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  • Fred Smith

Love and Bands: You never forget your first.

Being in a band is like being in a relationship. Often passionate, potentially volatile, and most of the time perpetuated for anything but logical reasons. Bands, like relationships, tend to have an unspoken agreement among players—we’ll do this for as long as we all think it works, then we’ll move on. Funny how when I look back, it’s the ex-bands I miss more than the ex-girlfriends. Both may have ripped a piece of my soul before moving on, but the wound from some bands never seems to heal. If the simile holds, then the teenage garage band is akin to your first relationship. You’re never as blissfully naive or hopefully innocent as you are when the drums and distortion bounce off the concrete walls of the garage and reverberate through your virgin ear drums into the neighbors’ back yard. The world is new and you’re learning to express yourself through music. Chances are you suck, but that doesn’t matter because you’re blinded by a love you’re sure no one but you has ever known. Then one day it ends for reasons you’ll never be able to fully explain. You'll never forget your first love, or your first band. The Estranged Rose was born out of my desire to go back to the garage and tell a love story. Like all worthwhile love stories, I wanted to get right in art the things I’d let slip in life. My characters are trying to do the same. Some realize it. Others are blessed with the just enough lack of self-awareness to achieve happiness, maybe even greatness. Eventually, though, we all pause for a moment of self-reflection. It’s just a matter of how many yesterdays we’ve experienced on our life’s journey when we do. That’s why so many of my stories have characters from different generations in pursuit of a common goal. I love the idea of someone who’s been around the block—and endured the kind of soul-ripping young people can’t understand until they experience some of their own—imparting wisdom to those who haven’t yet made the journey themselves. With The Estranged Rose, I cast an aging rock star in the role of the wise soul who’s been humbled by life and (like me) wants to return to the garage and a time when music and love were simple and pure.

This fallen star (I can’t tell you his name, lest I spoil the story or perhaps get sued for using his likeness without permission) isn’t going to tell the band what to do and how to do it so they can have the same journey he did. He’s trying to impart enough of the tarnished wisdom he’s acquired to help the young rockers make their own choices, armed with the principles he hopes can guide them when they reach the inevitable storm. I’m a parent now, which means I spend most of my time trying to understand my own life’s journey so I can impart to my daughter what I hope will help her navigate the hard parts of hers.

If you can relate to any of this, then The Estranged Rose is a story for you. I’m speaking mostly to those of you who’ve been around the block a time or two. The kids who haven’t won’t understand until they lose the first piece of their soul.

The Estranged Rose is a novella by Fred Smith about a high school garage band who gets more than they bargained for when an aging rock star agrees to join their group. The book is free when you sign up to 'A Crack in the Room Tone, which you can do at

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