So, There!

Regardless of how badly it’s needed, all the rain we’re getting this month is finally starting to wear a bit thin. I don’t think I’d mind so much if we hadn’t been treated to an isolated day of glorious sun and temps in the low 80s once a week or so. And yes, I’m well aware that my home state of California is in the midst of a terrible drought, but trying to make myself feel guilty for being tired of the rain here in Oklahoma is like making myself eat everything in sight because there are people starving in the world. That line of reasoning never made sense to me, and while I can try to help alleviate hunger, I can’t very well send rain to California or write a check to the weather to buy it for them. I’m tired of the rain. So, there. Bully pit me.

What I’m not tired of is PBS’s Masterpiece, Wolf Hall. I love British history anyway, and this hits all the marks that I require. The Tudors was a singular disappointment, with its broody hunks, bitchy babes, and its gratuitous sex and violence. Bah! Finally, a history series for the rest of us, the few of us who actually crack real history books, who still have healthy attention spans, and who aren’t addicted to adrenaline spikes. Man, I sound like a snob. Or an old fart. And this coming from someone who has a couple of historical fictions under her belt…

I’m also not tired of getting consistently great sleep.This is totally new to me. The last time I slept like this for this long a stretch was back in 1990 and 1991. The difference is amazing. I don’t know what’s brought this about, because nothing has changed in my sleeping arrangements. The same noises and distractions are going on, but it seems that my ears just aren’t paying attention anymore. Maybe my brain finally just said, “Enough! We need sleep!”  Whatever it is, I hope it doesn’t go away. To have this ripped away from me now would be like, well, going back to the dreary, unrelenting rain after a day of sunshine.

P.S. We’re promised four straight days of sun and low-80s temps, beginning tomorrow.

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That Which We Find Most Sacred

John Muir

John Muir often wrote about the necessity of each of us connecting with that which we find sacred within ourselves. Used to be, when I reached for that place, my recognition of it was cloudy. Shifting and nebulous like an image whipped by mists, it didn’t always reveal itself. Other times it came more easily and freely. What exactly is sacred within me? What has carried me through difficult times and what has given me joy and purpose? What has been my polestar?

The problem is that we all, to one degree or another, unconsciously do everything we can to avoid connecting with this deeper part of ourselves. Instead, we develop an outer image. We adorn our bodies in clothes that express who we are. We take on hairstyles, makeup, and jewelry. We take on pretension and artifice. We don masks whose roots worm their way into our souls. Encountering the deeper Self can be frightening. What if it’s wounded? What if it’s dark? What if it’s weak, insecure, or just plain afraid? What if it’s a stranger to us? Some people thrive on encountering the hidden self, of integrating with it, of exploring it and then expressing it.

“We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of  the world for ever, it seems.”
Authur O’Shaugnessy

Of course, this is true for all artists, the writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, etc., but one need not be an artist to reach inside, grasp, and give that Self expression.

The thing that I find most sacred within myself is of course music. Not necessarily the appreciation of music, though, rather the creation of it. After half a century as a composer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, I’m still knocked out that I can do this thing. It still baffles and amazes me. How did I discover this ability in myself, how did I nurture it, and where does it come from anyway? I haven’t always felt this way. Until recently, I never gave it a second thought. I made the music and figured it’s just what I do. It took a barren wilderness experience of 23 years duration to teach me not to take it for granted. I’m grateful that I came out on the other side of the desert. Although the trek took longer than I expected, I’m just grateful that I did so before it’s too late. It terrifies me that I might have left this world disconnected from what I’ve always found to be most sacred in myself. If I believe in a God, It’s in creativity. It is creativity and I don’t want to be out of communion with It ever again.

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Novel Characters

Book Boyfriend

Maybe I’m weird, but my aspirations for my rock & roll series, Beyond The Bridge, has never included making the Best Seller list. Sure, a movie deal would be fantastic, but I guess I’m more practical than to live for that dream. All I really want for this story is for the main character to eventually become what is known as a Book Boyfriend. This isn’t as far fetched as you might think. This guy has it all. I mean, I’m not into guys and I’m in love with him. Let’s go over his qualifications, shall we? (Sorry, dudes. If you decide to out-click now I’ll completely understand.)

