Thursday, February 11, 2016

Redux: The Record Store of the Mind by Josh Rosenthal

RosenthalCOVERIn my January 7, 2016, blog post I wrote that I had received a copy of Josh Rosenthal's memoir The Record Store of the Mind -- and I included a bit about the author himself, and that he started his own record label, Tompkins Square, in 2005.

On Monday, I finished my current editing project (Barbara J. Webb's What Dreams Shadows Cast, book 2 in her Apocrypha: The Dying World series; more on this soon) -- so I was able to pick up The Record Store of the Mind and continue reading. In fact, just this morning I finished the book, but TRSOTM is the type of book -- actually a reference -- one goes back to repeatedly: What was that Tia Blake album Josh recommended? And that list of obscure acoustic guitarists? What were those two special Charlie Louvin albums, and the duets he did with Lucinda Williams... And then there are the nine pages at the end of the book entitled "Listen Up!" in which Josh recommends album after album of "old-time" music for your listening pleasure.

But what I wanted to share with you is the closing paragraph of Josh Rosenthal's memoir. Whether you are a book collector and reader, or a music lover and listener, you will (unfortunately) be able to relate to what Josh has written. Following Hurricane Sandy, in which Rosenthal lost some 500-plus albums, many autographed, due to flood damage...
I did learn from the experience. I look at my collection differently. It used to seem like some indestructible totem, a shrine I had built in honor of my own good taste. After the flood, I realized that I could lose it all at any time. Once you get to a certain age, you realize there are records you own that you'll likely never play again before you die. Probably quite a few of them. Whereas when you're in your twenties, you don't think about your time being limited, how many more Mays and Septembers you might get to experience. Realizing this, you become haunted by your own possessions. You realize a certain portion of your used LP collection belonged to dead people with similar tastes as you. And all your records will someday belong to someone else.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Glenn Frey 1948-2016

Singer, songwriter, and actor Glenn Frey passed away on January 18.

Now, I've never been a huge Eagles fan, but how can you not sing along with such tunes as "Take It Easy," "Lyin' Eyes," and "Tequila Sunrise," to name but three. Pictured here is the cover to my Desperado album, the original 1973 LP release from Asylum Records (catalog number SD 5068).

I was motivated to write this blog post because of my relationship, as it were, with one of the Eagles' songs: "Take It Easy," co-written by Glenn Frey and a singer/songwriter by the name of Jackson Browne.

Let's see...when was that...oh, yeah.... I was enrolled in a graduate program in Humanistic Psychology at Camp Sonoma (sorry, you had to be there). For those not privy to the inside student community, "Camp Sonoma" is the local name given to the California State University campus in Rohnert Park, located in beautiful Sonoma County, about an hour or so north of San Francisco.

In one of my classes, taught by George Jackson (who eventually became my graduate advisor), I wrote a paper on existentialism and rock music lyrics. I recall quoting a phrase from the Eagles' song "Take It Easy":

We may lose and we may win
though we will never be here again
so open up, I'm climbin' in,
so take it easy.

So when I learned of Glenn Frey's passing, it brought to mind this song, and this paper, and the Sonoma experience (and it really was an "experience") -- things I haven't thought about in a very long time.

Here's Glenn Frey and his bandmates performing "Take It Easy" in 1977:

"Take It Easy" was originally released on the Eagles' self-titled debut album, but I always preferred Desperado, the band's second studio album; the songs supported a core theme, and were much darker, and thus more to my liking.

Wherever rock musicians go when they pass away, there must be one helluva jam session going on there.

Rest in Peace, Glenn Frey.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

ArmadilloCon 25 in 2003

I was sorting through stuff[1] in my study, specifically a couple stacks of convention books (all of which have now been discarded), when I came upon the program book for ArmadilloCon 25, August 8-10, 2003. The Author Guest of Honor was Kage Baker and the Artist Guest of Honor was John Picacio. The program book brought to mind one of the panels I participated in at the con.

As an editor at the time for indie publisher Golden Gryphon Press, I had acquired and edited Kage Baker's first short story collection, Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossiers, which was published the previous year in time for the World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, California.[2] Also, I had acquired and edited Jeffrey Ford's first short story collection, The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories, published in 2002 as well, which featured cover art by John Picacio[3] -- the first of many covers John did for Golden Gryphon titles. In fact, the ArmadilloCon 25 program book, pictured above, features that very same cover art from The Fantasy Writer's Assistant.

Other Golden Gryphon Press authors were regular ArmadilloCon attendees in those days: Neal Barrett, Jr., Joe R. Lansdale, and Howard Waldrop. And when I learned that Lucius Shepard[4] would also be in attendance, I knew that I had to attend the convention as well.

