Creating Story: Live From Daryl’s House

A black SUV pulls up to a farm-style complex in upstate New York. Out steps a man in a long black coat, signature long red beard, a red do rag under a worn, comfortable felt hat, and sunglasses. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons walks forward to shake hands with his host, Daryl Hall. After a few words of conversation, the two are jamming inside Hall’s expansive music room.

Picture of Billy Gibbons and Daryl Hall
Billy Gibbons and Daryl Hall
credit Daryl Hall site

So begins episode 63 of the online Live From Daryl’s House.

And yes, this is Daryl Hall from the 1980s Hall and Oates duo. Hall has become an online storyteller. His episodes deliver a consistent, tight story format: a half-hour mix of live jams, conversation, cooking and dining.

The jam room, large by any standard, is packed with musicians, gear, and camera guys. The barn-like room features mementos, a Little Milton poster on the wall, an imposing chandelier, and rugs underfoot. Microphones everywhere. The camera work and editing are exciting, dynamic, well-executed.

The focus is the music. Jamming at its best. This episode with Billy Gibbons includes ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” and Hall and Oates’s “Bank on Your Love”.  The audio on each episode is clear, clean. Despite the crowd of musicians and gear, none of the instruments bleed together. No instruments eat up vocals. And Gibbons says of the efficient set-up Hall provides, “Hit it and quit it.”

Gibbons talks of working one night with B.B. King. After asking if Gibbons would mind switching guitars for part of the performance, King noted that the strings on Gibbons’s guitar were heavy gauge. “These strings are kind of heavy,” he said. Gibbons replied that he used them to get the deep, rich blues sound. “Why are you working so hard?” King came back. Gibbons has used lighter strings since.

Daryl Hall
Daryl Hall: credit Daryl Hall site

Between songs, Gibbons whips up a huge bowl of his Renegade Guacamole, with help from caterer Mexican Radio. The episode ends with more conversation and a communal meal around Hall’s long table.

Hall has been doing this for over five years. The sixty-three episodes include Rob Thomas, Sharon Jones, KT Tunstall, Shelby Lynne, CeeLo Green, and Allen Stone. Every episode is a new, fresh story.


Joanna Penn: Creating Books I Want to Read Myself

Photo of author Joanna Penn
Author Joanna Penn

UK-based writer Joanna Penn and I connected through email to talk about her creative writing. Penn describes herself as a writer-entrepreneur. Her body of work includes fiction and nonfiction. “I write thrillers under J.F. Penn and non-fiction under Joanna Penn.”

Penn’s three-book thriller series centers on psychologist and ARKANE agent Morgan Sierra. “Set against a backdrop of early Christian history, archeology and psychology,” says Penn, “the fast-paced ARKANE thrillers weave together historical artifacts, secret societies, global locations, violence, a kick-ass protagonist and a hint of the supernatural.”

I am always eager to know what drives an author to create story.

“I’m a huge reader,” says Penn, “always have been. My Mum says that when I was little, instead of carrying a favorite toy or teddy around, I would try to carry as many books with me as possible. So my original desire to write comes from wanting to create a book I want to read myself.”

With a career background in corporate IT and a degree in Theology, Penn brings a unique perspective to her writing. “During my daily commute, I would escape into action/adventure novels, thrillers and anything that would take me out of my dull existence, before the day job I hated crept in again.

“When I decided to change my life and become an author-entrepreneur, I naturally started writing action-adventure thrillers. As I have found my voice, other stories have begun to swirl in my imagination and I have a list of nine projects on my wall, waiting their turn. My next novel is a mystery/crime novel with a supernatural edge, called Desecration.”

I asked Penn if she had initially set out to write a thriller series, or just a first novel.

Picture of Penn's book covers
Penn’s Thrillers

“I definitely wanted to write a series,” she says, “so I created ARKANE, a secret agency that investigates supernatural mysteries, as a way to hang my own research interests on through multiple books. Dr. Morgan Sierra is my alter ego, although she is a lot more kick-ass than I am! She enables me to discuss my ideas about the nature of faith and miracle, as well as using my own travels in the stories.”

Keeping a series fresh through multiple titles takes work and skill. “Each book,” says Penn, “stands alone, but ARKANE and (protagonist) Morgan tie the books together. Whether it’s hunting the Pentecost stones through the history of the early church, stopping the pale horse of the apocalypse or searching for the Ark of the Covenant, each mystery makes the books fresh.”

Once an author gives birth to a character, she then needs that character to thrive through an entire series.

“As Morgan is my alter ego, she remains vital because I allow her to have the adventures I would love to embark on myself. She is always challenged, forever on the brink of saving the world from some disaster.

“What has become more interesting to me as a writer is how other, very different, characters have come to life. In Desecration, we meet O, an exotic dancer with a full body tattoo of an octopus that writhes as she dances. She plays a tiny role in that book, but now I’m fascinated with why she has this ink on her skin, and I want to write her origin story. It’s the little things that make a character come alive, and I am always watching for these quirks as I go about my days.”

Penn sums it all up – “I don’t just talk about writing, publishing and book marketing – it is the reality of my life!”


Further info on Joanna Penn:

J.F.Penn writes the bestselling ARKANE thriller series, with One Day In Budapest her most recent work. Her new crime series opens with Desecration in December 2013. You can sign up for pre-release specials and receive a free short story and audio at JF Penn, her fiction site.

Joanna Penn also writes non-fiction. Her other site, The Creative Penn, has been voted one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers three years running.

Connect with Joanna on Twitter @thecreativepenn.