Thursday, March 24, 2016

Flash Fiction?

A Romance en Francais

They sat in the back of the cab and swore undying love between passionate kisses. He wanted to speak French, “the language of love,” so he murmured “Je t’aime.” She responded “Je t’aime aussi,” with an accent right out of Southern Appalachia. They were wild about each other.

He played piano and was an accompanist for the ballet company on campus. They met when he was on a break one Saturday and she happened to be walking past the studio. She thought he was cute, even though he was a freshman and she was a sophomore. He had curly black hair, dark eyes that sparkled behind his glasses, and a killer smile.

He thought she was adorable, petite but with a womanly figure, dreamy brown eyes, and light brown hair. She was a voice major but had studied ballet for years. She wasn’t eligible to be in the dance program at the school but took class occasionally at a studio in the city. They talked about ballet, and the school, and how much they loved music.

They started meeting in the cafeteria for lunch and talked endlessly about everything, delighting each other with their witty repartee. He invited her to dinner and they walked to a small nearby restaurant. They went to student recitals together and held hands. Breakfast and dinner together became part of their day.

They went to a symphony concert and he put his arm around her and pressed his lips against her cheek, against her hair. She gripped his arm. It was in the cab on the way back to the campus that they fell into each other’s arms and pledged their love in French. “Je t’amerai toujours,” he said, and she echoed “Toujours.” She only knew a few words of French, but she guessed that he had just told her he would love her forever.
 Soon they decided not to keep meeting for breakfast; their schedules were very different. Then they decided meeting for dinner every day wasn’t working out; they had rehearsals on different evenings. They went to the movies and sat in the back row and made out, but with waning passion. They continued to meet for lunch for a while, but every other day. Then twice a week. Then she said she thought they probably should take a break.

He called her. They had long phone conversations, trying to rekindle the flame. The conversations generally deteriorated into sarcastic sniping at each other. The phone calls dwindled. They really didn’t have anything to say to each other; even the sarcasm wasn’t worth the effort. The conversations were just annoying.

They didn’t really break up. They just stopped.

Maybe French had been a bad idea.


Anyone who has read any of my novels knows I tend to "write long." I like words. I am a fan of Charles Dickens, who wrote long. Lately I've been challenging myself to learn to put together a story ... not a fragment of a story ... but a complete story using fewer words. 

I'm not sure if this qualifies as flash fiction but I would think it might according to some definitions I've read. This is under five hundred words. I'd appreciate comments!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Life Imitating Art?

Coincidence or Something More?

Jamie’s Children follows the paths of brother and sister, Niall and Laura Logan, as they use the music in their souls to deal with life’s challenges. I challenged myself when I chose to make Laura a violin prodigy and Niall a gifted singer-songwriter who was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

My challenge with Laura was learning more about the instrument, what is required to be a successful performer, and studying violin literature. My good friend Chris Souza, an exceptional violinist himself as well as an outstanding teacher, has been a great help with this. I’ve listened to some wonderful music. I’d heard many of these pieces before but never listened to them quite the way I needed to in order to better understand Laura.

Chris suggested I listen to American violinist Hilary Hahn, and I found her impressive and appealing. Reading her history was kind of astounding, actually. The path Hilary Hahn had followed is much like that of my fictional character. Laura’s genius as a violinist is discovered when she is four – the same age as Hahn. In my book, Laura begins her professional career at nineteen, a few years older than Hahn began hers. Both women complete a college program, Laura at Juilliard and Hahn at Curtis, both venerable musical institutions. How was it that I made choices for my character that parallel the professional life of the real violinist, choices that were made months before I became aware of Hilary Hahn?

Niall’s gift is as a folk singer-songwriter, another genre of music which I knew little about. More opportunities to be introduced not just to fine performances, but an opportunity to revisit some artists I was familiar with and an introduction to some I had not been aware of. Fortunately, I had another guide to help me with this – a former private voice student who is making inroads in his quest for just such a career, Nate Taylor. During the course of the book, Niall writes several songs, or at least the lyrics for songs. Maybe a subject for a future blog post?

Now my friend Ashleigh Evans has sent me a message about a young man currently competing on the television show “American Idol.” Dalton Rappatoni was diagnosed young with bipolar disorder, and apparently what has been his salvation has been the guitar someone gave him and his love of music which followed. My character Niall finds his passion for folk music before he is diagnosed, but that passion is vital to him. Another coincidence? Again, I created Niall well over a year ago when I first began research on bipolar disorder – a terrible chronic disease which has taken many months of study to begin to understand.

