31 December 2013

2013, so sad to see you go.

I've done 'year in review' posts before (the Justine Bateman/Arya Stark thing that got me thousands of hits) but I figured this year I'd keep it simple.

For a brief moment, I thought there'd be captions and reflections on each. Maybe it's best to let the images speak for themselves.

Linden Place, Summer 2013

Seton Hill University, June 2013

Preston Black promo, February 2013
Guggenheim Museum, April 2013
Magic Kingdom, July 2013

Paris, August 2013
Pennwriters, May 2013

Nashville, July 2013

Paris, August 2013

Capclave, Washington DC, October 2013
Paris, August 2013

Baltimore Book Fest, September 2013

Share the Spirit, Uniontown, PA, December 2013

Paris, August 2013
Paris, August 2013

20 December 2013

Freaks and Geeks Playlist!

Showing my seniors a bit of the series this week and promised them some music to go with it. So here are songs from the show, and some from the era that were never featured on the show. 

Trying to break the misconception that the 80s were only parachute pants and neon, one listener at a time. 

I had a lot of these on tapes that I ordered from Columbia House. Which, try explaining that to a group of students who have had access to any song they'd ever wanted, on demand.  

19 December 2013

17 December 2013

ONLY HUMAN by Mike Mehalek

BOOK: Only Human by Mike Mehalek

“Dragons do not cry. They control their emotions. That is what all dragons were taught, but I am now the only one alive to remember this lesson.” 
Cover Art by Allie Raines
Now on sale at Amazon

What does it mean to be a human? 

Meet Vincent, a most unusual dragon who has been trying to avoid answering that particular question for thousands of years, ever since his kind banished him and forced him to spend the rest of his life as a human. When a new love arrives unexpectedly, Vincent discovers that the only way to find happiness is to revisit his violent past and to confront his uncertain future. Haunting, heart-felt, and sometimes funny, Vincent discovers that even through tragedy, the things we most often try to avoid are those that make us whole.

What others have said

ONLY HUMAN takes you on a journey through Vincent's past lives and loves as he navigates his present incarnation and the darkness that follows him throughout the ages.
-Heidi Ruby Miller, author of Greenshift

There's lots to love about ONLY HUMAN: action, mystery, secrets revealed and redemption. Add to that dragons (who doesn't love dragons?), wicked bad guys and an all-too-human narrator who will win your heart...the strongest element of this book is the love story...This is an epic, timeless story and a small intimate one at the same time. Dip your toe in, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
-Jennifer Barnes, editor at Raw Dog Screaming Press

Purchased and enjoying!!...AND I had a dream I was a flying dragon last night! It was awesome!
-Amazon Reader

Watch the trailer below
For fun

Who would play the characters in the movie version?

About Mike

Mike Mehalek writes fast-paced lyrical books that can be enjoyed with one reading but have enough substance for re-reading. He brings stories to life that demand to be told, regardless of the hopes/dreams/fears/desires of his characters-the Story first-always the Story. 

He'd love for you to visit him at his blog, Writing is Tricky
or on Twitter @mikemehalek

If you'd like to join his email list, please email mike.mehalek@gmail.com
with like to join in the subject line.

09 December 2013

Mega-Author Signings in Uniontown!

Mega-Author Signings in Uniontown!

On Saturday, December 14 from 1:00 - 3:00 PM, Bradley's Books at the Uniontown Mall will host a book signing for 13 authors from Raw Dog Screaming Press and Dog Star Books, including Michael Arnzen, Jennifer Barnes, Matt Betts, Leland Pitts-Gonzalez, John Edward Lawson, Heidi Ruby Miller, Jason Jack Miller, Diane Turnshek, Matthew Warner, Albert Wendland, D. Harlan Wilson, K. Ceres Wright, and Stephanie Wytovich.

The authors are also guests at Share the Spirit that evening at the State Theater Center for the Arts in downtown Uniontown. The Share the Spirit Author Mix and Mingle begins at 6:00 PM.

Both events are free and open to the public.

Hope to see you there!

06 December 2013

John Lennon Cover Project!

In an effort to try to stay positive this weekend, I'm spending it listening to all of the music Lennon gave us. I've written other posts about what his music means to me, and what he means to me, so I figured I'd do something a little different and compile my favorite Lennon covers. Here are just a few from his time with The Beatles and from his solo stuff, played by people who are also very important to me.

Hope you enjoy them!

24 November 2013

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (After my birthday.)

These kids were either really, really good this year, or really bad. Comment when you see it.

