Inspired by three (real) albums of protest music released in 2018 -- "Retake the Middle Ground," "Unfollow," and "World Almost Over?" -- the novel follows the travails of three (fictional) songwriters as they deal with issues from writer's block to physical intimidation, from trolls to the seemingly endless social media feeds devoted to politics.

Chapter 9:
The Other Side of Broken

Tuesday at work Kim had been drinking coffee all morning long. The excitement of the Monday night meeting of Political Music Club had been so intense that she had been completely unable to sleep that night. Which meant that she was dead tired when she arrived at work on Tuesday. To top it off, the drama that had been at work on Monday had continued into Tuesday.

So. Lots of caffeine.

In addition to creating a website, Nathaniel had also given her an email: As she took off for a lunchtime walk to the 7-11 across the street she noticed that her new email address had already received a dozen emails. She wanted to take a few moments at lunch to respond to everyone — she wanted to make sure that she didn't lose any of this momentum that the club was suddenly receiving — but there was something else that she wanted to do first.

As she walked over to the 7-11, where she planned to switch it up from coffee to Red Bull, she was on the lookout for the homeless guy who was usually hanging out there. He was nowhere to be seen. She walked around the back of the building and peeked around the dumpster, but no Steve.

She walked into the 7-11, grabbed a Red Bull from the cooler case and took it up to the counter. As the cashier was ringing her up, Kim asked him, "The guy who is usually hanging out in your parking lot, I haven't seen him lately. Did something happen to him?"

"He's not out there?"

"No, I didn't see him."

"He was there earlier."

"Oh, okay. Thanks."

Kim sat on a bench outside where she worked and responded to all of her new emails. Most were of the shorter variety — attended the meeting, think what you're doing is great, happy to contribute, etc. — which she just answered with a quick few lines. But there were a few emails which went into a little more detail and/or asked her specific questions that she felt that she should answer. She knew that she definitely wanted to respond to the student journalist who was interested in a story on Political Music Club for the college paper, but the email that most excited her and which she wanted to answer first and in detail was from a DJ. It read:

Hello Kim!

My name is Terry. Unfortunately I had to work on Monday night and couldn't come to Starbucks. But I think you met a friend of mine (her name is also Kim, so you probably remember her!) and she was really excited about what you are doing. She and I and a few other friends have had many late night conversations about the state of our country these days. So I'm definitely ideologically in sync with what you're doing! (IMPEACH!)

Anyway, I'm a DJ. I have my own gear and I'll do club gigs when I can get them. I've been listening to everybody's songs on your website. There are several that I would love to do remixes for. So, I'm using the contact forms to ask some of your members for the stems to their songs as I would love to remix them!

I really love your song 'Sheila Believes in Humankind.' I love the subject matter. I love that it's got a great beat. And I really love the sounds you've got on there. (As a side note, what VST are you using for those sounds? I'd love to download them!) If you're up for a remix, let me know where I can grab a copy of your stems and I'll have something by the Thursday meeting (I have all day off Thurs. and I'll be there!)

Anyway, thanks and I hope to hear from you!


Kim responded:

Hi Terry!

Yes, of course you can remix 'Sheila.' I would be honored. One thing that I hope will happen with Political Music Club is that we'll get people performing in all genres. So this is a step in the right direction! I would prefer that there wasn't a specific PMC sound, but rather a PMC attitude. The sound could be rock or country or easy listening or rap or EDM. People speaking out in whatever genre (By the way, let me know if you know any political rappers because we don't have any yet!).

And by 'stems' I assume you mean the original instrument tracks? I'm not familiar with that term but I assume that's what you mean? And the answer is yes, I can get those to you.

As for the sounds on Sheila, they aren't VSTs! That is a very rare synth from 1987 (the best synth ever made, in my opinion) the Kawaii K5. And the neat thing is that there are absolutely no effects on those tracks. That's the direct sound coming out of the back of the K5!

I'm a bit obsessed with the K5, so I can't tell you how thrilled I am that you noticed those sounds!

Let me find out from Nathaniel if I can upload those original tracks (if that's what you need) directly to the website.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you on Thursday!


PS: Yes I do remember meeting Kim. She seems really nice and has a great name!

Kim checked the time on her phone and realized that her lunch break was nearing its end. She figured that she should respond to the student journalist before heading back to work. She wrote:


Thank you for contacting me re: Political Music Club. I'm not sure how good of an 'interviewee' I would be, but I would love to chat with you about what we're up to (I could chat about that all day). The club is for musicians/songwriters who are concerned about the state of our government and who are writing protest songs to that effect. We're having a meeting/jam session on Thursday. If you would like to come to that, let me know and I'll shoot you the details.

Thank you.


As Kim picked up her Red Bull and prepared to go back to work, an email came through. The student journalist had replied impossibly quickly with:

I would love to attend your jam session on Thursday. But would you be available for an interview before that? My last class today ends at four. Would you be able to meet me sometime after that?

Kim responded:

I can't tonight. A friend is playing songs at the women's shelter tonight and I promised to be there. Maybe tomorrow?

— Kim

And seemingly three seconds after Kim hit the send button a reply from Marie:

A women's shelter concert would be a fantastic angle. What time and where is the concert?

Kim read the response and looked again at the time. If this exchange went on much longer she was going to be late and what with all that was going on at work she didn't want to risk being late. But she took a moment to respond:


I have to get back to work, but real quick… It's not really a concert. A friend plays Bob Marley songs for the kids there. Her name is Jenny. Her profile is the second one on the website. You'll need to contact her to see if it's okay for you to be a guest at the women's shelter.

And now that I think about it, maybe there's another story there. About the women's shelter? But, you'll need to contact Jenny about that.



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A Quick Request...

Hi, it's the author, Neal, here. If you're enjoying reading Political Music Club, I would love for you to consider downloading the audiobook from Audible or through Amazon.

Not only would it help me out (I would, frankly, love to get on the audiobook charts!) but you get the full book read by its author, and within the read I perform acoustic versions of all of the songs which inspired the book. I think it makes for a fun listen and I hope you consider giving it a download.

Or if audiobooks aren't your thing, please consider grabbing one of my other books or musical projects...

Also by the Author:

The Next Seattle

Memoir of a music scene (a novella)

In the days just before the rise of the internet, a music scene begins in the small Midwestern city of Terre Haute, Indiana.

A local club owner has a fierce vision of the town becoming the next Seattle. But there is a long way to go to get from a haven for scruffy upstarts to international fame.

Some of the obstacles: a big-time music journalist with motivational difficulties, the antics of the musicians and their fans, a politician looking to make a name and the club owner's own personal drive.

Throughout it all, the music flows, but will that be enough?

You can purchase The Next Seattle from Amazon and other online booksellers. Or check out the audiobook at Audible

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