Monday, July 28, 2014

Sending Ripples Downstream (A Virtual Tour Blog-Hop)

Have you ever been tagged in a blog-hop? Did it make you start wondering where the cascading ripples of tagging originally came from?

I have, and it did.  And if you allow me a few minutes of your time, I'll tell you about it.

First...  The blog-hop itself:

The Creative-Artist Virtual Tour

Last week, Dianne Salerni tagged me to take part in a blog "virtual tour" of creative bloggers who write, paint, draw, make music, and do other creative things.  I'm very flattered that Dianne thought of me. I also enjoyed reading Dianne's post about her current work and her approach to her writing.

Here's Diane's bio:  

DIANNE K. SALERNI is the author of The Eighth Day MG fantasy series (HarperCollins) and YA historical novels, The Caged Graves (Clarion/HMH) and We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks). Dianne was a public school teacher for 25 years before leaving the profession to spend more time hanging around creepy cemeteries and climbing 2000 year-old pyramids in the name of book research.
Visit Dianne at

So according to the blog-hop "rules," I now have to give my responses to the same questions Dianne posted:

1. What am I currently working on?

Well, besides this blog-hop post, I have several short stories in various stages of getting-ready-ness. I also have a new mystery novel I'm in the outlining and researching stage on. Musically, I'm not getting as much time to visit wikiloops to jam lately, but I do have a new piece in my "Forgotten Voices" series that I've recently started and am working on.  I'm also spending time playing bass or guitar a couple of weekends a month on the worship team at church.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

For one thing, it was written (and/or performed) by me. Another thing is that my work tends to be hard to even fit in a single genre. I like adding diverse elements and creating interest by the juxtaposition of things that wouldn't normally be brought together.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

To rework a flippant response once given by George Mallory: "Because it's not there."  I write and make music because of a desire to create something unique and interesting; to bring to life something that's not yet there.  Plus -- highfalutin artistic pontification aside -- it's kinda fun to do.

4. How does your writing/creating process work?

Sporadically, erratically, and frustratingly haphazardly. A big part of that is I have a very hard time blocking out time to do it, and when I do, it's sometimes even harder to enforce that, "you WILL be creative on this one particular thing right NOW!" nose-to-the-grindstone method of creativity.

OK.  Those are my answers. Now the blog-hop says I have to choose three other creative bloggers to tag. I can think of many, many bloggers who do amazing, creative work, but here are three that you might not be aware of:

David List

David is a writer working on his soon-to-be-released debut fantasy novel "A Sawmill's Hope," set in the land of Silexare.  He led a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the editing, illustration, and self-publishing costs for the book.  I'm eagerly waiting it's release. He blogs at Regarding Silexare about his writing and more.  But in addition to being a writer, David is also a talented and accomplished musician -- he has a SoundCloud page filled with wonderful music that he has composed and performed, all of it captivating, catchy, and enjoyable.


Suze is a writer with magical powers of transformation. She can deftly weave a spell of words that turns the ordinary into the sublime, the mundane into the mystical, and the familiar into the fantastic. I don't interact in the blogosphere as often as I would like, but Suze's blog Subliminal Coffee is a place that is always worth the visit.  Whether she's blogging about her writing craft, sharing stories about herself or her family, or reviewing books, music, and movies, Suze is always entertaining and a joy to read.

Susan Swiderski

When I want to smile, I visit Susan's blog I Think; Therefore I Yam. Susan is a very creative writer with a wonderful sense of humor.  She has written the highly-rated novel "Hot Flashes and Lemonade" and uses her blog for fabulous posts about everything from writing, book reviews, and travel to personal stories and pun-filled humor.  She has a warm, ever-optimistic, and always welcoming outlook, and -- like David's and Suze's -- I highly recommend her blog.

The blog "rules" now say that these people I've tagged need to post next week with their own answers to the questions, and to tag others.  But truthfully-- I don't care if they do.  They can if they want, of course -- but I'm not tagging them because I want them to feel obligated.  I just want to recognize them for the enjoyment their blogs have given me, and perhaps point a few more readers their way.

Exploring the Ripples

Okay. so now the "rules" of the blog-hop have been followed, and I've done my part to appease the blogosphere gods.  At this point, most bloggers would consider this post done and move on.

But I didn't.  Because, like I said at the top of this post -- my curiosity was piqued. I appreciate Dianne for thinking of me for this blog-hop, but who tagged her?  Where do these blog-hops come from? Who started this one?  Was it even possible to find out?

So I decided to become a virtual Henry Schoolcraft and, if possible, explore the river of links and see if I could trace the blog-hop back to its head-waters.

