Summer Music Series VI

IMG_2096Alright, alright.  Summer is almost over, but not quite yet.  Some kids may have started school (my grad school classes are going into their 3rd week, ugh), but everyone knows that summer is not officially over until the last night of Labor Day weekend.

So let’s go on a drive, crew.  It’s still warm enough to cruise around with the windows down – wind whistling through our hair – and the music up.

I suppose I get my habit of talking about songs and what they mean from my mom.  And it’s this song, “Will you love me tomorrow,” that I have clear memories of talking to my mom about in the car.

In case you didn’t know it, the song is about someone wondering if they’re about to have meaningless sex or something more meaningful.  My mom would to sing it to me when I was in high school and would point out key lyrics to me, kind of like this –

Mom singing: “Is this a lasting treasure, or just a moment’s pleasure?  Can I believe the magic of your sighs? Will you still love me tomorrow?”  Followed by Mom glancing at me.  She’d say, “You know what they’re talking about, Lee?  Sighs? Sex.  But will he still love her tomorrow? Kind of important, Lee.”

Then the Shirelles would croon: “Tonight with words unspoken, you say that I’m the only one.” (Mom pointedly looking at me, no doubt adding in the translation of “sex” for my benefit.) The Shirelles, oblivious to this exchange, would continue.  “But will my heart be broken, when the night meets the morning sun?”

Leesha would groan and put her hand over her face, knowing what was coming next.  And what came next? What else? As I was a teenager and she a frazzled creature known as the mother of a teenager, she’d launch into a long conversation of sex, relationships, being careful, and all that fun stuff.

Years went by and after the lectures stopped, I would listen to the song and remember that conversation with my mom.  She had a point of course, but you have to appreciate the ingenious way she brought it up.  When the song would come on in the car, I would often turn it up and tell the story.  Then announce to my passengers that I’d one day do the same thing to my kids, treating them all to a silly rendition of the speech, and allowing everyone to relive a bit of those awkward lectures from parents.

And then something happened – I left my husband and had to restart my life…which meant at some point, I’d start dating again.

This was terrifying. (And this is actually an understatement.)

Sure, there were the normal questions that everyone wonders  – After being with one person for ten years, what would it be like to be with someone new? What if it was weird?

And, since I haven’t disclosed any details of my divorce before (and am not going to right at this moment), I’ll just say – there were some added fears for me.

In the first days after leaving my ex, I’d stand in the shower for a long time – scalding and scrubbing my flesh to erase terrible fears.  There was a week when I barely ate.  There were terrible nightmares.  And there were months where I couldn’t even read a romance novel, much less imagine being with anyone new.

But – even though it didn’t seem like it then, little by little, I began to heal.  Time is a greater healer of all things, after all, and one day, I decided to start dating again.  That’s when this song came back to me, in a bit of a taunting melody.  But unlike a lot of people who may wonder if the sex they’re about to have will meaningful or meaningless (though I did wonder about it a bit), I really wondered how I’d react after – if I’d curl up into a ball and cry…or run to the bathroom and be physically ill.

But – amazingly enough to me at the time – none of those things happened.  And, since I’m classy and won’t give away super intimate things, I’ll just say this – I’m back to reading and writing romance novels. ;)

I’ve said all of this for a greater purpose though.  And it’s that you can heal from any hurt that you have.  You can experience something terrible and get past it.  Fear and pain may build up to be a wall set in your path.  But you can get past it…and the other side of that wall is a truly beautiful place.

“Will You Love Me Tomorrow” written by Carole King (I LOVE her) and Gerry Goffin

“Tonight you’re mine completely
You give your love so sweetly
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes
But will you love me tomorrow

Is this a lasting treasure
Or just a moment’s pleasure
Can I believe the magic of your sighs
Will you still love me tomorrow

Tonight with words unspoken
You say that I’m the only one
But will my heart be broken
When the night meets the morning sun

I’d like to know that your love
Is love I can be sure of
So tell me now and I won’t ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow

Quotable Thursdays

When I was going through my divorce (mostly last year), I felt like I had wasted so much of my time with my ex…especially since things didn’t work out and that I was missing out on my true self, my true destiny, and my true calling.

