The Petting Zoo

Last year, the year before and most likely every year before that for the last five or six years, I have promised myself I would buy less books. I thought the same this year too. The only reason for this is because I have so many of them and need to cut back around the house but how is a man supposed to read the things he wants to if he doesn't buy them?

Yeah, yeah... it's fine shifting to a kindle or iBooks full time but that only works if you have a penchant for what the world wants to sell you and today, I want to read this:

The digital device does not appreciate a work such as this, though if I look in at the world from on high, I'm convinced that this was the remit of the digital reader before everybody figured out they could make money from it and the algorithm took over.

Anyway... I bought a copy of The Petting Zoo. If you like what somebody like Patti Smith does poetically and autobiographical musings, Jim is just the man to fire up the poetical cylinders. Here's a clip of him performing People Who Died. If all performance poetry was like this, I would be out every night of the week.

Watching this has given me some ideas about where to take Deadbirds. That's all I have to say on that for the time being.

Sion Smith
Life In Reverse

I picked this up today. Mr Hepworth has a way with words I like a lot so I'm looking forward to chewing this up across the next few days.  

Having spent the last few days doing some serious 'admin' work on myself and the far flung future, I'm also very much looking forward to this coming weekend where we (collectively) play host to the Great British Tattoo Show at Alexandra Palace. Always a good show, always good to catch up with friends not seen for weeks, months and sometimes years... and always good to spend each morning drinking coffee and eating croissants on the street before the madness ensues.

In the tiny space between these two things, yesterday I pulled together a new t-shirt design for the Big Bear Rescue project from my lovely friend Hannah Willison which I'm really stoked about. It's very different from the previous shirts and I hope people love it as much as I do. 

Which means I'm now out of collateral and will be hunting down new designs for the summer sometime next week... and I have some great ideas lurking. I hope I can pull them off. 

Le Fin. For now...

Sion Smith
Dog Tales

Out with Hector this morning, we walked past a bush where it sounded like somebody was mowing grass but it turned out to be a swarm of hornets.

That's the end of the story. We didn't hang around.  

Meanwhile, it's been an odd week. GCSE exams are upon 'us', so much so that I am more concerned about Rhiannon doing hers than I was about doing my own. Which seems to be the way it filters down the line because she doesn't seem too concerned at all. Her only worries are about whether the prom dress that's been ordered is a) going to arrive on time and b) fit. 

Maybe that's how things should be when you're 16. All I was concerned about back then was getting to see Kiss but I have no such concerns anymore. Tickets are in the bag and it's two weeks today... and she is coming with me. I hope it doesn't spoil the rest of her concert going life but more than that, I hope she doesn't think it sucks. That would be the worst thing ever.

Yesterday surprised me as to how much I was touched by Chris Cornell. I thought I was untouchable by such things but apparently not. I couldn't get it out of my head for most of the day until the only way to get it out of my system was to write - the end result being a song called The Mourning After. Work continues on that front. Lyrics finished, chords being played with across today and who knows what I might do when it's finished. 

I might post it here for public consumption, which sounds far preferable to performing it live via Skype to a select audience in LA as a friend who lives there suggested last night - though there is something rather tempting about such a thing. 

File under pending.

Sion Smith
Wicked City

There comes a time in every man's life when he has to stand up and be counted.

If that means showing your true colours as a lover of 80s Sunset Strip rock n roll, then so be it. Those of us who lived through it (and spent all their money on imported albums) don't call it 'hair metal' - that's a nasty buzzword invented by somebody who probably doesn't have hair anymore.

It was just rock - and It Was Everything.

Fast forward to present day and if you had told me you could make a crime show out of such a thing that didn't suck diesel all the way to the bank, I would have laughed in your face - and yet here I am loving every moment of Wicked City.

It started forever ago in the US (October) but over here, you can find it on SKY/NOWTV and it looks like this:

I'm only the pilot episode in so far, but it has a great soundtrack, 'fake' bands playing the Whiskey as a backdrop (two minutes in we have Mickey Ratt and a cameo by Stephen Pearcy - like I said, I would have laughed in your face...) and well, if you care about such things, you're already reaching for the remote to see what I'm talking about.

But... if you don't care for the hair, it's still a wonderful looking dirty crime show and that's not to be sniffed at. I should have written this show but I'm quite happy to sit back and watch the fruits of somebody else's labour.

Note: While it's not exactly True Detective or as authentic as Bosch (and if you haven't binged that, why are you still here?), it definitely good enough.

Talking of music, a decade or so later, Mark Lanegan turned up in Screaming Trees and is still making fine, fine albums today - this came out last week (I think) and in case it slipped under the radar, you should hunt it down and feel very pleased with yourself. Well, that's how I felt.

Meanwhile, a lack of posting here over the last few weeks is the fault of being busy and not watching TV as it may appear from the above. Things in pipelines, writing, writing, writing - with guitars as well as a pen - have kept me occupied in the best way possible.

More later in the week...

Be kind to each other.

Sion Smith
The Dark Stuff

I finally went to the store and bought myself some glasses. Do you know how difficult it is to choose a pair of glasses? Half an hour later thinking I had made the right choice, I took them to the counter to do the paperwork thing for the lenses only to be told I had chosen a pair that meant I could get another pair free.

