HAPPY FRIDAY … FIRST GIVEAWAY!

gift-big
Here it is:
— a package including The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, two gold star sew-on patches, a fancy-schmancy book mark, and a selection of tea to sip while you read.

The contest runs through Friday, Sept 4, with a winner selected at random and announced at noon, EST.

To enter, comment on any post on my website or Facebook author page between 11 a.m. EST Friday, Aug. 28 and 11 a.m. EST Friday, Sept. 4.

Sea songs: “Gentle Spotted Giants” EP by Alex Krug

Need a little inspiration this Friday? Here’s one of my favorite recent musical discoveries. This lush and evocative four-song EP is dreamy, spooky, cinematic and quiet — exactly all of my favorite elements this summer.

This review was originally posted at Mountainx.com:

AlexKrugComboThere are contradictions in Alex Krug‘s voice: The softness with which she sings belies her power, the prettiness of her vocal is offset by a rawness that appears and disappears to devastating effect. And each song on the Alex Krug Combo’s new EP, Gentle Spotted Giants, is delivered with absolute care, even as its wrung from the singer’s guts.

Lead track “Divers” begins with snare rolls (guest artist Bill Berg) and the quiet thunder of upright bass (Kevin Lampson). The song moves unhurried — a few notes plucked from the violin, a strum of guitar. An electric guitar (Kyle Samples) revs in the background, fuzzy and ominous as an approaching storm. All the while, Krug’s strange and wonderful vocal dips and swells into the song. Each instrument adds texture, and the track builds like a fantastical tale without ever losing sight of its own emotional thread.

“Towhee” is slower, more rocked by ion-rich gusts, haunted by gathering shadows. Rachel Gramig provides warm and resonant harmonies to Krug’s lilting melody. “I hit the rocks, on the edge of water / I’ve been beat up, can’t hold it together,” she sings. The songs pauses just briefly, breathlessly, and then the boom of two drum beats brings the music back in. Lyndsay Pruett‘s violin is so lovely it stings to listen, and when Krug hits her upper register — just for a few measures — the effect all updraft and velocity and terrible beauty.

“Whaleshark,” the EP’s longest track, was produced by Michael Selverne/Welcome to Mars. If the rest of the EP is deliberate and expansive, this song positively breathes in space. Strings waver between gorgeous and damaged territories. Each note is mined for its most and least dulcet tones; instruments cry and echo, otherworldly and animalian. Krug’s and Gramig’s voices weave and part, gliding in a couple’s dance over the textural soundscape of percussion and electric guitar. A story unfolds, but so does a sonic atlas — a journey informed as much by instrumental explorations as by narrative. It’s shattering and still uplifting, if just for its sheer beauty.

Final track “Sail With You” is perhaps the sweetest offering. It carries on the oceanic theme, and so too the vastness and loneliness of that metaphor. But here Krug’s voice is close and clear. “Maybe I could sail with you / cut across these waves with you,” she sings. It’s airy and untethered, the thrumming low notes of the strings like the call of a ship lost in the fog. Every part of the song aches in the way that, say, an Irish folk song reverberates with loss and longing carried for generations and held captive in a few potent verses. But as much as “Sail with You” feels timeless, it’s also distinctly present — a love song for the love of singing, for the whaleshark or for the gentle spotted giants after whom the album is named. Or for the ocean itself. Romantic as the track is, the “you” ultimately matters little while the song itself looms large long after its final notes.

Giveaways!

pizap.com14404391717522That’s right. I’m going to give away cool stuff. Stuff you read, stuff you wear, stuff I made, stuff I wrote, stuff other people wrote… (for hints, look left) The most important part is that IT CAN BE YOURS!

Here’s how it works:

Twice a month I’ll host a giveaway with one fantastic prize for one lucky winner drawn at random. To be in the drawing, you must like my Facebook page, and you must leave a comment on one of my website blog posts during the contest run time. Easy peasy.

The first giveaway will be announced this Friday, so stay tuned!

Pam Durban: The life of a writer

Pam Durban: The life of a writer

Award-winning author Pam Durban recently published her new short story collection, Soon. The title story was selected by John Updike for Best American Short Stories of the Century. In a Q&A released by Durban’s publicity team, she offers some interesting insights into her own writing process and writing in general. Here’s her answer to the question, What was the pivotal event and then the path that led you to become a writer?

I think I came to writing through a process of elimination. In my 20s, I had a series of writing jobs. I worked on a small newspaper in upstate South Carolina, and on a couple of alternative newspapers in Atlanta. But in every case, there came a time when I wasn’t satisfied with the writing I was doing because it wasn’t mine in the way I wanted it to be, and I’d get restless and move on.

If there was a defining time, it was the year or so that I worked at a community service organization in an old textile mill village in Atlanta called Cabbagetown, where I compiled and published a series of interviews with some of the oldest women in the community.

That project was so important to me because that’s where I first began to see what a story was and what it could do. The stories in that book weren’t fiction, but I learned some good lessons from them about fiction writing. I learned that in an immediate, almost tactile way, a story is an experience, that it has the power to bring a whole world to life.

After that project, I went to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and then on to a series of teaching jobs that kept me living outside the South for the next 10 years. Those 10 years were crucial to my writing because they gave me a different perspective on the South and when I came back, I could see it as an outsider and an insider. It was that kind of double vision that I think made it possible for me to write the two novels I’ve mentioned as well as my stories about the South.

The world was a library

Chief Standing Bear

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty.” — Luther Standing Bear