I’m going to state this right upfront; get it over with; air my thoughts before we delve into this subject deeply: I don’t understand how people get through life without music. A life void of melody is unfathomable to me.
My parents listened to music every day and I’m told when I was strong enough to stand, I was holding onto the crib rail and bobbing to Cal Smith singing on the old black and white television. The radio in the kitchen was on every day without fail. If it broke, as tight as money was, a new one appeared without delay. The radio in the truck was always tuned to music; no talk shows for us. When my dad installed an 8-track player in the truck, that played more than the radio.
We had a floor model stereo with a radio and record player, which could easily be moved to the deck or the lawn. That thing is more than 40 years old and still going.
There are many sections to a book. The two important parts that need the most attention are the story and the cover (in that order). For the past several months, I have focussed on these two things; without a doubt, I want them to be as close to perfect as humanly possible.
As launch day approaches for Scattered Stones, book 2 in The Castle Keepers series, I need to start playing with the other parts that go into a printed novel, the little details that occupy the spaces between the front cover and the story, and the back cover and the story. Playing is the exact word I want to use.
This time around, I want to be less formal and allow a slither of my silly side to lighten and brighten these little details. I love fun, funny and silly. And I love putting a twist into things that readers don’t expect. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
I have never written an acknowledgement for any of my books, but I’ve seen many books that include them. In essence, it is a few words to thank the people who provided a helping hand to bring the book to life. This might be direct or indirect help.
We are often told you don’t get a second chance at making a first impression. Those first impressions brand themselves in our memories. We recall them every time your name is mentioned or your work passes our eyes. By the time you get to make a second impression, we may have recalled the first impression a dozen or more times, making it difficult to bump it aside for a different impression to take root.
Bad impressions imbed themselves deeper than good impressions—for the most part. This means if you made a bad impression the first time, you’ll have a mountain to climb to mend the fence.
Obviously, good impressions are important in our personal lives, but they are vital in our professional lives. They can make or break our business (which is gaining a reading audience), so it’s important to pay attention to your actions and words when in public, particularly if you’re in the company of readers and writers.
The flip side of that is we are always judging the impressions of others, both new and old acquaintances. We may not consciously do this, but we do it because it’s our nature. We use our morals and opinions to apply that judgement. So while something you did was great in the eyes of one person, it might not be so hot in the eyes of another.
It’s a tough road, but one we travel every day.
I was reminded of first and lasting impressions over the weekend when I attended several events associated with the Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMA) held in Halifax, NS. This was my first CCMA show, so my mind was wide open to what may or may not happen.
Apparently I’m a dying breed. I’m one of the dwindling few who want a radio with a built in CD player for the kitchen counter. I visited several shops one day last week and all had one or two machines available. And they weren’t cheap…in price.
I asked a salesperson if I could hear the speakers of $65 unit, and he plugged his phone (or other gadget from his pocket) into the machine. The unfamiliar song sounded horrible, and I told him so. I asked him if the sound was that horrible on his device. He said the quality might not be that great.
He asked for a song or singer I’d prefer to hear, and I told him. He called up Keith Urban in seconds—he must have a direct line to the man—and a sweet voice began to sing. I turned it up, but still the speakers sounded ‘airy’ to me. There was no solid sound.
Seventy-eight years ago today, a Canadian legend was born in Saint John, New Brunswick. For decades he criss-crossed our beautiful country, gathering stories, writing songs, sharing our history, singing and reminding Canadians, “We’ve got something special here.”
Charles Thomas Connors, better known to all as Stompin’ Tom, was our most prolific and well-known country and folk singer-songwriter.
And today, February 9th, is his day: National Stompin’ Tom Connors Day
It’s a day to remember him and the songs he gave to our country. A day to sit back and listen to familiar old tunes like “Bud the Spud”, “Margo’s Got the Cargo” and “Sudbury Saturday Night”.
Tom passed away last year on March 6th, and still nothing has appeared on the horizon to immortalise this Canadian icon, so I have declared this day his.
Long live his music, and let the legend play on.
While browsing YouTube, I discovered several wonder videos I’ve never seen before.
The first is a true story about a horse named Farmer who swam the channel from Grosse Île to Île d’entrée (Entry Island) in the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I have several of Tom’s albums, but I’ve never heard of this song or the story before.
I wasn’t aware there were awards for blogging – I’m that new to Blogland. So when Laura Best bestowed The Stylish Blogger Award on me, I was quite surprised. Thank you, Laura.
Upon receiving this award, I’m to share five of my most favourite things. I’m going to skip the obvious – family, friends, writing – and move into my other five favourite things, things I’d like to enjoy every day, but don’t always get the chance to.
1) Sunshine: Whether it’s pouring through the windows, dancing on the water, revealing magic dust on minute snowflakes, highlighting my children’s hair, dappling the forest floor or cascading on my skin, I love it.