After half an hour in there already, I didn't much have the stomach for that, so I just ordered two pairs exactly the same. They will be ready for collection at the beginning of next week. Will they help me play better guitar? Doubtful. Will they spark a chain reaction in my brain that fires up great stories that will bring accolades to my door? Also doubtful, but they may sharpen the edges on things I come across in the world... like exactly how close the car in front is. 

Last night, I discovered a horrible truth about myself. I have been keeping myself locked in an open prison made entirely of paper. 

I dug out all of the notebooks I had ever begun projects in and laid them out on the table - there were a lot and it looked impressive. All of them contained either vague story ideas, a few chapters of a book that didn't have legs, half written songs, lists of things to do... some of them had good stuff inside too. Poems, chapters of value... 

Anyway, I came to realise that somewhere inside of this head, I carry around the weight of all of these unfinished things like an albatross. Once I figured this out - and it was a bit of a lightbulb moment - I tore out all of the pages that needed typing up and threw all of the notebooks and whatever half-assed work was still in them into the box in the kitchen otherwise known as 'recycling'. 

Liberated is how I feel at no longer having ghosts haunting me from the safe distance of a shelf. I have four notebooks left now. These have 'Big Work' inside of them that needs typing up but once I catch up with myself, these can go the same way and then, perhaps one notebook at a time is a good idea. I could always go digital, but that's not really me at all. 

A man who wears glasses should always be seen to be writing with a pen.

Before I forget, I discovered the talents of Peter Callesen earlier today. On the off chance that you might be feeling pleased with yourself about how talented you might be, here's some of his work:

...which certainly put me in my place. Man, I love paper cuts. 

Hmm. All of those words above, I wrote yesterday and meant to post it up this morning. The day kind of took over though and by the time I've gotten around to pressing the Go Button, my glasses arrived. That's pretty good in a world that's mostly not so good at doing what it says it's going to do. I'm impressed.

I'll take a picture sooner or later but I most definitely need at least half a shave before I attempt such folly. I have to tell you though... being able to see the edges on the world around you is quite the revelation. Who knew! 

With what's left of the day, I'm hitting the 12 string thing for an hour or two and then I'm going to bury myself in this - which I swear I only glanced at earlier to see what it was like and lost an hour. If you're lagging behind under the covers with a torch at night, this has turned out to be a great crime series:


I have finally finished The Novel (one of them anyway). It's taken me something like four years in all... I thought I had finished it a couple of years back and let maybe a dozen people read that version of it because, well, feedback is important when you're working in isolation. Nobody was sick, died, did a United Airlines on me or sent it back, so I took that as a good sign that at least it didn't royally suck.

The best advice I ever saw about writing a book is this: when you think you've finished it, throw it in a drawer and forget about it for six months before you read it again. This I have done. Twice. I guarantee, the distance between you and that 'final' piece of work will dictate how good your book is. If you read a lot, you'll see the holes in it easily... and those are holes you really don't want an agent or a publisher to see that's for sure.

Which brings me to the point of this particular post. The book now needs to be out in the world doing what books do... and to do that properly means being represented by an agent and on that front I discovered something else equally as valuable as that previous advice.

Some agents will ask for a few paragraphs in synopsis, some will ask for a full page... but some will ask for a detailed synopsis: chapter by chapter. So requested one of the agents I would love to work with. Thus, I sat down to work through the book and do this very thing. If you've ever done this, maybe you found the same as I have:

Chapter Sixteen: Jesus. Hardly anything happens in this chapter. There isn't anything to actually write about it that I want to tell anybody... that I can tell anybody...

Then you have two choices. Kill it or rewrite it. If there are some things that are relevant but most of it is dull, I guess you could include the important information in the previous chapter or work it in somewhere else but I found exactly this scenario with of my two chapters. I threw them in the bin without a second thought and honestly, it didn't make any difference to the story. I'm not even sure why I wrote them in the first place. There was some good material in there but it didn't add anything to the big picture. 

Just because there's chocolate in the cupboard doesn't mean you have to include it in the cake - particularly if there are stronger flavours already in there. 

Being an editor of a magazine, I do this a lot. Regardless of personal opinion or who wrote it or what the writer says about it. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. The only thing that matters - ever - is the person who bought your book/magazine. That's what the words are for... somebody else, otherwise you may as well keep a personal journal under your mattress and be happy with that. 

And as odd as it may seem, what you leave out is sometimes way more important than what you put in. I've read novels (and ditched them) that are drowning in paragraphs and chapters that are so dense it takes all the enjoyment out of reading. 

I guess at this point, we could all sit here and say 'but you've never published a book before' and you would kind of be right. My books here all went through this process anyway. I choose to publish them myself because there's a limited audience for afternoons I spent with bands and/or hard-boiled travel writing, but I didn't learn nothing at all from 14 years of editing magazines.

Just a few observations that might be useful if you're in a similar boat. 

I've never been through this process before. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens. I suspect being a literary agent is a lot like being Catherine Zeta Jones lost in an all male sports college. Everybody wants to ask you out just because they are male.

Note to self: Don't ever write a book about analogies.

Sion Smith