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And once, well, I was just a singer in a coffee shop. Over ten years ago I regularly sang with my voice instructor at a coffee shop in the Sacramento Valley. She played guitar and sang a set; some Joni Mitchell, Dylan, even Rolling Stones. Take a small break, and then invite me to join her.
And I’d get up there and sing my heart out. She’d strum her guitar, sing harmonies as I’d ride the wave of singing in public. Folk, folk rock, traditional ballads…
There is really nothing like it. One of my favorite things to do was acapella pieces. All by myself, carrying the song, no accompaniment. And there would be all sorts of things that would happen. I’d take this lovely pause, just after a thrilling rise…and the barista would fire up the steamer.
And I’d smile. Didn’t matter, I had them in the palm of my hands. I’d see a few grimaces, or the barista would shrug, embarrassed. Hey, this was her job, I wasn’t going to hold it against her. If I didn’t get pissed, the audience didn’t get pissed.
Holding an audience that way, be it a handful of family and friends, or an unexpected group from a dinner out, is immensely rewarding. And scarier than hell.
I’d mess up. It happens. This was where I learned to slide through with a confidence that I didn’t always feel. If I didn’t let on that I’d blown something, nine times out of ten, they didn’t notice. As long as I finished sweet.
Now I’m writing. I don’t sing much anymore, save in my car. I don’t have the voice I used to have. Thyroid surgery and lack of practice saw to that. I’d like to think I could get it back. Well, maybe not what I had, but something nearly as good, or maybe better. Certainly different. It would just take a lot of practice and some commitment.
But instead, I write. And I want to hold an audience as I did when I sang. Know that there are mistakes I will make, but if I move through with confidence, if I believe in the innate talent with conviction… I can do this. It worked when singing!
I told stories with my singing voice. Love stories, funny stories, sad stories… They had a beginning, a middle, an end. And my singing voice carried it all.
Singing was easier. Sure, I know… “YOU SANG? IN PUBLIC? WITH A MICROPHONE? I’D DIE!!!!”
Yup, I did. And loved it.
Writing the stories down, getting the beginning down just right, the middle has to carry through to the end, the end has to satisfy… Yes, it was easier when singing. Because of my voice. If the words were a bit stilted, didn’t matter. I pushed the meaning into it, convinced the audience that these words… well…they sang!
Can’t do that with the written word. I can sell my writing voice. Hold true to that voice, believe in that voice, that it will sing through the words I use. But learning how to do that is tough. Finding that voice, honing it as something unique and wonderful, it takes practice. And commitment.
I’m facing some rough weeks ahead. Finally finding words to close The Changed World with, getting closer every day. Not sure I have the right words and my confidence in the earlier words is pretty low. But all songs start with some rough drafts. And this is really a rough draft. I have a lot of rehearsals to go through, a lot of looking for better words, putting together the right verses, the chorus, binding it all together. Learning how to sing this song best. Is this a ballad? A hard rock power opening? A tragic opera? I have so much to do here, it’s frightening. What is the theme music for this book? (I’m hearing that Evanescent song every time I write, so that’s a pretty big clue. You know, My Immortal?)
And then? Figuring out how to sell this song. Er, book.
Meanwhile, it’s time to do some work on reminding a few editors that, months ago, they asked to see a partial of A Caribbean Spell. And here, well…it’s about singing again. This is a song I know. I may be feeling uncertain about the new work, but I adore my first child. I can sing it in any key…give me that microphone and I’ll crawl up onto the piano and scorch the room. I just need the right audience.
Now and then, someone on the blog compares writing to…football, a movie, NASCAR. Today, I’m talking about songs, theme music, soundtracks!
A Caribbean Spell is easy. She’s a Jimmy Buffet rolling-with-the-sea ballad. (Let’s dump the glitter dress and piano. I need a pair of guitars and maybe an accordion. Steel drums, yes! This one sums it up well… Sing it, Jimmy.)
I’m still not sure about The Changed World, but I’m leaning toward an alternate bit of hard rock. Evanescent or even Lacuna Coil. Sin, when this book gets published, it’s dedicated to you, BTW.
The Alien Library? You know that song the diva sang in The Fifth Element? Yeah, that one! Spacey, flying, strange… (If you haven’t heard that song, rent the movie and wait for it. The blue alien…with a voice that is out of this world! Diva Dance.) (Actually, The Alien Library could be represented by nearly the entire soundtrack from The Fifth Element.)
So, you writers out there…what is your book singing? What style? Who is the lead? Not what you listen to as you write, but what your book is singing! Readers? What do you hear when you open your favorite book? Celtic harps? Scottish bagpipes? Opera? Twanging guitars?