Monday, January 26, 2015

Create52: #4 -- Can't Stop the Rain

This is the fourth Monday of 2015, and the last one in January -- which means that my Create52 goal has made it through the entire first month!

This has been a fun thing to do and now I'm fully committed. In fact, I can't stop doing this any more than I can stop the rain from falling. So let's use that as a theme for today's Create52 entry.

But first, if you're a new visitor to my blog, let me say "welcome!" and explain what I'm doing here. This is another entry in my 2105 blogging initiative -- to create something new and offer it here on my blog each and every Monday of 2015.  You can get a little more background about my Create52 goal HERE, in my first Create52 post of 2015, if you'd like.

Can't Stop the Rain #1 This is another piece of music I put together for the wonderful jam site, I found a fabulous track originally done  with keys by the user Marceys, then added to with drums by Jaymny and bass by OB-Lix. The original track was called "Can't Stop the Rain" by Marceys, so I stayed with that name.

You can take a listen by clicking on the images to the left or right or on this link: Can't Stop the Rain.

For this tune, I added a clean rhythm guitar track and a echo-y, distorted lead guitar track.  I tried to keep my playing to a minimum during the "verse" sections to allow the beautiful piano and bass playing to come through. During the "chorus" sections, I stayed close to the chord progression in my lead for most of the song, although I stretched out a bit at the end.
But other than taking time to learn the progression and changes for my rhythm, this still ended up being a bit of a "jam" piece in that my lead is a first-pass recording. I definitely hear some things that can be improved, but overall, I think it worked out pretty well.  I enjoy the wistful feel of the song that Marceys put together and it was fun to play over.

Thank you very much for listening!

Can't Stop the Rain #2

I was also inspired by the title and music to come up with another 50-word story. I haven't heard back* on the last two stories I submitted (mentioned in my Create52 post #1) to Tim Sevenhuysen at, so I'm not sure if I'm going to submit this one. Actually, since I'm sharing it here, I probably won't, and will send Tim two different pieces a little later in February.

But I hope you still enjoy it:


Can't Stop the Rain

The rain falls, and I'm forced to remember.
Watching through the rivulets streaming down the window as you left that morning, I had no idea that you'd never return.
Still, I've tried to move on.
On sunny days, I've even stopped thinking of you.
But I can't stop the rain.


*NOTE: 1/29/2015 update: Since originally writing this, I have heard back from Tim on one of the two stories ("I'm Alive"), and Tim published it at today!  I'll have more to say about this in Monday's Create52 post, but in the meantime you can check out this 50-word sci-fi story HERE.

Thank you very much for stopping by and taking part in my ongoing Create52 effort.  I really appreciate it!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Create52: #3 -- Voice of Chunk

Here's the question for today:

Have you ever used a piece of music as inspiration for writing?

Today is the third Monday of 2015, and for this week's Create52 entry, I've done just that -- twice.

But first, if you're a new visitor to my blog, let me say "welcome!" and explain what I'm doing here. This is the third entry in my 2105 blogging initiative -- to create something new and offer it here on my blog each and every Monday of 2015.  My creative offerings have been writing and music so far, and you can read more about the thoughts behind my Create52 goal HERE, in my 1st post of 2015 if you'd like.

For this Create52 post, I'm using  another artist's music to inspire my writing. Let me first start with the song:
Voice of Chunk I -- The Song

In 1988, John Lurie and his band, The Lounge Lizards released their third album The Voice of Chunk. A cool mix of New York attitude, punk-meets-jazz sensibility, wry humor, poly-rhythmic funk grooves, sensual sax, and angular guitar by Mark Ribot, it is an album I really like, and I find it holds up well even today, 25 years after it's release.

The album is filled with a lot of songs that I like, such as the second song of the album -- the hard-edged grooving titular cut, Voice of Chunk. I love the haunting horn lines over the funk groove with the driving bass and piano riff. The way the two saxes and trombone blend is mesmerizing, and the guitar solo is edgy and fun.  I also love the way it dissolves at the end into the floating horn riffs over the piano.

Here's the album cut:

It may sound like there's a lot of unstructured off-the-cuff improvisation in the song, but surprisingly, it is pretty tightly arranged.  HERE's another video of the band playing the song live on TV -- notice how closely they cover the song part-by-part and yet still make it feel fresh and in-the-moment?  I think that's pretty awesome.

