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This blog, joepeckblogarhythms.wordpress.com, is getting a new home.  Most of the existing content has already been transferred to the new spot – called j0ebl0g.wordpress.com. Beginning this week, new posts will appear there.  In case you can’t tell from the typeface, the “o’s” are actually zeros in the new blog’s title. 

If you haven’t already, come on over and take a look around the new digs!

By the way, the folks at WordPress have made this move about as easy as I could have hoped for.  Many thanks to the WordPress staff for their support, responsiveness and the amazing tools they provide their bloggers.


It’s really awesome to learn so much at work.  I don’t mean employer-sponsored training in this case although that is an outstanding thing which I do wholeheartedly support.  No, I’m talking about ingesting so much fabulous information (and trying to retain at least a small portion of it) contained in awesome books written on interesting subjects.

Last year – yes, I’m way behind on my posts here – I got to read/narrate The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham by Selina Hastings.  Wow, was that a fascinating and informative read!

A Synopsis –

He was a brilliant teller of tales, one of the most widely read authors of the twentieth century, and at one time the most famous writer in the world, yet W. Somerset Maugham’s own true story has never been fully told. At last, the fascinating truth is revealed in a landmark biography by the award-winning writer Selina Hastings. Granted unprecedented access to Maugham’s personal correspondence and to newly uncovered interviews with his only child, Hastings portrays the secret loves, betrayals, integrity, and passion that inspired Maugham to create such classics as The Razor’s Edge and Of Human Bondage.

Hastings vividly presents Maugham’s lonely childhood spent with unloving relatives after the death of his parents, a trauma that resulted in shyness, a stammer, and for the rest of his life an urgent need for physical tenderness. Here, too, are his adult triumphs on the stage and page, works that allowed him a glittering social life in which he befriended and sometimes fell out with such luminaries as Dorothy Parker, Charlie Chaplin, D. H. Lawrence, and Winston Churchill.

The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham portrays in full for the first time Maugham’s disastrous marriage to Syrie Wellcome, a manipulative society woman of dubious morality who trapped Maugham with a pregnancy and an attempted suicide. Hastings also explores Maugham’s many affairs with men, including his great love, Gerald Haxton, an alcoholic charmer and a cad. Maugham’s courageous work in secret intelligence during two world wars is described in fascinating detail—experiences that provided the inspiration for the groundbreaking Ashenden stories. From the West End to Broadway, from China to the South Pacific, Maugham’s restless and remarkably productive life is thrillingly recounted as Hastings uncovers the real stories behind such classics as “Rain,” The Painted Veil, Cakes & Ale, and other well-known tales.

An epic biography of a hugely talented and hugely conflicted man, The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham is the definitive account of Maugham’s extraordinary life.


Last Summer, a novel by author J.W. Bouchard is now available as an audiobook on Audible.com and soon at Amazon and iTunes.  Click on the awesomely creepy cover art to go sample and download it!

This is a story about a group of teenagers in a small Iowa town who set out to have a little summer fun and end up finding a whole lot more than they bargained for.  And, yes, I did the narration.  It was a blast to read!

Publisher’s Synopsis:

During the summer of 1993, Zach and his friends set out to have one final adventure before they start high school. But instead, they accidentally discover an entrance to hell and the dark secret which resides there.

People are disappearing, and when Zach’s girlfriend goes missing, he suddenly finds himself caught up in a battle against an ancient evil which threatens to destroy anything that gets in its way.

This is a tale about evil and its existence in a small Iowa town. It’s about childhood, friendship, and growing up. It’s also a love story…

J.W. Bouchard is a horror, science fiction, and children’s fantasy author.  Other books by Mr. Bouchard include The Z Club, Sam Finch and the Zombie Hybrid, Killing God, Rabid, Adrift: A Short Story, All the Dark Places, and Vector.  You can visit him online at jwbouchard.com.


