Demonic Exercises in Emotional Bonding


I have a confession. A dark and terrifying one that I am going to reveal to the world: I am a terrible friend.

Ok, not really. I’m actually a pretty awesome friend. Unfortunately, I’d also be perfectly happy to never speak to another human being as long as I live. It’s not something I seek out, friendship. And, while I love Twitter and Facebook and MySpace before them, this brave new social media world has made it easier and easier to become, if not a terrible friend, an extremely lazy one. And it suits my personality a little too well.

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. I think they’re stupid. If you want to do something, then do it. Don’t use the planet’s annual cycle around the sun as an excuse. But I made one this year. A simple one. I am going to reconnect with friends that I’ve allowed social media to be the substitution for real contact and [gulp] reconnect with friends with whom I’ve had no contact for years.

It was scary. I’m not going to lie. But, as the saying goes, I will not fear. Fear is the mind killer.

And I can’t take credit for the idea. I “friended” an actual old friend last summer on Facebook and he immediately sent me his phone number so that we could actually talk. I’d lost him after Katrina. I couldn’t find him. I worried about him for years and then there I was on my lunch break, listening to his voice and geeking about gear and hearing about his grandbabies. It was wonderful.

And then, another marvelous, deliciously delightful human being who I get to call my friend did the same thing. He called me. Just to talk. Just to catch up. Two hours later, we were still talking.

And I decided I was going to follow their lead. I was going to make an effort. I was going to be the one to reach out first.

So, Step One: when wonderful, beautiful friend sends her annual text message wishing me a happy birthday, make a real, actionable plan to go to lunch on a specific date and then drive that paltry one hour and change to go see her. And it was so simple. 

We do this all the time, in our modern culture. We say “we never see each other; we should really get together soon,” and we never follow it up with “when is a good time for us to do that?”

And it’s not because the desire isn’t there. It’s because saying “we should” is easier than saying “let’s.” When did that happen?

And since step one and the subsequent lunch with my dear and fabulous friend was amazing and within five minutes we were back to talking as if five years hadn’t passed between us, I did it again.

I had dinner two nights ago with another beautiful, strong woman that I am lucky enough to call my friend...after seven years of not seeing each other. Again, ten minutes in and we’re sharing our struggles with motherhood and relationships, and we’re right back to where we were. A little older, but just the same.

And I get to do this again on Saturday with another dear friend, and I can’t wait. Although, I can’t take the credit for this one since he’s making the effort to drive all the way out to visit me at the convention I’m attending at the moment.

What friends I have, right?

Ok, so that was fun. I’m now back in touch with a handful of people who I adore and who amaze me. Time to strap my courage to the sticking place for Step Two and reach out to those that I’ve truly neglected. Like the ones I haven’t seen or spoken to or about for a decade.


So, I send a very short note to another friend on social media, and he replies back with a very non-committal message with subtle undertones of “why the fuck are you messaging me?” 


I did actually have a reason for wanting to contact him. You see, Q’s penchant for wearing t-shirts with [insert metal band logo here] on the front, periodically provides me with the opportunity to give a shout out to bands that I love or bands with members I know. His is one of the latter, and I wanted to tell him because I thought he might get a kick out of it. So, I send a screenshot of the paragraph in Chasing Those Devil Bones in question and tell him about my new status as a published author and done. Right?


Now, it becomes abundantly clear from his response that he has absolutely no clue who I am and thinks some crazy woman is stalking him online. He’s flattered, but confused (and who could blame him).

And here comes the rub of it. That moment when you have the full and very realization that you are not as memorable as you think you are. 

This man was an important part of my life. He inspired me with his drive and ambition and generosity and kindness, and I was fortunate enough to count him as a member of my social circle.

And I what did I do? I walked away from it. I got lazy. I used MySpace updates (that’s how long ago this started) as actual contact. I used mutual acquaintances as go-betweens.

But you know what? “Tell so-and-so, I said ‘hi.’” is not telling so-and-so you said anything.

Pick up a phone and tell them.

I’ve just sent an overly long message to this person to tell him how we knew each other and to apologize for not getting in touch sooner and to let him off the hook if he doesn’t want to resume contact. And I don’t know how he’ll respond.

