The song is you . . . me . . . and a dog named Boo

One little warning for when/if you go visit those wonderful vintage-music blogs . . . not ALL of the great songs are actually out of print or unavailable on CD. You kind of have to watch that. For instance, there’s a grand “Cocktail Mix” available on which the second song is Bobby Darin’s “Call Me Irresponsible.” Now, at one time that song and the album it’s on (“Love Swings,” I think) went out of print, but *now* “Love Swings” and most of Bobby’s other albums are back in print and payments must be made to the Testamentary Trust for the use of the songs. I think that particular track is also on an Ultra-Lounge CD in the great “Ultra-Lounge” series. Now, *I* personally don’t have to worry, for I own not only the original vinyl album but also the “Love Swings” remastered CD, and so I can play the track without guilt (as I have ripped that track in off my own CD before). But just be warned that you’ve got to watch for that. As with writers, it’s a case of intellectual property being respected.

There’s even an entire album that I ordered on CD after seeing it up for download . . . so don’t D/L “Tamboo!” either. It’s a cool bongos thing from Les Baxter. The CD incorporates two albums, “Tamboo!” and “Skins!” Got the CD from Amazon today and am ripping it into iTunes now.

That said, Hepcat Willy is another squee-worthy 1950s-worshiping shrine! I think the reason I am into the fifties is because there was such a nostalgia movement in the 1970s when I was in middle school/junior high, fueled by the release of “Grease” and the predominance of “Happy Days” and “Laverne and Shirley” on the tube. We even had our eighth-grade spring dance with a 1950s theme. I think “American Graffiti” started it all for us. I am into the sixties because I actually *remember* them. And into the seventies because that’s my early teen years. The eighties, I kind of remember, and the nineties, not so much. *GRIN*

Does anyone out there like lounge music? Am I driving my readership away with these enthusiastic posts? Am I nothing but a Rat Pack-loving, go-go-boots-wearing, Nancy Sinatra-idolizing, Herman Wouk-reading Friend of Darin?*

* Snaps to those who identify source of parodied quotation without Googling. “He’s a disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, show-tunes-loving friend of Dorothy.”

In other news, it didn’t rain today. Finally.

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Evil Editor to Edit YOUR Book . . . if you win the auction

You may be aware that Brenda Novak is running a charity auction on her website that’ll allow a lot of money to come in for Juvenile Diabetes research. She has a number of auctions of interest to writers. Originally I thought I might bid on a lunch date with a couple of authors and their agent at the Dallas RWA National that’s coming up, but the price went out of reach. I’m talking prices in the $300-500 range for minor stuff like that and over $1000 for editors to look at your work and critique it. (A caveat, which means a warning for those who hate Latinate terms, about that in a moment.)

The ONE item that still tempts me is this one: Evil Editor Edits Your Whole Book. EvilEditor runs a popular blog where he mocks/helps writers with their query letters. If this guy really IS for real and works in publishing as an acquiring editor, this might be worth “buying” if you have this much “disposable”* cash that isn’t committed to living expenses, the way all of ours always is as soon as it comes in. Money talks, but all mine says is, “Goodbye, sucker!”

* Enough with the scare quotes.

CAVEAT: I’ve won these kinds of critiques in charity auctions in the past. These weren’t for a research cause, but fund-raisers for individuals in the writing/publishing community who had fallen on hard times–once for a woman whose house burned down, another time for one whose medical bills had added up unpaid.

I had SUCH high hopes for these “critiques.” I thought that perhaps if the editor/agent/Famous Author liked the work or felt it had promise, I’d get useful advice and maybe even some direction on where to market the work.

Ha! Ha!! Ha!!!

For the most part, these “critiques” (again with the scare quotes! Ai-yi!) did not live up to the word. They weren’t nearly as thoughtful or well done, in general, as the comments I get from LJ readers. Much of the time it was very apparent that the critiquer had not trusted the author to have any idea what she’s doing nor taken the work seriously at all. Most of the time, it was obvious that the more powerful types had simply skimmed the chapter(s) trying to find things they could go, “Whoo-hoo, how bad that is,” about, and hadn’t paid much attention. It was really very little more than a basic rejection letter with one of the stock phrases that they use, such as “I didn’t fall in love with it,” or “I couldn’t like the main character,” or something similar. It wasn’t an analysis such as I imagine might come from an editor who was actually interested in your book. My fantasy didn’t match reality.

