Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)

In Memory

Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, Dhani Harrison, and Prince
perform "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
at the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductions.

You must watch until the very end: Prince and his guitar....

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book Received: Old Records Never Die by Eric Spitznagel

Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His PastA little less than a year ago I got my turntable and record collection out of storage, had the turntable serviced, and have been playing records since. I've even added a few new titles to the collection.[1]

However, as I went through my records, cleaning them (using the Spin-Clean Record Washer System) and then cataloging them via, I discovered, much to my dismay, that dozens of titles were simply missing. My wife said that maybe, in my misguided youth, I sold the records for cash and simply forgot that I had done so. But I ask you: Who sells an original pressing of Led Zeppelin II, or Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, or Zappa's Ruben and the Jets? Hmmm? Who, I ask you?

Somewhen, probably while I was traveling (I had hitchhiked across the United States in my youth), and/or attending college (UCLA, UMass/Amherst, Sonoma State, UofO/Eugene, and back to Sonoma), and/or living in different areas and states, my record collection was pilfered. I won't name names, but I have a fairly good idea what may have happened to them, but I won't talk about my family here.

I've searched online for some of these albums, but most are too pricey and/or in too poor a shape, for the original pressing, or else all that I can find are reissues, and more reissues. During one of these searches, I came upon a review for a book entitled Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His Past by Eric Spitznagel. The premise is that Eric sold/traded in, over time, his massive record collection, mostly for spare change (gas money, fast food, movies, etc. -- his John Mellencamp Scarecrow album garnered a whole ten cents!). And now, in his 40s, he's feeling the loss -- and decides he's going to return to the scenes of the crimes and try to track down some of those records. Not replacement copies, mind you -- but the exact same copy of the record that he once owned! Crazy? I'll have to wait to see, as I'm only on chapter two.

The introduction is by Jeff Tweedy, singer, songwriter, and producer, whose bands include Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and Wilco. Here's Tweedy's and Spitznagel's four-and-a-half-minute trailer for Old Records Never Die:

I don't know that I could search for the exact copies of my missing records, since I don't know where and when they went missing, but I'll still have to find a VG+ or better replacement copy of the original pressing at an affordable price. Forget the reissues; worse case I'll just settle for the CD. Here's an excerpt from Old Records Never Die:

As I browsed Reckless, there were albums that were entirely foreign to me, and albums that were instantly familiar. But the old friends, they'd all been given an upgrade. Fugazi's Repeater? A reissue. The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead? Another reissue. Anything by the Replacements? Only one Tim and two Pleased to Meet Mes, both reissues. Even the crown jewel of my collection, the record I bought solely because a guy with Elvis Costello glasses and a nose ring behind the counter at Record Swap recommended it, Screeching Weasel's How to Make Enemies and Irritate People, was only available as a reissue.

Everything was a deluxe edition, remastered on 180-gram vinyl, now with original artwork. The stickers that used to read FEATURING THE RADIO HIT . . . now promised things like INCLUDES A DOWNLOAD CODE AND HIGH-RES DIGITAL AUDIO EDITIONS IN 2.8 MHZ, 12 KHZ / 24-BIT, AND 96 KHZ / 24-BIT! I recognized the covers, but the albums felt different. It's not just that they were new; there was something too slick in the design, too high-definition in the packaging.

...[I] drifted toward the used section, which was actually labeled LAST-CHANCE SALOON.

This was more promising. Here were the records that might've come from my personal library. Not the titles, necessarily, but the general poor condition. They smelled like something that'd been left in the basement during a Chicago winter. If you grabbed them with too much force, the sleeves folded back. I spent almost a full minute cradling albums like Bryan Adams's Cuts Like a Knife and the Greg Kihn Band's Kihnspiracy, not because they were records I particularly cherished, but because they had the physical battle scars of music from my era. Also, it didn't hurt that the average price for a bargain bin record—fifty-nine cents on the high end—meant I could probably buy back my entire collection for about a hundred dollars.

I'm all for superior sound quality, but vinyl made after 2000 is fundamentally different from vinyl made in the twentieth century. It smells different, it feels different. The vinyl copy of the Pixies' Doolittle I purchased at Reckless in 1990 is only tangentially related to the reissue vinyl copy, ticket price $19.99, currently for sale at Reckless. I don't give a shit about rare test pressings. Or when new albums come with free download coupons. Or colored vinyl. Or goddamn picture discs. I want the records I recognize. The records that feel like a part of my double helix.

You can read more about this book on the author's website: In fact, the website has a special section, Lost Found, where people can post photos of the records they have found, that were all marked up by the original owner, along with the original owner's name, if it was written on the album. Check it out.



[1] As I wrote in my December 15, 2015, blog post entitled "And Now for Something Completely Different: Vinyl," I begrudgingly gave up on buying LPs when the recording industry moved, in earnest, toward the CD. Finally, on July 13, 1990, I broke down and purchased a CD player and my first stack of CDs. I still have my CD library and, in fact, many of the LPs I'm missing are in my CD collection, or bits and pieces of those LPs are included in box sets. But vinyl...vinyl is the true love of music listening.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Editing in Process: What Dreams Shadows Cast by Barbara J. Webb

What Dreams Shadows CastThis blog post has been in "draft" for quite a number of weeks... I didn't want to post my editorial work on this self-published novel until I had access to the final cover art. And then I learned that the author was going to be part of a "story bundle" of fantasy novels, and I wanted to share that with readers as well....

