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August 5, 2007

I was away for three weeks during July–we spent nine days with my family in Florence, SC (with a day trip out to Huntington Beach for some sandy Atlantic fun); three days visiting friends in Hendersonville, Asheville, and Black Mountain, NC, and then nine days in Boone, NC with Gwyn’s family up in the mountains. Very restful, and much fun to see family and friends. In particular it was good to reconnect to David LaMotte, who I’ve been in sporadic touch with, but who I haven’t actually laid eyes on since before Ian was born. The mountains were beautiful and cool; we spent some time splashing in streams and having picnics:

After a twenty-five hour journey, for which we have the incompetent screw-ups who run Northwest Airlines to thank, we got home on the 29th. And then rehearsals for the Urban Harvest gig. Ian and I played an hour-long electric show, the firs time I’ve played electric guitar on stage since I played with Stoutboy for one gig in 1992. It was much fun–here’s a pic:

Thursday’s Urban Harvest also marked Eva’s singing debut. She sang “Sidewalks of New York” for the Urban Idol talent show. She didn’t place, but she sang beautifully. She opted out of singing with us during the set, but maybe next week.

We’ve got a few more shows coming up. Wednesday August 8th we’ll be playing at Custer Park in Bismarck as part of the Brown Bag concert series at 12pm. Then on the 16th, Ian will perform a drum solo for the Urban Idol finals downtown before giving out the awards, and then over to the Public Library where we’ll do a set for the library’s annual ice cream social.

There’s another show downtown in September, possibly with our friend Aaron on saxophone, and one in February at the mall. Ian’s pretty stoked to be playing so much, and he’s sounding good. We’ve added an old Cars song to the set, which is really fun to play, and are going to add “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” this week.

And that’s a brief (very brief) summary of what’s been going on. I’ve been working on the London book while on vacation, and got quite a bit done working during the mornings. I visited my publisher in Jefferson, NC while we were in Boone, and was shown the royal treatment. Gwyn and I got shown around the offices by David Alff, my editor, and met everyone from the president to the designers to the printer before going out to lunch with David and Carl, the publicist. I felt like a real author.

I’m also working on the novel and a short story. I’m hoping to establish a consistent writing routine this semester to divide work between each of my projects. McFarland has extended my deadline until October 1st; I’m really committed to keeping this deadline, as going later will mean I miss being part of the spring catalog. Keep your fingers crossed.

In between, I’ve been absorbing books, music, and TV. Gwyn and I watched the entire run of Freaks and Geeks, which is every bit as good as I’d heard. Like Joss Whedon’s Firefly, Freaks and Geeks is head and shoulders better than many shows that don’t get canceled before finishing their first season.

Even better is Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which I read during the vacation. It’s astonishing that Strange is Clarke’s first novel–it’s one of the best fantasy novels I’ve ever read. Clarke’s narrative voice–a sort of Jane Austen pastiche–is simultaneously wide-eyed and knowing, the story itself a fully realized alternative history complete with footnotes. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Presently I’m reading David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green, which is just as good but in a radically different way. It’s a year in the life of a thirteen year old boy in a sleepy townlet in middle England, told in lovingly recreated 1982 British teen slang. I’m half-done right now. I’m also re-reading Forster’s A Passage to India, which like all Forster is insightful, funny, poignant, and full of fully-rounded characters and stunning passages of descriptive prose. I’m a hundred pages from the end of that one.

Music-wise, I have to recommend Free Planet Radio’s New Bedouin Dance, a hybrid of jazz and middle-eastern music from Ashevillians Chris Rosser, Eliot Wadopian, and River Guerguerian. Ian and I saw River play drums with David LaMotte a couple of weeks ago, and we bought the Free Planet Radio CD at David’s merch table. Jump over to their website and take a listen.

Whew! That’s enough for now. I’m back at home now, and so will blog more often. Hopefully that means a few entries with content that steps outside the catching up mode of the last few.

Say hi if your stopping by. We’re a long way from most places, and it’s good to hear from friends…

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