British Infiltration: Rockers Ryker Sear, Lux Lisbon Fight the War for Discoverability

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Ryker Sear is fronted by Regan Vincenza and James Torselli

Review by Google“>Shawn Stjean

I’m about as far from a London music-scene insider as an introverted teacher from east-coast US with few social media connections can be; and yet, they found me.  And if these up-and-coming bands can root me out and evoke a review, they’re a lot closer to the mainstream than maybe even they know.  That’s the beauty of the great artistic endeavor in the 21st century: if you’re a writer, a painter or illustrator, a musician, a prophet or pundit–whether you’ve got battle scars or henna tattoos–you can scream your message to a global audience.   If you’ve got the the talent, the brains, and the balls–not necessarily in that order–then dare to deafen the masses!

I admit I’m a little concerned over the ultra-competitive gene such an electronically facilitated/driven marketplace will breed into the DNA of the younger generation.  Social Darwinism is never pretty, and social-media-darwinism (SMD) won’t likely class it up (“she with the most friends, wins”).  But maybe there are enough followers to go around.

Sure, you’ll have to give your art away for awhile, which is how they found me.  But ask yourself: is that any worse than an office internship, or signing five figures deep into student loans, or pulling an oar on the good ship EvilCorp until your passage is paid?  As Lux Lisbon themselves put it, “Money doesn’t make a man a man.”

Maybe it’s worthwhile to describe the tactics by which this war can be fought by the guerrilla non-elite.  My publishing imprint has a Twitter account which is completely automated, to the extent that all I do is choose people and entities to follow back–and if they have anything to do with books, or art in general, I do.  That way, I don’t dilute the imprint “@GlasDaggrePubs” with a bunch of unrelated connections–hoping to attract more writers and artists.  Now, the folks across the pond, being undoubtedly more savvy at the game than I, followed me, and I followed back.  They then thanked me with a follow-up reachout, by name, and offered a link to some free tunes–which I ignored.  Here’s the key: persistence.  The next day, Stu from Lux Lisbon e-mailed me directly, with a cleverly worded message that the link had been broken, but would now work.  A harmless fabrication, there, I suspect.  But, I decided to spare the bandwidth for their new EP, which is routed through their website with plenty of YouTube video links.  Never a single Ask for money.  And now, the crucial requirement, without which no amount of promotion can save an artist:  Much as one would do with a car radio, I decided to give three songs only a listen–for about thirty seconds each.  If nothing grabbed me in that amount of time, case-closed and on to the next thing.  Well, on the third random press of the old electronic jukebox button, “Show Me the Money” got its hooks into me.  So yeah, the talent end of the equation is, and always will be, the necessary bullet in the gun.

Standouts from the Get Some Scars EP include “Demons You Show” (good enough to feature an alternate, acoustic duet version to anchor the album) and “The Devil Got Me Dancing” (instant classic–trust me.)  Stuart Rook and Charlotte Austen trade lyrics clearly influenced by early Springsteen in their relentless resistance to one-and-two syllable words, but more importantly, simplistic meaning. Someone in this outfit happens to be an inventive videographer, as well, and they’re tech-literate enough to offer multiple download formats for all your devices. Check it: http://luxlisbon.com/

A year earlier, the initial process followed by Regan from Ryker Sear had not, details aside, been dissimilar.  She kindly offered me some merch when I wrote to praise a the free video (and remember, I’m nobody special) which I declined on principle until I could at least write a review (both bands have cannily maintained online stores–I agree, screw the middle-man, he earned nothing!)  And, that last vital requirement reveals itself: you’ve gotta be deadly patient–I mean Viet-Cong patient.  Discovery happens, but like songwriting–any kind of writing–it’s slow process and one-soldier-at-a-time recruitment.

Ryker Sear have got HD videos up on Vevo: http://www.vevo.com/watch/ryker-sear/to-the-ending/QMGR31402673 Soundcloud:https://soundcloud.com/rykersear and of course the inevitable YouTube host through their own site: http://www.rykersear.com/ “To the Ending” alone is a great track, a great music video, and deserves airplay here in the States better than 90% of what’s getting it on the commercial stations glutted with tired 80s/90s recycled junk that never was very good in the first place. “Forever Criminal” makes a worthy follow-up. Unlike the lyric-agile tongue-twisting and acousti-fused material of Lisbon, Regan Vincenza’s voice weights her tunes in equal proportion with a punchy percussion and juiced-guitar riffs that will make Sear‘s body of work more appealing to the traditional rock crowd.  Their EP is 2012’s Tell Me Why, with free single release “Forever Criminal” promised for this October 13.  The material of either band may not sound fully cooked in the ears of music-industry professionals, but then again, it hasn’t been commodified, homogenized, and neutered yet by pros, either.