So I contacted the programming staff and asked that they plan a panel discussion with me as the moderator, and include all the Golden Gryphon Press authors as well as artist John Picacio. They complied with my request, to a degree. The panel, entitled "The Golden Gryphon Experience," held at 11:00 a.m on Saturday, featured, in addition to myself, Kage Baker, Neal Barrett, Jr., Joe R. Lansdale, and John Picacio. Unfortunately, both Lucius Shepard and Howard Waldrop were on a competing panel at the same time entitled "Cool SF/F Movies."

I arrived at the meeting room prior to the start of the panel and taped dust jacket flats along the front edge of the panelists' table, and along the left and right walls: dust jackets for books by the participating authors, and a few dust jackets with John Picacio art.

To tell you the truth, now that it's nearly thirteen years later, I don't really recall any of the specifics of that panel, other than a memory of quite a bit of laughter from the sharing of anecdotes. But I know I had a grand time -- how could I not, sitting alongside the likes of Neal Barrett, Joe Lansdale, Kage Baker, and John Picacio!

Sadly, some of these authors are no longer with us: Kage passed away in January 2010; Neal and Lucius both passed away in 2014, in January and March respectively. So I remember those eight years with Golden Gryphon with equal amounts joy and sadness: joy at having met, and known, and worked with such fine authors and artists, and sadness over those we have now lost, as well as sadness at what could have been regarding Golden Gryphon Press. Excluding reprints, Golden Gryphon published nine books in 2003 -- I did say it was a small indie press! -- but of those nine books, six of them made Locus magazine's recommended reading list. In 2002, five of the six published titles made the recommended reading list, and five out of seven books in 2004. But all that's for another day (though I doubt that day will ever come).

So, cheers to ArmadilloCon, which celebrates its 38th convention in July -- and may you see many, many more such gatherings![5]


[1] And I mean "stuff" -- my wall-to-wall bookshelves are double-stacked, I have boxes of books piled upon boxes of books on the floor, and here and there where I can find a smidgen of floor space, books simply stacked upon books: that's my workspace!

[2] I wrote about the making of Black Projects, White Knights in a blog post entitled "In the Company of Kage Baker," published here on January 27, 2010. It's the third most read blog post since I began More Red Ink in 2009.

[3] In a blog post entitled "Reflections on the 2000 World Fantasy Convention," published on October 27, 2010, I wrote about my first encounters with both Jeffrey Ford and John Picacio, which led to the publication of The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories with the Picacio cover art.

[4] In my October 20, 2015, blog post "On Lucius Shepard," I wrote about the man and author.

[5] I attended my first ArmadilloCon in 1998 -- ArmadilloCon 10 -- which I wrote a wee bit about in my blog post of August 30, 2010, entitled "Philip K. Dick & Rudy Rucker's Warez."

Monday, January 11, 2016

Editing in Process: The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross

The Nightmare Stacks US
American Edition Cover
In my November 11, 2015, blog post I was reading Charles Stross's The Nightmare Stacks, the next volume (#7) in the Laundry Files series, in preparation for actually working on the manuscript. That time has (had) come.

If you are new (seriously?) to the Laundry Files: Officially known as "Q-Division" (at least for now), the Laundry was part of the Strategic Operations Executive (SOE), a World War II British organization responsible for espionage and sabotage in occupied Europe. The Q-Division was a supersecret black group formed to counter Hitler's research and experiments in the occult. At the end of WWII, the SOE was disbanded, but the Q-Division secretly remained intact. The new headquarters was then located above a Chinese Laundry, and thus the nickname. These days, the Laundry's primary objective is to protect the citizens of Her Majesty's Government from incursions from beyond spacetime. But the Laundry must also defend against one who attempts to take over the world (The Jennifer Morgue), the cultlike church who tries to force the Second Coming (The Apocalypse Codex), individuals with V syndrome (The Rhesus Chart), and individuals with superpowers (The Annihilation Score).

Now, as revealed in The Atrocity Archives, the first volume in the series, shortly before the end of the war in Europe, members of the Ahnenerbe-SS used occult measures to open a gateway to a nitrogen-based planet, to which they escaped, to bide their time until they were ready to return to Earth -- and the termination of that return fell upon the Laundry.

In fact, if you look at the graphic above of the American edition of The Nightmare Stacks you'll see a Kettenkrad on the cover -- a German motorized half-track, small enough to be steered like a motorcycle. The Kettenkrad was salvaged from the Ahnenerbe-SS by the Laundry, and rebuilt by Pinky and Brains (readers of the series will recognize this pair of R&D tech geeks from previous volumes), and both Pinky and Brains, and the Kettenkrad, are integral parts of the story in this forthcoming novel, scheduled to be published in June. (And yes, the driver of the Kettenkrad is wearing seventeenth-century cavalry plate, and that is a dragon flying above the building on the cover. But you'll just have to wait for the novel....)

