Things not to say to your friends who are writers when they get a rejection letter …

1) Everyone’s been rejected.
Yes. We know this.

2) Just keep trying.
You keep trying.

3) How often have you submitted it?
Doesn’t matter. First or 100th letter still sucks.

4) This is why people have real careers.
Writing isn’t a hobby for some of us.

5) I have a whole host of them myself.
That’s great. I’ll care about that tomorrow.

Some days you just don’t want to put on a brave face and be the strong, stoic artist. Some days, you want to throw a fit and cry into your drink. So, especially if you aren’t a writer, just remember this: when a friend gets a rejection letter, tell them you’re sorry and then offer chocolate. Sometimes, we just need to pout.

Why yes, we’ve noticed I’m not buzzfeed. I’m not posting gifs. Why? I’m lazy.

Lies my blog tells me

I was screwing around on twitter the other day (because when you should be writing, nothing is better than twitter, right?) and caught this headline, tag line, something about how us writers shouldn’t be worrying about our blogs so much. Now, I didn’t actually read the article because why should I? (That would be logical.) But the headline did give me a moment of relief because I mean … think about it. This thing never gets updated.

I think it doesn’t get updated because I always want to say something deep and sensitive and all “writer like” and really, let’s face it, usually I’m just rocking out to Halestorm or Sick Puppies and trying to make sense of whatever character is loudest in my head at the time. So I go post my ramblings in LiveJournal because, you know, that’s cool right? And leave this to languish because I’m not cool enough to be awesome all the time.

LIES!

Anyway, I’m not sure what I’m saying tonight other than I felt the urge to come over here and ramble about the writer life rather than, you know, write. I did write tonight. 737 words of pure crap, but it was words at least. I’m in that horrible place where the draft is trying to figure itself out so I’m just writing and hoping it sorts itself out in the end.

I’m also waiting to hear back from a publisher, so it isn’t like my brain can focus on anything other than that chance that the unread email in my inbox won’t be from MoveOn but instead, you know, the publisher.

It’s funny. I have so many big ideas for this blog. A new short story posted every week. Rambling thought processes on everything from music to writing groups to what it’s like to be a queer writer in Salt Lake. And then reality hits me and I’m reminded there are only 24 hours in a day and I try to devote at least 4 of them to writing.

This reminds me – I did get to see Neil Gaiman in person last week. This is definitely worthy of a rambling blog post because he was absolutely amazing. Absolutely. See, again, lies my blog tells me: I will write amazing things to share with the people who follow me and then, you know, it all crashes up against the brick wall of things like sleep.

I’m so interesting.

Anyway, I felt the urge to get back to this, so here I am. Trying. We’ll see if it lasts. ;)

LiveJournal Q&A, December Edition Question #1: How Does Music Influence Your Writing?

A meme went around LiveJournal (yes I still use it! it’s awesome!). The meme was a challenge, asking for blog posts to be done for each day in the month of December. I didn’t get 31 questions, but the questions I did get were awesome. So, I’m answering them here.

It’s funny you ask this because often, writing influences my music. I have discovered over the years that while I have a core set of music styles that I like, it’s often my characters who direct certain musical choices. I’ve discovered artists and genres because a character likes a certain style of music. I’ve become obsessive over some bands because the character identifies so strongly with them that it literally changes how I think and react to it. (Current example: Sick Puppies.)

Outside of the people in my head who direct everything from music to book to clothing choices, I am personally drawn to more hard rock and heavy metal elements which means that it is more likely for my characters to listen to those genres and bands. But the biggest example of how music influences my writing is in my chosen genre, which is Rock Fiction.

