My Novels Now Have Playlists on Spotify

No question that writing is my calling, but if I had my druthers (or any talent), I’d be a musician. I missed my chance during the punk era, when ability was optional.

Music is exceedingly important to my writing – and the rest of my life. I can’t write while listening to music, yet music dictates the shape and feel of every page.

I’ve now got playlists on Spotify (a digital music service). These playlists summarize the music that constructed my latest novels, Scar Jewelry and Nica of Los Angeles. I put these playlists together after the fact, and they each hold a couple hours of music. Spotify compiled some of the album covers:

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If you’d like to hear both these playlists, take out a free membership on Spotify, then follow scperryz. Or you can listen to the playlist for Nica of Los Angeles. Or the playlist for Scar Jewelry. (I’ve provided browser links but most folks prefer the phone app.)

I’ve got a still-evolving playlist for the still-being-written, second book in the FRAMES series, Nica of XXX. (Nica’s location in the second book is currently embargoed.) Today the new playlist is 9.5 hours long… I suppose that only the music I listen to repeatedly should survive to the final playlist. Anyway, here’s the Spotify thumbnail of the playlist for the new Nica:

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Let me close with a few digressions. (Bookmark this page! Digression on this blog – a first!)

Digression #1. Looking at these album covers, I am reminded that, on the whole, musicians are way cooler than writers. Which sets me to wondering. Do people become musicians because they are that cool, or is it the playing of music that makes them cool?

Digression #2. Spotify is an amazing invention and it rules my version of consumer heaven, along with the automobile seat warmer and the iPad. Driving to a concert recently, Spotify let me listen to nearly an hour’s worth of different versions of Moonshiner. Who knew so many existed? (Verdict: several otherwise-lackluster bands have excellent covers of this song; however, the various cheery Irish versions are creepy. This ain’t no happy drinking song.)

Digression #3. Who wrote Moonshiner? When? No one knows for sure. There is even debate about whether it originated in the U.S. or Ireland. Typically when great art generates immortality, it is not anonymous immortality. To me this adds bittersweetness to one of the saddest songs I know.

My personal favorite Moonshiner isn’t on Spotify because Kelly Joe Phelps hasn’t recorded it (yet?). Fortunately YouTube, bless its digital heart, has a live version:

There is No DOH in Book Marketing (And Yet…) (P.S. Free Book Stuff)

Note to self: When you put a book on sale, or into a giveaway contest, it is generally a good idea to tell somebody.

Psst – the e-version of the speculative fantasy detective novel Nica of Los Angeles is $0.99 through the holidays at Amazon and most other on-line stores. I’m thrilled to report that Nica has been getting some truly rave reader reviews.

Also Psst – you can win a signed paper copy of Nica in this Goodreads giveaway.

These promotions are also part of Read Tuesdaya newfangled answer to Black Friday (not that any question was posed). Read Tuesday is an on-line sale just for books and it happens today, Tuesday, December 9, 2014. (Note to self: maybe next year let people know about this before it is in progress.)

And so my no-love affair with book marketing continues.

Something that has been a blast for me to do, though: I’ve made Spotify* playlists for Nica of Los Angeles and Scar Jewelry. In each playlist is a combination of music the characters listened to, and music that shaped the writing. Follow scperryz to listen – and let me know if the music that writes the novel also enhances reading the novel!

* Spotify is a digital music service and the best ten bucks a month I ever spent. (You can also get a free version with ads; I used that for a long time.)

Oh, and speaking of music, that reminds me of all the cool free -legal!- music downloads at Noisetrade, which now has free book downloads, too. You can download the first half of Nica of Los Angeles on Noisetrade books. (And – for the moment – all of Scar Jewelry!)

nola.v2

When rookie private eye Nica takes on a mysterious case, she enters a world of multiple dimensions called Frames, where buildings and lawn chairs can be sentient, a stray cat has great powers, books can be killers, and clouds can be spies. At home, Nica tackles missing person cases, while in the larger reality of the Frames she is swept into an escalating battle with stakes that could not be higher.