It took quite a while, a whole lot of clicking, and at some points a bit of internet detective work (thanks, Google!) to get the tagging source of a few people who didn't explicitly say or give a link on their blog.  But I found the Lake Itasca of this blog-hop.

Here are the series of taggings that rippled down through the rivers of the blogosphere to me:

Me < Dianne K. Salerni < April Lindner < Anna M. Evans < Bruce W. Niedt < Janet Rice Carnahan < Sharon E. Ingraham < Pearl Ketover Prilik < Walt Wojtanik < Laurie Kolp < Susie Clevenger < Kathryn Dyche Dechairo < Kim Stevens < Cathy Sly < Michelle Gyauch Dzema < Lisa Hofmann < Latisha Guthrie < Sara Galactica < Jory Mickelson < S J Sindu < JS Kuiken < Bran Mydwynter < Elinor Gray < Katie YoungLaertes < Sylvia Petter < Shirley Golden < Laura Wilkinson < Jenny Kane < Jane Jackson < Anne Stenhouse < Jane Riddell < Beth Elliot < Penny Grubb < Linda Acaster < Lindsay Townsend < Adam Haviaras < Luciana Cavallaro < Jay Scott < Erin Albert < Brad Johnson < Debbie Nance < Sandra Warren < Joan Edwards < Eyvonna Rains < Meira Pentermann < Anna Del C. Dye < Stephanie Fowers < Stacy Lynn Carroll < Mikey Brooks < Cordelia Dinsmore < Lisa Cole Orchard < Jodi Desautels < Virginia Wright < Diana Jenkins < Peggy Archer < Cynthia Reeg < Cheryl Malandrinos < Mary Cunningham

...and after 58 links, that's where the blogging river dries up.

Mary posted on June 17th, 2013 and said she was tagged by Cheryl; Cheryl posted on June 18th, 2013 and said she was tagged by Mary.

Huh.  I suspect collusion and a clear intent to defraud unsuspecting blog readers.  :)

But -- all joking aside -- even if they weren't entirely upfront about it, it appears that Mary and/or Cheryl started this particular blog-hop in June of last year.  I can find no reference of either of them getting "tagged" by anyone else before that timeframe on their blogs or though Google searches.

So, 13 months and almost 60 blogs later, the ripples that Mary and Cheryl started reached me.

Back then, at its headwaters, the "wandering tour of blogs by artists -- writers, painters, photographers, and more" (to quote Dianne's blog) was a "blog hop interview" entirely geared towards writers of children's books. In between, in the space of just over a year, it rippled its way through writers and poets, photographers and painters. It covered a wide range of locations across the United States, Canada, and the UK to get to me, and evolved from people who created children's books to travel through artists of many other genres, including a few whose work is clearly NOT intended for children (and borderline NSFW).

And this was just one of the many possible cascading paths the blog-hop may have taken.  Each person tagged typically named two or three other bloggers to take part, in an ever-expanding chain-reaction of connections.

So let's figure it out:

Even if each blogger only named two others to take part, and we assume all of them actually did, and that each multiplying chain has taken the same number of steps, it would mean that 2 ^ 58th power of blogs are now feeling the ripples of the stone that Mary or Cheryl originally kicked into the rivers of the blogosphere.  That would be 288,230,376,151,711,744 blogs which are now involved.

Well, clearly those assumptions are incorrect -- that's many, many times more blogs than there are people on Earth!

This blog-hop ripple has behaved like a real river -- only certain currents have found their way downstream. Others led to dead-end eddies or arid flatlands that dried up any forward progress. Not every path allows the water to keep flowing. 

Not every person tagged in a blog-hop takes part.

But I have.

And so the ripples keep flowing downstream...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hot Monday

"Too Hot..." (photo by C. Fries)

It's a hot Monday here. After an unseasonable cold spell last week, the temperature is building into the upper 80's and will go higher throughout the week.

I'm like my dog Max in the photo above.  When it gets too hot, I don't want to go out and play Frisbee -- I don't even want to be outside.

So today, I'll stay inside and offer you  some hot blog updates.

Hot Newsday

A while ago, I experimented with a blog idea I called "Tuesday Newsday Two-Hundred."  It was a feature I would post on a Tuesday, where I'd take a recent news story and create a short 200-word story about it.  Not 199 words, not 201 words -- 200 words exactly.

I enjoyed putting them together, but as anyone who visits here a short while realizes, my posting is far too erratic to have a regular weekly feature.

But it doesn't mean I can't still do them, right?  No!  (...and there was much rejoicing...)

I'll just take the "Tuesday" part out and post them as the mood strikes me.  Well, the mood has struck.  So, today, I offer you "Burning Fear" -- a 200-hundred-word story about a recent news item.  I invite you to read the story below, and then click the link to check out the original news piece:

Burning Fear

Tom had a burning fear of spiders.