British Edition Cover
Through the first five volumes of the Laundry Files, we've been following agent Bob Howard: officemate, IT geek, and occult mathematician -- and now Eater of Souls. (Volume five, The Apocalypse Codex, being the exception, in which we were also treated to the POVs of external assets Persephone Hazard, aka agent Bashful Incendiary, and Jonathan McTavish, aka agent Johnny Prince.) Volume six was completely from the viewpoint of Dr. Dominique "Mo" O’Brien (aka agent Candid), a professor and combat epistemologist, who just happens to be married to Bob Howard. But this new volume, The Nightmare Stacks, is neither a Bob novel, nor a Mo novel, but rather "a Laundry novel," as the author Charles Stross states in his November 4, 2015, blog post. Rather, the new novel features operative-in-training Alex Schwartz, who was "drafted" by the Laundry "after stumbling upon the algorithm that turned him and his fellow merchant bankers into vampires." (see The Rhesus Chart)

I spent the majority of December working on the manuscript -- and with the start of the new year, my editing was complete, and the marked-up manuscript is now in the hands of the author. I just checked my email, and counted 108 emails (though there could be a few more that I may have simply overlooked) between the two of us as I worked on this project, far fewer than is typical, based on prevous volumes. However, this time, I didn't confer with Charlie on every major content change -- with seven volumes now, I have to hope that I know what I'm doing (!) and will leave the final decisions to the author when he reviews my edits.

You'll want to read the Stross interview on The Nightmare Stacks, courtesy of io9 -- but I suggest you read the version posted on the author's blog: the interview is the same, but it's Charlie's comments and notes, plus the 79 comments at the end (including the author's responses) that are the most revealing about the book.

As I mentioned in my blog post on editing The Annihilation Score, which was published last July, the most difficult task is maintaining consistency from one volume to the next, and with seven volumes of the Laundry Files now, the task certainly isn't getting any easier. In fact, you would be surprised were I to tell you the email discussion Charlie and I had over the Laundry's official name -- Q-Division -- and what that entailed and what it will lead to, most likely in the next novel (volume eight, 2017's The Delirium Brief).

But for the sake of consistency and understanding, let me share a set of words with readers: a geas (plural: geases) is a magical compulsion to obedience. Readers of the Laundry files series will have come upon this word in nearly every volume. However, in The Nightmare Stacks, we encounter a new race, the alfär, or the unseelie, and in their Low Tongue, the word for a magical compulsion to obedience is also geas, but the plural form is geasa. Something to keep in mind when you read the novel...You never know when this kind of trivia may prove useful!

The Nightmare Stacks is forthcoming from Ace in the U.S. and Orbit in the U.K. and is currently available for preorder.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Book Received: The Record Store of the Mind by Josh Rosenthal

RosenthalCOVERAs a followup to my "different" blog post of December 14 on vinyl, I recently received a copy of Josh Rosenthal's The Record Store of the Mind, published by his own Tompkins Square Press (and record label).

So who is Josh Rosenthal? A budding music geek, he worked at his high school and college radio stations. He eventually landed a gig working for Sony Music (Columbia Records), and his publicity campaign on 1990's Robert Johnson The Complete Recordings is most likely why I learned of RJ and have a copy of this box set in my CD library.

In 2005, Rosenthal launched his own Tompkins Square music label in New York City; and in 2011, he moved the business to San Francisco. Rosenthal is a master of the reissue and a proponent of forgotten musicians (e.g. country music legend Charlie Louvin), bringing them back into the studio to record new music.

Now, in celebration of Tompkins Square's 10th Anniversary, Rosenthal has released The Record Store of the Mind. At the end of the introduction to the book, he writes...but first, let me set the scene: Rosenthal is with his older daughter Emma at a record store in Campbell, California, as he's rifling through the stacks of records...
Emma asked, "How do you know what you're looking for?" I guess I've spent my whole life figuring that out. It's great that I still can't fully answer her question. In this book, I write about some stuff I've done in and around music over the past thirty years; records that I've found or that found me; and records, people, and live music experiences that have forever changed the way I listen. I hope you'll be inspired.
Rosenthal and Tompkins Square have also created a free/public "Record Store of the Mind" Spotify playlist. Songs range from Ron Davies and Harvey Mandel, to Eric Clapton and Charlie Louvin, to Bill Fey and Essra Mohawk. So whilst reading the book, be sure to cue up the appropriate track!

Here's an excerpt from Joseph Neff's review of The Record Store of the Mind on The Vinyl District (but please be sure to read the entire review):
Given some of the idiosyncratic characters inhabiting record collecting and releasing, Rosenthal's music biz story, peppered as it is with Kate Bush, Psychedelic Furs, and Public Enemy, is pretty refreshing and enhanced by a true music lover's sense of detail...

