Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Chicken Ranch publishing edition

Depending on how closely you may or may not follow my Facebook or Twitter feeds, you know that for the past couple of months I've been in serious communication with a publisher that has shown significant interest in my book on the comprehensive history of the Chicken Ranch. They requested some changes--additions and deletions--which, although I wasn't crazy about, I could see their reasoning. So I made those because I like to think I'm not a prima donna artiste. Things got serious a week ago when they offered me a publishing contract. The contract wasn't terribly favorable toward me, the author (which I pretty much expected) so I counter-offered.

All of my requests were rejected.

Now, I never expected them to agree to everything. Their business model is conservative and restrictive overall, built to ensure the publisher at worse breaks even on the books they publish. What took me aback was their taking offense at my attempts to negotiate. The editor did not tell me to take it or leave it, but that's the impression I got.

If that's the case, I cannot take it. There are three clauses that could burn me badly in the future regarding liability, subsidiary rights and reversion should the book go out of print. I'm told I should trust them. I say trust has nothing to do with it, that their interpretation of these clauses could be very, very different from mine without modification and clarification.

I started work on Texas Had A Whorehouse In It! Truth, lies and legacy of the legendary Chicken Ranch back in 2009. I've been actively soliciting agents and publishers since 2012. The manuscript has received raves from pretty much everyone who has taken the time to read it before they ultimately pass on it. To say that I'm ready for it to see print is a vast understatement. But I'm not in it just to see my name in print. I'm not an academic desperate for publication credit to maintain my tenure track trajectory. I am a professional writer, and I have to look out for my interests as well as the best deal to ensure the book gets widespread distribution. I have to be willing to walk away from a bad deal, and without modifications, this is a bad deal.

I've been going through the stages of grief since I realized my counter- counter-offer would likely be rejected as well. Which will mean that I'm back to shopping for publishers. Ever since that became clear, Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler" has been my relentless earworm. This is no bluff. It's time for me to fold 'em and walk away.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... David Lee Roth.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Night Videos

Remember when David Lee Roth was a thing? This video for "A Lil Ain't Enough" will show you why he quit being a thing quite abruptly. The song is pretty much the embodiment of 80s hair band cliches, lyrically as well as musically (the album, which I have, isn't bad. This song, not so much). The video, though... wow. Not only does it bring Diamond Dave's antics and womanizing and 80s cliches in to the 1990s in a way that doesn't translate and feels painfully dated, but it throws a bunch of bizarreness onto the screen that simply baffles. This entire video is a four-minute representation of a career imploding. It's one of those things that makes you rub your eyes in disbelief.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Jill Sobule.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Night Videos

I've always liked Jill Sobule, but my appreciation for her has grown tremendously in recent years. She's a very strong songwriter with witty and insightful lyrics that never quite take the road less traveled. The sarcasm she laces her songs with could be caustic from anyone else, but her delivery always seems to have an element of joy that smooths the sharper edges. And I mean that in a good way. She's too quirky to have enjoyed more than fleeting mainstream success, but that doesn't diminish her talent. She's like a modern harry Nilsson. Here's her video for "Bitter," a song that manages to not be.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Kinks.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Mourning the sandstorm

It's gone. I've lost it through a combination of carelessness and dumb luck. Pleading and bargaining with fate has failed. My efforts to do an end-around have failed. I have to force myself to accept the ugly truth: My beloved Monument Valley Sandstorm, Infrared, is no more.

Oh, I still have a gorgeous 36x24 gallery wrap on my office wall, and the web-sized version you see here persists. But the original RAW file is gone. The full-resolution tiff and Photoshop working files are gone. The finished-edit jpeg is gone. Which means I can never make another quality print of this image, which resonates with me at a level hard to explain.

The sad discovery of my loss came about because I had an offer to publish it in an upcoming photography book. I felt all the regular emotions--excitement, validation, yadda yadda--which quickly gave way to sorrow and denial when I could not find a single print-quality file. I'd had many multiples of this image on my home computer, my laptop, my work computer... all gone. My work computer ran out of hard drive space early this past spring, so I deleted all of my personal stuff to clear operating room. My laptop suffered a Windows implosion, so I did a clean install, wiping everything from it. All those duplicate files on my home computer? I deleted those duplicates, and apparently the master file as mixed in amongst those. Ah, but what about the official backup, the one kept by The Wife? Well, those turned out to be on an external hard drive I accidentally knocked off her desk and destroyed whilst attempting to install some new hardware. The awful part is that this drive continued to function for another dozen hours or so before going kaput, hours we foolishly did not use to transfer everything off it. We couldn't remember what was on it at the time, and didn't worry too much, because there were multiple copies of files kept elsewhere. Except those that weren't.

Other images are gone as well. All of my photos from the Very Large Array (with the sole exception of "Listening to Nightfall") and the Horseshoe and the Grand Canyon... Some of those were good photographs. None of them were great. All of them can be replicated, more or less, by me in the future if I ever return to those locales. But Monument Valley? In a sandstorm? Under these unique lighting conditions? Never gonna happen.

It's hard to let go, but it's time to move on.

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Monday, January 05, 2015

Chicken Ranch report no. 50: Tx Citizen comes a-callin'

Tx Citizen Jayme Blaschke chicken ranch

Saturday was Edna Milton's birthday. She would've been 87. It's hard to believe that six years have passed since I first met her and started on this Quixotic quest to write the definitive history of the Chicken Ranch. When I look back over that time, all I can do is shake my head and say, "Wow."

Things are afoot in Chicken Ranch Book Land. Some I can share, some I can't. Rest assured I am not sitting on my laurels and am talking with publishers to get this book in print in the most widely-available, professional quality form possible. And people are noticing. I gave several lectures on the Chicken Ranch in 2014 and expect to give more in 2015. And the good folks (okay, the somewhat disreputable folks) over at the TxCitizen have taken notice and devoted an entire cover story (!) to yours truly. Very cool! And Lisa on Location scored that nifty cover shot as well.

Nick Rogers came over a couple weeks back and spent an afternoon talking with me about all things Chicken Ranch. He wrote up a pretty good piece, which can be read at this link or via the embed below. Here's a small sample:

The long history of the infamous "Chicken Ranch" of La Grange is, according to author Jayme Blaschke, "the story of Texas."

"It parallels the evolution of Texas as a culture and society," Blaschke said. "Every piece of history is reflected in the Chicken Ranch." The story of the Ranch and its demise is a reflection of power structures, clashing cultural mores, urban vs. rural conflicts and the power of television media. The story is also one of the people involved, strong personalities whose battle mirrored such growing chasms.

TX Citizen 1.1.15

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