Tones On Tail – The Music of Burn Baby Burn Baby…

I like to namedrop. I do, I do. Coming from a punkrock background, I often slip little mentions of gems from my youth into the pages of my young adult fiction. Burn Baby Burn Baby is no exception.

In Chapter 17, I drop a doozy. The two main characters, Trig and Francis, are at odds. Francis drops by Trig’s place to test the waters. Trig pretty much ignores him while loud music throbs from behind the safety of his headphoned-cone-of-silence. When Francis hears the music blaring out of them, he gauges that Trig’s anger must be pretty intense.

‘He’s got those massive headphones of his on and I can hear the music blaring from them. Trig’s aggressive anger management therapy in action. He’s listening to Tool. Not the best sign, but it could be worse.’

After a few minutes of waiting for Trig to show signs of softening, Francis resigns himself to the fact that he may have to be patient.

‘Nothing. Page. Page. Page. His feet are kicking wildly now. The song pounding the crap out of his ears now is a Megadeth ditty. I know the scary clowns are about to enter. This is a sign. He’s actually good at wordless communication.’

But as the music softens, Francis hears TONES ON TAIL rise up out of Trig’s headphones. He knows Trig is coming ’round!

‘I grab a pencil from the top drawer of his desk and start doodling on his desk blotter. After a smoking cat, a gnarled caterpillar on a mushroom, and a pretty pin-up girl who vaguely resembles Rachel, I assess the situation. Tones on Tail are a little less violent. Kind of dance, even, so I think he’s opening up.

“I can’t believe this crap was made before we were even born,” he says. “Can you dig that? Like decades before we were born.”

He’s not looking at me yet, but at least he’s speaking. The fact he’s shouting is kind of funny, but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. What an idiot.

No point talking back. He wouldn’t be able to hear me with those things on.

“I mean, just listen to this, Francis,” he yells before he takes the headphones off, turns to face me and tosses them in my direction. It’s almost like I can see the thin trail of music floating out behind them, it’s so loud. “Listen to this and tell me it doesn’t sound like it could be on the radio today.”

I plug in and I can immediately feel the music in my belly. Big bass. Totally Bauhaus stuff. I don’t care who they call themselves, the roots are right there in Technicolor. That’s Bauhaus telling me to GO. He’s right, though. It’s awesome. Still.

“Shit, man,” I say. “That’s still great stuff. The one good thing your dad passed down.” I pop the earphones off and toss them back.’

Why do I do this? Because even though I place all my fiction in a present day contemporary setting, I am firmly ensconced in the 80s. The formative years of my musical listening experiences were the 70s and 80s. I like to drop breadcrumbs of the past into the present. Perhaps a reader will search out the crumb and become an appreciator of musical geniuses past. (-:

In this instance, however, I’m just gonna go ahead and share GO by TONES ON TAIL here. For your musical listening pleasure…

Burn Baby Burn Baby is getting some wonderful reviews. You can see a few of them at GOODREADS.

You can click on the book cover below to go to AMAZON, where Burn Baby Burn Baby is available in both paperback and Kindle formats. You can also pick it up as a Nook or Kobo, if you’re so inclined.


My 5th novel, HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN hits the street January 19th, 2015. But you can pre-order at AMAZON today! Click on the book cover below to go to Amazon…


Birthdays and Balloons!

Today is my good friend’s birthday! Okay, so he’s more an acquaintance than a friend, really. Okay, so he’s more a mentor than a friend, really. Okay, so I never actually met him…but I feel as though I know him intimately.

Happy 450th Birthday, Sir William Shakespeare!

I love Shakespeare. I finally dipped into this love for one of my forthcoming YA novels. My main character, Francis Fripp, loves Shakespeare and can quote anything from the bard’s work because he spent the lion’s share of his childhood in the hospital recovering from burns he received to almost half of his body. While it was his father who set him on fire for playing with matches, his father’s kind sister gave him The Complete Works of Shakespeare to read during his recovery. So, I really got to give the old Shaky Pear the nod in Burn Baby. (-: Shaky Pear. That’s what we called him in high school.

Did you know that many of the phrases we use every single day come from the man? It’s true.

How many times do you say the following phrases? If you invoke them, you are invoking Shakespeare!

  • A wild goose chase
  • Give the devil his due
  • Wear your heart on your sleeve
  • Vanish into thin air
  • What the dickens
  • Knock knock! Who’s there?
  • For goodness sake

These are just a few of the good man’s many everyday phrases. He certainly has achieved world domination in the English language phrasebook.

Raise a glass for old William today. He has brought us much joy.


Speaking of birthdays, don’t you just LOVE balloons! Wouldn’t you love for your job to be to sell cartoon balloons in town?! Couldn’t you just imagine yourself sitting on a porch swing somewhere blowing up balloons all day. Just letting them go and watching them fly!

After listening to Levon recently, I turned to my friend and said, “Wouldn’t that be the most awesome job in the world?! Selling balloons for a living.”

He said, “Der. That’s what you do. You play with words. You sell word balloons. You HAVE the awesome job. Dude, you’re living it.”

Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am. I get to do this thing I love to do. I play with words. I sit on the porch swing and watch them fly. I take a balloon and I go sailing.

Find your thing. Find your balloon. And when you do, enjoy the flight. You only live once.

Don’t forget to check out my novels on Amazon. BURN BABY and HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN will release in the Fall of this year, but there’s always SUMMER ON FIRE, THE REASONS and SEBASTIAN’S POET…if you want to check out something now.

