More thoughts on the blues

So my father-in-law, who is a big fan of the blues, apparently read my confused gibbering on the subject a few weeks ago and decided to help me out by getting me a nice introductory book. Thanks, Mike!

I’m enjoying it so far; I love reading about music, and the early bluesmen and -women were a colourful crew. The one fly in the ointment, as you can probably guess – and as I discovered while writing Seraphina – is that words can only approach music obliquely. I still needed to hear it for myself.

So I went to YouTube and poked around, starting with Robert Johnson and proceeding in a haphazard manner through Blind Lemon Jefferson and Leadbelly and I can’t even remember who. I can’t remember because none of it was sticking with me, alas. This is usually the case with me and new (to me) music: it slides right off my Teflon brain.

Then all of a sudden I hit one that made some kind of sense to me: Robert Petway’s Catfish Blues. Go listen. I’ll wait.

Now listen in close succession: Rolling Stone by Muddy Waters, which was supposedly inspired by Catfish Blues. I can hear it, but it’s subtle

OK, you’ve got those? Well then, ta-daa! The piece de resistance: Voodoo Child by Jimi Hendrix. Don’t quite hear the lineage? Go back and listen to that Petway again.

Aha! I say. AHA! I have successfully connected dots in my brain.

So what was different in “Catfish Blues” that let me connect with it where I was having trouble with the earlier stuff? I have to say it was the livelier guitar line. (My husband was making fun of me just a little bit because I was like, “Oh, this one’s kind of jolly!”  There’s a reason it’s called The Blues, he claims, and I suppose he has a point.)

That said, my favourite of the Robert Johnson songs – “Kind Hearted Woman Blues” – had some pretty impressive guitar. Maybe that’s a way in. Tune in, uh, next time to find out!

Just to bring this to your attention

The first stop on my US tour is just a week away! I have updated my “Appearances” tab with all the latest information (although there may still be details and corrections to come).

I will be visiting Philly, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, in that order. If you live nearby, please do come on out and see me!


Viking metal!

We had a grand time last night at the Viking Metal concert. Here’s the band we specifically went to see, the Faroese group Tyr, playing my favourite of their songs:

We also really enjoyed the band that played first, Metsatöll. They had a guy who played Baltic bagpipes, baybeh, as well as two different kinds of Estonian zyther, one of them (the moldpill, if I’m not mistaken) played with a bow. I was in obscure-instrument heaven! Now I want to find a way for someone to play a moldpill in the sequel, because I’m like that!

Anyway, a good time was had by all!

Six stars!

That’s enough for a good constellation, I reckon. Maybe not a galaxy, though, unless it’s a GALAXY OF PRAWNS!

(Sorry, I threatened to use that phrase as the title for this post, and my husband, who is a sensible person, was against it. I feel honour-bound to include it somewhere, therefore. You understand.)

This is the news that I was not yet allowed to tell you on Wednesday: I have received six starred reviews from the trade journals. That’s all of them. It’s not an unheard-of feat, but it is rare enough to be exciting. Here’s a list (updated periodically) of how many starred reviews have been received by YA novels this year. As you can see, six stars puts Seraphina up in the rarefied air with Code Name Verity and The Fault in our Stars.

I know, I know, when I tell you I have news, y’all get excited. I see now the fault in my strategy, because six stars – while exciting – is nowhere near as wild and woolly as the things your imaginations came up with. Here’s a small sampling:

  • A Seraphina opera (so the Fafnir dragon costumes get some use in the off-season)
  • Dragon-themed fire extinguishers
  • I got the Order of Canada
  • I got the Disorder of Canada (ha ha, wiseacre)
  • Dragon-themed muffin tins and party hats
  • A Seraphina restaurant (hey, I ate there!)
  • A Seraphina rock-opera by Jon Anderson and Vangelis

You had your own theory, didn’t you. Don’t pretend otherwise. If it’s funny, I’d love to hear it.

Writing RUSH

If you know me at all, you know I love the band RUSH. I didn’t always; they put something in the water here to make you impress upon the first Canadian music you hear. Could’ve been worse. Could’ve been Bieber.

Anyway, I got their latest album, Clockwork Angels, for my birthday and have found it completely impenetrable. Now, I’m used to a certain amount of this from RUSH. All their songs sound like noise to me at first. This album, though, is requiring more stubbornness than usual.

So when I heard Clockwork Angels was also going to be a novel, I had mixed feelings. I couldn’t decide whether it sounded awesome or vaguely embarrassing. Or, y’know, utterly impenetrable.

Well, having read Anderson’s guest post over at Scalzi’s, I’m feeling somewhat reassured. The author really likes RUSH, anyway — in fact he seems to like a lot of the same prog rock as me. (Now I am vaguely embarrassed, because I actually had dinner with him in San Diego, and I didn’t talk to him at all. In my defense, I was at the other end of a long table, and I was exhausted, but still. I wish I’d made more effort). In fact, I only realized who he was (the writer of all those latter-day Dune novels) as I was leaving (before dessert, because I was exhausted). So: my apologies, Kevin Anderson. I hope we run into each other again sometime; I shall have more to say to you.

I’ll take a look at the book, certainly, but I reckon I should come to better grips with the music first. Still, super fun to read about the role music plays in someone else’s process! And it will be interesting to look for the music in the book.

ETA: thanks to Paige for the link!

ETA2: As my friend Dave astutely points out in the comments, before this album or its novelization, there was a wonderful graphic novel called Clockwork Angels by Lea Hernandez.

I have things to tell you

Except I can’t until it’s officially official. Alas, that’s how it is sometimes.

So you know what I’m going to do instead? That’s right. I’m going to hit you with some Pink Floyd. Well, David Gilmour, technically.

No, I don’t know where that saxophone player came from. He just kind of materialized, didn’t he. Well, maybe that’s not so surprising after all. I’ve had days like that, just strumming along and then all of a sudden BAM. Saxophone.

I love this song, though. It’s a good one for when you’re working and working and wondering whether you aren’t the biggest fool ever spawned in the great fool pool. But see,  you’re still a diamond, whatever else is true, and the people who know and love you see that, even when you can’t.

Shine on, darlings.