Saturday, January 28, 2012

Musical Stories 26: War

Thank you so much to all of you who commented on my last blog post. There were some great comments and suggestions for improvement. A quick note to those of you who commented on the pov change. The original piece was handwritten with indented paragraphs and a space between the two povs. I didn't pay enough attention to the formatting when I typed it. I'll try not to make that mistake again. Can't promise anything though :-)

Can you believe we're up to week 26 of Musical Stories? Over six months of music, (if you count the special editions), and you're still listening, commenting and, hopefully, enjoying. You lot rock! Sorry to those of you who couldn't listen to the second song last week. If any of you have a burning desire to listen to Don't you want me by The Human League, there is a new link underneath the original video.

This week the genre is War, and it might just be the easiest week ever. Every song was suggested by one of my lovely readers. All I had to do was pick a video and enjoy!

The first one comes from Julie Fedderson from Gypsy in my soul. This one was new to me. It's a reminder of the fears of the family left behind. We often talk about the parents, children and partners of soldiers. This one is for the siblings, and all those other relatives who sometimes get forgotten but whose fears are every bit as real.

I can't believe it's taken three series, and a reminder from Margot Kinberg at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist to include this second one. (I swear Margot has forgotten more songs than I will ever know!). This is the tale of how raw excitement turns to jaded reality for young soldiers.

Finally, Rick Watson from Life 101 introduced me to another song I hadn't heard before. I've included this one as it's the tale of the Everyman. Anyone, in any town, in any generation could be uttering these words.

Enjoy this week's stories. Next week we'll be back in the world of Fantasy.

Lyrics here

 Lyrics here

 Lyrics here

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Lesson

She sweeps the classroom door open with an imperious gesture that doesn't match her inner feelings of unease.
“In.” she commands, with a slight tilt of her head towards the waiting desks.
Five minutes later, thirty pairs of eyes are fixed on thirty sheets of paper and her fear disappears, only to return as she catches him staring at her, an unfathomable expression on his face.
'Pull yourself together. Why be afraid of a fourteen year old?'
But she is.

She roams the classroom, making a comment here, a correction there. She forces herself to stop in front of his desk.
“Get on with your work.” Her voice is louder than it needs to be.
“Yes Miss,” the boy murmurs, so quietly she can barely hear him.
He bends his head over his paper, a shock of yellow hair hiding his expression from her.

Her insides are churning like a live thing trying to escape the confines of her body. She sits down quickly. He knows, she is convinced. The boy knows she is a fake. Her tough exterior will be an easy shell to penetrate.  Surely, she is on borrowed time. How long before he attempts to break that shell? Will he smash it in one piece or chisel it off, blow by blow? She gazes at the clock. When will this lesson end? How much more can she take without cracking? She is surprised she has managed to last this long without giving way. She thinks back. This is the longest she has survived without someone discovering her true self. Now it seems she will have to look for yet another job, jump before she is pushed.

She begins to shiver as he pushes back his chair and approaches her desk. This is it she decides, the moment of truth. He falters for a moment, and stares, wide-eyed, at her. After what seems an eternity, he simply grabs some paper and returns to his seat.
She knows then what his plan is. He is going to keep making her feel that a confrontation is imminent, then he is going to back off. Will her nerve crack before he tires of that game, or will he say something to her that will prove to his classmates what he already knows, that she can't handle them? They are a most unruly class and if they sense weakness, she will be helpless. The jailer has become the prisoner. What was once a pleasant lesson has become a weekly nightmare. She watches the hands crawl round the clock. A minute or two before the bell is due to ring he approaches her but, as he opens his mouth to say something, the lesson change signals.
“It doesn't matter,” he says, and turns away to pack up his things.

He is the last out of the door, and as she moves to close it behind him he turns back and stares at her for what seems like forever before she looks away and shuts the door. She sits down, shaking. Another lesson over, only one more to get through before she reaches the safety of home, but it's too much, she can't do it.

He hates this lesson. There is something not quite right about this new teacher, although no one else has noticed anything yet. As usual, she has them all working hard and silently within minutes of the lesson starting; but his pen soon slips out of his hand in favour of his daydreams. He isn't here in this stuffy classroom any more. He is a seagull flying high in the sky, soaring above everyone else...

His flight of fancy is shattered when a harsh voice breaks into his thoughts. It's her. He blushes, realising he must have been staring at her. She speaks a few sharp words to him and he bends his head in a posture of obedience.

