Tag Archives: tunes

Teardrops and scientists

For all I know, I still live in a tunnel.  Yesterday I learned that “Teardrop” by Jose Gonzalez is a cover of Massive Attack’s original, vocals by Liz Fraser.  I’ve used Gonzalez’s “Teardrop” on the playlist for The Timeless Nature of Patience, but listened, for the first time, to Massive Attack’s version; I love it as much as Gonzalez’s.  Fraser wrote the lyrics, the song released in 1998.  Having absorbed her version only a few times, I’m already captured, wondering what book that tune will eventually inspire.

This is how it starts, from a song to a story to a novel.

Sometimes I know the music backwards and forwards.  Sometimes it comes veiled, like “The Scientist”, but not by Coldplay.  Same tune though, interpreted by Willie Nelson.  Yes, that Willie Nelson.  He recorded it last year, then included it on Heroes, this year’s album.  It’s gorgeous, blew me away on first listen.  Then I began digging; Coldplay released it in November, 2002.  (November is such a good month!)

In 2002, I was living in Britain, but not paying much attention to Coldplay.  Ten years later, the only thing I know about the band is the lead singer is married to Gwyneth Paltrow.  Or I assume they’re still hitched.

I heard Willie’s album in summer, which lead to the novel Splitting the Sky, written in August for Camp NaNoWriMo.  “The Scientist” corresponds to the last chapter; I love Willie’s aged but honest delivery.  Even scientists shed tears.

One of the joys of writing is much like why I enjoy living; beauty awaits, even in the oddest places.  I had a wonderful ten-minute chat with a guy in the grocery store yesterday; we were looking at bacon at the end-cap across from the deli.  Neither of us are vegetarians, but we don’t eat a lot of meat, how the conversation began.  That in the actual meat section, those large hunks cause a bit of squeamishness, but a package of bacon wasn’t so daunting.  I learned he’s a biker, one of the top five in the Bay Area years ago; he’s my age, or a little older, but still treks up various hills.  He doesn’t need those 7,000 calorie meals anymore, although he can’t look at a loaf of sourdough without wishing to inhale it.

I smiled, said I felt the exact same.

Yet, we are individuals, like Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” isn’t Jose Gonzalez’s, or Willie Nelson and Coldplay’s differing takes on “The Scientist”.  Just like there are only so many plots and ways to tell a story, but my view isn’t going to be anyone’s but mine.  When I sing along to “Teardrop”, it’s heavily influenced by Gonzalez, but Liz Fraser’s breathy, ephemeral beauty now sneaks in after only four plays.  (I quietly sang it this morning in the shower, hypnotic and sparse.)  When I write, all that I’ve read and written before hovers, but ultimately, what I create is personal.  Like a scientist’s discoveries, or teardrops, falling down my cheeks.

Some reasons I write

Music; tunes stir the stories, invoke characters, nudge nuances.  As long as I listen to music, I’ll probably be writing something, be it manuscripts, blog posts, letters to family.

Paper; notebooks, journals, small legal pads, and folders filled with loose sheets litter my desk.  Every time I come across blank pages, I’m compelled to put words on those empty stretches.  Not that I could ever use up all those sheets, but they tease, as do the multitude of pens on either side of my monitor, or in the cup behind me on the buffet.

Pens; see above.  (I do prefer black gel, fine line.  For cards, ball points are best, as they don’t smear.)

Plots; I have more ideas than sense.  Not enough time to write them all, so it’s a balance of what half-baked notion bests another slightly formed story as the WIP.  More than not, there are a few battling for that crown, which at the moment includes ideas for NaNoWriMo alongside a short story for a cooperative of which I am a part.  I’m just starting to get my feet wet with short stories, although my first wasn’t that brief.  More on that soon enough.

Sport; how dramatic is the tension as hopes, dreams, and sorrows play out in real-time?  My SF 49ers lost this weekend; it happens.  My husband’s beloved Green Bay Packers play tonight, lord help us!  Watching sport, be it footie or baseball, tennis or athletics, stirs the deepest dramatic longings, which I have incorporated into a few books via baseball.  Such an easy sport of which to write, but American football calls to me, begging to receive that same fictional treatment.  Perhaps someday…

Communication; I have these words, even here in this post.  I’m telling anyone willing to read it why I write, but perhaps the most honest reason is just to be heard.  All the rest are tools, getting me to where I sit in front of a large screen, wishing to convey the brutal need of my heart to express plentiful nonsense, many truths, some lies, all dressed in tunes and sport, laid out in longhand or typed with wrapped hands.  I’m fighting tendonitis in my left forearm, carpal tunnel in my right wrist, but I’ll be darned to stay silent.  When the choice exists, like a pitcher with a worn and aching arm, or the running back going with nothing in the tank, here I am, blathering away, glad for the chance to speak my peace.