And why should it? They just wanted to raise money. They did the minimum necessary. I’d probably pull much the same stunt. It’s all for a good cause, yadda yadda, and why would this author take this so seriously? I was the one being the idiot. I shouldn’t have had Great Expectations. What the Dickens was I thinking?

What I forgot was . . . these people weren’t getting the $300. They were donating their time to the charity. I was donating my money to the charity and getting this lagniappe. I couldn’t very well complain that the lagniappe wasn’t chocolate/strawberry, but anthrax ripple. After all, if it weren’t crunchy, it wouldn’t be Crunchy Frog!

What bugged me the most was that the comments I got came from the world of Total Authority. They KNEW that No One Would Ever Read This Past Page One. They’d actually say, “You never told us X,” when X is clearly stated on the first or second page. I’d gently point it out, and they’d act as if I had spat in their Oobleck by “responding to the critique,” but they’d usually acknowledge that they’d missed it. They didn’t see it because they were skimming. Their assumption was that this was a piece of dreck that they had to do as an obligation to the charity, and that they’d just put this little idiot in her place ASAP and get it over with. Did they offer useful suggestions, even such suggestions as “Start with chapter three” or “Kill off the main character and use Werner Klemperer instead”? No. That would have been nice–as would a disclaimer of, “This is all so subjective and just my opinion.” I suppose I was supposed to append that by default. Moses supposes his toeses are roses.

Even the two by-telephone “critiques”/consultations that I got were full of putdowns and non-useful criticisms. You may recall that one editor called me, and after listening to her tirade about how nobody would buy this and how it was NO GOOD because it was JUST LIKE the film _Desk Set_** (even though it’s not about a computer replacing a group of librarians at all, and it opens with a guardian angel and the heroine spraining her ankle, which is more like a steal out of _Forever Darling_ with Lucille Ball, I’d say), I asked, “Well, if you HAD bought it–say one of your authors turned this in as the second book of a two-book contract and it had to be fixed–what steps would you have the author take?” Immediately she countered with, “I would NEVER have bought something like this. My authors know better, yadda yadda yadda.”

IN other WORDS, baby, kiss me. Er, I mean, in other words, these “critiques” were not critiques at all and were not exceedingly helpful, especially when they cost $300 and $250 and such prices. I could have gotten the same kind of feedback by posting my work on the nearest telephone pole. Hey–you know–that might work. . . .

**[And you’d think that because the film _Desk Set_ is STILL watched today and is seen as a minor classic, this would be a plus instead of a “no way.” So many classic films are being remade and have been remade recently that I’d think this could be a selling point. However, my book is NOT “just like” _Desk Set_. More’s the pity.]

The exceptions to the disappointment I experienced with these critiques were two “read-throughs of the first three chapters” that I got from published authors. Those were thoughtful analyses that still didn’t offer any hope, for I had sent them _Little Rituals_ and no one reads that kind of book any more. However, I felt that these authors really TRIED and weren’t just Phoning It In the way Melissa Joan Hart started phoning in her performances in the last couple of seasons of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.” (Sad but true–I really admired her and wanted to BE her back in the “Clarissa” days despite the over-the-top campiness, and still loved the early “Sabrina” episodes, but she got to where she talked too fast, ran her words together, and wasn’t even TRYING. Hubby fell out of love with her and wouldn’t even WATCH it once Say-Say went to college. There’s a moral in there somewhere, but only an analytical wonk would want to search for it.)