When she moves away, he decides to draw his daydream. She won't notice, and anyway it's what he's good at, unlike all this other pointless stuff. He searches his folder but can find no paper so he leaves his place to get a piece from her desk. As he draws closer he stops suddenly, unable to stop himself from staring. There is definitely something wrong with her. She is pale and wild-eyed and, although it is a hot day and beads of sweat crowd her forehead, she has goosebumps over her arms. He tears his eyes away and sits down with his paper. He thinks of her for a few moments but then his desire to draw overtakes him and he has to get his ideas onto paper. It's not right though, he scrunches it up and heads for more paper, but then notices the time. Only a few minutes left.
“It doesn't matter,” he tells her.
He thinks she looks at him rather oddly but decides he's imagining it. Anyway, who cares? It's time to leave, thank goodness.
As usual, he's last out of the classroom. She follows him to the door and he looks back at her. She looks scared. She turns away and shuts the door.
'Weird woman.'
For a brief moment he wonders if he should tell someone. But tell who? And tell what? Anyway, it's time for Art, his favourite lesson of the week. He forgets her as he heads for the one hour a week he really enjoys.

No- one saw the crumpled drawing of a seagull that she'd clutched as she jumped. It became dislodged and the wind soon stole it, where it soared, free.

Constructive criticism very welcome.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Musical Stories 25: Chick Lit

It's Chick Lit week but, before I get to the musical stories, I wanted to ask those of you who have used polls on your website, are they easy to do? Is there a link to somewhere that will show me? I have something to ask you guys, and I think a poll will be the easiest way to do it. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated!

I think it's safe to say that this week's musical stories have got a bit of a sub-theme going on. The best way to describe it would be 'better no man than the wrong man'. So grab your chocolate and a glass of wine, and enjoy. And no, I still didn't include I will survive :-)

The first entry would be more of a short story than a novel. It's not very long but it says all it has to say. It's really sweet but, like many short stories, there's a sting in its tail.

For some reason, the second song always reminds me of the musical A Star is Born. (Slightly off-topic, but don't you think that film could be considered a chick flick?) .

Update: There is a link below the second video for those who can't view the original one. 

The final entry this week was always my 'goto' song when things didn't work out with a boy. Does anyone else think the lady doth protest slightly too much, though? Whatever, she's not about to let him see how much he's hurt her. Thankfully, it's been a few years now since a box of tissues and a homicidal attitude accompanied my listening of this song :-)

I hope you had fun this week, but if it was all a bit girly for you, we're moving on to War next week.

Lyrics here

Lyrics here
Version for those that can't view the above

Lyrics here

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Letting people down

I mentioned in my last post that we spent last week working on college applications, and it was way more time-consuming than expected. So much so that I missed a dentist's appointment, and forgot to return my library books. Luckily for me, the dentist knows the family quite well, and it's the first time I've done it. As for the library books, well, I'm sure the fine will be put to good use.

There was something else that I forgot last week though, something that wasn't quite so easy to fix. I've been trying to write about this for the past few days but it's been really difficult. Back in December I volunteered to do something for someone, something that was supposed to happen this week. I received a confirmation email before Christmas, with the instructions that I should contact the person a week before I was going to help out, with some specific details. You know what I'm going to say. It completely slipped my mind. I emailed her last Friday in a real panic, apologising and asking if there was anything I could do to fix things but got no reply. I'm not really surprised. I let her down. Sorry to be so vague about what the favour was, but I don't want to mention anyone else's name. It was to do with blogging though.

I've felt bad about this all week, and it made me realise that I really need to get my act together. It's fine when my lack of planning and organisation mean I mess something else up for myself, but when it affects other people, I need to change things.

So here's where I make myself accountable. I will not agree to, or offer to do, anything else without making absolutely sure that I have the time to do it, and that I have the mechanics in place to remind me. If I win a book, I will not offer to review it until I've read it and am happy to do so. 'I'll review it sometime' is not an acceptable reply to give to someone. Also, I won't then put myself in the position of having agreed to review a book that I don't feel positive about. If you mention your new book and I say 'it's going on my list', I mean that, (I always have), but being on my list does not necessarily mean that I will be able to buy it in the immediate future, it means that when my circumstances change, yours will be one of the books that I want to get hold of. If I agree to host you on a blog tour, or otherwise do anything blogging-related, know that I will not let you down. If I'm not sure I can fulfil what you've asked for, then I won't make the offer. 