Remember, youngsters, you may not be raking in much on the front end, but you’re also not paying a mortgage payment to the Man in promotional fees, letting an agent take his blood-pound, or signing deals that will lock you up for another three albums, like the rock legends of old had to do.

As for you fans, you need to know that these guys have fanbases still modest enough in size to be appreciated, up close and personal.  Write the band members–they write back!  Years from now, as every twerp with an iPhone17 is bragging to his pals about his great musical taste, you’ll be able to say you’ve been following the greats since the 20-teens.

Do your best, and the money takes care of itself.  Heat the oven, and the bread will bake.  Or, as I like to opine when in a metaphor-mixing mood, sweat always rises to the top.

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Lux Lisbon is Stuart Rook, Charlotte Austen, Tom Cooper, Jamie Shaw. EP cover.

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Zombie Fiction or Vivid Talent?: ABNA’s Top 500 Amazon Breakthrough Novelists reach Quarter Finals

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By Shawn StJean

While this contest undoubtedly warrants continued support from all involved, this year I’m adding a political dimension to my announcements.  Aside from the obvious tactic of identifying undiscovered–one might say, buried–talent in the cheapest way possible by the Amazon would-be monopoly, is the fix in at the ABNA?  Are the top contestants going to inevitably turn out to be those who stick with the safest, recycled, cliched plots and characters?  Are we in for more angsty vampire fiction, or do any true innovators lie among those who make the final cuts?  For those who fall aside at this point, it may seem like the “most unkindest cut of all” today, especially if you’ve dared to differ: you’ve created fresh antagonists and plots, written in an experimental style, and/or recombined familiar elements in unfamiliar ways.

So let’s see how many metaphors I can mix into one FTW cocktail:

This post is for those not moving on: Don’t Despair.  Don’t Eat Your Own Hearts Out.  Your rewards may not reside in the material realm–this year, at least, or in the hive of the Amazon universe.  The carpenter never raises the floor to match the level of the nail sticking out above it–he always beats the nail down.  But don’t go down straight.  To Hell with the carpenter–bend, and let him trip on you.  And keep that hard head!  We’ve got enough drones in this Borg Cube of a publishing industry already. . .

link to QF list: http://www.amazon.com/b?node=332264011

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Homage to the late Michael Turner for the above image from Witchblade #150, a superimposition over?/under?/behind? the cover to issue #1.  Talk about a fresh spin on an old concept!  

Humanism Lives Long, And Prospers: Star Trek Continues Review

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 By Shawn StJean

Who says it takes a hundred million dollars to do Star Trek right?

Under the wing of Farragut Films and Dracogen Investments, Vic Mignogna and crew have launched the second episode of their wonderful fan webseries, Star Trek Continues.  It takes place during the final three years of the original five-year mission that ended prematurely when the network cancelled Star Trek in the late 1960s.

All due respect to the rebooted mega-budget studio feature films–sorry, but this is where it’s at: no one is going to get resurrected by “Necrotic-Tribble-Cross-Superhuman DNA,” either.  That kind of technobabble/solution nonsense is for fans of Next Generation and its ilk.

I screened the just-released second episode in the webseries, “Lolani,” with a smile on my face the entire time.  This reaction was part nostalgia, part admiration, and part gratitude for Vic and the gang who’ve devoted themselves to continuing a great tradition of truly humanistic storytelling, even amidst the most technological setting.  I thought it bettered the excellent first episode (featuring the return of old nemesis, Apollo, reprised by Michael Forest).

As with the original series, the episode “Lolani” takes a local incident and extends it not only to allegorical proportions, but retains the Trek romanticism while it resists succumbing to the sentimentalism of dozens of silly imitation shows over the years.  An Orion slave girl, taking advantage of a dispute among her recent purchasers, kills the new owner who would have raped her.  The Enterprise rescues her from the drifting Tellarite vessel, and she proceeds to enchant the crew (Kirk included, naturally) with her pheromone-enhanced wiles.  The rhetoric of gender relations undergirds the script, and the threat of female power remains inescapable, but the story somehow escapes radical feminism and balances its themes in a way that would have made Gene Rodenberry proud.