It’s true that my writing is peppered with queer characters and could be labeled Queer Fiction, but in the end, my genre is rock fiction. There isn’t a book or a story that doesn’t have that hard rock element as a central part to at least one character, if not the entire plot. That musical element is what drives me as I seek to find the answers in the shadows beyond the spotlights on stage. (See what I did there?) The soaring guitar riffs tell my soul the story while the bass line fills in the gaps and the drums bind it all together. Outside of Tori Amos, I almost never write with singer/songwriters on repeat. Instead it’s Sick Puppies, All That Remains, Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown, Queensryche, Halestorm, Royal Bliss, Nine Inch Nails, Rob Zombie, Ill Nino, Stabbing Westward, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine … they are the ones who are put on repeat as the characters run away with my soul. I fall into their music, their lyrics, their stories while the universe in my head unfolds to tell me about the guitarist who is dying of AIDS, the basketball player who is in love with the rock star, the runaway who is saved by the timeless band, the actress who finds peace in the silence of her guitarist boyfriend, the suicidal bass player who would be dead if not for the instrument in her hands, the young father who reconnects to his Spokane heritage through his lyrics.

So for me, it’s a cycle. I wouldn’t be writing at all without the inspiration I find in the music I am already drawn to, but my characters definitely expand my fascination with music because they take me on their journeys, teaching me what they like and what inspires them, which in turn, inspires me.

Oh, “Man Up,” Rock 106.5

To me, there is nothing sexier than a Man. A Man with a capital M. Long hair, biceps, a bit of scruff, and a fucking heart of gold that wouldn’t let a woman get knocked down in a mosh pit unless she’d made the choice to put herself there. Even then, he’s the first to help her, and any of the guys, up from the floor. And the rock and metal world is full of these guys. Problem is, popular culture is full of another kind of guy and unfortunately, these assholes seem to permeate the dj culture over at Salt Lake’s newer rock station, 106.5.

106.5’s tag line is “Man Up” and you know what, I don’t fucking mind it. I actually kind of like it. Because Rock and Metal is in part a male dominated culture that prides itself on strength, power, and in many ways, honor. It also prides itself on knowing how to have a great time. The problem with this whole Man Up thing is that 106.5 is taking the fucking FUN out of rock.

Twice in the last week when I’ve turned on the radio in the afternoon, I’ve heard the DJ shaming women, shaming body choices, shaming the trans community, and shaming people with addiction issues. Honeypie, have you forgotten your rock and metal history?! We wouldn’t have rock and roll without Sister Rosetta Tharpe! Have you forgotten just how tight Robert Plant’s jeans were on stage? (I know I haven’t …) Have you forgotten that Ann and Nancy Wilson do Zeppelin better than Zeppelin? Have you forgotten that Ozzy Osborne is barely functioning because of addiction issues? That Rob Halford is gay and Freddie Mercury was bisexual!? Have you forgotten that the kick ass men in Poison, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Motley Crue all made better women than most of the women on the strip in LA? Rock 106.5, you have forgotten your roots!

Don’t get me wrong. I know full well that the metal and rock world is full of bullshit. It is full of the same amount of bullshit as a lot of other sub-culture. I know full well how hard it was for women to break onto the stage in rock and, even worse, how the media still refuses to treat them as equals. I know it’s full of sexist, racist pigs who think that because they grow their beards out and pound their chests that they’re reclaiming some sense of a lost generation of power. I laugh at the so called libertarian singers and guitar players who come across as pro-power republicans in support of the military and militarized police all the while calling for a revolution. I struggle every day with the body image pressure that is seared into my mind thanks to Bobbie Jean Brown and the like.

But I also know full well the culture that shaped me. I know a culture that embraced men in makeup and women in torn jeans. I know a world that empowered women to never be ashamed of sex or their sexuality and that taught them that sexuality doesn’t take away a woman’s power. I know a world where men take the stage and scream love songs while shredding guitars and where women punch and grind with the best of them. I know a world where the mosh pit stops the minute someone hits the ground and that protects those who don’t want to be a part of it. I respect how these men and women stand up for soliders who come home to nothing after doing a job no one else fucking wants to do. I know a world that fought like hell against the PMRC. I know how family is created the moment that the lights go down. How people who will only ever connect at the show, that night, will bang their heads together and scream lyrics that saved their lives, become brothers and sisters in a moment. There is no shame in this culture. There is only pride.

So when I hear the utter bullshit spewing from 106.5’s airwaves, it turns my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, KBER’s unending blathering on air makes the station almost impossible to listen to and more often than not I find myself catching racist sketches or gender based battles of wills. And it pisses me off because this is not the culture I grew up in nor the culture I still embrace.