And I’m sure I’m not the only person who sometimes feels this way.  But hitting a snag or a roadblock on our own personal journeys does not stop us from getting where we want (or need) to go.  Sometimes, we just have to take the long way around.  And hey, who doesn’t like the longer way?  Sure, it’s a bumpier road and there are far less people on it.  But, you know what?  It’s the scenic route and the path with the most interesting stories, and I am after all, a writer and a reader – who loves a good story.

That’s when I came across the following quote:

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And you know what?  It’s true.  It’s never too late to become who you want or do what you want in life.  Go out and get it.  You can do it and you can start today.

Ad Poetry

The whole point of ads is to reach us, grab our attention, and of course, to buy a product/service.  But if you string together slogans, I think you can also make some interesting poetry.

Here’s my first try…at a somewhat inspirational poem from ad slogans (see below the for citations of where the slogans are from).
Ad Inspirational

“Life is short.  Stay awake for it,”don’t sleep through the best parts.
There are “Thousands of possibilities.  Get yours”2 to explore.
“Taste the rainbow”3 and revel in its colors,
“Put a tiger in your tank”4 and see where you’ll go.

Be present and “Be there.”5
Build a dream and “Make it real.”6

“Just do it – ”
“Open happiness”8 and open your eyes.

So that you can finally “Be all that you can be.”9

Actual Ads/Slogans:

  1. “Life is too short.  Stay awake for it!” – Caribou Coffee
  2. “There are thousands of possibilities.  Get Yours!” – Best Buy
  3. “Taste the rainbow” – Skittles
  4. “Put a tiger in your tank” – Esso/Exxon
  5. “Be there” – NBC
  6. “Make it real” – Coca Cola
  7. “Just do it” – Nike
  8. “Open happiness” – Coca Cola
  9. “Be all that you can be” – United States Army

That was fun.  Though I’m not sure if it’s my sleep deprived brain (I started grad school last week and am working full-time as well) or what..

How about you?  What’s your favorite ad slogan?  Or, try your hand at ad poetry and let me know how it goes. :)

Quotable Thursdays

Last year, I went through one of the toughest battles of my life so far – leaving my now ex-husband and rebuilding my life.  There were a lot of rough days, but I got through it with the love and support of my friends and family,  as well as my own determined optimism and…random picture quotes on the internet.  I know it sounds silly, but it’s true.  Even as a writer and avid reader, I was surprised at how much a simple quote could lift me up and serve as a mantra to get me through a very hard time.

For today’s Quotable Thursday, I give you quote from the lovely Maya Angelou (from the poem, “Still I Rise“).

I don’t know about you, but that inspires and empowers me.  :)

I hope you’re having a good day and if you’re not, know that better days are coming.

Packs, support groups, beta readers, and drinking buddies

(The importance of finding your own “writer’s pack.”)

I began my writing journey when I was in the fourth grade and teachers would assign writing exercises  – you remember, don’t you? The ones where they give you a topic, like going to the moon, and you got to fill in all of the blanks?   Oh, after just a few of those create writing prompts, I was hooked for good on writing.  :)

In middle school, I focused on poetry (a lot of sad poetry because those years were rough but also the regular teenage stuff of lamenting that my crush didn’t know I existed).  But it was also the beginning of me attempting to write novels.  And I say “attempting” because I was never able to finish.  It wasn’t until many, many years later that I finished a novel (I was around 30).

So why couldn’t I finish a novel?

First, I lacked discipline when I was a young writer.  My attention span – especially when I was in middle and high school wasn’t where it needed to be to be able to finish a novel.

Second, time – this one has me nervous now, as this week starts grad school classes for me.  But a major hinderance to finishing a novel in high school, college, and the first few years of my adult life was my lack of time.  Or maybe more accurately, my lack of time management.  If you’re sneaky enough with schedules, I’d imagine that you can make anything happen (that’s my hope, at least).

Third, and most important was support of fellow writers.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had the support of my family and friends for my writing (they are my oldest and most loyal fans).  However, for quite a long time, I did not have a writing pack – a group of like-minded people to help you along this strange journey of writing.  And we need them more than most, since writing can be a very lonely process.

Believe it or not, once I found my pack and we committed to meeting once a week, my first two issues of discipline and time management were crossed off.  Why?  Because I was dedicating a place and time for writing.  And even more than that, there were people I was committed to seeing, who would know if I didn’t show up.

