Family, Fiction, Inspiration, Music, Writing

Oh, the places I go when I’m not writing

I had a blast this past Saturday night and you’ll never guess where. Neither you nor I could have expected me to say I went to an AC/DC tribute band concert, but that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t go as a closet AC/DC fan. I didn’t just happen to drop in. I didn’t do it on a dare. I went as a mom. My oldest son is a drummer, and Fuse Box is his latest band.

It’s always exciting to hear, and watch, him play, but he’s always been in bar bands that covered 80s-90s rock songs. And though his personal tastes were often harder than the music those bands played, I don’t remember him talking about AC/DC. Nor did I ever expect to see him play in front of such a large crowd in a concert venue.

Besides being a proud mom, I enjoyed the show. I was familiar with more tunes than I knew, they sounded great, despite the singer not having a voice all week because of a cold, and once again, I wondered why music is not as big a part of my life as it used to be.

I guess the answer to that wondering is that I write now. The only music I can listen to while I write is classical. Anything with a lyric distracts me. Anything with a beat has me chair dancing. I used to listen to music in the car, but I don’t drive much nowadays and when I do, I usually prefer silence because I’m thinking about what I’m writing.

Besides not having enough music in my life, I really need to get out more—I’m sure I’ve said that before on this blog. Not that I plan on writing about musicians, or concert, club, or bar goers, but you never know when you might see a person who sparks a fascinating character or overhear a conversation that your writer’s mind transforms into a terrific story.

I’m not saying we should cruise high-crime areas or engage in any other dangerous activity, but it never hurts to stretch a little, to toss your net into new waters to see what you catch. That advice is for myself as much as anyone. Fiction writers need imagination, but if we expect others to relate, we need to base that fiction on real life.

Okay, as you probably expected, I’m going to share a short video clip with you—short because I had no idea how long I could record on my phone. Next time, I’ll record at least one whole song. And, of course, they sound better than my phone picks up. Rock on.

Block, Family, Fiction, Life, Music, Real Life, Short story, Words, Writing

Crank up the cello and listen for the words!

A sick seven-year-old has graced me with her full-day presence the past two days. Now, I’m behind on all things computer based, including email. I’m not complaining about the time spent with my little prolific reader. She’s amazing. (That’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.)

Of course, since I had no time to write during the days,  The Muse picked that time to come calling. I’d been mulling over a short story idea for a while, but suddenly a few key pieces fell into place.

So the last two nights, when I disconnected and slipped some YoYo Ma cds in the player, the words flowed along with the notes. The first night I totaled 902 words. Last night I added 436 more.

I know some of you knock out more words than that daily, and I have too in the past, but I’ve had some trouble getting back in the groove. I’m please with my progress on this story. Whether this story will end up a winner is still open. As stubborn as I am, I won’t give up on it easily.

By the way, I’m unclear on using a famous person in fiction. I’m using an actor’s name and likeness, but he only exists in my MC’s dreams. Anyone know the rules on that?

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Music, Musings, Real Life, Reflections

Breath of Heaven

Presenting a public persona is a tricky business. I am a writer; this is a writer’s blog and, as such, I’ve chosen not to discuss politics or religion here. Today’s post is not meant to be a statement of my faith in any organized religion because I subscribe to none.

However, this is a season that speaks to my spirit and for the past several Christmas seasons, I’ve fed it with this song, sometimes on loop as a meditation while my hands are busy. Amy Grant’s version is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Obviously, it’s a Christian song, but to me something about this song transcends dogma. I suggest you close your eyes and feel as you listen.


Peace and Joy



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Imagination, Inspiration, Music, Words, Writing

Seeing the music

I sometimes forget to view song lyrics as writing—stupid, I know. This morning I had a nearly ninety-minute “commute.” By that, I mean I drove my husband to work, my granddaughter back to her house, and then drove myself back home. On my return trip, I plugged in my iPod and listened to Suzanne Vega’s Solitude Standing. (Yes, it’s old—1987!)

For several months back then, I listened to this and her debut album (on repeat) while I worked in my art studio. For the first two songs, I was lost in memories of that place and time, but then I clued in on some of the lyrics for the third—”Ironbound/Fancy Poultry.”

Instantly, the same mental picture of the scene I conjured long ago popped into mind. That visual effect always happens when I reread a novel or story, but usually when I listen to familiar music, I only have the memories associated with the time or place I heard it before—like in my art studio circa 1987. Why was this song different?

I restarted the song and listened closely. Here are the opening s:

In the ironbound section near Avenue L
where the Portuguese women come to see what you sell
the clouds so low the morning so slow
as the wires cut through the sky

The beams and bridges cut the light on the ground
into little triangles and the rails run round
through the rust and the heat
the light and sweet coffee color of her skin

Such beautiful description. Is it any wonder I “saw” this song? Today I have housework and more driving to do. I think I’ll listen for more description.

Note: There is an interesting subtext on the subjugation and objectification of women to this song. Here’s a video with lyrics. (Warning: a few words are wrong.)

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Creativity Workshop, Goals, Music, Poetry, Writing

Leave Your Sleep … and write a poem

In perfect timing for my Creativity Workshop goal this week, I’ve been listening to Natalie Merchant’s newest recording Leave Your Sleep. I have to thank Cynthia Newberry Martin’s lovely post on this 2-cd with accompanying 80-page book for incentive to purchase this.

Natalie’s latest work was seven years in the making. Inspired by poems she read to her daughter, Natalie wrote music and lyrics to twenty-six poems and nursery rhymes in musical styles as varied as Celtic, pop, jazz, bluegrass, reggae, chamber orchestra, R&B, Chinese folk, Balkan, and others. Listening is an amazing adventure.

Some of the 19th and 20th century poets she honored are: E. E. Cummings, Laurence Alma-Tadema, Robert Louis Stephenson, Nathalia Crane, Ogden Nash, and Lydia Huntley Sigourney. A multitude of musical talents accompanied her, as varied as Wynton Marsalis, The Memphis Boys, Hazmat Modine, and Joseph Fire Crow. Recorded in live ensemble, this work is an aural feast.

I’m almost as new to poetry reading as I am poetry writing and must confess I hadn’t heard of most of the poets represented in Leave Your Sleep. But through reading the works of new poet friends (as well as my published poet d-in-l Sarah Chavez) my mental wall is crumbling. This is why I chose to write four poems as one of my workshop goals. I’d like to fell that wall once and for all.

Please enjoy this performance video and visit Natalie Merchant’s site for more videos and to read the poems she selected for this work. Cynthia also has a great interview video in her post.


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