See, the culture I grew up in boiled down to one idea: if you could handle the pit, you could stay in the club. Didn’t matter anything else. It was a culture that changed music, changed ideas of what it was to be a man – all the while embracing primal consciousness. It was a culture of respecting those who were different and bringing them into the fold, protecting them, all the while mocking and ripping the masks off of the white-bred suburban bullshit that so many of those who sing the music grew up in.

So don’t fucking sit there and mansplain what it means to be a man. I know what it means because I’ve seen men weep when the music overtakes them and I’ve seen the power in a curled fist and felt the bond of a mosh circle that is protecting those on the outside from being harmed. Fucking Man Up, Rock 106.5. Right now, you’re fucking wussy, whiny, and down right idiotic.

And by the way, you guys have a tendency, every time you play your Man Up drop to play some 80’s Hair Rocker band. So, I LOVE the fucking irony there.

GOD I miss the guys at The Blaze. They knew how to run a rock station.

“Discussions” with my brain at 6 AM …

I think every writer out there can relate to this …

Me: *stretches and wakes up a bit*
Brain: Hey! Let’s have a conversation.
Me: It’s too early and I haven’t had any coffee yet.
Brain: So what! I’m up. You’re up. Let’s talk.
Me: It’s six in the morning and I’m hot and tired. Can this wait?
Brain: So here’s what I’m thinking. You know that whole “follow your bliss” thing?
Me: It’s six in the morning. My bliss is going back to sleep.
Brain: Okay, I can’t argue with that logic. But, seriously, we gotta talk.
Me: What did I say?
Brain: Come on, you’re up and arguing with me. So, what I was thinking was this …
Me: I’m not going to win this one am I?
Brain: So what I was thinking was this – you are really ready to take your writing to the next level, right?
Me: Yeeeahhhh …
Brain: So maybe you need to quit your job and just do the freelance thing.
Me: Or I can build up a freelance reputation and then quit my job.
Brain: But … bliss …
Me: But … bills.
Brain: You know, those words are almost identical.
Me: But not.
Brain: Kind of.
Me: No, really. Not. I appreciate this pep talk but it’s now 6:15 and I have to get up in a bit and I’d like to get some sleep.
Brain: *sends pain to nerves* You still want to sleep?
Me: YES! You made it so I can’t.
Brain: Sorry about that. But I’m following my bliss here.
Me: So what did you want again?
Brain: Bliss.
Me: Look, yes, I would love to drop my job and hit the road as a merch girl or writer A-La-Almost-Famous or something. But I’m in a good place right now too.
Brain: Because 8-5 is really your style? When was the last time you actually got to work on time?
Me: That isn’t the point and you know it.
Brain: What is the point?
Me: …. can we do this later?
Brain: *grumbles* Fine. But, hey, listen to this –
Me: What?
Brain: You write rock fiction for a reason you know.
Me: Yeah, because I love the themes and the characters are fucking sexy.
Brain: Well, maybe there’s a lesson there. I mean, the real rock stars, they give up everything and take that risk. Maybe it’s time you thought about that too. Not saying you have to take off on the road or anything but it might be good if you changed things up.
Me: You’ve been saying this for a while.
Brain: Yeah, but not at 6:45 in the morning.
Me: I love my day job though. If I leave it and have to get a day job I hate I won’t be writing as much.
Brain: Life is risk.
Me: I’m going back to sleep.
Brain: Now you’re being logical.
Me: On a couple of levels.
Brain: I know, I’ll create some dreams for you about what it’ll be like if you are able to follow your bliss.
Me: Whatever. But if you do, create a savings account I can live off of so I can in fact follow that bliss.
Brain: Oh …yeah.
Me: This was funnier an hour ago.
Brain: It wasn’t meant to be funny.
Me: I know.
Brain: We’ll get there, right?
Me: Yeah.
Brain: Sleep doesn’t matter, right?
Me: You’re the one keeping me awake right now.
Brain: Oh yeah.
Me: Mind releasing those pain receptors?
Brain: Hmmmmmmm. Nah. I think I’ll leave them.
Me: Jerk.
Brain: Last I checked, we were connected, Sweetheart.
Me: Don’t call me sweetheart.