So I just wanted to warn you not to have high expectations for anything that they offer you. You might get a really good one, but then again, you might not. The royalty may be offering a brief Audience to you, one of the Untouchables, but it’s not as if they’re going to actually let you TOUCH them or kiss their rings or anything. Let’s face it–if you were worthy, you’d already be one of THEM, wouldn’t you? *pblttt*

*ahem* But anyway, it’s a noble cause that Brenda Novak is supporting. And it might be that Evil Editor will take this seriously and actually do some sort of “edit” of your novel that would prove useful. I don’t know, as he’s pretty flippant and cavalier with the stuff that people submit to him, and I have no idea whether he is who he says he is (a current employee at a NYC publishing house) or is just a bored professor of literature at Slippery Rock University and Lava Lamp Factory. If he’s for real, maybe he’ll take your book and send you a contract. Stranger things have happened. (The image of the Virgin Mary appeared on a tortilla and on a grilled cheese sandwich, for instance.)

But I’ll bet my bottom dollar (which is sitting right over here in my piggy bank) that you don’t have over $1200 to spare on such a luxury. If you DO, then go bid on this and perhaps get your novel into shape so it can sell–that’d be worth ANY price to many writers.

If you don’t, then don’t be too jealous of the people who do get to go to lunch with the agents at RWA and so forth. I’ve heard that pitching ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. What is cracked up–or is cracking up right now–is the author who keeps believing in the face of all the turndowns. However, it seems to be our fate. Goose who fly upside down eventually quack up.

Why couldn’t we have had a more glamorous fate? Search me. But wear gloves.

*Whew* Apparently I’m not a sinner!

*Whew* Just stopped by to see if my journal had been auto-zapped by Six Apart/LJ for having “naughty” interests listed. Of course, since I think my listed interests include “fiction writing,” “Pomeranians,” “piano music,” and “Philip K. Dick,” and only that last one could be considered subversive, I survived the cut. Hooray.

On the other hand, they really sorta took the “easy” way out (for THEM) and just zapped every LJ that had a “naughty” interest listed. Some of these were apparently communities and journals for recovering survivors of abuse and so forth. *sigh* I mean, you could READ ’em first before you zap ’em, but that might take a lot of time. Well . . . OK. Business is business. But still, that kinda came out of the blue. I hope the journals that were for support groups or recovery can be reinstated through some kind of re-authorization request. I don’t know, though . . . *sigh*

I have no answers. QUESTIONS, however . . . those we’ve got a special sale on, having such a backlog we can’t seem to get answered. Oy!

I can see where, say, MySpace will NEVER do this, because there would be only 3 journals left, aside from the publicity/promotion sites maintained by authors, musical groups, and commercial interests who put up journals to promote themselves and sell their products. *SIGH*

Hey . . . isn’t this kind of silly as a distraction when there really IS a lot of wickedness going on out there? *shiny thing* Ooh, look! Shiny. . . . *grabs*

Memorial Day–Remember

We thank everyone who is now serving our country in the Armed Forces. We thank everyone who has served. To those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, we give a crown of victory and all our thanks.

For everyone who served and is now across the Veil on the Other Side . . . see you on the Other Side.

We appreciate it.

Remembering especially today:
my dad, Dal Charles . . . Lt. JG, USN (WWII)
my uncle, Herman Otto . . . US Army (WWII)
my father-in-law, Donald . . . USN (Korea)
my husband’s uncle Bill . . . USN (WWII)

We miss you!

Happy StayHome&BBQ Holiday–and Links to LoungeMusic

While trying to come up with more whiny, authoritative, entertaining rot for y’all, I made up this post so you’d know I am still kickin’. I’ve been working on the Ari mystery (BAD HEIR DAY) pretty much every time I sit at the computer, but I’ve also been listening to all kinds of old bongo records and weird retro stuff on scratchy MP3s made from imports of people’s old LPs. That can be pretty addictive. Links to follow.

I alternate between thinking there is hope for the mystery and believing that it is all a hopeless pile of crap. There are parts that I like and that I suspect some of you would like, but I know there are also spots where I overexplain or don’t get things across clearly. This is too hard! I don’t want to do it any more! But what else would I do with my copious free time–clean the house?! Forget it . . . I’ll keep working on the book.