He couldn't stand the sight of them. He would rather stick his hand into a roaring fire than touch one of the vile things, even to kill it.

An all-consuming hatred and loathing that constantly smoldered, Tom's phobia threatened to blaze into full-blown panic at the mere thought of a spider.

It was one reason why he put off doing laundry. He'd rather wear dirty clothes than have to spend time in the basement laundry room of the house he rented. It was dark and dingy, with plenty of shadowy corners for spiders to hide in.  Tom's landlord used the basement for storage, and shelves of paint cans, bins of stray hardware, and dust-covered tools provided ample cover for spider nests. 

But he could put it off no longer.  Taking his overflowing basket of clothes down, Tom scanned every corner for any spiders.  All seemed clear as he set his clothes on the rickety table.  Until he saw a huge, black spider on the wall above the washer.  

Tom knew he had to kill it.  But no way was he going to squash it.

Then he got the spark of a bright idea...

Original news story: Man Using 'Blowtorch' to Kill Spider Started Fire

Hot Blog Hop

Dianne Salerni, author of many wonderful books including "We Hear the Dead," "The Caged Graves," and "The Eighth Day" has today named me to take part in the "Not So Accidental Blog-Tourist Hop."

I have to admit that I'm normally not one for blog-hops, tagging, or blogging awards. Not that I'm some sort of elitist snob who feels I'm above all that frivolity -- I don't.  It's just that my sporadic blogging limits the amount of time I have to devote to those kinds of things, so I generally say, "no, thank you."

But I respect Dianne and her writing, know her as a really nice person, and I like the idea of the blog-hop being short and simple and open to any kind of "Creative" work, not just writing.  Plus, I admit it -- I was flattered when she asked me.  Really? You mean you want me to take part???  This still-unpublished writer who dabbles in basement-recording? Uh, wow... Okay, sure. 

You can read Dianne's answers to the blog-hop questions about her current creative project at her blog HERE.

And then -- next week (July 28), stop by here to read my answers to the same questions, and to also see the three talented people I nominate to take part.  I'm not even going to give them a heads-up.  Because I don't want to them to feel obligated that they have to keep the blog-hop going.  I just want to recognize three creative people and perhaps get you to visit their blogs. 

Hot Blog-Hop II

In another nod to some former blogging activities, I'm giving some advance notice that I'm again going to take part in the Battle of The Bands blog hop on August 1st. 

I did several of these before, but then stepped aside.  It's the same old story -- no time, limited blogging activity, rarely post, eratic schedule, yada-yada-yada...

I may not take part every time the semi-monthly blog event is held. Heck, I may never do another one after the one I post on the 1st.  Who knows? I've given up trying to figure me out.

But after seeing some of the songs featured on the 15th, I've been inspired to feature a song that I've always loved.  It's like cool water on the sensitive skin that's been out in the hot sun for too long.

Stop back on the first to take part and vote for your favorite version of the tune!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Songs of Summer

Warren Dunes State Park (image from Michigan Science & Nature blog)

Lately, I must admit that I haven't been very social on the blogosphere. Because I haven't had much time to devote to it, this blog has been mainly a one-way street where I've made an occasional post and then disappeared, rarely getting out to visit other bloggers. 

But I've decided that in spite of my limited time, I do need to improve my on-line presence and interaction.  Taking part in a fun blog-hop is one way to do that, and so this is my entry in the Songs of Summer blog-hop sponsored by the bloggers The Armchair Squid, Cygnus, and Suze from the wonderful Subliminal Coffee.

The point of the blog hop is to create a five-song personal summer soundtrack, and so I've put together the songs below.  I will admit that my list is entirely subjective and personal -- rather than just being "about" summer, most of these songs bring back memories I associate with summer, like my fond memories of the time I spent at Warren Dunes on Lake Michigan (see pic above) during my summers as a teen.

But here's my list -- see if I hit any ones that you might have on your own soundtrack:

  • Hot Fun in the Summertime (Sly and the Family Stone):  OK -- this first one IS indeed "about summer."  But as a kid, I remember hearing this a lot in the summer, and it brings back many happy memories of the times at my friend's grandmother's pool, listening to music on a small transistor radio.  It's a fun mix of mellow and funky, with some incredibly infectious bass, and it holds up surprisingly well for a song recorded in 1969 -- 45 years ago.  It's a song that just feels like summer. Here's a recording of it where the old original mono has been redone into stereo (yes, they were still recording in mono in 1969):
  • Stranglehold (Ted Nugent):  Ted Nugent's first, self-titled 1975 solo album after leaving the Amboy Dukes was a record that I played a LOT during the summer of '76, and this track was the main reason.  As a 15-year-old struggling, wanna-be guitar-player, I loved the power and vibe of the long, extended solo. The vocals and all-around bravado also appealed to my immature masculinity, despite my overwhelming introverted shyness and awkwardness. But man-oh-man, that in-your-face, screamin' guitar just called to me (and now I have the tinnitus to prove it how loud and how often it did, LOL!).  Here's the original studio recording:

