What’s in a name? Meet Rhodes

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Ron and I were exchanging jokes on the loading dock at the newspaper, the smell of newsprint and fresh ink creased the air. It was winter 2017 and the breeze caught the blue smoke from his cigarette and whisped it across the street where it scattered and dissipated over the muddy park. As usual, our conversation jumped from observations on people, basketball and stories from our old lives, including Atlanta’s dynamic music scene in the late 1990s, of which we both enjoyed and had small roles in.

I asked him if I could ask him some questions for my new book. Though he enjoyed Alexandria Rising, he still shot me a cursory look, not quite sure what the mad man had up his sleeve.

Ron was an army veteran, had his share of martial arts training and had tasted his share of street fights. I was developing a character to train Rand in some of the finer arts of hand-to-hand combat, but, like any smart author, always prefer getting authentic information from people, instead of only books.

He showed me a few moves. I asked questions. And more questions and more questions and Ron gave me a wary eye again a few times, not quite sure where I was going. Over the next 15 minutes, a few shiny cars filled with our fellow workers passed us by and we knew it was time to get back to work. It never bears good witness to be seen in the same place twice.

A few hours later, Rhodes was born.

 “So, this is him.” A deep voice came from behind them. Rand turned and was met by a tall man with the complexion of dark coffee. He had long arms and legs with the build of a basketball player, a couple of inches taller than Rand. But, he wasn’t skinny. Even though he was clothed in utilitarian tan cargo pants and T-shirt, Rand noticed the wiry muscles underneath his skin, ripples of tendon and muscle twisted over and across bone. He had bright, brown eyes. A two inch long goatee with sparks of grey mixed in. Rand knew the type. Could almost smell it on certain people. This man had the killer instinct. 

This scene is from when Rand meets Rhodes for the first time.

As I mentioned in prior posts, one of the most enjoyable things about written fiction is concocting names. It is by far one of the hardest, yet most fulfilling tasks of writing. Rhodes was one of those beautiful unexpected characters. By that, I mean when you begin a book, you may have an idea of the plot – which will change – and characters along the way – which change as well.

In his physical appearance and disposition, Rhodes drew a lot from Ron – though thankfully Ron is not nearly as intense as Rhodes, is more gregarious and quick with his wit.

The character Rhodes was also inspired by Coach Rodney Webb who I had the honor of playing basketball for at Monroe High School in North Carolina many moons ago. Coach Webb always had that push, that nudge – and sometimes not so subtle – to challenge you to do your best.

So, finally, back to Rhodes. How did I conjure the name Rhodes? It is a mix of Ron’s first and last name – which shall not be published here at his request. Rhodes also has connotations in the ancient world as the island and its immediate area is drenched in history and mythology. And if you’ve read the Appendices from Alexandria Reborn, Rhodes’s middle name is Reuel, which resembles Tolkien’s middle name as well. As many of you know, I love to give Easter Eggs to my favorite authors and since Ron is a fan of LOTR as well, this was an easy choice.

Want more?

The best way to get to know Rhodes, of course, is to read the Alexandria Rising Chronicles.

It’s Here. The final book in the trilogy is available now!

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You followed him across four countries where he discovered humanity’s biggest secret. Now, with the truth of his family revealed and Hope Lightfoot found, Rand O’Neal is looking forward to a life of peace and anonymity. But instead of solace and detachment, a new enemy with a familiar name emerges and he is forced to confront the forces behind the Slendoc Meridian a final time. Purchase it here. 

T.S. Eliot action hero? The mysterious Eliot Waterstone and his connection to Rand O’Neal

eliot progOne of my favorite introductory scenes in Alexandria Reborn is when Rand O’Neal meets Eliot Waterstone in The Library.

“I want to see you in the light,” the voice said.  “Just there. I want to see who’ve you become or, rather, who you are. The seed of The O’Neal’s.” 

As the voice spoke, a figure emerged from the shadows. A tall wispy man whose carriage was held up by a silver cane, the handle of it in the shape of a greyhound. The man’s body was not bony, but thin, whispery, almost like a wraith. He walked forwards, one hand on the cane, the other held above his head as if he was shielding off a drizzle of rain or blocking the sun.

Throughout the book, Eliot quotes lines from T.S. Eliot’s poems. A bit of ‘The Love  Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ here, The Wasteland there. It was intentional, of course. I joked with my wife as I wrote it that I was creating T.S. Eliot Action Hero. It was only a half-joke joke, because I wanted the wizard archetype in the shadows, the elegant assasin, the mage inside his self built cage.