That’s all I want to do, just speak my peace.

I’m not left-handed but…

For the time being, my mouse has moved to the other side of the keyboard.  The bottom of my right palm is irritated, and while it might not be carpal tunnel, I’m wearing a splint, navigating with my left hand.  It’s slow going, and I’m really glad I don’t have any more to write than a blog entry.

And it’s not even from writing!  I’ve been crocheting more lately, I think that’s the cause.  I’m just hoping it’s better by November.

If nothing else, life has slowed; harder to surf and edit with my left hand.  I really don’t want to see the doctor about this, I don’t like doctors.  They just tell me my blood pressure is high, which it always is when I go into their offices.  At home, it’s just fine.

So not much writing today.  49ers won on Sunday, Giants beat the Rockies last night.  I have a manuscript to read over, the Fall of Saigon to research, The Concert in Central Park to absorb.  Thirty years ago that album was one of my faves, on cassette.  I listened to it again recently, came up with a new story line.  Instead of faffing about with my right hand in charge, I’ll pull some left-brain activities, or just left-handed actions.  Two of my siblings are left-handed, now I’m joining the club!

Starting a new book today

It’s called Splitting the Sky, and it’s directly inspired by Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, and Kalpana Chawla and the rest of the lost Challenger and Columbia crews.  When Sally Ride died early last week, I went on a Wiki quest, click click click.  I was nineteen when Challenger exploded, and while I had no desire to see space, Ride’s adventures were a huge inspiration.  We were living in England when Columbia broke apart, nearly ten years ago.  Who were those people, besides astronauts?

Ride lived a quiet, private life, what came to light after her death.  What might Judith Resnik and Kalpana Chawla and all those other travelers achieved?  We are astounded by flashes of light and plumes of smoke, but those persons, precious and singular, seem to fade from consciousness.

Word counts and other novel musings can be found here.  I’ve been inundated with the playlist, resounding with Doctor Who tunes, Willie Nelson, and The Police, among other artists.  Those songs thump and clash with furious noise and much tenderness, what all lives contain.  Listening to it yesterday my heart raced, my soul teemed with wonder.  Emerging strongest was the thrill of breathing life into characters, continuing the tale.  I can’t extend Resnik or Chawla’s lives, but I can honor them.  Those space shuttles will remain as lore for ages.  Those aboard them shouldn’t be forgotten.

I write books the way Yo La Tengo makes music

Also how The Aislers Set worked, also Hilsinger and Beatty.  Now, if those names aren’t familiar, that’s all right.  They are indie bands, and only one still records.  Yo La Tengo has been around since I was in high school, Amy Linton’s Aislers Set since 1998.  Doug Hilsinger and Caroleen Beatty covered Brian Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) in 2003; all three of those groups are unknown to some great percentage of the population.  But their art carries deep meaning to me.  And my writing touches a similar small vein.

As I listened to “Bang Bang Bang” last night by The Aislers Set, it came back to me why I publish my novels; because I write them and I can.  Indie musicians have been doing that for ages.  Authors are on that path now, and while I don’t know which of those bands my road is akin to, the goal is the same.  Make the art, share the art.  The rest is out of my hands.

Nobody said it was easy

I’m in the midst of cramming for the next novel.  Sometimes an idea slams like a brick upside the head, nothing to be done but follow where the plot leads.  Two months ago I got Heroes, the new Willie Nelson album; I have no other Willie Nelson songs except “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and his duet with Waylon Jennings, “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”.  But something compelled me to add Heroes to the plethora of tunes.  Now of those songs are on the OST for Splitting the Sky, including “The Scientist”, Willie’s cover of Coldplay’s hit.

I have a list of names; this is a sci-fi tale, so Bob, Jane, John and Sue just don’t cut it.  But I need to place monikers with characters, and as I’m starting this novel for Camp NaNoWriMo in three days…  But as Willie sings, nobody said this was easy.