What with the cost of ga$ being up past three bux a gallon and all, I have heard nothing but complaints about how people need to just stay home this weekend. Okay! Well, that’s what we’re doing! We even missed my nephew’s high school graduation last night at 8 PM because hubby had a terrible stomach attack at six and simply couldn’t make it . . . his sister called to zap him, but there was no way he could drive to south Ft Worth in the traffic, and I just don’t DO superhighways for 62 miles to places I don’t know where the heck they are. So we’ll arrange for a private meeting with nephew and his immediate family next weekend, and we’ll actually get to SEE him instead of just looking at the extended family and hearing them all compete to converse. Still, hubby went off to bed early with a major Guilt Trip. It did cause him to allow me to purchase 2 John Gary CDs at Fry’s for my mom, though, without kicking up a fuss. I also sneaked in 2 Floyd Cramer CDs for myself. Yes, I’m a firecracker that way, Jake.

I also got nephew a 2MB USB memory stick as a gift. I didn’t figure he would want the Jerry Lewis/Dean Martin Collection of DVDs that I covet, and it was $50 more anyhow.

I hope y’all stop to observe a moment or two of silence on Monday for Memorial Day. We’ll be doing some special stuff for remembrance ourselves.

In the parking lot of Fry’s (where I got the CDs) I saw my doctor and his brother (also a doctor), arguing about how to load their new stuff into the car, but the traffic was such that I couldn’t swing by and hassle them and show off my/our new John Gary CDs. I’ll get them later, when I actually get around to that checkup I was supposed to have had a couple of months ago. (Diabetics go for blood work every three months, unless they stop going for no reason except to lose more weight before being inspected.)

Okay, if you are SURE you won’t go crazy and blow your download limit on all of these wild tracks, go visit these weblogs. You should go just to see the album covers (nifty! Retro! Childhood-evoking, for those of us who are really old!). Note: Some of the stuff offered is available on CD, and since I don’t believe in getting copies of that stuff by downloading (it’s stealing from the artists and their estates, and the transfers sound crap-snackle-poppy in comparison to the CD remaster most of the time besides), I don’t get those. It’ll be fairly obvious what is probably out on CD versus what was a cut-out album that fell into the clearance bin at Sun Rexall Drugs in 1971, though. If in doubt, search Amazon. That’s how I discovered that some of those bongo records ARE available on CD, although not “James Dean Plays the Conga Drums,” which is really off the wall if you think about it.

*ahem*

These sites specialize in vintage LPs and 45s and the music on them. The stuff your dad probably had in his stereo cabinet if you’re my age. This includes cool jazz from the 40s-60s, lounge/exotica, forgotten surfers and 60s and 70s cut-outs, and vintage soundtracks. Also, Crime Jazz.

I simply love Crime Jazz. It’s a genre I didn’t have a term for over the years, except to call them “Daddy’s weird records.” Now they call it Crime Jazz–as in Mancini’s PINK PANTHER strk or the MUSIC FROM THE PETER GUNN TV SHOW or the PINK PANTHER’S PENTHOUSE PARTY or even Hugo Montenegro’s BOOGIE WOOGIE AND BONGOS, all of which are available from iTunes, but don’t come crying to me when they bill you for $9.99 a record! They are all well worth it. Get the Mancini PETER GUNN TV SHOW stuff if you can, as it’s really . . . retro. Evocative for ye olde Boomers like me (though maybe not for Boomer Sooners.)

Stax o’ Wax. Esther is in Dallas and raids my Half Price Books location for her records! Wish we could get together on that dance party, but she doesn’t post her email and neither do I, generally. . . .

Check the Cool Wax. I LOVE this guy because he loves Jerry Lewis (and Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin) the way I do! I have taken no end of heat/flack/mocking for having adored JL for the past forty-plus years and having supported the Telethon and all his other worthy causes, and this guy UNDERSTANDS. Also, he has the DVD sets, which I covet, but I’ll get ’em eventually. He had the “Geisha Boy” soundtrack up, and, well, I know it’s never coming out on CD and that I could never find it on LP. Have not tried to listen yet, but expect many pops and much hissing. Don’t care.

