Monday, April 17, 2017

First Drafts and Passages

With the first draft  of a novel  put away to rest---or cure, or proof, or ripen-- for the next two or three months, I have been thinking about the way each book seems to bring to me an inner crisis.

Some books actually begin with the crisis: the thing I’m feeling a deep need to work out; a yearning and restlessness beyond any understanding or resolution except via the irrational magic of making it into a story somehow.

At other times the crisis gathers force only when I am well into the writing, and suddenly the narrative takes over most of my energy and focus, until the story is shaped, completed.  This can be exhausting, physically and mentally.

Each book has had its own arc of crisis and resolution, and with experience I have come to learn—to feel inside—the moment of passage. That’s when I know the first draft—what I call the story draft—is ready, along with its writer, to rest for a while.

As one who is fond of sky and water metaphors, I can describe it like this:  The story that forms and becomes visible is shaped by things unseen, just as the waves on the surface of a lake or sea take their shape and form and motion from the vectors of the wind and tides, from the shapes and proportions of whatever lies hidden below.

                            Island-  Mixed media collage and scan by Kevin Macneil Brown, April 2017.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunrise and Old Western Songs

The first day of spring is the official release date for my new collection of songs. This album gathers together western and Americana-style originals written and recorded over the past two years.


Sunday, February 05, 2017

Winter Light, Close to Home

 My focus this winter had been on writing, with mornings spent on a first draft of the sixth Liam Dutra  New England  mystery novel.
 I have nonetheless managed to find some time to paint, usually in the afternoons. These painting sessions have often become a sort of meditation on what is right here all around me-- a welcome respite from the immersed- in- another- world feeling that comes with writing fiction.
Here are a couple of recent watercolors.

Afternoon, Late January

Whiterock and Mount Hunger in Morning Light, January

Paintings by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor and graphite, 2017.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

New Year, New Light

                                                           First Light, First Day of the Year  
                                         Painting by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor on paper, 2017

It happens each year, of course, but I am always surprised at how noticeable the lengthening of the days and the strength of sunlight become,  just a couple of weeks past the winter solstice.

Another kind of light has found me in recent days also.  In December I was struggling to see my way further into the novel in progress. My production slowed way down-- despite a good start, I was feeling stuck.
 Just yesterday, however, something shifted. Here's what I wrote in my journal:

  ....logjam seems to breaking up...I think I need to just keep writing, letting the story come to me and take shape around the energy points that I do have in place already. It's a bit like a submerged mountain range: the high peaks are clear and visible, as is some of the ridge line. But there's a lot of mountain still beneath the water, waiting to be found. I've never had a story come to me this way before...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

December Voices

December brings to me the urge to turn inward. This year I have a new book in progress, and its voices and stories have been coming quietly and steadily. Thus, inward seems to be the right direction.
I thank all of you who visit this blog and partake of the words, art, and music I share here. I hope you'll be back in 2017.
I will close the year here by sharing some recent music. The first track is an ambient piece inspired by the snowy landscape and late-autumn light.
The second is a country song that tells a story inspired by an early morning moment and a glimpse of a stranger.
The third is a cowboy Christmas song in a vintage style.
I hope you enjoy listening.
I wish you the best for this season and the new year ahead.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

shimmer hymns: music lost and found

This past summer I spent a rainy day cleaning out a room I call the catch-all room. Finding a box of cassette tapes—mixes of music I had recorded and mixed decades ago-- and a working cassette player seemed serendipitous. I began listening. One tape in particular caught me, stirring up memories of late night into early morning sessions in the dark, catching moments while my then-young children were sleeping.

The music also stirred tactile memories of the simple tools I had used create it: Fostex four-track, a borrowed Guild Starfire guitar, a single Yamaha digital reverb box, various bells and hand percussion,  a Sure SM-58 Microphone ( still my main vocal mic on stage); a little Casio SK-1 keyboard, endless loop tapes designed for telephone answering machines.

These were pieces of music I had truly forgotten, and now they sounded good to me. I think they had fallen short, at the time, of what I wanted of them—I do remember that I was quite often frustrated by the limitations of cassette fidelity back then, during the clean-sound CD hegemony.

But now I find that I love the hiss, the odd compression, even the distortion of occasional tape saturation. And I notice how vari-speed of tape can be a flexible and expressive tool for changing pitch and timbre.  Most of all, I hear now that this music came out exactly as it was meant to, with truth of mood and emotion.

I hope I can take this as a lesson and apply it to current creative situations that might seem fraught with a sense of limitation and frustration; that I can recognize that what comes through is usually what needs to come through. With all this in mind, I’ve released these three songs just as I found them on the old cassette. -KMB

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Reading and Book Launch, October 18 at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library

I hope you can join me at the Kellogg- Hubbard Library in Montpelier,Vermont at 7 PM on October 18 for a reading and book signing to celebrate this year's harvest-- the fifth book in the Liam Dutra New England Mystery series. The event will also include a discussion about the process of writing fiction inspired by depth of place, and a question and answer session.