I know I deserve for him to tell me to fuck right off. But, he’s a musician, and we all live on tour time, so these lapses in contact don’t seem to impact us emotionally as much as it does civilians. But still, I know that option is rightly on the table for him, and I won’t hold it against him if he chooses to take it.

Tour time.

It’s a blessing and a curse. I’ve often wondered if this is something unique to the music industry. We see each other for these brief and intense interactions: recording a record, playing a gig, and then nothing. For months. Because we’re off having intense interactions with other people we know and will not see again for months or years.

I’m at one of those intense interactive experiences right now. The NAMM convention is an annual pilgrimage a good portion of gear nerds and music enthusiasts make to Anaheim, California every January. It’s where music manufacturers show off all their new wares and try to sell said wares to music merchants (the MM in NAMM). I write technical articles and documentation for one such music manufacturer, and we are here, right now, having a demonic bonding experience for the next four days.

And this reconnecting that I’ve been actively working on with those who used to be closest to me is constant. I walked into the hotel from dinner last night and saw a colleague and his wife who I haven’t seen since June at another tradeshow and we’re screaming and hugging and talking like we saw each other last weekend. And it’s like that every year.

Even if you meet someone for the first time at one of these crazy events, it’s like you are instantly bonded for life. At that same tradeshow I attended in June, I met a colleague from another music manufacturer for the very first time. We were booth neighbors. I saw him yesterday and we were asking about each other’s kids and talking about our health like we’ve known each other for years. When, in actuality, we’ve only known each other for three days.

Insane, yes?

I only see some of my friends when they’re on tour in my state and we hardly talk in between. I only see some of my most favorite colleagues once a year. But you’d never know it when if you saw us together.

For my friends who’ve never experienced tour time (and none of the people mentioned so far can be counted within this group), it’s not a part of my personality they enjoy. They don’t like the long silences followed by bursts of intense emotional contact. It makes them uncomfortable. It makes them angry.

But I can’t explain how this works to them. It’s just something that I’ve learned to live with. That I’ve adapted to, because being a musician means being away from people you love. A lot. It also means isolating yourself so that you can create what you love. A lot. 

It’s the bargain. It’s the trade-off. And we all understand that about each other. I think it’s why musicians and music makers travel together in packs. We’re a herding species of humans. Nobody understands us, but our own.

But even in this lifestyle, you can’t lose that one critical element. You can be absent for months or years with minimal contact, but to maintain that bond, that chain of connection, you need those intense bursts of emotional intimacy.

And emotional intimacy has never been something that I’ve been particularly good at. But, thankfully, Ben and Sanger are wonderful at it. And they’ve taught me how. So, during this, my first year of following through with a New Year’s resolution, I’m going to practice what they’ve taught me.

To all my friends waiting for me to reach out; I’m working my way to you, don’t you worry. But if you’re tired of waiting, give a yell because I’m likely dying to hear from you. And if you’ve given up on me entirely and never want to hear from me again, that’s alright, too. 

This is me: flashing one of Sanger’s patented easy smiles at you. We’re all good, you and me. 

And if you're one of the crazy herd living on tour time and swarming on this poor California town, you know where to find me.

Chasing Those Devil Bones is NOW AVAILABLE!


I wrote another book, y’all! It’s a real thing. I have a copy in my hand right now and it feels yummy. It’s a strange thing to have written to completion, not one, but three novels, edited them, re-edited them, designed covers for them, and published them. But that’s what I have done. And I’m going to go ahead and brag on myself for a moment, if you’ll indulge me.

Now, please click on this link and buy Chasing Those Devil Bones for $2.99, that’s the price of your favorite large coffee drink. (And it stays way hotter and lasts longer, too.)

That was fun. Now back to work.

As Chasing Those Devil Bones makes its way through the digital birth canal and out into everyone’s Kindles and iPads, I am sitting at the 95% completion mark of the next book in the Clementine Toledano Mysteries, working title, The Devil’s Luck. And I am stuck. This happens, sometimes, usually when I’ve plotted out the crux of Q’s current mystery one way, but Q and the gang are running roughshod over the story and have another solution in mind. Unfortunately, they’re all thumbing their collective noses at my shouts of “We only have 10,000 words left! Wrap it up!” And, as much as I love the team’s additions to this plot during the writing process, I refuse to go full boat Umberto Eco and write a 200,000-word mystery.