Cover for Scar Jewelry

What do we really know about our parents or the way they shape us? For twins Deirdre and Langston, 20, the answer is: not enough. With their father long dead, and their mother now in a coma, they realize they don’t even know whom to notify. In fact, they understand almost nothing about their mother. They delve into her life, and as they do, they uncover secrets that revise the past and transform the future. Set in southern California in the present and in the early days of the punk scene.

Oh, To Be Wrong As Dazzlingly As Chandler!

$_35Don’t ask me what book I would have if I could only have one book. I hate that. Choose one book-record-movie-food. Perhaps I approach the game with an excess of realism. I imagine being stuck on the obligatory desert island, reading the same book while eating blueberries, over and over and. No matter how long or wonderful the piece, at some point my adoration must sour and someday I’ll come down with hives.

I can say that Raymond Chandler is my favorite author. I’ve re-read his seven novels multiple times and each time my appreciation grows. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get around to reading The Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler by Frank MacShane, which I have owned for many years. Maybe I’ve been afraid to learn too much about Chandler the man. I like having heroes and that typically requires blinders to the person behind the artist.

Alternatively, I could evolve to the point where I don’t need to pretend my heroes are perfect. But that’s another post – and maybe another person – entirely.

Another hardboiled noir masterpiece that is among my favorite books is Double Indemnity, by James M. Cain, for very different reasons. I usually need characters to root for, and there are none in Double Indemnity. But the writing is remarkably evocative, in part because it is so spare. Every word is the right one, and every word is required. I’ve encountered very few novels like that – so these qualities are not essential to greatness, but are impressive.

A predecessor of Chandler and Cain’s was Dashiell Hammett, who many people revere as a founder of the hardboiled detective genre. Hammett always leaves me flat, although I keep coming back to his books, in part because Chandler so admired him.

Turns out that Chandler didn’t think much of Cain. In fact, here is what he wrote in a letter to his publisher, Knopf, in 1942, at a time when he was unhappy about the quality of his recently-completed third novel. That novel, The High Window, is one of my favorites! Chandler was a messy and reassuring mix of self-confidence and self-doubt.

I do hope the next one will be better and that one of these days I shall turn one out that will have that fresh and sudden touch that will click. Most of all perhaps, in my rather sensitive mind, I hope the day will come when I won’t have to ride around on Hammett and James Cain, like an organ-grinder’s monkey. Hammett is all right. I give him everything. There were a lot of things he could not do, but what he did he did superbly. But James Cain – faugh! Everything he touches smells like a billygoat. He is every kind of writer I detest, a faux naif, a Proust in greasy overalls, a dirty little boy with a piece of chalk and a board fence and nobody looking. Such people are the offal of literature, not because they write about dirty things, but because they do it in a dirty way. Nothing hard and clean and cold and ventilated. A brothel with a smell of cheap scent in the front parlor and a bucket of slops at the back door. Do I, for God’s sake, sound like that? Hemingway with his eternal sleeping bag got to be pretty damn tiresome, but at least Hemingway sees it all, not just the flies on the garbage can.

Heigho. I think I’ll write an English detective story, one about Superintendent Jones and the two elderly sisters in the thatched cottage, something with Latin in it and music and period furniture and a gentleman’s gentleman: above all one of those books where everybody goes for nice long walks.

Yours most sincerely,

Raymond Chandler

Oh yeah. He didn’t like Agatha Christie much, either.

All of which reminds me that my favorite speech in the movie of Double Indemnity was a Chandler addition. He adapted the novel to the screen for director Billy Wilder. Now that is one of my favorite movies, although it would not be on a loop in my screening room on the desert island. I didn’t know that Fred MacMurray was a great actor until I saw Double Indemnity. But that is a digression within a digression. (Nested digressions!) Anyhow, the added dialog was in the opening confession: “Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money and for a woman. I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman.”

 

Book Sale: Nica of Los Angeles, Today for One Dollar

In fact, save an extra penny. The cost is actually $0.99.