How do these things happen? I would think I am not alone in experiencing this – creating a character and inventing their life, only to learn of an actual person who has at least some of the qualities we’ve given our fictional character. Dalton is fortunate that he is living in the twenty-first century and is able to share his journey openly. My character Niall was born in 1969 and when he is diagnosed at the age of twenty-five in 1990, most people are unable to understand his illness and don’t want to hear about it.

Coincidence or something else? Shakespeare commented in Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth than we have dreamed of.”  (Paraphrased; apologies to W.S.) Do we as writers somehow tap into a Muse which provides us with these ideas?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Taking Stock

Musings of an Indie Author

While I’m waiting for my Beta readers to react to Jamie’s Children, I’m attempting to not even look at the manuscript … something I have a great of difficulty doing. I like to re-read and tinker, and re-re-read and tinker more, or un-tinker what I tinkered with the first/second/third time. You get the idea.

I started this journey just under three years ago, on May 6, 2013. And yes, I do remember the exact date … I had met my friend Judy for lunch after an ENT appointment (that’s “ear, nose, and throat” specialist for the uninitiated) and she suggested I write a book.

And here I am just shy of three years later with book number five on its way to completion. What have I learned in this time?

The writing part is great. Turning on the creative juices was life-changing. With each book I’ve made every effort to improve my craft. I will continue to do this as long as I am able. It’s exciting, maddening, sleeplessness-inducing, frustrating, and fulfilling beyond belief. It makes me happy.

It’s what comes after that’s not so much fun. How to let people know you’ve written those books. I have a Facebook author page, a Twitter account, this blog “Words and Music.” I have an Amazon author page and I joined a website, Self-Publisher’s Showcase, which just named me “Author of the Month” for March 2016. I have my own author’s page on that website as well, and it is operated by supportive and encouraging folks. Belonging to it is a plus for my SEO (I had no idea what that was until a couple of years ago). In fact, all of these things increase my visibility on the web.

Do they sell books? Maybe. It’s hard to quantify. I’ve sold some. I’d like to sell more, but I don’t kid myself that I’ll ever become a NY Times bestselling author. Maybe if I posted on Instagram and ... no, I don’t think I could handle one more of these things. I still don’t “get” Twitter, but I have a nice number of followers.

As a self-published or “indie” author, I’m one of most likely hundreds of thousands who love to write ─ and use various ways to get our work out there. I like CreateSpace and have had good experiences with them for the most part. I get a huge thrill out of holding a printed book in my hands.

There are some folks who seem to enjoy my books. For those people, and maybe most of all for me, I’m eager to start on the next project. Oh, and keep an eye out for Jamie’s Children. I think it’s my best effort to date!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Meet Jamie Logan, Laura and Niall’s Father

The Consummate Tenor

I just re-read You Are My Song, the novel all about Jamie Logan and his journey into opera world, and his trials along the way. I like Jamie Logan. I wrote the consummate tenor when I wrote Jamie: he is unusually gifted and learns his craft well. He is an accomplished singer. I also made him a good guy with very little ego, something that tends to be a rare attribute in tenors.

Jamie goes through a lot in his journey, which takes place in the 1960s. His first marriage, to his high school sweetheart, ends acrimoniously. He doesn’t start to study music seriously until he’s twenty-three, and he almost immediately experiences how bitterly jealous a rival can be. He has to sing a performance of his first opera while his mother is lying in a coma as the result of an auto accident. He falls in love again, but that is very complicated because … well, no spoilers. His college accompanist is the victim of a hate crime. Another family crisis causes him to drop out of graduate school. His old college nemesis resurfaces at the most important audition of his career and does his best to sabotage him.

Good things happen to him as well. His ability is recognized wherever he goes, and he begins to achieve some success. Doors open for him, and sometimes luck is the determining factor in a career in opera. He meets the love of his life and marries her, and with her love and support he begins to overcome his self-doubts. When he becomes a father, it’s the fulfillment of a life-long dream.

Jamie had no idea how complicated being a father could become. He never considered that his daughter Laura would be a violin prodigy. Or that his son Niall would develop bipolar disorder. And that’s the story you will read in Jamie’s Children.

You Are My Song is available on Amazon, paperback and Kindle. The Kindle edition is a measly $3.99.

Cover by Tristan Flanagan