Eliot’s past is mysterious. We know he knew Rand’s father and grandfather. We know he tutored the villainous Kent St. James at one point. But what else? A clue. If you have read the short fiction piece – free at this link – you will see that Waterstone has more than a passing connection. If you like Eliot, here are two spoiler free teases: Eliot will appear in a prequel set in 1983 with Mary Celest and Winston.

More importantly, he will appear in Alexandra Redeemed: Book 3 coming in March 2018.

The story behind Alexandria Rising Rhythms

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What is Alexandria Rising Rhythms? 

>>>It is instrumental music inspired by the novel Alexandria Rising.

>>> It is a unique album as it was written, recorded and mixed in four cities  spanning thousands of miles apart during a 10-month span.

>>>It has drawn comparisons to soundtrack music, ambient music and psychedelic rock and broke new ground in the creative recording process.

>>> It is available on all streaming services, iTunes, amazon and such and for purchase here.

So who are the people behind the names? Here is a quick look:

Mark Wallace Maguire – guitars, bass, synthesizers.

Clint J. Meador – drums, synthesizers, mixing and mastering.

Glen Denig – bass.   Allen Bell- synthesizers.

So, let’s get back to the origins of the process. Why make a music companion to the book? How did this evolve? What was the recording process like?

Maguire dreamt up the idea of a musical companion to the book in Winter 2017 and began testing the waters to see if anyone was interested. He had released two musical projects inspired by books before, including the lauded, ‘Art from the Silent Planet’ music inspired by C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy with the aforementioned Meador in 2015.

Maguire & Meador had also worked produced music for the podcast, ‘200 Seconds in Hell with C.S. Lewis’ and as part of the score for the indie film, ‘Tears of Bankers.’ Maguire calls Meador, “a wizard in the studio and the true backbone of Alexandria Rising Rhythms.”

Denig and Maguire had written and performed in bands and ensembles throughout the 1990s, in particular, the mercurial power trio, Green Tea Knives that toured in the Carolinas and Georgia in 1992 and 1993 and received airplay on various college radio stations.  Denig has played with every type of ensemble, band and choir imaginable and has been dubbed, “the world’s best unknown bass player” by many, including Maguire.

Bell has been a regular on the music scene throughout the Southeast in an informal role and, formally, as an arts administrator on many state and federal levels. Bell has a good ear and was able to contribute more than his opinions to this project when he played synthesizer during a session recorded in Ellijay, Georgia in June 2017.

Here are your requisite liner notes:

The Letter: This was the last piece I wrote. We needed a strong major chord piece on the album and I thought the idea of The Letter which spurs the whole adventure in Alexandria Rising would be a strong theme to play off of. I recorded the guitars and bass and then Clint added drums. At a remote recording event in north Georgia called the Ellijay Sessions in July 2017, Clint and I wrote the horns and strings you hear at the kick off of the second section.

The Cavern: This piece was extremely fun and intense to write. It also was written and recorded at the Ellijay Sessions. Clint set up an initial beat and effect, then Allen and I wrote the synthesizer parts in tandem live on the first take. Later we added more drums and additional guitar. Adding the guitar was a challenge since we did not know which key we wrote it in. I really enjoy the textures of this song and the mood it sets.

Ich Habe Die Macht: Wow. This was one of the first pieces of the album. Clint composed this piece and sent it to me. He really captured the intensity of The Slendoc Meridian and the reaction of the characters to it in the book. I love the intensity of this piece. Clint wrote it and sent it to me and I added guitars. Then, over the course of a couple of months, we sent it back and forth and did the final edit together during December 2017.

Hope: The third piece written and recorded at the Ellijay sessions, the drums and bass were written and recorded live on a third take before lunch. Later, that day as the sun set, the guitar part was added. This was probably my favorite to write since it was played live together and birthed during the course of a day. You can really hear the depth of the live recording on this one with the guitar and drums bouncing off of each other as they add echo and buoyancy in the piece.

Kent St. James: I sat down one night and wrote the nastiest, angriest, disjointed guitar parts in my soul. I didn’t know if it was too much, but Clint gave it the green light. He then added drums, bass and synthesizers. This piece is a guilty pleasure and I think captures the evil nature of the novel’s chief antagonist.

Ancient Scrolls: One of the first pieces of the project was sent to me in Fayetteville, Georgia all the way from North Muskegon Michigan courtesy of bass genius Glen Denig. Though it was the first piece, this one might have undergone the most editing. It was sent between the four of us over 10,000 miles over its nine month gestation. The final late addition was the drums which really add the gravitas to this piece. I find the mood of this piece the most intense on the album and a capitol way to end it.