The book's memoir portions are a treat, but the energy devoted to spotlighting underheard records is even more satisfying; the chapter covering The Youngbloods' Warner Brothers-funded custom imprint Raccoon Records provides major insight into a true bygone era and justifies The Record Store of the Mind's purchase price all by its lonesome. And the lengthy list of old-time releases is about as handy a resource for the upstart and veteran collector as I've yet to stumble across.

The Record Store of the Mind may seem a modest endeavor, but Josh Rosenthal furthers the eternal discussion with class and solid prose. Additionally, he pulls-off an impressive trick, casually dishing a wealth of knowledge in a manner that's non-intimidating to information-thirsty novices while also retaining appeal for more weathered record hunters. In short, it'll make a worthy addition to one's music-related bookshelf (or for that matter, a fine gift), holding enough recommendations in its pages to insure frequent consultations.

~ Joseph Neff, The Vinyl District

"Josh Rosenthal is a record man's record man. He is also a musician's record man. He is in the line of Samuel Charters and Harry Smith. In this age where we have access to everything and know the value of nothing, musicians need people like Josh to hear them when no one else can."
~ T Bone Burnett

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Book Received: Tarzan in Kentucky: Poems by Judith Moffett

Tarzan in KentuckyOkay, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a poetry kind of guy. But Tarzan in Kentucky really isn't poetry...well, actually, it is poetry but not what I typically think of as poetry, if that makes any sense.

I know Judith Moffett as a science fiction writer. We worked together in 2014 to turn her Hugo and Nebula award-nominated story, "Tiny Tango," into a Kindle ebook, which I detailed in a four-part series of blog posts.

But Judith (though she prefers "Judy") isn't your typical science fiction writer: She has received three Ingram Merrill Foundation grants in poetry, in 1976, 1980, and 1991. In 1998, she presented at the Nobel Symposium on Translation of Poetry and Poetic Prose, and, most recently (2015), she presented at the James Merrill Symposium, held at Washington University in St. Louis. Indeed, not your typical sf writer.[1]

But getting back to Tarzan in Kentucky, from publisher David Robert Books: The cover photograph (taken by the author herself) is of Judy's farm in Kentucky, and from other pics I've seen, it really is that beautiful and lush. And obviously the ideal setting for writing.

But like I said, I'm not a poetry kind of guy, so I'm going to leave you with an excerpt of a review by Meredith Sue Willis on her Books for Readers blog; but do read the complete review:
Tarzan in Kentucky: Poems by Judith Moffett is a chewy, sinuous collection of poems by a living poet who went many years without writing poetry, but is—to our great benefit—writing again. Called "An effortless" virtuoso by James Merrill and "among the most accomplished of her generation" by Daniel Hoffman, Moffett writes brilliantly lucid everyday language contained—and freed—by tight forms like tercets and sonnets. You only notice the form if you are looking—you feel the emotion, see the picture, hear the voice and the story. The forms are certainly there, though, giving her poems a musculature that makes much of the free verse we are used to seem flaccid.

...a number of [the poems] are about her farm, and there is a long section called "Grief" in which she writes about the aftermath of her husband's death. The poet speaks to herself in one called "Broken Couplet":
Solutions, none. No cures.
This task alone is yours:

to make each day a quest
for getting through it best

when "best" cannot mean "well..."
You feel here what rhyme is about: an arbitrary way of linking things that then makes meaning of what started out as arbitrary.

Tarzan in Kentucky: Poems is available in print form only from your bookstore of choice...even if, like me, you're not a poetry kind of person.


1. You can read more of Judy's awards, honors, and recognitions on her Wikipedia entry.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Book Received: Courtney Schafer's The Labyrinth of Flame

The Labyrinth of Flame IIII wrote about my work on The Labyrinth of Flame -- Book III in the Shattered Sigil Trilogy by Courtney Schafer -- in my November 10, 2015, blog post.

The Labyrinth of Flame is the product of a fully funded Kickstarter (284% funded, actually) -- and when I wrote that blog post in November, Kickstarter contributors had already received their maps and ebook edition of the novel. In fact, the ebook edition is available for purchase at this time.

And now, as I write this, all Kickstarter contributors have received their signed trade paperback print edition of the novel as well. (And I've received my signed copy of the book, too!)

Ms. Schafer is currently working on a distribution agreement with Thomson-Shore, and once that is finalized, readers will hopefully be able to order the print edition. As soon as the book becomes available, I'll post an update on More Red Ink -- but in the meantime, whatever process you use to make notes to yourself: Evernote, OneNote, Keep, Pocket, or even the old-fashioned handwritten Post-It note, make a note to read The Labyrinth of Flame. Correction: make a note to read the entire Shattered Sigil Trilogy!

