Reading to Keep the Blues Alive

I recently received an email from author Ben Sandmel announcing that he is the recipient of the Keeping The Blues Alive award in Literature for 2015, presented by the Memphis-based Blues Foundation. Congratulations, Ben! If you, dear readers, are at all interested in history, biography, New Orleans, rhythm and blues, music in general, or even me. I highly recommend checking out this book and its website erniekdoebook.com

The book has won many previous awards:

Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans is selected by National Public Radio as one of the Best Music Books of 2012

Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans is selected by Kirkus Reviews as one of the Best Non-Fiction Books of 2012

selected as Blues Book of the Year for 2012 in Living Blues magazine’s annual Critics’ Poll

My email from Ben included a ton of wonderful reviews. Here are just a couple:

12-22-12, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, Staff Picks: Our Favorite Music Books Of 2012:  Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans, by Ben Sandmel:  “Much more than a biography of a New Orleans music eccentric, this perspicaciously researched book encapsulates the spirit of a city that honors the wisdom of its weirdos. It’s also the story of a unique place — K-Doe’s Mother-In-Law Lounge, the shrine to his career-defining hit, and a haven for connoisseurs of this precious city’s flamboyant expressive culture. Packed with rare photos and gorgeously produced by the Historic New Orleans Collection press, this volume will transport you to the liveliest city in America — a trip all music fans should frequently take. —Ann Powers

6-21-12, ROLLING STONE, 4 STARS: — “With passionate R&B-detective research and eyewitness accounts from local legends like Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, Ben Sandmel vividly captures K-Doe’s wild rise out of poverty, the riches on his many 45s and his long, strange rebirth as a Crescent City treasure. In a city that breeds and adores gifted eccentrics, K-Doe was royalty. And he reigned in style.” — David Fricke

So why, you may be asking yourself, did I list an interest in myself as a reason to pick up this award winning, critically acclaimed tome of American Music History? I’m in it!

Ernie was a good friend of mine. I was in a band called The Rubber Maids that performed with Ernie near the end of his life. After Katrina, I stayed near family in the Pacific Northwest, but Ben called and interviewed me for the book. I’m even pictured AND in the index. I love showing off that there’s a picture of me in a book that includes pictures of Paul McCartney and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin). Like I said, this is a must have for music lovers.

Personal poster from show not in book.

Personal poster from show not in book.

If you want to take a trip to pre-Katrina New Orleans from the comfort of your reading nook, I highly recommend the book that is Keeping the Blues Alive, Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans.

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Creating Fictional Worlds: Not just Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Creating Fictional Worlds: Not just Sci-Fi and Fantasy

from empmuseum.org

I recently visited the Fantasy exhibit at the EMP museum in Seattle. In addition to the fun and inspirational drawings, costumes, and interactive computer exhibits, they displayed J.R.R. Tolkien’s hand written timeline. It was kind of him to reiterate the point of my previous post (Ha. Ha!). It also spoke to a related aspect of organizing one’s writing: World Creation.

Creating a world for the characters to walk around in is not just part of fantasy writing. Every story, even if it happens in present day down the street, is within a world created by the author. Any imagined world needs history, culture, language and architecture. And don’t forget the microcosms within this world: The symbols and colors, rituals, beliefs, or antitheses of set beliefs that influence and drive the inhabitants of this novel world. An author can leave a lot up to the reader, but everyone sees the world through his or her own perception. Defining everything in a unique world including its history, music, traditions and ceremonies, even if the setting is one’s own home, can help to close the gap between the author’s intentions and the reader’s perception.  Every genre, not just fantasy, is a place for world building. Spend some time creating a world for your characters. Draw it, paint it, and build dioramas if so inclined. Write, or listen to the music, research or create the traditions and ceremonies. I recently got excited about a microcosm in my story, leading me to think, for the first time, of the possibility of a spin-off series. The exhibit inspired me not only as a writer, but as a costumer and artist as well, so if you want to read more about it you can head over to the inspiration page of my creativity website mbercreations.com.

from art nerd seattle

Creating a world for the characters to walk around in is not just part of fantasy writing. Every story, even if it happens in present day down the street, is within a world created by the author. Any imagined world needs history, culture, language and architecture. And don’t forget the microcosms within this world: The symbols and colors, rituals, beliefs, or antitheses of set beliefs that influence and drive the inhabitants of this novel world. An author can leave a lot up to the reader, but everyone sees the world through his or her own perception. Defining everything in a unique world including its history, music, traditions and ceremonies, even if the setting is one’s own home, can help to close the gap between the author’s intentions and the reader’s perception.  Every genre, not just fantasy, is a place for world building. Spend some time creating a world for your characters. Draw it, paint it, and build dioramas if so inclined. Write, or listen to the music, research or create the traditions and ceremonies. I recently got excited about a microcosm in my story, leading me to think, for the first time, of the possibility of a spin-off series.

The exhibit inspired me not only as a writer, but as a costumer and artist as well, so if you want to read more about it you can head over to the inspiration page of my creativity website mbercreations.com.

Nobody’s Perfect

Want to make me not at all interested in a character? Describe him, or her as beautiful and rich. I gave up on Mary Higgins Clark’s mysteries in middle school because I just couldn’t care about the plight of the wealthy, beautiful people any more. Isn’t it enough that they cover the screens of our T.V.s and movie theaters; that they create enough scandals to fill tabloids week after week? Honestly, do they have to pollute our fiction as well? This last week, I read a novel which included a very beautiful woman planning her wedding. Her father was a billionaire, of course, who had two helicopters. She went to have a moment to herself in a bar, but she had to keep refusing drinks from strangers because she was so beautiful. Then when her fiancé saw her before the wedding she was even more beautiful. Really? There was more beautiful to go? What did that add? One thing Americans learned through the economic collapse was that only 1% of the population holds the wealth. Now think of how many of those people would be described as beautiful. I would say the fictional population is a pretty skewed subset of our population.  And the perfect character problem does not only reside among the beautiful that are wealthy. There are also the perfectly skilled. Why would I want to read a story about a person who went to battle school and never lost a battle from his first day? Why would he go to battle school when he had nothing to learn? These perfect characters have nowhere to go and nothing to overcome which makes for a boring story. But worse than that, there is just no relating to them. I realize that some people like to fantasize about being some mass produced beauty aesthetic with unlimited resources and adoration, but when those stories are over the reader is left with an empty feeling of ineptitude. As a writer, one wants to hook the reader by creating ways for the reader to relate to the characters. Give your character some adult acne, back pain, a car that breaks down when it is least convenient, bills that are always due and an out of work family member on the couch and your writing might resonate with the not as privileged 99.75%.