[Author’s aside: Umberto Eco’s book, Foucault’s Pendulum, referenced above, is one of the greatest books in modern history and I will personally punch anyone in the nose who disagrees. Ok, I won’t really punch you, but it is one of only three books that I’ve read more than four times, so you should give it another chance if you didn’t like it.]

Part of my problem with The Devil’s Luck, is that I know how it ends. I just don’t know how it gets there. You see, I’d written the ending before #NaNoWr2017 even started, well, at least the emotional context of the scene. The scene itself came later and I big-huge-googly-eyes-LOVE it. So, it must stay. And as much as I loved writing more than half this book in three weeks, it’s left little time for the machinations and marinating that come with slogging along for six to ten months, writing 300 words one day and 3000 the next.

But if I’m being honest with myself, the larger part of me is just plain old scared. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you already know how much I LOVE this new book. It brings me so much joy to read it. It’s so full of life and breath and music and stench and laughter and everything that I love about the city I used to call home. What if I fail it in these last moments?

What if I fail?

Lord, I could write a novel that would put Eco to shame on word count about my fear of failure. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done some things in my life that a lot of people would consider to be brave.  I was scared shitless doing every last one of them. But I did them.

But there are other things I didn’t do because I was too scared. And those are the things that I regret.

A dear friend of mine constantly tells me to not worship at the Temple of Regret. Over the door of my personal temple is written a single word: FEAR.

During the bravest period of my life, I read the entire Dune saga from beginning to end (you know you’re a SciFi nerd when that’s on your Bucket List). If you’ve not read it, first, shame on you, but the omnipresent religion of the Bene Gesserit uses the following litany to overcome fear:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

There are many brilliant things about Frank Herbert’s Dune. For me, this continues to be the most brilliant. A simple, powerful series of words that so perfectly describes that feeling you get when you let go of your fear. A void. A nothingness. And there is tremendous power in that nothingness.

I repeated this litany over and over during that bravest period of my life. I repeated before I went I stage for the first time. I repeated it as I walked into Nothing Studios to interview for a job working for Nine Inch Nails. I repeated the shit out of it before I met Trent Reznor for the first time, followed by a whole lot of “act cool, act cool, just say ‘nice to meet you.’”

I don’t know when I stopped doing that. Maybe I should start again. Right now. Because, here I am, kneeling at the entrance to my Temple of Regret, looking at those big letters in iridescent green script: FEAR. Already convincing myself I’ll fail this novel when I’m so close to finishing it. Focusing on everything I’ve done wrong up to this point instead of all the things that I’ve done to make it so charming and wonderful that it terrifies me to have written something so good.

But I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. And only I will remain.

So, this is me. Standing back up and dusting off my knees to return to the fray and finish this lovely book I'm writing. Because let’s face it, I felt this same fear when I wrote Chasing Those Devil Bones and the wondrous thing still brings me to tears multiple times even though I have actually lost count of how many times I’ve read this final draft of it. And I hope anyone who reads it enjoys it as much as I still do.

Chasing Those Devil Bones is now available on Amazon.

Other Clementine Toledano Mysteries:
That Old Devil Sin
Devil Take Me Down

And, Coming Soon: The Devil’s Luck

New Year: New website, New Book, Refurbished Me.

2017 has ended, and everyone is doing their obligatory year in review. I’m not sure when this trend started, but for some reason, I blame VH1 for it. Maybe it wasn't them, but I’m still going to say it’s their fault we all feel obligated to do this annual summary of our lives.

I’m not going to lie, 2017 was a strange one for me. It started out with the inauguration of a grossly incompetent man as President, instead of the grossly overqualified woman who ran for the same office; confirming everything I’ve felt, witnessed, and suspected about misogyny in America: it’s here, it’s there, it’s fucking everywhere.

January was a rough one. February, too.

What depressed me the most was the realization that I’d let misogyny and outdated notions of womanhood impact my decisions for the last decade or so. Somehow, during my 30s, I’d had enough with bucking the system and decided to go with the flow. I mean, there are only so many times you can show up to mix a session or to wire a rig in a studio and have the person who hired you ask where your boyfriend is, or have the band think you’re the coffee girl even though you’re miking the damn drumkit, before you just want to burn the world to the ground.