Voice of Chunk II -- The Short Story

I find that there's a lot of potential for interpretation and creative thought in the music of Voice of Chunk, but that's not actually what ended up inspiring me.

It was the title.

"Voice of Chunk" -- just what does that mean???

I really have no idea what John Lurie, his piano-playing brother Evan (musical creator behind "The Backyardigans"), and the rest of the band had in mind with the title, but when I listened to this song last week, the words "Voice of Chunk" kind of turn root in my mind and planted seeds.

I came up with a short story that may be a bit different than what the Lounge Lizards were going for.  It's about 2,500 words and is currently being shared with my critique partners in preparation of final polishing before being sent out into the world in submission and -- hopefully -- eventual publication.

So, unfortunately, you won't be getting the whole thing here. Sorry to disappoint you.  But in order to meet my guidelines for my Create52 bloggy-thingy, let me at least offer you a sample.

Here's the opening (as currently written):


Voice of Chunk

     The Anderson place next door was on the market for less than a month after they moved to Florida. When Marge and I noticed the "Sold" sign in front, we weren't surprised -- Tom and Dotty had been dedicated about maintaining their home and it was one of the nicest houses in our cul-de-sac. Throw in good schools, a quiet neighborhood, and motivated sellers and we figured we'd have new neighbors pretty quick. They might not grow to be as close as the Andersons had been –- our kids had all grown up together, after all –- but we were still eager to meet the new arrivals.

     The moving truck came on a Saturday morning. Marge was weeding and I was starting to mow when the semi pulled in with three men in coveralls. It was almost four hours later before a black SUV parked next to the moving truck.  A burly man with bulked-up shoulders got out of the SUV, gestured at the boxes stacked in the driveway, and then swore loud enough for me to hear over the trimmers I was using. I shut them off and waved at the guy, but he turned away without responding.

     At the time I thought that maybe he just hadn't seen me.

     "They damn well shoulda been done by now," I heard him say. "C'mon, Chunk. Get your ass out of the car."

     He stormed into the house as a woman climbed out of the passenger side. She was heavy-set with stringy hair, wearing an over-sized sweatshirt that was much too thick for the warm, muggy afternoon.

     She glanced around like a mouse expecting a cat to pounce at any moment before her gaze eventually came to rest on me. Her eyes were pretty, but her face was a mask of fear and sadness. I waved again.

     "Hi!" I called.

     She briefly raised her hand in my direction before lowering her eyes and rushing into the house.

     The moving men took another hour and a half to finish up and then the truck left.  We didn't see any more of either the man or woman, although Marge said she did catch a glimpse of the SUV pulling into the garage before the door closed for the evening.

     Our new neighbors didn't seem too interested in being neighborly.


Voice of Chunk III -- The 10 x 10

But the short story wasn't all of it...

"Voice of Chunk" was still on my mind when I made a post last week on the resurrected Creative Copy Challenge, website, and there, I went in an entirely different direction with the phrase.

I enjoy the CCC -- it was a website I spent a lot of time writing at several years ago, but the guy who'd started it (Shane Arthur) had to step aside and, despite some valiant efforts from several people (like Mitch Allen), it faded away. Well, evidently someone named Anne is trying to revive it and it's up and running again, with new prompts posted every Tuesday.

Each prompt gives ten words -- you just write whatever you want and share it in the comments, using the ten words in your entry.  I used to do a thing I called "10 x 10:" Ten lines of ten words each, using the ten prompt words in order AND in the proper spot within each line (the first is the first word of the first line; the second is the second word of the second line; and so forth). It may not always result in a very cohesive story, but it's a fast way to generate some writing and a fun way  to stoke the creative juices.

I used the words from last week's prompt to create a 10x10 also entitled "Voice of Chunk." I even made it rhyme, but it's definitely not what I'd call poetry.

HERE's the link to it at the CCC, and I've copied it below (the prompt words are highlighted):


Voice of Chunk

Tricks and schemes buried beneath soft words and smiled platitudes;
No limit to meaningless things he says to influence attitudes.
Like a telephone marketer selling empty dreams at outrageous prices,
He speaks to jiggle your phobias and stroke your vices,
and thrives on rallies, driving crowds of rabid followers wild.

No sound bites for the multitude to elicit their wows;
He serves up heaping piles of crepe papery, fragile vows.
In TV interviews, he’ll sit behind the desk and grin,
his voice of chunk spewing sugar coated promises, wafer thin.
But it works — just like giving candy to a child.


