door

door* by sal laughter

I am have become death Unto
I am Newborn
Dwelling as I am
on The Threshold
of Light &
blackness, no, darker
than that
I am Blonde,
Japanese-su Bronde-ah
Bearded
Hairless, Baby Mice, my balls
I am an ideal world
a door
with a port in my neck
here I am, ajar
purpose built as if for flies
seen from mirrors instead of eyes
touching with gloves instead of hands
are you hearing with headphones
who do you then there recognize
I Am the stuff
That you wish you could dream of
a Kissing booth in hell
red
The contents of Black &
White Horses
here I am standing beautiful, radiant, shining Son
the moon, Palomino
In The Night
The Dawn Where
I Dwell
Between Here & There
Lke Smoke,
or a door

 
*see photos or costumed actor

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DF9G1N presents an LP’s worth of music: 5XS

I’ve been collecting recordings of my music from essentially day one, like 5 years ago when I first made a real commitment to learning to play music. From the get go, I knew that repletion and looping were going to be a big part of my sound, so along with the guitar and amp, I bought a few effects pedals that I thought would help. I use essentially these same pedals today, slightly different versions of the originals, but mostly the same functionality.

I use a wah, some dirt, some sparkle, a delay and two loopers. Into this chain, I feed guitar, vocals and a tiny synth, a Korg Kaossilator, to make music that comes out of two small guitar amps. One of the loopers has the capacity to record everything that comes through the chain, so I sometimes use this method to make a recording. Otherwise I use a laptop, a couple midi controllers and Ableton Live to do almost exactly the same thing. Slight differences appear between the two rigs, the one big one is that one is geared towards live work and the other, studio recording.

Anyhow, I’ve been treating learning the guitar as about a fifth of the the stuff that I need to know in order to make music. The pedals are about 20% and so are the midi controllers, laptop, and Live. Amongst this simple setup, I’ve always recorded myself to kind of keep track.

This past year I’ve played more seriously because of cancer taking me almost all the way down, and guitar is some kind of therapeutic and doesn’t require much physical strength. I think, as the disease progresses, and I become bedridden, I’ll probably take up slide, so I can play with the guitar across my lap. This set of recordings comes, with the exception of “Karr,” from this past year and directly out of cancer.

If you like this stuff feel free to download it and share it with your friends. Here’s a quick link to a zipped up version of the whole LP all together-  I can’t quite figure out how to do that yet…

 

Health update: I attended a daylong workshop called Surviving and Thriving, Pancreatic Cancer. There was an excellent intro talk, and then breakout sessions. I attended the session on mindfulness and exercise. One new addition to my cancer therapy program arose from these classes- they mentioned that 2000mg per day (for 8 weeks to onset of relief) of ginseng can help with chemo side effects, especially fatigue, which is for me, the hardest part of this whole deal. I’ve been on the ginseng for about 3 weeks now, and through one chemo week. I think I may notice a slight change for the better. I’d have to analyze my notebook to see trends in sleep patterns, exercise and overall well being, but I think, there’s a hint of relief here. And that’s great!

I continue to meet and appreciate many helpful people in my day to day existence, and I am so thankful for all of you. You’re the best!

Noodler’s & An Illustrated Life

Lately, I’ve been reading an excellent book entitled, An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory who examines the private notebooks of designers, artists and illustrators. Gregory includes a section on Mattias Adolfsson. He mentions that he draws with fountain pens and uses Noodler’s ink along with watercolors. Adolfsson’s work strikes me as amusing and compelling. I love flipping through this work and looking at the pictures. Like an interview, the text includes a short bio about each artist and then a page or two of commentary interspersed with the drawings. I find interviews quite useful as a sort of validation. I love that ping that comes when another artist mentions something that I’ve thought about myself or even carry along with me in my bag of tricks.

Here’s a page from my current notebook that I’ve enjoyed revisiting many times, although it is only a few days old. Perhaps this is a little narcissistic. Ah. So:

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He has a big head, doesn’t he? :-)

My father wrote with Parker fountain pens. I’ve tried both his and other Parkers, never to be satisfied with any of them. Somehow, I never encountered a Parker that would reliably feed for me. Plenty of people have had good success with these pens, but for me, I prefer Sailor, Noodler’s and Namiki pens. Irregardless of brand, pleasure comes anytime I make a line on a page.

Cancer news- no news continues to be good news. And I remain exhausted most of the time.