I couldn’t change the world, so, I essentially gave up. I left Los Angeles. Moved back home to Louisiana. Met a nice man. Got married. Had a child. Did all those things that were expected of me, as a woman, to do. Problem was: I’d never wanted that life.

And then it happened. On November 9, 2016, a big old jolt of cold, liquid rage filled me so completely that I suddenly just couldn’t keep up the facade anymore. This person I was pretending to be, wasn’t me. It didn’t make me happy. It didn’t bring me any sort of solace, strength, or inner peace. It sure as shit wasn’t doing anything to advance the cause of feminine equality, so why the hell was I keeping it up?

When I cast off that mask I’d put on so long ago, what I found was transformative. A moment of self-discovery. An utter calm. Not tranquility, mind you - there is still plenty that makes me wish I could walk around, carrying a battleax, and decapitating people - but stillness.  The kind of stillness a warrior gets before a fight. The kind of stillness that brings everything into laser-like focus.

And the funny thing is that it happened over the course of months. It happened so fast that I could watch it almost in real time. This decision to stop lying to myself and to just be.

I credit writing with the speed of this transformation. Writing is largely an autobiographical experience. You write what you know. What you’ve encountered. What you’ve felt. What you’ve witnessed. All altered, of course. Exaggerated, manipulated, molded, but still, it’s all you and anyone that tells you any different isn’t very self-aware.

My friends and family who’ve read my novels usually assume that I’m Q. And in some ways, I am. But I’m also Ben. I’m Yvie. I’m Derek. On my best days, I’m even Sanger.

In March, after I released Devil Take Me Down, I quickly began finishing Chasing Those Devil Bones and encountered a huge problem: I had absolutely no idea what made Detective Aaron Edgar Sanger tick, and he was a huge part of the story.

Like many writers, when I’m stuck I do one of two things: do a writing exercise or write the ending first. I did both, even though it meant that I had to write the final two novels of the series before the third book was even halfway done.

It was a catharsis. Writing as group therapy. The characters helped me to work through all the pain and confusion I was feeling in my own life and, at the end of it, I was ready to move forward.

I joined a gym to cast off the weight I’d put on. Some people feel better when they’re a little overweight. I’ve never been one of those people and am happy to report that I now have a healthy BMI for the first time in a decade, thanks largely to starting the Whole30 program and sticking with it for much longer than the requisite 30 days. Self-denial has always been one of my best talents, so it suits my personality well.

Vodka and I have had a very long, passionate relationship and I needed to put us on a little break so that we could reunite in a healthier way. We’re still casually seeing each other a few times a month, but I’m now in a pretty intense committed relationship with mineral water. Those little bubbles just slay me.

I did the National November Writing Challenge. I didn’t get to 50,000 words, but I did get a wonderful start on Book 4, which is cruising along towards a thrilling ending, more on that in another blog post.

I finished Chasing Those Devil Bones, which will be out next Saturday (pre-order is available now)

I decided to stop standing in my own way. Self-promotion has never been my strong point. It was a problem when I had a band. It was a problem when I was trying to make it as an audio engineer. It was a problem when I was writing film scores. It’s not going to be a problem anymore. In Chasing Those Devil Bones, Q’s mentor, Stanley Gerard, tells her that she thinks too much and it’s always been the thing that stood in her way. Just between us, Stanley was talking to me, too.

And finally, I’m going to take opportunities to get help from remarkably talented people when I am presented with them. You’re looking at the result of that right now. This website redesign by Redwood Digital Marketing could not have turned out better. And I’m thrilled at the result. The biggest of thank you’s and shout outs to Katelyn Redwood for her amazing work. I am constantly in utter awe at the number of talented people I am fortunate enough to be able to call my friends and Katelyn is a woman of many talents who has always topped that list.

So, that was my 2017. Like all stories, it had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Some wondrous things happened; some very strange things happened, too.

But now it’s 2018. In Judaism, the number 18 represents life, renewal, rebirth. And, whether it’s fair or not, I have a feeling 2018 is going to be full of all three of those things.

Happy New Year!