October was one hell of a month. We successfully moved into a new apartment and checked out of our old one, which in Switzerland is a tense situation. Amongst all the sweat, and fatigue came joy and excitement. RADIO was chosen as a 2020 Self Published Fantasy Blog Off semi-finalist.

While I didn’t make the finals, I’m ecstatic to have my weird tale of opium, jazz, and mind control receive this level or recognition and praise. I’m truly honored and grateful. The judges over at the Fantasy Inn took on an epic task and I thank them for their hard work and time spent. It must have been stressful.

And speaking of stress,I’ve come to learn that the universe has decided that any big event in the life of RADIO must come with a heaping spoonful of stress. Gather ’round and hear the tale of how a calendar year viciously messed with a poor, innocent author.

RADIO was launched this spring and in true 2020 fashion, it’s been dealt some challenges. First, as I was preparing the book to launch, beginning to organize launch events and readings, and researching possible cons to attend, the pandemic set in, throwing all of that out the window. As many other authors who were forced to debut during a global pandemic will tell you, this was definitely stressful. However, one set back does not a trend make.

Fast forward to April and the day RADIO launched. I’d been both prepping for launch and working with Google to sort out some Google Drive issues I was having and all this culminated in discovering, on launch day, that I’d managed to accidentally delete 10+ years of Goggle Docs and Sheets. All of it, gone including most of my writing research. Let’s just say that there was a lot less celebrating that evening than I would have hoped. Luckily, I was able to to get them all back over the next few weeks.

Fast forward again to the launch of the paperback version of RADIO. Time to celebrate? Nah, time to learn that Amazon won’t ship author copies to Switzerland due to customs issues and that Ingram Spark has screwed up a ton of my distribution. A few months go by and it all eventually gets sorted.

Fast forward finally to the end of October where I’m simultaneously moving apartments, trying desperately to navigate shipping, the pandemic, and language barriers to get some stuff for the new place, worrying about how the check out process for our old apartment will go (the Swiss have been known to actually take out white gloves to check for cleanliness) and, on top of it all, stressing about where RADIO will end up in SPFBO. At this point, I can plainly see a clear trend. I’m assuming you can too. The part of that trend I keep reminding myself about is that it always works out in the end.

Did it?

Today, everything is peachy. I’m thrilled with my outcome in the competition, our new place is fantastic, and I have some exciting plans for promotion and interaction coming up. I’m feeling really good about the future of RADIO and my writing.

I just hope the stress+big event combination ends along with this god-forsaken year.

When the virus lets up and it’s safe to do so, I’ll be scheduling those book launch events that I’d planned. I hope to meet a lot of new faces and new readers when that time comes.

Music and Mind Control Fill the Air

While the mind control that permeates the airwaves of RADIO’s Paris may be a fantasy, the music is just fantastic and very much real. This playlist is almost entirely filled with music that rang through the streets of 1928’s Paris. There are a few songs that while a bit anachronistic, still inspired the world I created. I recommend listening with shuffle turned on. Enjoy!

Jazz in Paris

The story of jazz in Paris is the story of racism and prohibition in the United States. Jazz first took hold in Paris during and after WWI as members of segregated US military forces including the legendary Haarlem Hellfighters, were heartily welcomed by the war-weary french, a reception they could never find back in the states. These servicemen brought more than freedom for the french, they brought jazz. The most important figure in the earliest days of Parisian jazz was American military jazz band leader, James Reese Europe, whose band played in the streets of Paris, introducing the music to everyone within earshot.

Paris brought a level of freedom to these servicemen as well. While any claim that Paris was free of racisim in the 1920’s or today is absurd, the particular brand of racism was very different from what African Americans faced back home. Many musicians decided to stay rather than return to the harsher realities of the United States and the roots they put down in Paris were also the roots of jazz in the city. This created a growing ecosystem for more American jazz musicians to join.

Prohibition also played a major role in driving musicians to Europe and Paris. Live music and drinking establishments go hand in hand. With the prohibition of alcohol, many musicians found themselves working either illegal bootlegging jobs to make ends meet or working in illegal speakeasies in order to continue working as musicians. In Paris, where drinks poured freely and affordably, and jazz was picking up steam as a major musical force, it only made sense to make the trip across the Atlantic.

