Jack White

Jack White

I’m going to take today’s post as a chance to ramble about music. As the first goal ($10/month) was met on my Patreon, I’ll be buying some new writing-music every month, and in turn will likely post a blog about music once a month.

I was raised on a slightly odd medley of classical music, jazz, folk, and Andrew Lloyd Weber musicals. I was a late bloomer when it came to popular music, and it wasn’t until I was 16 that I bought the first albums I could call my own, one of which was Elephant by The White Stripes. Their heavy blues origin made the transition an obvious one, if only in retrospect.

Jack White has held a pretty permanent spot in my listening habits ever since, and I feel that he is to me what Bowie is to others (not that I’m not a Bowie fan, he was merely absent from my earlier musical education and I had to be introduced to him in my early 20s). As with Bowie, White does so many diverse things with his music that one song can sound like  a complete departure from the last, and yet if a song by him comes on I’ve never heard before, there’s something about it that marks it as his own.

This has only become more apparent since he started his solo career and developed more and more side projects. The White Stripes largely kept their songs simplistic; shorter songs, mostly under four minutes, picking a single theme and taking it for a walk. There was plenty of variation present (there’s a large distance between, for example, Fell in Love with a Girl and Ball and a Biscuit), but the two person band clearly put a few restrictions on his ideas. His solo music shows him stretching his musical muscles a little further, and being able to take advantage of a larger host of guest musicians. I saw him perform at Bonaroo 2014 and he had an entire stage full of musicians to support him, adding new depth and breadth to the sound of even old songs.

With his first solo album, Blunderbuss, he takes the departure slowly—Sixteen Saltines definitely sounds like a slightly more produced White Stripes song, but within that album we start to hear what can be done with White’s mind applied to a larger band in the form of deeper layering and a fuller sound in songs like Freedom at 21 or I’m Shakin’. By the second album, Lazaretto, we start to see songs like High Ball Stepper [Instrumental]That Black Bat Licorice, and Lazaretto appear, which don’t just take the idea for a walk, but chat with a few friends along the way. The new wider sound doesn’t stop him from providing more emotional songs such as Love Interruption, or traditional blues story songs like Three Women or Want and Able.

White’s side projects are a fascination in their own right. The Raconteurs are best known for Steady, As She Goes, which is a shame, as it could be dismissed as slightly rocked up White Stripes. Their other songs keep to the shorter format, but blend White and Brendan Benson’s styles with elements of rocks and late era Beatles. If you’re not familiar with their other work, give Hands and Yellow Sun a listen and tell me if you think I’m wrong. The band has a genuine sweetness, bitter on some tracks and less so on others, that isn’t apparent in quite the same way in The White Stripes or White’s solo work.

My most recent exploration of White’s work has been The Dead Weather. I knew I Can’t Hear You for some time, but I finally obtained the album Sea of Cowards and was able to listen to the full range of what that collaboration has wrought. The base sound is very different to anything I’ve heard from White before, but still holds that note that tells you it’s him. The most notable differences are the inclusion of more electronic sounds that White has tended to shun in the past, a more intense layering of sound, and the departure from picking a single theme, as The Dead Weather are more prone to pick up one theme and then weave in others. I Can’t Hear You may actually be the most traditionally White track on the album, distinct from Jawbreaker with its notable electronic sounds, I’m Mad with White’s forced “ha-ha”s raising the hairs on the back of your neck, Die by the Drop which seems to draw influences from Nine Inch Nails, or The Difference Between Us with its more intense build of layered instruments and White playing backing vocalist to Alison Mosshart.

There is a risk that I may revisit White here (if more briefly) in the not too distant future, as I have the double vinyl of his release of acoustic recordings from 1998-2016 waiting in the other room. I’m just waiting to have a couple of hours free to listen to it properly.

If you’re a fan of Jack White, I’d recommend giving a listen to Royal Blood. They have a similar sound and I mistook them at first, but it’s too early to tell whether they’re cut from the same cloth or just emulating. We might see great things in the future.