Inspiration Station – Kaleidoscope Eyes are Everything You’ll Ever Need…

I often sing, “the girl with colitis goes by”. Much the same way as I often sing, “hold me closer, Tony Danza“. Just because.  What does this have to do with anything? Nothing. I just thought of this after I wrote the title of this post. Naturally, whenever anybody anywhere hears a line from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds they immediately burst into song…singing the entire song from front to back and back to front. It’s just, as humans, what we do. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is so ingrained it is part of our DNA. Right? I’m not the only one who thinks this, am I?

Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly;
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

So inspiring, right!? It tickles…I can practically feel the mind-mapping of creativity when I hear these lines. They SPARK!

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore,
Waiting to take you away.
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds,
And you’re gone.

So, about the title of the blog. I’m sure ALL of your calendars are showing APRIL as highlighted for NATIONAL POETRY MONTH, right?

Now I KNOW nobody just thought, ‘What? What’s he talking about?!’ I know you all marked off the entire month the minute you opened your crisp new calendars back in January. If you didn’t–and I know you all did, so this is just a hypothetical–I will give you a moment to do so now. Don’t worry. I’ll wait here. Please…go forth and mark your month of April as POETRY MONTH. Highlight it as you see fit. I’ll be here when you get back.

Done? Okay. Shall we continue.


Because APRIL is looming I have been doing a lot of thinking about INSPIRATION. In my mind poetic inspiration comes from a very different place than does fictional inspiration. I don’t know if it SHOULD, but it DOES. It’s actually songs like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds that push me to be poetical. There’s something extremely delightful in the nonsensical. Lucy has it, as does anything by Dr. Seuss. And even good ole Gord Downie in a way. But I think his version of nonsensical is more refined…he is a man who absolutely unequivocally reveres the English language. He doesn’t write lyrics, he sculpts them. Songs like BOBCAYGEON make me want to use my laptop as a TV tray. Because I know I will never find more beautiful words hitting its keys than the words composed in that song. I just made that sound like it stilts me rather than inspires me, I know, but it’s the kind of beauty of words found in Bobcaygeon that devastates me into trying. When I am completely humbled by gorgeous word combinations that take my breath away, it triggers something inside. It makes me want to discover language in ways I have heretofore not accomplished. So these songs tear my heart out and leave me a quivering mass of ruined flesh twitching on the floor in a near-death frenzy of apocalyptic jealousy and rage. But in a good way. I set up my idols–contrary to that silly little biblical threat about said idols–and I worship at their feet. If Gord Downie can have a weather vane Jesus, I can have a popsicle stick Gord Downie.

I have gotten so far away from where I was going with this post that I no longer remember what I was going to say. But Gord Downie!

So, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. As I search for poetic inspiration that will help me get into that place I need to be in for National Poetry Month (henceforth NPM), I listen to the songs that will put me there. Whatever it is that inspires you poetically, now is a good time to start immersing yourself in it. One of the challenges of NPM is to WRITE ONE POEM A DAY EVERY DAY FOR THE WHOLE MONTH OF APRIL. In order to do that, I need to be kept constantly inspired. In order to do that, I need to have several things working in conjunction with one another. The biggest is a great soundtrack that has both beautiful and quirky songs in it. I look for the songs that have over-the-top silly lyrics and the songs that have those beautiful unattainably gorgeous lyrics that make my head explode. It’s kind of a pleasure/pain thing that inspires me. Let’s have a look at a couple lines from Tragically Hip songs, shall we?

Sundown in the Paris of the prairies
Wheat kings have all treasures buried
And all you hear are the rusty breezes
Pushing around the weathervane Jesus

Those are the intro lines to WHEAT KINGS. And more from that song…

There’s a dream he dreams where the high school’s dead and stark
It’s a museum and we’re all locked up in it after dark
Where the walls are lined all yellow, grey and sinister
Hung with pictures of our parents’ prime ministers

I don’t know what it is…I hear lyrics like these and I just want to curl fetus-like and bawl. There’s nothing particularly stunning, visually, but the words are beautiful…they conjure ennui and nostalgia. They leave me wrecked. Bobcaygeon has the same effect…

I thought of maybe quitting
I thought of leaving it behind
I went back to bed this morning
And as I’m pulling down the blind
Yeah, the sky was dull, and hypothetical
And falling one cloud at a time

Not to mention FIDDLER’S GREEN. That song hollows me to the ground. One of my brothers performs in local bars and when he does Fiddler’s Green, it destroys me. It’s probably one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

His tiny knotted heart
Well, I guess it never worked to good
The timber tore apart
And the water gorged the wood
You can hear her whispered prayer
For men at masts that always lean
The same wind that moves her hair
Moves her boy through Fiddler’s Green

We are ALL different, aren’t we. Others may hear the songs that inspire me and think nothing of them. The trick is to never stop hunting for the things that make that little switch in our hearts flick to on. For me, it’s great lyrics. They just make me want to write. I’m playing all the songs that inspire me…I need to grease up the cogs that make my brain move poetically. So if you’re nearby, you may hear me singing these songs in the next couple of weeks…and for that I truly apologize. I’m sure a skinned cat’s screams would be more audibly appealing than my vocal stylings.