As you may, or may not, know, the first two volumes of the trilogy -- The Whitefire Crossing and The Tainted City -- were originally published by Night Shade Books. Upon the publisher's demise, and sale, Courtney Schafer decided to self-publish volume three via Kickstarter. Fortunately, the author knows her readers, her audience, and how finicky we book collectors can be. (To paraphrase Ross E. Lockhart from his Facebook post:) Production-wise, Ms. Schafer did the literary equivalent of getting the old band back together: cover artist David Palumbo, cover designer Martha Wade, and Ross E. Lockhart on interior design. So even though the book was self-published, book three perfectly matches the previous two volumes in the series. Readers and fans of Courtney Schafer will not be disappointed in the quality -- both in design and content editing -- of this final volume in the series.

Bibliotropic has a lengthy review of The Labyrinth of Flame, and here's the conclusion to that review (but please do read the review in its entirety):
...the ending of The Labyrinth of Flame is quite possibly the most satisfying ending to a series I've ever read. It ties up everything wonderfully, leaves room for the future, and left me with flailing around like an idiot over what happens to the people I ship. Seriously, I don’t think there's any possible better way for this book and this series to have ended. It closed on a high note, filled with hope and optimism even for difficult tasks ahead, and I'm going to be honest with you all — I actually just went and reread the last chapter again while writing this, because I love the ending that much. It left me with the first book hangover I've ever experienced, and despite having just reread the first two books in the series in preparation for reading this one, all I wanted to do when it was over was pick up The Whitefire Crossing and start over, so that I didn't have to leave the world and characters behind.

Fantasy just doesn't get much better than this!
~Ria, Bibliotropic

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Stephen King's On Writing

"If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered."

(via @Chiara_Micheli)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Barbara J. Webb's Apocrypha: The Dying World Series

City of Burning ShadowsTwo years ago (and it's hard to believe that much time has passed already!) I was working on a manuscript for City of Burning Shadows, book one in a new series from author Barbara J. Webb.

Ms. Webb is among a growing number of savvy, professional, self-published writers who understand that to have a successful career in self-publishing one must invest in professional editing: developmental editing, line and copy editing, and final proof editing.

I'm now reading the mobi edition of City of Burning Shadows to refresh in my mind the story line and characters in preparation for my next project, which will be book two in this series: What Dreams Shadows Cast. I will begin work on this manuscript in January.

You can read my previous blog posts on City of Burning Shadows, but what would be even more revealing would be Ms. Webb's recent guest blog post on Bibliotropic in which she wrote:
I wanted to write about hulking lizard warriors. And bird-people. And people so made of magic that they don't have a true shape. I couldn't do that in the real world. So I built a city—a dying city in the desert—and into that city I placed a hero.

Ash is bruised and broken. He's lost his family, his faith, his purpose. He's watching his world collapse around him and feels powerless to stop it. But when he's faced with an old friend in need and a new friend who holds the key to saving Ash's dying city, he can't turn away. That one act of humanity drags him into a world of lies and plots and monsters he never imagined.

A secret world.
If you've read this far then you are most likely a reader of fantasy fiction, and urban fantasy in particular -- so I wanted to make sure that you were aware of "The Great Self-published Fantasy Blog-off!" hosted by author Mark Lawrence (@mark__lawrence [2 underscores!]).

Let's see if I can sum up: Mark published a blog post on self-promotion that was so well-received that he decided to take the self-promotion one step further: a self-published blogger challenge.

Mark asked for volunteers from the well-respected book-reviewing blogger community. He then asked writers to submit their self-published fantasy novels. He selected 10 bloggers and 250 fantasy novels. Each blogger was randomly assigned 25 novels. From those 25 novels, each blogger selected the best novel. So he now had 10 bloggers and 10 novels.

Then each blogger had to read and rate each of the 10 novels. When all was said and done, the novel that came in first place would then be reviewed by all 10 bloggers (aka free publicity, free promotion). The readings and ratings are still ongoing, and can be tracked here. The deadline for reading and rating the 10 novels is March 1, 2016.

So, why am I telling you this? First, if you enjoy reading excellent quality self-published fantasy, Mark's list would be a great place to start. And second, one of the 10 finalist novels is Barbara J. Webb's City of Burning Shadows.

In fact, if I understand correctly, a story bundle of the 10 finalist novels will also be made available in March. So you'll want to stay connected to Mark's blogger challenge in order to take advantage of that offer.

