Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Asylum of Dr. Caligari by Jame Morrow

[Added 02/05/2017: Expect to see this novella on many awards' short lists come 2018....]

I have been quite fortunate to have worked on not just one, not two, but three novellas by James Morrow that have been -- or will be -- published by Tachyon Publications. The first of these, Shambling Towards Hiroshima, was published in 2009.

The second, The Madonna and the Starship, published in 2014, was the focus of my blog post of November 24, 2013, in which I wrote of my work on this novella.

In that blog post I stated (and I quote): "James Morrow is an absolute master of the sardonic..." -- and with The Asylum of Dr. Caligari, his third novella from Tachyon, due to be published in June, James Morrow does not disappoint.

Here is the ad copy for the book:
The infamous Dr. Caligari: psychiatrist or psychopath? In this wry and satiric tour de force, award-winning author James Morrow offers a surprising and provocative take on a silent film classic.

In the summer of 1914, the world teeters on the brink of the Great War. An American painter, Francis Wyndham, is hired to provide art therapy at a renowned European asylum, working under the auspices of its mysterious director, Alessandro Caligari. Francis is soon beguiled by his most talented student, Ilona Wessels, whose genius with a brush is matched only by the erotic intensity of her madness.

Deep in his secret studio, Dr. Caligari, rumored to be a sorcerer, struggles to create Ecstatic Wisdom, an immense painting so hypnotic it can incite entire regiments to rush headlong into battle. Once Francis and Ilona grasp Caligari's scheme in all its supernatural audacity, they conspire to defeat him with a magical work of their own....

The story is all about a painting -- Ecstatic Wisdom (well, actually two paintings, but you'll have to read the story to learn about the other) -- and its effect on the viewer, or viewers, as they came in regimental numbers to view the painting(s).

Here's a brief excerpt from the story itself: Francis Wyndham is clandestinely observing Dr. Caligari at work on his painting:
Watching Caligari suffuse his canvas with whatever species of wizardry or variety of delusion possessed him, I decided his methods represented neither imagination abandoned by intellect, nor revelation tempered by logic, but a third phenomenon. He had beguiled both forces into a condition of mutual betrayal, reason convincing fantasy that violent monsters were desirable, fantasy coercing reason into abandoning its tedious allegiance to facts.

"Effundam spiritum meum in vobis, virtutibus! Perfectus es!"

Now he began spinning in circles—like a deranged dancer, or a whirling dervish, or a man inhabited by devils....

The Asylum of Dr. Caligari will be published in June and is now available for preorder directly from the publisher, Tachyon Publications, or from, or your friendly neighborhood bookseller.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Original Blue And Lonesome

Blue and LonesomeOne of the best selling albums in 2016 was Blue & Lonesome, The Rolling Stones' cover album of electric blues songs. Now these aren't the typical blues songs that one is used to hearing on blues-rock albums; there is no "Crossroads," no "Hideaway," no "Driftin' Blues," or "You Shook Me," to name just four, on Blue and Lonesome. So unless you are a follower of blues music, most, if not all, of the twelve songs on this album will be new to you.

According to the Stones' website:
"The album was produced by Don Was and The Glimmer Twins [aka Mick Jagger and Keith Richards] and was recorded over the course of just three days in December last year [2015] at British Grove Studios in West London, just a stone’s throw [pun intended?] from Richmond and Eel Pie Island where the Stones started out as a young blues band playing pubs and clubs. Their approach to the album was that it should be spontaneous and played live in the studio without overdubs...."

As I said, Blue and Lonesome is a cover album; all of the songs were previously written and recorded (not always by the same person in each instance) by blues greats during the 1950s and '60s, with one track dating to 1971. Here's the 12-song tracklist for the 2-LP vinyl edition:
1. Just Your Fool
2. Commit a Crime
3. Blue and Lonesome

1. All of Your Love
2. I Gotta Go
3. Everybody Knows About My Good Thing

1. Ride 'Em on Down
2. Hate To See You Go
3. Hoo Doo Blues

1. Little Rain
2. Just Like I Treat You
3. I Can't Quit You Baby

My goal with this blog post is to introduce you to the original recordings (or as close to the original recordings as the internet, and YouTube, will allow) of these twelve songs, to provide you with a wee bit of a feel for the musical influences on the Stones as a band, and the Glimmer Twins in particular.