I hate the way I'm feeling right now, I don't want to let anyone down again.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Musical Stories 24: Literary

It's been a rough week in our house. Both the girls have had college applications to complete. One of them left it until the very last week, despite numerous reminders. I'll write more on this at a later date, but let's just say I'm really not looking forward to University applications in two years time!

I have two limericks I'm trying to write as a result of a rash statement I made on last week's musical stories. I promise you'll see the results, I just can't tell you when!

This week we're on the literary category in our musical stories. This is the week where, yes the story matters, but it's more about the beautiful words. All three of these songs are particular favourites of mine, so I do hope you find something special here.

I recently discovered that the writer of the first song wrote it about a 'composite of many people', including one C. S. Lewis. Isn't that what many of us do with our characters? Combine traits, I mean, not write about C. S. Lewis necessarily!

What can I say about the second one? I could choose any of this man's compositions for this category. Perhaps it's my imagination but I always feel an undercurrent of melancholy flowing through the happiest day of this girl's life.

If ever there was a story with the message that every day is precious, and we should celebrate. It's this last one. If you can, tell someone you love them today.

Next week, it's the turn of Chick Lit. And I'm still not posting I will Survive :-)

Lyrics here

Lyrics here

Lyrics here

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Musical Stories 23: Crime

Thank you guys for your wonderful comments on my last post. I haven't answered them all yet, but I will do so over the weekend. I know I've said it before, and I expect I will say it again, but this really is an awesome community. For those of you who were asking, the story I referred to in my last post can be found here at Laura's blog, Daily Dodo.

After our holiday break, we're back to our regularly scheduled episode of Musical Stories. This week, it's crime and I've got three fantastic songs for you. Although of course I would say that, wouldn't I?

The first story this week is a grim reminder that we really need to check our facts before rushing in to mete out our own brand of vengeance. Or not, of course. In writing, we can make our characters do whatever we want, and never mind the tragic consequences!

Our second story definitely leaves us with more questions than answers. How and why being the two most obvious. This may not be a story in the true sense of the word, but the first two lines alone make this a must-listen as far as I'm concerned. When I grow up, I want to be able to write simple, perfect description like this.

The final entry this week is one that I've considered including, and rejected, twice before. Not because it isn't a crime story, it is. Not because I don't like it, I love it. But because I thought it was 'too' famous. Too obvious. Then I heard this version for the first time, and problem solved. Something slightly different for you. It's a duet between the original singer and his daughter, recorded in 2007, 30 years after his death. If there is one single person who listens to this today who can honestly tell me they have never heard any version of this song, I will write a limerick with their name in it for them! (I chose that because I can only ever write four lines, so it would be a major task for me – I'm confident I won't have to do it though).

I had a lot of fun choosing this week, I hope you enjoy listening.

Lyrics here

Lyrics here

Lyrics here

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group 4

 I can't believe that this month's meeting of The Insecure Writer's Group is here already. You know you're getting old when time flies, whether you're having fun or not! If I haven't read your post yet, I'll catch up with you this week.

For Christmas, as part of a lovely blogfest, (a sort of creative 'Secret Santa'), I wrote a story for someone. I tailored this story specifically to her and her blog. Most people taking part in the SantaFest didn't know who their gifts were from. My recipient did, as she was the organiser, delivering all the gifts, so there was no way for her not to know who had sent hers to her. I didn't have a problem with that. Although the story was a simple little thing, I was pleased with it, and it was a nice way of thanking her for her friendship.

A few days later my friend posted the story on her blog. I was really flattered, as I'm pretty sure that meant she liked it. She didn't say who had written it, but offered me a chance to 'out' myself in the comments. I couldn't do it. Nobody said anything mean about the story, the comments were good ones, but I just couldn't bring myself to admit that I was the writer. I thought after I had sent my first draft to another blogger before Christmas for a critique, that I was over this. It seems, however, that I have progressed only as far as letting one person see my work. I know every little helps, but I really need to get over this ridiculous fear of letting people see what I write, or I'm never going to get anywhere.

Did any of you have this problem in the beginning? What's the best way to get over it? I don't know what the problem is, it isn't even that I'm worried about criticism. The environment I'm in right now, us, is such that I know any criticism would be useful and kindly worded. Any advice would be gratefully received!