Nice interview with Ben Vendetta in QRD Magazine
Fantastic review from the UK in PopJunkie
Last night was the official book launch party for Wivenhoe Park at Last Exit Books in Kent. If you're ever there, please pay them a visit. It's an amazing store with a really laid back cozy atmosphere. They have an amazing selection in every genre, plus a huge selection of CDs and vinyl, not to mention cassettes! The reading and Q&A was a lot of fun. Really appreciate everyone who came out. Can't thank you enough!
Video footage courtesy of Gerald Biggerstaff of popcultureredefined:
Here are a few photos from the event (Top photo by Gerald Biggerstaff; below that by Shannon Okey; bottom two by Gary Blaine):
If you've seen the film The World's End, you'll get my Gary King costume. If not, you'll just think I'm just some goth trying to relive his glory days. Anyway, Happy Halloween!
As far as updates go, Wivenhoe Park is out in paperback and kindle and the customer reviews thus far have been amazing. I'm really blown away!
I haven't posted much about my running lately but my workouts have been going OK. I haven't raced since August and I've actually enjoyed the brief break from competition. I've been racing hard year round for close to ten years and it does take a toll on your body. I will most definitely do the Reindeer Run in early December -- that's one of my favorite local races. I also plan on staying in good shape over the winter as I want to do some fast races early in the Spring. The plan is that I'll be doing a book tour in late April-early May, so I may not get much of a chance to run then.
I know things have been ridiculously slow on this blog, but after a bit of a hiatus, I have a lot of good news. My novel Wivenhoe Park is finally out -- the photo above is my cat Ike posing with the finished product. The official launch party will be at Last Exit Books in Kent on November 8. Kevin Coral, who played in the criminally underrated Witch Hazel Sound will be DJing. He has a seriously awesome record collection and will be spinning tons of tunes from the era that the novel takes place in (mid 1980s).
A big box of books just arrived to sell at that event. For those unable to attend the official launch party, the book is now available in paperback and Kindle editions. My favorite music magazine, The Big Takeover, will be reviewing Wivenhoe Park in their next issue (out some time next month I think). You can find The Big Takeover at cool record stores and places like Barnes and Noble. Here's the review by the Editor/Publisher Jack Rabid:
What a fun novel with sneaky depth. BT’s own Vendetta brings back an ’80s era when a stunning, now-legendary post-punk/indie rock scene was blazing in Britain, yet this time, unlike with punk rock, a smaller slice of Americans followed its brilliance. He slyly evokes this in a coming-of-college-age story of throwing off the influence (and snares) of normal Middle American life by instead immersing himself into the thick of the NME/Melody Maker/Sounds-fed maelstrom in England itself (while seeing a bit of the continent). The scenes of hot concerts, encountering the new albums, and meeting key players such as Creation Records impresario Alan McGee are as vivid as the romantic angst of an early 20-something negotiating the love/sex conundrum and the constant worrying about identity and career—it’s all as funny as thoughtful. And I didn’t see the ending coming, either.
During my recent visit to New York I caught up with my old buddy, Marc Wasserman, the first time we saw each other since 1990. The two of us were close friends during our junior year abroad at the University of Essex in Colchester, England. I came over in October 1985 while Marc was there for the second semester. We met right away in January 1986 – one of the Americans on campus introduced us at some disco and we instantly bonded. He hadn't heard Psychocandy yet -- it was only out in England at that time -- so we went back to my room and played the cassette, knocking back whiskey from a bottle of Jack Daniels and shooting the shit. Instant rock 'n' roll bond. Marc and I were the two ‘weird’ Americans on campus, the only ones who had earrings and didn’t rock preppie garb, preferring Converse to K Swiss. Marc landed a radio show and I was often his guest – we dubbed ourselves the Wanky Yanks. The two of us went to a ton of shows, pubs and clubs together and spent a month traveling the continent. If you read my novel, Wivenhoe Park, the character Johnny is based on Marc. Catching up with Marc again, I realized how parallel our adult lives are. Both of us stuck to our guns and have been involved with music our whole lives while, of course, working for the man to pay the bills. Marc has experienced success as a musician, most notably with acclaimed NYC ska outfit Bigger Thomas, while I've been a writer and record label guy. Both of us have mainly working in writing oriented day jobs, such as publishing and PR.