So, prepare yourself for APRIL. Make it a goal to write ONE POEM a day. JUST ONE. If preparing, for you, is listening to music, then do so. If it’s crocheting, then crochet. If you find inspiration by licking pavement…I urge you to get down on the ground and lick away. If reading Dr. Seuss is the crank that moves you, then do so! Ignite the spark that will see you through the entire month. On April first, don’t go in for the cheesy old April Fool’s Day nonsense. Dance poetica…

An Interview with…Bif Naked


There is something about the title of Bif Naked‘s latest album that sounds like such an amazing promise. FOREVER. To know that Bif will be out there making music, sharing her enchanted life, with her fans eternally! What a gift.

Bif Naked has been gracing the music world with her eclectic sound for 20 years, now. Born Beth Hopkins in New Delhi, India, Bif is one of Canada’s most cherished and beloved citizens. There is not much that Bif Naked has not accomplished. She is an activist, a poet, breast cancer survivor, a comic cartoonist, an actress, and, of course, a delightful singer.

On the heels of her acoustic album, Bif Naked Forever, we are extremely delighted to have Bif Naked visiting us today! We welcome Bif as part of our ’10 Questions With…’ series.

1. Bif Naked Forever: Acoustic Hits & Other Delights – For me this album sounds of pure delight, an awakening–a treat for your diehard fans, as well as a great compilation to put out into the universe for next-generation fans. The last time I was this excited about an acoustic hits album was The Cure’s Acoustics Greatest Hits. Favourite songs done acoustically, with a new twist, are always a treat for fans. And the new studio tracks were the icing on the cake! I often wondered how it felt to have such an impressive canon of work at a young age. Could you give us some insights into what it has meant to you to put out a HITS album? What does the accomplishment mean to you?

I am so happy the acoustic record was enjoyed! Jacen (Ekstrom) and I had been doing acoustic performances across Canada for a couple years, because I preferred it. I love to sit and talk about the songs before we play’em, and Jacen and I get questions from the audiences, and sometimes even get them on the stage with us if they have something “pressing” they want to share, or’s very intimate and so lovely, really….and the audiences kept asking for THOSE versions of the songs, and whether or not we would consider doing a special release to support the acoustic tours. I was so happy to do it! Jacen and I went into the studio with my long-time collaborator, Doug Fury, and the three of us really enjoyed playing them together. We brought Flavio Cirillo in for a couple tracks but there were very little drums. I was happy to write the new songs with Ryan Stewart because it is such a lovely process to write with him. It was so effortless and we really had a great connection in the songwriting. It was fun to do.

2. You’re probably extremely busy with your Forever release. Can your fans expect a full studio album from you anytime soon? And if there is one on the way, could you share some of its journey with us? And…Jakkarta? I’m taking a guess here. (-:

We made the dance record and have been sitting on it for two years. It remains my favorite secret! It was a fun project we did in the studio after we got off the “Promise” album tour. I had to do something completely out of left-field, emotionally, to deal with my (at that time) having been shattered again, in the love department. LOL! The “Jakkarta” Project was a lyrical departure for was extremely sexualized and highly inappropriate. I think I was reaching out from loneliness. Now, it just sits there, winking at us with a fluttery eyelash…….But, We are also writing for a new record…although Doug Fury and I also have a “death metal” project. The rambunctiousness is very sincere and good.

3. I’m going to throw this one in here as a diehard Joss Whedon fan. I know there are other geeks out there like me. (-: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. How cool was that? Any memories or fandom you’d like to share with our readers about your guest spot on Buffy?

Being able to perform on “Buffy” was a dream come true, like everything that happens… It was such a big year for us, and we did back-to-back tours with Lilith Fair, The Cult, Kid Rock, and were touring overseas in the off-season. “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, and “Buffy” appearances happened around the same time. The people we met were simply wonderful! Everyone was always so polite! The “Buffy” set had snacks and the guys were so impressed, and we got to take lunch with all the cast and crew, as well. It was a magical day for us and we always remembered it. SO fun! Lots of food!

4. In a recent interview (Bif Naked Rocks On–with Liberty Craig at Fresh Vancouver) you were quoted as saying, “My dad thinks I find a way to justify any bad things in my life.” I loved your response to that concept…that, of course, your positivity is justification. I have to tell you that, as a Tweeter, you’re a wonderfully uplifting port in any day’s storm. Your ACTION OF THE DAY and WORD OF THE DAY are little fortune cookies for myself, and I imagine, your other 88,000 followers. I have always believed that it’s easy to spread happiness…and you make it look even easier. Can you maybe share how you have come to maintain this enchanted life? Our readers would love to get a glimpse into your ability to surround yourself with joy.

Twitter is a very freeing place for people. It’s “safe” really…people say anything. I think this is important and twitter is, actually, a “utility” now (like a “telephone”). I love it! I am a huge, huge fan!  I began with only a few hundred followers on twitter and it was a really safe space for me..for the followers. I think I was a bit shell-shocked from my life, cancer treatment and trying to navigate everything then… I was very isolated and very lonely during that time..and I would go deeper into my yoga practice. It was Complete Freedom, like floating in a bathtub. Yoga was healing me..healing my life and my body and my (then) broken heart and it was extremely natural for me to, simply, tweet “roll the shoulders down the back..take a deep breath in…” and the response was from people doing it WITH me in real time! I was enraptured! It (felt like) we were all healing together.. and it was so sweet for all of us. It helped me to feel like I wasn’t alone. Then, over time, My schedule changed and the people on it with me grew and moved on to other twitter routines. I used to have a “Food Of The Day” as well but over time, I feared this may be misinterpreted as “classist” or “elitist”  due to some of the fruits and vegetables I chose are not available in many parts of Northern and Rural Canada…or they are too expensive. So, I wanted to be sure I was sensitive to this and eliminated the “Food of The Day”. However, I love to have an “Action” for the day for MYSELF as a reminder or a motivator…and a “Word” of the day was something I would write on my hand, in pen, before I walked out the door every day. I am an extremely optimistic person and I like to try and stay very positive in my life, regardless of what might be going on. Through positivity I have overcome every hardship.

