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.
*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.
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).
It happens all of the time, there’s a mega-hit novel and then a ton of novels after are compared to it. It’s a tale as old as time, and inevitably it’s what makes you pick up a book and, for the writers out there, possibly/hopefully/please – sells books.
“The Good Girl,” like many thrillers out there now (especially ones that feature a twist) was compared to “Gone Girl.” (Side note: if you haven’t seen “Gone Girl” yet, then you totally should. It was very well done.)
In The Good Girl, Mia is the daughter of a well-known judge and is kidnapped because of it. But the kidnapper middle man, Colin, decides not to turn her over to the truly bad guy and instead brings her to a remote cabin. Meanwhile her mom, Eve, and the lead detective, Gabe, work against the clock to find her.
Okay…I’m a writer so I don’t usually like to give “bad” reviews but I do give honest reviews. So, I’ll point out the good and the bad.
Perspective and bouncing around: I really liked the bouncing around in this story. It’s told from three perspectives (until the very last chapter). We hear the story through Eve’s, Gabe’s, and Colin’s words. However, as an added and interesting bonus, the story is told both before Mia is found and after (not sequentially). I really enjoyed this. It kept the action fast enough and the reader off balance enough (but not too much) for it to be enjoyable.
Pacing: Because of the action, change in perspectives, and bouncing around – this story was a very quick read. It was also told (mostly) in very streamlined accounts – not a lot of superfluous detail, which makes the story go faster and is appropriate for the type of story.
The man’s perspective/quasi-romance: Okay, I’m not a dude (obviously, I hope), but Colin’s perspective was good until…let’s just say until “complex feelings” arrive. Yeah. You know what I’m talking about and believe me, I was rolling my eyes too. Anyway, Colin comes off as a little…7th grade girl in his descriptions and depictions of a supposed love (that right, I’m calling it out, this was not real love). I was thinking the story could still be salvageable (maybe she would use his feelings/obsession against him to escape?) and was disappointed.
The mastermind: <Sigh> Now, I have to tell you, I had a pretty good feeling who the mastermind was in the beginning of the story but was hoping I’d be surprised. Then halfway through, I was certain. With only a quarter of the book left, I knew it was coming but was hoping there was a way to deliver it that wouldn’t disappoint me too much. And then…<sigh>…then, just a scant few pages from the end, I knew that wouldn’t be the case. I think she was going for a kind of “Usual Suspects” surprise end, but it ended up being rather campy (I imagined the mastermind literally steepling their fingers during their confession).
At the end of the day, I’d give this book 3 out of 5 stars, not terrible but not really great either. The first half was better than the second…with me full-out growling (GRRR) for the last quarter of the book.
Summer is the season for long car trips and if you’re traveling anywhere with me, you can be sure of singing…and talking about memories (or trivia) associated with songs.
“I Just Called To Say I Love You” – written and performed by Stevie Wonder
Late one night when I was a young kid, our telephone shrilled to life. There are a lot of things I’ve forgotten over the years (or even this week), but this one sound – the telephone ringing – I’ll remember forever.
It was my aunt calling to tell us that my cousin, we’ll call him “M,” had been hit by a car. M was just six months younger than me and in a hospital bed, in a coma. I don’t remember too much from this time, mostly because it was confusing and a whirlwind of activity. I remember my mom hugging me tight and my family talking about things that were hard to follow. Probably because I was too young to really understand the things that the grownups were talking about – terrible accidents, broken limbs, head trauma… All I knew was that M looked like he was sleeping and while everyone wasn’t sure if he was going to pull through, I had the confidence that only a child could possess in a time like this. “Of course he’ll be fine,” I’d say. And thankfully, I was right but the scary thing is that I could have just as easily been wrong.
While he was in the hospital, they told us that it was possible that he could hear and recognize our voices. My mom, always a caretaker and big-hearted woman, came up with a sweet idea – she, my sister, and I would record ourselves talking to my cousin and singing to him.
I remember making the tape for him. Singing silly songs that we all knew and telling him how much we loved him. Which called a song to my mind – “I just called to say I love you.” I didn’t know all of the words, and in the times before a quick internet search would render the full song lyrics, my mom had some doubts. But I was determined and besides that, the refrain (which nearly everyone knows) is the most important part of the song. So we recorded it for him, complete with humming or nah-nahhing our way through the parts we didn’t know and later played it for him in the hospital.
And as it turns out, we were lucky that year. Our family was blessed with the miracle of my cousin pulling through and making a full recovery.
For a long time, and still to this day, I think of my cousin when I hear the song.
When I was going through the early stages of my divorce, I was careful (probably a little too careful) on which of my mutual friends I confided in. After talking with one of my friends about the events leading up to the divorce and the storm of emotions inside me, he posted a YouTube clip of “I just called to say I love you,” on my Facebook page. And the sweetness of the gesture made me cry. Up until that point, I wasn’t sure who I could count on anymore. But with that single gesture, I knew that people can still surprise you (for good) and stand by you in times of need…and it’s made me love the song that much more.