Everything to be Thankful for: The Rock Avengers Tour hits SLC

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It started like every other rock show. A venue, a bar, merch tables tucked in corners with high traffic but not in the way. Setup. Dim lighting. But as with every Royal Bliss show, you never quite know what you’re going to get. On November 26th, 2014, what the crowd got was five and a half hours of rock, storytelling, and drinking.

The Pre-Thanksgiving Royal Bliss show is a tradition in the Salt Lake City rock scene. The band has been a fixture on the scene for over a decade, and every year they throw a huge party the night before Thanksgiving. For the past two months, the guys behind radio hits such as Devils and Angels and Here they Come have been on the Rock Avengers tour with Bobaflex and Australian rockers October Rage, and brought both bands with them to the party, also inviting American Hitmen, who are also well known to the Salt Lake scene.

October Rage, who hail from Newcastle, Australia, are a young, hard rocking quartet with a sky-is-the-limit potential. Frontman Nick Roberts exudes a kick-ass-yet-dorky personality on stage, all the while wielding his axe like a weapon as he charts a path through the ever-dangerous US rock scene. As with all rock bands, success is as much to do with charisma and charm as talent, and these four rockers have the goods. While their riffs are nothing yet to write home about, they shine in a way that pulled many a jaded drinker from the back of the venue by the bar to the front of the crowd, proving that the Australian Rock Scene did in fact not die when Sick Puppies made the move from Sydney.

Local blues-rockers American Hitmen were next, bringing an almost 70’s rock vibe to the room as they took the stage in leather biker vests and tight black jeans. They cruised their way through a set that included covers of classic favorites and hard-hitting originals. Three of the members of the band met while serving together in Iraq and that bond they brought back from the desert shows on stage as their set is a give and take of collaboration and solos.

The West Virginia quintet Bobaflex carries themselves as if they just stepped out of a Ramone’s tribute band but their sound is as full and face-melting as any hard rock group’s should be. Their set, which included the single best cover in existence of the classic Sound of Silence, revved the crowd and ended far too quickly.

And then came why the crowd was there as Royal Bliss took the stage.

While not quite metal, Royal Bliss still brings that hard-ass, hard-rock, ass-kicking mentality to the stage in everything they do. The Salt Lake City quintet will have as many as three guitars on stage while blasting their way through their set, and frontman Neal Middleton never met a “Fuck” that he didn’t like to say. Yet, they never take a single moment they spend on stage for granted. Every song break is peppered with thank yous to the crowd, their wives, their girlfriends, and their kids. Songs are belted not just from Neal’s soul, while lead guitarist Taylor Richards channels his inner Jimi Hendrix and bass player Dwayne Crawford provides the hard-hitting heartbeat. Throughout the course of the show, the crowd is taken on a journey that demands whiplash inducing headbanging and tearful cuddling with the significant other at your side.

Despite the well-oiled machine that is a Royal Bliss show, rock music always demands a sacrifice and last night, it was the equipment. Midway through the show, a monitor started to smoke and Neal had to bullshit his way through stories and finally just gave himself over to laughing at the problems and their history as the “Unluckiest band in rock” as he admitted that “Everything Royal Bliss touches, breaks.” He also gave a lecture to the men in the crowd, saying that “if you disrespect women, you aren’t cool, you’re an asshole.” As a woman, I desperately appreciated the comment. He also gave a jab to corporate radio and record labels, hollering out that they shouldn’t have to pay the radio stations to play their music, especially in their hometown. For the record, all of the bands on this tour are independent.

The show ended with Neal coming back on stage in a jacket that only a preacher could love and doing an impromptu three minute “preacher-style” thank you before the band launched into the ever-loved Fine Wine and Champagne before all four bands came on stage for a cover of A Little Help from my Friends and a performance of Royal Bliss’ signature I Was Drunk. Finally, Neal and Taylor stepped into the crowd for a campfire circle rendition of Home.

Those who stayed the course for the entire night, for all five and a half hours, had everything to be thankful for.