So thee you go -- Create52 number three:  "Voice of Chunk" in three parts. With both my thanks and sincerest apologies to John Lurie and The Lounge Lizards for any misuse of their title.

Thank you very much for stopping by and reading!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Create52: #2 -- Back Out / Out Back

So this is January 12th -- the date of the scheduled second entry in my Create52 weekly blogging event. I hope the new year is treating you well so far, and I thank you very much for taking the time to stop by my blog,

Let's get right to today's offering:

Back Out

Since I started last week's Create52 post with a confession, how about I do it again:

I have to admit that in the past, I might have backed out of something like this by now. I mean, my intentions are great, and this is something I really want to do, but there are still 51 more entries to make! And it takes a lot of time and commitment to regularly create new things for this blog.

Yes, there have been times where, in spite of my best intentions, I might not have stuck with it.

But you know what? This time I am.

I'm still creating new things and not backing out. Instead, I'm getting back out here with more to share. And I confess I'm feeling pretty good about that.

Back in the Outback

Today, the first thing I want to offer you is a musical piece. It's a wikiloops jam I call "Back in the Outback."

I took a very cool Australian-themed track made by wikiloops user, "jamlady," looped it twice to make it longer, added bass, and then laid down three tracks of guitar on it -- one spacy, distorted, and full of delay; one a chiming rythym; and the last one a lead that one wikiloops commenter said was something between Mark Knopfler and David Gilmour.

I think I would probably have to agree -- I guess I can wear my influences pretty blatantly at times. :)

This might not be your normal verse-verse-chorus kind of song, but I hope you still like it.  Take a listen and see what you think,

You can click on the image, my "StratoRaptor" icon, or HERE to check it out.

Out Back

And for a bonus offering for this Create52, I'm serving up another small sample of my writing -- a new piece of poetry I created especially for this blog post.  I took the phrase, "out back," and let my imagination wander, and this is what I came up with.

It's a bit of free verse.  There is no particular rhyme scheme, although there are a lot of rhymes in it. I hope you like it -- it's a bit different from my normal writing:


Out Back

Out back, I hear the children play;

The swings swoop and sway, their chains creaking

amid the laughter, and young voices shrieking

with delight.

Chasing after each other, they frolic in a choir

of giggles and whoops as they swing ever higher;

A timeless sound.  I hear it every day, unless it rains,

until the quiet of the night.

Out back, I hear a few muffled clinks

from a swing, hanging by the links of its broken, rusty chain.

No laughing refrain – the choir shall not sing again;

not here any more.

The swings are banging, un-ridden in the wind.

A gusty blast, and one thinks of voices past,

of laughter I no longer hear. At the end, I remain here,

wishing for before.


Thank you so much for visiting, listening, and reading! See you next week for another Create52 entry!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Create52: #1 -- The Fool

Happy 2015!

I hope this new year will be a wonderful one for you, filled with much joy and many blessings!

For me, it will also be a year of a new blogging theme -- something I'm calling Create52: Every Monday in 2015, I will share with you something new that I've created. Writing and music, for the most part, but who knows what else might show up?  The year is young and filled with possibilities!

I'll just keep it within these three simple guidelines:
  • It must be something original that I've created within the previous 30 days. No retreads or dredging up of old material.  The goal is to highlight new work I've made -- which also urges me to actually create new work.  This is really my primary goal.
  • It should be substantial enough to be worthy of sharing. This is kind of a judgement call, but I won't try to pass off a ten-word piece of writing as an acceptable amount of new material.
  • I have to share at least a representative segment of the piece.  I might not share the whole piece I've created -- for instance, if I've written a short story and submitted it for consideration of publication somewhere, I won't share it all here.  I might just talk about it and offer an excerpt, but that at least shows that I'm creating. 
As I said above, my goal is not really to create work specifically for my blog. The goal is to write and submit (and hopefully get published), and to use the Create52 posts to share how this is going.  At least for my writing -- my music is a little different. I'm not "submitting" that anywhere other than my blog, so you're the primary audience there, but I want to create more music in 2015 also.

Other than sticking to these guideline, I will try to be as entertaining and creative as possible in how I put these Create52 posts together. I'm sure things will probably evolve over the course of this year.