(When did the cents symbol leave the keyboard?) (When did I last look for it?)

Today only! Get a copy of my new novel, Nica of Los Angeles, for ninety-nine cents, at all the usual places, including:

Amazon
(ratings avg 4.7 out of 5 stars)

Smashwords

Apple

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

 

nola coverYou’ve never read anything quite like this! When rookie private eye Nica takes on a mysterious case, she enters a world of multiple dimensions called Frames, where buildings and lawn chairs can be sentient, where a stray cat has great powers, where books can be killers, and clouds can be spies. At home, Nica tackles missing persons cases, while in the larger reality of the Frames she is swept into an escalating battle between good and evil.

Adventure Is Always Present Tense

A sister-in-law: “Have you read Wild by Cheryl Strayed? I think of you as I read it, because of your adventurous spirit.”

Me: “No, but I am thrilled that you think I have an adventurous spirit. Wonder if I agree.”

A sister-in-law: “Are you kidding?”

Adventurous? Moi? I wish! I do like to try new things but I generally fall short of earning the honor of that adjective.

I can be a big chicken, but that’s not what prevents me. It’s my tendency to dwell in the past and on the future. I know I’m not the only one with this problem. It afflicts most adults of our species.

Adventure can only be had right now, in the present. Kids are good at living in the present tense. So are critters. It’s a skill I’m trying to re-acquire.

When you first learn to walk, every moment is an adventure:

LByearphoto

A few years later, adventure is as close as your next idea, such as this tandem go-cart constructed of cardboard boxes, plywood, and skateboard wheels:

StartPoint

 

Red and Luna would head out each morning to patrol the yard and explore anything that might be new since yesterday.

redandluna

And of course, when you’re a dog, like Shadow, adventure is always in the air – especially through a car window:

Waiting for the next walk.

Shadow and I go for walks twice a day. I vary the route but we’ve lived here for years. No matter which way we go, we’ve done it before. Many times. Yet, each time we step out the door, Shadow’s enthusiasm is as fresh as ever, and she’s always in a hurry to get going. It’s not that she needs to go – she’s got a backyard, she’s not cooped up inside. She’s eager because you just never know what might happen next.

That’s the attitude I aspire to. Except without the affinity for cat poop.

Nica, the main character of my latest novel, is completely comfortable with adventure. I’ve never written another character that I want so much to be like!

Pssst! I Want To Share My New Discovery: It’s Called Twitter!

How many times do you have to hear the same advice before you listen? For me, the answer is 17. That’s how many times somebody told me, You’re a writer? You need to be on Twitter or people won’t know about you.

Okay, I made that up. The 17, that is. It could be 12, could be 30. Anyway, I’ve heard it a lot of times. I resisted the advice for years, because I don’t really get Twitter, except it is amazing to watch the flow of tweets during big-deal world events. And it’s a brilliant medium for certain comedians. The 140-character limit is also an intriguing fictional milieu, and I once dabbled in creating multiple accounts for imaginary people so that I could engage them in a story. It was fun, but writing novels remains funner.

Funner is a word my son used, back when he was small. For example, he dictated this message with the shower gift to an unborn child, “At first it’s not fun but then it gets funner and funner.” (It = life.)

But I digress. Just like on Twitter, except with more characters.

As with my children, I want the best for my novels. Especially, I want people to read them. Towards that end, the first – and in the current publishing world, the most difficult – step is to make people aware that my novels exist! So, a week-plus ago, I took the plunge and joined the Twitter universe.

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 5.46.40 PMThe Twitterverse is a peculiar place that I don’t much understand. I have come to learn that if you like what someone tweets, you can reward them with various coins of the realm. You can favorite the tweet, or re-tweet it, or follow that tweeter. Following someone is a particular honor, apparently, and important. Some people pay for services that reveal who followed – and who un-followed – them every day. What does one do with un-follow information? Beg them to come back? Make a Nixonian enemies list?