The episode also does an excellent job creating moral ambiguity: given the laws of the Federation and perhaps even the Prime Directive, the crew is forbidden to interfere with her return to the slavemasters who sold her.  And yet, she gives a face to the thousands still under the thrall of the homeworld’s patriarchs.  Lolani herself, like so many women characters in literary fiction, remains a mystery until the end: part liar and manipulator, part sincere and helpless girl, worthy of the genuine love one crewman gives her.  Of course, the Captain wouldn’t be Kirk if he failed to make a pass at her along the journey.  In fact, many of the old tropes are present for the fans: the Vulcan mind-meld and neck- pinch, for example.  I have to admit to being disappointed that Kirk’s shirt wasn’t ripped during the fight scene–but then again, with a budget smaller than that of the original 45-year-old episodes, and adjusting for inflation–well, those things aren’t cheap.

The scripts of the old Trek were the reason for its longevity among fandom, and this tribute series follows suit.  While some may find the style hokey, I personally applaud the refusal to give in the cynicism and parody that invests so many of today’s remakes.  The production values: sets, costumes, special effects, music, lighting, and even a few stunts–really cannot be faulted by any reasonable viewer.  Some may wish for more professionalized acting, or folks who more closely resemble the original cast members–but naturally this would defeat the purpose of a fan-series, being both cost-prohibitive and elitist.  No one in the troupe’s ensemble cast fails to deliver competence, anyway, and guest stars like Sci-Fi vets Erin Gray and Lou Ferrigno are always welcome.  Naturally, such pros also deserve the thanks of fans everywhere for their contribution to keeping the Enterprise flying.

Visit the Official Site:

http://www.startrekcontinues.com/

And Kickstarter page:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/125377036/star-trek-continues-webseries

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Book Review: Write the Body–Post Rock Limestone Caryatids by Rachel Creager Ireland

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By Shawn StJean

Surely for not the first time in history, modern feminists proposed, forty years ago, that genuine women’s writing follows patterns that would seem alien to male readers: perhaps circular or spiral–or at least non-linear, non-phallic, and non-formulaic (this lack the greatest source of readerly anxiety: a defeat, though not a disappointment, of expectations).

Beginning with its title, one clearly not designed to enhance marketability (what genre is this?  Sci-Fi? Chick-Lit?  Naturalism?,) Ms. Ireland’s debut novel fits the non-pattern.  Although the setting eases us in–human beings living on the eve of the 22nd century, insulated, born into robotic nurseries and raised into cubicles and having contact only through computerized avatars via sanitized social networking and virtual sex, their bodies slowly falling to atrophy while the world outside slowly recovers from the human virus, in remission.  Meanwhile, privileged children are genetically modded and sponsored into Matrix-like docility/productivity as adults. Fans of political allegory and films like Neill Blomcamp’s Elysium or District 9, or anyone who’s ever simply slaved away in the human ice-cube-tray of an office building, should find plenty to satisfy their sense of satire here.

The plot, however, spreads its legs, so to speak: between a wealthy runaway escaping a controlling father to seek a free birth for her child, and a woman who abandons the cubicle life, following the death of her sister and loss of her infant niece to the state “corporocracy,” to go into the wilderness with an attractive, seductive politico-religious zealot.  One of the defamiliarizing aspects of the book is the consistent splitting of our attention back-and-forth, toward an eventual convergence in the great yonic center of our country, the Kansas prairie, the culmination simultaneously the most common and most miraculous of events.  Écriture féminine, indeed.

Male readers, especially, or any conditioned in the mode of phallogocentric writing, should not expect to find chase-and-gunfire narrative lurches and jerks, progressing hurriedly to an all-too-predictable climax.  As one of the protagonists learns in the company of natural childbirthers, patience, and release of control, form much of non-technological existence.

And the writing, at the paragraph and sentence level, frequently bares its beauty in a range from scatological to sublime, though in the least pretentious of ways.  One could read many passages as the journal of a writer who has herself plumbed both the mysteries and fears of homo sapiens childbirth, and the macro-birthing process of Mother Earth. Ireland could become one of the few legitimate woman naturalists–though this is only one of the book’s several modes–a tradition dominated by males in America since the 1870s.  (A scan through her author’s blog, http://veronicasgarden.wordpress.com/, will confirm this.)  “If Maeve were the only human alive, the only tragedy would be human, that is, that Maeve would be the last to witness to such immense beauty; yet this world would go on being beautiful, to itself, for itself, without suffering any loss.  It was somewhat reassuring to Maeve to know that the world was really that big, that her little human sufferings, meaningful as they might be to her, were really a very small part of the whole.”  Norris or Crane or Dreiser–all appreciative of the ironic scope of androcentrism that defines our species among the animal kingdom, would agree.

Buy it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Post-Rock-Limestone-Caryatids-ebook/dp/B00AWE6B8O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1366041370&sr=8-1&keywords=post+rock+limestone+caryatids

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Clotho’s Loom Full Cinematic Novel Trailer by Shawn StJean

I originally wanted to add some voiceover dialogue to this–perhaps one of these days. If you look, you can spot elements from different sections of the book: Flood (Water), Firmament (Air), and Forge (Fire–desert), as well as some bits borrowed from some popular Hollywood films.  Enjoy!