My group served as a writer’s support group and gave help that only other writers could provide.  Do you second guess your story and yourself too?  Is your writing progress as slow as mine is?  Should I outline?  Should I bounce around from scene to scene or try to write chronologically?  How often should I edit (while still writing my novel)?  Should I blog?  My writer’s group helped me with all of these questions and hopefully, I’ve helped them as well.

As the group grew, we also became supportive in other ways as well – reading small snippets of novels to make sure things were on the right path, going to poetry sessions to support artists reading their works out-loud, and volunteering to beta read and help edit completed works.  (Though honestly, it’s my opinion that you need to work your way up to this point and not merely show up at an event and demand that people edit/critique your work when they don’t even know you yet).

Also, as my writing pack grew and as I grew as a writer, I found myself able to share my own experiences with other writers.  Giving advice on tricks and tips that have worked for me as a writer and cheering others along in their own endeavors, which has been my favorite part of the writing group. :)

Moral of the story – if you want to really succeed, join a writer’s group.  Not only will it help you to grow as a writer and let you meet some really great people, it will allow you to help others as well.  :)

Summer Music Series – V

Summer Music Series (Episode V)

IMG_2096I sing in the car, I can’t help it.  I mean, I can help it..it is possible – if it’s a really short trip or if we’re still in that part of our relationship where I’m nervous of what you’ll think of my singing.  But otherwise, I’m singing along (loudly) to songs and chattering away about songs, memories, or whatever pops into my mind.

Today…a complicated song for me.

If we were in the car, when the first notes of this song sail out of my speakers, I would put my hand over the song information and ask you two questions – name the song and if you’re a bit of a movie person like me, name what movie it’s from.

But alas, you’re reading this and we are not in the car.  So I’ll have to forgo that bit and just tell you – the name of the song is “let my love open the door,” and my question of what movie it’s from is actually a trick one.  Tricksy hobbit (in case you didn’t know, I’m kind of a nerd).

The song is in a few movies, but the two that showcase the song the best (in my humble opinion) are “Look who’s talking,” yep, it’s the song in the very beginning when she’s literally in the process of getting pregnant (more on this later).   And “Dan in real life,” when Steve Carell pretty much serenades Juliette Binoche with an acoustic guitar (it’s toward the end of the clip below).  What is it about guys serenading with acoustic guitars?  It’s like my kryptonite.

<Sigh>  Leesha, why are you so sappy?

Anyway – over a year ago and in many ways, in another lifetime, I was married and trying to start a family.  Actually, I’d been trying for quite some time and that year, I started fertility treatment.  I’ll condense all of that to say, that I got to the step where doctors perform a procedure to help you get pregnant and after said procedure, I had to lie on a table for 5-10 minutes.   So what did I do?  Well, because it’s me, I brought my iPad and read a romance novel.  But also because of “look who’s talking” and because I’m silly (and wanted all the luck I could get), I played this song.  The silliness of playing the song made me smile during a tense and confusing time – wanting something so badly that is supposed to come naturally and being alone (my ex didn’t come with me) in the doctor’s office weren’t much fun.  In the end, the procedure didn’t take and a few weeks later, for different reasons, my marriage was over (but that’s a story for another day).

And then, I began to listen to this song in a different way.  Not as a silly homage in my quest for a baby, but about my life and myself.  You see, I’ve always been a champion for lost causes and lost people.  My dad used to joke about it when I was younger – if there was a sad soul in my vicinity, it wasn’t long before I was lending my heart out to them, bringing them home, and trying to make them feel better.  I used to be the type of girl who would have sung this song about someone who needed to be healed and who I wanted to help.

In the middle of my divorce, I realized the irony of it all.  How often when I was young, I would try to patch up the wounded souls I came across in my journey, and now, many years later, it seems I’d become my own wounded soul to save.

So, I began to sing the song about myself – but not about how I was waiting for someone to come along and save me.  Honey, please.

I sang it about saving myself and that’s what I did (and continue to do).