My number of followers fluctuates. This happens whether or not I tweet anything. The long-term trend is up so maybe it’s like the stock market. Or perhaps I have offended some, by failing to retweet them, and so they cut me off. More likely, they were false followers, who followed me just to get me to check them out and say hmm, interesting and follow them back… Mission accomplished, they hook another follower and then unfollow her. Me. Apparently this kind of thing is worth the effort because your ratio of followers to following could indicate how cool you are. In even more arcane ways, your number of tweets matter, but I’m not the one to explain how that works.

The unfollowing methodology perplexes me. Should I figure out who unfollowed me and – eye for an eye! – unfollow them? Should I unfollow the #Dalai Lama? What about my musical faves like #Chris Thile or #Noam Pikelny or #X (here Xtheband)? They’ve had more than a week to follow me back, how long am I supposed to wait for respect?

I can’t imagine how much energy it takes to keep track of such things. Twitter is overwhelmingly productive. I don’t follow many people yet, so I don’t get all that many tweets on my timeline. While I typed this, I only got 183 new tweets. Wait, make that 203. The tweets flow by and if I’m not watching the screen when your latest tweet posts, I will never see it. And so tweeters post and post and post, so that I might occasionally see one of their tweets. (Make that 247 new tweets.) Many writers claim that incessant tweeting noticeably boosts sales and downloads of their books. (272 new tweets.) Oy. I hope that is not the only way to grow readership. (292 new tweets)

Conversation seems difficult on Twitter. When you reply to a tweet, you do actually engage with another tweeter, but your timelines shows non-sequitur reply lines that make no sense to anyone else and it takes several clicks to backtrack to understand the conversation. I’m sure no one bothers.

For all of that, Twitter is amazing. Think about it. All over the world, millions upon millions typing and sending these cryptic messages in internet bottles, all day, every day. No need to reply, it’s all one-way. (337 tweets) Sometimes I go bittersweet and pretend that Twitter relays the transmissions from a distant galaxy, messages only just now captured after traveling light years from a civilization lost to a supernova, eons ago.

Do you tweet? My twitter handle is in the snapshot – stop on by! (363 tweets)

P.S. To those of you who have read Nica of Los Angeles – I sound like Nica now, don’t I? It’s kind of awesome and kind of creepy to be inhabited by a character in this way. After I finished book 1, I wasn’t able to shake her style of narration, and now that I’m immersed in book 2 in the series, I’ve stopped trying to shake it because I need it again. Maybe I will become more like Nica, and not just talk like her. Now that would be awesome!

Consumer Nirvana – a short list

All hope abandon, ye who shoppeth here.

All hope abandon, ye who shoppeth here.

Being a consumer makes me anxious and hostile. I go into a store, see shelf after shelf of choices and I don’t revel in having options. I just want to get my laundry soap and get out of here. I become loyal because overwhelmed. I stick with products that slightly work for me because I can’t bear another round of label reading or comparison shopping. Consumer-wise – except for the shortages – I might have done okay in the Soviet Union.

But – there are some times when I glory in being part of a consumer society, when I am enjoying the luxuries that have become necessities because I love them so frigging much. My top two consumer necessities are:

1) the iPad. It captures the essence of all that is charming and easy and cool about Apple products, while allowing me to read and write in the dark, such as on patios on summer nights. I write my first draft novels on my iPad now, and only switch to a laptop because iPad text editing remains at a Neanderthal stage.

2) the automobile seat warmer. Although my last couple cars have had them, it took me years to toggle the on button. The concept seemed weird and pointless, and reminded me of a failed toilet attachment from long ago called “Butt Spa”. Then I tried one (a seat warmer, not a Butt Spa). Now I look forward to driving in frigid weather. And yes, even in southern California it gets cold enough for a seat warmer — if you want it to.

Image from electronicproducts.com.

You Could Be Having More Fun

nola

Bored with the blog world? Then, stop reading this blog post and instead check out the first chapters of my latest novel, Nica of Los Angeles, It is the first in the FRAMES series, a speculative fantasy with detective elements, plenty of humor, and a strong female lead. I’m excited about this series and the reactions Nica is getting so far! One thing I can guarantee – you haven’t read anything quite like this before.

