Introducing the Duke’s Butcher Block

I’m proud to introduce the Duke’s Butcher Block, a book review series wherein I will cover (mostly, but not always) indie authors and provide an honest view on the work through my perspective as a writer. As such, I don’t claim to be the closest reader, but I’m not shy to assert that my grasp of mechanics and organization will be well-applied, and ultimately understood (by you).

I won’t let nepotism infect my judgment when considering the work ON THE TABLE. Whether acquainted with the author or not, I will investigate the consistency, layout, character development, tone, application of theme, etc. throughout the work.

What titles will I select? That’s up in the air. But I keep my finger on the pulse of the indie community as it surrounds me and choose those that receive broad attention. To be honest, my goal is a moving target. In any case, I can see my honesty drawing much ire as this endeavor fleshes out. That’s okay with me—I’m not trying to win a popularity contest. If an author or their cadre find my conclusions disagreeable, I will remind the aggrieved parties that my perspective is driven solely by objectivity.

This is the big one—personally I prefer distance between a fiction author’s worldview and the point-of-view in the stories they produce. So, I will have to address the issue of authorial intervention as a serious matter, which I believe truly distinguishes an author’s ability to show rather than tell the ideas they are trying to convey.

Regarding genres, I will be open minded, but I prefer to investigate the activities within the horror, dark fiction, and satirical veins of the writing community.

Good luck and congratulations to everyone whose books makes it ON THE TABLE—where ego can’t shelter your title from the cleaver’s cold truth. I will have my first review available by the end of the week.


Review of Maldito by S.O. Bailey / General Address to the Writing Community

Caveat: there is no nepotism at play. I reached out to S.O. because he is a person I want to know more about, and in order to do that I have to read his material. In fact, the first contact I made was a direct message on Instagram showcasing a screenshot of my Amazon receipt for my purchase of Maldito. I joined the IG writing community (an unofficial entity, obviously) in October and have since kept my eyes open for anyone that I could build a rapport with in any community. I have scoured through many people, and once I followed S.O. I realized how many accounts we have in common, that we are in the same game. I’m not exactly a horror writer, but it is my native genre as far as movies go, and I believe that my themes overlap with horror in general. So, if I want to meet my peers, I have to look at horror, where everything seems to intersect.

To be honest, lately I’ve been watching more movies than reading books. This is because the mainstream publishing landscape seems to be saturated by SJW policies that either water-down and turn the project into a pamphlet rather than a creative work, or infringe on harmless trajectories that don’t fall in line with the scruples of modern Orwellian Newspeak. That’s the first thing that stood out to me in Maldito, that Bailey speaks plainly to the audience, the entire work is a blunt force excursion into the next page.

I believe movies are the best conveyor of the horror—and that’s where Maldito comes into play. From the first page, Maldito carries the spirit of a Netflix movie maybe six years ago, when you could find an eighty-minute shot to the face that left your heart pacing and mind reeling—when you could find them in abundance. I bought Maldito and read 40 of 54 pages the night I finally picked it up. Then it took a few weeks until I read the last fifteen pages. This lapse in reading wasn’t a lack of interest—I just didn’t want it to end! I can’t tell you how many books in my library I have read 75% of but haven’t finished out of fear that I won’t find anything to replace the excitement I have for that book. This is what happened with Maldito, except that I managed to finish it while confined in an airplane.

Since the book is so short, it’s hard to really dig into the plot without giving the story away. The summary is available on S.O.’s Amazon page, linked below. This review is purely reactionary. But I will say that every turn felt natural, and I did not expect the double twist at the end. The story wasn’t completely stark, which left a glimmer of hope for a happy ending. I can’t say how, but, although cathartic, the ending was not happy at all in the slightest for the characters of the story, but left a satisfying aftertaste in the mind of the reader with the final turns of Bailey’s knife.

Though I do not endeavor to become a book reviewer, the following is the breakdown I will follow I do review books (which I predict will remain in indie territory), and I’m happy to roll it out for Maldito:

Tone: The tone of the writing matched the environment of each scene. From the beginning, when the starring couple is at the tropical resort, each environment felt natural. As the story veered further off the beaten path, pardon the pun, so did the sense of comfort expressed in the writing. For the short span, this evolution in tension is very important.

Voice: As stated above, Bailey writes plainly to the audience, using the action of the plot and the horrors the characters experience rather than relying on poetic language. This directness works well for Bailey, who writes just enough to get all the necessary plot points in place, when he then seals them with confidence.

Plot and Pacing: Something that many writers struggle with is alternating backstory with the present stream of action. Bailey does not have that problem at all in this book. He always finds the best places to briefly drop expository elements that only strengthen the audience’s connection with the awful conflict.

Characters: Like many great horror stories, Maldito stars a couple on vacation. Bailey is honest about his characters and uses their weaknesses to enhance the peril they face. The marriage of the leading couple expresses an increasingly common dynamic in American culture, where the wife is the senior money earner while the husband reaches for his aspirations. In this case, the husband is an aspiring writer and the wife is a successful saleswoman. Over the course of the story, circumstance challenges the man’s masculinity, and Bailey does this fearlessly.

