Sunday, July 29, 2012

Then Came The Sun by Trainwreck In Sarasota.

I've talked about the work of singer/songwriter Rob McCann previously when I took a look at his d├ębut E.P. "The Narrow Escape" back in 2011. Under the stage name of "Trainwreck In Sarasota", I enthused about his talents as a songwriter at the time, but I was also taken by his exquisite talent with the guitar combined with his nuanced vocals which made him one of the stand out musicians of 2011. 

Well, Rob is back and has just released a follow up E.P. entitled "Then Came The Sun" via his Band Camp portal.

The E.P. comprises four tracks of unadorned beauty, again showcasing McCann's skill as a song smith, instrumentalist and vocalist. Recorded, once again, in a stripped back fashion in Oklahoma, McCann delivers a varied musical palette that, from a story perspective, traverses themes such as reflection, determination self doubt and questions of endurance in an industry that favours polish over substance.

His vocals are complex as he marries them with superb guitar instrumentals that are acoustically wondrous. His chord progressions a crisp and he favours a use of minors and sharps over straight up conventional chord groupings which makes for a more interesting sound form. 

As I was listening to Then Came The Sun, I was reminded of a passage from "Every Man For Himself by author Beryl Bainbridge. 

'Think of music," he said. "Why is it that we are most moved by those works composed in a minor key?" 

It's a obscure reference I know but it is entirely apt.

I really wish that I had been acquainted with Rob's work during the period in which I was writing The Hambledown Dream. In early incarnations of the novel, I'd expanded my protagonist, Andy DeVries, repertoire to include both vocals as well as guitar but I opted to go for a pure instrumentalist in the final cut of the novel. If I had known of Rob's work back then, I most certainly would have infused his musical influence into my characterization.  

McCann is an artist in the truest sense and there is a patience and deliberate quality to his compositions that is so appealing because it is honest. Honesty in music is an increasingly rare commodity. 

"Then Came The Sun" can be purchased from Rob's "Trainwreck In Sarasota" Band Camp portal. How this works is that purchasers can nominate an amount they would like to pay for the artists work and are then able to checkout securely. It's a wonderfully democratic way to purchase music, so long as one respects the time, effort and sweat the artist has put into their work. 

In the case of "Trainwreck In Sarasota", no less than his heart has been poured into these tracks, so it is deserving of a proper reward.

Buy "Then Came The Sun" here.

Follow "Trainwreck In Sarasota" here.

Tweet "Trainwreck In Sarasota" here.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Optus - Making The Possible, Impossible.

I am sitting here on the floor of my room, like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now chanting over and over 'the horror...the horror'.

In Australia, telecommunications consumers have the choice of several providers for their home phone, mobile and internet needs. Optus is one of those companies. SingTel Optus Pty Ltd. is the second largest telecommunications company in Australia, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Telecommunications (ASX: SGT). The company primarily trades under the Optus brand, while maintaining several wholly owned subsidiary brands, such as Virgin Mobile Australia and Boost Mobile in the mobile telephony market, Uecomm in the network services market and Alphawest in the ICT services sector. 

They are a formidable brand and I have been a customer of theirs for my mobile communications for the past 7 years.

On the 11th July, I was offered the opportunity to re-contract early (without penalty) with Optus for another 2 years on one of their latest business plan offerings - the $89/month Timeless Mobile Plan. What was specifically attractive about this plan was that included 50Gb of free home broadband internet along with a free Wifi Modem and free connection. On the face of it, the plan seemed like a really good one and seeing an opportunity to save significantly on my mobile and home broadband (which up until then I was paying a combined $130AUD/month) as well as having the opportunity to own the flagship smartphone from Samsung - the Galaxy S3. I decided to take up the offer.

Now, I explained to the sales representative in the store that,currently, my home phone was with another provider as was my internet, on the same, single phone line and I queried whether I would need to make any significant changes to the line. He enthused in reply "no worries, no worries at all – we can switch you offer with no problems and can get this done quickly for you".