Monday, December 14, 2015

And Now for Something Completely Different: Vinyl

Slowhand at 70I'm listening to Eric Clapton's recent Royal Albert Hall performance, Slowhand at 70, on 180gram vinyl, a 3 LP set, in fact, plus a bonus DVD.[1]

It's an early Christmas gift from my wife because she wanted one of her gifts early: a book entitled Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day -- so that she has some new bread recipes for the holidays. And I'm not one to argue -- I get new tunes and fresh-baked bread for the holidays!

Apparently my wife had shopped for some new vinyl for me during a recent visit to Barnes & Noble's.[2] After the fact she told me that every album she looked at seemed familiar; she was worried that I already had the album on vinyl (the original vinyl release) or on CD. I told her that I had been eyeing the new Eric Clapton album, Slowhand at 70. She said that she saw it at B&N but didn't want to buy it because she thought I would feel bad, being reminded that EC was 70 years old. I had to laugh at that, even though I understood what she was saying; as for me, I told her that it doesn't matter how old he is if he can make music like this (I had already heard the song "Cocaine" online from the concert). So, we ordered the album, and here we are....

Why vinyl? I have a classic Concept 2QD turntable[3] that had been in storage (in its original box!) for a dozen or so years, along with a couple hundred vinyl LPs. Recently I pulled everything out of storage, but discovered that the turntable's tone arm was frozen and wouldn't move (over time the lubricant had dried and hardened). Say hello to SerTech Electronics of San Jose, one of only three audio repair services in the entire Bay Area. They have a three-week backlog of work, but be patient as they do good work at a reasonable rate. So about four weeks after leaving my 2QD with them, I had a working turntable. I also installed a new Shure M97xE Cartridge; a new diamond stylus on a turntable that's been in storage is a must.

My next step was to catalog my vinyl collection, so I set up an account on Once my collection was keyed in I was able to sort by date: the last album I purchased was Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band's Live/1975-85 5-LP box set, which was released in 1986. Nearly thirty years since I last bought an LP![4] Time to update my collection.

Freedom - Atlanta Pop FestivalThe first album (read: LP) I purchased was Freedom: Live at the Atlanta Pop Festival -- The Jimi Hendrix Experience's July 4, 1970, performance; his final U.S. performance as it turned out -- a 2-LP, 200gram vinyl, set. It's one of many albums I play when the wife is out of the house as, sadly, she's not too fond of Hendrix (or Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention, or anything loud & noisy; but then again, maybe it's not the music, per se, but rather the volume I play it at...ya think?).

Kind of BlueAnd, finally, just one more new LP that I bought myself for Christmas: Miles Davis's classic Kind of Blue on 180gram vinyl.

An interesting story about this album, if you'll bear with me: Growing up I idolized my uncle, my father's youngest brother. He drove a 1957 Black T-bird convertible with a red interior; traveled around the world (literally: Africa, Antigua, Europe, Bermuda, Australia, working for the NASA space program), and owned the apartment building in which he lived (though he told me to never tell any of the tenants that he was the owner!), walking distance from Santa Monica beach. As I got older I would hang at his apartment building on occasion, and when he went out of town in the summertime he would let me stay there, and I would walk to the beach every day. But no matter when I visited, he was always playing Miles Davis on the turntable. I believe his favorite title was Bitches Brew, but I was partial to Kind of Blue. So in memory of my Uncle Herb....


[1] I've also converted the concert DVD to an audio mp3 file, which I can play on my tablet or phone, or via wireless to my surround system. To convert a DVD to mp3 the disc must first be converted to an mp4 video file, and then from mp4 to mp3. And the bonus, of course, is the mp4 vid file, which can also be played anywhere as well. To do this conversion, you'll need to install three free software apps (I'm talking Windows; Mac people are on their own): DVD Encrypter and Handbrake (for DVD to mp4), and VLC Media Player (for mp4 to mp3). And if you want to modify the mp3 file in any way, you'll need to add a fourth free application: Audacity.

[2] B&N has vinyl? Who woulda guessed? I haven't been to a B&N store in ages. So I checked out their website, searched for vinyl, and was impressed -- I mean impressed -- as there were dozens of titles.

[3] The 2QD photos are courtesy of These photos are much better than any I could have taken of my own identical 2QD. In fact, in addition to these two photos, someone has posted a complete teardown of the 2QD.

[4] As I said, my last LP was purchased in 1986. At this point in time, LPs were hard to come by as the recording industry was moving exclusively to the compact disc. As a vinyl freak, I fought the good fight against CDs, but finally, on July 13, 1990, I broke down and purchased a Denon 6-disc changer at The Good Guys in San Jose. Unfortunately, The Good Guys (the great store that it was) has long since left this mortal earth, as has that Denon player. How do I remember the date, you may wonder? Because right after purchasing that CD player, I also purchased my first 6 CDs -- and I still have the receipt as proof:

Remember the Wherehouse stores? Remember Tower Records? Sigh.... Anyhow, in case these six CD titles are unknown to you -- and also because there are albums by other artists with the same title -- here's the performers of these 6 CDs, in order: Madonna, Bruce Hornsby & The Range, Santana, Phil Collins, Santana (again), and John Cougar Mellancamp. Why these titles? Had you asked me twenty-five years ago, maybe then I could have told you! But I do love Santana....

