Sometimes, when the words don’t make their way from heart to brain to notebook to computer screen, I’ll take out my electric guitar. It’s a sleek blue and white Fender Stratocaster with loose pickups and cries for more attention. I’m a bad guitar player, but I know enough about power chords to be dangerous. To break the block, I’ll plug the guitar into the amplifier, turn the knobs to five or six, okay, always six, and let “it” rip. Usually my fingers miss a fret, and every once in a while, my pick gets jammed inside my right thumb. But always the strum releases tension, I think of the word, phrase or paragraph I need, and suddenly I feel almost like a real artist.

I imagine this is what some of my artistic heroes were and are, like. Putting your soul out there is scary and you stay fearful someone will call you a freak.

One of the pieces of music I know how to play is also known as the first “power chord”. A man named Link Wray wrote an rock and roll instrumental called “Rumble” in 1958. His manager, his record label boss, and some of his friends hated it. He turned all the knobs up much louder than usual, poked holes in his amplifier, and hit the chords on his guitar harder and faster than anyone else had thought, before. A few years later, an entire way of life happened because of his record. People learned how to play guitar from “Rumble” and the genre of “rock music” was forever changed.

What followed Link Wray’s moment of rebellious brilliance was the kind of music that inspires me, daily. I wrote my first book, The Ballad of Helene Troy, on the style he invented. Here are five other songs, along with Link Wray’s, that show some of my artistic process.

Rumble – Link Wray

Ticket to Ride – The Beatles

Psychotic Reaction – Count Five

Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones

You Really Got Me – The Kinks

Wild Thing – The Troggs

*****blogger’s note*****

I returned today from a five day jaunt to Washington D.C. with my wife and 3 daughters. We had a blast but I’m so behind in writing, reading, commenting, and linking to prompts, I’ll never catch up. I’m combining Trifecta Writing’s 333 word challenge of “freak” with my music freak friend, Jen at ‘s Twisted Mixtape Tuesday. Her topic was 1950s and 1960s and the challenge was to deliver a mixtape or playlist to at least five songs. I gave a style and songs that I can kinda sorta play, poorly, on guitar, based on the emotionally reaction I have to the power chord. This may be a stretch and I may not “win” anything from either writing community but, well, it was inspired and honest and only 333 words and from the 1960s so take that, punks.

Now, go find a guitar and hit a G and an A and a C and feel the rebellion.

Looking for an edgy, music-filled page-turner to take to the pool, beach, or backyard deck for the summer? Get Helene, a rock and roll underdog story. It’s available digitally on amazon/kindle , smashwords, and Good reads and in paperback from or a signed copy from Pound Publishing Headquarters, in the Hill of Sugar, Georgia.


Hard To Beat

Last time with Helene Troy:

Helene’s long hot shower wasn’t sobering but it made her feel clean and sexy. As she exited the shower, she saw her phone had fallen from the sink. She remembered the broken lock to the door bathroom. She called to Xander.

“Being a good boy?”

He laughed.

“This masterpiece is so grand, even your naked body couldn’t distract me.”

Helene liked him. She knelt down, nude and wet, to put her phone back together to check messages. She saw 3 texts and 1 call from Ramona Gallery.

“Can’t stop thinking about you. Want to see you before or after the show.”

She dialed Ramona, who answered on the first ring.

“Hi Leney!”

Helene thought about what she wanted. Then she took a few seconds to think about what she needed. Ramona felt good and she was helping her. Xander was new and would take some training.

“Ramona, if you can’t catch my show tonight, meet me at the afterparty. Then I’m yours for the night. I like your bed, my mona.”

They said goodbye. Helene felt no guilt.

She left her hair wet, ignored makeup, and wore only a pair of dirty jeans, a small white bra, and a Hard Fi band t-shirt. She hoped Xander would still call her beautiful being low maintenance. Helene opened the bathroom door and gasped.

Xander looked at Helene’s shocked reaction and stuttered.

“It’s all etchings from black crayons you had and some sepia water colors. Don’t touch it. It’s you at that Greek show. It was the best I could do in 20 minutes…I added the star tattoo as wishful thinking. I think one would look good there..”

Helene walked over to him, with tears in her eyes and threw her tired arms around Xander’s waist.

“Thank you, Xander. It’s fucking awesome and artistically brilliant. You’re so talented.

Her tears soaked Xander’s shoulder.

“It’s my interpretation of the beast inside your beauty. And your need to feed every day. I think it’s really respresentative of who you are on stage.”

