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After a wait of two years, Scar Girl, sequel to The Scar Boys, arrives in bookstores everywhere and online Tuesday, March 1. To celebrate, I’m making one of the songs from the book available as a free download.
Scar Girl features six different songs. All but one of the six are songs I had written years ago. (The lyrics to one of the songs — “That’s Not My Leg” — were written specifically for Scar Girl. I have yet to write any music for those lyrics. Hey…maybe I should have a contest to see who can write the best music. Hmmm…)
Anyway, regarding the song I’m making available here… In 2008, when I found out my wife, Kristen (pictured on the right), was pregnant with our first son, Charlie (also pictured on the right), I didn’t have any overt, outward reaction. I’m not now and have never been the kind of guy to jump up and down with excitement. (They would never pick me for The Price Is Right.) While I was really and truly ecstatic, I didn’t know how to show it.
So I grabbed my guitar, went into another room, and wrote this song. It pretty much explains how I felt. It’s been adapted here for Cheyenne’s character, and yes, you can consider this something of a spoiler. (But no worries, this happens very early in the book.) I’ll say no more.
The track, Lullaby, features the vocal talents of my friend Stephanie Coleman. (Stephanie, pictured on the left, is going to sing this live with me at the Scar Girl launch party at Tattered Cover in Littleton, CO on March 8.) The song was recorded in my living room using Garage Band and some cheap mics.
Right click this link to download the song: Lullaby
Post a note here to let me know what you think, and enjoy!
The Scar Boys “Win an Electric Guitar Contest” is a wrap. For those of you who entered but did not receive an email from me saying that you won, well, thank you for taking the time to enter, but sorry, you didn’t win. For the two of you who did receive that email from me, congrats! (More on our winners below.)
I was thrilled that dozens of you knew the mystery song was actually the tune from the classic movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
That tune has been stuck in my head for decades.
Two winners were chosen at random from among all the correct entries. I’m thrilled to introduce you to:
Ben from San Lorenzo Valley High School in Northern California.
"People always say that working hard for something makes it more dear, and it’s probably true, but so does serendipity. The electric guitar is gorgeous. As soon as I got home I took the case onto my bed, unzipped it from neck to base, and lay the guitar on my lap. Sixty years of design has made the shape of an electric guitar not only practical and comfortable, but remarkably sensual."
I’m so excited for Ben and Jessica, and am happy that The Scar Boys gave me an opportunity to help spread the gift of music a little further. (Farther? I’m a writer, I should probably know that. I also probably shouldn’t end my sentences with the word "that." But I digress.)
The contest also helped raise $400 for Library for All, a wonderful nonprofit building digital libraries in communities where people have no access to books. It’s not a huge sum of money, but every little bit helps. This is me delivering the check to Nicole, Isabel and Jessica at LFA.
I encourage you to get involved. Visit their website to find out how.
Thanks again to everyone who entered, and congrats again Ben and Jessica!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words (as an author, I might actually dispute that), so below are a selection of images and videos from the West Coast swing of The Scar Boys’ book tour. I hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoyed living them.
And finally, if you were at one of the events and haven’t yet entered the contest, it’s not too late!
Friday Jams was the band of 9th and 10th graders that opened for me at Vroman’s in Pasadena. More poise and talent than I EVER had playing in a band.
A passionate, energetic performance of a Cake song by Ben at San Lorenzo Valley High School in Northern California. Awesome.
This is one of my favorite student performances. The audio is bad because the iPhone was too far away. Listen with the volume up or with headphones to appreciate this beautiful original song.
Beautiful original song by Emma (high school senior) at The King’s English in Salt Lake City.
These were two of half a dozen students at Mira Costa High in Manhattan Beach that were brave enough to come on up and perform. The level of talent at this school was off the charts.