 

‘This would make a cool movie’ – P.S. I Love That Book

Thanks to Lithuanian book review site P.S. I Love That Book for the review of Alexandria Reborn!  Reviewer Martyna gave the book four hearts – their version of four stars – and wrote – as many of you have said of both books, “I actually think this would make a cool movie.” One issue raised by Martyna was wanting more detail on characters, especially: “I liked Winston, but I wanted to know more about him.”  Well, fear not, good readers, I began a short fiction piece on Winston a few months ago. I will not get into the details of it, but will tell you it takes place in the early 1980s and features a few of the other characters as younger versions of themselves. It is slated for release late this year or early 2019, but, first we’ve got Alexandria Redeemed up coming later this winter.

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50 Shades of Finnegan’s Wake

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Finally, the mash-up you’ve never been waiting for! The best of hot, saucy contemporary American bodice ripping combined with the Avant Garde writing of James Joyce! Yes, it’s a preview of ’50 Shades of Finnegan’s Wake.’ Whether you’re a fan of steamy evenings with a jet-setting Lothario or early mornings with a cranky crindelled slush so and the bydicory o, get your post-Holiday lift here:

“Thondel’s flish flash of flesh in the doworty oh. Svelte seamless and the she river flaps southerly.  Bare chest heaving and hurtling with a nix girl and a blooming toomed barnacles to the kraters of young sky. Ferictictico! gestation of grins and glad hands glimmgering. glimmering! She does it slowly. Dowager don don the deed! Fe Fo Fum! To the bye and bye sweat salty sheets and the pixels panting pixies. picking pecking. en do dickery pacts and huemerangingbows.” 

 

 

Interviewed in the Blue Mountain Review!

Big ups and a major thanks to Clifford Brooks and The Blue Mountain Review for interviewing me in the latest issue of that gorgeous magazine. You can check out the entire issue here which is chock full of prime prose, poetry, interviews and art.

As a former journalist, I must say it was different, yet pleasant, being on the other side of the table. I’ve been interviewed prior on subjects ranging from “The Screwtape Letters” to advocacy for the disabled, but never been asked so many in-depth questions about my own writing, inspirations and my life the way Brooks pitched them. It was fun, though sometimes in my own head, I saw myself as Jimmy Rabbitte from the movie and book, ‘The Commitments’ as he interviews himself throughout that great Roddy Doyle creation.

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By no means, take any disrespect from old Jimmy in the bathtub, but humor and self-depreciation have always been my go-to defense mechanisms.

All that said, it was dad gum fun. The interview was part of the magazine’s member spotlight series where they profile new members of The Southern Collective Experience of which the magazine is affiliated with. I was recently accepted into the collective and am honored by be a part of a group of fine individuals.

I encourage you to read not only the interview, but the entire magazine. Brooks, who operates the magazine as part of collective, is a luminary for Southern culture and makes a point to provide art that is not only good, but also accessible.

Thanks to all for being part of the journey.

Meet Winston Worsley…

One of everybody’s favorite new characters in Alexandria Reborn is Winston, the ‘old cowboy’ as he calls himself who hails from west Texas. This is one of my favorite scenes when he first meets Rand and Rand discovers the other side of those who work with The Slendoc Meridian. (And, yes, a spin off book on his adventures is in the works)

“All right now, son,” Winston said. “You’ve heard enough of my story. Tell me yours. I have a feeling I might need this,” he lifted his glass in a silent toast.
“I don’t drink liquor.”
“No problem, chief ” he said as he grabbed Rand’s glass, tilted it and consumed it in a single swallow. “Ah, just the stuff. Now, get started.”
“Here’s the Cliff Notes version. My grandfather left me a map to destroy. I got chased. I got kidnapped. I was taken to The Castle. They found some of the Meridian through the map, then –”
“Slow down. Slow down. Slow down. Damn son.” Winston lifted a hand to his temple, closed his eyes. “Okay, start over. Your grandfather? What was his name?”
Rand hesitated.
“Come on. I’m all you got to trust right now. Are you just going to sit there like a stubborn mule all night? Shit, I’ve got a couple of guns down here. You want them as insurance? Would that make you feel better talking to me?” The man gave a chuckle. “I’m too old for this. Kidnapped? Chased? Austria? Just start over. Slowly. Who was your grandfather?”
“Henry O’Neal.”
The man sat there staring at Rand. His eyes slowly moving over his face. Studying him. Trying to peer into him, Rand thought, wanting to see if he was true. If his words were real.
“I’ll be damned,” a low whisper escaped from the man’s throat. “What? Did you know him?” Rand asked.
The man dropped his head, stared at the table. Twisted his lips
in a look of resolve. Locked his eyes on Rand. “So you’d be Andrew and Madeline’s boy?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Son of a bitch. Small world.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Looks like we have a lot of talking to do.”

