Yes, Let’s Talk About “That Book”

Standard

Over the past six months I’ve done something that I’ve never done for any appreciable length of time since the early days of parenthood: I’ve sacrificed my needs for the needs of others. I have ignored my own advice that the key to happiness is balancing responsibility to self, others and the community and decided to let the attention to self fade into the background.

I have to admit that I probably needed to balance things out, and the universe provided me with a series of opportunities to put the me-me-me side of my personality on hold.

I actually feel pretty good about it. It’s kind of nice to know that the world isn’t dependent upon me for its survival, for we’d all be in deep shit if that were true.

The service I’ve performed on behalf of others took two forms. I occupied my days working in a nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless families and children. I spent my nights editing a book called Music Reviews with a Touch of Erotica for the author we know as the altrockchick. In the process I’ve put my own writing and music projects on hold. I haven’t picked up the guitar or fiddled with the piano since last Thanksgiving.

And I still feel pretty good about it.

My daily work at the nonprofit is often draining—helping the homeless is like pushing the boulder up the hill and never quite getting there. The boulder is made heavier by a combination of unfeeling, bureaucratic processes and an indifferent society. Victories are fleeting and the struggles to help people find housing, find a job, keep the housing and keep the job are never-ending. Often you end the day wondering if there’s anything you did that made even a marginal difference for a family, but you come back the next day and take another shot at the boulder.

I think what enabled me to recharge my batteries every night and most weekends was a combination of a supportive life-partner and the opportunity to edit the altrockchick’s entire body of work.

After finally convincing her that a book would be a worthwhile endeavor, we got down to business. Our working agreement was simple: total honesty and direct communication. We agreed to avoid couching our suggestions in the form of polite requests but state them as demands for action. We assumed that each of us had only the best intentions for the other, so we’d skip the niceties and get to the point.

I opened the partnership by telling her to reopen the website and her Twitter account to reestablish her public presence. I also told her she had to decide on a consistent presentation of her pen name, which I’d seen in multiple forms (The Alt Rock Chick, Alt Rock Chick and altrockchick). Validating her status as a millennial, she went with the latter because it was the quickest to type.

Our most contentious debate had to do with pricing. We knew we had to go the self-publishing route, with all its pluses and minuses, and one plus is the author gets to set the price instead of the publishing house. She wanted to give it away for nothing; I argued strenuously for at least $11.99/print, $11.99/paperback. Her stand was all about principles; mine was all about communicating the book’s value based on the quality of content. This was a role reversal of sorts, since she’s the international marketing expert and I’m the human resources/organizational development type. We never did reach agreement on that point, but other factors intervened to render the debate irrelevant.

When I asked her what she wanted out of the book, she put great emphasis on a continuous narrative, and said she’d need to write another twenty or so reviews to achieve that. Since she had posted about three hundred reviews over the years, I had plenty of material to edit, so we agreed that she’d focus on the new stuff and I’d tidy up the old stuff.

That took about six months—and I enjoyed every minute of it. While I had to look at each post with a critical eye, her writing was often so engaging that I had to read each post more than once to get past the pleasure bias.

I did note that her earliest reviews were generally not up to standard, and her reviews of contemporary music often felt like she was holding back, trying too hard to avoid damaging the artist’s ego. While her self-proclaimed image as a dominant woman in a BDSM relationship might lead one to believe otherwise, I’ve learned that she is highly sensitive to other people’s feelings. She admitted that she tended to soften her language when she found the work of an up-and-coming artist less than satisfactory. “Everything from St. Vincent onwards is the real me; anything before that is hit-and-miss.”

That was very helpful guidance, enabling me to narrow my focus. In the end I recommended that she cut about two-thirds of the contemporary reviews and rewrite all the classic reviews that came before Nevermind, the post where I think she first found her voice. That meant re-doing all The Beatles’ reviews, to which she reacted with a healthy “Oh, for fuck’s sake,” and then proceeded to write an absolutely brilliant and thorough review of Sgt. Pepper.

