up the juju that dripped off the old vinyl like heat from a spotlight. The simplicity of an album, its lack of moving parts, spoke to me in a way CDs didn't. Vinyl had a tender, handmade quality that made me believe that the music had been born into a more authentic era. Like a record could somehow be more sincere than a CD or mp3. But I knew all that was a load of crap. In the end, only the music mattered.
      For me, walking into Isaac's gave me the same feeling some people get when they walk into a church or a mall. I can't describe it. Maybe enlightenment, but I'm not sure if I've ever experienced that feeling. Either way, all I had to do to soak up the collective wisdom hiding in all of those vinyl grooves was appreciate the music, and try to understand where the artist was coming from. I swore if I browsed long enough I'd find whatever guidance I needed to get me through my paper-thin life. And since my own father ran off long before I ever learned how to hold down a G chord, I'd never have to worry about overdosing on guidance.
      The guys my mom brought home didn't have a lot of wisdom to pass on. They all either wanted to preach to me or beat me. So I didn't need a semi-employed union pipefitter around giving me shit when I had the Holy Trinity of John Lennon, Joe Strummer and Bruce Springsteen helping me down the path of lyrics and music. Each of these guys came into my life when I needed them the most. And each left just like my own dad did--long gone before I ever had a chance to say goodbye. But their lessons stuck. Joe Strummer taught me it was okay to throw a few bricks, and that a cop was something I really didn't want to be. From John Lennon I learned that if you were clever they hated you, and for a fool it was worse. From Robert Hunter I learned the devil's friend sure ain't a friend of mine.
      In hindsight, I should've listened to Hunter. Call it irony, but the morning I found the old LP that had me standing on the Westover Bridge thinking about taking the final jump, I'd been browsing near Ozzy, a friend of the devil if the devil ever had one. Before that LP I assumed lyrics were just lyrics. Didn't know they could be warning labels too.
      Besides, the douche bags who worked at Isaac's treated me like I had the musical tastes of a ten-year-old boy. I couldn't help it I never heard of Black Flag or The Pixies growing up. My brother and me were pretty much forced to listen to whatever mom played in the car. Mostly country. Kenny and Dolly singing "Islands in the Stream." Garth Brooks, if we were lucky. Most people didn't have to dig as deep as I did to find something they recognized in an old record or song.
      And digging deeper was pretty much what I was doing the day I found my LP misplaced behind Blizzard of Oz. On my way to return the record to the BLUEGRASS section the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen stepped out of the CLASSICAL stacks. She smiled. I smiled back. She asked what I had in my hand. On the cover a bunch of anonymous pickers sat in front of an old log cabin. The back of the record said Uncle Mason's Front Porch: Best of the Blackwater Sessions.
      And on the track list, between "Pretty Polly" and "Hangman's Reel" was a song called "The Sad Ballad of Preston Black", written by E. Black.
      I knew right then and there that if I could ever find the man who'd written that song, I'd have found my dad.

In less than twenty-four hours THE SAD BALLAD OF PRESTON BLACK shows up in Amazon's Kindle Store. This is kind of a soft release because there'll be a few bugs to iron out--I'm afraid some the internal links won't work and a heading or two may be off-center. But it's what I've been working on for the last few years. And I'm damn proud of it. And I did it independently, without any hand holding. And this is the format my writing was meant to appear in.

A few years ago this type of freedom wasn't available to a writer, unless you were lucky enough to to have an editor at a small press who was willing to take risks with formats. I think seeing the kind of fun Mike Arnzen had with his Gorelets and Audiovile made me wonder what kind of sweetheart deal I'd have to get to be able to work in those formats. Now I don't have to wonder anymore.

As soon as I get my Kindle formatting straightened out I'm going to start recording the soundtrack to The Devil and Preston Black. I already have the guitar worked out for three songs, and have complete lyrics to one, have banjo and electric guitar parts and bass lines for a few more. I'm still looking for somebody to help me with drum tracks and I'm hoping a sexy violinist will show up to put finishing touches on everything. After I get the title track finished I'm going to complete the book trailer I started.

The cover is temporary, too. I put it together out of necessity, but have been talking to Jim Sherradin of Hatch Show Prints of Nashville, Tennessee about a proper cover. Hatch is a traditional print shop that does concert posters for the Ryman Auditorium and Grand Ole Opry. I'd love to visit them over the summer and see how it's done, and hopefully document part of the process.

You know, I dropped more than a few characters talking about the Big Six and the state of publishing and all that, so I'm not going to do it again here. But in a way I feel like I no longer have to do it here, or anywhere. The industry used to be the biggest obstacle to publication and I KNOW they vetted writers and I KNOW their goal was deliver to first-rate stories to readers. But somewhere along the way they became the enemy to writers like me--writers who's only platform was a love of storytelling and a masters degree. And there are a lot of us out there. We like the idea of not having to write to a marketing department or a demographic. We like the freedom of writing for ourselves and being able to get it out there without the hassle of toeing the line or trying to impress an agent.