5. You’re a spoken word poet. I have to say, I LOVED the title of your okenspay ordway I. It kind of made me giddy. You’ve also been known to write columns. The next question is for the writers. And…readers. Do you have any plans to try out novels? Is this something that has ever appealed to you? I began my interaction with words as a poet. For me, novels was a natural progression. I’m wondering if you’ve ever thought about next-stepping to novel-writing?

I am so happy you enjoyed “Okenspay Ordway” LOL! No one else really seemed to like it, at the time (when it came out in, um..1996?) and I thought it was the funniest thing I ever recorded. I loved being able to say whatever I wanted and I had, and still have very strong opinions about politics, gender, women’s rights, human rights, animal rights, and food policies. I have a lot to say. I was able to use the spoken word album as a real form of socio-political expression and remain very happy I did that. As far as fiction writing, I do enjoy writing short stories and have many rather juvenile “voices” I enjoy writing in. My twitter account for my late babydog, @NICKNAKED was a perfect example of that. I was like his “ventriloquist”. I enjoyed it immensely. I was always planning to carry-on and continue it…but was so shattered after he died, that I have yet to bring myself to tweet “as his ghost”, or something.. I am not there, yet, I guess. Maybe a book instead? LOL!

6. This is a question writers tentatively ask one another. So imagine this question coming out tentatively. (-: How is your memoir for HarperCollins coming along?

I love to write. Writing my memoirs is a surprising process for me. I have always loved writing and loved to write. I will always write, can’t stop myself…songwriting always stemmed from my journals and poetry, it is extremely natural and easy for me..though I write from some very dark memories, places, and events. I relive them when writing, so it can be a bit annoying, emotionally, to go to those hard places.I like to dig in that dirt, though…to get get muddy from it.  I like the work, and I am a flowery, descriptive writer. I love language! I love words and I love to describe. I never get tired of it! Some of the stories I have been writing are incredibly sad, though i try to make them somewhat funny. It is possible that only I will ever think they are funny and that they may not be appropriate for a normal book. It is unfolding and I am enjoying it very much. I like working with people and I am grateful for their input.

7. You have extremely eclectic taste in books. And possibly a bit of an obsession with them. (-: Like most lovers of the written word. What are you reading lately? Do you have any recent fave novels? Do you have any books on your bedside table?

It’s true I love books! I love to read and I love to learn. I was never much of a novel reader and read a lot of poetry and medical dictionaries most of my youth and adult life. I have enjoyed many different types of writers and wish I had more time to read. I do not watch television except the news in a hotel room, although I do like a “crime” show like Criminal Minds on American Television. I prefer no television and stacks of books everywhere. I have dozens of language guides and cherish them. Everything from Farsi to French to Cantonese to Hindi to Arabic! I love reading translations. I love reading everything:  Arundhati Roy is a writer I enjoy. I like everyone from Fran Lebowitz to Gandhi to Henry Miller to Camus. Most people know I am a collector of Irving Layton poetry and of religious texts. I love it all! I love to read in the bedroom, even in the daytime with the breeze and the curtains blowing..By my bed there is a copy of “Perfumes” by Luca Turin and  Tania Sanchez, on one side…and on the other side there is a copy of “Bring Down The Chandeliers” by Tara Hardy, and four or five old copies of “Namarupa” magazine. I still sleep on a mat on the floor because my two dogs were going through all the stages of their lives with me and we could not have a bed or they might fall off. It works for me and I like the tatami mat or even my yoga mat to sleep on.

8. As a writer, I find that I have my fave albums that I listen to while writing. I know a lot of writers who need total silence in which to write. And I know some who never write without musical accompaniment. How does that work as a lyricist/songwriter? Is this a time for you to turn off the music and dig in? Or do you like to write lyrics while listening to music? And if so, what music sparks your creativity?

I love silence. I write best when everyone is quiet…or, sleeping…the city.. roommates..the it. I like the whole day to be over with…and then I get my time to write and go to those far away places. It’s how it works, for me.

SONG writing, however, is a completely different process from a completely different place. Sometimes I like to listen to the song I am writing….(if we put it on a disc for me or, for many years, on a cassette) I am a pentameter abuser and love to write lyrics. Lyrics are very fun to write. I never, ever run out of feeling challenged to come up with new ways to describe “love” or “pain”. I love songs about picking ourselves up, and dusting ourselves off, the best. I love love songs, too…but the recovery-from-heartache stuff is about “hope” and that is what I enjoy the most. 

9. Your dogs? As one who forever loves his Golden Retriever, Franny, I love to ask others to share a few words about their beautiful family members. So, do you have any words to share with our readers about your beloved children?

I just lost my Maltese, Nicklas, eight weeks ago. He was sixteen years old and, likely, The Love of My Life. My Annastasia died in 2008, when she was ten. She was a Bichon Frise. The two of them, together, were my children. I miss them immeasurably. I love animals. I love them and know I will, again, be a mom to some sweet animals….but, at this time, I am still feeling very badly about the absence of Nicklas. It is unfolding. There are so many good, good people in this world that truly devote their lives to helping others and I have learned so much about love and compassion from many Animal rescuers as well as the wonderful animals they have helped.

