Monday, November 26, 2007

Chicago and the 1986-1994 Era

Over at one of the boards devoted to the band Chicago, there was a question regarding eras in the band. The question was whether or not the years 1986-1994 constitute and era. Here is my response.

I actually do consider 86-94 a distinct era...and here's why.

86-92 (with Jason and Dawayne in the band, keep the *rock* aspect of CHI alive) saw the band continuing in the vein started by Foster/Cetera: less horns, more ballads, culminating in the Arsenio performance of "You Come to My Senses." I think after that (and the zero performances of any tune from 21 in concert) that the band decided to go to the studio and make a record they wanted to make, not a record (a la 21) that the suits wanted them to make. Granted, 21 has some signs of what SOS was to be (If It Were You, God Save the Queen, Who Do You Love) but way too many songs that was the "typical Chicago sound" of the 1980s.

So they all get in a studio with a producer and create something from their heart and soul. Songs that rocked (SOS, The Pull); songs with heart (BTE, HWM); songs with rap (SITMOTBA); songs with funk (Mah-Jong); songs with a message (CFTL, ATY); songs as close to hard rock/metal that they'll ever get (GOT); and even a now traditional ballad (LTAL). Chicago 22 had it all. They loved it, they were proud of it. It was, to me, the most personal album Chicago had made since VII (when they basically made an LP for themselves [1st] and an LP for the radio [2nd]). SOS was the most adventurous CD since VII. They were ready to redefine themselves as a rock band.

Then, the suits knocked CHI to their knees. The suits shelved the CD because 'it didn't sound like Chicago.' I bet these were the suits who thought 16 was CHI's first album. The band's reaction was where we are now. Dawayne left CHI and, to me, Chicago ceased to become a ROCK band with horns. CHI then became, I hate to admit it, an oldies act. Their soul was gone. Now, they just went through the motions.

Granted that N&D and 25 showed incredible talent in arranging and performing (N&D tour was awesome, especially the unplugged part) but the band's heart was not in it. Even the '2 New Songs' from the HOC and XXVI CDs (good songs, mind you) were cut from the 'now traditional Chicago sound' mold. And then, with XXX, you did get some decent songs (tracks 7-12) that harken back to the good old days. But you can tell where the focus was: the new, traditional Chicago sound (tracks 1-7). I mean, serious, why would you *even* create a single by *Chicago* without horns?

These guys are immensely talented. Just witness the various solo CDs. But as far as Chicago goes, they are taking it easy. And, shoot, why not? They are in their 60s and make a great living playing great songs to great fans.

So, yeah, to me, 86-94 was an era. And now we're in another era: 95-end. But no matter what, this band is, and will forever remain, my favorite band.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Novel Update

Since my last entry, I've only written about 400+ new words. As of today, I'm stopping the old/new words list. It's now just total words. No, that's not the way NNWM's supposed to be but there it is.

Why? Because I now know my entire book in my head! I have mapped it all out, scene-by-scene, with Acts I, II, III. I've got the grand finale and, I think, a fantastic ending. It's full speed ahead from now on. Who knows? I might even finish this puppy by 30 November.

For the sake of numbers, I'm up to 14,247 words.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

NaNoWriMo - Update 2

I got some great feedback from my writing group last night. I gave them my new Chapter 2.

NNWM Word count = 3500
Total word count = 11,400

Monday, November 5, 2007

NaNoWriMo - Word Count Update

During my lunch hour, I banged out my new chapter 2 and revised my old chapter 3. Remember: I am only counting *new* words for the sake of the NNWM month.

New words = 2810.
Total words (including previous material) = 6400.

The beauty of my storyboarding technique is that I never have to ponder what to write when I have a chance to sit down and write. I look at the next scene in line, visualize it, and write it down. And, to be honest, when I'm in the process of writing a book, I'm rarely not thinking about it. As a result, I visualize many scenes in advance. So my writing time is merely recording of the details of the scenes already in my head. I have 38+ scenes mapped out that will take me to the 90% mark of the book. I know the ending (I think) but I'm leaving the last 10% open to chance.

This is the first time since I finished my first novel in June 2006 where all the cylinders are firing and writing--the actual business of typing words on a page, not just the conceptualizing--is fun again.


NaNoWriMo - Update

Okay, so I did not get off to a good *writing* start. I have yet to write a *new* word. (I say "New word" because, as I mentioned, I have already started portions of this book. I just plan to finish it in this month.)

However, I did get off to a great structural start. As of today, I finally have the entire book mapped out, scene-by-scene, from the beginning to the end. So I think the weekend was a success. I ran the overview by my wife and got the thumbs up. So, today, I start writing new words.

This is very exciting.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

NaNoWriMo and That Previously-mentioned Rut

Well, it turns out that the rut was deeper than I expected. No sooner than I had two great ideas and a method for my approach to the writing of both projects that I began to second guess myself. Not a good things for a writer to do.

My biggest obstacle was doubting the connection in my main story, the Houston crime story with my female detective. There were scenes and events that, to *me*, seemed coincidental. When I brought that up with my author friend, Victoria Graydale (see links), she commented that come of the things I deemed coincidental or too easy were not. Wonderful encouragement. Makes my original story ideas seem okay.

So, how to start again? Well, why not join NaNoWriMo? Two of my friends are signing up and I guess I got swept up in their enthusiasm. Granted, I have already started writing my second novel so I won't be starting from the proverbial blank page. But I will be complying with the spirit of the game if not the letter of the law. Whatever word count number I come up with, I'll basically write 50,000 words beyond that. So, I'll end up with a 50,000+ book but I will have written 50,000 new words this month.

I expect NaNoWriMo to accomplish two things for me. One, I expect to complete my second novel in 30 days. Then, I can begin editing it. Two, I expect to get back in the habit of writing something, anything, every day. This blog will be part of that. That will make this blog more fun to visit as I'll be blogging about the NaNoWriMo experience.

Then there is this other thing. I fancy myself as a wanna-be crime novelist and that does include the pulp fiction aspect. I just picked up the latest Hard Case Crime novel, Mickey Spillane's last novel, "Dead Street." (There's a nice review here at Entertainment Weekly). Back in the day, writers churned out short stories in days and novels in weeks. And they kept doing it over and over. It enabled their job to be writer rather than something else. Even modern writers such as Charlie Huston have commented that the pace of their writing enables their career. I finished my first novel in June 2006 and I have yet to write my second. It's infuriating because the only person to blame is myself.

Now, I'm taking charge again. I want to be a professional writer. To do so, I need to write. To date, I have not. That changes. Today.

And I'm off...