Posts Tagged ‘the Devil’

Robert Johnson’s studio portrait, one of the few verified photos of him.

I come across the most fascinating subjects sometimes, and when I do, I just have to learn as much as I can about them. Especially if I think I can write a story around them. Robert Johnson is one of those subjects. And if you haven’t heard of him before, that’s a damn shame. Because guess what? Robert Johnson may be the most enigmatic figure in American music history, as well as blues history.

So if you haven’t heard of Robert Johnson, let me give you the quick summary: Robert Johnson was a blues singer who traveled around the American South during the Great Depression. He recorded several songs and two albums in the two years before he died in 1938 in obscurity. However, he made a comeback in the 1960s, influencing musicians like Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones.

There is very little knowledge about him as a person. Very few photos of Johnson exist, and everything we do know is from scant records and recollections. No one’s sure how he died, they just know that he did at the young age of 27 (my age at the moment, BTW). All this has led to a huge amount of speculation and mythology around the man. The most famous myth is that Johnson sold his soul to the Devil at a crossroads for talent.

If you’re paying attention this far down and you know me well, you can guess this was why I showed interest in Johnson in the first place.

But let me tell you, the Crossroads myth, as it’s known, only scratches the surface of this mysterious man. I’ve listened to all his music several times (which, by the way, is excellent), watched one biographical video on him, listened to one audio book biography about him and am in the middle of another (also on audio), and watched the movie Crossroads which heavily references Johnson and his legend (it was a lot better than I thought it would be). I’ve been down the rabbit hole on Johnson, and there’s so much more to him than just a myth about the Devil.

If you’ve ever wondered where the crossroads myth in Supernatural is from, Robert Johnson’s legend is an influence.

Robert Johnson was a man whose life was defined by music and impermanence. He was playing from a young age, and traveled all over the United States, and maybe even to Canada. He invented new guitar practices, some of which are still used by artists today. His relationships were often short and fleeting, and even the people closest to him, except maybe his family, weren’t entirely sure who he was. He was such an enigma, his death wasn’t officially confirmed until thirty years after the fact, when his death certificate was found by a researcher. His cause of death is listed as “Unknown Causes.” Even his gravesite is in dispute.

All this and more, from the legends around Johnson, to how he became the influence he is today, and of course his music, make him someone I want to learn more about.

And did I mention his music is wonderful? Because it is. I can put it on in the background and just zone out while I cook or work or write. Yeah, it has an older sound, but there’s something about Johnson’s playing and voice that stick with you, gets into your soul.

And I’ll keep listening to him and researching him for a while yet. I’m still learning what I can about him, and I haven’t figured out what sort of story I want to write around Johnson. I don’t want to write about the Crossroads myth, because that’s been done to death. I was going to do something set in the Cthulhu Mythos, but as much fun as playing in that sandbox is, I want to do more than play with someone else’s toys.

Well, I’m sure I’ll come up with something. May be today, may be next year, but I’ll come up with something. And in the meantime, I’ll keep writing and listening to Robert Johnson’s small but beautiful discography.

And if this makes you want to listen to and/or learn more about Johnson, I recommend the Centennial Collection, which contains the clearest sound of Johnson’s music. I also recommend Crossroads by Tom Graves and Up Jumped the Devil by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow if you want in-depth biography on him. But first, you should listen to probably Johnson’s most famous song, as well as one of the songs that feeds the Crossroads myth, “Cross Road Blues:”

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope this made you interested in learning more on Johnson. Now, if you need me, I’ll be working on Toyland while watching a debate (Evil Dead original vs. remake. It’s going to get bloody).

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Last Monday, I announced that my novel, Rose, is getting published by Castrum Press. And amidst all the excitement and a little extra alcohol (because of course I’ve been celebrating), there has been a lot of correspondence between me and the publisher (and how cool is it that I can say that now?). Some of what we’ve talked about is how the publishing process works, what each of us can do in terms of marketing, etc. But one of the big things we’ve talked about in the past week is the fifth draft. And trust me, there’s going to be a fifth draft. Because as nice as the fourth draft was, it’s still got a few problems here and there that can be cleaned up.

I’ll be honest with you guys: as excited as I am about all this, I’m a little terrified. Okay, maybe a lot terrified. Before last Monday, this dream of being an author with a publisher was just that: a dream. And as much as we want our dreams to be accomplished, when they’re still dreams, there’s only so much damage that can be done to them. But once they’re brought into reality, like when a publisher wants to release your book, then there’s all sorts of damage that can be inflicted: negative reviews and/or poor sales, the process to publication can be beset with difficulties, etc. (I don’t think that those things will happen, but my overactive mind tends to consider every horrible possibility out there).

On Friday, my publisher and I agreed to catch up again in mid-May to see how my edits are going. After that, we’ll see where we go for there. And I’m scared that when they see what I’ve done there, they’ll feel I haven’t lived up to their expectations and rescind the publication deal. Again, I’m pretty sure this is more my fear than an actual possibility, but like I said, I have to consider all possibilities. And that one has gotten kind of big in my head.

Of course, me being me, I take what’s scaring me and turn it into a fuel for my confidence, motivation to produce good work, and a means to scare others (I believe psychologists call this sublimation). I even gave myself a pep talk a few minutes ago in front of the mirror, using a scary voice to convince myself how powerful I am and that I can accomplish what I set my mind too. And it worked very well. Weird what I can do when I tell myself that I am the Devil, Azathoth, Nyarlathotep, and Death all rolled into one, and that I can be my generation’s Stephen King while sounding like I’m possessed. Yes, I do that. Don’t judge me.

So I’ll get started on a fifth draft of Rose very soon, finishing up a couple of tasks before I do so. I’ll also be leaving for the library in a little bit to print out some of the editors’ notes. Hopefully I can take enough from those notes to better the manuscript before the deadline in mid-May. Fingers crossed.

As always, I’ll keep you guys informed of any developments that occur. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares! (I know it’s not even two in the afternoon yet. But that’s never stopped some people from having nightmares during the day.)