10. Keep being you. You bring a lot of joy and a lot of hope to a lot of people. I cheated a bit with some of the questions–multiple questions–so I thought I would just use this space to thank you on behalf of all of our readers. Thank you for spreading the sunshine. You’re an inspiration. We look forward to hearing more from Bif Naked. We know it will all be good. Thank you.

Very nice of you, Kevin, to include me in your “Questions” series. Very cool.

In Gratitude.

Bif Naked’s website, BIFNAKED.COM will be back soon. Bookmark it now. Or, fill out the re-launch notification form and you will be emailed once it goes live.

I highly recommend that you follow Bif on Twitter. She will put some much needed light into your day!

bif naked

Pick up FOREVER wherever albums are sold!

When the Feels are Overwhelming

Do you ever feel like your world is shaky at best, and volcanic at worst? Do you sometimes sit there and contemplate the ways of the world and suddenly feel like you’re gonna melt into a million tiny pieces? Do you get overwhelmed by the feels?

My whole life, I’ve cried at emotional commercials. My sides hitch when I read a heartrending story. The first time my emotional world well and truly collapsed into a puddle of MESS was when I watched the ROOTS series on TV. That was 1977. I’ve been crying ever since. And I am extremely unapologetic about it. If you don’t like men who cry, fuck you. If you would rather believe that boys don’t cry, go to hell. There is nothing better than a good cry. It’s as liberating as all hell.

When I’m writing a novel, I love to play those killer songs that get me every single time I hear them. I love feeling emotionally destroyed, and I can put myself there with ease…one or two of those old standby songs and I’m a swamp of FEELS needing deep emotional rescuing.

I like to write in this place of vulnerability. I just have to trust that it’s the music making me feel so deeply. If I’m not careful, I will convince myself that I am actually deeply depressed. Actually, I think it’s an extremely thin line between allowing yourself to feel deep emotional connection to a sad song and falling hopelessly into a trench-of-hell depression. It’s a slippery slope, but SO VERY worth it.

One of my last posts for ALL THE WRITE LINES was one I titled NOSTALGIA AND EMOTIONAL SOUNDTRACKS (OR HOW TO CATCH THE FEELS). In that post I talked about some of the songs that most trigger my vulnerable feelings. THE THE’s PERFECT and AND IF VENICE IS SINKING by THE SPIRIT OF THE WEST. Please click on the link I provided in the blog post’s title to read the post. I’ll wait for you to get back. See you soon! (-:

Now, today I thought I would take out the big guns. You know, for those of you who erroneously believe that BOYS DON’T CRY. The one song that can drag me down to the very bottom of my soul is EVERYBODY HURTS by R.E.M. I seriously have to hide the razorblades while listening to this song. It resonates more than anything else I have ever listened to in my history of music listening.

Sometimes, I’ll listen to this song over and over for hours. It puts me in the mindset I need to be in to write teen-angst. That’s what I like to write. I know I’m in my late 40s. It’s just…I understand being an alien attempting to navigate the high school world. I like to relive it in different ways through my YA characters. In order to do this, get myself down into that place where pain lives, I like to listen to the songs that used to put me there. There is something golden about allowing music to transform you.

IN BETWEEN DAYS by The Cure used to knock me out. In the most delightful way.

“Yesterday I got so old
I felt like I could die
Yesterday I got so old
It made me want to cry
Go on go on
Just walk away
Your choice is made
Go on go on
And disappear
Go on go on
Away from here” ~ In Between Days by The Cure

Fuck. That right there was the mantra of my teen years.

(A little P.S. on The Cure. Their music was able to uplift me every time. A lot of people thought they were mega-depressing, but they were sickly uplifting for me. Even the sad stuff. There was always a smile on my face when listening to them.)

Sometimes, when I really need to plug in to the FEELS, I sit and I listen to the songs I listened to in the 80s. Alone in my room with my shitty turntable. I needed to tape quarters to the needle arm in order for it to work. Three quarters were too many, while two were just enough. One wasn’t enough. Music owns us. It doesn’t matter how old we are. When we hear a song that connects with us on a spiritual level, that makes us go, “YES! THAT’S IT. EXACTLY!” that song will always be with us.

As writers, we get to manipulate ourselves (and our emotions). We can tinker with our emotional landscape until we’re at the exact right ‘place’ we need to be in in order to write a particular scene. I do this by the easiest means available…I listen to music.

Yeah, there’s a lot of talk about SOUNDTRACK OF MY NOVEL. But what you should really be doing is creating an EMOTIONAL SOUNDTRACK to your novel.

By the way, this works just as well tossing out a happy song that makes you smile every time. If you’re writing a happy scene, you can prepare yourself by listening to something that always put a smile on your face. My go to for this emotion was always CAPTAIN SENSIBLE. Boy could make me kick up a smile faster than a rogue car on the Audubon could lose control.

Before you sit down to write, go ahead…manipulate yourself. Have fun with it. You can be the master of your emotional landscape. You might discover that it helps your writing immeasurably.

Happy Writing!

Super Obsessive Playlists & Welcome to the Medicine Tribe

Music and writing are just a couple of my favourite obsessions (you might recognize part of that last line—just a friendly nod to Frank N. Furter). I was going to write about playlists and how they relate to my writing, yada yada yada…But…you see, I’m—in a word—swamped. Funny I should mention that word. One of my musical obsessions just happens to be Swamp by Talking Heads.

But I digress. I’m not here to talk about the Talking Heads.

