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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

Inspiration.

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

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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 do..it’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 me..it 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, anyway..so 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 dirty..to 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 band-mates..name 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!

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Pick up FOREVER wherever albums are sold!

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