Upon signing me up, he explained that the free Netgear Wi-Fi modem would be delivered to my house in 5 to 7 days and he booked a technician in for the 24th of July to come to my house and "activate the line, set up and configure my modem". I said "great" and left the store feeling reasonably happy - even though there was some trepidation at the prospect of cancelling my internet account with my Adelaide based ISP Internode, which have been a solid performer over the 10 years I've been with them. I guess economics won me over. 

Now - fast forward to Friday the 20th July - late last week. The Netgear Wi-Fi modem hadn't arrived at my house and I was a little nervous so I rang Optus' Indian based Customer Service Center to find out when it would be delivered. After
90 minutes and 8 separate transfers within the Customer Service ecosystem, I was told that the modem "would arrive eventually" and not to worry.

I was a little worried...after this.

So I phoned the Optus Store where I had originally been encouraged to sign up and spoke to the sales rep I had dealt with and he said "leave it with me". A half an hour later, he rang back saying cheerily, "don't worry, don't worry, the technician will bring it with him on the 24th" - which was the scheduled date for the activation and install.

So I waited over the weekend until yesterday, the 23rd when – as advised by Optus – I cancelled my internet service with my current provider, Internode, in preparation for the activation today - being the 24th. I also rang Optus, just in the hope that I could narrow down the time that the technician would be arriving at my house. They told me they couldn't do that because they don't have access to that information, but then they asked me if I'd received my modem yet. I said no – I was told last week that the technician was bringing the modem and he would be setting it up for me. The Optus Customer Rep on this occasion said no that is wrong – I would be receiving the modem via courier and that
I would need to set up the modem myself. 


I said –
that isn't what I was told by the Optus Store previously. The Optus CS rep said the instructions for setting up the modem are very simple and you should have no trouble.

So this morning – the Technician arrives to activate my phone line for the Optus broad band service and, right away, he asks me if I am disconnecting my land line. I said no and asked why I should do that? The Technician explained to me that he can't activate the Optus service on my line because it needs to be a dedicated data line. The only way I can do it is to sacrifice my voice line and make it a data line. My wife and I stare blankly at one another. Now, I couldn't do that because we need the landline at the house.
The technician explained then that I would have no other option but to cancel the activation.

He rang Optus on my behalf to confirm that he couldn't go ahead with the activation for the reasons he explained and proceeded to cancel the activation with my blessing.

I now have no home broadband. I rang Optus' Indian based customer service center, and spent another two hours on the phone, only to be told that I now can't have Optus broadband as specified in the $89 Timeless Mobile Plan. I was told by the CS rep that I should have said to the sales person in the Optus Shop back on the 11th of July that the line into my home was a voice line with an active service on it. I told them I did (read earlier). The CS rep had the temerity to say "you couldn't have". 

I said I did...multiple times. 

After an increasingly heated exchange, I was also told I would be charged a cancellation fee – to which I replied "How can I be charged a fee for a service that can't be activated?". The CS rep terminated the call.

What do I do now?

I have gone back to my old internet provider for starters. I rang Internode here in Adelaide, explained my predicament and they were only too happy to help restore my previous account with them. I have also lodged a case with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman here in Australia. The TIO acts as a mediator between the customer and telecommunications providers in the situation where conflict has arisen in the course of a transaction. 

Oh – and the modem arrived...just five minutes after the technician left my house.

While I await the outcome of the mediation process, I sit here in the hall of my house, with my totally trashed phone line, cradling my now useless Netgear Wi-Fi Modem and cursing the day I ever allowed myself to be suckered into the Optus Store yet again.

I cannot believe how much of a disaster this has become.


Coming Soon - Dean Mayes' second novel "Gifts Of The Peramangk".

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Dark Heart Of The Prairie - A Look At Dark Prairies by R.S. Guthrie

Dark PrairiesDark Prairies by R.S. Guthrie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the taming of the West, the prairies, they bled. There was war between the white man and the Native American, the outlaw against the honorable, the harsh elements against anything that crawled or thirsted—yet as scurrilous and unforgiving as bloodletting always is, much still represented a kind of progress toward the future. Not always fair; not always judicious; not always kind.