 

First of all, Gordon looks like a taller version of this guy…

Marc Bolan
Marc Bolan

and has the smoldering mystique of this guy…

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp

Really. What’s not to crush on? But beneath his sultry, smokin’ hotness coupled with his wounded angel appeal, his concealed emotional scars, and his seeming blasé disregard for what’s going on around him, Gordon is a kind and gentle man who cares deeply about those whom he loves. He just can’t seem to express it. Well, except in his music. There, in his music, especially in his mastery of guitar, is where he sparkles and shines. But who can touch that magical place inside him? Who, indeed! Gordon isn’t someone who sleeps around. Hell, he doesn’t even like groupies (something his band mates are all too happy to rib him about). In Gordon’s own words (from one of my current WIPs, Enharmonic Intervals: the Memoirs of Gordon Hammond)…

“When I fall in love, I fall surely and steadfastly.
There’s nothing I won’t do for that woman,
nothing in heaven and earth that
I won’t try to move for her.
I’m loyal to a fault, ridiculously romantic,
and quite intentionally blind.
The worst thing is that I tend to put her on a pedestal,
where I hold her above the rest of humanity.
She might not know this is what I’ve done,
but I do it, and it’s not good.
It’s not fair.”

The whole fame thing has left Gordon in a quandary that he never really resolves, although he eventually learns to accept it from a comfortable distance. Behind the 9-foot walls of his Kentish estate, Chadwicke Park, he keeps the world at bay while creating a world of his own design, a world that includes a number of other colorful characters:

Noel: The surly yet teddybear-like Liverpudlian bass man of Gordon’s band, Tuppence. A no-nonsense bloke, Noel is Gordon’s closest confident—and his most honest leveler.

Liz: Noel’s eventual wife and the woman Gordon has crushed on for years. A supermodel akin to the likes of Jean Shrimpton, Liz is intelligent, nurturing, and sophisticated, but not at all the type of woman Gordon attracts, sadly for him. He probably would have done well with a woman like Liz, but Noel is his best friend, so no touchy!

Willy: The band’s drummer, Willy is cute and sunny, always seeing the bright side, but he possesses a kind of down-to-earth wisdom that Gordon leans on from time-to-time. Of all the band members, Gordon has known Willy the longest, mates from their art college days in the early 1960s.

Mary Lynn: Willy’s eventual wife. A smart-assed but good-natured girl from Birkenhead near Liverpool, Mary Lynn keeps things real with her humor and her “I don’t give a fook” attitude.

Trevor: The band’s rhythm or second guitarist. Like Gordon, Trevor is a silent type, but his is born from a tough childhood and he has a cold edge that Gordon fortunately lacks. Definitely a bad boy.

Janie: Trevor’s eventual wife, Janie is a fresh-faced, homespun woman who tries to understand Trevor, but simply cannot.

Felicity: A supermodel reminiscent of Twiggy and Penolope Tree, mixed with a little of Marilyn Monroe’s vulnerability, Felicity is Gordon’s first real love. One problem: his family comes from the merchant class and hers from British peerage. Seeing Felicity in a Carnaby Street boutique in the early days of Tuppence’s fame, Gordon falls ridiculously in love. At the same time her star is just beginning to rise and she recognizes an opportunity for advancement by being seen on his arm. Between them, they carry far too much baggage, resulting in both heartache and tragedy.

Katy: Moving to London from Boulder, Colorado, petite and spunky Katy is a gifted blues recording artist who swoops into Gordon’s life and takes names.

Jason: A secondary Book Boyfriend, Jason is a cross between a 30-something “Wings” Paul McCartney and Shahid Kapoor of Bollywood fame. After his hit Sixties band, The Street, broke up, Jason went on to form Tall Madge, in which he plays lead guitar. He crushes big time on Katy, but sadly, the feeling isn’t reciprocated.

