On a (Rock and) Roll

This past week might have been my most prolific ever in terms of songwriting. Seriously. I wrote and recorded four songs in seven days. As far as I can tell, they're pretty good, too. I'll keep working on all of them, but for one week, hot damn. 

I now have eight new songs. A few more and I'll have another album. I usually aim for right around forty-five minutes, just in case somebody ever wanted to record it to one side of a ninety-minute cassette tape. Plus if I ever want to get vinyl pressed, there's a practical limit with that, too, which is right around that same basic marker. 

You can hear the latest versions of these songs at my ReverbNation page. (The embedded links will take you there.) The songs that I wrote this week are:

Thanks for listening.

Another Song

I wrote a new song yesterday and recorded it today, then I posted it to my ReverbNation page. You can listen to it here. It's basically about the memories left behind when a person is gone. 

Within a span of twenty-four hours, this song went from not existing to being available to stream on the other side of the planet. That kind of amazes me. 

I hope you like it, and if you happen to need healing, I hope it helps.

Songs on Spotify

I haven't really posted too much on here lately, as much of my writing time has been dedicated to other projects, including my music blog, where I have been adding new material almost daily. 

A couple of my songs have really taken off on Spotify in recent weeks, and since I don't really use social media, my blog is kind of the only way that I communicate directly with listeners and fans. 

Hop over to my music site for more. 

First Dose

I can't remember ever being so happy to get a shot. My spouse and I got our first doses of the Covid vaccine yesterday. This might be a side effect, but I think I'm starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. 

I can also confirm with some certainty that I have not had a mind-controlling microchip covertly implanted as part of a vast conspiracy to keep you from the truth... unless, of course, that's what I was programmed to say. 

Just keep your tinfoil hat on, you should be ok. Here in the real world, science is not influenced by whether you believe in it or not. 

Please get vaccinated -- if not for you, then do it for everybody else. Remember: we're all in this together

General Theory of Being Quarantined

I've noticed that after a year of being quarantined, people who own their own houses are repainting and remodeling, while people who rent are driving each other crazy. I'm sure there's an academic paper in there somewhere. 

Current Project

I spent the last few months of 2020 outlining and sketching out another novel. It's pretty well ready to be written.... but then I got an idea for a screenplay and decided to run with it. The story as I imagined it wasn't all that complicated. Basically, it's a road comedy about two friends who rent a car to drive to their other friend's wedding, none of whom have seen each other in over ten years. En route, as one might expect, hijinks ensue. I am imagining this as something that could be shot on a minimal budget. 

I chose to work on this project now, in part because the submission period for the big screenplay contests (Nicholl, Austin Film Festival, etc.) ends around the beginning of May. So if I want to submit a screenplay to any of these contests, I need to have a polished draft done by then. I also feel like this particular script has broad appeal, which might help it to land favorably with readers. 

Of course, as I probably should have known, as I get deeper into this script, the more complicated it is turning out to be. In my experience, if I don't make a detailed outline ahead of time, then I end up having to more or less start over once I do have one. That's kind of where I am now. The plot as I have coneived it is like a Rube Goldberg Device, where one thing causes the next, which causes the next, etc. As such, if I change even one plot point or character dynamic or whatever, then it's probably going to affect some of the other parts as well. As this story gets more complex, there become more moving pieces to consider with every decision. 

I still aim to have it done by the end of April, but we'll see how it goes. The most important thing is that it's good. That said, I tend to work better under the pressure of deadlines, even if they are self-imposed.

Dungeon Master

Back in the day, which was in fact many days back, I was a Dungeon Master, or a DM if you're hip. Our games comprised four to six guys sitting around a table, eating chips and drinking soda. Back then, the girls at our school weren't into D&D, or us. We played on a semi-regular basis. In our group, we had a thief, a magic-user and a dwarf, and there was usually a warrior and/or a cleric in there as well. As for me, I was none of the above. I was the effin' DM.

If you have never played Dungeons and Dragons or don't know much about it, let me fill you in. This is a game that takes place almost entirely in your imagination. You pretend to be a wizard or an elf or whatever, and you go on an adventure in your mind. It's kind of like role playing video games, only much cheaper. 

My job as the DM was to create the worlds that these adventurers would explore. I would invent a whole landscape and draw up maps on graph paper, and then I would fill these maps out with legends that corresponded to possible encounters and other information. What monsters lurked there? What kinds of treasure? What traps required a roll of the ten-sided die? Which monsters required a 13 or higher on the D-20? This was all stuff that I had to figure out ahead of time and plot out, including all of the variables. 

If there was ever a better boot camp to becoming a writer, I'm not sure what it would be. When I write stories in whatever form, one of my "primary objectives" (to employ the parlance of Robocop) is to put my characters into situations that are ripe with conflict. This is true whether it's a screenplay, a book or a song. Did you ever see the movie about the two people who got along splendidly and nothing bad ever happened to them? No? What about the blues song about the guy who is perfectly happy about everything in his life? Still no? That's because it probably doesn't exist, and if it does, I think it's fair to say that it most likely sucks. 

Oh, and incidentally, Robocop is the Christ story. Seriously. Murphy even holds his arms out to his side as he's getting shot, only to be reborn as the savior to all of New Detroit. (I'm talking about the original Paul Verhoven version, who has even said as much in interviews. I've never seen the newer one.)

Conflict is the lifeblood of drama. There's no link there. The underline is just for emphasis, because it's that fucking important. (Please note that the swear word in the previous sentence is also there for emphasis.)  

Don't get me wrong. In real life, I am one hundred percent in favor of avoiding both of those things whenever possible -- but when I'm writing, I am basically thinking about how I can apply extreme pressure to a sympathetic character in order to see how they react. What situations will help to reveal a deeper side to this character than we thought we knew? How can I make these characters face the things that they most fear and produce a little bit of wisdom from the experience? In characters, it is the gap between who we thought they are and who they grow into or reveal themselves to be that makes them interesting. On some level, that's what all stories are about: vicariously experiencing a series of interrelated conflicts that offer some insight about what it means to be human, including our remarkable ability to adapt to changing environments.
In fact, I would posit that roughly 99% of stories in the western world are fundamentally about one person who is subjected to a series of cause-and-effect challenges in order to compel change either externally or internally. In other words, the person or the world that he or she inhabits is now somehow different because of the events that previously transpired. If not, then we might ask what was the point of going on this journey with them? Conflict creates drama, which leads to growth and change. We engage with stories so that we ourselves might grow through the experience.  

I guess my point is that being a Dungeon Master did not lead me into a life of satanic rituals, celibacy and battle axes on my living room wall. Rather, this experience taught me a great deal about how to be a writer, and I am thankful for it, even if we never finished most of the campaigns that I designed.