(2016) Best of Last Year

It’s time for the (2016) Best of Last Year mixlist!

It’s rare (exceedingly rare) that I get the playlist finalized before June. Life (in the form of kids, wife, job, inherent and pervasive laziness) tends to take over. Not this year, though! I murdered my wife and kids which caused me to lose my job! (Just kidding.)

I was surprised by this year’s list. Some decidedly “Top 40” tracks made their way in, but it was through the brilliant, musical mastery of the artist. My favorite album of the year ended up being the soundtrack to a musical I haven’t seen. And peppered between are new tracks by long-loved artists and undiscovered tracks that wouldn’t let me go.

See the playlist and listen to it on my (2016) Best of Last Year mixlist.

(2015) Best of Last Year

Every year I evaluate the best of the music I discovered during the previous 365 days. My aim is to get the playlist finalized in January, but life usually exerts itself instead. And this is it! The moment you’ve all been waiting for! The (2015) Best of Last Year mixlist!

(Yea! Hurrah! Awesome! Uh, what… what is this, now?)

Some old favorites released disappointing albums in the past year, while some up-and-comers released phenomenal ones. Ben Folds and Death Cab for Cutie both had new releases that failed to resonate with me. Meanwhile, Cold War Kids, The Decemberists and Shakey Graves really brought it home.

There’s some EDM, some covers and even some French hip-hop in the mix (so to speak). I guess there’s a little something for everyone! (Unless you really love polka; there’s no polka.)

See the playlist and listen to it on my (2015) Best of Last Year mixlist.

How Blaine Hancock Saved My Novel

NOTE: If you’re reading my novel and don’t want any details surprised, then you should come back to this post after you read chapter eight. This article contains spoilers.

Ten days into NaNoWriMo 2014, I wrote:

By any definition, I had written a lot. I’d been keeping pace with my daily word counts and had a lot to show for it. Chapter seven closed with both main characters having just experienced major life events. I needed a rest, and they needed time to grow up.

I pinwheeled, trying to decide what to do, where to go, how to continue. That evening I did not write. Hoping to maintain some momentum, I rearranged character sheets in Scrivener. I hacked a book cover in Pixelmator. I stalled for time, then I had to go to bed.

The next day, I faced the same issue. It hadn’t disappeared overnight. Perhaps a new character was necessary, someone who would play an important role later. Maybe an FBI agent investigates the bridge collapse. Maybe a shadowy head of state or business tycoon barks orders to a known secondary character. Maybe a small child plays with dolls in a greenhouse, rationalized later.

No inspiration hit me, but I had to keep writing, so I did something scary. I opened the name generator and created Mike, Janelle and Blaine Hancock. I created “Ch 8, Part 1” and started to write, having no idea who these people were.

Janelle is pregnant and nearly full-term. She’s complaining about how certain she is that her water broke, despite the repeated assurances by medical staff that it hasn’t. Responding to a nurse’s indelicate suggestion, Janelle says, “I didn’t piss myself. My water broke.”

Then I realized what I was doing. After I got stuck, a part of my brain must have started working on the problem. The more conscious part of my brain was so overwhelmed and negative that it couldn’t hear what the other part was coming up with.

I had a guy nicknamed Flame who harnessed uncontrollable fire. I had a woman nicknamed Frost who may (or may not) have power over cold. And now I had Blaine Hancock, the rising tide of Flood.

What’s amazing to me is that I had this solution in my head, but it wasn’t until I turned off my thinking and started to write that I discovered it. I had to get quiet enough to hear my story.

I finished chapter eight, and I certainly have enough material for three more chapters introducing this (and another) new character. Then I have some questions to deal with: why do they all have these powers, what do they mean to each other, and what is their overall purpose?

Uneasy questions that I’m sure I’m working on now. But that’s another story.

NaNoWriMo 2014

True to my word from last year, I’m still writing, and that means more NaNoWriMo. Last year I finished in high fashion by actually completing my novel (which I still haven’t edited). This year I hope to succeed again.

I’ve learned some lessons from last year. I hope to manage my time better, although trying to get some words written is a sure sign to your child that they should be trying to get your attention. I plan to circumvent this issue by writing early in the morning, during their naps and late at night. In other words, I’ll be exhausted come December 1st.

Follow my progress on the NaNoWriMo website. If you want to read along, you can follow my novel on Write On by Kindle.

(2011) Best of Last Year

2011 was a good year for music for me. I don’t think I’ve experienced this much musical growth in years, and it was thanks in large part to everyone I reached out to with my musical cry for help nearly a year ago. Another boon to my music-listening repertoire was the availability of Spotify, a free music streaming service opened to American listeners for the first time this year.

What this produced was a line-up of highly recommended music from trustworthy friends and a huge library of penalty- and cost-free music to sample from any computer with power. These two forces combined to bring you: (2011) The Best of Last Year.