Hall of Records. Another good one! Lots of really neat album covers that you can look at or save off to stare at later. They can be dragged into your iTunes application and assigned to various songs. It is not required that you drag the proper album cover onto a particular iTunes track, hint hint, if you think that an exotic cheesy kitschy one would be more fun to stare at when your iPod plays the track. . . .

Score, Baby! (I’ve linked to the Reviews page–but there’s more, including posts that describe an album and then link to a d/l-able MP3 off the album.) Very neat and witty and insightful reviews of lounge/exotica and vintage soundtracks.

Licorice Pizza! What a great name for a site that specializes in old phonograph records! I’ve linked above to the post in which the blogger has put his/her great little compilation of tracks. I’ll bet that if you’re old enough to have had a stack of these yellow dingies that you clicked into the center of a 45 RPM single in order to stack it on a turntable that only had a skinny changer stalk, you’ll love these. If the previous sentence had no semantic content for you, maybe you’ll just think the records are weird. Carry on!

Blue Hipster. This site has a lot of album art created by the blogger. You can commission art for yourself from this artist! If I weren’t poor (after buying all those CDs), I would get a drawing of myself sitting on a round orange tiki-themed bed with several Siamese cats lounging around my feet.

WFMU Radio’s DJ blog. Lots of neat MP3s and discussions. I got some Tony Randall “The Odd Couple Sings” here, but I really want to find Randall’s old 1920s album, “Vo-Vo-Vo-De-Oh,” so I can hear “Red Sails in the Sunset.” We had that album, but I haven’t been able to find it–I don’t think it came back from Mama’s house fire in 1985. It was a great kitschy album, really high camp even for Tony Randall.

Boom-chicka-boom!

Vote on my next journal post–what’ll it be?

In the spirit of “let’s have everyone vote on everything such that nothing is ever an individual creation or decision, and then we can feel that we’re secure and right because the GROUP decided this,” a new promotional idea for writers has popped up. A published novelist with a website is holding a “You Tell Me the Story Event.”

What the heck is that, you ask?

The novelist has written the first chapter of her book-to-be, and will post it on her website. At the end of the chapter, she is going to list three possibilities for what should happen next in the story. Visitors to her site will vote. She will then write whatever option gets the most votes and will post that chapter with three potential options for what happens next. And so on.

This book will, presumably, satisfy the most people. The promotional hook is, “You get to tell an author how to write her book!”

Now, as far as promotion, this is genius. I can’t fault the author or her publicity people for thinking it up or for doing it. She’ll have a blast, she won’t have to invent the story entirely by herself, and she’ll have people waiting on the dock to see whether Little Nell survives. I certainly give the author snaps for this. I can see how well this will work as a promotional tool to keep clickers coming back to click and to be exposed to “Buy Me” vibes via the site. Heck, if you do it, let me know how your sales go. It’s pure gold as far as sales technique for bringing ’em back for repeat visits to the site and feeling a sense of ownership of the resulting book (even though they didn’t write a word of it nor even suggest the twists and turns–but it’s like the ownership sports fans feel for their teams, even though they don’t play on the teams themselves.)

However, how well it works as a way to develop a creative work . . . I suppose that’s what I’m wondering about right now. Okay, what I’m REALLY thinking is that if this catches on, every book will become a “Write Your Own Adventure.” No author will be allowed to write his or her own stories. Stories will be reduced to a connect-the-dots game played by the readers who voted on them. Publishers won’t want to print anything but these kinds of books, because they have a “proven audience” who made them what they are. It would mean the end (at least for a time) of writers making up their own stories and owning them.

Paranoid? Thanks, I’ll take two.

But this all dovetails in with what I was musing about earlier. I was thinking about the new vibe of “voting on everything.” For a few years now, all the cable channels have had viewers use their cell phones to call in and vote on this or that poll, and websites have had polls, and all sorts of things are run by focus group. Then we started having the whole reality show thing of voting people off the island or voting people off of the game show panel/stage. It’s as though we’re saying, “The majority is always right and always rules.” Even though this is a self-selected majority–made up of people who have the means to vote, the time to spend watching the show and voting, and enough of a motivation to do it rather than just sit and watch–it’s kind of assumed that the result of the voting represents EVERYONE, and if you don’t fall into line with that, well, there’s something wrong with you because you’re not like us and don’t agree with the group.