A friend once told me that he didn’t like Jack White because he was too popular, which seemed very strange to me. He may have a huge following, but he’s not forgotten his blues roots. Standing in a crowd of 100,000 people at Bonaroo, he still managed to make it feel like he was playing to 12 of us in a seedy bar somewhere in Michigan.

 

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New Patreon Goal

I’ve just set a somewhat ambitious new goal on my Patreon.

As I’ve mentioned before, I currently work two part time jobs and must fit my writing in around those (and, you know, eating, sleeping, having some form of social interaction, and occasionally some personal hygiene). It had never really occurred to me that two part time jobs seem able to take up a lot more time than a single full time job.

Thus, the ambitious goal: if patrons pledge $800 a month, I will be able to leave one of my jobs, and devote that time instead to my writing career.

With the current reward tiers that I offer, that would mean having about 80 patrons, which seems like a Herculean task at this juncture. However, it is something to set my sights on. In the meantime, any shares of my Patreon with people you think might be interested in supporting an author, and receiving a monthly short story in return, would be much appreciated.

If anyone has any ideas or suggestions for higher reward tiers, I’d be happy to hear them (either in the comments here, or through a message/post on Patreon or Facebook).

Looking Back, Looking Forward

As you may have noticed, certain people are referring to 2016 as “The Year of the Dumpster Fire,” or similarly delicate epithets. And with good reason: between what seems like an unreasonable number of deaths of icons from all walks of life, paired with varying shades of political chaos, it’s been a pretty awful year for the population as a whole. However, I’m seeing a growing trend in these last few days of people saying “2016 was pretty awful on the whole, but I feel weird because it was actually a pretty good year for me on a personal level.” It’s the latter trend that I’d like to partake in today, and try to stay positive about things rather than being bogged down in grief. Now is a time for silver linings. Carrie Fisher’s passing hit us all hard, but I’m glad that she was first able to rewrite her legacy from one of an actress who “went off the deep end,” to one of a powerful woman, a strong actress and writer, and a potent voice in mental health activism. David Bowie may have left us, but he’s apparently left behind plans for posthumous collections which seem likely to include unheard material, and it has led to the vinyl release of all his previous albums, remastered from the original tapes—and they sound fantastic. For many groups, the leadership of their country has left them in fear for their lives and bodily autonomy, but within the voices calling for an exodus from this country or that, has been a group that reassures me of the potential for human kindness and sacrifice, one saying “I could leave, but it is my place to stay and support those who cannot leave.”

For me this was the year that I got engaged. The year my brother got married. The year that I graduated from my MA. The year that I made some important choices about where my future lies, and moved 1,000 miles (without leaving the country) to a position where I could enact those choices. This was the year where I left academia and began to be gainfully employed on multiple fronts.

I’ve made a lot of personal strides and I finally feel able to really focus on my writing career (if around two other jobs) as my primary goal in life. This year I officially started a draft of my new novel, started a Patreon, and received pledges that will not only help me to keep writing, but tell me that there are people out there who are still interested and invested in my writing.

I feel like I’m in a strong place to move forward, and I intend to do so in the coming year. While I predict that by midnight on the 2nd of January we’ll see someone post “Maybe 2017 will be better… [Insert headline of celebrity death]” it can still be a good year for us personally. I’m not saying that political troubles and popular culture issues won’t be present, but we must remember that we can push against political moves with activism, and that when someone dies, they leave a legacy; their passing should be properly grieved, but not negate our own ability to function in the long run.

In early January, I will be putting out the first short story for my Patreon backers (I’m taking a break from working on it to write this post). In 2017 I plan to visit writing conferences and network with those in my field. In 2017 I will finish and edit the fantasy novel I am working on. And in 2017 I will submit it to agents.

In 2017 I will survive, move forward, and be there for those who need me to be.

Free Short Story!

The $10/month tier of my Patreon commits me to provide at least one short story a month. As an example/proof of concept, I’ve posted one of my older short stories, The Weathered Man, to the public section of my Patreon.

If you want to receive the January short story from my Patreon, you must have pledged to the $10 tier or higher by midnight(PST) on the 31st. I hear there’s going to be a countdown.