Not ready to commit to free chapters? Then start with the descriptions below.

Thumbnail:

When rookie private eye Nica takes on a mysterious case, she enters a world of multiple dimensions called Frames, where buildings and lawn chairs can be sentient, where a stray cat has great powers, where books can be killers, and clouds can be spies. At home, Nica tackles missing persons cases, while in the larger reality of the Frames she is swept into an escalating battle between good and evil.

Synopsis:

Nica Sheridan Taggart Ambrose Taggart Ickovic (S.T.A.T.Ic.) craves action and change, which leaves her life as stable as old dynamite; and though she’s had more than her share of tragedy, she maintains an unquenchable spirit. Her restless nature has led her into several marriages and countless jobs. Now she appoints herself as a private detective, and her shingle is barely dry when she gets not one but three pairs of clients demanding her attention.

First comes a noxious couple that Nica secretly dubs Mathead and Scabman, who claim to seek a certain duffel bag; repelled, Nica declines their money but they won’t go away. Then, the Garcias hire her to find a missing, 15-year-old goddaughter; Nica doesn’t trust them, but decides she can help the girl in spite of them. Both cases pale beside the third demand for her services.

I became aware that the air had changed. My office smelled like a forest just after a flash flood, when everything is power-washed and tree trunks are smeared with riverbed mud. Fresh and wild.

It took much strength to gently lower that window, but the stranger’s arms – all sinew and muscle – showed no strain. I took a step back to get a fuller look and to get farther away. He was a wolf. I don’t mean a predatory flirt, I mean he was long and lean and fast and dangerous: coarse black hair, ice-gray eyes and smile full of teeth, supreme confidence backed with survival instinct.

“Please sit down,” I suggested or pleaded as I retreated behind my desk. As he complied, muscles flexed inside his garments, a loose cotton tunic and drawstring pants that were as gray as February.

She sat down, too. My other visitor was a princess: not as in daddy’s spoiled girl, as in future queen of the fairies. She was as ethereal as he was earthy, exotic but I couldn’t place the ethnic background. Cornsilk hair, slanted eyes like unpolished silver, her skin like the penny you’ve always kept in your pocket for luck. Her tunic was white as a desert sunrise.

“We are in need of your detective arts,” she said.

“That tends to be why people come to this office.” The joke was stillborn. “I’m usually good with accents but I can’t place yours. Where are you from?”

“I first arrived in the place you call Kansas.”

“Huh.” I’ve been to Kansas and there is nobody like her there. I decided I would not call her a liar and looked to him expectantly.

“Knowledge of my ancestry provides no value. We have need of your assistance,” he said, in a voice that never needed help from anybody.

“The fate of the free worlds is at stake,” she added, in a voice like the first spring breeze on snow.

“Oh-kay.” Note to self, cancel ad in Nutjob Quarterly.

Despite this bizarre introduction, Nica instinctively trusts these two, Anwyl and Anya, who draw her into adventures beyond imagining – and she’s got a crazy imagination. They travel into other dimensions called Frames, often with the Watts Towers – which are folk art sculptures in Nica’s Frame, but sentient, animate beings elsewhere. Nica learns to avoid books, which form deadly mercenary armies; to keep silent around clouds, which can be spies; and to view her stray cat warily, since cats are beings of great power and you never know what side they’re on. There is danger everywhere in the Frames, but also a mind-boggling expansion of reality. For once, Nica feels challenged, engrossed, and strangely at home.

In this first book of the FRAMES series, a band of allies that includes structures, landforms, and creatures sets out to stop Warty Sebaceous Cysts, a repulsive trio who casually commit genocide as part of their plan to free their imprisoned leader, Maelstrom. Freedom for Maelstrom would bring cruelty and horror to all the Frames, so Nica joins the allies’ cause without hesitation, though her efforts get her in trouble with the law at home, and in danger of mind control, pain, and death in other Frames. As she sees it, she was born to travel the Frames.

Cover art by Lars Huston.

