In every book I read about the artist life, one thing in common is the idea that it takes courage to do it. Especially when you’re bold enough to tell the truth. And the truth makes the best art.
I remember how exhilarating and draining it was to write my novel Letters on Balboa Island. I played my Bryan Ferry album over and over again, putting me in the mood. Many writers have spoken of those scenes that break you into a million sobs. This came close. When my mother read the first chapter, she demanded to know, “What’s this all about?” in her usual accusing manner. My father called me and wanted to talk about it because he loved it so much!
It was especially hard to tell my story in Myths of the Fatherless. Back then, we still sent out Christmas letters and I almost sent my father a different version, omitting the part about publishing that book. In the end, though, I realized that if I was going to have the relationship I hoped for, I would have to tell him about it. And so I did. He told me he read it twice right away. After that, he became “dad.” After that, he read everything I wrote.
A friend said I was courageous to look for my father and to meet him. When I told him that, he said, “It’s not courage, it’s normal.” I think both may be right. My normal desire outweighed my fears. The courage came from admitting that desire to myself. But I do think it’s courageous to reveal parts of ourselves in our art, either through words or music or paint or whatever it is that makes us feel vulnerable. A comment on social media. Even this blog post.
Anyway, the inspiration for this post today is that while I await my editor’s feedback on “She’s Not That Good,” I’m starting to organize my other wip, working title: “Burying the Dead.” And it’s killer. The truth always is.
Because we’ll be on the road at the beginning of 50/90 (50 songs in 90 days challenge), I’ve done some prep work. And one of the songs I’m working on is called “Jaclyn,” who happens to be the leading lady in “Jaclyn,” the novel. I know, I know, I keep saying I’m no longer writing and then I can’t help myself.
Anyway, here’s a riff from the track followed by an excerpt from the novel.
Jaclyn watched Beau carefully, reading his deep set deep blue sea eyes, open, trusting, and his relaxed demeanor, all six feet two inches spread evenly over the recliner’s body. He didn’t suspect a thing. She was sure of it, and reading people was what had empowered her to do the things she did.
She almost regretted doing what she had to do next.
Finishing the last of her beer, something she indulged him in when it behooved her to garner his favor, she stood up and asked, “Want another?”
He flashed her his boyish grin the way he did when he was off duty, on one of the rare occasions when his head wasn’t full of the gruesome details he encountered on a daily basis as a police officer in Riverside, California, one of the roughest squads in Southern California outside Los Angeles, that is.
Fooling him was all the sweeter because it was his job to read people. She was that sure of herself, and that knowledge kicked her even higher than she already was when she was in the middle of one of her lies. But then, what wasn’t a lie when it came to Jaclyn? She was born to lie. She giggled whenever she floated that phrase around her head.
She carried the empties to the kitchen, popped the top on another bottle and handed it back to Beau. “It’s time to pack,” she said and sauntered down the hall to their bedroom, careful to wiggle her ass in the sexy way he liked it because she was pretty sure he’d turn to watch.
Another woman might have leaned down to kiss him, but she didn’t go for public displays of affection, even in their own home, unless it was necessary to achieve her end. Besides, Beau was more into using his mouth for kissing other parts of her body, something he excelled in. So why waste a kiss?
She opened her suitcase and carefully placed neat rows of clothing and toiletries, and was about to close it when she felt a presence. She looked up and might have been tempted to jump, except for being skilled in hiding her visceral reactions. Beau was leaning against the bedroom door frame watching her.
He took a pull on his beer, leaned his head back, and grinned a different sort of grin. It was a bit of a sick grin, the kind of grin a cat might flash a mouse when he was about to pounce.
For the first time, she felt shaken, willing the uneasiness coursing through her legs to stop. She almost acknowledged his odd look and insist on an explanation. Put him on the defense as she often did. But her cool head prevailed and she continued as if she hadn’t noticed a thing.
Jacklyn clicked the locks on the suitcase, turned to Beau with her usual sweet smile, “Honey, help me get my suitcase to the car,” she said, as if everything was as normal on this day as any other day, although she can’t remember when she last lived what might be considered a normal day. But, perhaps, this was how all people lived their days, in a state of concealed chaos.
“What’s your hurry?”
“Honey, I’ve got a plane to catch. You know that.”
He looked her up and down, put the beer down on the dresser, and pulled her by the waist toward him, his strong hands rubbing up and down her ass. He whispered in her ear, “One for the road?”