I’m writing this from 34,000 feet above the Great Lakes, strapped tightly to my seat but still jostled by turbulence so intense that the flight attendants have suspended servcie. I’m en route to Denver for the longest single leg of The Scar Boys Book Tour. Five separate flights, three hotels (plus my brothers’ couch), three states, and fifteen events over nine days (and ten nights).
I. Am. Stoked!
While I will see many friends along the way, I’ll also have a lot of alone time. And what do I fill alone time with? Books and music, of course.
The only books I’m bringing with me — I tried e-books and they didn’t really take, so I’m still lugging print — are Dave Egger’s The Circle, and Joelle Charbonneau’s The Testing. I am, however, bringing a lot of music.
My laptop has a sizeable library of my favorite tunes. While it’s fun to put that library on shuffle and let it play, it’s more fun to construct an actual playlist, which is basically this generation’s version of the mix tape. Those of you old enough to remember mix tapes, also remember how many painstaking hours you spent trying to get the tape just right. While it’s much easier with a playlist — each song on a mix tape was an irrevocable commitment, the invisible magnetic filaments on the tape having a feeling of permanence once a song was recorded — the construction of a playlist is done with no less care and attention. And of course, there are rules:
- Only one song per artist.
- Each song has to mean something to me.
- No Journey. (I don’t actually have any Journey in my library, but I have a whole lot of other stuff that could be labeled as “guilty pleasure” by me, or “Len, really?” by you.)
- Thirty songs total. No more, no less.
I should note that there is a Spotify playlist of all The Scar Boys’ chapter heads, and while that’s fun, it’s not really what I want to listen to. Those chapter heads were chosen for literal relevance to the action about to unfold in the story. They don’t necessarily make for a cohesive listening experience. No, I need something to draw me in, “to pick me up and undress me, lay me down and caress me,” as Joe Jackson sings in song # 30.
So here, then, is my first book tour playlist. What do you think? What would you change? What’s on your playlist?
|A.M. Radio||Everclear||One of a few songs on this list about or connected to music, it’s a kickass groove that is a great way to get us started. Everclear is a seriously under rated band.|
|Pulling Teeth||Green Day||One of my all-time favorite bands, with one of my all-time favorite songs, off one of my all-time favorite albums. Keeps the list caffeinated through the second song.|
|Birth of Serpents||Mountain Goats||Toning it down with this quirky and fun recent Pandora discovery.|
|Long Black Veil||Johnny Cash||Not necessarily my favorite Johnny Cash song, but the one I’m listening to (and playing) right now.|
|Worst Day Since Yesterday||Flogging Molly||A nice mix from JC to Flogging Molly. Worst Day is great romp from this LA-based Celtic punk band. It’s a pick me up for when you’re feeling down. (Or maybe brings you down when you’re up? I don’t know.)|
|Growin’ Up||Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band||My sister is coming off just about the worst year a person can have. As this is her favorite song, I recently learned it to cheer her up. It’s now become one of my favorites, too. (And check out this awesome video of Bruce playing it when he was just a kid.)|
|A Whole Lot Better||Brandon Benson||A recent Shazam acquisition with an infectious groove to get us amped back up.|
|Everyday I Write the Book||Elvis Costello||Let’s keep the tempo upbeat. (And seriously, I’m on a book tour. Did you think I would leave this one out?)|
|Lua||Bright Eyes||A super talented tenth grader sang this song at a high school event I did outside of Chicago and it completely floored me. I downloaded the original and immediately learned it on the guitar. (For the record, I like the high schooler’s version best. A portion of her performance can be viewed here.)|
|Landslide||Dixie Chicks||Keeping it mellow for a bit. I love this song and this is my favorite version.|
|Something to Hold Onto||Parachute||Another Pandora discovery. This was on a playlist I was listening to while reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. The song and the book are now permanently intertwined. Music’ll do that to you.|