***blogger’s note****

This is a new story episode of Helene Troy. You can read the rest of the story, so far, here: This is also my reply to my friends at Their one word prompt this week was “Beast”


Today’s song is perfect for the moment between Helene and Xander. I dig Hard Fi, British post punk song. It’s something that would be Helene CD collection. Here’s Hard Fi ‘s Hard To Beat…play it loud

The Way We Get By

Last time with Helene Troy:

A slight summer breeze accompanied Helene and Xander on their walk to her apartment. A few blocks away from her place, Helene realized she was looking more at Xander’s smile than the Jack Daniels bottle peering from her backpack. She texted Darcy several times with no answer. They walked inside her building. Helene fumbled for her keys. Xander opened the manually operated elevator. She saw him look around the dingy hallway and grimace as a roach crawled across faded blue carpet. They arrived on the second floor and opened the elevator together.

“Don’t hate on my place too much. It’s rent controlled and no one ever complains about the guitar playing.”

She walked to the door and put in the key. Xander muttered.

“That’s because your neighbors are probably hiding from the cops.”

Helene laughed to herself then turned around to shoot a glare that startled him.

“Helene, I was joking. I’m stupid. I’m so sorry.”

Unoffended by his remark, she didn’t say so. Helene preferred Xander being a little afraid of her. She placed the backpack and keys on the stained green sofa sitting in the middle of the living room. She took the Jack Daniels from the backpack and walked through the apartment. After failing to find signs of her roommate, she walked into her bedroom and put her guitar next to her bed then opened the bottle. The warm bourbon soothed her sore throat. Xander called from the other room.

“Helene, you want me to leave?”

She took another swig and closed the bottle. She placed it on the nightstand and fell into bed. Realizing how drunk she was, she played out a mischievious scenario in her head, to make him stay.

“Come in here with me.”

He appeared in the threshold of the bedroom. Helene got nauseous as she braced herself on her elbows. Her t-shirt crept up her torso revealing her stomach. She noticed Xander’s eyes looking over her lithe body arched on the queen sized mattress.

“Tell me why you paint, Xander.”

He smiled. Taking a couple of steps toward her, his face blushed through a three-day scruff. He straightened his posture and tossed long strands of black hair from his eyes and answered.

“Because painting makes me feel alive. It’s like having my soul defend me to the world.”

Helene thought it was the perfect response. Her smile was unstoppable. She saw the same passion in Xander that rolled through her.

“That’s what music does for me. I play, sing, and write because I have to. It’s how I fight through each day.”

They looked into each other eyes and exchanged broad smiles. Helene wanted to be sober. She glanced at the Jack Daniels and lost her desire to drink. She rolled her glossy green eyes back to Xander.

“My band’s opening for The Golden Apples around 9 tonight. Do you want to see me all plugged in and loud?”

Xander put his hands in his pockets and rocked in sneakers from side to side.

“Of course I do. I’ve seen you before. A couple of times, actually.”

Helene sat up in the bed and extended her crossed legs in front of her. She wondered if Xander was a fan or something else.

“So you knew me before Mickey’s the other night?”

Xander pursed his lips and looked away.

“Helene, I’m not a stalker, I swear. I was at The Greek last year when Slipper Socks Medium opened for Spoon. I’m a huge fan of theirs. You were amazing that night. I checked out your MySpace after that and admired you from afar. Mickey’s was an awesome coincidence.”

Helene liked his awkwardness. She decided to play with him, again.

“Well, I’ve shown you mine. You show me yours.”

He removed his hands from his jean pockets and struggled to respond. Helene stood, got through the dizziness, and pulled off her sweaty t-shirt.

“I’m going to take a shower. I want to remember this night. Next to the fridge is a cabinet with art supplies. My roommate, Darcy, and I used them to make flyers, posters, band logos, and t-shirts. Draw or paint something on the wall across from the bed. Whatever moves you.”

Helene caught his large brown eyes on her chest. Only a small white bra covered her breasts.

“Focus Xander.”

He blushed again, and turned around to leave the bedroom.

“Yeah, I’ll go get that stuff.”

She opened the nightstand to look for underwear and another shirt. Xander spoke from the door.

“Helene, you’re beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.”

She didn’t take compliments well, especially about her looks. She smiled and moved her hands over her body as she answered.

“Flattery will only get you a hard time from me.”

She bit her bottom lip and continued.

“But don’t stop, okay? Now, go in there for a a few minutes. Tickets for this show aren’t on sale yet.”

This is a new story episode of The Ballad of Helene Troy. You can read the rest of the story, so far, here:

Today’s song started playing in my head as I moved this episode from notebook to computer screen. It’s a simple song about simple pleasures. I think it how Helene and Xander would connect. Here’s Spoon’s The Way We Get By….