Writing and publishing this book has been the most gratifying experience I've had since I typed my first Chapter One back in 1998 when we were living in a tiny apartment down in Orlando, Florida while working for The Mouse. The challenges I face are my own, but a community is starting to gel. I've met so many people going this route who are more than willing to help a brother out. (I'm looking at you, M Stephen Lukac. How many other writers can pick up writing advice at Shop 'n Save?)

I got goosebumps writing this. Every writer should be able to feel this way about their work. Now they can. I don't care if my mom's the only person in the world who ever reads my book, because it's out there like H1N1. And I didn't have to compromise or give away 80% to do it.

In 2011, this is what happy, successful writers looks like.

18 March 2011

The Daily Show CRIBS Teacher Edition

Jon Stewart nails it again. Teachers have it way too good. Teachers should be paying parents for the pleasure of taking care of their children. Teachers make me sick.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Crisis in Dairyland - Apocalypse Cow
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Social Media Experiment

Twitter Whore update:



It had been suggested that I might be more successful if i changed the name. Henceforth, it will be known as The Great Twitter Slut Experiment.

I think that will improve my results dramatically.

17 March 2011

FLOGGING MOLLY, Lupo's, Providence RI, USA 2011-02-22

Just in time for a little holiday enjoyment--Flogging Molly, Lupo's, Providence RI, USA 2011-02-22.

If you're a fan then this is a no-brainer. If you're not, you should be, especially today. They have a phenomenal sound and this show is a nice gateway drug. it's best enjoyed with a bit of Jameson. If you like this you need to pick up their live release, LIVE AT THE GREEK THEATER.

Download here: http://www.archive.org/serve/FloggingMolly2011-02-22LuposProvidenceRI/FloggingMolly2011-02-22LuposProvidenceRI.wma


Church Audio B-99A stereo omnidirectional (pro-binaural) mics > Church Audio ST-20A preamp > Iriver H340 (rockboxed) > Audacity 1.2.6 (fade in/out + cut) > Trader's Little Helper (FLAC level 6) > you


02-Speed Of Darkness
03-The Likes Of You Again
05-Requiem For A Dying Song
06-Selfish Man
07-The Worst Day Since Yesterday
08-Saints And Sinners
09-(No More) Paddy's Lament
10-Drunken Lullabies
11-The Wanderlust
12-So Sail On
13-Factory Girls
14-Black Friday Rule
15-Don't Shut 'Em Down
16-Rebels Of The Sacred Heart
17-Devil's Dance Floor
18-Band Introduction
19-If I Ever Leave This World Alive
20-Salty Dog
21-What's Left Of The Flag
23-Tobacco Island
24-Seven Deadly Sins


15 March 2011

Banff Mountain Film Festival Returns!!

We are pleased to announce that the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour will be returning to Morgantown at the Metropolitan Theater, 369 High Street, 7:00 PM, Thursday, April 7, 2011.

Tickets will be available this Friday, March 18, from our retail partner Pathfinder of WV.

235 High Street (next to the County Court House)
Morgantown 23505, 304.296.0076; www.pathfinderwv.com

Mon: 10am-7pm, Tuesday thru Friday 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm, Sunday closed

Tickets will also be available at the door after 6 PM on the 7th, but buy in advance at Pathfinder’s and save.

Tickets are $14 in advance, students with school ID $11 and at the door after 6 PM on April 7, $16 for adults and $13 students.

To see the awesome new 2011 Banff Intro video and for more information regarding tickets, hours, contacts, directions, etc. visit our web at:


And back by popular demand, The Legendary Woodticks, playing traditional old-time string music.

Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, Morgantown, WV, 7 PM, Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kranked Kids - Just down the Road
Canada, 2010, 4 minutes,
Directed and Produced by Bjørn Enga
Website: www.radical-films.com
Classification: General - no advisory
Focus: Mountain biking / Humour
Kranked Kids – Just down the Road is a delightful four-minute coming-of-age mountain bike parody

Life Cycles (Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour edit)USA, 2010, 14 minutes
Directed and Produced by Ryan Gibb and Derek Frankowski
Website: www.lifecyclesfilm.com
Classification: General – no advisory
Focus: Mountain Biking
Filmed in Ultra HD, Life Cycles provides some of the most visually stunning images the mountain sports world has ever seen. It’s a beautiful celebration of the bicycle, and is sure to amaze anyone who has ever ridden one.

Crossing the Ditch Best Film on Exploration and Adventure, sponsored by the Kicking Horse Coffee Company
Australia, 2009, 55 minutes
Produced by Greg Quail, Douglas Howard and Justin Jones
Website: www.quail.tv and www.crossingtheditch.com.au/
Classification: General – coarse language
Focus: human adventure; sea-kayaking
Spanning 2200 kilometres between Australia and New Zealand, the Tasman Sea is one of the world’s deadliest and most treacherous oceans. No one had ever successfully navigated the Tasman by kayak, although many had tried. Crossing the Ditch tells the story of two young Australians, James Castrission and Justin Jones, who battle ten meter towering waves, massive storms, shark-filled seas, and strong currents to conquer the Tasman Sea.