|Ball and Chain||Social Distortion||We play a lot of Pandora where I work, and one band that seems to be on everyone’s Pandora channel is Social Distortion. We’ve started to refer to them as the BISG house band. This will help me remember my colleagues, remind me to check work email as often as I can, and also remind me that I still very much need a day job!|
|Sorry Mr. Harris||Tom Robinson||When I was 13, older friends took me to see a band called Sector 27 at Irving Plaza in New York. Sector 27 was fronted by Tom Robinson, who was better known for his own ensemble, the Tom Robinson Band. I ran out and bought a copy of TRB II and have loved it ever since.|
|Midnight Radio||Hedwig & the Angry Inch||Another great song about music, this from the soundtrack to the film Hedwig & the Angry Inch. The film is a brilliant exploration of gender, sexuality, and connectedness with incredible music throughout. (Parents and kids, the film is rated R.)|
|Pleasant Sounds||Me with my friend Jess||Yes, yes, I included one of my own songs. Sue me. This is something I wrote a long time ago and got my friend Jess to sing. I love Jess’s voice, and love the way it brings this song to life. (If you come to a book tour event, you’ll understand why I’m a guitar player and not a singer.)|
|Seven Spanish Angels||Ray Charles with Willie Nelson||I sang Seven Spanish Angels to my older son, Charlie, every day for the first two years of his life. It’s the only song I can almost sort of not completely mangle a cappella. (Okay not really. I suck. Still love the song though.)|
|Pretty Persuasion||R.E.M.||One of my all-time favorite Perer Buck guitar riffs. And hey, his name is on the cover of The Scar Boys, too.|
|CBGB’s||Syd Straw||Another song with a musical connection. As CBGB’s figured prominently in the book, I thought I should include it.|
|100 Years||Blues Traveler||Kristen, my wife, gave me this song years ago and it still makes me think of her and smile today. It’ll be a visceral reminder of why I love her so much while I’m on the road.|
|Ripple||Grateful Dead||I’m couch surfing at my brother’s in San Francisco’s East Bay on this trip. My brother is (was?) a Dead Head. ‘Nuff said.|
|Half Acre||Hem||Three mellow songs in a row? Yeah, well, I’m getting older and need some extra chillax time. Anyway, a friend made me a mix tape before she moved out of the area — a mix tape is a great way to say goodbye to someone, as it helps keep them in your memory — and this song was on it. I’d never heard it before, but now it winds up on a lot of my playlists.|
|Queen Bitch||David Bowie||Let’s counter the three mellow songs with three songs with a killer groove. I love old Bowie, and this is one of my favorites. (Heroes was the other choice for this list. The “Bitch” won out.)|
|Brimful of Asher||Cornershop (w/Fatboy Slim)||Who better to keep a groove going than Fatboy Slim?|
|Hot Wax||Beck||Beck, that’s who! When Odelay, Beck’s seminal album, first came out, I have to admit, I didn’t get it. But as time wore on, the groove got into my bones. This is my favorite track.|
|I Will Follow You Into the Dark||Death Cab for Cutie||Let’s hit the brakes and bring it all the way back down. This is one of two “death” songs on the list. (See “Kite” below.) There’s been entirely too much of that going around lately. This is one of my favorite songs to sing and play.|
|Tears of a Clown||Smokey Robinson & the Miracles||Simply put, one of the best pop songs ever written, and a nice antidote to the darkness of the previous track.|
|Hey Soul Sister||Train||A song with great personal meaning that helps keep it happy, until…|
|Kite (live)||U2||The other “death” song on the list, and my favorite U2 song. This version is incredible. (This whole recording — U2 Live at Slane Castle — is a must
|Bangers, Beans, and Mash||Infant Sorrow||I guess this song is supposed to be a joke, but I don’t care. I love it. I first watched “Get Him to the Greek” on a night when I was feeling really low, and it was like a magic elixir. The tune always makes me smile.|
|A Slow Song||Joe Jackson||This song has been on my mix tapes since it came out in 1982. It closes out Joe’s Night and Day album, and is perfect for ending any playlist (or mix tape!)|