By now, you might be asking yourself, “Why can’t he do a playlist?” Well, It’s because the playlists I create for novel writing mostly consist of ONE SONG. Yep, that’s right. I’m so obsessive that I will listen to just the one song—over and over again ad infinitum—for an entire novel. Don’t try to do the math, it will boggle your mind. 50,000 words x 3 minute song divided by 23 chapters…let’s see, carry the 4 and multiply by the number of years…yeah. Fugetaboutit.

There is a catch, though. I don’t spread my novel writing over years. I write my novels in 48 & 72 hour marathon bursts. So, although it sounds like madness to listen to the same song on repeat for the entire duration of a novel…it really only amounts to 72 hours at the most. That’s only, like, 1,400 plays. That is NOT obsessive. AT ALL! I do a little thing called the Muskoka Novel Marathon every July. It raises needed funds for the local literacy network, but it’s also an amazing retreat wherein 40 writers barricade themselves into a room for 72 hours and attempt to write complete novels.

I’m an addictive personality. If you know me, you know this. So…for my first marathon, I listened to Anthem by Leonard Cohen for 48 hours straight. What came out of the marathon was a finished novel called Sebastian’s Poet. Now I could create a playlist link here for that marathon, but I don’t see the point. Nothing is sadder than a one-song playlist. If you were to scan the pages of Sebastian’s Poet, you would probably notice that the boy’s ‘poet’ is a reincarnation of Leonard himself. I mean, it’s ridiculous. Anthem is just such an incredibly awesome song, though. It drove me to write that novel non-stop for 48 electrifying-ly amazing hours.

After that marathon was over, I contacted Leonard Cohen’s people. I wish I could say I had my people contact his people, but I’d be lying (as I have no people—though I suppose my agent is my people). I received permission to use, ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’ (Anthem lyrics) as the epigraph to the novel. To go one step further, I then got it tattooed on my arm. Yeah, I’m not obsessive.

That novel also has a real-life celebrity in it. Gordon Lightfoot shows up in the last chapter. One of the last orders of business that Lightfoot’s agent, Barry Harvey, did before his death was provide me with permission to use Gordon as a character in the novel.

I should let you know right now that my tangents are so wide and chaotic, they require a bus route. So, you’re either on the bus or off the bus (my nod to the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test). This post is actually about my favourite NEW obsession. Let me introduce you to Medicine for the People (and the song I will have on repeat during this July’s Muskoka Novel Marathon!)


I stumbled upon Medicine about a year ago, and from that point on the obsession has slowly taken over my life. After I obsessed over their first album ON THE VERGE for several months, they were kind enough to recently release their second album DARK AS NIGHT. This band, and their peaceful reformative vision, really pumps my blood. They are FolkMusic2.0. Or, rather, 11 on the volume knob of my obsession scale. Before I totally lose you, I’m going to leave you with something from their new album. ALOHA KE AKUA will inspire you to sit. To write. To marathon that next novel. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself suddenly writing Hawaii in as the novel’s setting.

Here’s a challenge for you. As a writer, can you pick just one song? Choose the definitive one-song soundtrack for your work in progress. And spin that puppy ad infinitum until you keystroke THE END on your novel. It’s transformative. Really.

You can follow NAHKO, the lead singer of Medicine for the People, on Twitter: @NahkoBear


Nahko Bear & Medicine for the People

When you become a fan of MftP (and you will) you will call yourself #MedicineTribe on Twitter. And it will be good.


Retro-Writing Calls For Retro-Music: How Nick Gilder Became My Favourite Obsession!

I’m over at ALL THE WRITE NOTES today, talking about my new favourite obsession. (-:


Retro-Writing Calls For Retro-Music: How Nick Gilder Became My Favourite Obsession!

via Retro-Writing Calls For Retro-Music: How Nick Gilder Became My Favourite Obsession!.

Nostalgia and Emotional Soundtracks (or How to Catch the Feels)

I hear a lot of talk about ‘soundtrack for your novel’. I could never quite pick the songs that would go with the story or the characters in the way that others seem to do, with the biggest exception being the novel I wrote that was a nod to idol and icon Leonard Cohen (Sebastian’s Poet). Nope. It just isn’t me. I couldn’t tell you what my characters would listen to, really. When I create a musical soundtrack to accompany my novel writing experience, it’s usually an emotional soundtrack. I want to hear songs that will make me bleed when my scenes bleed and jump for joy when my scenes are to depict joy. I like my soundtrack to be nostalgic…to evoke my emotions.


There are two songs I almost always listen to during the novel creation process. They are songs that have always had me on the brink of tears. I don’t know what it is about them? It is a combination of the beauty of the words and the longing of the melody. Both songs just seem to bite me in the feels.

The first song is one from my punk-rocker days in the early 80s (full disclosure here…I didn’t only listen to the Dead Kennedys and the Sex Pistols. I also had a new wave streak in me strong enough to induce me to occupy the dance floors at the darkest underground clubs of Toronto for entire nights at a time. Dancing eyes closed to Bauhaus, Kajagoogoo, B52s, and Blancmange was not something I shied away from.) One of the songs from that era that still brings me to near tears is PERFECT by THE THE. If I need to write a scene in which FEELS happen, Perfect is, well, the perfect song to plug into! It helps me to catch those emotions that I want to portray in the scene. It’s the the perfect atmospheric song for the purposes (see what I did there!).