Cadaverous Cliff Face(s)

I can’t decide what I think about these images in a cliff face. Look at these photos and help me decide…

Walking along your favorite beach, you pause and think, "Gee, almost looks like there are faces in that cliff. Never noticed them before."

Walking along your favorite beach, you pause and think, “Gee, almost looks like there are faces in that cliff. Never noticed them before.”

You step closer and confirm. Yup. Faces.

You step closer and confirm. Yup. Faces.

Or skulls. Eek.

Or maybe skulls. Eek.

What does this tell you about how the faces formed? Is this rock emerging after erosion? Or did Mom call Junior to come along, before he finished digging this one out?

What about this hole with a rock in it? Does this tell you how the faces formed? Is this rock emerging after erosion? Or did Mom call Junior to come along, before he finished digging out one last face?

1) Are these accidents of erosion that coincidentally look like faces? Or did some beachgoer dig out rocks in an act of 3D graffiti?… or ….

2) Or — do these suggest creatures escaping from the rock? Or have I been spending too much time in the universe of my new book series, FRAMES?

3) Are these faces cool, or creepy, or c), both of the above?

 

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic? Containers

Four Answers, Then Tag, They’re It!

Folks, you are about to witness my first participation in a blog tour, a newfangled invention by which indie writers help spread the word that they exist. Lisa Voisin invited me to join. Lisa has followed an interesting life path and it’s no wonder, perhaps, that she now writes young adult paranormal romance.

The way this blog tour works is that I answer four questions, then tell you about a few writers whose books I have really enjoyed. They will continue this tour by answering the same questions on their own blogs in two weeks.

Q1) What am I working on?

I’ve just started writing the second novel in the FRAMES series, the follow-on to Nica of Los Angeles, a speculative fantasy with detective and dystopian elements. Book 2, Chapter 1: my most recently completed sentence reads “As I returned to the street, the air pulsed in a series of quick blasts, punctuated with the deep screams of grown men.” Maybe we should have a contest and the winner will correctly guess what that sentence will read like by the time this new novel matures into a final draft.

Q2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Frankly, I think the author would be the last one to answer this question well.

Q3) Why do I write what I do?

I write what I feel compelled to write. The trick is to sustain that drive through the long haul of finishing a novel. More than once, over the years, I have fought the temptation to freshen my characters mid-book, by sending in a bus to run over the first bunch. Fortunately, I am having a great time writing Nica, and her second book looks to be more fun than the first.

Q4) How does my writing process work?

My subconscious has all the best ideas, but its contributions are scattershot and unpredictable. It’s my conscious writer that keeps plugging away, day after day, to draw the inspirations up to the surface and the page. Screen. Keyboard. Touchscreen.

I write first drafts on my iPad, and love sitting on a summer patio in the dark, illuminated only by my device. However, for editing and formatting, I have to return to my laptop, with its full-service software.

And now I’d like to introduce…

One benefit of being an indie writer is getting to e-meet other indie writers, all over the globe.

Hock Tjoa has this to say about himself:  “Hock is a retired teacher and banker and writes as part of his mission to make more widely known traditional Chinese values, but he makes digressions. He lives in northern California.” I read a play that Hock wrote, based on a Chinese folklore detective, and much enjoyed the dry wit and cleverness of the piece.

Louise White has had nearly as many career paths as I’ve had (!) and has covered both ends of the service spectrum, as a waitress and then a cop. She lives in Scotland and writes a young adult series about a kickass teenage girl who fights demons in a world that is … almost… just like ours. I love how normal and teenage her heroine is, in the midst of all the fantasy.

Tennesseean (?) Fran Veal also writes YA. She mingles teen drama with crime and just a touch of the paranormal. I am one chapter away from completing my first novel by her and it was painful to set it aside so that I could meet various deadlines like posting my blog tour entry on time. But hey, I’m a grown-up, right?

I sense some sniggering, somewhere. Grown-up? Reading a bunch of Young Adult books? And how! It’s one of my favorite genres! Let me know if you want some more YA recommends!