Paul McCartney & Shahid Kapoor
Are you panting yet?

Gordon keeps company with many rock stars of the era, although he’s closest to Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and George Harrison of the Beatles. With these frequent guests, who wouldn’t want to hang out at his “auld pyle” in Royal Tunbridge Wells? I know I would! Reading these books is a little like sneaking over the walls and past the electronic gates of British rock royalty’s country estates.

I wonder if there are Book Girlfriends? If you’re looking for those, there’s no shortage in Beyond The Bridge; take your pick! But any in-depth descriptions of them needs must wait for a follow-up entry on another day. In the meantime, you can get Beyond The Bridge SE (which includes Books One and Two in a single volume) in both paperback and for Kindle by visiting the book’s website. And if you’d like to meet Gordon Hammond for yourself, visit his Facebook page.

Cheers!

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Butterfly Fingerpicks

I don’t remember when I began teaching myself different finger picking patterns, but I do remember buying a set of plastic finger picks. I tried them a couple of times, but they didn’t feel natural to me, so I put them in a box somewhere and forgot about them. Well, except for the thumb pick. That came in handy sometimes. I went back to my usual bare finger finger picking (try saying that three times!), not even considering grooming my nails to work for me. Lately, though, I’ve become more aware of the different sounds I can create using my nails. Problem is, my nails are extremely fragile and just one night of extended playing probably would trash them. Guitar players go to all kinds of lengths to have strong nails, including having acrylics and gels applied. I don’t know about you, but I hate the heaviness of fake nails, and they’re expensive, besides. What’s a choosy guitarist to do?

Last week I saw Butterfly Fingerpicks on Pinterest and I was immediately intrigued. Besides looking damned cool, the idea behind them seemed rational. Adjustable wires form-fitted to my fingers and nails? Hey! That sounded like those Indian water buffalo sandals we had in the Sixties! With those, all you had to do was put them on and stand a bath tub of water for a while, stretching them out, and then walk around in them until they were dried to a custom fit!.I ordered a set of finger picks, and they arrived today.

Butterfly Guitar Picks 1

First of all, they come in a really sturdy clear plastic box. Who wants to worry about them getting smashed by your gear? They come in three metals: gold, silver, and copper. I got the copper ones because I wanted a softer, less metallic sound from my 12-string. They also come in three basic sizes, small, medium, and large.

Butterfly Guitar Picks 2

When I took them out I thought, “Figuring out which pick goes on which finger might not be easy,” but I needn’t have worried. It was pretty obvious.

Butterfly Guitar Picks 3

All out and in proper order.

Butterfly Guitar Picks 4

When I first put them on, they didn’t fit at all, but I was prepared for that. I bought the small size, and they were just a bit too tight and a couple of them didn’t slide into place, but these are adjustable, remember? I went to the website and read the instructions on how to fit them properly.

Butterfly Guitar Picks 5

After a few minutes they looked and felt much better!

Butterfly Guitar Picks 6

With all four in place, I was surprised at how comfortable they are. You really could wear them for hours. But finger picks aren’t just for looks and comfort, you know. They have to sound good, so I tried them on each of my three guitars. On the Luna Trinity 12-string they were hard to use; all those strings so close together made picking a bit clumsy, but I suspect that with practice that’ll sort itself out. On the Fender nylon string they sounded great, a lot like when classical guitarists use their long nails. But it was on the Briarwood 6-string that they really wowed me. Nice action and even nicer tone.

The hardest part for me will be getting accustomed to playing with extensions. I’m used to my fingers being right on the strings and, without that sensation of skin-against-string, I feel a little disconnected. I’m going to work with them, one guitar at a time, until I’m comfortable using them on all three. If you’d like to give them a try, just go to Butterfly Fingerpicks. They’re really nice there and have the best customer service I’ve encountered since I bought that beaded curtain from a hippie catalog back in 2007.

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