But it is 2012, and though we call ourselves more civilized, little has changed. The greedy still steal the land, the rich still get richer, murder still happens. Dark Prairies is set in the prime of the twenty-first century Wyoming gas boom, when some landowners become rich and others get nothing but ruined roads; fortunes are made or lost on what some would call a toss of the legal dice.

When a terrible murder rocks a small town—when Sheriff James Pruett himself loses his beloved---the prairies, they WILL bleed again. How many will die this time, in honor and in vain?

In this, his third novel, R.S. Guthrie has delivered his magnum opus. Dark Prairies carves into the raw, twenty-first century West at both its worst and its finest hours and does so in the depths of an ocean of both loyalty and greed.

Disclosure - I was supplied an advanced copy by the author in exchange for an honest review.

My grandfather on my father's side had a deep and abiding love for the classic Western and indeed, my father grew up immersed in the graphic novel digests of the 50's and 60's - some of which I myself still own.

In terms of their individual quality, well some of them were debatable but I have always held an affection for them, their stories were always told with a sense of gusto.

Approaching Dark Prairies as I did last week, I knew that I was going to be in for a literary experience that sat on a whole other level entirely to those Western's of yesteryear. And, in the hands of a seasoned story teller - R.S. Guthrie - I was not disappointed.

R.S. Guthrie's 3rd novel is a master stroke of gritty story telling, fully realized characters and a sort of genre cross over where the stage is the American West and the act is a compelling tale of murder and mystery that is breath taking in it's execution.

So compelling was Dark Prairies, that I completed it in a couple of sittings over the course of a weekend, which - for me - is unprecedented. Guthrie immerses the reader into a thinking persons Western, a tragic murder that involves the protagonist intimately.

Guthrie's Sheriff Pruett is a quintessential every-man, a quiet and methodical investigator who has to take on perhaps the most heart wrenching investigation of his life - and we feel it, viscerally. The cast of characters around Pruett are equally vivid in their presence and their motivations and machinations are a delight to unfold as the story progresses.

The story flows slowly - not too slowly - but in such a way that it allows us to reflect on the situations Guthrie presents to us, before he ramps up the tension and action that thrills, horrifies and excites all at once.

The setting of rural Wyoming was another stand out that I will take away from my first reading and return to enthusiastically in subsequent readings. Guthrie has probably portrayed a place in the most tactile and visual fashion of any author I have read in recent memory. I could feel and smell Wyoming in all it's unadorned beauty and, as I described similarly, earlier it was a masterful example of penmanship.

Dark Prairies is important addition to the classic Western and Murder/Mystery genres and fans of both should consider this novel as a priority for their reading device.

R.S. Guthrie grew up in Iowa and Wyoming and now lives in Colorado. He has been writing fiction, essays, short stories, and lyrics since college.

"Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel" marked Guthrie's first major release and it heralded the first in a series of Detective Bobby Macaulay (Bobby Mac) books. The second in the series (Lost) hit the Kindle shelves December of 2011.

Guthrie's "Dark Prairies" represents a project that is close to his heart: it is set in a fictional town in the same county where he spent much of his childhood and still visits.
Guthrie lives in Colorado with his wife, Amy, two young Australian Shepherds, and a Chihuahua who thinks she is a 40-pound Aussie! 

Readers can catch up with Guthrie's discussions related to writing at his Official Site.


View all my GR reviews

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gifts Of The Peramangk - International Teaser Trailer.

Official Release: 13th July 2012.

Hambledown Road Imprints in partnership with Central Avenue Publishing are proud to present the official teaser trailer for Australian author Dean Mayes' forthcoming novel "Gifts Of The Peramangk."

Set across two time periods in Adelaide, Australia, "Gifts Of The Peramangk" chronicles the incredible journey of a young Aboriginal girl who is possessed with a precious gift. In an environment of crushing poverty, domestic violence and despair, there seems little hope for the future. However, her gift is about to be discovered and she will be thrust into a world that will change hers and the lives of those around her forever...