You can check out my rather crappy phone photos here. ;)

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Truth Is …

This week, I lost the second of my cats. The first died just about a month ago. She was 23 and we’d had her for 22 of those years and out of nowhere we realized that she was sick. It took a week and she was gone, but we had her in our arms until the end. The second was our sweet baby who was 15. And he’d been with our family since he was born and now … isn’t. Morph, the one who died this week, was my little writing buddy. He drove me crazy sometimes, don’t get me wrong. But he’d sit on my shoulder and on my papers and purr at me and encourage me. And now it’s just quiet. And no, I don’t need him here to write, but more and more, I’m missing his presence when I curl up and start to let the words flow.

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Rest in peace, buddy. It’s too quiet without you.

This one is going to fester …

What matters more? The music or the person who sang it? Whose version of All Along the Watchtower comes to mind when you think of the classic – if confusing – lyrics? Jimi or Bob? Who played Wild Horses better? The Sundays or the Stones? Whose Hurt is it? Trent Reznor’s or Johnny Cash’s? There are entire last.fm playlists devoted to different recordings of Down to the River. Lady Gaga’s or Halestorm’s version of Bad Romance? CeLo Green or Sick Puppies doing Fuck You? The Eagles or Trisha Yearwood when it comes to Taking it to the Limit?

So what matters more?

See, we humans have this weird association with the art and creative world. We expect the masters to be copied but then when the masters are copied, the public decries that the student is never, ever as good as the teacher and all that was once pure and perfect has been obliterated and has been destroyed and civilization is about to end as well.

Until the next time.

And the next time.

And the next time.

This is not a phenomenon specific to music. When books are transformed into movies or TV shows, purists cry from the corner: that isn’t the story that was written! Well no, often, it is an adaptation, it is fan fiction, it is a commentary and sometimes, gasp, it is in fact, better. (I’m looking at you, Hobbit detractors.) When an author dies or retires from writing a series and the torch is passed, often the writer who takes over is even better than the original because they’ve devoted time and blood and passion to a world that someone else created. And sometimes, it really sucks. Sometimes, we look at a change, at an adaptation, and wonder what the hell they were thinking. (Madonna’s cover of American Pie comes to mind.)

But let me come back to music, specifically, the replacement of musicians within bands.

It’s funny, in a sad way, when you let yourself sit back and think. Because what is a band, really, but a group of people coming together and signing a contract to share revenue on a product they will work on together. Whether they are childhood friends who go from garage practices to arena stages or groups of people suggested to each other by labels and managers, at some point, they sign contracts to make sure that should they break up, everyone is covered. It’s kind of like signing a pre-nup and a marriage certificate on the same day. And, like in a marriage, they all work their asses off. And also, like a marriage, sometimes it comes to an end.

But that’s where it gets sticky.

Does a band use that moment to break up? What finanical and legal implications do they face? What obligations were outlined by the label and the band in their contracts? What does it mean for the family unit of the band when one person wants out but others want to work on it?

Sick Puppies fans have been faced with this harsh reality over the last few weeks. They have joined the legions of Queensryche, Drowning Pool, Three Days Grace, Flyleaf, Motley Crue, Van Halen, Journey, Iron Maiden, Audioslave, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Fleetwood Mac, and even Judas Priest fans that carried on with new lead singers or at least what became temporary replacements (think, when a couple gets divorced and then remarries …). Drowning Pool hasn’t lasted more than two records with the same lead singer. But they’re still touring.

So this becomes the question that a lot of music fans struggle with because music is unique to all of my previous examples. We as music fans are attracted to so many things – the lyrics wash over us and the rhythm section makes our blood pump and the melodies carry us to places where things are safe and secure and someone who is singing all around us understands our very core.

Are we as fans attracted to the song or the person doing the singing?

Of course, in the long run, that is a question that can only be answered by the individual. But very rarely will you run into people who only listen to one incarnation of a band, save for Van Halen fans. There is a definite split between the David Lee Roth types and the Sammy Hagar devotees but it’s also generational for a lot of us. My first Van Halen album (on cassette thankyouverymuch) was For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge so to me Van Halen isn’t Jump, it’s Right Now. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the David Lee Roth years, but that isn’t my Van Halen. And are they “covering” songs when they are doing one from a different incarnation of the band? Well, does a family stop being a family when someone leaves?