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I’m now on book 10 (The Woman in the Storm) of the Alexandra Mallory series by Cathryn Grant. I’m hooked! Binge reading. This is so unusual for me these days. To find one book, let alone a whole series I can get so immersed in. That’s because Cathryn Grant is a brilliant writer. And it doesn’t hurt that we have such similar backgrounds. I can so “relate” to the character, setting, the writer’s voice, writing trajectory, Silicon Valley career, super strict religious background etc. (see Writing is Murder: Motive, Means, and Opportunity).
Ironically, though, I think that is who I used to be. I’m now immersing myself in electronic music, my passion far stronger than writing, as it turns out. Cathryn inspires me to think about getting back to writing, but as soon as I sit down at my desk, I see my music keyboard and microphone and get totally lost in creating some music. Other than an occasional scene, my wips just can’t get any traction. Music has always been my first love and once I said that out loud, I had to ask myself why I was pursuing a career in fiction instead of music.
Speaking of music, as I prepare for 50/90, I’m also excited by Sonic Academy’s “Synthwave Takeover” going on in the month of June, starting today. Don’t think I’ll be able to participate in the remix contest, though, since we’re getting ready to move cross country. But SynthWave is an interesting, retro genre that I’m more than a bit interested in. Who doesn’t love 80s music? Especially in a new, fresh way.
So when I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area, at one point I was freelancing as a production editor at McGraw Hill Publishers in Berkeley, who were leasing a suite from Fantasy Studios, at least they were in the same building so I’m assuming that’s how it worked.
The three things I loved about that:
Working for a publisher
The sunset views of the Golden Gate Bridge where we stopped what we were doing every night to take a breathtaking look
Fantasy Records (we would sometimes see big names arriving in limos)
Well, I hadn’t thought about any of this in quite a while until I was listening the other night to KCSM, a San Francisco Bay Area Jazz station on the internet (my favorite Jazz station), and she mentioned Fantasy Records, the home to many, many jazz artists, not to mention bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival, etc). And she mentioned one of the artists had recorded a particular song at Fantasy Records. It’s now gone, but the memories live on.
Who knew all these years later I’d be a published author and creating/producing my own music?
When I met my father, I had to reorder everything I thought I knew about myself. About him. About her.
I sat in the back seat of his car, directly behind him as I listened to the timbre of his voice, not the rich baritone I’d become accustomed to growing up with the man I thought was my father, which was just one thing I could barely wrap my head around.
I stared at the back of his curly white hair, noticed the blond, freckled forearms, so unlike the brown skinned other dad, who I could never look like. Or be like.
As the weekend progressed, I saw more and more of myself, not just physically, but in our interests, the jam on our chin at breakfast, and the way we respond to the world, the impulsiveness, the quick but short-lived temper. But mostly the music. The music blasting from his headphones as he sat alone in his recliner, totally immersed in the sounds flooding his ears. Mostly jazz and RnB with an occasional pop song by Bobby Darin.
This week we inch forward to the overwhelming praise and worship of mothers, whose job is very hard, no doubt about that, but, still, things are not always as they should be. Far from it. So, I’ll pay tribute to the romantic, larger than life man who was and is my father who never stopped loving my mother. Who said, “I’ll always have San Francisco.” I believe she still loved him at the end, too, if it is possible for her to love at all.
So here I sit at 5 am, missing my dad, and thinking about these 2 favorite Bobby Darin songs.
I just returned from 7 nights on the Carnival Panorama still in her inaugural year that was cut short due to, well, you all know. She’s a beautiful ship, the cruise fare was a bargain, and no flights were required. Besides all that, I was hoping that freshly back from a cruise experience, I’d be overflowing with ideas on how to finish She’s Not That Good. I think I’ll have to wait. Why? Too much reality interferes with my imagination.
What I will say is that my favorite part about cruising, besides being at sea, is being able to casually drop in and listen to a live band. Our favorite this cruise? The House Rock Band that played in the Ocean Plaza Bar, the best kept secret onboard the Panorama. We grabbed a couple glasses of wine and sat outside where we could take off our masks and still enjoy the music. I listened to the beats and my muse can’t wait to get back into the studio to write some new music.
But first we kicked off the cruise by indulging in the tasty “Orangesicle” (think “Pina Colada”) at the Tides Bar in the aft pool area.
The other favorite spot was actually the Atrium, a redesigned space on the Panorama that I wasn’t too fond of at first. Until I had a Tequila Sunrise, an old favorite cocktail from my youth, at the base of the Atrium. The atmosphere was much better, to me, lower rather than higher.
And I think that’s another favorite thing I like about cruising, Carnival cruising, in particular. I feel young again. And now I may be inspired to get back to writing. What do I mean “I think?” Of course, I am. And I’m almost finished editing She’s Not That Good. Stay tuned to Screamie Birds Studios here at screamiebirds.com for the release date.