The Season of Giving

As various memes have been reminding us, we are in the midst of a whole load of different holidays. Regardless of which of these, if any, you celebrate, and regardless of your views on the “happy holidays controversy” (personally, if someone says anything to me that demonstrates they mean “I wish you well at this time,” I’m not going to be upset, and I’d hope they’d do the same for me, no matter how I choose to express it), the majority of the holidays have a focus (sometimes obscured) on thinking of others and giving back to your community.

Now some of you might think that this is me putting in a plug for my Patreon, but it’s not (Did I mention I have a Patreon, now?). In this vast, expansive season of giving, it’s easy to get bogged down in shopping for gifts, planning for meals, and arranging get-togethers, and I wanted to take a moment here to provide a couple of suggestions for locations for charitable donations. (Note: I receive no gain from any of these, they’re just causes that are close to my heart.)

1. The Alzheimer’s Association is one of many charities that work against the disease. This one has been around since 1980, and seeks to both advance research in the hopes of eradicating it, and also to provide care for those who live with it. My family has been personally affected by Alzheimer’s, and it recently claimed the author Terry Pratchett. I have my Amazon Smile account linked to this charity.

2. Lost-n-Found Youth is an Atlanta based charity that works with homeless youths (13-25) and works to get them permanent housing and employment. They specialize in LGBTQ youths, which is especially good as a) a disproportionate number of homeless youths are LGBTQ, and b) other organizations have a history of ignoring or actively shunning them.

3. This is a gofundme page for a friend of mine who is currently transitioning. She lives in Georgia, so the environment isn’t great to begin with, and recent political changes aren’t going to make her life any easier. The page is asking for donations to aid with general costs that come with transitioning that aren’t covered by insurance and to enable them to be able to start a family one day.

 

Thank you for your time, and if you’re able to donate to any of these causes then it is much appreciated. Next week, I’ll return to my regularly scheduled programming of self-involved rambling and shameless self-promotion.

Happy Holidays! (Whichever one you celebrate, I wish you well at this time!)

$1 Patreon Update

A brief, mid-week update on my Patreon today.

I’ve edited the reward for the $1 level. Now, as well as receiving my “endless appreciation,” it will give you access to my patron-only feed. This is the first place that I’ll post any major hints or updates about my writing and releases, as well as potential teasers for the monthly short story. Some of those updates will be posted to this blog a few days later, but some of them (particularly the hints) will be reserved exclusively for my patrons.

These rewards are also available to patrons at all the higher levels.

Support

Something a little different today.

Over the past few years, a reasonable number of people have asked me why I don’t set up a Kickstarter or a Patreon for my writing. I always thought the idea of a Kickstarter for a novelist was a little odd, and I was never too sure what I would have to offer Patreon backers.

However, enough people have asked me that I thought it was worth looking into, and I have, therefore, launched my own Patreon page!

*Pause for raucous cheers*

As it turns out, Patreon (and the internet in general) has some recommendations on what rewards might be of interest to someone supporting an author. I’ve gone with their $1 recommendation (that’s apparently how much they think my endless appreciation costs, which sounds about right), and their $5 (if I want to crowdsource an answer to a question, you’re the ones I’ll ask). I’ve also added my own ideas to provide a $10 and a $15 option. For the $10 level I have committed (perhaps ambitiously) to providing a 1000+ word short story for every month (there’s no upper limit to the word count, but bear in mind that I’ll be writing these around working on the novel). I assume that the $15 option will only be chosen by people whose primary motivation is to support me. For this level, you get an input into what I write for the monthly short story—whether that be helping me decide between options, or setting me a challenge (which can be a ludicrous as you like).

I haven’t set a lot in the way of goals on my Patreon for the moment. One piece of tech that will help me to grab every second I can for writing is about it. The biggest thing I need right now is time. Which you can apparently buy. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m now working two jobs, which leaves me scrabbling for time to write. Support through Patreon, even a little, will give me breathing room to not push for more hours at one of my jobs quite so much, and give me more time at my keyboard.

I know that a lot of the people I know personally are not in a position to support me, or provide support in other ways (even just sharing my posts is a big help as it gets my name out there). I don’t expect Patreon to be a huge source of income for me, but every little bit is appreciated.

Thank you.