I'm not going to bore you with a lot of facts and details, so I'm linking each artist to his biography on the AllMusic website. If you want more info on the likes of Little Walter or Howlin' Wolf or Lightnin' Slim or whomever, you can simply click on their linked names to read their AllMusic entry. From the biography page you can click to their discography, read reviews, etc. Also, the tunes that I am providing below are audio files only, but each is posted as a video on YouTube simply because that's how YouTube works. The video for each entry might be just a static picture, or pictures might change throughout the length of each song -- just keep in mind that there really is no video per se associated with each of these entries. The whole point is to listen:

Side A, Track 1: "Just Your Fool" was originally written and recorded in 1960 by Little Walter:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade by Joe R. Lansdale

Hap & Leonard: Blook & LemonadeSo, as I stated at the beginning of my previous post, while I was absent from blogging, life still moved on...other projects were completed, books were received....

One of the projects that I worked on is the new Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade novel by Joe R. Lansdale, his ownself. This title, forthcoming in March from Tachyon Publications, will coincide with the premiere of season two of the SundanceTV series Hap and Leonard. (Check out the SundanceTV site for some H and L season two trailers, if you're not already familiar with this series.)

Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade is actually a "mosaic" novel. A mosaic novel is comprised of a number of related stories that are tied together with new connecting material; occasionally the author will even tweak the beginnings and/or endings of some of the stories so that the book flows more cohesively from one story to the next. If you have read Ray Bradbury's classic The Martian Chronicles, then you have read a mosaic novel. Back in 2005 I acquired and edited a mosaic novel for Golden Gryphon Press entitled From the Files of the Time Rangers by Richard Bowes. The San Francisco Chronicle, in its review of Time Rangers, described the mosaic novel as "something more integrated than a simple story collection but not confined to a singular, linear narrative structure."

Here are the 14 stories that comprise Blood and Lemonade:
"Parable of the Stick" - first appeared in Miracles Ain't What They Used to Be (PM Press)

"Tire Fire" - original to this volume

"Not Our Kind" - first appeared in Hap and Leonard (Tachyon Publications)

"Down by the River Side" - original to this volume

"Short Night" - first appeared in Miracles Ain't What They Used to Be (PM Press)

"The Boy Who Became Invisible" - first appeared in The Bleeding Edge: Dark Barriers, Dark Frontiers, edited by William F. Nolan and Jason V. Brock (Cycatrix Press)

"Blood and Lemonade" - original to this volume

"In the River of the Dead" - original to this volume

"Stopping for Coffee" - original to this volume

"Apollo Red" - first appeared in Miracles Ain't What They Used to Be (PM Press)

"Coach Whip" - original to this volume

"The Bottom of the World" - original to this volume

"Squirrel Hunt" - original to this volume

"The Oak and the Pond" - first appeared in Hap and Leonard Rides Again (Tachyon Publications)

The stories are primarily from Hap's point of view, while he's hanging out with Leonard -- often when they are driving in Hap's truck, occasionally hanging out at the local Dairy Queen; a few of the latter stories take place at Hap's house, in the presence of both Brett (Brett Sawyer, Hap's on-again, off-again girlfriend) and Chance (Hap's daughter).

We learn how these two disparate individuals -- Hap Collins, a liberal, typically non-violent white boy (who spent time in federal prison as a young man for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War), and Leonard Pine, a gay, black, Vietnam vet (and a Republican) -- actually meet, and not only become partners and friends, but brothers.

In his review of Blood and Lemonade on Dangerous Dan's Book Blog, Daniel Schwent writes: "Lansdale's beer and tailgate style of storytelling gives him a unique voice and feels like it was written specifically for my ears. There is comedy, fist fights, and even some horror in the form of a ghost story, showing the depth and versatility of Lansdale's style."

Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade is available direct from Tachyon Publications, and always through

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Book Received: Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling

Pirate UtopiaSo while I was absent from blogging, life moved on...other projects were completed, books were received....

One such book is Bruce Sterling's Pirate Utopia, a beautifully crafted hardcover from Tachyon Publications.

In addition to the *starred* Publishers Weekly review I posted on October 16 last year, here are excerpts from a few more reviews:

1. From author Michael Swanwick's blog Flogging Babel:
Bruce Sterling has always had a complicated relationship with science fiction. He has a particular brilliance for writing the stuff and a noted loathing for its conventions. This explains much about Pirate Utopia, which is almost not SF and yet should prove eminently satisfactory to genre readers.

The Free State of Fiume was a real thing. Fiume was a port city which was seized by troops led by the Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio. Very briefly, it became an attempted Futurist utopia.

The novella explores this strange phenomenon through the lens of the single worst member of the new government, exposing along the way the seductively poisonous appeal of fascism. At the end, after the inevitable has played out, Harry Houdini appears with two alt-historical pulp writers to implicate science fiction and fantasy literature in the whole mess.