A few months ago I had the opportunity to narrate a biography about the modern composer John Cage.  The book, Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage, was written by Kenneth Silverman who has tackled other influential historical characters such as Edgar Allen Poe, Erich Weiss (Houdini), Cotton Mather, and Samuel Morse.

Begin Again was a fascinating read chock full of fabulous details about John Cage, his work in modern music and other art forms, his relationships (both personal and professional) in the world of music and dance, and even his interest in and work with mushrooms.  What an interesting man and an interesting life.  Influential?  Well, he was one of the first to work in electronic music.  He was at the forefront of music written for prepared piano as well as the use of non-traditional (everyday items as) instruments.  He wrote compositions – the best known is 4’33″ – that call on the audience to explore the idea that there is no such thing as total silence here on earth and that there is music in the most mundane of sounds around us.  He also pioneered the use of “indeterminacy” in music and music composition.

And he’s still influential today – even outside music.  Just a few weeks ago I attended a seminar for theater professionals.  The focus was on exploring “moments” through the use of the various elements available (props, costumes, other actors, lighting, etc.).  It was hosted by The Arena Stage in Washington, DC and presented by members of Moisés Kaufman’s Tectonic Theater Project.  In the process, guess whose work (among others) was referenced briefly?  John Cage, of course.

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):

John Cage was a man of extraordinary and seemingly limitless talents: musician, inventor, composer, poet. He became a central figure of the avant-garde early in his life and remained at that pinnacle until his death in 1992 at the age of eighty. Now award-winning biographer Kenneth Silverman gives us the first comprehensive life of this remarkable artist. We follow Cage from his Los Angeles childhood—his father was a successful inventor—through his stay in Paris from 1930 to 1931, where immersion in the burgeoning new musical and artistic movements triggered an explosion of creativity in him and, after his return to the States, into his studies with the seminal modern composer Arnold Schoenberg. We see Cage’s early experiments with sound and percussion instruments, and watch as he develops his signature work with prepared piano, radio static, random noise, and silence. We learn of his many friendships over the years with other composers, artists, philosophers, and writers; of his early marriage and several lovers, both female and male; and of his long relationship with choreographer Merce Cunningham, with whom he would collaborate on radically unusual dances that continue to influence the worlds of both music and dance. 

Drawing on interviews with Cage’s contemporaries and friends and on the enormous archive of his letters and writings, and including photographs, facsimiles of musical scores, and Web links to illustrative sections of his compositions, Silverman gives us a biography of major significance: a revelatory portrait of one of the most important cultural figures of the twentieth century


I can’t believe it!  Sometimes the stars do align.  I mean, just two days ago I read a Reuters news piece indicating that there are plenty of folks – public and private sector alike – that believe we will some day in the not-too-distant future be snapping up asteroids and harvesting their riches (from precious minerals to water).  And yesterday the audiobook version of popular Sci Fi author David Gerrold’s double paperback Digging in Gehenna/Riding Janis was released at Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

What’s the connection?  Well, the second story in this Sci Fi double-header written by Mr. Gerrold and published by Digital Fabulists is all about a family of asteroid miners and comet tossers.  You should check it out!

If you don’t know David Gerrold by name, you probably know his work.  His novelette Martian Child won Hugo and Nebula awards and was made into a movie of the same name starring John Cusak.  He has also authored two popular series of books — The War Against Chtorr and Star Wolf.  In addition, Mr. Gerrold has worked extensively in television, penning the iconic The Trouble With Tribbles episode from the original Star Trek series.  Aside from continued involvement in the world of Star Trek, Gerrold has also written scripts for a number of other series, including Babylon 5, Land of the Lost, Sliders, and Twilight Zone.