Let my love open the door,” by Pete Townshend

When people keep repeating
That you’ll never fall in love
When everybody keeps retreating
But you can’t seem to get enough

Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door

When everything feels all over
Everybody seems unkind
I’ll give you a four leaf clover
Take all worry out of your mind

Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door

I have the only key to your heart
I can stop you falling apart
Try today, you’ll find this way
Come on and give me a chance to say

Let my love open the door, it’s all I’m living for
Release yourself from misery
There’s only one thing gonna set you free
That’s my love, that’s my love

Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door

When tragedy befalls you
Don’t let it drag you down
Love can cure your problems
You’re so lucky I’m around

Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – Review

Review: “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry,” by Gabrielle Zevin

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Summary

A.J. Fikry is the owner of a little bookstore on a small island, with small sales and limited ties to the community.  No man is an island, and yet A.J. lives on one and does his best to keep to himself after the accidental death of his wife, all but drinking himself to death.  But several things begin to change – a new bookselling agent, a stolen and priceless book, and…a toddler left in his store.  Suddenly the lost and seemingly stuck A.J. is acting as a father to the little girl, making friends in the community, and thinking about dating again.

My Thoughts

This was a great book!  A book about a serious book lover and his amazing second chance at life, so of course I loved it (I’m a sucker for second chances at life and love).  :)  Before every chapter, A.J. has a book recommendation for his daughter, which was so sweet and reminded me of the small bookstores that often have small book reviews or staff reviews on their shelves.  Also the whole story lovely from start to finish.  There are a fair amount of sad parts, make no mistake about it, but as with most lives, the good far outweighs the bad in this well-crafted story.  Make sure to check it out – 5 out of 5 stars.

Summer Music Series IV

  
I love driving around with music blaring, singing along (loudly), and telling stories. It’s what makes long road trips so much more bearable (than the alternative of long stretches of weird silence). 

This one song always makes me think of babies, well the artist did write it after the birth of his daughter, and I’ve been humming it to myself since finding out that my sister was pregnant those many, many months ago. And I’m happy to say that she gave birth last week to a healthy baby boy, making me an Auntie for the very first time. :)

I’ve visited them since and I’m glad to report that the new mommy, daddy, and baby boy are doing wonderfully.  So here’s a song for all of the parents out there, either celebrating and welcoming a life into the world or just celebrating the miracle of your children. 

“Isn’t she lovely,” by Stevie Wonder

Isn’t she lovely

Isn’t she wonderful

Isn’t she precious

Less than one minute old

I never thought through love we’d be

Making one as lovely as she

But isn’t she lovely made from love


Isn’t she pretty

Truly the angel’s best

Boy, I’m so happy

We have been heaven blessed

I can’t believe what God has done

Through us he’s given life to one

But isn’t she lovely made from love


Isn’t she lovely

Life and love are the same

Life is Aisha

The meaning of her name

Londie, it could have not been done

Without you who conceived the one

That’s so very lovely made from love

 

me and the little guy

 

Poetry night

*Just a disclaimer before I tell you about my adventure at the local open mic night:  the poem included within is snarky (even though I’m generally a nice person) and creative fiction, therefore any similarities between actual people/events is purely coincidental.*

I actually did it – I read at an open mic poetry night and not only that, I went first (though going first wasn’t by choice).

I’m not going to lie, I’m not the best public speaker and I was incredibly nervous.  The last time I read something I wrote (in a creative setting) in public was probably 20 years ago….in middle school.

There was a time when I fancied myself a poet.  A lot of crazy things happened during my formative years, and it was during this time that I found my voice as a writer, a lot of it in poetry and a lot more in journaling.

So why did I decide to read after all this time?  After two decades of silence?

After going to a few open mic events to support the arts and a poet friend, the poetry-bug seemed to be nibbling on my arm.  And as I continue to traverse this bumpy path of being a writer, I’ve come to realize that it’s important to get out there, try new things, and meet new people.  The only way to keep creativity flowing is to keep reading, writing, moving, meeting, exploring, and trying.  Plus, I figured  that if I can read poetry to a room full of strangers, surely I can pitch my novel to agents this weekend in NYC…or  at least, that’s my theory. :)

As I walked up to the mic, I reminded myself not to trip (I am notoriously clumsy) and as I started to speak, I reminded myself to keep my voice sassy (the poem requires a sassy tone).  When my fingers began to shake, I curled one hand around the microphone and the other around a seashell I got while traveling this year.  Then I took a breath and let the words come…

24, smooth, single, and free
he said hung too, but
that’s all relative, see?
 
