Brown River Queen cover art

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Guitar Update

As many of you know, I procured a Raven electric guitar last week with the intention of claiming my rightful place in the lofty pantheon of Rock and Roll.

Sure, I'd need to learn to play the thing first.  A minor detail.  Trivial, really.  And it's not like I was completely inexperienced.  I'd seen a guitar once before.  From a distance.  Through heavy foliage.  But I'd taken that chance to observe the wild guitar, in its natural habitat.  I watched the guitar feed, watched it use its trunk to spray cooling water on its back...

What?  A what?  An elephant?  Are you sure?

Hmmm.  Well, that explains a few things.

Anyway, I've been practicing.

Using the amazing free lessons available at, I've learned a few things about the art of playing a guitar.  Chief among these things is that I am completed unsuited physically to actually play the guitar.

First of all, there is the issue of my hands.  While I have two of them, which is considered the minimum number necessary for a guitarist, my hands are the exact wrong size.  Seriously, they're big huge Frankenstein's monster hands, which are well suited for use as bludgeons or shovels, but problematic when employed to strum and fret.  Observe my photo below, to see what I mean.

Fig. 1, Frank's Hands.

See?  On a side note, I cannot get a decent manicure in this town.  I walk in, and all the little Vietnamese ladies shriek and run.  Sigh.

I remain undeterred by my physical obstacles, though.  And things are easier after last night's session -- I unlearned one bad habit I didn't know I had, which was that I was pressing down far too hard on the strings with my fret-hand.

I thought that, to get the proper note, one had to bear down with all one's superhuman might on the hapless string.  I was really putting the pressure on.  Blood was spraying.  Bones were being ground down.  Children screamed.  Clowns nodded, knowingly.

Turns out only a gentle touch is required. Oh well.  Skin grafts are a lot cheaper than they once were anyway.

I'm still practicing the D this week.  Yeah, I know, your average lab monkey could probably master the D on a guitar in half an hour, but keep in mind this is me we're talking about.  I was 27 before I first walked upright.
I still have to mutter 'left, right, left, right' while I walk.  

Next week, I plan to move on to the next chord, which is I believe the A.  After that, I may risk the perilous task of following a D with an A, in the same sitting, as long as a team of chiropractors and mental health professionals is standing by.  And maybe a professional barbecue master too.  I find that any endeavor is improved by the presence of a professional barbecue master.

At that rate, let's see, carry the 1, add the Leap Year -- yes.  At that rate, I expect to perform my first full song, a Death Metal version of "Here Comes the Sun," by late 2022.

Okay, hopefully not that late.  But I'm not making any promises.

Oh, and in case anyone is keeping score, here's the practice amp I have picked out:

It has a built-in tuner, and a setting labeled 'INSANE.'  I've always wanted a machine -- any machine-- with a setting of INSANE.  I don't even know what it does, people.  But whatever it is, it will be sweet.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Old Blog's Sad Fate

Many of you have asked "Hey Frank, what happened to the old blog?"

And when I say many, I mean none.  But nevertheless, I shall 'splain.

The old blog was one I set up years ago.  It was a Wordpress blog, which meant it lived on my website and incorporated a database and had lots and lots of obscure php files in various directories on my site.

The fact that I managed to get the thing up and running is still considered a minor miracle by the Church.  I know precious little about SQL databases and php now, and I knew precisely nothing back then.

But I followed the instructions and the thing worked, for lo, these many years.

Until December 19, that is.  Something happened then.  I could no longer sign in to my Admin panel, couldn't create new posts, couldn't edit old ones.

I was busy during the holidays.  When I did get a chance, I went to the Wordpress tech forums, created an account, and along with a couple of other people experiencing the same problems, I asked for help.

Things went rather downhill from there.

I won't burden anyone with the details, but the fine folks at that particular forum (cough, wankers, cough) weren't particularly helpful.  After a couple of times of being insulted, I decided to just cut my losses and start over, using Blogger, which pretty much runs itself and doesn't require me to run a gauntlet of snarky script kiddies every time I need advice.

I'm sorry for the loss of the old blog.  There was some priceless stuff in there -- my fake interviews with Donald Rumsfeld, the Wells Fargo rant, my pictures of Bigfoot riding the Loch Ness Monster -- but I hope you'll all like this one just as well.

In other news, the editing of Bonnie Bell continues, as does my practicing of the D chord on the new guitar.  Which reminds me -- time for some practice!

Take care, all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Glamorous Writing Life

I am more than three-fifths done with the first editing pass through the new Markhat novel.

Which means I'll probably start my second pass this weekend, and if that goes well, I'll ship it out the next week.  The snow days have certainly helped speed up the process.

And what a process it is.  It's not enough to just read the manuscript.  You have to focus on every character, every mark of punctuation, every page break, every spelling of every word.  All while simultaneously reading the events for timing and continuity errors.

And of course, your inner editor must be busy asking the same question of every word, every line, and every scene -- "Does this move the book along?  Does it make sense in the context of each character and their motivations?  Is it any good?  Is everyone about to discover what a failure you are?  HAHAHAHAHA yes they are!"

My inner editor has issues.

