Sing Me a Story

CDsStories. Some writers can draw a reader in with just a short novella. Others require a saga. I’m pretty much in the full novel category. I like multiple plot lines woven through my books, and depth in my characters, so it takes me about 95,000 words to craft a novel.

But some people can draw you into a story in less than two minutes. Songwriters.

It occurred to me yesterday when I heard Harry Chapin’s song Taxi while driving in my car that some amazing stories can be told in a very short amount of time.

While I considered that, I also realized that I’ve always been drawn to songs with a story. I listen to lyrics. I love Bruce Springsteen. He’s a master story singer. Think My Home Town, Brilliant Disguise and The River. Deep, emotional and poignant tales that resonate and stick with me – and lots of other people, obviously.

The song Taxi is a classic example. That song says so much, but it’s not short on detail. Not only do we clearly understand where both Harry and Sue are in the present, we know Sue’s address, what she was wearing, and their backstory! Chapin did it again and again with songs like Cat’s in the Cradle and Sequel to Taxi. In fact, every song on his Greatest Hits CD tells a story.

One of my all-time favorite songs is Faithfully by Journey. It’s a snippet, just a quick glimpse into a couple’s lives. Somehow, in just a few lines, the music and the words combine to draw me in and evoke an emotional response. Other stories-as-songs that come to mind are The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot, Lyin’ Eyes by the Eagles, The Summer of ’69 by Bryan Adams, and It’s All Coming Back to Me Now by Celine Dion. I know, I’m showing my age here. A newer one that comes to mind is Nickelback’s Photograph. It paints such a vivid picture in just a few lines. Don’t you want to know what the hell is on Joey’s head?!

Of course songs have the benefit of additional elements – musical instruments, repetition and rhyme to engage us. Books have only words to build interest and evoke emotion. Not sure whether stories as songs can offer any tips or wisdom to novel writers, but it’s something to think about, especially when it comes time to craft that back blurb or elevator pitch.

I know there are hundreds of others. Too many to list. But I’d love to know some of your favorite stories as songs. Please share!

Give me sun, not snow!

snowmanWell, it’s January, it’s freezing cold, there’s snow covering the yard, and I haven’t written about winter yet. I guess it’s time.

I hate winter. I seriously despise snow. I don’t like to be cold. The cold immobilizes me. All I want to do is curl up inside a blanket and stay warm. That’s not conducive to writing, to getting the housework or laundry done, or anything, except maybe reading. I like to read. But, somehow, it doesn’t work out for me to curl up and read all day on every cold day of the winter!

Sure, the snow can be pretty. I have indeed taken pictures of snow and ice glistening from trees, a bright red cardinal against the white wonderland, the buried patio furniture, etc. I know it’s great for sledding and skiing, fun activities for kids and adults. Yes, I have pictures to prove that I was a good mom – we built snowmen in the yard, and I took my kids to a local slope for this wintry exhilaration when they were young.

But I’ve also seen injuries occur from people shoveling snow and falling on slippery sidewalks. Last year two young adults died at two different universities (that I know of) from exposure on frigid winter nights. People die in car accidents on slick roads. Property ruined and lives ravaged. Because of snow and cold. That makes me sad. Of course there are dangers lurking everywhere, but winter adds another element of worry. Yesterday one of my kids flew through a snow storm in New York. Two days ago I drove to Ohio with the other one so that he could have his car at college — his first winter there with his car. Why did both of them end up in cold, snowy climates?! Those brochures from Florida schools and the University of Hawaii are looking awfully sweet right about now.

These days I find myself dreaming of a winter home in Palm Springs. I’m pinning and posting photos of summer on social media. Counting the weeks until spring break. Looking forward to warm temps and sunny days!

On a positive note, I had stocked the freezer/fridge this week in preparation for “Restaurant” week around here. We eat out a lot, and this week is actually a huge inconvenience. Too many people, long waits, “special” menus, etc. So, we’d planned to eat at home as much as possible. The timing is good. It’s bitterly cold, and I don’t want to leave the house! Hopefully, by the time Restaurant week is over, it will be warmer, and we can venture out again.