  • Blue Sky (The Allman Brothers): This was recorded in 1972, but I didn't really discover the Allman Brothers until the late '70s in my later teens.  This song was on Eat a Peach, the album the band was working on in 1971 when Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident at the age of 24. The song was written (and sung) by Dickey Betts and has some of my most-favorite guitar playing of all time -- Duane's first solo, Dickey's second, and their harmonies are simply exquisite.  This song just oozes joy and warmth, and is such a perfect song for a lazy, sunny summer day.  Still a staple of the band's live shows, here's the original version from Eat a Peach:

  • Are You Going With Me? (Pat Metheny) -- Nine minutes of haunting, ethereal, and (eventually) intense playing over a simple, catchy groove, this is from my favorite Pat Metheny album, Offramp. Released, in 1982, right when I was really starting to get into his music, I completely associate it with summer because of one special night: July 12, 1983.  That's when I saw the Pat Metheny Group live at Meadowbrook  It was a warm, clear summer night at a gorgeous outdoor, wooded amphitheater on the campus of Oakland University in Auburn Hills, MI. The band's playing that night completely blew me away -- it was a magic event and still stays in my memory as one of the best concerts I've ever seen.  No "big production" -- just incredible musicians making amazing music in a beautiful setting. This concert had most of the pieces from Offramp, including the jaw-dropping Ornette Coleman inspired title track, the beautiful James, the groovin' Eighteen, and the moody Au Lait among them. Below is a live version of Are You Going With Me -- I still smile and get goosebumps when I hear it.  It's mostly keyboardist Lyle Mays in the beginning, with Pat coming in on his guitar-synth just before the 4:00 mark:

  • There are also several movies I associate strongly with summer, so it's natural for me to think of their theme songs as part of my "summer soundtrack."   The soundtrack from Caddyshack (summer of 1980 -- love the version of "I'm Alright" as used in the film's openings) and the soundtrack from Ghostbusters (summer of 1984 -- note the '80's synth drums and the low-budget cheesy early MTV video) are especially relevant here.  But after thinking about it, there is one soundtrack that stands out as having particular significance. So, from the summer of 1975: The Theme from Jaws, by John Williams.  No summer at the beach was ever the same after this movie.  For  years, even small ponds in Iowa had kids chanting this "duh-duh... DUH-DUH..." Jaws theme music when they went anywhere near the water:

So there you have it -- my personal five-song "Summer Soundtrack."  But I supposed I could also add a write-in sixth song of my own. How about my wikiloops jam, Summertime Smile? I think it's the most summer-y of anything I've done so far (click on the image to go to the jam):

So that makes my "Summer Soundtrack (+1)" -- what do you think?

Thank you very much for stopping by! I encourage you to visit all the blogs in this blog hop. You can see the linky-list at The Armchair Squid's blog:  HERE

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My Name is Romance

Today, I'd like to offer you another musical piece in my evolving "Forgotten Voices" series, like my earlier Streak of Moonlight, which I shared back in April.  This is one I call My Name is Romance.  I've uploaded it to My Soundcloud Page and I eagerly invite you to take a listen either from using the link above, or right from this blog by clicking on the embedded widget below:

Like Streak of Moonlight, everything on this piece was performed by me.  I edited the MIDI Drum patterns and played bass, keys (including the keyboard melody), and many, many guitars.  The only things that were not me are the samples from a 1930's radio romance program -- vocals and some short clips of strings.

This took a long time to put together and went through several revisions.  I also changed my opinions as the piece was slowly put together -- I started out really liking it, then thought it was crap and set it aside half-finished, and then revisited it and thought it wasn't so bad.  Now I have come full circle to liking it once again. Nothing like the temperamental artist, huh? ;)

Now that it's finished, I enjoy the mix of moody, distortion-laden rhythm guitars, spacey echo fills, the keyboard melody, and the leads (including a backwards one that turned out much better than I thought it might).  All-together, including each vocal sample, there are over 30 separate audio tracks in this piece, many of them just little fills that come and go in the background.  This is not my usual recording method -- I'm typically much too impatient to let something sit and stew and keep slowing adding and revising over a long period.

Take a listen and see what you think!  And then feel free to let me know -- I'd love to hear your opinion.

Thanks for listening!