Palms: Poem by Shawn StJean

It’s been a long while since the inspiration for one of these breathed through me, but here’s a humble offering. I’m open to suggestions for revision.
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By Shawn StJean

Palms

Look at your the back of your left hand.
Take a good, hard scrutiny, with the eye you seldom use.

If you’re 20 years old, you may not spot a flaw.
Or, perhaps a small scar from a childhood wart removed,
Or a ridge from the time you punched a wall to demonstrate your anger.

If you’re 40, the veins may have begun their rise,
the skin may fissure a bit from countless scrubbings in dishwater,
and a finger may pale where a wedding ring once encircled it.
The joints begin to tighten now, and one night, a shooting jolt awakens you.

When you’re 60, a lifetime of work tells tales: my index finger is grooved
Where a die grinder sliced through my glove, nor does the wrist bend all the way.
I’ve lost my thumbnail three or four times, and the knuckles all show the pure white of healing.
I once trapped the whole between a cylinder head and engine block,
And the pain of that mistake returned me the gift of greater patience.

If 80 finds you able, and your eyesight can work around the cataracts,
Your hand may now resemble the hook, the claw, the tool you treated it as.
It may pain you relentlessly, or at odd times go scarily numb.
The fingers no longer function as a family unit, drop things,
Shake when your blood sugar falls, or even when it doesn’t
And you often find it stretched out to take what’s handed you (“damn pills.”)

Now, turn it over.
The palm, at any age, retains the curious perfection of youth.
Unless you’ve lead a particularly hard life,
The callouses will soften with a few weeks off.
Even the two-inch scar I have from when a dog chased me through a swamp
Cutting across my lifeline perpendicularly
Stretches over only half the hand that was so much smaller when I was ten.

Strange, this is the side that works thanklessly
Rakes leaves, catches balls deftly, or plucks up a single grain of rice.
But, when asked, it can also trace the cells in flower petals
and the fingerprint registers stubble on an unshaven cheek.

The back of the hand keeps pace with the rest of the body’s shell,
the sagging stomach, the smile less often seen amid jowls and poor teeth,
the bending backaches. But the palm. . .
The palm indicates the interior life within.
It grows more supple and sure with use and age,
Mature, potent, like a strawberry that tastes of wine as its outer skin wrinkles up.

Now, raise your right hand next to your left.
If you’re lucky, you find inverse twins
That have toiled and wrought together, stitched and sewn,
grappled and steepled in prayer, applauded your daughter,
dug in the earth for worms, pulled an oar, and a bowstring.
These things, and the rest, tinkered your spirit into its better functioning.
Monk-like, I copy a line from another man’s pen:
The motorcycle you’ve worked on is yourself.

Put them, now, to their best uses: Stretch out your hands to whomever you meet, grasp theirs,

Firmly and Man-to-man if that’s your style, or lightly if so, but no matter.
Embrace palms, and when called upon, palm the back of another’s hand in communion.
Massage your friend’s bad shoulder, comb and braid her hair.
And grip tight again, entwine fingers for a long moment, and hold fast, whether your paths lead together or apart.
We’re, none of us, old enough yet to cross the street alone.

Tetherbird by Emily McDaid FREE for Memorial Day

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Fellow novelist and friend of the blog Emily McDaid has launched her new novel with a generous e-book giveaway to honor this important holiday.  LINK: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D0GI7VA

From the description:

A Duke squares off with a damaged, dangerous war veteran in TETHERBIRD, a novel called “amazingly powerful and beautifully written.”

***
Former sniper Benjamin Cane’s life is ripped apart after his version of the Bin Laden assassination is disavowed by the Marines, written off as a conspiracy theory. Displaying symptoms that could be PTSD, the man who returns from war is an entity his wife Mackey struggles to comprehend. Following an accident with his twin boys that never should have happened, Benjamin leaves the service, his life in a tailspin.

A Duke in the stately Gloucestershire countryside offers Benjamin a job in security. Surrounded by characters as eccentric as they are paranoid, Benjamin tries to navigate an environment rife with guns and outdated class structures, feeling like flotsam as a new civilian without his family.

Grisly and emotional twists surprise in this poignant tale narrated by cynical war crimes journalist Stanley Tern, who enters Benjamin’s life to offer redemption and to pursue his own hidden agenda. Through layered, textured prose, TETHERBIRD asks whether our modern-day, gun-toting homelands may be more treacherous than any battlefield.