It’s a weird thought process to work through because a band is more than just someone with a guitar. A band is a unit of people trying to make sense of the world through music, but also trying to make a living while they do it. Bands are a business and that’s hard to remember when we’re rocking out to bass lines that make us tingle. And sometimes the band name is more important than those making the music; sometimes the band is the original members and no one else.

I’m 900 words into this and wondering what my point is and I think that my rambling proves that there really isn’t an easy answer. But I think it’s an interesting question to ask of ourselves not only as artists/writers/musicians but also as consumers of other artists/writers/musicians.

What matters more to us? The person creating the art or the art itself? Because you can’t separate them and trying to isn’t fair to us or them, but what matters more? I mean, it isn’t just talent and style we’re talking about here, but the soul of the song and how the band explores it.

Yeah, this one is going to fester.

Truth is …

After election night inspired a couple of hours worth of ranting on my twitter feed about how the GOP is anti-science, anti-earth, anti-woman, anti-life, anti-God (because let’s face it, how anyone could sanction what they sanction and still call themselves “Christian” is hypocritical), anti-American, anti-Peace, in favor of dropping bombs on children (all of which is searchable through voting records, by the way), anti-poor people (and middle class too), anti-child, and of course, anti-health care I found myself needing to actually write. See, twitter is AWESOME for a good political rant and for retweeting dumb things and of course, for stalking your favorite celebs, but it really isn’t that good for writing. So, I did what any logical writer would do: I sat down with two of my favorite characters, two characters that of course, the GOP would hate. They’re non-religious, hard rocker types who advocate for things like actual liberty and non-conformity, and who both live and struggle with mental illness. Mental illness that is managed by the healthcare plans they can afford through … wait for it … the ACA. Because their plans can be subsidized, they can afford things like mental health care! And medication! Which keeps them from killing themselves. Oh, and of course, one of them is … shhhhhh …. Chicana. (See: things the GOP hates.) And the funny thing is, the piece I wrote tonight wasn’t even about any of that. It was about her reaction to her dumbass ex-boyfriend. But still, these are two people the GOP just wishes wouldn’t, you know, vote.

This is what we writers do, right? We write about the world, holding up that mirror, hoping that someday … people listen. Sad thing is, they usually do, but only after we’re dead.

Also, yes, as a sports fan, can we stop with the national anthem before games?

Also, my district is now represented by Mia Love. *weeps*

Truth is … I’m excited for music over the next couple of years. You kidding? Times like this is when the metal world SHINES.

Over Coffee …

It isn’t that I haven’t been updating, it’s that I’ve been adding reviews and content to the sidebars. Check out my short stories and pop culture commentaries! (Shameless plug.)

But honestly … I’m sitting here over my coffee (with my coffee?) thinking about the real reasons I write, and how I can’t imagine anything in my life that doesn’t involve these characters, and I’m so flipping tired (Utah Swear Alert) that I’m honestly not doing a lot to move things forward. And it’s not even physical tired, but emotional tired. It’s that moment when you sit there and go “Fuck. I’m 35. I have novels under my belt. I’m an active writer. I’ve worked and (not been paid) as a writer. And why didn’t I move to LA when I was 20? Why didn’t I turn left instead of right?”

And the depression comes not from the lack of being published but wondering where the direction goes because you know, writing is like that. And depression is so easy to push through, right?

I find myself wondering about being on the outside looking in though. Knowing writers, knowing musicians, knowing people who are working in the field where I’ve always dreamed of working and wondering … what the hell I’m not doing. Other than, of course, keeping pushing forward and demanding an audience and doing my best to drown out that voice that echoes, telling me I’m not any good. Because let me tell you, there are a lot of publishers and agents out there who are happy to say over and over again that people aren’t any good.

This is the problem with being one of those writerly types. We think too much.

I dunno. I know I need to actively start music blogging again because I loved, loved, loved doing it. And of course there is the writing that needs to happen on the novel. But right now … it just feels overwhelming.

So I am going to drink my coffee. And make plans. And you know, get to work because I do have a day job.

This has been your whiny writerly post for the week. I promise not to give you another one until December. ;)

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