Khumbu Climbing School
USA, 2010, 8 minutes
Directed and Produced by Renan Ozturk and Corey Richards
Website: http://camp4collective.com
Classification: General - no advisory
Focus: Mountaineering, Human story / Culture
Through this beautifully crafted film, we learn how the Khumbu Climbing School has contributed to the safety of Nepali climbers, Sherpas and high-altitude support workers as they learn proper techniques for knot-tying, belaying, and ice climbing from world-class mountaineers. In Khumbu Climbing School, it's apparent that the school provides more than just training – as one experienced Sherpa says: “I always felt like a yak, even though I had been to the summit of Mount Everest. Now, I'm a climber."

Into Darkness
USA, 2010, 15 minutes
Directed and Produced by: John Waller
Website: www.uncagethesoul.com
Classification: General - no advisory
Focus: Caving, Environment
Into Darkness is a short adventure essay about the experience of exploring the secret underworld of caves. Journey along with a group of cavers who push through impossibly small passages to access some of the final frontiers on earth. The images and sounds of spectacular and remote wilderness caves will reveal a fantastic world unlike anything we experience on the surface.

The Swiss Machine
USA, 2010, 20 minutes
Produced by: Nick Rosen and Peter Mortimer
Website: www.senderfilms.com
Classification: Parental Guidance - coarse language
Focus: Climbing, Mountaineering
Ueli Steck may be the greatest speed alpinist the world has ever seen. In The Swiss Machine, Steck tells of his record-breaking ascents in the Alps, accompanied by stunning aerial footage that captures him racing up 2500-metre alpine faces. When he joins Alex Honnold in Yosemite, Steck sets his ultimate goal: to take his one-man alpine speed game to the largest, highest walls in the world.

Twitter Whore Experiment

For the next week I'm going to unabashedly follow everybody I can on Twitter. My goal is to see how many actually follow me back. Call it marketing, or whatever.

Twitter Following as of March 15, 2011-254
Twitter Followers as of March 15, 2011-150

Maybe as a secondary goal I should see if traffic to my blog increases at a similar rate. The results will be a little harder to quantify, I suppose, unless I see visitors arriving directly from Twitter.

Blog views as of March 15, 2011-3675

What happens to the people who don't follow you back after a week or two?

I use Just Unfollow to cut the bastards loose.

14 March 2011

Heidi Ruby Miller - Pennwriters Presents

Heidi Ruby Miller is the guest writer at Pennwriters Presents today, so she'll be answering questions and participating in discussions all day at the Pennwriters Yahoo! Group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Pennwriters) - anyone is welcome, not just members of Pennwriters. Stop by and say Hi!

Here's the press release:

Our Guest Star will be Heidi Ruby Miller. She likes to read all types of stories, so it makes sense that she would be a mulit-genre author and co-edit a writing guide titled MANY GENRES, ONE CRAFT: LESSONS IN WRITING POPULAR FICTION (http://manygenres.blogspot.com). Her novels AMBASADORA and ATOMIC ZION are due out in 2011.

She is a Published Pennwriter and member of The Authors Guild and Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA). Some of her short stories can be found in Sails and Sorcery: Tales of Nautical Fantasy, Best of Every Day Fiction, and Eye Contact. She also co-authored a travel guide with her husband Jason Jack Miller.

Heidi will appear at the Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh, PA on May 12 -
15, 2011. She will be a contributor along with Michael A. Arnzen, Natalie Duvall, Matt Duvall, Timons Esaias, Jason Jack Miller, and Victoria Thompson will provide an
all-day, intensive workshop. Heidi Ruby Miller and Jason Jack Miller will teach
a workshop which shows how fixing your first page can improve your entire
manuscript. Her other future appearances include:

* Book Expo America, New York City, May 26, 2011 (book signing)
* WPF In Your Write Mind Conference and Retreat, Greensburg, PA, June 23 - 26,
2011 (official launch of MANY GENRES, ONE CRAFT, workshops)
* Context 24, Columbus, OH, August 26 - 28, 2011 (day-long workshop)
* West Virginia Book Festival, Charleston, WV, October 22 - 23, 2011

Heidi Ruby Miller's month-long online course, WRITING WITH AUTHORITY, starts
April 1, 2011. Along with Jason Jack Miller, she will present the writing course
like those they've taught at Seton Hill University. To learn how to analyze your
writing and use easy techniques that will increase the authority of your voice,
enroll now at http://tinyurl.com/PennwritersCourse201104.

You can reach Heidi by email heidirubymiller@gmail.com and on Facebook at
http://www.facebook.com/heidirubymiller. Her websites are
http://heidirubymiller.blogspot.com and http://manygenres.blogspot.com.

Topics to discuss with Heidi Ruby Miller are:
* Pennwriters Conference 2011 One-Day Intensive Workshop
* Working in multiple genres
* Working with contributors on a project