Doesn’t this vanilla-ize the results, though? The bell curve comes into play. The artists on the “edges” will fall off as the votes tend toward the middle of the curve, and pretty soon you’ll be rid of anything controversial or way-out or “too different” or whatnot and will have the answer that offended the smallest number of people. Supposedly, this will also please the greatest number.

I have my doubts, though. Has every great artist been recognized during his/her time? Van Gogh’s brother stored his paintings in his attic until the world was ready to recognize their greatness. Bach was almost lost to the world until Mendelssohn rediscovered and republicized the St. Matthew Passion by conducting it. Many films that were considered flops when they first were released have become cult classics or have become just plain classics that are now seen as “the greats.” I mean . . . as the wag (P. T. Barnum, in this case) said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the public,” or something like that.

That’s not what bugs me the most.

What bothers me is this “everyone votes, whether they know anything about the subject or not, and the most votes means the best” attitude. The rubric used by each voter can be different from the one used by every other voter, so there’s really no consistency or reason as to why Dinglebug got kicked off “Singing Idol” and Bellytrot was kept. Mind you, maybe Bellytrot IS the best. But if he is, it’s probably even odds that the voters could tell you WHY they recognized this or why they voted as they did.

The next step, I think, will be the “majority rules” attitude that the government and big business (including all the media) would love to adopt . . . in which there’s no need for individual thought, because we will let EVERYONE decide everything together in the hive-mind. Anyone who does not conform must be wrong, and must be “corrected.”

Maybe I’m extra-aware of this because the other evening, during the James Stewart Birthday Celebration on TCM, I watched “The Mortal Storm” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in succession. In both films, it is demonstrated how easy it is for people to fall in line behind a powerful or charismatic leader who seems to promise them something good, and to completely lose sight of the truth about the mob scene that results. But anyway, this is the way that our society is moving. While I would not be one to step forward and say that we shouldn’t decide some things via voting, I would also warn that sometimes if you don’t have an informed voter, you have a problem voter.

And I’d also say that not everything is best done by committee. Some things are better done by one creative mind that has a vision and shepherds the creation towards fulfillment, or by two/three collaborators who are in tune and are all working towards the same goal with it. I’m thinking of songwriters and songwriting teams . . . of artists . . . of novelists. When *everything* goes before a committee for approval–as novels must now do, I hear, when an acquiring editor wants to buy them–then we get a compromise answer that isn’t always the worst, but isn’t always the best.

After all, a camel is a horse designed by committee.

I’m not thinking here of critique groups/circles or brainstorming sessions. There, the artist has the final word, and gets priceless assistance in seeing her/his work as someone else sees it. I’m thinking of the way that an artist or a collaborative team of artists (Lennon/McCartney, say, or Rogers/Hart, or whoever) might create a work, and how detrimental it might be if the process became one that had to be voted on at every logical branch. You might end up with a hodgepodge mess. “Norwegian Wood” set to a hip-hop beat and played by a brass band, lyrics shouted in Pig Latin. The greatness of the song *for what it is* might be forever missed because of the “votes” to make it this or make it that. It didn’t become what it should’ve become. It missed its greatness, all because people thought they had to go with The Most Votes.

Certainly I believe that we can determine which of three somethings is the most popular by voting. But I am not so sure that we can determine what’s the BEST by voting.

I’ve said in the past that there ARE objective measures–that we can name the 100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century or the novels that should be in the Western Canon–and that these lists have to be made up by someone, usually someone who has studied this stuff, and therefore I have said (in effect) that we can “vote” on that kind of thing and have it work well.

So what if by now saying THIS, I am contradicting myself? “I am large . . . I contain multitudes.”*

Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps individualism is overrated and out of date. Maybe we should form a hivemind and eliminate all individuality and nonconformism. It’d certainly be cheaper that way for big business. . . .

* [“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”–Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”]