“I just called to say I love you”
No New Year’s Day to celebrate No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away No first of spring No song to sing In fact here’s just another ordinary day
No April rain,No flowers bloom No wedding Saturday within the month of June But what it is, is something true Made up of these three words that I must say to you I just called to say I love you I just called to say how much I care I just called to say I love you And I mean it from the bottom of my heart
No summer’s high No warm July No harvest moon to light one tender August night No autumn breeze No falling leaves Not even time for birds to fly to southern skies
No Libra sun No Halloween No giving thanks to all the Christmas joy you bring But what it is, though old so new To fill your heart like no three words could ever do
I just called to say I love you I just called to say how much I care, I do I just called to say I love you And I mean it from the bottom of my heart
I just called to say I love you I just called to say how much I care, I do I just called to say I love you And I mean it from the bottom of my heart, of my heart, of my heart
I just called to say I love you I just called to say how much I care, I do I just called to say I love you And I mean it from the bottom of my heart, of my heart, baby of my heart
Believe it or not, up until a few months ago, I had never seen Alien, Aliens, Predator, Predator 2, or Predators. I accidentally stumbled upon Prometheus a little while ago, when I thought it was a space movie and not horror/thriller based space movie. I realized it was part of the Alien/Predator universe a little too late (was already invested in the story) and saw it through to the end. And I’m glad I did, because it inevitably led me to Alien and Aliens…also, my boyfriend happens to own a whole bunch of these movies and upon learning I hadn’t seen them, he brought them all over for binge-watching.
Now, I know there are still a few movies missing from my knowledge base (Aliens 3, Aliens Resurrection, Alien vs. Predator, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem), but I feel like I know enough for the following statement –
I’d rather be a heroine in the Alien part of this universe than in the Predator part.
Even with the chance of this happening…
I mean, it looks bad, but frankly we’ve all eaten something we later regretted. There were times after visiting all-you-can-eat places, or just really good restaurants, when I fully expected an alien to tear itself out of my stomach.
And even if this happened…
Because, hey, I’ve been through worse days (and dates) than that and I feel like I’ve met people with way worse breath.
But that’s not really why I’d rather be in an Alien movie. It’s because of Ripley.
Ripley is my hero. The woman kicks some serious ass all the time and she’s not the only strong female character. Seriously, even the ultra-scary alien in Aliens was a female. How awesome is that!
Meanwhile, in the Predator part of this universe, the ladies are kind of lame. They survive, but not because of their own strength – the Predators either don’t kill them because they’re unarmed, they’re pregnant, or the menfolk save them.
Way lame, Predator. WAY LAME.
At first, Predators looked promising. Isabelle seemed to be a fairly strong character…
…and not to ruin anything, but Adrien Brody ended up having to save her. Granted, he looked like this when he did it:
And while I appreciate the muddy eye-candy, I’m still rolling my eyes. They just carried the theme of strong dudes and not-so-strong ladies in Predators. Maybe Alien vs. Predators fixes this – though I’m sure it’s terrible in other ways, like plot and dialogue. :p
But I’ve already made my decision – it’s Aliens. For kick-ass heroines…and also, way better plots, dialogue, and characters.
For over a year, it seems like there’s been a lot of change in my life after years of stagnation and decay. And while it sometimes seems like a lot, the changes are welcomed (if not sometimes scary).
Anyway, here’s what’s been going on with me –
Soon to be an auntie! This is probably the most whirl-widiness of things and the most wonderful. My sister is going to be giving birth sometime this month and quite possibly this week to my first nephew (or niece for that matter). We’re officially on baby watch and I can’t wait to meet the little guy (and of course, spoil him). 🙂 So exciting!
Branching out to other genres:
I got an idea for a children’s book (since I’m about to be an auntie) and decided to follow through. I think it’s a cute idea and came out fairly well…I’m thinking of trying to write a few more and maybe get them published. I started a new blog (it’s a WordPress one, written under my same username, so if I already follow you, I can’t follow you again under the new site. Which is pretty unfair). Check it out if you’d like – it’s mostly children’s book reviews and will at some point feature my adventures in babysitting my soon-to-be-arriving nephew. Yay!
Also, with my meetup group, I’ve been going to open mic nights for poetry – which has been awesome. I wish I discovered one of these places so much earlier (like when I wrote poetry). The complicated (maybe good, maybe bad) bit on this is that it’s given me the poetry bug again. I’m half-way done with a poem that I think I can read there…maybe even this month. If I do (and probably if I wimp out and don’t read it there), I’ll make sure I post it so the poor open mic people won’t be the only one’s to suffer my rhymes. :p
Writer’s Digest 2015 Conference & Pitch Slam:
I did the Writer’s Digest Conference last year and I had so much fun (and learned so much) that I’m doing it again this year. Only this time, I’m doing the pitch slam for an agent for one of my books as well. But before I do, I have to research the agents who will be there, practice a pitch, and continue to polish my book. <Sigh> Just small details, right? :p Should be fun though, at least this time around, I have business cards at the ready.