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Frank Zappa

This was Matt Groening's Life in Hell tribute to Frank Zappa, published on December 17, 1993, thirteen days after FZ passed away from prostate cancer.

FZ was born, and died, in the month of December: December 21, 1940–December 4, 1993. He would have been 75 years old this month. We can only imagine (actually, knowing Zappa, we probably can't imagine!) what musical creations he would have bestowed upon us had he lived a full, and healthy, life.

Here's one from the vinyl collection:

And one from the CD collection:

The 6-volume CD (12 discs) Wooden Box Set

Suzy? Suzy Creamcheese?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Editing in Process: Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

Central StationIn my previous blog post, in which I congratulated Tachyon Publications on their 20th anniversary -- "Still saving the world one good book at a time" -- I mentioned that I had just submitted my seventy-fifth invoice to the publisher. That invoice was for work done on Lavie Tidhar's novel Central Station.

Lavie Tidhar is an Israeli-born writer, who currently resides in London. He won the 2012 World Fantasy Award for best novel for Osama, over Stephen King's 11/22/63 and George R. R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons, among others.

But about Central Station, Tel Aviv:
In North Tel Aviv the Jews lived in their skyrises, and in Jaffa to the South the Arabs had reclaimed their old land by the sea. Here, in between, there were still those people of the land they had called variously Palestine or Israel and whose ancestors had come there as labourers from around the world, from the islands of the Philippines, and from the Sudan, from Nigeria, and from Thailand or China, whose children were born there, and their children’s children, speaking Hebrew and Arabic and Asteroid Pidgin, that near universal language of space.

Central Station delivers a complex, idiosyncratic story, with multiple story lines and multiple points of view: robo-priests, strigoi (data-vampires), robotniks (cyborg ex-Israeli soldiers), enhanced humans, revolutionaries, space colonies -- and weaving through it all, flows the Conversation, the stream of consciousness that connects everyone and everything.

Here's more from the novel:
The word rose like a bubble in her paralysed mind. She was losing the memories, losing her own self, awash in the joy, the unbearable pleasure of the woman’s touch, that current of electricity in the brain as her node was raided, her data sucked away by this...thing that had an ancient, terrible name, a word she once heard her sister use, and her mother shushed her angrily—
Central Station is available for preorder from Central Station">Amazon and other booksellers.


I just have to add, for those that may care, that I wrote this blog post while listening to the new 2-CD set Bluenote Café, Performance Series Disc 11 from Neil Young's Archives.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Tachyon Publications Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary

My very first invoice for work done for Tachyon Publications is dated February 19, 2002. In another three months -- and hopefully the publisher will still be sending work to me at that time -- I will have worked for Tachyon Publications for fourteen years. That's a lot of time with one publisher. How many editors out there can say they have done freelance work for the same employer for fourteen (or more) years? How many freelance editors have even had a publisher survive fourteen (or more) years?

My last invoice was number 75, and hopefully I'll be blogging about that project (Lavie Tidhar's Central Station) next. Not all of these 75 invoices were for books, though most were. A few were just for front or back matter that showed up a few weeks after I had completed work on the actual book. One of these days, I'll have to consider a blog post in which I list all the Tachyon projects that I have worked on. There are quite a few award winners among those!

So Tachyon Publications is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. And they did so marvelously with a party this past Sunday, November 15, at the Park Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend (granddaughter babysitting responsibilities), so I wanted to express my congratulations in this manner -- since I was unable to do so in person -- with a blog post.

And what's an anniversary party without a cake! Believe it or not, pictured above is the 20th Anniversary cake: the Tachyon Publications logo -- the rhino at the typewriter. This cake was courtesy of Effie Seiberg, who tweeted and posted to Google+ each step of the baking process. Just for the record, this was a confetti cake, frosted with orange-tinted almond-flavored buttercream, covered in fondant. And, to quote Ms. Seiberg: "Parts of it are painted with a combo of edible luster dust + vodka. The vodka is to dissolve the luster dust to make it a liquid paint (and thus a stronger color than when it's a powder) and because it evaporates faster than water, which would make everything sticky."

I asked Effie if she saved me a piece of cake, but, sadly, it doesn't appear likely. I hope you made it to the Tachyon party and were able to snag a piece of this scrumptious-looking guilty pleasure.

And in addition to the cake, everyone who attended the party received a complimentary chapbook: Charlie Jane Anders's Six Months, Three Days, a Hugo Award-winning novelette. (And Ms. Anders was in attendance at the party as well!)