It's time for this year's A Very Special Jason Jack Miller Christmas Playlist. Now you don't have to ask Santa for it.

23 November 2013

Beatles on Ready Steady Go, November 23, 1964.

So I'm watching this Beatles vid from this day in 1964, and I'm trying to draw parallels to my own career. Which is stupid, because I'm not a Beatle. But I figure THIS is still their infancy. THIS is the band before the alternate personas and transcendental meditation.

I know, I know... These are The Beatles and you're just writing books about a guitar player and a woman who may or may not be the devil. But I love the idea of a young band, playing just to play. Smiling at the camera like nobody's watching. And that's how I write on a good day. Like nobody's reading. And that's why I'm going to continue to look at The Beatles as role models in 2014. And the haters can just keep hating.

21 November 2013


I am the underdog. I realize that others are rooting for me to succeed, and I will gratefully accept their help when offered. I also understand the power of favors, and will offer them and grant them whenever I can. 
                                                   -Seth Godin, THE BOOTSTRAPPER BIBLE

In my experience, a lot of writers feel like it's a little crass to sell yourself. I always thought this was silly for two big reasons:
  1. Fiction is selling. Whether it be a world, a character, or an idea, you are trying to convince the reader to believe you and your BS.
  2. Writers want to be read.  
Maybe it's crass that I'm not ashamed to admit it, I don't know. But I'm grateful for guys like Godin, who have done a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to providing a framework for guys like me.   
Read the rest, or download the PDF at SethGodin.com.

20 November 2013

ACTION NEEDED! Just takes a minute. (Seriously.)

You just need to click the link and provide some info. You can add additional comments if you'd like. Please take a minute to comment-- http://www.saveblackwater.org/action_easternlongearedbat.html
Hard to find 'cute' bat pics. Sorry.


White-Nose Syndrome Pushing Bats to Extinction!

Of the six species of bats known to be impacted by this disease, the northern long-eared bat is among the hardest hit, dropping by a staggering 99 percent since symptoms of white-nose syndrome were first observed in 2006.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) is now considering protecting the northern long-eared bat under the Endangered Species Act, a needed action to begin to respond to this dramatic decline.

WNS has caused "the most precipitous wildlife decline in the past century in North America," according to biologists and has killed more than 5.7 million bats to date.  Thanks to all of you who have commented!  The FWS is accepting public comments on this proposal until December 3rd, please take action today.

Additional info:



11 November 2013

Americana Music – The Roots of Some (But Not All) Evil?


For THE WAYBACK MACHINE I'm reclaiming posts that have appeared elsewhere on the internets. Maybe, for the sake of keeping things interesting, I'll update the post with additional commentary or a summary of some of the reactions it generated.


Americana Music – The Roots of Some (But Not All) Evil?

Do you want to know how to make somebody from New York City really mad?

A very happy ?uestlove.
Just accuse them of not having the best museum or delis or pizza, or not being at the center of something. I had this unfortunate experience with a tongue-in-cheek piece I posted on my blog a while back. (It was way more ‘tongue’ than ‘cheek.’) I accused New York City (I’m told you can just say ‘New York’) of not being at the center of the New Wave of Americana. (Sorry if you thought this was an article about THE ROOTS. I don’t want to make ?uestlove mad too.)

Take a second to pick up your hats and calm your womenfolk down.

So what had me so riled up? It was this little article in SPIN magazine. Something about somebody giving washboard lessons in Red Hook for $20 a pop. (I know, right? I laughed when I read it too.) I’m going to blame Mumford and Sons for this phenomenon. Not because they’re disingenuous or making crappy music, but because they made it acceptable for Blue States to like banjos. Almost overnight those five-stringed nightmares went from being an instrument of ridicule (How many banjo players does it take to eat a possum? Two, one to eat it and one to watch for cars.) to a symbol of tolerance and understanding. Like white people had been given their very own pan flute or bongos or didjeridu. And Mumford gave them a way to do it without having to acknowledge Skoal or NASCAR.

Johnny and friend.
To be fair, Nashville may have inadvertently shoved a lot of listeners into Americana when Columbia Records let Johnny Cash out of his contract, which forced Rick Rubin to record Johnny’s version of “Hurt.” A bunch of folks probably ran out and bought the record expecting to hear Cash’s take on other modern things, and instead got “Sam Hall,” a traditional English ballad about an old school death row prisoner, “Streets of Laredo” which recounts a dying cowboy’s last words, and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” which, of course, is a Hank Williams’ number about being lonely and crying.