Del, the Guitar, and the 1920s

Del Chambers, who finds himself sharing his opium-addicted body with a god in RADIO, had one passion in life, the guitar. His role as a guitar player in a 1920s jazz band was a fairly new occurrence. In early jazz, the banjo was the stringed king of the rhythm section. The 1920s saw an innovation in guitar design and popularity. Luthiers, most notably Lloyd Loar at Gibson, were creating arched topped guitars which were louder and more projecting than their smaller, flat-topped counterparts. Because of this, guitar spent the decade climbing to prominence in the jazz world. However, it was still strictly a rhythm instrument. In his quest to expand what the guitar can do, Del took inspiration from blues musicians such as Lonnie Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson. Then, in the mid 1920’s, one jazz guitarist’s style changed how the guitar could be used in a band setting. These innovations sent he and his instrument on a meteoric rise to popularity. This was Del’s idol, the first true jazz guitar solo artist, Eddy Lang.

Eddie Lang

Eddie Lang was born Salvatore Massaro in Philadelphia in 1902. He first brought the guitar to prominence in the jazz world as a rhythm instrument in the early 1920’s but solidified his claim as the father of jazz guitar through his virtuosic solo playing from the mid 20s to the early 30s.
When people think of the original jazz guitar greats, they think of Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. While these two exceptional talents are easily the most popular early jazz guitarists, Christian was only a child and Reinhardt, an up and coming musician while Eddie Lang was in his prime.
To see his revolutionary skills on display, check out songs like Wild CatApril KissesEddie’s Twister, and more in the playlist above.
Sadly, Eddie Lang died during a routine tonsillectomy in 1933 at the age of thirty.

In RADIO, the god Marduk finds himself trapped within the body of an opium addicted jazz guitarist. Sharing a mind is difficult enough but having to fight both the previous owner’s will and the physiological call for the drug makes Marduk’s situation even more dire.

While often thought of as a Victorian drug, Opium use was still prevalent, if waning, in 1920’s Paris. Montmartre was the main location of most of the Parisian dens. While booze and cocaine were much more fashionable, opium dens supplied the drug, imported from France’s former Southeast Asian colonies, to customers looking to chase the dragon or le Brune Fée (brown fairy) as the french would say.

Opium is a drug that grew ever more dangerous as its method of use grew more refined over the ages. The sap from the opium poppy (known to the Babylonians as the joy plant) was first eaten as a pain-reliever and mood booster over six thousand years ago. This practice was wide spread. From Roman gladiators dulling fear to Alexander the Great’s armies medicating themselves, opium eating survived for thousands of years. Then, as tobacco was introduced to China in the 14th century, opium began to be added and smoked. This process evolved. Opium sap was cooked down into a paste and smoked over an open flame. The vaporized narcotics entered the system in new more potent ways, and both its effects and addictiveness increased. Today we see it in its most refined forms such as heroin and other opioids. Its ability to help and hurt have been driven to their max.

Opium has always been a mythic drug and there are many, many assumptions and exaggerations attributed to it. Let’s dispel two of its most persistent.

First, opium is often linked to and depicted as causing hallucinations. Opium is non-hallucinatory but does effect perception. High quality opium, known as chandu, causes the user to experience hyper-sensitized senses and acute focus. Poor quality opium, called dross, contains high amounts of morphine and causes the drowsy, dead to the world, effect so often shown in depictions of opium dens. Opium is also notorious for causing incredibly vivid and wild dreams, which may be the origin of the hallucination myth.

The second myth that often surrounds opium is actually a combination involving addiction and withdrawal. Namely that opium is relatively easy to become addicted to but also relatively easy to withdraw from. Nothing could be further from the truth and that is part of what makes this drug so insidious.

Unlike heroin where addiction is rapid, most opium smokers need to have a daily habit for more than a week before addiction takes place. This often lulls users into a false sense of security. Occasional smoking is very unlikely to lead to addiction but what counts as occasional? Once a month? Once per week? Per day? When the definition of occasional becomes too often, addiction can set in.

Ease of withdrawal is also often reversed when comparing heroin and opium. While heroin withdrawal is an awful, long, terrible experience, somehow, opium withdrawal is much worse.

I’ll leave the details of such a withdrawal for you to read in RADIO or for a much more in depth account, I highly recommend Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction by Steven Martin. What started out as research turned to addiction and resulted in this modern, accurate account of what the cycle of opium addiction is actually like. This book helped my research immensely and I couldn’t recommend it more.