Here is the publisher’s synopsis of this entertaining two-fer:

A Digital Fabulists double paperback by renowned science fiction author David Gerrold! Two electrifying stories in one book: “DIGGING IN GEHENNA” Daddy was arguing with Dr. Blom again, so Mom told me to stay away from the dig for awhile, at least until tempers cooled off. That was the only thing likely to cool off anytime soon. Spring was rising, and so were the daytime temperatures. We would be heading back south to the more comfortable polar zones as soon as the last trucks were loaded and the skywhale arrived tomorrow morning. Twenty-four months would pass before the sand would be cool enough to stand on again, but nobody knew if we would be coming back. “RIDING JANIS” Out in the asteroid belt, the mountains fly. They tumble and roll silently. Distant sparkles break the darkness. Someday we‘ll get out there, we‘ll catch the mountains, we‘ll break them into kibble to get at the good parts. We‘ll find out if the centers are nougat or truffle. And some of us—some of us will even become comet-tossers, throwing the mountains around like gods.


Not too long ago I got the chance to narrate the book Doll Bones by Holly Black.  So as not to confuse those of you who are audiobook fans, let me explain that you will not find my read of this story at an online retailer nor in your local bookstore.  This project was a noncommercial narration for the Library of Congress which makes it available as part of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS).  If you are interested in this book but are not a member of the NLS, the book can be found at the usual places in hardback, paperback, and kindle with illustrations by Eliza Wheeler.  There is also a commercially available audiobook on CD.  Now for a bit …

About The Author *

Her first book, Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, was published in 2002 by Simon & Schuster. Tithe was called “dark, edgy, beautifully written and compulsively readable” by Booklist, received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, and was included in the American Library Association’s Best Books for Young Adults. Holly has since written two other books in the same universe, Valiant (2005), and the sequel to Tithe, Ironside (2007), which spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Valiant was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Award for Young Readers and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

Holly collaborated with her long-time friend, Caldecott award winning artist, Tony DiTerlizzi, to create the bestselling Spiderwick Chronicles. The first two books, The Field Guide and The Seeing Stone were released together in 2003 by Simon & Schuster, with the next three, Lucinda’s Secret (2003), The Ironwood Tree (2004) and The Wrath of Mulgarath (2004), following in rapid succession. The Wrath of Mulgarath climbed to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. The five-book serial has been called “vintage Victorian fantasy” by the New York Post and Time Magazine reported that “the books wallow in their dusty Olde Worlde charm.”

The Spiderwick Chronicles were adapted into a film by Paramount Pictures in conjunction with Nickelodeon Films and released in February 2008.

Doll Bones is the tale of an adventure experienced/undertaken by three close friends.   The book is written about and for readers in the Middle Grades but could probably be enjoyed by younger and even older readers, too.  In relating her story, Ms. Black is able to reach into the world of Middle Graders and touch on some of the issues that present themselves to folks in her target audience in such a way as to make it relevant even to someone like myself who graduated from 8th grade quite some time ago.  Anyway here’s more …

About The Book *

Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her.

But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen—and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave.

Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?

* The excerpts about Holly Black and Doll Bones are quoted from Ms.Black’s own website at http://www.blackholly.com.


Are you familiar with Eric Flint?  Have you read his best-selling alternative history novel, 1632?

That seminal novel launched an entire movement and a collaborative writing effort that involves myriad authors and contributors which has, in turn, grown into what could be described as the 1632 Universe.  Among the writers published via the resulting Ring of Fire Press and the Grantville Gazette is Rick Boatright who authored this highly entertaining story, The Society of St. Philip of the Screwdriver.  Better yet, this fun short story is NOW AVAILABLE as an audiobook at Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

Synopsis:

Take a town full of West Virginia coal miners, 17th century nobility, one of the longest and bloodiest wars in history, d’Artagnan (without the three musketeers), Blaise Pascal, Rene Decartes, Galileo, Oliver Cromwell and Gustav II Adolph. Shake well and simmer for thirteen years.

Eric Flint’s world of 1632 is an amazing and complex alternate history universe that split off from ours one spring day in 2000 and 1631.

The Grantville Singles provide readers with the opportunity to sample some of our favorite stories from the semi-monthly magazine devoted to the series, The Grantville Gazette. We hope you enjoy them.

In this story, Rick Boatright’s popular character Father Nick Smithson returns. While part of the action of the story is set, as usual for Fr. Nick, in the Library, there is rather more ‘action’ than librarians are used to.