So, besides Johnny Cash and Mumford and Sons, who should you all be listening to if you want to make it in the New Wave of Americana? Here’s a primer:

MIDDLE BROTHER combines jangly Nashville guitars with songs about booze and curse words. But the trio of Deer Tick’s John J. McCauley III, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith and Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez know how to turn a phrase. “…regrets, Tourette’s, I guess it’s the same.” And there’s a song about Portland.

MIDDLE BROTHER “Middle Brother”:

AVETT BROTHERS is a guitar/banjo/bass trio for the traditionalists in the group. They even come from North Carolina. How’s that for cred? But they aren’t really all that traditional. Check out “Kick Drum Heart” if you want to hear what I’m talking about. And hooking up with Rick Rubin isn’t really a traditional move either.


GILLIAN WELCH and DAVE RAWLINGS Gillian Welch is the Fairy Godmother of Roots music. Her appearance in O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? pretty much confirms it. As a revivalist, Gillian has done as much as anybody to keep Roots and Americana alive during the pre-O BROTHER, pre-Johnny Cash HURT, Nineties. Bleak times for a revival.


WILCO’s inclusion on this list doesn’t come easy, considering Wilco is a little more Radiohead than Hank Williams nowadays. But there’s no denying Jeff Tweedy’s contributions to Americana. No Depression, the now-defunct Americana, Roots and Alt-country magazine– took its name from Tweedy’s previous band’s first album (and a Carter Family song, “No Depression in Heaven.”) Don’t let the robonoise fool you, Tweedy still keeps it real.

WILCO NPR Tiny Desk Concert:

Here's some old school Uncle Tupelo for contrast AND because one day somebody will want to know exactly what 1989 looked like:

This list should be just enough to get you started. Talk to twenty different people and you’ll get as many different definitions of Americana and Roots. After all, it is the music of the people…

Whatever that means. Even the term ‘Americana’ suggests a hodgepodge of styles and influences. So consider this an apology, New York (City). As long as you’re part of America, you’re part of Americana.

Extra credit:


THE CIVIL WARS. Remember that post-Grammy bump I told you about? (Is that a HATCH SHOW PRINT poster in the background? Why, yes it is.)

CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS because nothing says ‘Americana’ like resonators and pork pie hats.

TIM O’BRIEN Best Virginia represent!

Yonder Mountain String Band! These are the guys that started it all for me. Yonder showed me how  The Beatles, The Misfits, Pink Floyd and guys like Ralph Stanley could all get along in the same setlist. (All videos were filmed on either February 24 or 25 at the Newport Music Hall, Columbus, Ohio. Heidi and I attended both shows, but none of the videos belong to us.)

04 November 2013

COVER: Wasteland Blues by Scott Christian Carr and Andrew Conry-Murray

Of Mice and Men Meets The Odyssey in a Post-Apocalyptic Future

Having only ever known the uncivilized wake of nuclear and biological apocalypse, three friends and their wheelchair-bound hostage set out on a perilous fool’s mission--to cross from one side of the devastated United States to the other, in the desperate, half-believed hope of finding a rumored haven. 

Spurred by a dark vision and the murder of their father, rageaholic Derek Cane and his over-sized, simple-minded brother, Teddy, flee the only home they've ever known, a struggling shantytown on the edge of the vast Wasteland. Heading ever eastward, they are accompanied by their friend, John, an orphan brought up by a fanatical religious order, and Leggy, a crippled old drunk who brags that, in his youth, he once traversed the Wasteland as a scavenger.
Cover Art by Bradley Sharp

Post-Apocalyptic novel  coming from Dog Star Books in March 2014

03 November 2013

NaNo Playlist!

Some tunes for those marathon NaNoWriMo sessions! With long(ish) and (somewhat) droning songs, this playlist was designed to keep you in the moment. Put your headphones on, turn it up, tune out. 

02 November 2013

ALL SAINTS, Chapter 1

In honor of All Saints Day, I decided to post the first chapter of my work in progress. The novel, featuring Ben Collins, takes place after the events in THE REVELATIONS OF PRESTON BLACK.

Tapping into the magic of Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos, an Afghan War vet comes to terms with life after combat. And who better to guide him through the darkness than the Devil herself?

28 October 2013

COVER: Corpus Chrome, Inc. by S. Craig Zahler

Who should be given a second chance at life? 

Decades in the future Corpus Chrome, Inc. develops a robotic body, dubbed a “mannequin,” that can revive, sustain and interface with a cryonically-preserved human brain. Like all new technology, it is copyrighted.

