A Mix Tape for OLIVER A LOVER ALL OVER – to listen, to cry, to daydream…

Two weeks ago, I announced that pre-orders for my fourth book (third work of fiction), Oliver A Lover All Over are now open. Thank you so much to those of you who’ve pre-ordered my new novel, and shared the link with your pals! Right now, I’m finalizing the tiniest little details of the interior design and getting ready to order my proof, and then order a boxful (and maybe more boxfuls after that). I told myself I’d have this part over with by the first day of Summer (I don’t like spending so much time indoors with computer screens on sunny days), but as with many of the books I’ve made, I unexpectedly fell in love as I was writing, and delayed my own deadlines (I haven’t determined if this pattern means I should write more books or less?! I love being in love, and I fear total abandonment isolation crushed spirit & soul annihilation etc etc). Like this novel, we’re approaching August again, and it’s still heatwaves and thunderstorms, climate collapse and emergency, gentrification and housing crises. Like Magenta, the main character of this novel, I still feel suicidal sometimes, and dreamy creative internally imaginative at others – or simultaneously. Like Magenta, I wander the city when I can, contemplating love and friendship and purpose and activism and survival and solidarity and art.

{image description: Crooked angle view of an outdoor brick wall that’s been painted over many times. Layers of shades of white and yellow, ghost remnants of graffiti-past, tags and messages. Bold red stencil in serif typewriter font says: “I want to walk freely at night.” Windows on either side have been spraypainted over. Under white paint is another layer of white, which reads: “ANTI-FASCIST ZONE.” There’s an orange pylon on the concrete, against the wall, with green weeds growing out from behind, through the bricks and concrete.}

{image description: Brick wall with tall-ish trees nearby, dappled sun and shadows on the grass. Mural on the wall portrays a turquoise-skinned face with a single black teardrop, the expression resolute. Hair is a swirl of curled colours, greens and pinks, spiraling along the brick wall.}

As I was working on Oliver A Lover All Over, I did not yet know I was working on anything at all, let alone a novel. I remember being in my kitchen, washing the dishes and drinking coffee, and a single sentence coming to mind. I knew I needed to type it out, so I dried my hands, opened my laptop at my reading chair by the window overlooking the alleyway, and opened a fresh, blank Word document. The sentence became a paragraph became a project.

As you know if you’ve been reading my fiction, music is pretty crucial to my story-telling. I’m not a musician, not a critic, not a musical-anything, but obvs I’m a fan, and I’m sometimes, er, frequently, an obsessive fan – lyrics stay with me, and often inform my characters’ psyches, their questions and (in)decisions. In Oliver A Lover All Over, Magenta keeps the radio on all day and night, a comforting presence between each streetcar ride, and there are particular songs that stay with them as they cope through a break-up. Those songs form the mix tape I made to accompany the novel. (Actually, this is the first mix tape I’ve ever made that’s not on a cassette.) (Two Summers ago, I wrote about the last mix tape I made, in my See the Cripple Dance column on LittleRedTarot: The Seven of Cups and the Pleasure of Sadness.)

Sadness is pleasurable. We have physical, emotional, chemical responses to sad music. And often, we intentionally listen to sad songs to evoke particular feelings. It’s like poking at bruises or pulling your own hair. What are the ones you listen to on repeat?

Listen here: A Mix Tape for Oliver A Lover All Over. Let it play as you listen to the novel, as Magenta remembers a song on the radio, as you daydream, etc…

{image description: Five dark blue, scuffed up recycling bins / mini-dumpsters lined against the brick wall of an apartment building. All the bins are closed except for one in the middle, which has hot pink and pale rose helium-filled balloons emerging, tied to shiny pink ribbons. A lone black balloon is spotted amidst the others.}

{image description: A discarded mattress on a sidewalk, the underside face-forward with the stretched corners of a fitted sheet visible, tugging the edges. The mattress leans against a short, black iron fence, with a grass lawn and garbage bin enclosed. Black all-caps spraypaint on the mattress reads: “ON THE PLUS SIDE AT LEAST I CAN PAINT AGAIN.”}

{image description: A very large painting on canvas propped in a window, photo taken from out on the sidewalk. The window is clear with an arch, an old red brick building. The painting resembles those that show up in my mind sometimes, if only I could paint. Acrylic layers of bodies, shadows, motion, shades of purple, violet, bruise, burn, yellow, glow. Image of a woman with long red hair, hand to her face, turned to a left-side profile, eyes downward, in thought or dance or prayer. Trees are reflected in the window, near the top, above but not overlapping the painting.}

{image description: A bold, detailed tag or mural on a wooden fence in an alleyway, with intestines forming the shapes of letters. Weeds and ivies grow along the fence and concrete.}

{image description: Three small flowerpots painted on a white door, outside. Each flowerpot has a kawaii smilie-face with rosy cheeks. The first pot is growing a pink heart, labelled LOVE.The second pot is growing a tiny green sprout, labelled HAPPY. The third pot is growing a yellow star, labelled LUCKY.}

{image description: Garbage bins lined up together at the top of a concrete staircase (not pictured), blocking the doors to a church. Bins are green and blue, closed, with stacks of busted up furniture and scrap wood piled behind them, and a small black iron fence to the left. Two sets of double-doors, under peaked awnings, are behind the garbage, stained glass panels on and above each door. Alcoves are old red brick, outer walls have been renovated with beige stucco.}

{image description: Red brick garage in an alleyway, with the side of the garage painted, and a sewer grate visible on the concrete path. A chainlink fence is closed around an empty yard. The painting shows a black fist held up with an eye tattooed on the inner wrist. There’s a lop-eared puppy on the left, an owl on the right, and scattered tags spraypainted in white. The sky is clear. Weeds grow through the cracks in the concrete.}

{image description: Close-up of a sticker on a metal pole at a city intersection. Bold black all-caps letters on a pale rose background read: “MAKE GENTRIFIERS’ LIVES UNLIVABLE.” Pale rose background framed in green and black, with credit to GAY SHAME (& more here).

Mixedupedly Yours,

P.S.: If you’ve benefited from my writing in any way – if my words have inspired you, helped you feel less alone, or sparked some weird feeling within you; if you’ve felt encouraged, or curious, or comforted – please consider compensating me by offering a donation of any amount. Whether you’ve been reading my writing for years, or just stumbled into me this afternoon, I invite you to help me sustain the process!

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