It really is quite brilliant.

2. From Locus magazine's review by Gary K. Wolfe:
One can be reasonably suspicious of a novella whose alternate history is so obscure, contorted, and bordering on the absurd that it needs appendices to help us draw the connections, but the overall effect of Pirate Utopia is more chilling than comical...

The idea of a brutality as policy crops up repeatedly in the many discussions that make up the intellectual heart of the story, and you can't help but read forward a century or so to see how such ideas persist even today. In his interview with [Rick] Klaw, Sterling relates his tale to Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here and notes that, as Lewis said, fascism in the US "would arrive wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross under American circumstances." Pirate Utopia may seem to be about an ancient and almost forgotten struggle between Italy and Yugoslavia, but its themes are as relevant as this year's presidential politics.

3. From author Cory Doctorow on
Sterling's Pirate Utopia captures both the excitement and the shabbiness of Futurism and fascism, the sense of trembling anticipation and the terror of merciless technocratic rule where corruption is considered efficient and meritocratic. For all that this is a very cerebral story -- much of the prose is distant and precise, like a Futurist's oiled machine stamping out words -- Sterling masterfully winds in all manner of blood and love and sorrow into the story, not to mention the odd belly-laugh.

This novella is a beautiful object, with the most amazing super-modernist black and white interior illustrations and a cover that beggars belief.

4. And lastly (though there are many more very fine reviews available on this novella) from Max Booth III on LitReactor:
This is a very short book occupied by an impressive cast of characters—most of them grabbed straight from history, although used in ways you might not entirely expect. This is a Futurism novel that looks at the past rather than the future. It's an alternate history clusterfuck of brilliant, whacky world-building and hilarious, bizarre characters. I am not going to discuss the plot, but I will tell you that, in the world of Pirate Utopia, Hitler passed away while saving someone's life in a bar, Lovecraft works not only for Houdini, but is also a member of the U.S. spy delegation—oh, and Mussolini has evidently been shot in the cock, which is of course wonderful. This is a book about piracy and Futurism. Building a world while stealing everything in it. When you have an oxymoron for a title, there's really no way to predict what awaits you, and Pirate Utopia exceeds all expectations. Also, make sure you stick around afterward for the impressive special feature essays and interview with Sterling. They'll help you make sense of what the hell you just read.

In his review, Cory Doctorow refers to the "most amazing super-modernist black and white interior illustrations and a cover that beggars belief." [Note: other reviewers have mentioned the artwork as well, but I simply didn't include that in my excerpts.] All the illustrations in Pirate Utopia are the work of John Coulthart, who has written a very enlightening 1,000-plus-word essay entitled "Reconstructing the Future: A Note on Design" that you'll find at the end of the book. You can read my blog post on my initial work on the novella, published on June 10, 2016, with a link to some of the interior illustrations (scroll down to the end of the blog); and a follow-up blog post on July 14, 2016, with additional examples of the illustrations.

Pirate Utopia is available direct from Tachyon Publications, and always through

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross: Laundry Files Book 8

The Delirium Brief cover
Okay, I haven't been the world's best blogger these past few months (though I did try to keep you entertained on occasion with quotes, vids, etc.).... Blame it on the run-up to the presidential election (and of course the aftermath, sigh....), but then again that excuse is only good through the beginning of December.

For the past nearly four weeks I have been working on the latest installment of Charles Stross's Laundry Files series: volume 8, entitled The Delirium Brief. This new novel will be published in July 2017 in the U.S. by and by Orbit Books in the UK. [*]

So while I slaved away working on The Delirium Brief, the publishers were, naturally, shut down for the holidays. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Orbit UK cover
But I'm not really complaining, honest: one of the best Christmas-Chanukah-Kwanzaa presents I could ever ask for is the opportunity to work on a new Laundry Files novel. (Also, I'm always pleased to have work in front of me -- any work, at any time!)

According to the content blurb provided by the publisher (available for your reading pleasure on -- and I quote, though not in its entirety:
"... following the invasion of Yorkshire by the Host of Air and Darkness, the Laundry’s existence has become public, and Bob is being trotted out on TV to answer pointed questions about elven asylum seekers. What neither Bob nor his managers have foreseen is that their organization has earned the attention of a horror far more terrifying than any demon: a British government looking for public services to privatize. Inch by inch, Bob Howard and his managers are forced to consider the truly unthinkable: a coup against the British government itself."

So, what we know here is that the British government is outsourcing a number of its services, which obviously includes the Laundry... But the real question is: Why?