Hidden behind lawyers and a chrome facade, the inscrutable organization resurrects a variety of notable minds, pulling the deceased back from oblivion into a world of animated sculpture, foam rubber cars, dissolving waste and strange terrorism. Nobody knows how Corpus Chrome, Inc. determines which individuals should be given a second life, yet myriad people are affected. Among them are Lisanne Breutschen, the composer who invented sequentialism with her twin sister, and Champ Sappline, a garbage man who is entangled in a war between the third, fourth and fifth floors of a New York City apartment building.

In the Spring of 2058, Corpus Chrome, Inc. announces that they will revive Derek W.R. Dulande—a serial rapist and murderer who was executed thirty years ago for his crimes. The public is horrified by the decision, and before long, the company’s right to control the lone revolving door between life and death will be violently challenged….

Cover Art by Bradley Sharp

Cyberpunk/Transhumanism novel  coming from Dog Star Books in January 2014

What They’re Saying About S. Craig Zahler

“Zahler’s a fabulous story teller whose style catapults his reader into the turn of the century West with a ferocious sense of authenticity.”
—Kurt Russell, star of Tombstone, Escape from New York, Dark Blue, and Death Proof

“If you’re looking for something similar to what you’ve read before, this ain’t it. If you want something comforting and predictable, this damn sure ain’t it.  But if you want something with storytelling guts and a weird point of view, an unforgettable voice, then you want what I want, and that is this.”
—Joe R. Lansdale author of Edge of Dark Water

27 October 2013


I wonder what purpose music bloggers and reviewers are going to serve down the road, considering most of the 'new' music I've personally discovered over the last few years isn't new at all. The abundance and availability of music online has permitted me to listen to it and interact with it in ways I never imagined or thought possible. Some of my new favorite artists—Brian Eno, Kraftwerk, Neutral Milk Hotel—are defunct or peaked years (decades) ago. But Spotify has allowed me work my way through their entire catalogs, letting me figure out what I liked or didn't like about a particular artist in my own time. For example, I'd always heard Duane Allman was an amazing guitarist, but never wanted to commit to buying the music. I always avoided The Allmans, figuring 'their kind' of music wouldn't make sense to a former grunge band guitarist raised on MTV, and then Metallica. But the first time I heard—really heard—Duane's guitar I got chills. And that's something that just doesn't happen all that often to me. Spotify let me explore The Allman Brothers' music—studio and live releases—on my own terms, to see what it was I liked and didn't like about them. Then I went out and bought them all on CD.

Along those same lines, Spotify let me find all of the 80s bands that peaked just before I moved away from pop and really started to listen to music—the bands that influenced the bands that I loved. I suppose if I would've been able to stay up for MTV's 120 MINUTES a little more often I wouldn't have had to wait until the proliferation of streaming music, but without Pandora and Spotify I never would've given Black Flag, Bad Religion, or Fugazi much of a listen. Kids don't have the kind of money that lets them experiment with new artists, and my only exposure to this kind of stuff came from THRASHER magazine—in print. Steve Caballero rocking an Agent Orange shirt. Circle Jerks ads. But when I'd hit up National Record Mart they never carried any of those bands anyway, and Uniontown, PA was too small to support any kind of indie vinyl shops. (Somehow we all had The Dead Milkmen, BIG LIZARD IN MY BACKYARD and played the shit out of it. Maybe a bunch of us grabbed it on a trip to Century III Mall, which was Pittsburgh's biggest at the time. Not sure how that happened.) Then in 1987 or 88, my cousin ordered THRASHER SKATE ROCK vol. 2: BLAZING WHEELS AND BARKING TRUCKS (T.S.O.L., Drunk Injuns, JFA) from the back of the magazine and we all dubbed copies and passed it around. Ironically, it was an ad for Metallica's THE $5.98 E.P.: GARAGE DAYS RE-REVISITED (which National Record Mart DID have) in THRASHER that got me into them. (And Anthrax, and Megadeth, and Exodus, and on and on.) 

By the time I was able to drive myself to Morgantown, WV to hit up their indie music shops in 1991, Metallica, Guns N' Roses, and to a smaller extent, U2 and Jane's Addiction dominated all of my various musical spheres. Then in August, Pearl Jam released TEN, and the rest….    

So, IN UTERO turns 20 this year. Pretty much everybody knows it. I guess since MTV stopped being a mechanism of music delivery and record labels started letting marketing departments into recording studios, the re-release of a particularly amazing album is the kind of once-a-year musical event that gets to share headlines with twerking, and, well… twerking.   