I’ve been typing for a while now. So my exposed fingers are chilled, and my cup of tea has turned tepid. Time for a warm-up. For the next couple of minutes my hands are going under the keyboard — thawing in the warmth of the computer!

Hope you all are staying warm and cozy. But if snow is your thing – enjoy! And stay safe!

So . . . snow. Love it or hate it?





My jackpot plans

P1060128I don’t often buy lottery tickets. My family tends to purchase them on road trips from small convenience stores in little towns, just for fun. I usually buy a few scratch-off tickets as stocking stuffers for the kids. But we’ve never won much – a couple of bucks or a free ticket here and there. Yeah, we’re still working folks.

With the Power Ball frenzy gripping the nation, who hasn’t given a thought to winning the big pot?

It’d be fun, for sure. There are a lot of little things I’d like to do with several million dollars. First, some fixing up around the house, all new landscaping, some traveling, and I’d fulfill a long-standing promise to buy my daughter a horse! 🙂

After that, the money goes to education. I’m a big proponent of education, and I would dearly love to throw some cash that direction. This would probably take the form of scholarships for students and bonuses or sabbaticals for teachers. My kids have had the good fortune to have many excellent teachers in their school years. But they’ve had a few burn-outs as well. I would love to fund teachers to take a break. Take a year off and go rest, rejuvenate and refill the well.

The big question is always would you quit working. I don’t think I would. I have too many books I want to write, too many works in progress that I want to see finished some day. Sure, it’d be great to not have the pressure to make money, to not worry about paying for things like insurance. But what would I do with my time if I didn’t continue some kind of productive endeavor? I think I’d get bored just spending money after a while!

I really wish the Power Ball would change its system and find a way to share the wealth. Nine hundred million is an obscene amount of money for one person to win, or even a few to share. I’d love to see 900 people win a million. But I guess it’s not as dramatic that way. Oh, well. It’s fun to dream, but I think I’d better get back to the books! I’m not counting on those odds!

Good luck, everyone!

Have you bought a ticket? And what would you do with your jackpot?

Friends face year of challenge and potential

P1040503So here it is — 2016! A new year full of new challenges and possibilities. I don’t generally have specific resolutions for myself. I know, in general, what I’d like to accomplish, but there’s so much I can’t control. The goal, overall, I suppose, is simply forward progress!
As I was contemplating the year ahead, I started thinking about what a new year might look like for some of my characters.

Let’s start with the Women of Whitfield. The two books published so far end on a positive note for both of the main characters. But they also clearly point to change in the next chapter of their lives.
For Claire, the new year will bring renewed confidence as she makes a new home in a new city. She’ll miss her friends in Whitfield, but she’ll work to rebuild the library there, which will give her a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment – and the chance to spend time with her best buddies, Mary and Dana. Another top priority will be to strengthen her relationship with her daughter and grandchildren, to redefine her role in their lives. But the year won’t be without struggles. She’ll still mourn her son and her former life, and she’ll fight to stay away from alcohol. Her calendar will be marked with weekly AA meetings while her husband’s speed dial number on her phone is replaced by the number for her AA sponsor.
Claire’s New Year resolution: to take things a day at a time and be mentally in the present.

For Dana in Second Wind, the new year holds much promise. Considering the bumpy year she’s had, things have got to be better! On a practical side, she has to get a new home built and settle into her new job as Whitfield hospital administrator. On an emotional side, Dana’s resolutions are to let go a little, and to let someone new into her life. The new year will be an exciting time when she branches out and shifts her focus from her kids to herself – meeting new challenges and falling in love.

And for me? Write more books, of course! Hoping to have book three in the Women of Whitfield series, Mary’s story, available by the end of summer.
Wishing you all a healthy, happy and prosperous 2016!