I made an agreement with myself to edit at least one review a day, no matter how busy I was at work or with the usual crap that comes with modern living. Often I’d do more simply because I was having such a good time.

And that’s how I screwed up the whole thing—by having a good time.

Because I was consuming the altrockchick in small bites (now there’s an image for you!), I didn’t give a second thought to considerations like word count and book length. Eventually I began assembling the book in chronological order, and one night I left off after pasting the edited reviews from 1962-1969 into the master document. When I opened the document the next day, I said to myself, “Geez, this taking an awful lot of time to load.” I scrolled down to the bottom, and saw that the master was well over 500 pages, so I thought I’d better check the word count.

200,000 words? Already? Your typical novel runs between 60,000 and 100,000. Then I looked at what else I had to add:

  • The Beatles (19 reviews)
  • The Stones (9 reviews)
  • The Kinks (15 reviews)
  • British Invasion (1 intro and 8 reviews)
  • Motown (1 intro and 4 reviews)
  • The Psychedelic Series (1 intro and 17 reviews)
  • Conversations: The Moody Blues (7 reviews)
  • Jethro Tull (10 reviews)
  • 1970’s (37 reviews)
  • The Clash (5 reviews)
  • 1980’s (9 reviews)
  • 1990’s (18 reviews)
  • Oasis (8 reviews)
  • 2000’s (9 reviews)
  • 2011-2014 (26 reviews)
  • Great Broads (1 intro, 21 reviews)
  • Jazz (1 intro, 9 reviews)
  • Blues (4 reviews)
  • Dad’s 45’s (5 reviews)

I knew I was licked, but in a stupor I went ahead and calculated the total word count, which came to 1,237,489 words, almost 2.5 times the length of War and Peace. It was time to Skype.

She’s already written about that conversation, but I’ll just say that it knocked us both for a loop. She decided to put the project on hold while she considers her options.

But you know what? I still feel good about it. I feel good even though it was all volunteer work and I know I could have picked up a few bucks teaching leadership and organizational development classes at night instead of editing a book that may never see print. I learned a lot, thought a lot, laughed a lot and gained some insight about my own musical biases. It was worth every minute and then some.

Two things she didn’t cover in her post are worth mentioning. The first was her response to a question I asked after lowering the boom about her prodigious output. I don’t have her photographic memory, but the gist of what I asked was, “Let me get this straight. During the four years you’ve been writing you’ve been working full-time—the only time off you took coincided with the blog shutdown. You’ve changed your residence twice, including a move to another continent. For a while you managed a European operation and spent a lot of time traveling. I know from our previous conversations, you have sex with your partner four or five times a week and those scenes are all-night sessions. How in the hell did you manage to write over a million words of mostly damned good stuff?”

I’ll do my best to paraphrase her response. “I don’t spend a lot of time in my life sitting around doing nothing—it sounds weird, but I need stimulation to relax. When I decide to do something that’s important to me, I get organized, focused, and then I don’t let anything get in my way. One thing that really helped me was integrating what was going on in my life with the music I was studying—I could write about the music and reflect on my life at the same time.” Now I see her looking at me raising one eyebrow and saying, “I’m very efficient, Robert,” then dropping the eyebrow and raising her hands to her face in semi-mock horror. “But a million words! It didn’t feel like that at all! I had no fucking idea! It’s obscene!”

As for the Skype call ARC mentioned in her post . . . what she failed to capture was how the moment unfolded from the viewer’s perspective, so here goes the cinematic version: When the connection kicked in, I saw a red garter strap over the bare skin of her upper right leg moving towards the center of the screen, then, as she began to ease into her chair, I saw the gleam of red patent leather surrounding her torso, followed by the reverse arc of a silver chain that led upwards to a pair of clamps attached to a pair of pink, firm nipples, culminating in a full breast shot highlighted by blonde hair caressing her shoulders and the upper edges of her breasts, and finally a beautiful and slightly wicked smile accompanying the words, “Looks like you’ve finally caught me at the right time!”