The six months I hung out with Marc in England shaped my whole life. I’m not exaggerating. I’m not sure if I would have pursued my musical endeavors with the same intensity if I had not gone to England that year and if I had not met Marc. Marc has told me the same. I’ll be back in NYC early next year for a book reading event where one of Marc’s bands (Bigger Thomas or Rude Boy George) will play as well. We won’t go 23 years without seeing each other anymore -- I hope for the rest of my life that I’ll see Marc at least once a year!
I've had a pretty consistent but nothing spectacular 2013 thus far. I've had some good races and workouts but the mental focus has definitely been much more on the book than running. That said, I've figured out a way to get the most out of pretty minimal mileage. Not out of laziness really but more because I just don't recover like I used to. The bottom line is I like to race as fast as I can and I don't really like racing much longer than 5K so my approach is to run workouts that make me faster at 5K like tempos of 3-4 miles, sessions like 16 x 400 w/ 100 jog and Aussie Quarters (8 x 400 with aggressive 200 floats in between for recovery). 2 weeks ago I ran a solid 5K in Lorain (18:09) but could definitely tell that I was a little overworked in the intensity department. I eased back and mainly did threshold work and today popped a 17:51, which age grades to 15:52 at the open level. Basically what I might have run on this course when I was in my last year or two of high school. In other words, I'm about as good for my age now as I was back then. Back then I ran twice as much mileage. My training approach is more or less the same -- I just tend to run every other day now because I can't recover as fast. The plan now is to run easy for awhile -- we have a NYC vacation coming up -- and aim to start working hard again after Labor Day in preparation for some hopefully faster fall races.
Weather has been pretty atrocious for running this past week, but I managed to get in a couple of good 5K specific workouts. On Wednesday I did the famous Australian quarters session of 8 x 400 with brisk 200 jogs for recovery. While the workout sounds easy on paper, it's actually really tough if you push the recoveries. Basically, you want to do the 400s at 5K race pace with the floats as fast as possible without compromising the 400s. I ended up hitting 86/87 across the board on the 400s with all of my 'recoveries' at 7:10-7:20 pace for an overall 3 mile time of 18:48. Not bad for 90 degree weather -- in more ideal conditions I can do this workout closer to 18:00. Today I did a 3 mile threshold run in 18:41, which I was happy with considering it was so humid I felt like I was running in a layer of pea soup. Splits were 6:12, 6:17, 6:17.
As for the book, I've received a couple more fantastic advance reviews, which can be found here:
Really blown away by the reaction so far. Next stage is galley proofs to more writers and hopefully an official release date will be announced soon. I'm feeling like the impatient band who is always bugging his/her label -- sorry Shannon!
It's been awhile but I feel like I've been slowly getting back into a good training and racing groove. I ran 18:00 on the nose on July 6 in very hot and humid conditions, which is probably worth closer to 17:40 or slightly better in an ideal situation.My best time this year has been 17:58 in perfect conditions. My plan is to get in a couple of more 5ks this summer and then take a week off at the end of August when I'm on vacation in New York City, before ramping it up again for the fall. As far as training goes, through trial and error, 4 days a week (about 60 minutes per workout) works best for me. I tried to run a little more than that this Spring and that had me beat up. I'm also finding that doing work faster than 5K beats me up, too, so I'm sticking to tempo and 5K/10K paced stuff for my harder runs.
Trailer by Arabella Proffer for my forthcoming novel. Music by Elephant Stone artist The Situation.
If you haven't done so, you can actually vote for the cover of the book on the Elephant Stone website.In addition to the one on the left, there are two more to choose from.
Set in the mid-'80s, Wivenhoe Park chronicles the adventures of Drew, a pill popping, dope smoking, heavy drinking, rock 'n' roll-obsessed student with journalistic aspirations, who moves to England on a whim to escape various demons, including a goth ex-girlfriend, who he can't shake out of his system; his drug dealing best friend, who is starting to lose control; and a yuppie family, who frowns on his less-than-conventional lifestyle. In England, Drew experiences the ascent of a new indie music scene that includes The Smiths, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Primal Scream, while befriending a cast of characters, including a trendy James Dean look alike from Manchester, a star Melody Maker journalist, a smooth American mod from New York City, and several enticing British girls. Will Drew find peace, love and understanding or will it all burn down like cigarettes?