I will warn you right now that to answer that question without giving away the entire punchline I will still have to yield to a few "mini" spoilers. So if the idea of knowing any spoilers whatsoever for The Delirium Brief, regardless of how small, offends your better judgment, then you had best close this blog post window now!

On the other hand, if you are still reading, let me provide a caveat: If you are fairly new to the Laundry Files series and haven't read all the prior volumes, then you just may want to stick around to learn which volumes you will need to catch up on before The Delirium Brief is published six months from now. (Or maybe you have read all the volumes but it's been years for some of them and, well, the memory ain't what it used to be....)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Gandalf Quote

"I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

― J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Friday, November 11, 2016

Maya Angelou Quote

"When someone shows you who they are,
believe them the first time."

–Maya Angelou

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pirate Utopia: The Starred PW Review

Pirate UtopiaThe Publishers Weekly starred review:

  Pirate Utopia

Bruce Sterling. Tachyon, $19.95 (192p) ISBN 978-1-61696-236-4

Cyberpunk progenitor Sterling's alternate history novella is bizarre, chock-full of famous people in improbable situations, and wildly entertaining, even when the worldbuilding seems to go a little off the rails. Lorenzo Secondari, a veteran of the recently ended Great War and forever changed by it, is the head engineer of the titular utopia, the Italian free state of Fiume. He and his compatriots build flying boats and fight communism while dealing with American secret agents, including Harry Houdini and Howard Lovecraft (who's now working as Houdini's publicity agent after going into advertising). Hitler died saving another man's life in a bar fight, [President Woodrow] Wilson was poisoned, and Mussolini's been disabled by a pair of bullets aimed "where a man least likes to be shot," so the Europe in which Secondari is attempting to create his radio-controlled airborne torpedoes and other gizmos is already massively different from ours. An introduction by Warren Ellis and an interview with Sterling sandwich the novel, both bearing an air of false gravitas, but the actual story is wacky and fun what-if-ing at its finest. (Nov.)

You can read the prior posts about my work on Pirate Utopia in my June 10, 2016 blog post and in my July 14, 2016, blog post.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ignoring a Gift Horse Full of Books....

Space. I need space in my office. I've long felt trapped, nearly consumed, by all the books in my office. So, I pulled together some 200-plus books: mostly trade paperbacks, but a handful of mass markets and hardcovers, and decided to donate them -- I just needed them gone, if you can relate to that.

A friend of mine suggested I donate them to the local library. So, I searched for a list of all the San Jose Public Library branches in my area, and selected the branch to which my daughter takes her daughter -- my granddaughter. I found the branch's Friends of the Library president's email address, and I emailed her. Explaining who I was and why I had a lot of brand new, unread books available to donate. The following day I realized I had neglected to mention one more point so I emailed her again. After a week of no response whatsoever, I emailed the library branch manager. She responded within a day, telling me that the president of the Friends was the correct individual to contact and that I should email her again -- this time, with more details on the books: if these were all unique titles, or duplicates, etc.

I deleted that email.

I waited another week. Still no reply from the president of the Friends of the Library. Since school had started I assumed this individual wasn't on vacation, but simply was not responding to my email.

I'm not going to email again and beg for this person to take my 200-plus free books; I'm not going to email and elaborate on the contents and makeup of these free books. They. Are. Free! They are packed in boxes, they are ready to be delivered, all I needed was to know where to take them and hopefully have a representative there to take the boxes off my hands.

The library is going to have a book sale at some point, and people are going to pay $5 or $10 or whatever it is the library charges for a bag of books: brand new, unread genre books that the library is getting for free. And these $5 or $10 amounts are going to add up and go towards needed resources for that library. But, this individual chose to not respond to my offer of free books.

Screw 'em.

The boxes are now loaded in my car, and tomorrow I go to The Salvation Army where they will take all 200-plus books off my hands, no questions asked, and gladly spread them throughout their South Bay stores with a $1.00 or more price tag per book. (No $5/$10 per bag at The Salvation Army!) And hopefully a lot of the books will sell and the organization will use the money for the various charitable projects that they support.

And I will write off the entire donation on my taxes regardless.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Redux: Glimpses by Lewis Shiner

"Maybe it's our generation. We seem to have a hard time growing up. Maybe because when we were in high school we thought we'd never have to. The music told us we would live forever, everything would be love and peace and harmony. It took me a long time to let go of that....But I've finally started to get there."

I was nearing the end of Glimpses, by Lewis Shiner, when I read this paragraph -- and for some reason, the words just stuck with me.

