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