The Player To Be Named Later

The only thing I’ll miss about this job is other people doing my laundry. Six months a year, people take my dirty, sweaty shirts, pants, underwear, socks and shoes and clean them well. I’m not going to be wistful about anything else but the laundry. It’s time to move on with my life. Hell, I’ve felt this way for three years. The time I spend around the same people year in and year out is a big waste of time . There’s something sad about man in his mid thirties being waited on hand and foot.

“Tom, here’s that package you wanted. I tipped the cabbie the whole twenty you gave me.”

I should be angry about this chump being careless with my cash, but he’s a teenager and I make an obscene amount of money in my line of work.

“It’s cool, kid. Thanks.”

I’ve got two things to do tonight. The first, I’ll take care of now, then I’ll shower and taxi across town.

I hate how my boss always closes his door. He’s not doing anything in there and the handle’s always ice cold.

“Skip, thanks for letting me work tonight. I’ll go talk to the big boss tomorrow but I wanted you to be the first to know…..”

He raises his huge hands. They’re stained from years of cigarettes. His ruddy face is always in a scowl. He’s probably going to cuss me out.

“Tom, I saw this coming. The effort you’ve put out this year has been exceptional for someone your age. It’s like you were doing it all for the last time, every time.”

If there’s one thing a good manager possesses, it’s instinct. He knew what I was going to say before I said it. I extend my right hand and so does he. Then I lie.

“I’ll miss you, boss, and I’ll miss this time of my life.”

We don’t say anything else. As I walk from his office the guys stare. When you travel and spend so much down time with people, no matter how stupid or myopic they are, they develop a sense of you. They all know they’ll never see me again.

I shower, dress, and retrieve the package that was delivered. My entire night is free. Because I just quit my job, I don’t have to worry about tomorrow in a usual way. I’m only concerned about getting to her.

The traffic in the city is unusually heavy. The back of the cab is cramped. It’s a warm night for the last day in September. My hands start to sweat. The perspiration is running onto the cuffs on my starched white dress shirt. Damn it, I hope she doesn’t notice. She will. She’s amazing, she notices everything. I need some time to cool off before I reach her.

“Hey driver, can you stop about 3 blocks shy of the Guggenheim? I want to walk the rest of the way.”

I’m shocked at my own nervousness. I’m never this way about anything and I have a lot of pressure at work. The cabbie stops and I pay him. The humidity of an Indian summer in New York City isn’t helping my perspiration. The museum looks busy. She’s probably overwhelmed and cranky. I’m starting to rethink this surprise visit.

Earlier in the day I stared into the eyes a growling, over trained athletic freak and defeated him in less than two minutes. I can do this with her.

After paying my admission and maneuvering through security I see one of her coworkers. She smiles.

“Hey, where can I find Dagny tonight?”

She excuses herself from someone and walks with me a few feet to a room and begins to point.

“Tom, go two rooms over then take the stairs to the second level. Dagny’s doing a presentation in front of the Salvordor Dali exhibit.”

It seems like I’m walking thousands of steps in sand. Anxiety waves over me. My hands have stopped sweating because they’re numb. I reach the second level, which is all white with those weird paintings. She would yell at me when I called them Jollys. Why did like me, again? Then she glanced toward me and her blue eyes stopped me in my tracks. She grinned my way, then finished her talk about the brilliance of some painting that looked like a dude holding a clock that was slipping out of his hand. And then it hit me.

That painting WAS me. That’s why she loved it. That’s why she loved me. My career was slipping away and she wanted me to understand that. I’m almost 35 years old, my right arm looks like a jigsaw puzzle inside, I’ve been employed by nine different organizations in fifteen years and I don’t have a back up plan other than to be with her.

She walks over to me, radiating impressiveness.

“Hey Tom. I’ve been working all day. I’m sorry I haven’t had to chance to hear how my favorite Mets relief pitcher did today against the Phillies.”

I take one step toward her and we meet inches away from each other’s lips. I reach inside my sports coat pocket and take out the package, opening it slowly.

“I struck out Howard with the bases loaded. But that’s in the past. Dagny, I’m tired of being the player to be named later. I want to be with you forever.”

I get down on one knee. It’s my left, because my right has torn cartilege and I need surgery. I wince and look up at her with the package, a diamond ring, in my left hand.

“Dagny, will you marry me.”

****blogger’s  note****

This is my response to Indie Ink’s challenge:
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, The Drama Mama challenged me with “” and I challenged Melissa Brodsky with “write something where a character has a panic attack/suffers from anxiety”.

Today’s song was a hard one. Usually I come up with the song at the same time or before I come up with the story idea. Tom is not only the player to be named later but he’s also the Nowhere Man. His futrue is uncertain other than he’s in love.  Here’s The Beatles Nowhere Man