The protagonist in Glimpses, Ray Shackleford, meets up with his first true love, a woman named Alex, a couple decades after their relationship ended. (I assume "Alex" is short for Alexandria or some such; and I don't recall ever learning her last name, either). They're catching up on old times, and also talking about current times.

Anyhow, since these words stuck with me, I just wanted to share them here. You can read my previous blog post on August 24 on Glimpses.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Now Reading: Glimpses by Lewis Shiner

Shiner_GlimpsesGlimpses, by Lewis Shiner, was originally published in 1993 by William Morrow and Company. The following year it won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. I read Glimpses when it was originally published -- at a time when I was listening to a lot of music on CDs. Since then, the book has sat on a shelf, until now....

The protagonist in the story, Ray Shackleford, has his own stereo repair business; obviously he listens to a lot of music. He's also caught up in an eleven-year marriage that is cold, unemotional: a dead-end. He's also dealing with the recent death of his father: a man Ray hated, but he never got the opportunity -- or was never man enough -- to tell his father how he felt.

Amidst all this grief and angst, Roy has discovered the ability to channel his emotions into the music of Jim Morrison, Brian Wilson, The Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix -- music that the musicians attempted, almost created, but never completed. Only this time around Roy, in a dreamlike fugue state, is able to record this music that never was.
"Shiner couldn't have written this book without a deeply felt sense of the fragility of art, of how many great works have passed into the ages never to enlighten, inform, or entertain new generations. Though the masterworks he conjures up in such exquisite detail are lost to us, we now have a bit of compensation for their absence: a masterpiece of the imagination called Glimpses." —Richard Foss, Los Angeles Reader

"You don't have to be a musician to love Glimpses, but musicians will appreciate how free it is of the strained, embarrassing attempts to describe the musical process that torpedo so many non-musicians when they try to write about music. Much less gimmicky than it sounds, Glimpses is ingenious, well-crafted, and deeply moving."
—Joe Gore, Guitar Player

"Though he's dealing with a somewhat strained metaphor—the unfinished business of a generation—Shiner is enough of a storyteller that you're never put off by the underlying sentimentality. Even more impressive, he makes you believe the albums his (admittedly autobiographical) protagonist conjures up are the masterpieces they're supposed to be. Quite a performance." —Stereo Review

When the book was published in France in 2014. Shiner's French publisher put together a complete playlist of all the songs mentioned or played throughout the novel. (Scroll down at the link; but one caveat: the text is in French, but you can still make out all the song titles.) But the French publisher didn't stop there: he put together a YouTube video playlist of all the songs as well. So as you read the book, you can hit YouTube to listen to all (or most; some vids are not available in the U.S.) of the songs as they are mentioned throughout the novel.

Glimpses was reprinted in paperback in 2012, with an absolutely dreadful blue cover; so if you were ever to purchase a copy, please snag the original hardcover, pictured here. Since the original hardcover is long out of print, you can actually pick up a used copy that's very inexpensive, in fact cheaper than the paperback edition.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Foo Fighters' Sonic Highways Blu-ray

Sonic Highways_Foo FightersI just finished watching all eight episodes of Sonic Highways, an HBO original series about the Foo Fighters, that was originally broadcast in 2014. The series documents the band's road odyssey to write and record eight songs in eight different cities for their eighth album, to mark the band's fifteenth anniversary.

I lost track of the number of "wow!" moments while watching these eight eps. Each one an in-depth history lesson on the city, its music and culture. The interviews with record label execs, producers, writers, musicians, journalists, etc. were flawlessly edited and mixed throughout with cityscapes (historical and current) and performance clips documenting each city's musical heritage.

I'm now planning on ordering the eight-track album. If you read the album's reviews on amazon, you'll notice that many of them are mediocre: some good songs, not the band's best or typical album, and such. But if you then read the comments to these reviews you'll see that, every time, the responder states that you can't appreciate the songs if you haven't seen the video. Why? Because each song was influenced by the recording studio in which it was recorded; by the history, the spirits if you will, of those who played before: the same piano that Ray Charles played when he recorded in that very same studio decades earlier, for example. And the lyrics that Dave Grohl wrote for each song were also some of the same words spoken by those interviewed throughout the episode. I think at one point Grohl even states that the song is more of a document, a record of the city's musical legacy.

Bear with me and I'll give you an example.