Guitars

I recorded today. And I found myself moving into a slightly different direction and handling the guitar slightly differently. I am usually a very light handed player, but lately I’ve been exploring the range of dynamics available on my guitars. It’s a satisfying pursuit. Thank you  Zane for giving me this idea!

Anyhow, here’s the clip all me, all written on the fly, no post processing, no crop, totally live:

If this sort of minimalistic metallic psychedelic grunge is your kind of thing, I’ll soon be posting an album length work that you can download for free!

ON THE CANCER STORY- I had a CT scan the other day. Miraculously, it shows no changes. Also, the CA19-9 blood marker remains stable in the normal range at last blood draw. I am happy to still be alive! I hope this finds all of you doing well and coping as best you can with any problems as they arise. Remember, if you need someone to chat with, you can always call me. You’re in my thoughts and prayers, all of you. :-)

Another Pre-lim Drawing

Although I probably should feel more of a sense of achievement, I do not. My new (hahaha) book is now undergoing a final proof before formatting for Amazon. I feel drained, as far as writing goes. The only excitement I feel now is towards these fun parts, the drawing, the photos, the polish. It’s not even work: a thing done simply to do the thing is life, and it is also enlightenment; a thing done as a means towards an end is work, drudgery. I keep learning this lesson over and over. I hope I do, learn, I mean.

At any rate, I carry on, and here’s the latest in the preliminary drawings. I did this one while sitting in a cafe, people watching, enjoying a coffee and a bear claw. That’s my favorite, a coffee, a claw, some people. I need to get out more. :-)

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I love the feel of the tools in my hands, the pens, pencils and oil pastels. It feels good to draw, to make a mark, a line and others that hook together. Feels good.

 

Health notes- this last cycle of oral chemo kicked my ass. I finished it Monday evening, and I’m still recovering. I cannot believe I am still alive. I pray each day for help for everyone, all of you, and my dog, my family, my beautiful daughter and wife. I hope these small notes find all of you well and happy.

Revision and Editing Take a Long Time

Well, if you have a nice batch of cancer brewing in your stomach, the editing seemingly goes on forever. I kept track of my time:

9/19 10-1

9/30 1-3

10/1 10-12

2/6  2pm-3pm

2/7  noon-2pm

2/13 2-3

2/21 4-5

2/25 1-3

2/26 1-2, p.60

2/27 1-2:30 p.64

3/4 11:15-12:20 p.75

4/14 1:15-2:30 p.93

4/18 1:50-3:05 p.105

4/22 11-1:45

4/24 2-3.

start at p.106 or so, end of Telephone Call, continue line editing

5/6 2-3 p.110

5/7 1-2:35 p.125

5/9 4:14-4:37 p.130

5/12 12:10-2:17 p.132 middle (blog, cancer update)

5/14 12:23-2:46 p.142

5/15 12:38-1:43 p.149

5/16 11:15-1:37 p.162 (blog update, oed w3)

5/19 noon-1:08 p.173 (Random Access from Werewolves)

5/20 12:47-2:00 p.184

5/21 12:14-1:37 p.195

5/22 11:11-11:43 p.201

5/27 10:56-1:11 p.212

6/9 2:22-3:31 p.216

6/26 11-noon p.218

6/28-9 off & on afternoons p.222

6/30 11:10-1:10 p.228

7/1 1:45-3:10 p.233

7/2 2:37-? p.239

7/4 2:20-3:04 p.247

7/5 12:57-1:45 p.252

7/9 12:53-3:20 p.273

7/11 2:18-3:07 p.281

 

And that’s how long it took me to revise and edit Werewolves. Sharon is taking a proofreading pass, and as soon as those mistakes are corrected, it’ll be time to format for Kindle and post. I am thrilled. This book has been a lot of work, and I’ve never taken so long to finish anything before. Mostly, I wrote one short novel or about 10 short stories each year. About 4.5 years for a single book seems way too long to me. But there it is- A)Time be time, and things take how long they take and that’s that, and B)I really can’t think of anything better to do than write stuff like this, so this is how I’m gonna spend my life- making scratches in the sand. Seriously, it feels damned good to have finished this thing.

Editing and Revising

In skool, I once heard that Tim O’Brien, who wrote _The Things They Carried_ and _Going After Cacciato_, that he’s famous for revising, revising and revising some more. Supposedly, the guy gets up in the morning and looks over the day’s pages from yesterday, trashes 90% and takes up the pen to rewrite. I just don’t have it in me to do that kind of thing. I hate wasted effort.