Father Nick and his associates continue their work to keep Murphy’s Imp directly in front of them lest a moment of inattention result in disaster.

Yes, I did the voice acting on this project.  It was a blast!!  I even got to use just a touch of my German (having lived there for 5 years, I still have a touch in me).   So … grab a copy using the links below, take a listen [46 mins. running time], and enjoy.

via Audible


Hey!  Wanted to let folks know that the Frank Herbert novella The Priests of Psi is now available as an audiobook.  And, yes, I narrated the story.  It was a lot of fun to read a lesser-known but equally intriguing story by the author of the best-selling Dune series of books.

Here’s a brief synopsis of The Priests of Psi  from the publisher, Killco Publications:

Frank Herbert was a critically acclaimed and successful American science fiction author. He is best known for his novels, most notably Dune and its five sequels. Dune itself is the best-selling science fiction novel of all time, and the series is widely considered to be among the classics in the genre. He also wrote many excellent short stories and novellas – this is one of them.

This story first appeared in Fantastic Science Fiction Stories in February 1960. In it, Lewis Orne is sent to test the powers of a Fanatic Planet…to learn its secrets. In the ordeal that follows, he trembles on the edge of the “Ultimate Secret.”

A word about the story – Minor updates and alterations have been made so as not to interrupt the flow and believability of the story. Technological and otherwise distracting references – such as using audio tape or microfilm for briefing material, have been updated. The plot and characters remain unchanged.

The audiobook can be purchased at Audible, Amazon and iTunes.  A brief sample is available at these sites as well.  Hope you enjoy the story as much as I did!


On May 31, I was extremely pleased to play a return gig at the popular Alexandria watering hole, St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub.  With me were Jim Gormley on percussion and Matthew Leonard on bass.  We had a great time playing our mix of pop, country, R&B, and blues – featuring cool original tunes as well as fun covers.  The set included songs recorded by Keith Urban, Tina Turner, The Eagles, LaBelle, Garth Brooks, and Demi Lovato.


This past weekend I attended the announcement of Olney Theatre Center’s 2014 season in their historic theater.  Having never been to one of these season fêtes, I was really quite amazed at how many of the folks who are regular season ticket holders made the effort to be there on a Sunday afternoon.  I mean, they could have just read about it in the newspaper or checked the OTC website, etc.  While those in attendance were given an opportunity for special pricing, I think it says a lot about a theater when their audience is that engaged.  Perhaps part of the draw was that it was the first season designed by Jason Loewith, the new Artistic Director at Olney.

I won’t go into the mechanics of the affair.  Suffice it to say that it was a well-organized event.  Mr. Loewith did a nice job of expressing his vision for the upcoming season and the new approach to their seasons in general.  It’s true that a theater in the suburbs of Washington, DC has among it’s audience members a diverse array of people with an equally diverse array of cultural interests.  Loewith underscored that fact with a good humored sharing of real audience input from shows in the 2013 season.  There were folks who had equally vigorous yet completely opposite reactions to the productions.  Quite a predicament for a theater to find itself in!  The solution?

In a nutshell, they are going to have three different series of shows for audiences to choose from – contemporary, classical and family.  Subscribers can purchase tickets to one or more of these series and receive a substantial discount over the individual ticket price.  Sounds like a good plan to me.   Of course, what everyone wanted to know at the end of the day was “What shows will Olney Theatre Center be producing in 2014?”  Here is what they announced.

Cabaret
The Piano Lesson
Awake & Sing
I and You
Avenue Q
Colossal
Once On This Island
The Tempest*
As You Like It*
To Kill A Mockingbird*
TBA – One Show Still To Be Determined

* by the National Players

Those in attendance were also treated to fine performances of songs from the upcoming season.  Celebrated Music Director Christopher Youstra was on the keyboard as Tracy Stevens sang from Cabaret, Sam Ludwig from Avenue Q, and Eleasha Gamble from Once On This Island.

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