But even so I have to turn them loose, and listen carefully to each and every muttered criticism.

I'd much rather be writing something new.  But re-reading and editing and tweaking is a vital part of the process, no matter how much I'd rather fire up "Fallout: New Vegas" instead.

The good news is that I love this book.  It's so good I'm not entirely sure I wrote the thing.  Maybe Lou Ann, Associate Canine Editor and Chief of Security,

fires up the PC after I go to bed and taps away with her little doggy paws and turns my own miserable prose into what I've spent the last week reading.

If so, good dog.

What's different about this Marhat adventure?

A lot of changes for our hero.  Without giving too much away, I will hint that the peace may be ending.  Too, Darla's patience with Markhat's reluctance to formalize things may be wearing thin.  Readers will finally learn what drove Gertriss out of Pot Lockney, and get a glimpse into Mama's past as well.

It's been a lot of fun.  Setting it back in Rannit was a welcome change too.  Rannit isn't a place I'd want to live, but it's a great town to set stories in.

So wish me luck on the remaining two-fifths.  Barring any major 'Oh no' moments, I'll be cranking away on a new book in a matter of a few weeks!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Obligatory Snow Blog

I live in the Deep South.  Mississippi, specifically, and it doesn't get much deeper South than that.

Snow is a rarity here.  Snow that accumulates in sufficient depth to actually cover the ground is almost unheard of.

Six to eight inches of snow is the kind of thing we'll look back on in August, when the temperature in the shade is 108 degrees, with utter disbelief.

But it's here, and I've got the photographs to prove it.

So settle back and enjoy a virtual tour of scenic Yocona, Mississippi, where for a while at least the heat and humidity have given way to ice and snow.

That's Karen, my wife.  She's happy to be out in it!

I know, I know, pics of snow-coated winter limbs are cliche, but we haqrdly ever get this stuff, so humor me.

What, now snow-covered barns are cliche too?  Okay, pokay, moving right along...

And he won't stand still, either.

Petey takes a hard stance against all things white and fluffy.

Finally, a snowman!

Okay -- now will someone please clear the roads?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Movie Review: Country Strong

Sometimes, I see a movie.

If I'm lucky, the movie has the word 'zombie' in the title.  Juvenile?  Tasteless?  Crass?

Maybe, but I like what I like.

I like movies to scare me.  In fact, I dare them to try.  Go ahead, movie -- be scarier than the IRS or this economy or my rapid approach toward full-fledged codger-hood.  You think you've got what it takes to scare me?  Me, who recently had a colonoscopy?

Ha.  Fill yer fists, movie. Hit me with your best shot.

The last movie that truly frightened me was 'On the Beach.'  The 1960s version.  That was the bleakest, scariest thing I've seen in a long time.  I won't ever watch it again.  No zombies, either.  Just quiet, inescapable doom.

With zombies, you at least get a dash of fun.  Zombies stumble.  They're easy to shoot and run over.  They can't figure out doorknobs.  They're a lot like the people you see waddling around every day in Wal-Mart, aside of course from the craving for warm human flesh.  But there are an awful lot of them, and like bills from AT&T, zombies just keep coming...

Which brings us, oddly enough, to "Country Strong," which features not one zombie, unless you count the various living dead subplots stumbling around in search of something to bite.

Let's be fair, though.  A movie set against the backdrop of the country music scene is not one I'm likely to praise.  Twangy guitars and honky tonks and endless repetitions of Waylon and Willie is just not my cup of hemlock.

But, to my surprise, the music in the movie was actually good.  Which saved the thing from being a total loss,  because the characters reminded me of characters in a game of "Clue."  Draw a card, do something random.  He is sleeping with her, who is married to him, who is looking for an affair with her, who winds up sleeping with him, round and round we go, do I care, the answer is no.

Here's my summary of the film.  It contains spoilers, so if you plan to see the movie, stop reading now.

We're drunk.  We're sober.  We're going back onstage.  We're drunk.  We crash and burn.  We're sober.  We get another shot.  Oh my, is that vodka?  We're drunk.  We don't even make it onto the stage.  We're sober.  We get one more shot.  We perform brilliantly.  We commit suicide.  Various other characters either stay in show business, or do not.  Roll credits.

They pulled the suicide bit out of thin air.  She was self-destructive, sure.  But not suicidal, not then, not there. I think someone rolled a 20 sided die and called out 'You fail your roll against dying.'

Now, let's consider how much better that same film would have been -- with zombies:

We're drunk.  Zombies attack.  We're sober, and how.  The band plays on while the zombies are mowed down.  Zombie Willie Nelson shows up, reeking of cannabis, and the zombies catch a contact high and all gather around a vending machine giggling.  The band sneaks out and travels across a post-apocalyptic wasteland, fighting zombies here, playing shows there.  Heroine sings triumphantly while crowd goes wild.  Even zombies cheer.  Roll credits.

I fully expect to see my version featured on the Saturday night SyFy channel movie of the week very soon.

So I can only give 'Country Strong' a single decapitated zombie head on my six-head scoring system.  By comparison, 'True Grit' gets a solid six, yes six, heads because that movie rocked in every conceivable way.