2) Cranberries: Cranberry sandwiches every day for all my school years have not turned me against this wonderful berry. I still love it. I eat them as a sauce in a bowl or on bread, in loaves and muffins, squeezed into juice and when nothing else is available, from a can. But the best way to eat a cranberry is in the fall when they are ripe and ready to burst. I love to pick one, put it in my mouth and test the strength of the skin until it explodes with flavour.
3) Music: It makes me laugh, curse out loud, smile, cry, think and dance. In 3.20 minutes, a song can make me consider another way of thinking, give me ideas or make me happy. Life without music would be unbearable.
4) My camera: My love for photography is as old as my love for writing. After all these years, I’m still fascinated by the fact that I can capture an image in a fraction of a second. My many thousands of photographs remind me of a life that has passed. Long after the day turns into history, I can look at the pictures and remember my children as they were when they were toddlers beneath the table covered in Jello powder or surrounded by their stuffed animals the first day they moved from a crib to a real bed.
5) My pencil: It records my imagination in words and images. My first novel was written in pencil in a coiled notebook. Pencils of various quality and abilities have a special spot on my desk for quick notes, entries into my day planner and to work out a scene in a novel. My pencil creates visuals of my characters, reminds me with a quick sketch that they have long hair, wear their sword on the left or are missing a finger. I will never master the pencil, but I certainly have fun trying.
Now I have the pleasure of passing on The Stylish Blogger Award to five bloggers.
Sandra Phinney: Sandra is an amazing writer based in Nova Scotia. She’s published in many formats including book, newspaper and magazine. I was fortunate to meet Sandra in 1999, just when she was getting started and I was dreaming of getting started. She has always been an inspiration to me.
Jodi DeLong: Jodi is a garden writer based in Nova Scotia, author of Plants for Atlantic Gardens. I’ve been reading her gardening articles for many years in different publications.
Thea Atkinson: Author of The Secret Language of Crows, Pray for Reign and others. Thea is based in Nova Scotia.
Tracy: I recently discovered Tracy’s blog. I find her posts interesting and make me stop and think about my own life.
Genevieve Graham-Sawchyn: Genevieve is a historical fiction author and editor based in Nova Scotia. Her posts contain helpful editing tips among other things.
Some days I feel cursed. Other days, I can’t believe I’m this lucky. As the tenth of eleven children raised by parents both born in the 1920s, I was exposed to many different genres of music. As a result, on my MP3 player, you’ll find John Denver snuggled beside Bonnie Tyler, Loverboy and Rod Stewart squished between Donna Fargo and Buddy Wasisname, and Anne Murray rubbing shoulders with Helix and Andy Stewart.
Music has always influenced me in one way or another. It can enhance or change my mood depending on the day and the attention I give it. The melody of a song can set a mood, but it’s the words that can make me laugh, dance or shed a tear. The degrees of these emotions depend on whether I’m listening to the song or singing along.
But let’s get this out of the way first: I don’t sing well. However, I sing often.
Hearing someone sing their heart out may not tug on your aorta, but that may change if you put their words in your mouth. Personally, I can sit and listen to Son Run to the Spring by Cal Smith and ignore the story within the melody, but I can’t sing it with a dry eye. I become that boy who must run to the spring for water while my mother spares me from witnessing her silent death due to a long term illness.
Feeling the music can only be accomplished by putting yourself in the shoes of the song’s character. That’s not to say you’re Dean Brody, standing on stage in front of thousands of fans. You are the boy who must watch your older brother go off to war and wait for him to return (Brothers) and the young man who wonders about the lives of his high school girlfriend, his college friends and the girl who gave him up for adoption (Trail of Life).
Of course, you get the good parts, too. You’re basking in the sun on the Santa Maria (Trooper) and bragging about Who Wouldn’t Wanna be Me (Keith Urban).
Sure, you can just sit and listen, but you won’t feel the full effects of getting into character unless you sing those words.
Breathing life into the words you’ve written is done exactly the same way.
Before I submit anything, I always read it aloud. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 400-word blog or a 100,000-word novel, reading every word is the last step in editing. Actually, if I get stuck on a section of writing, I read it aloud. Often, it is all that’s needed to find that perfect word or the next sentence.
When I read, I take on the characteristics of the character. If I’m angry, I speak with anger. If I’m stumbling over my dialogue, then I stutter. Sometimes, I’ll use a Scottish or English accent, just to hear the story with fresh ears. It doesn’t matter if I get the accent right; the point is to make it different than how I usually speak.
Reading it aloud will point out problems in rhythm, uncover those words that sound too much alike and find words that have been accidentally left out.
In my novel, Mystery Light in Cranberry Cove, two of the main characters were Ellis and Alice. On paper, these names are easily distinguished. However, when you read them out loud in a sentence, they sound very similar – too similar for characters who will spend a lot of time together in a novel. In the end, I changed Alice’s name to Shona.
If reading your words doesn’t create the emotions you want to convey, then consider making changes. You don’t want to giggle in the middle of a tragedy and you don’t want readers to think a character is angry when he’s really trying to sweet talk his lover.
If you’ve never read your work aloud, give it a shot. Feel those words, make them yours. Guaranteed you’ll hear things from a new prospective – your character’s.