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:

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The Art of Letting Go

My son and daughter have grown up. They are 20 now (yep, twins), and launched on their personal trajectories – to what heights and distances, none of us can yet say. I am in awe of the people they have become, so clever and kind, funny and wise. I love spending time with them, and am all too aware that I do so in an extended magic moment, before they settle into the careers and families that will take them farther from my own orbit.

My daughter’s university is a two hour drive away, and a couple times each term I drive up to spend the day with her. We’ve developed a routine: we go out for a meal, we share a long walk and talk on the beach, and then I buy her some groceries. Most recently, we saw this sunset together:

Sunset at East Beach, Santa Barbara, January, 2014.

Sunset at East Beach, Santa Barbara, January, 2014.

My son – and daughter, when she is home – enjoy a lot of live music together. Their musical interests are broader and deeper than mine, but we have many overlaps and intersections, and have each shared great finds with the others.

Still can’t decide whether this is a good mom or bad mom anecdote: The first time I took them to a concert, they were 12 or 13, and we went to see one of my favorite bands from the old days, X. The band had recently reformed to do the occasional “oldies” show, and they were as good as ever.

Here is what X were like back when they were not much older than my kids are now.

In the old days, I hated the crowd at X shows –  slamming, spitting, too much intrusion of personal space and sharing of bodily fluids for me! But at the new shows the mosh pit was small and friendly, and many of the attendees were clearly there with their kids – or grandkids.  So I brought my kids to a show in Orange County. Well, apparently that is where all the nasty fans went to die, or beget new generations. The music was awesome but the room was filled with disgusting drunks (vomiting on themselves without realizing it, that kind of thing). Oops. My kids loved the music but my son still complains that I wouldn’t let him enter the mosh pit, and my daughter still gets grossed out by the smell of beer.

Here is what X looked like last week, when my son and I went to see them at a Whisky-a-Go-Go 50th anniversary celebration:

X at the Whiskey on the Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, January, 2014.

X at the Whisky on the Sunset Strip, Los Angeles, January, 2014.

We don’t usually attend “oldies” shows – we’d rather hear something new – but we’ll keep going to X shows as long as there are X shows. Don’t know how long that may be – serious health problems in the band – which adds bittersweet  to each performance.

When my children were growing up, my most debilitating parental fear was that someday, they would spend time with their mother strictly to fulfill obligations. As is typical with all my free-floating worries, this one consumed much psychic energy for no good reason. At last I might be sort of, kind of, sometimes learning to cease all that worrying. Which leaves me more open to appreciate my moments with my kids right now.

(The WP Weekly Photo Challenge topic is family.)

Feedback Therapy

Someone I Love Dearly (SILD) is a newly-revealed heroin addict and I am a newly-discovered codependent and in dealing with all of this I find it very lucky that I love so much aggressive and feedback-laden music. Something about feedback, played loud enough, can smooth the roughest of moods. These songs have been particularly soothing of late:

  • Bullet With Butterfly Wings – Smashing Pumpkins
  • I Was Wrong – Social Distortion
  • Hey Hey My My – Neil Young w Crazy Horse
  • New Day Rising – Husker Du
  • Revenant – Distillers
  • Institutionalized – Suicidal Tendencies
  • anything by X
  • anything by Sex Pistols

Additional recommendations welcomed.

Musical Hypocrisy (Ooo! Ooo! Ooo!)

When I was growing up – musically speaking – I hated ultra-pop and ultra-popular. I couldn’t stand Stevie Nicks and it was a big deal when Patti Smith admitted that she liked “You’re the One That I Want” by Newton-John and Travolta. What a relief! I loved that song and thought I was crazy!

But seriously – and it was a big, serious deal; we were rightly passionate about music that was real and music that was bogus – I tried hard to judge music on its merits and not on what was cool. Of course, nowadays saying cool is not cool. Sick. Whatev. Making such an effort was one thing I have in common with my Scar Jewelry character, Heater. (Below I excerpt her remarks* on the subject.)

During the writing of Scar Jewelry there were a few songs that I kept playing again and again, and I quoted them in the book. When I got to quoting “Landslide”, by Smashing Pumpkins, I discovered it had been written by — Stevie Nicks. And it turned out to be incredibly difficult for me to process this fact. I don’t want Stevie Nicks in my book. But I want “Landslide”. But she wrote it. But I don’t want-— you get the idea.