Are any of you going to the Writer’s Digest Conference this year?
And…got into an online MBA program, which I will attempt to complete with a full-time job – Wow, this year (and the next few) are going to be interesting…and I’d imagine quite busy. But it’ll be good – I think…well, I hope. Maybe I’ll get better with my time management (and scheduling blog posts in advance) skills.
I guess what they say really is true, when it rains, it pours…
So, I think you know that I don’t usually read science or sci-fi books…closest I’ve come in a while was a romance novel that had a scientist in it…that kind of counts, right? :p But since I saw the preview for “The Martian” recently, I picked the book up on a lark…
In “The Martian,” astronaut Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars after a freak storm and accident causes his crew to believe him dead and bug out of the red planet way before their mission was scheduled to end. Mark comes to after his fellow astronauts have left and finds…he has no way to make contact with his crew or NASA back home. Shite. So, he must figure out how to survive for four years (until the next crew comes to Mars) on his own on rations that were meant to last far less than that….and battle a host of other problems along the way.
I said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t usually read this kind of book. Actually, I bought it because I thought my dad might like it..and then proceeded to read it all and have yet to give it to him…sorry, Dad. And there’s a lot of science, seriously. But it’s not presented in a high brow way or in a way that makes you feel dumb. It’s brilliantly presented by our amusing narrator and engineer/rogue botanist – Matt – and his excellent sense of humor.
Honestly, Matt is the best part about this book. He seriously made me giggle….or seriously giggle.
He’s determined to be up-beat and since his journal is his only main outlet of communication/company, he is determined to keep us entertained as well. This story has a little bit of everything – a whole lot of drama (can he/will he survive against all of the odds? can he contact NASA?), humor (some of his comments, especially about aqua man talking to whales, were hilarious), ingenuity (the man is smart as hell), and excellent plot. I loved it – 5 out of 5 stars. And I plan on seeing the movie, though I’m wondering how they’ll present all of the narration…should be interesting.
Side note – amazingly this is Andy Weir’s first novel, who is apparently a bit of a genius himself. You go, dude. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next!
If you’re rolling down any road with me, unless we’re discussing something VERY intently, chances are there’s music on – either in the background, filling up the spaces between our dialogue….or blaring with me (and hopefully you) singing lead vocals.
I will however, stop singing periodically to ask you know what the song really means or tell you a story about a memory associated with the music. And hopefully, you’d tell me some of yours too.
Today, we’re going to talk about The Summer Wind – the Frank Sinatra version, because it’s my favorite version of the song.
As an Italian American, ol’ blue eyes is like a birthright. Supposedly, there was a great aunt or second cousin of my grandmother’s who use to date Frank Sinatra. Her dad made her break up with Frank because the old patriarch thought Frankie would never amount to much….I think nearly everyone from the greater NY/NJ area is related to someone with this same exact story. :p
Anyway, let’s be honest about what The Summer Wind is really about…
it’s not long-lost love,
or the one that got away,
this song, is categorically and unapologetically about farts.
Now, if we were in the car together, I’d have to re-start the song for you and croon in suggestive ways (I promise that my crooning is amusing) to highlight my point. And of course, wiggle my eyebrows with every blow of the horn (see? Farts! told you.) Let’s take it from the top –
The summer wind, came blowin’ in from across the sea It lingered there to touch your hair and walk with me All summer long…
<horns clearly denoting farting>
we sang a song…
<horns clearly denoting farting>
and then we strolled that golden sand Two sweethearts and the summer wind
<Leesha interjection – isn’t it the worst when a fart follows someone? Terrible.>
Like painted kites, those days and nights, they went flyin’ by The world was new beneath a blue umbrella sky Then softer than a piper man one day it called to you I lost you, I lost you to the summer wind
<Leesha interjection – Frankie, maybe you wouldn’t have lost her if you eased up on the beans.>
The autumn wind and the winter winds, they have come and gone And still the days, those lonely days, they go on and on And guess who sighs his lullabies through nights that never end
<Leesha interjection: usually those nights after eating Chipotle…>
My fickle friend, the summer wind
The summer wind Warm summer wind Mmm, the summer wind
<Leesha interjection: Warm summer wind. Yep. Farts. You’re welcome. Next time, listen to all of the blasts from that horn and try not to giggle.>
– The Summer Wind, obviously not actually about farts. Music by Heinz Meier and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, performed to my great amusement by Frank Sinatra (back up vocals and silliness provided by me, of course).
Like this post? I wrote a similar one, about American Pie that you should check out.