For news and updates on the progress of "Gifts Of The Peramangk" as it approaches publication, subscribe to Dean from Australia, "Like" The Hambledown Dreamer at Facebook or visit Central Avenue Publishing

"Gifts Of The Peramangk" is Copyright © 2012, Hambledown Road Imprints and Central Avenue Publishing.

"Prayer Of The Children" is Copyright © 1998, Kurt Bestor and is used with kind permission.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Falling For A Thirty Something Girl.

A Thirty-Something GirlA Thirty-Something Girl by L.M. Stull

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Life has been anything but kind, and everything that can go wrong has. At an age when life should be coming together, and questions should start to be answered, Hope finds herself feeling very alone and terribly confused. As her life spirals out of control, she realizes she needs help. And she needs it quickly.

With the love and support of some dear friends, Hope slowly begins to find her true self, and along the way, she meets someone. Someone who makes her feel like living to see another day might just be worth it.

But with happiness, comes pain. Pain from a past that simply won't be forgotten. Walking a dangerously fine line between joy and utter despair, Hope wonders if happy endings really do exist. And if they do, is there one waiting for her?

I have continued my recent foray into women's literature and have just turned the final page on Lisa Stull's "A Thirty Something Girl".

And, once again, I came away from the reading experience very satisfied and convinced that my attraction to women's literature is growing ever more solid with each entry that I delve into.

Stull's novel is, at once an attractive read and one that is visceral. Having staged the tome through the first person perspective of her protagonist, Hope Jackson, Lisa has produced a remarkable voice that is confronting, heart wrenching and uncomfortable whilst being simultaneously perceptive, ironical, sexy and philosophical. We live through the eyes of Hope as she traverses the threshold of turning 30 and examining her life which has, up until now, coped with more than it's fair share of up's and down's. And, regardless of her gender, I found myself in empathy with Hope on more than a few occasions as she describes certain human foibles that both women and men alike share. It was a little confronting at times just how 'on the mark' Lisa was with her observations about the human condition and love.

The cast of supporting characters around Hope were an eclectic and attractive mix of friends and enemies who were all very well drawn and who I got to know and like very much. They are people I'd like to be around and get to know and, indeed, I identified a number of similar characters in my own circle who share the traits I found in the story.  The love interest, Sam, was a strong leading male who kept popping into my mind as a Clive Owen-esque character who smoulders confidently, while displaying remarkable vulnerability in his interactions with Hope (I was reminded of the film "The Boys Are Back" a little in my mental illustration of Sam).

Setting is another stand out in Lisa's novel. I am a very visual reader and I really enjoy being able to see the settings in a story. That can only be achieved through solid writing, the construction of place and atmosphere and Lisa achieves this soundly. Each time I delved back in to the story, I was easily transported. It was very satisfying.

The flow of the story was good too, although I found things progressing a little quickly in some instances and was wanting a little more fleshing out of certain scenes or progressions of scenes. But on this point, I don't sheet this home to the author, rather I think this is more a reflection of what I wanted from the story.

There are twists to the story that are revealed in a really good way. Some of them I kind of cottoned onto early, while others were quite unexpected. I enjoyed them all.

Lisa Stull has produced a lovely, lyrical and quite a sexy novel which I really loved and will be reading again. It is a worthwhile addition to your shelf or device.

LM Stull describes herself as a Washington, DC native who spends her days chained to a desk at a law firm in southern Virginia. When she’s not feverishly taking orders from attorneys, she writes. Her stories tell of the human spirit – sometimes sad, sometimes not – most can relate to them on some level or another.Lisa is another of those enthusiastic advocates for independent artists who can be found actively cross promoted and engaging in the on-line community, striking up conversation, talking about and highlighting worthy projects and people and encouraging others every chance she gets.

A case in point is her official website where, not only can you read about Lisa herself, you can also access a wealth of information, resources and tools for writers that are designed to help and encourage as well as inspire.

I encourage you to check her and her work out today. She is definitely one of my #authorsyoushouldknow.