1 year anniversary thoughts: Donning the PR hat, publishing econo and lots of thank yous!

one year finalbig ups to these businesses and outlets that supported the book this year!
One of the most challenging parts of running an indie press is you have to assume all the roles. You are not only the author, but also the graphic designer, layout chief, executive editor, marketing manager and, the hardest of all, the public relations team.
I say that, because working PR as in asking people to buy your book is very tough. That sounds odd, because if you thought your book wasn’t worth buying, you wouldn’t sell it to begin with, right? Of course. But, then the other side of the coin is you don’t want to say or post, “Hey, buy my book. It’s great!”
But you have to. Because if you don’t have a dedicated PR team or relentless agent, no one else will. And what I wouldn’t give for a good agent like B.B. Glazier from Frasier, right?
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FRASIER — “The Devil & Dr. Phil” Episode 21 — Pictured: Harriet Sansom Harris as Bebe Glazer — (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

But the bottom line is: You create something. It takes time and energy. Creativity. Years to hone your craft. And production. And therefore you want to be compensated for it. Even if it is only a couple of bucks. There is nothing wrong with that. You don’t go to a furniture store or a restaurant and ask the craftsman or chef, ‘Hey, can I get this for free?’ or ‘Why are you advertising?’ or ‘Why are you running a special?’
For some reason though, it is tough to put it out there when you are an individual artist. I won’t go into the psychological and social details here, but most writers I know are way too shy about doing this.
And as much as I dislike putting on my bowler hat, barking sales orders and putting out a virtual dancing balloon, you have to do it. I’ve been luckier than most in this regard and that I’ve had prior experience with this. I spent over a decade off and on writing and performing music. Back in the early 90s, I was in a band based out of Brevard, N.C. and being that we were all influenced by the punk rockers before us, we believed in touting our group with flyers announcing gigs, asked people to buy our demo tapes while on stage, performed free acoustic gigs to work off community service hours and, overall, in the immortal words of bass guru Mike Watt, “we jam econo.”
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The phrase was Watt’s slogan for his band The Minutemen in their early days when they built a following on low-cost record production, inexpensive touring and a real DIY attitude.
We jam econo.
We do it ourselves.
Don’t want to sign us to a major deal, okay we’ll do it on our own.
We’ll sell merchandise out of our van.
We still hold down day jobs and book the most inexpensive studio time.
All just to make it happen.
We jam econo.
That phrase has re-entered my vocabulary and consciousness the last year since Alexandria Rising was published in October 2016. After a serious bicycle accident which has still left chronic pain in one hand, I decided to quit waiting on the replies from ivory towered agents. So I founded my own press and published independently. Oh yes, I’ve spent money on advertising and promotions. But, as I’ve said above, I’ve also done every other job in relation to book publishing. I published econo.
And, it’s been a good year. The average book sells less than 250 copies a year and roughly 1 million books were published last year..  Alexandria Rising is on trend to cross the 1,000 mark by the end of October. Alexandria Rising has also been bought in seven countries, three continents and over 30 states. (I am trying to get an e-book to Antarctica by the end of the year by the way as I pen this.) The sequel dropped in August and the third and perhaps final book is slated to drop in less than six months. And I’ve been featured on several blogs, newspapers, podcasts and reviews. I’ve had book signings hosted by super local businesses that believe in supporting local art and culture. I’ve given readings at businesses that feel the same way.
And most of all, I’ve had wonderful friends and readers who’ve spread the word. And I am very, very grateful to everyone. Having the encouragement from real people means the world to me.
And your enthusiasm gave me the fuel to keep going even after dealing with degrading comments from snobby critics, pretentious academics and many farcical “arts organizations” who refuse to even glance at indie authors books.
So, I’ve relearned it’s okay to be your own PR man.
You got to do, what you got to do.
Why wait?
We jam econo.
I publish econo.
And it works. If the product is good, the people will come.
Thanks so much for coming.
Best, Mark Wallace Maguire