March 07, 2014
"His words reignite fires you thought long extinguished in parts of your soul and bring you to a state of glorious adolescence no matter what age you’re feeling."
Interview with yours truly in Audio Ammunition web-zine.
March 06, 2014
Viva Foghat Redux
Every now and then I'll receive an angry message from someone who thinks the most interesting thing to say about King Dork is to note that it strains credibility to imagine a contemporary teenager who has an opinion on Foghat.
And in response I always send this link.
I've always found it a little puzzling when people pounce on Tom Henderson's hostile retrograde tastes in music as a kind of "gotcha moment," an indication that I as a writer am clueless or out of touch or something, like I imagine that all teenagers these days are walking around thinking deeply about Thin Lizzy. You know, that's, like, part of the joke, dude.
ADDED: from my comments on the face thing:
"..what I'm pointing to is this trend (not just with my books by any means) on goodreads etc. for readers to assume that the primary role of criticism is to spot "inconsistencies" kind of like (I guess) scrutinizing movies for anachronisms or historical inaccuracy. I'd disagree that that's the most interesting thing to do when commenting on a novel, but even setting that aside, it often leads to absurdities where the central conceit of the novel or a primary feature of characterization is noted as a glaring "problem" that renders the whole enterprise null and void. Like criticizing Hamlet by saying "you know there really aren't any ghosts. The editor should have caught that."
March 05, 2014
As you may know, I've been posting pictures showing the progress of the custom acoustic guitar that Jason Ingrodi has been building for me over the past few months. This wasn't something I'd ever expected to do, especially since I've recently come off several years of being dead broke. But Jason noticed me complaining about my guitars on the internet and offered to build me one at around the same time I finally finished my book and had a little cash to work with. The ensuing process was really not like I expected. It was much more emotional and personal than you'd think it would be. I learned a lot about guitars and, corny as it may sound, about what's really important to me in an instrument, which is kind of like learning about yourself.
Previously, I'd just pretty much taken guitars as I found them, adapting to their idiosyncrasies and making do with their deficiencies and not really thinking too much about how suited they may have been to what I wanted to use them for. And in the case of my preferred electric guitar, the mid-60s Epiphone "batwing" Coronets I usually play, that has worked out quite well. (It was Kent Steedman of the Celibate Rifles way back when who introduced me to them, saying in his Australian accent that I can still do a fair imitation of, "eh Frank ya gotta get one of those Epiphones, P-90 pickup, they scream." I randomly acquired one and he was right, it screamed, and everything clicked.)
Acoustic guitar was another story, and these days quite a lot of my guitar playing is acoustic. For most of the time I've been alive, my only acoustic has been a Yamaha that was a Confirmation present from my parents. It was a great present for a 13 year old and it served me fairly well considering but as I started to play out more solo I was always very conscious that I was usually the worst-sounding guy on the bill. I recently played with the Smoking Popes and was completely devastated by how much better his guitar sounded in the solo bits, and when I toured Europe with Kepi using his swell sounding Martin all I could think was, boy, Doctor (because I actually do call myself "Doctor" in my head) you need to get your act together. So that was the source of the complaints I'm talking about. I subsequently acquired a couple of other acoustics, an old Gibson B-15 with a lot of character that is kind of challenging to play, but which I love anyway, and a more modern Gibson J 150 that is beautiful and sounds great, and totally works for the purposes of replacing the Yamaha. But in the meantime the idea of having my own bespoke guitar had been planted and grew, so once things were a little less desperate with the rent and such, I decided to spend a bit more of it on a guitar instead of a sword like I'd been sort of planning to.
I've been doing a lot more fingerpicking lately, and one thing that I've never liked is how feeble and indistinct it can be in comparison to strummed songs. If you've just played a loud strummy song, it's kind of hard, psychologically, to switch to the quieter sound and not worry you're just going to lose everyone's attention and look kind of lame. But I had been going to stores and trying out guitars and it turns out there is something that can be done about this. Out of everything I played, the best sounding overall by far was a (had to be custom built) Santa Cruz L-00 sized guitar with a cedar top and maple sides. And in my "let's just see" conversations with Jason, he mentioned that cedar tops are known to be better for fingerstyle and are used on classical guitars for that reason. (See this seems like very commonplace knowledge to me now, but at the time I was utterly clueless.) So even though I was still considering things, it was the cedar that did it for me. It felt like a crazy thing to do, and it felt really weird even to be considering it, but the back of my mind had already decided that we were going to go through with it, and it let me know in no uncertain terms later on. So we decided to go ahead with it, bought a pile of wood, and commenced the guitar-making. (For anyone who is interested it's the cedar top, rosewood back and sides, ebony fingerboard, mahogany neck, and flamed maple binding: pretty much all the "tonewoods" no plastic, on the basic Martin OM style model. Plus a fun Dr. Frank logo inlay that is a saga in itself.)