Look. I’m a pretty horny hetero male with a fairly sophisticated sex life of my own, but all I could do is stammer an apology, cut off the connection then close my eyes tightly and try with all my might to implant that picture in my mind forever.

I felt REALLY good about that moment.

 

 

 

 

Ringing True Review Highlights

Standard

Cover 1-4 Size

“One of the most realistic and genuinely touching tales I’ve ever read . . . by the end, you’ll be craving more.”

“I’ve never read a book like it. Smart, funny and the characterization is superb.”

“There is no drivel here, just pure entertainment.”

“What’s most impressive . . . is Morrow’s ability to navigate through controversial topics with such ease.”

“The points are made without drawing too much attention . . . and never at the detriment of the story line.”

“Finally! A novel for our times that doesn’t suck!”

“The book offers a very realistic view of what could happen if this religion actually took off in the mainstream.”

“The characters are diverse, rich and genuine and the dialogue in the book is truly OUTSTANDING.”

“Multifaceted characters with rich back-stories . . . you will find many places for your empathy to hook on to.”

“It makes one laugh, it makes one think. I was sad when it ended. I wanted to keep on reading and reading.”

“Morrow navigates some heavy and expansive terrain with surprising and convincing celerity.”

“It’s a thought-provoker without being preachy, and it’s downright sexy!”

“A heady and complex philosophical powderkeg of a story . . . with enough humor to keep the reader laughing.”

“A work that understands and addresses both the power of the intellect as well as primal human urges.”

“A work that neither sacrifices story nor character in its rapid pacing and development.”

“The author has written an incredibly interesting and compelling book that is also funny, making you laugh out loud.”

“It’s not preachy, it’s hilarious!”

“One cannot read ‘The Numbers’ without a little voice within saying, ‘Now THAT makes SENSE!'”

“If you’re settled cozily into your comfort zone – watch out!”

“I really loved this book. It was an easy read, but very thought provoking.”

“Too many religions now preach love and humility, but encourage hatred and fear of those who believe different.”

“The incredible twist ending that even I did not see coming. So much so that I even gasped, alone in my apartment!”

“A perfect read for people who don’t have their brains awash in dogmatic garbage.”

“This book is a great read, funny and amusing but also insightful and thought-provoking. ”

“I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for intelligent and provocative entertainment.”

“(It’s) a fantastic book that went by entirely too quickly. I can’t wait to see what Morrow comes up with next!”

“The plot itself is a great combination of feeling familiar . . . and just enough twists to keep you on your toes.”

“Anyone who can’t get behind The Numbers truly has no humanity in them.”

“The thought-provoking views and conversations rang true for me!”

“A must-read page-turner.”

“I recommend to anyone who isn’t afraid to look at themselves and their religion and not shut down.”

“I think Ringing True is a real game-changer on the literary scene.”

“A funny, witty, sexy, controversial and intelligent read that makes you stop and think while enjoying every moment.”

(from the author) “I can’t rate my own work, but I had a helluva good time writing it!”

(Compiled from Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing and Barnes & Noble.)

Poetry: Bloggers

Standard

Like newborn birds, flightless and clamoring

For bits of worm, the noises that explode

From our heads fill the ether, a mad cry

For attention in the hope that someone

We will never meet casually clicks

A button, indicating we are liked.

In this universe, where everyone

Seems to have something to say and the tools

To publish random thoughts and images

To what seems to be the civilized world,

Every act becomes duplicitous,

Each comment filled with hidden agendas

So you never know who is listening

Or that your words make any difference.