P.S. I won’t try to justify my antipathy to Nicks. Partly some kind of kneejerk purist thing about Fleetwood Mac after Peter Green. A niece is probably named after a Nicks song (not “Landslide”) and I do love her so there you go.

P.P.S. I still love “You’re the One That I Want.”

*Here is what the always-opinionated Heater wrote about this, back in approximately 1979:

Today’s kids got no respect for their elders. Or for anybody else, I am usually proud to report. Respect should be earned, not ordained based on age, status or the other trappings. But so too should disrespect be earned and likewise not be due to superficial claptrap. Punks are no better than rednecks when they disdain Neil Young. So he is from the Sixties, so fucking what. He moved on. He’s always moving on. That’s what makes him an artist. Now I’ve said the A word. So come and get me. You’ll have to catch me first. And I’m moving fast because I just got to interview Neil Young. Who appreciates the great wherever he finds it. Hank Williams, Johnny Rotten. He gets Devo, he gets Kraftwerk, and I’m betting that in another decade he’ll be getting whatever else is new and fresh, while you’re still rattling your rusty safety pins. If he were in Ellay he’d be going out to hear the music that was the most honest and true around. He’d be at all those Alleycats – Differentials nights at Blackies West.

The Idea Aggregator that Produces a Novel – Case Study

My novels apply a filter, sieve, microscope, and paintbrush to my life, with the occasional fun-house mirror or handful of feathers thrown in.

Scar Jewelry evolved through disparate experiences and observations that gradually connected inside my head:

  • When my twins were toddlers, a friend would look to incite reaction in me by stage whispering to them, I know things about your parents.
  • A decade later, I was hanging around with other parents at our kids’ track practice, when one mom came over to introduce herself. Her husband had pointed me out and said, She’s wearing a Billy Zoom t-shirt. Zoom was the guitarist for an obscure but legendary punk band, X, which we had all loved long before. From that point we became friends – and I looked at the other parents differently, wondering who they were before they were parents.
  • We set aside so much of ourselves to become parents. Some of us never regain those set-asides. Most children don’t much care about the non-parent parts of us and can be so dismissive of what matters – or used to matter – to us.
  • As parents, we don’t always appreciate what matters to our children. We make decisions that can dramatically and permanently change their lives, yet we rarely consult them as we decide what’s best for them. Hey, we’re the grown-ups, right?
  • I am adopted. As an adult I was lucky enough to be contacted by my birth family. It turns out that after I got adopted away, my birth parents married each other and had five more children. Meeting them transformed my views on many things and they’ve been a part of my life ever since.

By the way – though it may seem otherwise – nothing I’ve said here gives away Scar Jewelry‘s secrets!

Download eNovel “Scar Jewelry” for Free until 12-14-2012

Cover for Scar Jewelry

Cover art by Lars Huston.

For the next few days, my recently-completed novel Scar Jewelry is available for free if you go to the Smashwords site and use the coupon code CJ25A. The coupon expires on December 14.

Smashwords is a great thing and it gives you the option of downloading in formats that work with Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, Nook, and more. You can also read it in a browser. If you don’t want the commitment of a complete download, you can opt to start with a sample few chapters.

Scar Jewelry is literary fiction set in southern California in the present day and some 30 years before, in the early days of punk. Here’s the blurb:

What do we really know about our parents or the ways 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 dig into her life, and as they do, they uncover secrets that revise the past and transform the future.

In case you are even newer to self-publishing than I am: I’m doing this giveaway in hopes that you will read Scar Jewelry, like it, and tell people about it.

My Unrequited Career as a Musician

I have had so many jobs, and quite a few careers. Writing is my calling, so that has persisted through change after change of day job. But if I could have just one job – and if I got my choice – I would be a musician. I guess I would need to be a musician who writes songs, as I’ll always need to write.  Yes, that’s a plan I could live with.

The only problem with my being a musician is that I’m no good at it. No talent. No vision. Incredibly average voice. Skill that rarely breaks past the rudimentary barrier. My best hope of being a musician was back in the early days of punk,when desire trumped ability. I don’t know why I wasn’t in a band back then, say a goof of a band like Heather once had in my novel Scar Jewelry. I suppose I lacked the right kind of cojones.

All four of my novels (three completed, one in progress) have musicians in them and two of them have music as a focus. I only just noticed this as a pattern. Sometimes the author is the last to know.