What followed was a long, dramatic process of incredibly fast progress, delays, setbacks, breakthroughs, and triumphs that stretched over several months. I grew to look forward to the almost daily progress reports and pictures to the extent that now that it's over I feel a kind of loss. It provided structure to my day at any rate.
As for the guitar itself, it arrived yesterday and man is this thing incredible. It is much, much louder than you expect from a small bodied guitar, louder even than the jumbo Gibson. And yet it also has that classic slightly "boxy" parlor sound as well, which is just what I was hoping for, as in my mind I see much of my guitar playing future as basically settin' back and playing for my cat on the porch, though the porch is actually a couch as well as clubs, bookshops, cafes, etc. (It's compact enough to be easily portable, which is one thing I liked about Kepi's guitar, and which will help in taking the porch on tour.) It is hard to describe sound in words, but the tone is very rich and very alive sounding, and has a character all its own, quite different from any other guitar I've played. In "quality," whatever that means, it is comparable to the Gibson, and I think also comes pretty close to matching the awesomeness of the Santa Cruz I mentioned above. I'm still getting to know it and no doubt will have more to say as time goes on (not that anyone would really be interested in hearing me babble on like this again!) It has an old-style retro neck that feels a little bulky at first, but that's something I'm quite used to and in fact it plays like a dream. And those individual plucked notes really do ring out, both the highs and lows very present within each note.
So basically it came out great. Jason Ingrodi did a fantastic job, something he should really be proud of, and it's something I'm proud to own. So glad I took the plunge.
(I can't say the same for the US Postal Service, who managed to deliver it with a puncture through the shipping box that went all the way through the case, causing superficial damage to the lacquer finish of the guitar -- at least, I hope it's superficial. I'm told it takes something like an act of Congress and several pleading visits to the postmaster to get USPS to pay anything on its insurance, but I guess we'll find out about that. So yeah, that's another thing I've learned: close enough for government work isn't the standard you want for shipping a priceless, one of a kind, fragile object. Best advertisement for UPS/Fed Ex ever.)
(Oh and also, pre-order my book.)
March 04, 2014
So apparently King Dork Approximately is on the 2014 BEA Buzz Books list. Whatever that is, I can't help but think it's got to be good.
(You can pre-order it here.)
March 02, 2014
March 01, 2014
February 27, 2014
The My Stupid Life Club
I have this fanciful notion that I am in some kind of club with songwriters who have written songs with the same titles as mine. (Wrote a bit about this here. There are now twenty-one Another Yesterdays, not just eight, in the Another Yesterday Club, it turns out. Never heard any of them but mine, but I like to think we share a special bond, particularly Man Buffalo and Woman Good Eagle and I.)
Anyway, I came across this song on youtube just now:
Welcome to the club, Alex.
I can take criticism when it's favorable
So the release date (Sept. 9) is quite a ways away but apparently they distributed some bound typescript manuscripts of King Dork Approximately at the ALA thing, resulting in the first review posted on Goodreads. Fortunately, it says it "definitely lived up to the first," which is a relief. (I mean I think it does. I actually think it's miles better, but you never know with the "public.")
Also snapped this screenshot of the goodreads page showing a five star average, just to remember what that looks like, as it will inevitably go down as all the various complaints come out of the woodwork and receive their just airing. But it will have been nice while it lasted.
My Stupid Life
Someone made this shirt and presented it to me at some point. I don't remember who it was or what the circumstances were, but I just stumbled across it in the T shirt archives so I wanted to say: thanks, whoever you were.
UPDATE: well, it turns out the mystery chick was our own Paige. Thanks, kiddo!
February 26, 2014
It's a Writer's Life
girl at cafe: What are you writing?
me: Oh, this and that.
girl: [noticing my T shirt] oh my god the Undertones!
girl: Are they the ones who do that lobster song?
me: Lobster song?
girl: [gets up and starts doing a spastic dance, singing] Rock lobster, rock lobster, rock lobster...
girl: Oh good, I fucking hate that song.
girl: Can you spare any change?
February 20, 2014
February 18, 2014
February 13, 2014
Just Do It
Just realized it is now possible to pre-order King Dork Approximately from Amazon.
February 05, 2014
Similarly "unbelievable" and "outrageous"
When a friend of mine has written something, I'm grateful for the word "fantastic," which can either mean "really great" or "out of touch with reality" and you don't have to say which you mean.
Arrest 'em all, let God sort 'em out
The main thing that stands out for me in this story about an ID theft victim who spent 222 days in prison for the crimes committed against himself by another, is that no one in charge seems to care all that much whether or not they had the right guy.
February 04, 2014
This is how we deal with suspected credit card fraud in this country
More here from Radley Balko.
January 31, 2014
January 23, 2014
Most Improved Synchronized Swimmer, '88