© Dzain | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ringing True Excerpt: The Troops Revolt

Standard

At this point in the novel, Ringing True is about to become a full-fledged for-profit corporation complete with a Board of Directors and by-laws in exchange for five million dollars in seed money provided by the famous actress, Gwendolyn Marks. Gwendolyn has installed herself as Chairman of the Board in the new corporate structure and self-styled marketing whiz Matthias Bender (former roommate of Justin and Theo) has helped himself to the role of CEO. Justin and Shelby have been reviewing the by-laws with Theo, Emmy and Emmy’s father (who happens to be an attorney) and have discovered a clause that will effectively strip them of ownership of The Numbers, the text behind the Ringing True religion.

The Gang of Four walked into the nearest branch of Mega Coffee, rearranged a few chairs and formed a loose circle in a relatively quiet corner of the shop. Justin opened up the discussion as soon as they had all sat down with their coffees.

“I can’t sign this. We can’t sign this!” he said with defiance.

Shelby agreed. “I agree. I don’t know what she’s up to, but I’m not about to let that bitch become the Almighty Censor of our thoughts and I’ll be damned if anyone else in this world gets to write new Numbers.”

Emmy seemed agitated, but said nothing that would indicate how she felt. Theo looked confused.

“Uh, I’m not sure where you’re coming from? I mean, she wants to give us five million dollars, right?”

“In exchange for control over The Numbers,” said Shelby, completing the quid pro quo.

“Well, isn’t that worth it? I mean, five million dollars?” said Theo, still befuddled.

Justin raised his hand and said, “Let me give you a little background.” He then told them the story of afternoon tea in the sunroom, throwing all neutrality out the window, emphasizing the sinister nature of Dwayne Barker’s appearance, the suspicious nod and the enigmatic message that ended their conversation. As Theo and Emmy still appeared lost, Shelby added her suspicions about Matthias’ role in the set-up, which finally helped them see the light.

“Oh, dude—what a major-league asshole!” Theo cried.

“That’s just mean!” cried Emmy.

Justin tried to suppress himself, but because being fair was part of his cellular structure, he had to point out the weaknesses of their interpretation.

“We know none of this for sure, and I’ll admit, I’m pretty sensitive when it comes to this stuff—”

“We all know you’re a tight-ass, Justin,” Shelby interrupted.

“But that’s the problem—there are too many unanswered questions. What’s her motive? What’s Matthias’ motive? Why would he give up control of the corporation that was going to make him the shining hero behind The Next Big Thing? And why the specific clause giving her control over The Numbers? I don’t know all the answers, but the whole thing stinks!”

“Why don’t we just ask them to explain it to us?” offered Emmy.

Justin was too stunned to answer such a silly question, so Shelby stepped in.

“Because we all know Matthias is a practiced liar and we have no chance of getting through to the Queen of England,” Shelby explained patiently.

“She seems like such a nice person,” Emmy offered, holding out hope.

Justin took over again. “And for all we know, she may very well be. Maybe this is some form of image protection—I don’t know how these people think. But the simple truth is we don’t know what’s going on and it would be stupid for us to sign off on this without some answers.”

“But how are we going to get answers if they’re all liars?” Emmy cried.

“Well, we’ll have to figure that out. What we need to do first is go to Matthias and tell him we’re not signing unless the word ‘development’ is cut out from that clause,” Justin insisted.

“Stricken from the record,” Shelby declared.

“And a new clause is inserted saying that only Shelby and I have the right to write The Numbers. And that our authorship will remain anonymous,” Justin added.

The others nodded in agreement.

Justin leaned forward. “Now. Under the old corporation rules, we’re four-fifths of the Board. All we need is a 3-2 vote to stop this.”

This was a silly comment, as Theo and Emmy were joined at the hip and would never split their vote. They looked at each other, made a few faces at each other, whispered unintelligibly to each other, and at last nodded in unison.

“We’re with you,” said Theo.

“Thank you,” said Justin, relaxing a bit.

“Let’s go tell the man,” said Shelby. “I think he said he’d be at the office today.”

They went off in search of Matthias.

 

*****

 

“What do you mean you’re not signing?” Matthias shouted at them as they gathered around the oversized executive desk in his office.