The photo is of me loosening up pre-race with overall winner, Mike Giardina, who crushed it in 17:03. I'm sporting the orange Louisiana Running Company singlet in honor of the famous NOLA Crescent City Classic race that was held this weekend.
As I get older, I find that every mile I run needs to have a purpose, so I've been using the heart rate monitor on almost every workout to make sure I'm not going too fast (or slow). My easy run pace has continued to drop while staying in the appropriate zone. Partly a combination of better weather -- less wind, less snow and ice -- but also, just getting fitter. My stress workouts have gone well, too. Last week I did 12 x 400 w/ 100 jogs at 5K effort and managed to average 85's like clockwork in cold and windy conditions (wore sweats). Looking forward to racing again soon.
I've been getting some good feedback on the finished first draft of the novel and have been working hard to make improvements. I've had a lot of fun writing it and visiting ghosts from my past -- I even have some ideas for a sequel set in the mid-90's (my Boston years) but I'm probably getting ahead of myself there.
While my mileage has been less than usual this winter, my fitness seems to be pretty solid, especially over the last two weeks. I've been training religiously with my heart rate monitor and my workout pace has dropped significantly over the last month or so. The HRM teaches discipline by forcing you to stay in the correct training zone, regardless of how slow it may be. This was vital when I was coming back from my hamstring pull at club nationals -- forced me to ease back into things. Each week I've been doing a 3 mile tempo run at 85-90% of my maximum heart rate (anaerobic threshold zone), with the other key runs being 9 milers in the aerobic zone (60-70% of MHRR). Over the winter my pace on the easy runs has dropped down to about 7:30 pace give or take and the last tempo I did was at 6:03 pace (one month ago, I could only muster 6:29 pace). I've also been lifting once a week. My friend Matt has a lot of free weights in his basement and I've been doing a pretty solid workout that focuses on the main muscle groups, consisting of bench press, rows, squats, military press, overhead rows and lunges. My first race this year will be a 5K on March 30.
I've been lazy with this blog lately because I've been so busy with my novel and I'm back to following a semi-structured training program. I've been using my heart rate monitor on virtually all of my runs and my easy runs (60-70% heart rate reserve) and tempos (80-90% HRR) are getting faster and faster while staying in the appropriate zones. A good sign. I plan on running my first race on March 30 (5K). A little later start than normal but I took a little more down time in December and January so I don't want to rush things.
As for the novel. The second draft is finished and I have a few people reading it now. I'll wait for final feedback but if nothing else, I think it's a good story and I've had fun working on it.
My favorite race to run or watch is the 5K -- 3.1 miles on the roads or cross country course or 12 and 1/2 grueling laps on the track. For me it's the perfect combination of strength, speed, and endurance. To excel at this race you have to be proficient in all of these areas -- you need to be a complete runner. I like a long relaxing trail run as much as the next guy, but I'm happiest when I'm redlining, whether in an interval workout or in competition. I like testing my limits. These days the vast majority of runners seem more interested in finishing races than actually racing, so, for many, the 5K has simply become a stepping stone to longer, and, presumably, better things. Finish that 5K and then it's time to finish a 10K. Next up is the half-marathon, and, then, the ultimate bucket list destination, the marathon. I'm cool with all that, but find it annoying when people ask me why I don't run longer races, especially when I tell them how much I train. People seem to automatically assume that more is better. I remember doing press for a certain album that was barely thirty-minutes long. The reviews tended to be quite positive but one journalist pointed out that it was too short, as if it was somehow a waste not to max out the capacity of a CD, even if it means throwing on filler material. One of the best pop songs I've ever heard is Wire's "Outdoor Miner," which is barely 90 seconds long. Primal Scream's "Velocity Girl" is even shorter. That isn't to say that I don't like my share of lengthy opuses either, it's just that I appreciate rock 'n' roll in all its forms, punk, pop, psychedelic, hard rock etc. Good art is good art. Excelling at the 5K is good art -- YouTube Mo Farah and watch the last few laps of the Olympic final and you'll see what I mean.