A bit more than two years ago, in my January 12, 2014, blog post, I wrote of my work on Barbara J. Webb's self-published novel City of Burning Shadows, book one in her Apocrypha: The Dying World Series.

City of Burning ShadowsEarlier this year, City of Burning Shadows was selected, among hundreds of entries, as one of the ten best self-published fantasy novels. Those ten novels are now part of a story bundle, which I urge you to take advantage of if ebooks are your preferred format. The ebooks are all DRM free and can be read on pretty much any computer, laptop, tablet, or phone. Note: the story bundle ends on May 5 -- so act now before you forget and time has run out. You can read more on the "self-published fantasy blog-off" that yielded these ten fantasy novels in my December 29, 2015, blog post. And here's a direct link to the story bundle details and ordering: SPFBO Story Bundle.

But let's get back to the current book at hand: What Dreams Shadows Cast, the second book in Apocrypha: The Dying World Series.

In book two, author Barbara J. Webb continues the tale of Ash Drake, former priest of Kaifail, and currently an employee of Price & Breckenridge, Legal and Investigative Services. Events in book one take place after the Abandon, when all the gods departed the land, never to be heard from again. Our protagonist, along with his fellow team members, have saved their city, Miroc, from devastation. And now, in book two, the city is quiet...too quiet....
Amelia [Price] was at her desk, staring at her computer screen, a frown on her beautiful face. In her perfectly tailored suit, with her perfectly styled hair, and perfectly manicured nails, no one could guess the truth. No one would ever see the creature that now lived inside her skin.

I waited in the doorway. She knew I was there. This new Amelia was aware of everything around her every moment. Nothing escaped her notice. But that didn't mean she was going to allow me to interrupt whatever thought-process she was working through.

"What do you need, Ash?" she finally asked. The irritation in her voice was one hundred percent Amelia. Her own mother wouldn't know that she'd changed. Some days—most of them—I wished that I didn't.

"We've finished with the train tunnels," I said from the doorway. "Nothing's sneaking up on us from below the city. I think it's time to redirect our attention. Iris has been telling me about an influx of refugees. A lot of people coming in, and also a lot of people going out."

That got Amelia's attention. We were starved for news from the outside. And she wouldn't have missed the most obvious question about the people who were leaving—where would they go? She looked up, tapping her fingers on the desk in the steady rhythm that had always meant Amelia thinking.

Some days I could almost forget that it was Syed moving those fingers, looking at me through Amelia's eyes. That it was Syed's mind and Syed's decisions now guiding Price & Breckenridge. For six months I'd been braced for some dramatic moment, some drastic change that had never happened. As far as I could tell, Syed had done nothing that Amelia wouldn't have done, had made no decision Amelia wouldn't have made. He lived in her body with the same perfect mimicry I'd seen the rest of his people capable of.

It was creepy. It was wrong. But it was a lesser evil, compared to everything else that had gone wrong in the world. And the truth was, we needed him. And he needed us. Which led to this awkward state of truce and a thin layer of pretense and no one was all the way happy with any of it.

Full wrap-around cover art for What Dreams Shadows Cast

Plots within plots, conspiracies, gangs, battles, tech-magic, giant spiders, and beings thousands of years old [read: Syed] -- the Apocrypha series has it all. But don't forget to check out the story bundle, which expires on May 5. And while you're at it, you may as well snag volume two: What Dreams Shadows Cast ebook, from either Amazon or iTunes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Jeffrey Ford's The Empire of Ice Cream Ebook Now $1.99 [ENDED]

Ver3-EmpireThis is the original cover for Jeffrey Ford's second short story collection, The Empire of Ice Cream. Artwork by the inestimable John Picacio.

I acquired and edited this short story collection during my tenure with Golden Gryphon Press. I don't believe I ever blogged about this book -- it was published in early 2006 and I didn't begin my blog until early 2009. But, I did write a lengthy blog post reminiscing about the 2000 World Fantasy Convention in Corpus Christi, Texas, which is where I met Jeffrey Ford and John Picacio, so you might want to give that a read to see how Jeff's first short story collection, The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories, came to be.

In the meantime, if you don't own a physical copy of The Empire of Ice Cream and you do read ebooks, then get yourself over to, or B&N, or Google Play, or wherever you purchase your ebooks, and pick up the digital version of this wondrous book NOW, for only $1.99. I don't know how long this offer will last so don't hesitate. It's only a buck-99 and the title story (a Nebula Award winner) is worth that price alone. And then there's "Botch Town," a 40,000-word novella that won the World Fantasy Award.

Here's the ad copy from

Magic is everywhere—
for those who know where to look

Few writers can extract as much enchantment from the mundane as award-winning author Jeffrey Ford. His talent for storytelling is readily evident in The Empire of Ice Cream, his collection of ordinary and extraordinary juxtapositions.

The bittersweet Nebula Award–winning title story introduces a composer with synesthesia who finds the sound—and woman—of his dreams through a cup of coffee. Then there are the fairies that inhabit sandcastles in the fleeting moments before the inevitable rise of the tide. Ford populates this charmed collection with stories taken from his own life as well, including "Botch Town," which finds him as a schoolboy, and "The Trentino Kid," which recalls his experience digging for clams.

Jeffery Ford can take the mundane, the everyday, and, with the skill of an adept, mold these into brilliantly realized visions, wondrous yet elusive.

"Ford's visions are elusive, tantalizing the reader with hidden implications yet raw with autobiographical pain. Ford's sentimental, exalted prose demands more than one reading."
The Washington Post Book World