I drag out IF VENICE IS SINKING by THE SPIRIT OF THE WEST if I need to go deep and plug into that emotion that nostalgia evokes. It’s hard to pinpoint, but I know when to use it. Nostalgia is something I like to feel when I’m writing, say, the denouement of the story. I’ve hit the climax and the excitement of the near conclusion is over (I may have been listening to OZZY OSBOURNE’S CRAZY TRAIN to get me over that hump!) and now I just want to make the reader pause and get a gripping display of the feels…sadness that the story is ending and fulfillment that the story is ending. SO, I throw on IF VENICE IS SINKING and I wrap myself up in its feels. “They come in bent-backed, creeping ‘cross the floor all dressed in black. Candles thick as pillars, you can buy one off the floor. And the ceiling’s painted gold, Mary’s hair is red. The old come here to kiss their dead…” – verily, it makes me weep with nostalgia!

See where I’m going here? These songs really have nothing to do with what I’m writing. My characters don’t dig them. My story doesn’t take place in the same time the songs were released. I’m digging the minefield, looking for the feels these songs evoke. And, once I get there–once I’m bleeding inside and ready to explode–I work the scene. Yep, my novel soundtracks are definitely all about the feels. Who knows, maybe I’m pretty much emotionally dead and I require these musical interludes to force me out of my comfort zone and get me into the moods I wish to create in my novels. Whatever. It works. And if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it.

I mentioned it, so I might as well throw in the piece I use to reach the climax!


How about you? Do you include songs that will force your emotions to the surface when you’re choosing the soundtrack to your novel writing sessions?

The Wild Side: A Life Without Wings

In the latter part of 2007, I entered a contest at the writing site, Absolute Write. The prompt was to write about a song that changed your life…and you could write fiction if you wished. I went with ‘fiction’ that was a thinly veiled slice of life. They say there is truth in fiction. We sometimes get ourselves and our own lives entwined in the fiction we create. Probably the case here. (-; I didn’t win the contest, but I did get the JUDGE’S CHOICE AWARD. I kinda think that’s a bit better than winning. (-;

As it was about Lou Reed’s wild side…I thought I would hunt that story down and post it here today. Lou was an icon of the crash and burn decade of the 70s. Loved his work. R.I.P.

The Wild Side: A Life Without Wings

By Kevin Craig

A song can sometimes bring you back down to earth. Often, it’s the songs you least expect that eventually have the heaviest impact on your life; songs that have been there all along, sitting latent in your consciousness…waiting.

When Marci came to the hospital to visit me, I had already completely given up on life. I was ready to call it quits. The purpose of her visit was to sway me away from the precipice at which I had arrived, but the moment I saw her enter my room I turned to face the wall. Making a cocoon of my blankets, I barricaded myself against her will. Had I been paying attention, I would have seen that she came bearing music. Marci knew the omnipotent power music had over my mind, body and soul and she wasn’t afraid to use it.

“Please look at me,” she said after a moment’s silence. Receiving no reply, she sat in the contoured plastic chair at my bedside. “I’ve got all day. I can wait.”

I lay there festering in anger, willing her to give up and leave like the others before her.

“I brought something for you,” she said. I heard scraping and the metallic shriek of the bedside table’s drawer being opened. The pitter-patter of things falling into the drawer followed. She was sweeping the table clear.

I then heard a barely audible click and recognized it as a ghetto blaster’s tape player being activated. The squelchy silence that followed informed me she had made the tape herself.

“Holly came from Miami, F L A…”

I arched my brows in confusion. I always liked Lou Reed, but I couldn’t figure out why she chose that particular song to play to me. Obviously she was trying to rescue me but that song held no weight with me. We had danced to it in the murky Toronto underground clubs, but it had never been more than background noise to me; excellent background noise, but noise nonetheless. I was baffled that she would pick that song to reach out to me.

She began to speak over the rumbling certitude of Reed’s hollow gothic voice.

“Remember how you used to tell me to take a walk on the wild side?” she asked. “Every Goddamn second you were saying that. Here I was looking like a frumpy nothing…no friends, no life. You saw something in me.”

I smiled, perhaps for the first time in the three weeks since Scott had jumped. I had forgotten how I had come to know Marci. How could I have done that?

I remained silent, staring obstinately at the wall. But I began to feel an awakening in my chest, perhaps a combination of Reed’s voice and the doo doo doo girls? Or maybe I could feel Marci’s reaching and an inner part of me—a hidden part not ready to give up—was reaching back?

“If not for you, I would probably still be living that lie,” she continued. “My parents always thought something was wrong with me. Imagine an artist and a museum curator having an uncultured daughter. They were perplexed until you came around.”
I thought she was trying to make me laugh. Everybody wants to laugh, even those of us who have given up. It’s an inherent trait we have no power against. But, still, I fought it.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, throwing me off. “I mean, that was the bender of the decade. You’re lucky you lived through that, man. What were you thinking?”

I fought against turning to face her, but I couldn’t fight off the tears any longer. She was getting to me. I hunkered deeper into my blankets, wiping the tears away in a way that I hoped she couldn’t tell they had fallen. But even as I wiped them, I felt myself hitching. There was no way she would miss that.

“Scott’s dead,” she continued. “I’m sorry you had to see it happen. I am. I really am. But he’s dead. You can’t bring him back.”

Through the sobs, I finally gave up my fight and spoke. “He had wings,” I mumbled through the growing lump in my throat. The explosion of monarchs in my stomach was fighting against the lethargy I had fallen into. I could feel the rumbling need to move; to flee. I edged against it, squeezing myself further toward the cold blue wall.