Here's the album's track list:
1. "Something from Nothing" - recorded in Chicago at the Electrical Audio Studio
2. "The Feast and the Famine" - recorded in Washington D.C at the Inner Ear Studio
3. "Congregation" - recorded in Nashville at the Southern Ground Studio
4. "What Did I Do?/God As My Witness" - recorded in Austin at the original Austin City Limits Studio
5. "Outside" - recorded in Los Angeles at the Rancho De La Luna Studio
6. "In the Clear" - recorded in New Orleans at Preservation Hall
7. "Subterranean" - recorded in Seattle at the Robert Lang Studios
8. "I Am a River" - recorded in New York at the Magic Shop
The last episode featured the city and music of New York. In 1961, when Bob Dylan was nineteen, he knocked on the door to Woody Guthrie's apartment. Guthrie's daughter, Nora, answered the door. When she saw it was some stranger, she closed the door on him. He knocked, she opened the door, and closed it once again. The third time Arlo answered the door, saw that this young stranger had a guitar, and invited him in. Dylan has always said that Woody Guthrie was his biggest influence. If he didn't get invited into that apartment that day, what affect would that have had on the burgeoning folk -- and later folk-rock -- scene at the time in New York City?

Nora Guthrie also tells of receiving a package in the mail shortly after 9/11, long after Woody had passed away. The package was wrapped in brown paper and twine, with no return address -- exactly the type of package she should not have opened at the time, but she did so knowingly anyhow. The package contained four small spools of silver wire; no note in the package; she had no idea who had sent this to her. The spools contained "live wire" -- a recording process used for about a year and a half in the late 1940s, after which recordings were made using tape. These wire spools turned out to be the only recorded performance of Woody Guthrie in front of an audience. Steven Rosenthal, at SoHo's Magic Shop recording studio, brought that wire recording to life. The album The Live Wire: Woody Guthrie in Performance 1949 won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Historical Album.

In the Foo Fighters' song "I Am a River," the lyrics "The channel's changing / The heart is racing / From voices on a wire" refer to that "live wire" Woody Guthrie recording. And the song title itself? "I Am a River"? Refers to the underground river that Jimi Hendrix discovered when he built Electric Lady Studios in New York. Who would have thought a river flowed beneath 52 West 8th Street in Greenwich Village.

This, and more, is what I learned from just one episode of the Sonic Highways Blu-ray.

Check out the three-and-a-half-minute trailer below, and then go buy your copy of Sonic Highways from amazon, or wherever it is that you buy your vids.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Now Reading: Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa

Freak Out!In my previous blog post I wrote that I was boxing up years of editorial ephemera and shipping it out to the respective authors -- or, if unwanted by said authors, tossing it into the city-provided recycling bin. Yes, just one publisher for right now, nearly ten years of my life, in boxes and bins.

Anyhow, the process of unloading so many paper-filled boxes in my office allowed me to access other boxes that I haven't been able to get to in years.

And in one of those boxes I found this book -- Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa, by Pauline Butcher -- that I had been wanting to read for some time, but was unable to find it! Yes, things (books, postal scales, notepads, cables and other gear) actually do get lost in my office. I purchased this book in the summer of 2012 (it was officially published in October 2011) after learning about it on Facebook, from the author herself, on a Frank Zappa page.

Ms. Butcher was employed by Forum Secretarial Services, located in the heart of London in 1967. On August 16, 1967, Pauline happened to be the one to answer the phone because the owner was out of the office. The call was from the concierge at the Royal Garden Hotel: "We have a client who wants a typist at six-thirty." As Pauline took the call -- and none of the other workers were particularly anxious to go out -- she accepted the job.

Upon arriving at the hotel, and taking the "lift" to the fourth floor...
...I trotted along the corridor to Room 412, set my cases on the floor, and knocked.

Nothing prepared me for the figure that opened the door.

Squiggly, ink-black curls fell below his shoulders. He had a long, thin face with a thick, drooping moustache and an extra tuft under his bottom lip. He wore an orange t-shirt and pink trousers over the skinniest of bodies. I blurted out, " Oh, I'm sorry, I've come to the wrong room."

"Par-leen Butcher?" he said in a deep, American drawl.

"Yes, is Mr. Zappa here?"

He held out a straight arm and I stood there, astonished. This was Mr. Zappa? Undeniably, he had a Mediterranean air with his swarthy skin and dark eyes that held mine in a bemused gaze. We shook hands and he said, "Come on in." He pressed his back against the door as I picked up my bags and brushed past. He kept nodding confusedly, as if he'd expected a fifty-five-year-old with flat shoes and Lisle stockings.

Pauline eventually went to work for Frank Zappa -- and later his Bizarre Records label -- initially living in the Laurel Canyon "log cabin," located in the Hollywood Hills, for about a year, with at least a dozen other people: aside from FZ and his wife Gail and daughter Moon, there was PamZ, Christine (one of the GTOs), Calvin, occasional members of the Mothers of Invention (primarily Ian Underwood), and others. At any time, day or night, you might find Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful hanging about, or members of The Monkees, or Eric Clapton, or Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart, or members of Pink Floyd, or Grace Slick, or.... Once word got out that FZ was residing in the log cabin, anybody and everybody managed to drop by at some point in time.

Ms. Butcher kept a journal during her tenure with FZ, and wrote regular letters, at length, to her mother in England, who kept those letters. This memoir is based on her journal entries and letters to her mother.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Boxing Up The Years....

When you decide to lighten yourself of nearly a decade of publishing ephemera -- master manuscripts, page proofs, digital proofs, binder proofs, dust jacket proofs, editor/author communications, dust jacket flats, etc., etc. -- and this from just one publisher --

This is what it looks like, as all these boxes head out to their respective authors, who so wished to have the material sent to them. For those who didn't want any of the material? Well, I've now filled a huge recycle bin -- twice -- with more on hand for next week's pickup.

And yet I still have dozens of boxes to deal with....

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Redux: Some Hard Facts About Pirate Utopia By Bruce Sterling

Pirate UtopiaDid you read my July 14, 2016, blog post, in which I announced that Bruce Sterling's novella, Pirate Utopia, would be initially published in hardcover?

And at $14.95 no less -- extremely rare for any hardcover, especially one that contains pages -- and pages -- of period illustrations by none other than John Coulthart.

Shortly after posting that blog I learned about the caveat: the $14.95 price tag is indeed correct, but it's the Amazon-only
pre-publication price. Order the book from any other source and the price will be $19.95, which will also be the retail price after publication.

Now the problem with buying from Amazon is a) some people prefer not to support Amazon, and b) with a $14.95 purchase, you have to pay shipping, because $25 is the minimum purchase amount for free shipping on books (unless you are a Prime member).

But, I have an alternative solution:

With the assistance of Tachyon Publications, you can now purchase the Pirate Utopia hardcover through the Tachyon online store at the $14.95 price -- but you must use a coupon code at checkout, and this coupon code is only valid through Sunday, August 7. And if you reside in these United States and select media mail as the shipping option, shipping will be free.

A $14.95 hardcover, free media mail shipping, and you are supporting an independent publisher...It doesn't get any better than that.

The coupon code is MOREREDINK. Catchy, huh! But remember, it's only valid through August 7 -- that's a little over three weeks from now.

Here's the link to the Pirate Utopia product page at Tachyon Publications online.

The hardcover is the default option, so click the "Pre-Order Now" button, then enter MOREREDINK in the "Coupon Code" field, click the "Apply Coupon" button, and, if you live in the U.S., you should be good to go. Of course, you'll then have to pay for the book!

One more thing: this coupon will work for up to three hardcovers ($5.00 off on each of the three books), and since the publication date is November, you might want to consider purchasing a couple extra copies for holiday gifts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book Received: The Fisherman by John Langan

The FishermanBefore I begin this blog post, I must apologize -- to publisher Word Horde and author John Langan.

You see, I have received my comp copy of John Langan's new novel The Fisherman -- and I hadn't yet written about my work on this project, which I completed more than three months ago.

Aside from a million other things going on (a collapsing 47-foot-long, 2-foot-high brick retaining wall in the back yard that needs to be replaced; and a new fitness regimen (one and a third miles each day, five days a week, for three months now), my wonderful, supportive, lovely wife has forbade me to leave my office until I clean up nearly twenty years of accumulated material from my work on over 200 books. That's a lot of paper! -- stacks and stacks of manuscript boxes.

My point being that the book is already in hand after little more than three months, which is a testament to the quality (production, scheduling, etc.) of Word Horde, and publisher Ross E. Lockhart. So, again, my apologies for not giving The Fisherman the attention that it was due in a timely fashion.

But now that the book is readily available from Amazon or your bookseller of choice, there is no reason for any hesitation whatsoever to purchase a copy of this new John Langan novel, which I am sure will be on award shortlists next year. But don't take my word for it, here's an excerpt from a review by Shane Douglas Keene on the This Is Horror portal:
A very human tale, The Fisherman deals with issues of loss and continuance, of learning how to carry on in the face of insurmountable grief and pain, and Langan delivers this often poignant narrative with a heart as big as the moon, feeding out details with one of the strongest, most captivating authorial voices to come along in recent times....