If you haven't purchased at least one of Tachyon's publications recently -- print or ebook -- well, what are you waiting for? Daryl Gregory's We Are All Completely Fine won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella just about two weeks ago.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"Old man, look at my life" - Happy Birthday, Neil Young!

My main man, Neil Young
70th birthday, November 12, 2015

Keep on rockin' in the free world!

Now Reading: The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross

I'm currently reading The Nightmare Stacks, book #7 in the continuing Laundry Files series by Charles Stross. This in preparation for my working on the novel when the actual physical manuscript arrives within the week from Ace Books. 

I'm reading a MOBI edition using the Kindle for Android app on my Nexus 7 tablet (which just got updated to Android Marshmallow 6.0, for those who care). The author sent me the manuscript as a DOCX file, I then saved it as an RTF file; using Calibre Ebook Management software, I then converted the RTF file to a MOBI file -- and then saved the file in the Kindle folder on my tablet. Works for me!

You can read about my work on the previous Laundry Files novel, The Annihilation Score, in my March 26, 2015, blog post. But as to The Nightmare Stacks, you'll probably have to wait until after the New Year, as the project is due back to Ace Books the beginning of January. (Yes, another set of holidays I must work through, sigh....)

The Nightmare Stacks is due to be published by Ace Books, and Orbit Books in the U.K., in early summer, 2016.

But, ahem, I get to read the novel now.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Editing in Process: The Labyrinth of Flame by Courtney Schafer

Cover art by David Palumbo
The largest project I had worked on in the past year or two was the short story collection Led Astray: The Best of Kelley Armstrong, clocking in at around 148,000 words.[1]

That is, until I worked on The Labyrinth of Flame, book III in Courtney Schafer's The Shattered Sigil Trilogy -- a massive 756 manuscript pages, totaling 219,000 words of wondrous fiction.[2]

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may recall that back in April (April 29, 2015, blog post) I was in the middle of reading the first two volumes of The Shattered Sigil Trilogy -- The Whitefire Crossing and The Tainted City -- in order to get up to speed on the world and characters of Ms. Schafer's trilogy.

Since I read ebook editions of these two volumes I can't speak to their actual length. However, using Calibre Ebook Management software (which I highly recommend), I converted the two MOBI files to RTF files, opened them in MS Word, and have the approximate word counts: 135,000 words for The Whitefire Crossing, and 173,000 words for The Tainted City. That's more than 300,000 words of reading just to prepare myself for this current project.

These first two titles in the trilogy were published by Night Shade Books (prior to its acquisition by Skyhorse Publishing and Start Media[3]), after which Ms. Schafer made the decision to self-publish the final title in the trilogy via a Kickstarter campaign. The Kickstarter was more than fully funded (284% to be exact), unlocking three stretch goals.

Unlike far too many other authors, Courtney Schafer is self-publishing The Labyrinth of Flame properly -- which will be evident to her readers when they receive the finished book: She hired artist David Palumbo for the cover art, the same artist who did the covers for volumes I and II, so that the trilogy's covers would match even though the three books were not from the same publisher. She also hired a developmental editor to review the novel's plot, characterization, setting, etc. I was then hired for a detailed line edit and copy edit. After the author made the content changes I recommended, she then hired another copy editor for a final proof of the novel.

Nothing is more frustrating, at least for me, when I attempt to read -- and inevitably give up on reading -- a self-pubbed novel that has blatant typos and awkward (and often ridiculous) sentence structures. Readers won't find these issues in The Labyrinth of Flame: Courtney Schafer has written and published this novel as the professional that she is, and this volume is the worthy conclusion to The Shattered Sigil Trilogy -- and the harrowing adventures of Kiran, Dev, and Cara.

Those who contributed to the Kickstarter have already received their maps and ebook editions of The Labyrinth of Flame and, according to the author, the print editions are currently in process. In fact, Ms. Schafer shared the book's interior illustrations with readers in her October 29 blog post.

If you didn't get in on the Kickstarter but are interested in the ebook, The Labyrinth of Flame Kindle edition is now available for preorder. Print copies will be available for order on December 1, but Amazon doesn't allow preorders for self-published print editions.

You can read more of The Shattered Sigil Trilogy on the Courtney Schafer website, including sample chapters from all three volumes.


[1] You can read about my work on Kelly Armstrong's Led Astray, from Tachyon Publications, beginning in my August 26, 2015, blog post.

[2] I actually completed work on this project about two and a half months ago, but new, incoming projects have kept me busy.... I'm using the "Editing in Process" tag in order that this blog post will track with my other editing projects.

[3] "For Immediate Release: Skyhorse Publishing and Start Media Acquire Night Shade Books"