My revision process works like this- I begin with a concept, a scene or a person who looks cool, and I imagine what that person might do. I write it up. But before I begin, I tend to think a bit about the scale of the piece. Is the thing going to be a novel, a short story, a haiku, a song or most likely, a novelette. The short novel is probably my favorite form. I like a piece of writing to be long enough to savor, but not so long that either I or a reader gets bored with the thing.

Anyhow, once I’ve picked a length, I like to just sort of follow this character around and jot down the things he or she might encounter. These items, scents, colors, symbols, other people and so on, at some point, and the pressure to find this point somewhere on my interior map, it grows and grows  until I feel like I’m gonna blow, until, finally, a kind of seed crystal drops, and the rest of the story coalesces around the seed, and then I can see the whole thing. I call this event coalescence day. It happens with every piece of writing I do; suddenly, once enough pressure builds and I’ve put in enough time and effort, I can see everything.

Once I can see everything, I stop and begin to make structural decisions and decide what needs to go where, what scenes are missing to make the plot work (since after coalescence day, I know the plot), and I know all the details that I’ve been working thus far, perhaps 1/3 to 1/2 way through the process of creating the finished work. I can see the themes and know what the work is about in terms of motivations, message and argument, theme. And because I know what the book is about, I can select from the images I’ve already been working and trash those that dead end and add those that reinforce character and theme so that the work becomes layered (good work is always layered, that’s my rule).  And once I have all these pieces, the process of mapping out the rest of the work becomes simple and all that remains to be done is to simply write it down. I actually make maps on paper, tension graphs, terrain maps, other visual aids.

Contrast this with another process where, someone puts up the whole story, like a house, and suddenly they realize, once the whole thing looks complete, that the bathroom needs to go where the kitchen is. Then they’re facing a shitload of work to tear out walls, reroute plumbing and throw away tons of effort, money and energy. I just can’t work like that. Instead, I take blank the page it, follow the characters around, and when I can’t stand it anymore, I figure out what else needs to go where to make a clear coherent unified piece. This way, my revision happens before I have to trash months of effort.

Editing on the other hand happens as a last step in which I clean up mistakes in parallelism, grammar, punctuation, sentence level clarity, individual word choices to reinforce tone and character and so on to make the work read more smoothly. This part is tedious sometimes, but it’s also really gratifying- it’s like taking a rough piece of jewelry and putting a high polish on it so that the finished product appears seamless. And man, I love that.

Here’s some examples of a few edits that I did today-

Unclear

broke: The smells of greenery, a hint fresh garbage and dry chicken shit dust the air.

fixed: The the not unpleasant smell of dry chicken shit dusts the air along with good greenery and a hint of fresh garbage.

Above, there was too much separation between the subject and verb there leading to some itchy feeling about a subject verb number mismatch. Yuck.

 

Overwritten

broke: A white henhouse abuts the length of one side of the fencing.

fixed: A white henhouse abuts the length of fencing.

 

Unintended repetition

broke: I look up into a sky bluer than any I have ever seen and blink at the sun.

I wake on deck, blinking up into the clear blue,

fixed: I look up into a sky bluer than any I have ever seen and stare at the sun.

I wake on deck, blinking up into the clear blue,

 

Punctuation correction

broke: Each day we take the boat out and Scotty shows me a little more.

fixed: Each day we take the boat out, and Scotty shows me a little more.

 

Every time I track one of these or one of the myriad other minor mistakes that happen easily in drafting quickly, I’m like, yay! one less thing for somebody to stumble over. Polish, who doesn’t like a shiny thing, lovingly smoothed and rubbed to a fine patina where not even the smallest crack shows. That’s the kind of craftsmanship I strive for in editing.

Here’s the rules, as far as I’m concerned: Revise for unity and coherence and Edit for clarity and polish. And do it in that order, revise first, then edit.

 

Today, I find myself editing p.239 of 276 total. So close to locking this draft in, I can freaking taste it, and it tastes GOOD.

A Very Quick Music Demo

In addition to writing words, I also write music. It’s all improv, so I might begin with a chord progression or a scale, or some other idea entirely, perhaps simply a note that appeals in some way, be that pitch, timbre or tone. From the get go of idea to a complete piece is merely the push of a record button. I use Ableton Live, Garageband, a Tascam single track digital recorder and an iPhone depending on the context and my plans for the finished project, as far as recording gear goes. I do not own any expensive mics, interfaces or consoles. Here’s a photo of my standard recording setup-