The Fisherman is largely character driven and Langan carries the story along through the use of skillful dialogue and character interaction, interspersed with his brilliant descriptions and vivid, almost sensual imagery. The conversations between various individuals in the book are both natural and purposeful, driving action or imparting information necessary to the motion of the story, but never bogging it down and, while the book is often strikingly deep, at no point does it become anything less than captivating....
The protagonist, Abe, recently widowed (his wife died of cancer), finds comfort and contentment in the act of fishing. He later befriends a coworker, Dan, whose family died recently in a traffic accident. The two friends now go fishing together. While stuck in a diner due to a torrential downpour one day while on their way fishing, the two men learn the story of Rainer and his family and the tale of Dutchman's Creek, told to them by Howard, the diner's owner. The Fisherman is a story within a story: the tale of Dutchman's Creek occupying at least half of the book.

Here's another review excerpt, this one from Anthony Watson on Dark Musings:
[The story of Dutchman's Creek] makes up part two of the book – the bulk of it, in fact – and is entitled Der Fischer: A Tale of Terror. Which is about as apt a title as I can think of because the journey this tale takes the reader on truly is terrifying. Some of the imagery conjured up here will take your breath away – this is epic storytelling, encompassing huge themes. It's in stark contrast to the intimacy and emotion of the opening section and – possibly – all the more powerful for that. Special mention here to whoever chose the painting (Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast, 1870 by Albert Bierstadt) which has been used for the book's cover as it perfectly reflects the narrative within, men portrayed as insignificant against the immensity of nature....
And if that's still not enough to convince you to snag a copy of The Fisherman, then check out this interview with John Langan on Electric Lit -- and then buy a copy of book!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

$1.99 For The Alien Contact Ebook [Ended]

I don't know how long this offer will be available: the ebook edition of Alien Contact is currently priced at $1.99.

The $1.99 price is for both the mobi (Amazon) and the epub (B&N) editions of the book. If you haven't already done so, now is your chance to read 170,000 words of some of the best alien contact stories for a buck-99, all between the virtual covers of a single ebook.

Just click the large Alien Contact book cover to the right to make your way to Amazon. For the epub edition, click this Nook book link.

Once caveat: The ebook editions do not contain the Stephen King story, "I Am the Doorway."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Some Hard Facts About Pirate Utopia By Bruce Sterling

Pirate UtopiaI recently completed my review of the page proofs for Bruce Sterling's forthcoming novella Pirate Utopia.

If you are on the Tachyon Publications list to receive a review/reader copy of the galleys, they should be shipping out to you shortly. If you have access to NetGalley, the Pirate Utopia e-galleys should soon be available as well. But if you aren't on the list, and you don't have NetGalley access, but you would like to review an e-galley of Pirate Utopia, then please leave a comment below: provide me with your book blog URL or venue for which you review, as well as contact information, and I'll be in touch.

As to the "hard facts": Due to popular demand, the alt-history, Futurist, dieselpunk Pirate Utopia, which was to launch as a trade paperback, will now first appear in a collectible hardcover edition for the mere retail price of $14.95. A Bruce Sterling hardcover for only $14.95? Say it ain't so!

Tachyon Pubs's marketing consultant, Rick Klaw, posted these words about Pirate Utopia:
Who are these bold rebels pillaging their European neighbors in the name of revolution? The Futurists! Utopian pirate-warriors of the tiny Regency of Carnaro, the unlikely scourge of the Adriatic Sea. Mortal enemies of communists, capitalists, and even fascists (to whom they are not entirely unsympathetic). 
The ambitious Soldier-Citizens of Carnaro are lead by a brilliant and passionate coterie of the perhaps insane. Lorenzo Secondari, World War I veteran, engineering genius, and leader of Croatian raiders. Frau Piffer, Syndicalist manufacturer of torpedoes at a factory run by and for women. The Ace of Hearts, a dashing Milanese aristocrat, spymaster, and tactical savant. And the Prophet, a seductive warrior-poet who leads via free love and military ruthlessness. 
Fresh off of a worldwide demonstration of their might, can the Futurists engage the aid of sinister American traitors and establish world domination?

In my June 10 blog post I shared the "Cast of Characters" in Pirate Utopia; and in my June 14 blog post I provided a sneak peak at some of the interior illustrations by John Coulthart, who also did the book's cover (above). Well, there are dozens of interior illos, and the three I provided simply don't do the book justice, so here are a few additional illustrations to whet your appetite:

Now imagine these illustrations in a beautifully done Bruce Sterling hardcover! Pirate Utopia will be published in November, and is now available for pre-order from Amazon or your fave bookseller.

* * * * *
A follow-up post (with a coupon code) on the hardcover price.