“We’re not signing unless the clause about The Numbers is revised to say that only Shelby and I can write new Numbers.”

“Not negotiable. Next?” Matthias snapped.

“Then we’re not signing,” Justin snapped back.

“And you’re all in this together?” Matthias said slowly sweeping the room like a programmable laser. The laser came to an abrupt halt when it spotted Emmy.

“Emilia! Are you a participant in this—this—mutiny?”

Emmy was trembling in fear, but she swallowed hard and said in a clear voice, “Yes.”

“Theo?”

Theo shook his head and said, “I know you too well, dude, I know you too well.”

Matthias rose from his executive chair to emphasize his presence. “Do you all realize what you’re doing? What this means? It means no pay for at least six more months. Justin—you’ll still be pulling shots at the coffee house. Shelby—back to the museum. Theo—you can kiss off that plasma TV you wanted to hang on your wall!”

Justin thought he heard Theo groan, but Theo held his ground.

Matthias pointed his finger at Justin and shouted, “You call this responsible? You’re being a selfish pig, Justin!”

“Takes one to know one,” Justin responded, returning to childhood.

“This is how you show your gratitude? Or have you all forgotten who loaned you the money to make it all happen?”

“I guess you should have done a better job of evaluating the risks before investing,” Justin smirked.

Matthias glared at Justin with a look of almost pure hatred, but he knew he was beaten.

“Jesus! Why have I been saddled with such imbeciles?”

“Guess you got lucky,” Shelby replied.

“Look, I don’t care if she owns the company, I don’t care if you get to play CEO, I don’t care about any of that crap. But she is not getting her hands on The Numbers!” Justin argued in summation.

“It’s our product, you idiot, our product! Every Board of Directors on the planet has the right to approve the development and release of new products and services!”

“You can call it a product, but to me it is what I believe. I don’t have a problem with the Board approving the release of The Numbers—that’s just business. But no one except Shelby and I have the right to create new Numbers—this was our idea and no one is going to take that away from us,” Justin said in a clear, firm voice.

“Crap!” shouted Matthias, kicking the desk and making Emmy hiccup.

“What about our anonymity?” Shelby reminded Justin.

“Oh, yeah—we want the new board members to agree not to disclose that Shelby and I are the authors.”

“Great! Let’s insult all of our new investors!” Matthias shot back.

“If they want to take it as an insult, that’s their problem. Now call your friend Gwendolyn and tell her if she wants in, this is the deal,” Justin insisted.

“I can’t. She’s off on some kind of personal retreat and is not to be disturbed,” Matthias shouted back.

“Well, then, it looks like you’re S. O. L. Let’s go, guys,” said Justin and they all started to walk out the door.

“Wait, wait,” Matthias said, relenting. “Let me talk to Dwayne. Shit!”

“We’ll wait,” said Shelby, admiring her manicure.

Matthias whipped out his cell phone and rang Dwayne. Quickly changing roles from harried executive to entrepreneurial backslapper, he jovially explained that a little snag had come up and he needed some help from his good buddy. Matthias described the problem, attempted to soften the blow by insisting Gwendolyn would, of course, be consulted during the development process (to which Justin nodded his assent), that the issue of Board control over release was not under debate, and concluded by saying that he was sure Gwendolyn understood the sensitivity that always seemed to accompany the issue of artistic control over one’s work. Dwayne put him on hold. During the fifteen minutes of limbo, Matthias maintained a stony silence while Shelby attended to her nails, Theo and Emmy whispered together and Justin sat with his jaw still set but with his insides churning.

Dwayne came back on the line. “That’s great, Dwayne, great. Tell Gwendolyn I appreciate her graciousness in this matter. You’ll send me the papers? Great, great—let’s talk next week. Ciao.”

“We won?” asked Justin.

“You won,” said Matthias. “Now get the fuck out of my office.”

 

Photo Credit:  . Rude rejection of handshake © Lorna 59 at Dreamstime.com