“It speaks,” she replied. “Your brother told me you haven’t said a word in the last week. He’s sick for you.”

“He had wings, Marci,” I said, ignoring her comment. “I swear to God. Before the truck, before the tumbling. Before the splat.”

I was screaming now.

She stood and reached over my bedrail. I felt her hands on my shoulder, at first just to be there, but then she tried to force me to face her. I fought against her tugs.

“Goddammit. Look at me,” she screamed. “I need you to face me.”

As we struggled, the song was drawing to a close. I loved the doo doo doo girls. How did he know to put that part in the song? How perfect it would make the song? How did he know? Music is just so beautiful when it’s right. The song was starting to have the desired effect on me and I resented it even more. When you’re sick, when you’re ill and wanting to die; you get so angry with anything that tries to destroy that feeling. You get so low that you like being there, you get comfortable in your misery and you kill to keep it.

“He flew,” I said. “You didn’t know him like I knew him.”

With a sudden punch to the shoulder she gave up the struggle and pushed me violently away. “You bastard!”

“He didn’t mean to do it, Marse,” I said. I had won the fight. I turned around to see her plunk back into the chair. “He was flying.”

“You can’t save everyone,” she said. Now I realized that she too was crying.

“I can’t live with this,” I said, breaking. “I see it when I’m awake and I see it when I’m sleeping.”

“He’s a rotten bastard for making you a part of it,” she replied. “I don’t care if he is dead. He’s a rotten bastard.”

The doo doo doo girls were making their final appearance. My favourite part of the song was about to play. I did love that song. I never realized how much until I found myself waiting for that part of it to come.

We looked at each other as the horns took over and rose above the rest of the music; she with her soft brown eyes, pleading, and me with a million miles of sorrow looking for somewhere to dump it.

“You’re the horns, you know,” she said as they built to a crescendo. “If anybody can be the horns in this song, it’s you.”

Sobbing, I reached out beyond my bedrails. Marci stood to receive me. She had finally breached the chasm that nobody else could breach. She had saved my life with a song. I didn’t know if I was starting my walk on the wild side, or ending it; but suddenly I felt empowered. If Scott could have wings, if only for a moment, then I could be horns. I could be lifted.


Walk On The Wild Side – written by Lou Reed

That’s that. Godspeed, Lou, baby…


My 1st Musical Loss…Bolan Boogie Music


On September 16th, 1977 I was 11-years-old. Exactly one month before, a huge musical icon passed away. He was all over the news. Anybody alive on the planet at the time can probably still remember where they were, and what they were doing, the day Elvis died. The world hadn’t been rocked so heavily since the day Kennedy died.

I think it’s safe to say the world lost some of its innocence the day Elvis left it. Not that it was an extremely innocent place at the time. There was a revolution happening, after all–the dawning of a new epoch. But the world was rocked by the tawdry way in which Elvis died. Celebrity shit was hitting the fan. The lifestyle was not looking so glamorous. Not quite 10 years after the summer of love, 1977 was a hotpot of events. SO much happened that year; the commodore computer, the space shuttle program, Roots, the rings of Uranus, Toronto Blue Jays, Star Wars, the New York City Blackout, Son of Sam, Atari, Food Stamps, Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash, NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS and the Sex Pistols, Saturday Night Fever, and a ridiculous amount of plane crashes. Despite all of this, Elvis Presley’s death was probably the biggest news in the media.

Elvis was okay. The dude was pwning the charts…and rocking the movie box office. He was legendary. I will give credit where credit is due. He was among the daddies of rock ‘n’ roll, after all.

But one month to the day after Elvis passed, the granddaddy of punk was in a tragic car accident. THAT‘s the death that reeled my life at the time. I was a fanatical fan…and I knew we were in for decades of pure unadulterated awesomeness from this iconic monster of glam rock.

My favourite album at the time of Marc Bolan’s death was UNICORN.

unicornThat album is one of the biggest of my childhood. Marc Bolan kind of took your hand and said, “Uh uh…music doesn’t have to be conventional. You don’t have to do what everybody else is doing.” He was the best unconventionalist of his time. The man was a living miracle of sound. There wasn’t a T-Rex song I didn’t immediately love. Dude had more game than the industry he reigned over. Well, in my humble opinion anyway. The only guy who came close to him was Bowie. Bolan was Sky Church Music and anybody who wanted a pass could get in for free.

Today is kind of a T-Rex kind of day. I’m working on a novel that takes place in the early 80s. For me, that was a major punk rock stage in my life. But I was also extremely busy attempting to convert my fellow punks to the Church of Bolan at the time. I’ve been listening to Bolan a lot lately. His music really gets my creative juices flowing. T-Rex have been the soundtrack to more than a few of my writing sessions.

I place the odd musical homage into my novels. Music is such an important part of my life. I love to share my fav bands with my readers, when I can. Though this novel is not yet published (obviously, since I’m working on it), I hope it eventually takes that journey. (-: Here’s an excerpt from the novel in question, CHASING EMPTY. The excerpt is my homage to Marc Bolan…purely fictional, but typical of that period in my life. (-; The link will take you to a previous post on this blog…


Elvis may have died in ’77…but Marc Bolan definitely pwned the summer of ’77. His light went out way too early. I never stop wondering where he might have gone, had that car not hit that tree.

CELEBRATE SUMMER was one of Marc’s last nods. One of the lines in the song is, “Summer is Heaven in ’77“. Little did he know.

I’ll leave you with T-Rex‘s CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION…because that’s what we were: