Saturday, June 30, 2012

Goose Egg

It wasn't the best of days for me at the Horse Cave BookFest. But it wasn't the worst of days either. I'm sure most of the authors would say the same.
For me, I didn't sell a single book. Kenneth Turner, sitting at my table, sold one. Bill Ellis, across from me, sold two.

But the day wasn't a total waste. I spent four hours on the road -- going to and from -- but during that time I thought about some story ideas (please, to those in the United States, I wasn't texting!).

The HCB had to combat 100-degree weather, which no doubt kept some people away. And being the inaugural event, I'm sure the word didn't get out as well as it could have been to folks in the area.

The venue was a bit cramped for the 100 or so authors and publishers. I think that might have been intimidating to potential book buyers when they looked inside are realized they were outnumbered. I was told the organizers had to move the event to a smaller place because the air conditioning went out at the original location.

Although I didn't have any customers -- and honestly, I really didn't expect many since I'm not from the area -- I was still able to talk shop with several authors and meet a few others.

Some of the other authors I got to chat with were Steve Vest, Tim Callahan, Bill Noel, Carleton Jackson, Lynwood Montell, Ann Gabhart, Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, Karen Angelucci, Virginia Davis, and Larry Moore. Check out their books at your library or online.

Thanks to the folks at The Bookstore and Two Bears and a Dog Books (how many towns with a populati0n of 2,250 have two bookstores?) and other volunteers for putting on the event. Stop by and visit the stores when you're in the vicinity.

I'm sure the 2013 event will be bigger and better.

Until the next time...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Story Songs: Piano Man

Billy Joel rates as one of the best story-songwriters of his generation, especially with tunes such as "Allentown," "Goodnight Saigon," and "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)." 

For most fans, it all started with "Piano Man," his breakthrough hit in 1974 that is now his signature song.

I remember seeing Joel in concert at Eastern Kentucky University that year. He put on a great show. I also reviewed his album, "Piano Man," for the Eastern Progress, the student newspaper, and boldly predicted that he was America's answer to England's Elton John. Well, it seemed bold at the time! 

If you've been part of the lounge scene, or simply curious about what goes on, Joel captured it all in "Piano Man." It's somewhat autobiographical as he retells his experience working at a lounge in Los Angeles. The lounge is filled with assortment of characters who yearn or dream of a different life:

"And the waitress is practicing politics 
As the businessmen slowly get stoned 
Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness 
But it's better than drinkin' alone" 

You can just imagine the stories that the piano man hears while he takes requests for songs, goes on a smoke break, or after his set.
"It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday 
And the manager gives me a smile 
'Cause he knows that it's me they've been comin' to see 
To forget about life for a while"

I saw Joel in concert again a few years ago at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., during one of his tours with Elton John. It was another great show. 
And we all sang the chorus to this great song:
"Sing us a song you're the piano man 
Sing us a song tonight 
Well we're all in the mood for a melody 
And you got us feeling alright"

"Piano Man" lyrics


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ramblings: A New Day for Books

Ramblings: A New Day for Books: I'm excited about participating in the inaugural Horse Cave BookFest on S...

A New Day for Books

I'm excited about participating in the inaugural Horse Cave BookFest on Saturday.

I’ll be there along with more than 100 other authors, publishers, and booksellers. Here’s an article in Columbia Magazine that gives details and a list of authors.

Horse Cave is located off Interstate 65, midway between Elizabethtown and Bowling Green, in south-central Kentucky. The town is home to the Kentucky Repertory Theatre, Kentucky Down Under, American Cave Museum, and Hidden River Cave. It's a neat town that gets better with age.

We’re fortunate in the Bluegrass State to have several book fairs including the Kentucky Book Fair (Nov. 10 in Frankfort) and Southern Kentucky Book Fest (held last April in Bowling Green).

While some authors are skipping book fairs and bookstore signings in favor of Internet marketing and promotion, I still believe it’s important for authors to meet the reading public. An author gets to know his audience a bit better, and there's the chance to increase the audience as well.

It’s also an opportunity for authors to answer questions and discuss their works, meet other authors, make new friends, renew friendships, and maybe even sell a few books. I know some of my treasured possessions are signed books from some of the authors I admire and read.

Furthermore, it's just nice to get out of the house on a summer day and be around people -- especially book lovers.

The event is produced by The Bookstore and Two Bears and a Dog Books and runs from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Drop on by if you’re in the vicinity. I'll have a bookmark for you.

Until the next time...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Story Songs: Me and Bobby McGee

"Me and Bobby McGee" is one of the few songs that truly captures the carefree spirit of the 1960s. Written by the great Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, it tells the story of two lovers as they move from one place to another, sharing songs and simply being free.

In Kristofferson's original lyrics, Bobby McGee is a woman. In Janis Joplin's hit version, Bobby McGee is a man. That certainly makes sense, at least in the time frame in which the song was written.

The song opens with the pair hitching a ride from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, setting the tone and mood for the story.

"Took my harpoon out of my dirty red bandana
And was blowin' sad while Bobby sang the blues,
With them windshield wipers slappin' time and
Bobby clappin' hands we finally sang up every song
That driver knew."

After traveling from "the coalmines of Kentucky to the California sun," they finally part ways in Salinas, and the storyteller yearns to be with her again.

"She was lookin' for the home I hope she'll find,
Well I'd trade all my tomorrows for a single yesterday,
Holdin' Bobby's body close to mine."

The song closes with words about their simple relationship, a comfort zone that many of us feel with special people in our lives.

"Feelin' good was easy, Lord, when Bobby sang the blues,
And buddy, that was good enough for me.
Good enough for me and Bobby McGee."

Roger Miller first recorded the song in 1969, topping at No. 12 on the country charts. But it was the legendary Janis Joplin's heartfelt version that brought worldwide audience and acclaim to "Me and Bobby McGee" in 1971, taking it to No. 1, several months after her untimely death It was her only chart-topping song.

"Me and Bobby McGee" lyrics

I'm including Joplin and Kristofferson videos of the song:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Read My Lips

I’m about midway through the fourth rewrite of my short-story collection.

What’s so amazing to me is that I still find errors, mistakes, typos, and other boo-boos that I thought would have been caught during the first or second reads. I had the same experience with my previous books.

To be honest, I know that I’ll discover or uncover items that need to be addressed in the seventh or eighth read. That’s part of the challenge in reading copy. And I realize, to play on a saying by Alexander Pope: To err is human; to proofread, refine.

One thing I do at this point in the process is to read aloud (when alone) – or at least mouth – the words on the computer screen. Why? I want to make sure they have the correct sound and flow. I find this especially important in dialogue. I want the words to ring real and true.

By reading the manuscript in my normal voice, I believe it gives me a feel for what the reader may experience when digesting my words. If parts sound clumsy, choppy or wordy to me, I believe it will be magnified, and perhaps indigestible, for the reader.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Story Songs: Running Bear

J.P. Richardson, more famously known as The Big Bopper, penned a song about eternal love in "Running Bear." The tune, recorded by Johnny Preston, reached No. 1 in early 1960, nearly a year after the plane crash that claimed the lives of Richardson, Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens. 

It's a simple song about two young Indians -- Running Bear and Little White Dove -- whose love is separated by their feuding tribes and a wide river.   

"On the bank of the river
Stood Running Bear
Young Indian brave
On the other side of the river
Stood his lovely Indian maid
Little White Dove was her name
Such a lovely sight to see
But their tribes fought with each other
So their love could never be"

They decide that the only way to be together is to meet halfway in the river, but realizing that only their love for each other would survive the "raging river."

"And they swam out to each other
Through the swirling stream they came
As their hands touched and their lips met
The raging river pulled them down
Now they'll always be together
In their happy hunting ground"

"Running Bear" was one of my favorite songs during my pre-teen years. It has a distinctive drumbeat and sax interludes, along with Richardson and George Jones providing background vocals, that makes it a special love song. 

"Running Bear" lyrics


Monday, June 18, 2012

Unadvice for Writers

“I am not one of those who in expressing opinions confine themselves to facts.” – Mark Twain

When I have posts about writing, they are simply my reflections on the craft based on my experience as an author. Although they work for me, they may not -- and probably won't -- work for you.

For those who are writers, or aspire to be writers, there have been countless opinions expressed about this creative endeavor in books, magazines, newspapers, radio, television, conferences, websites, webinars, conversations, blogs or whatever means you seek advice.

And, no doubt, there will be countless more suggestions and recommendations offered on the writing process in the years to come. As the crude saying goes, opinions are like… everyone has one.

I have a bookshelf and more of books about writing. I subscribe to several writing magazines and blogs. I occasionally attend lectures, seminars and conferences about various things pertaining to writing.

So what’s my point in this post? First, I don’t take anything as gospel. Second, I try to take nuggets of information from various sources. And third, sometimes I find grains of salt. It's kind of a collective process for me in picking up bits and pieces from many sources.

That’s what I hope you take from my posts.

We all have our own methods of writing. We all have different time constraints. We all have different things going on in our lives. We all have different interests. In other words, we’re all different in many ways that affect our writing in many ways.

I believe my only sound pieces of advice are to read and write.

But do it your way.

One more thought about advice, this from Virginia Woolf: "Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others."

Until the next time...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Story Songs: Green, Green Grass of Home

I've known people to get teary-eyed after listening to "Green, Green Grass of Home." This story song, by veteran songwriter Claude "Curly" Putman Jr., is about a homecoming of a different kind.

It opens with a soft and tender melody along with comforting lyrics that many of us probably feel when we think of returning to our roots or visiting loved ones.

"The old home town looks the same,

As I step down from the train,

And there to meet me is my mama and papa
Down the road I look and there runs Mary
Hair of gold and lips like cherries
It's good to touch the green, green grass of home"

But the last verse of the song reveals that a person on death row in a prison was having dream, recalling the happy and tender years of his life.

"Then I awake and look around me

Cold gray walls surround me
And I realize that I was only dreamin'
There's a guard and there's a sad old padre
Arm and arm we'll walk at daybreak
Again I'll touch the green, green grass of home"

And we learn that his homecoming will be bittersweet for his parents and sweetheart.

"Yes, they'll all be there to meet me

In the shadow of that old oak tree

As they lay me beneath the green, green grass of home"

Putman wrote a song for the ages because the listener can substitute any loved one who is returning home for the last time -- perhaps even how they may view their own journey to a final resting place. Simply beautiful and heartfelt lyrics.

The song has been covered by many artists including Porter Wagoner, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard, and Joan Baez. My favorite version is by Tom Jones, who made the song an international hit in 1966. 

Try to keep dry eyes after listening to Putman's masterpiece.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Another Great Season

I’m looking forward to a play-full summer.

I recently purchased a pair of season tickets for the summer season of the

 My wife and I will attend productions of “Cotton Patch Gospel,” “Lombardi,” “Oliver,” and “Floyd Collins.” It’s an eclectic mix that I’m sure will be delightful and entertaining.
KRT is one of my favorite places for entertainment.

Horse Cave, as the name suggests, is in the heart of Kentucky's "cave country," a few miles from Mammoth Cave National Park. It's a picturesque town, located off I-65 between Elizabethtown and Bowling Green. It also home to the American Cave Museum and Hidden River Cave, only a block or so away from the theatre. The Horse Cave Bookfest will be held June 30.

KRT was formerly known as Horse Cave Theatre, when it held it first production (“Candida”) 35 years ago under the tireless and talented direction of Warren Hammack. He was succeeded 25 years later by Robert Brock (now teaching at Lindsey Wilson College), followed by Christopher Sanderson, and now Ken Hailey serves as artistic consultant.
I’ve always enjoyed live entertainment, be it plays, music, dance, readings, interviews, or re-enactments.

I’d encourage anyone in Kentucky or visiting the state this summer to drop by KRT. It’s an experience you won’t regret or soon forget.

And if you can’t attend a performance at KRT, then support theatre in your area. We all benefit from the arts. 

Until the next time...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Story Songs: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

On Nov. 10, 1975, the Great Lakes freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald, after encountering heavy winds and high waves, sank in the deep waters of Lake Superior. All 29 crew members perished in the disaster.

A year later, Canadian Gordon Lightfoot commemorated the event with his touching and thoughtful song, "The Wreck of  the Edmund Fitzgerald."  It captures the essence of the crew and vessel on its final voyage:

"The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconsin
As the big freighters go, it was bigger than most
With a crew and good captain well seasoned"

Lightfoot goes on to tell of the distress in the final hours as the Edmund Fitzgerald is caught in the throes of a horrendous storm:

"The captain wired in he had water comin' in
And the good ship and crew was in peril.
And later that night when his lights went outta sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

Lightfoot is a master storyteller and his keen lyrics about that fateful day will be always be recalled when people remember the SS Edmund Fitzgerald.

"And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters."



Monday, June 11, 2012

Ramblings: Sugar and Spice

Ramblings: Sugar and Spice: A friend recently mentioned to me that her adult daughter had given her E.L. James's “ Fifty Shades of Grey ” to read but with one restr...

Sugar and Spice

A friend recently mentioned to me that her adult daughter had given her E.L. James's “Fifty Shades of Grey” to read but with one restriction: "We won’t discuss it."

We laughed about it, and then I thought about some of the other novels that moms and daughters may have shared without discussion. My list is limited to women's fiction published since the 1950s.

The first one that comes to mind is Grace Metalious’s “Peyton Place,” which was published in 1956. I vaguely recall my mother and some of her friends discussing the novel (but not in front of me).

Years later, after I skimmed through it, I wondered, "What's the big deal?" But times had changed and there was more permissiveness and acceptance by the public.

In the 1960s, it was Harold Robbins’s “The Carpetbaggers” (1961) Jacqueline Susann’s “Valley of the Dolls” (1966), and Irving wallace's "The Seven Minutes" (1969).

The 1970s had Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying” (1973), Susann's "Once Is Not Enough" (1973) and Judy Blume’s “Forever…” (1975).

From that point on, practically everything imaginable has found its way into print -- right up to the "Fifty Shades" trilogy.

Are there any novels that you may have shared with your mother or daughter but didn't discuss because of the subject matter?

Until the next time...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Story Songs: Stagger Lee

One of the most interesting and enduring story songs is "Stagger Lee." The story dates back to a murder in 1895, when "Stag" Lee Shelton shot William "Billy" Lyons in a St. Louis saloon.

The men apparently got into an argument over politics and Lyons removed the Stetson hat off Shelton's head. Shelton retaliated by fatally shooting Lyons in the stomach. The story has changed over the years and the song has been recorded by many artists.

I first became familiar with the song back in the late 1950s when Lloyd Price took it to the top of the charts. It is reportedly the first censored song to reach No. 1.

In Price's version, the tension begins while the men are gambling:

"It was Stagger Lee and Billy
Two who gambled late
Stagger Lee threw seven,
Billy swore he threw eight"

Stagger Lee got angry and left to get his .44 to settle matters. When he returned, Billy pleaded:

"Oh, please don't take my life
I got three little children
And a very sickly wife."

But Stagger Lee was determined and didn't take any pity on poor Billy and pulled the trigger:

"Stagger Lee shot Billy,
Oh, he shot that poor boy so bad
Till the bullet came through Billy
And went right through
The bartender's glass"

Pricer's rendition of the song is spirited, full of energy, and captures the mood of the story. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ramblings: The Dark Ages (Before the Web)

Ramblings: The Dark Ages (Before the Web): I remember my first computer – a Commodore 64 back in the 1980s – that I used to write my second book. There wasn’t an Internet back then...

The Dark Ages (Before the Web)

I remember my first computer – a Commodore 64 back in the 1980s – that I used to write my second book. There wasn’t an Internet back then. I purchased the computer simply to use as a word processor because it was somewhat more efficient than the Smith-Corona portable electric typewriter I used in college and for writing my first book.

I will say that that I never lost copy while using the typewriter (something that happened with regularity with the Commodore 64) and I was much more careful while writing because I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in rewrites. Back then, of course, I used copyediting marks during the rewrite process.
I kept a thesaurus, Webster’s dictionary, and Associated Press Stylebook on my desk as my primary reference tools. I also had a set of the World Book Encyclopedia that I used for research. And I spent a lot of time in libraries, using their vast resources on the shelves and microfilm.
My, how times have changed. Everything is practically at our fingertips while writing. Of course there is a downside to that as well. It's awfully easy to get distracted from writing when you find yourself checking and sending e-mails and going beyond research into aimless surfing.
And I know a few folks who decide to take a break from the writing and play an online game -- just one or two times -- and end up playing countless times.
Sometimes the pre-Internet days sound pretty good.
Until the next time...