Thank you for reading my review of Maldito by S.O. Bailey. Though this is a book review of Bailey, it is also clearly an awesome vehicle to move my blog forward. My stints of opportunism tend to benefit the subject of my gaze, and I also want to be open about it. As this blog unfolds, I will be featuring other creatives to give my own testimony as to their development. You can always expect me to cast a burning spotlight on my peers and those I respect.This is a heavy review for 54 pages, but it’s also indicative of Bailey’s future as a writer, which is bloody and bright, regardless of how abysmal his imagination may be.

From the other side of strange,


Click cover image to buy Maldito by S.O. Bailey
S.O. Bailey; the t-shirt says it all.

My Technical Process to Guitar Videos (Pseudo-tutorial)

Ran my blog for a while and ran into a brick wall. Now I’ve privatized all my old posts to start from scratch. No sense in deleting the old content, but I had to bridge the divide between where I left it and where I am now; I will probably re-categorize those posts and create a new page so you can see where I was during that stretch of time.

To embark the new incarnation of the blog, I will give you guys a little behind the scenes about my technical process.

(Note: uploads refer to Instagram posts)

Guitar/amp scenario:

I have four guitars that I have been using as of late: Red Fender Stratocaster with black pickguard, antique-wood seven-string Ibanez, bright pink Ibanez RG, and my Baby Taylor acoustic. I also own a couple that need to be set up: a black Gibson Les Paul Studio and a red ESP H-1000. With guitars like these, the tone is in the hands. The guitars themselves just carry the notes with different weight: the Fender is blocky and creamy, the Ibanez guitars cut through like lasers, the Les Paul is a mixture of both sounds. Tonal confidence in hand, I’m not too worried about the sound for the time being.

Why say it like that? Well, I have cut “quality” out the window in favor of efficiency. To record my videos, I use the internal amps of the Zoom H4n, a four-track handheld recorder, and the amp models in the Fender Mustang lunchbox-style amp. I have a Peavey XXX as well, but the opportunity hasn’t called for a tube amp yet (full disclosure, I need to have the tubes in that amp replaced).

In the Zoom, I choose the Diesel amp, then set the Limiter as follows: Threshold 10, ratio 3, release 0; in the amp settings, I lower the gain to 0 (the guitars carry their own weight in the end mix). For the Mustang, I dial in one of the amp models, plug a 1/8″ aux cable into the headphone out, plug into one of the Zoom’s two 1/4″ input channels, and assign that to a dry channel in the recorder. So that’s the amp setup.

Setting up songs in Zoom recorder

If I’m recording on top of audio, I have to jump through some hoops to get the song into the recorder. You have to have a .wav version available on your computer to load into one of the recorder’s file folders. This is easy to do in iTunes, where you can also buy the song you want to work on if you don’t want to rip it some other way. Edit the song so that it’s a minute long. Plug in the Zoom to a USB port via mini USB and set the device to USB mode, choosing the file storage option. Load the .wav file into one of the file folders in the Stereo folder in explore. Then exit USB mode on the recorder.

You’ll have to move the .wav stereo pair from the its folder in Stereo mode to a project in multi-track mode (MTR). Switch the recorder to MTR mode in the main menu and go to the project folder where you moved the stereo pair .wav file. Highlight channel 1 and scroll till you find the link option and click. Then scroll till you find the song and click. Now the song is loaded and you can record audio using the remaining two tracks (the link stereo pair occupies the first two).

Hours of preparing

I have a long list of songs that I want to go over, and therefore also have general plans for what I want to do with them once I get there. Oftentimes the final result is dramatically different than what I set out to do. This is usually because I succumb to the desire to make everything as layered as possible. In any case, it takes a long time to basically rewrite other peoples’ songs to get a hot guitar take on it. I’ll go over the song many times just to feel around, never with a click track when it’s to a band recording.

For metal recordings, I’ll typically use one guitar track so I don’t muddle the mix too much. For more ambient songs, I’ll record two guitar tracks to harmonize with each other. Again, it takes hours and hours to narrow in on something I can stand behind, then I’m ready to move onto the video aspect.

Recording and syncing video

If the song has more than one guitar layer, I will record the rhythm first and video the lead layer later. I set my phone on a tripod, use my Bluetooth controller to trigger the recording, and engage the Zoom to record. I’ll do up to twenty takes until I can finally play all the way through doing everything I planned in the rehearsal process. I have to constantly delete the file of that track’s recording with each time I make a mistake. Once it’s finally good to go, you have to bounce the project to a compressed .wav file. Turn the USB storage mode on again, move the bounced recording into iTunes, where you’ll convert the bounced .wav file into an .mp3 version. Move the .mp3 into your phone so that you can put the video project together.

I use Videoshop because, like my amp tone, “quality” of equipment isn’t a big priority at the moment, it’s all about the quality of the ideas. In Videoshop you’ll load the video of your performance and import the audio of the audio recording. Once the video and audio are loaded, you have to sync them. The audio will be your guide since it’s already a minute long, the maximum video length on Instagram. This part is a real bitch because it entails a lot of trial and error. You basically have to choose the video clip and click edit, and trim. You have to scroll the start point to a where it looks like the first note is being struck. At this point you can’t hear the way the trimmed video will match the audio. You have to click the green check and press play in the project area to see how well it matches up. After up to a dozen and a half attempts, the movements of your fingers on the guitar will match the movement in the audio.

I’ll then add a ton of filters on the videos to match the current theme of my feed. I’m very OCD about this, and am definitely going to expand my software capacity for the sheer need to have higher quality image filters to apply to the videos.

Till next time, stay classy.

From the other side of strange,