Smooth?  Yeah, that’s true.
But 24? Honey, please.
Even with cheaters
you had to deceive.
 
As for hung, well –
that one’s on me.
You’ll say what you will
when your lock wants a key.
 
The things that you say,
compliments you give,
believe me,
I never expected to live –
to see them put down
on a cheap ad for sex,
the same day I took
a pregnancy test.
 
It had to be 24?
The year you gave me a ring?
When I thought myself lucky,
having reeled your ass in.
 
24, smooth, single, and free?
Is that what it meant,
all these years here with me?
 
As for hung, well –
I’m sorry, I lied.
There was so much missing,
I felt empty inside.
 
Tried to gaslight me,
when I asked where you’d been.
Honey, that might be
your greatest sin.
 
24, smooth, single, and free
as for hung, well –
you never could lie quite like me.

Adding Flavor

On adding flavor to your short stories and novels

I love to cook, pulling the spices together to season things just right and adding some wine…and a little more wine, hmmm maybe a little more wine…until everything tastes delicious.

There are a few strange cases of people who don’t care about flavor and for whom eating is just another task in their day, but for a vast majority of us – flavor makes all the difference.

But how do you spice up a story?

Oh my… Well yes, adding key scenes can add some <ahem> spice, but trust me, even that isn’t quite enough to sate a reader’s appetite

1. Descriptions and what they always say to us – “more show, less tell!”

Duh, right?  Of course descriptions and the “showing” add to the reader experience.  But how do you add in character descriptions, without side-tracking or pausing the story?

Should you describe them right away?

John walked in the room, his dark brown hair nearly touching the ceiling. <Leesha’s thoughts: Hmm…either this is a tall dude or he has truly amazing hair.>

Is the description from an omnipotent narrator’s view of the character or through the eyes of a character?

Linda laughed at John’s joke and Jen couldn’t help thinking how much she looked like a horse neighing.  <Leesha’s thoughts:  That’s not very nice, Jen.>

My personal style for descriptions:

I tend to not list out all of my character descriptions right away.  I’ll do it here and there, but mostly I tie it into the action.

For example from the novel I’m working on:

 Natalie’s natural c cups were aided with a boost from a push-up bra and a low-cut pink top that threatened to spill tanned skin from its confines.  She handed a mojito to Lydia, breasts jiggling under John’s nose, and made her best attempt to purr, “hello John.”

Ha.  At least I amuse myself, but I am trying to show you a fair bit of information while giving a tiny description <a dash of seasoning> of a character.

It’s not necessarily the right way to do it – I very much doubt that one can argue the “proper” way to describe characters anyway (as rules in writing/art are meant to be broken), but it’s my preference.  Take from that what you will. :)

2. Local flavor also known as – prove that you know what you’re talking about

If you’re writing about a known location, it adds some credibility to the scene and story if you can add tidbits that make it more real.

How do you do it?

Well, if you live in the general area, it’s pretty easy to add in detail to give your story a little extra credibility, otherwise – TRAVEL!  :)  Well, or what most of us do – armchair travel from the comfort of your very own home and laptop.  Yay for research!  Research is a super effective way of adding detail into your story.  Especially if you’re working on historical fiction and can’t travel back in time because, well…science.

You can also draw from every day experiences or memories from your past.  Do you have a local bookstore or diner that you love and can describe?  Well then, why not add it in?  It adds some flavor and authenticity to your descriptions.

What I do:

I generally go the route of places I’ve actually been/lived or have researched (I don’t write a lot of futuristic/world building pieces, so my knowledge base there is nil).

The novel that I’m working on now takes places in the greater Washington DC area (where I live).  Because I’ve lived here for a few years, I know some things about the area – like different areas in DC, how traffic stinks, the different roads/highways, and what happens here during the summer – two words:  tourists + sweat. :)  But more than that, I know amusing stories about the area, like the adventure of Rusty, and I put it in my novel (whether it makes the final draft is another story completely).

Photo from ARKive of the Red panda (Ailurus fulgens) - http://www.arkive.org/red-panda/ailurus-fulgens/image-G111667.html

Photo from ARKive of the Red panda (Ailurus fulgens) – http://www.arkive.org/red-panda/ailurus-fulgens/image-G111667.html

How do you add flavor to your stories?