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Using Live this way allows me to develop material extremely quickly and to be able to get it down to a usable format fast! A moment ago, I spent 10 minutes building a track, just to use as an example. It is not pristine by any means, and time (rhythm) is something that I like to play with. Is it in time? Which aspects? How can you say? Does it matter? Do you want to dance? Why, why, why, should time rule with such a terrific grip? I say, I’m questioning it. Here’s the demo, literally, 10 minutes effort, working title, “Can’t You Find”-

 

I LOVE this setup. It’s extremely fast, reliable and flexible. For instance, here, if I want another amplifier, I just drag and drop a sim into the guitar chain that you can see on my screen above. I don’t have to go to the store and spend $1000 and carry around a 50 pound piece of hardware. Likewise, I can route any signal in any direction. Some of this stuff you can’t even do with hardware. And that little keyboard, I can use it to play drums, a grand piano, a cello or whatever. Still, I play a physical guitar, just so there’s _one_ instrument that I’ve actually had to spend some real time learning. But for prototyping and a home studio, it’s hard to go wrong with software. Good, good stuff!

Werewolves, Preliminary Drawing

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about cover images for _Werewolves_.  The sketch above is one of the preliminary drawings for the book. Not sure where it’s going to go,  front or back cover, but it will probably be collaged in Gimp with other images, foreground and background objects and text, or it may not get put in place at all. It’s merely a sketch. Fun to draw a little. I love the paint-like effects that I can produce with oil pastels. They build up on paper somewhat like paint can on canvas, deepening the colors, blending them and adding a slight 3-d quality to the work. Of all the color media I use, which includes, crayons, markers, colored pencils, watercolor pencils and the oil pastels, the pastels are maybe my favorites. They have an intensity that I just can’t get any other way. Controlling them on the paper remains challenging. And, as you can see, my drawing technique is limited.

Doing this sort of work very much helps to inform the writing. Whether I use an illustration or not with a given piece of text doesn’t have much to do with how effective it is. My main concern is that illustrations offer me a different point of view and allow me to see elements in the writing that I might otherwise miss.

I learned to draw about 25 years ago by working through Betty Edwards’s _Drawing on the Artist Within_ which details not only drawing instruction, but also demonstrates how to link ideas and create parallels between various sorts of media. I’ve never put in enough time to draw very well or very efficiently, but learning the basics added a complete layer of depth to the way I look at the world, because drawing isn’t really about hand-eye coordination or other some such; it is about learning to see accurately. Seeing things accurately completely changes perception, permantently. If you are interested in learning to render images realistically (that is, to draw) by hand, this book is one of the best of its kind plus more.

 

Health note- I’ve been pretty beat up by chemo and drug interactions lately and haven’t gotten much done beyond bare survival for the last three weeks, but this week, things seem to be on an upswing, and I’ve been able to do more each day than simply get out of bed, put on pants and eat. I had a small epiphany the other day: this is my retirement, which I never expected to have, and as such, perhaps I should try to take it a little easier. This view has led me to feel less anxious about writing, editing, and drawing.

“Office”

Here’s my office-

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Yes, that’s the foot of my bed in the foreground there ^. The “office” takes up about 1/5th of the bedroom that I share with Sharon. She has been very gracious about letting me set up my stuff in our space. I try to keep things neat looking, but the world’s shittiest filing cabinets (purchased only about 8 month ago at Target) are falling apart, plastic cracking, and so the top of my desk has begun to fold in on itself. See that monitor there, sitting at an angle in the sunshine, that’s really starting to bug me. But, who cares. I never do any work at the desk anyway. It’s just a surface to put stuff, and I only sit in the green chair in front of the desk when I make music. Then, the desk holds my laptop which hooks up with a couple of midi controllers, an audio interface, the guitar, mic and monitors.

Writing happens in the red chair. I’ve spent a lot of time in that chair, sitting there with my legs crossed, one elbow on the arm of the chair, laptop balanced on my leg and belly while I type. Before I had the red chair, I sat in chairs at the library, similarly shaped, low-slung armchairs hidden away up in the stacks on the third floor where I could look out the windows and watch the ravens playing in an updraft alongside another building next door. Now, I almost never open the blinds. But when I do, the view of the fire escape, the breeze, sound of song birds, city noise, these all treat me, like a reward for sitting there putting up architecture inside my mind.

Writing a book or a blog doesn’t require a great deal of space in the three dimensional world. See that wire at the bottom left corner of the window? That’s my link to the punchdown block in the basement that leads to an ATT router somewhere out there in the more illusory world, and eventually to sallaughter.com and then on to you. As far as i’m concerned, you might as well have a seat in the green chair, or pretend to, and we’ll carry on our conversation as you like.