But let's get on with the first one for 2015 -- it's a fool's offering in three parts:

The Fool -- Part 1

As I put this together, I have to be upfront and admit that the whole Create52 concept might be a foolish endeavor.  After all, I've had many goals for writing and creating come and go over the years, most of them unmet and unrealized. This thing could just be me setting myself for more failure.

But you know what? I'll do it anyway.

I'll be a fool...

In the Tarot deck, The Fool is the first card of the Major Arcana -- the card of beginnings, of a protagonist embarking on a journey.  On the card, the image appears to be of someone who is blindly taking a path that could lead to ruin.

But the Fool is perhaps not really so foolish -- to quote wikipedia: "He represents the mystical cleverness bereft of reason within us, the childlike ability to tune into the inner workings of the world." Other phrases used are "holy madness" and "crazy wisdom."

In Christianity, this theme of  'divine madness' is echoed in the "Fool for Christ" traditions -- those people who appear foolish to society, but do so only because they've completely surrendered themselves to a higher purpose.

I take all of that as a good sign.

This Create52 might be a fool's journey, but its one I'll gladly start. My intentions are nowhere near as lofty as a deeper all-encompassing pursuit of God, but He is still part of it. I think it would be truly foolish to not recognize that God is ultimately the source of ALL creativity, and whatever meager offerings I muster up here are only because of His grace.

But enough preamble -- let's get this fool's journey started...

The Fool -- Part 2

To kick off Create52, allow me to offer this 50-Word story I recently wrote, appropriately called "The Fool:"


The Fool

The diner regulars probably consider him a fool.

Every Tuesday, Stuart arrives in shabby clothes, sits in Doreen's section, orders meatloaf, and asks her out.

Doreen smiles, but always says no.

Stuart perseveres. 

Every Tuesday night, home in his mansion, he tells his butler, "Next week she will say yes."  


You may think a single 50-word story is not quite 'substantial' enough to pass the second of my guidelines above, and I would agree with you.  It's not.

But "The Fool" above is actually one of three 50-word stories I recently wrote -- the other two have been submitted to the 50-Word Stories website for consideration of publication.

The site is run by Tim Sevenhuysen and his rules for submissions say no more than two in a 30-day period.  So this third one gets offered to my blog readers instead, and I think it meets the guideline of a "representative segment" of all the stories together.

And a side note about the 50-Word Stories site: I've not had a lot of my writing published to date, but I have had some put up there. In fact, my story from last April -- "The Sound of Forgetting" -- is currently the highest-rated story on the site. I'm both pleased and amazed.  But also motivated.

So while it's not much, in week one, Create52 has already inspired me to write and submit.

The Fool -- Part 3

Since I'm featuring some writing, I'm not offering any music I've created for this initial Create52 entry. But I still think a soundtrack of some sort is in order.

So how about an old favorite song of mine? It's perhaps one of the greatest pieces to emerge from psychedelic San Francisco in the 1960's.  This song is from the 1968 debut album of Quicksilver Messenger Service, and is a track also entitled -- appropriately once again -- "The Fool".

Take a listen:

I really enjoy this song and I hope you do, too. The wild wah-wah and slinky vibrato of guitarist John Cipollina grabs me every time I listen to it, and the part that starts at 4:55 is particularity cool. The song itself is long (over 12 minutes) with a ton of changes, but I encourage you to at least stick with it until the vocals at the 7-minute mark.

So there you go -- My beginning effort of Create52, with foolishness in three parts: Introduction, background music, and some new writing generated as the result of a desire to create more in 2015.

I may be fooling myself, but I think this Create52 journey is off to a good start.

Thank you for stopping by -- I really appreciate it, and I hope to welcome you back each Monday this year for more foolishness!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015!

Happy New Year!

I hope that 2015 is a fabulous year for you!

For me, it will be a year of new emphasis on writing, music, and other creative efforts. I really hope to share a lot of new material on my blog this year.

Because of this renewed commitment to generating creative output, I am no longer taking part in the Battle of the Bands blogging event, so if you've stopped by looking for my January 1st BOTB offering, I'm afraid I have to disappoint you.

You can visit Stephen T. McCarthy's BOTB blog for links to all the current participants. I encourage you to check them out -- even though I 'm no longer posting, I will still be voting on all the other blogs.

But I also hope you will be sure to come back here on Monday January 5th for the first installment of what will be a 52-week series of posts offering you some of my creative works -- I am calling it Create52.

I think it will be a fun series of posts, and I look forward to sharing it all with you throughout the year.

See you Monday!