Congrats, guys. It's a well-deserved honor. Unfortunately we all know what's coming next year. Mark your calendars, because April 2014 is going to be Kurt Cobain month and he'll no doubt be receiving the same treatment IN UTERO's getting right now.

Maybe this is a good time to stop for a second and take a look at what else 1993-1994 gave us: Pearl Jam VS., Snoop Dogg DOGGYSTYLE, The Smashing Pumpkins SIAMESE DREAM, U2 ZOOROPA, Radiohead PABLE HONEY, Liz Phair EXILE IN GUYVILLE, Wu-Tang Clan ENTER THE WU-TANG, plus debuts or new music from Mazzy Star, The Flaming Lips, Björk, Green Day, Oasis, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, Pavement, Soundgarden, and Blur.

Let's play that same game with 2013 now. We got Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Atoms for Peace (Radiohead's Thom Yorke), Lady Gaga, Eminem, Arcade Fire, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Jake Bugg, The Civil Wars, Franz Ferdinand, Queens of the Stone Age, and Arctic Monkeys with new releases this year. It's a pretty glossy list—one part survival of the fittest, one part stuff that would work in a VW ad. I know that criticizing the music of today is an old man's game, but they make it so easy, don't they? The Nineties gave us grunge, Brit Pop, EDM, the ascendancy of Hip-Hop and West Coast rap, MTV Unplugged, California Punk/Ska, Industrial, Alt-Country. (Yeah, I know some of this existed just before the 90s, so let's not nit-pick. Each of these ascended or peaked in the 90s.) Maybe it was just the very beginning of the 'let's-throw-crap-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks-era' but you know what? A lot of it stuck. A lot of bands releasing albums in 2013 were nurtured by labels who were able to overlook sluggish sales (for a moment or two, anyway.) (Not a problem Pearl Jam suffered from back then.)  

I never meant to be a reporter on what was. It makes one seem rigid and cynical. 'Nostalgia is for the weak' and all that. But it just sort of happened that IN UTERO made me reflect on a time period that saw me meeting and marrying my wife while working as a white-water raft guide (best job ever) and finishing college. Over in Bosnia, Serbs were killing Muslims by the thousands, but we were getting a Woodstock reboot. What did we care? Clinton was president and Americans were happy. The month Heidi and I went on our first date, Netscape Navigator was released and it was the official end of Nintendo's "Year of the Cartridge."

This is probably a stage that everybody reaches at some point in their life. A stage when the past is suddenly too far out of reach to recall without a little help from Firefox. And Spotify is the most important weapon I've yet to discover for filling my head with 'new' music. It's the world's best musical library and will help more people find what they want better than a reviewer or blogger ever could. I don't work for Spotify and am not receiving a cut of anything. I'm just a kid who is finally able to get to that record store I never could back in the 80s, or 70s, or 60s.

Maybe I don't like the state of music in 2013 because I draw too many parallels with some of what's going on in NYC with publishing. I thought the democratic nature of the net would drive a listener/reader/viewer-supported revolution, but trends are still being created in boardrooms. The internet is always looking for the NEXT BIG THING, even going so far as to create NEXT BIG THINGS where none existed, in the process facilitating trends that rise and fall weekly with nothing sustainable to keep them going beyond that. (Pitchfork, I'm looking at you.) And I'm not the only one thinking this way. I'm stealing a few questions from Kris Millet's 2000-2009 – MAKING SENSE OF MUSIC'S "LOST DECADE" (Which you should read, because it's more about the music and less about a personal journey with him: http://www.culturemagazine.ca/music/2000_2009_making_sense_of_musics_lost_decade.html)

In the article, he asks:

1.   What musical innovations from 2000-2009 raised the bar and will influence future generations?

2.  What emergent acts will sellout arenas in future decades?

3.  What hits have a legitimate shot at becoming popular music standards? You know, something that someone will be singing karaoke to 20 years from now?

The first commenter said My Chemical Romance's "The Black Parade." A totally appropriate response for somebody rooting for the music of their own decade. We have the benefit of hindsight with this one. Sorry that didn't work out for you. 

Maybe the 2010s will spawn a movement as a response to the 2000s' lack of one. But I'm not going to comment on it if it does. I like what I like, as should all of you. And in my own way, I'm creating my own movements, which in this case, happen to transcend decades and genres.

17 October 2013

Pearl Jam/Lightning Bolt Playlist!

I missed Pearl Jam's opener in Pittsburgh last week to attend Capclave in DC. I'm just trying to piece together a little of the music that I would've missed. Figure it'd make a nice soundtrack for the Raw Dog Screaming Press event in Pittsburgh this weekend.