IT SHOULD BE LIKE A HALF AN HOUR VOLUME 11

“Would you welcome now, to the midnight special, the fabulous Bee Gees!”

“Nights on Broadway” is one of those wonderful “stalker” songs from the 60s and 70s. If you’ve ever been stalked, it isn’t even remotely funny, so, ignore my rude post, and I apologize. And, in the 50s, 60s, and 70s (not all of which I was alive for), and probably many decades previously, stalking was A-ok. It was how a young man professed his obsessional love for HIS woman. Got it? It was okay; nobody thought anything of it beyond, “Why is she being so cruel to the one who truly loves her?” I’ll tell you why, now, as a grownup, in hindsight, it’s because of the stalking.

Yes, yes, okay.

But, this is a freaking great song! And so just ignore the stalker bits and take the words with a grain of salt.

Robin reminds me of Neville Longbottom, and he dances about as well as I would expect Neville Longbottom to dance, but as Jamal says in this video, he isn’t using anything artificial to get himself to those high notes, and neither is Maurice.

Maurice is, IMHO the cutest Bee Gee, which of course does not count their absolutely scrummy younger bother who was not in the group, Andy Gibb. Whatever genetics were doing in that family, they got it perfect with Andy, but Andy, sadly, did not survive Rock & Roll.

I love, BTW, watching Jamal watch the Be Gees. Jamal’s kinda scrummy too, easy-on-the-eyes, and he’s adorable watching music he hasn’t heard before.

I’m just trying to keep the whole “stalker vibe” going you know.

And I just have to wax poetic about the harmony going on here. The Bee Gees usually have three layers of vocal going on, which makes sense. And I really enjoy singing along to this one and jumping from branch to branch, level to level. I’ve become a mezzo in my old age, but once I get warmed up, I can still hit those Maurice high notes. “Oh yeah yeah. Yeah!”

Because of those levels, it’s a song most singers can sing along to. You just find your range. It’s there.

I love the idea, too, of blaming the behavior, the “out of control” on the nights on Broadway. I have had those moments, more when I was younger I admit, where I was so pumped up and excited (nothing to do with booze or other substances, this pumped-up must come from your own endorphins), that I felt sure that something magical was going to happen, or that, if I did something reckless, like grab someone and kiss them, it would not be my fault.

I actually did grab someone and kiss them once. Adrian Smith (I think it was Smith) had gone to Paris with me and a bunch of other kids in 9th or 10th grade. In Paris I was many things that I really enjoyed: I was proficient in the language (at the time) with a good accent; I was free of my f-ing parents; I was free of my “boring weirdo nerd” status in high school; and I was, for the first fucking time in my life, autonomous, because my French teacher was a delightfully absentee landlord. I went wherever I wanted in Paris, and my friends followed because I was the best at French, reading maps, navigating subways, and asking for directions, and I also had a lot of ideas about where we should go.

Getting on the plane to go home was like walking to the gallows for me. It was like I had finally been able to breathe, and the universe was insisting I get back in the damn box. I could have cried my heart out the whole flight home, surrounded by other kids who had had enough, and could not wait to get back to Mom and Dad. I failed, I knew it, when that plane took off, because I could not, the whole time I was in Paris, come up with a plan to escape the school trip and stay in France. It was, I think, my first time realizing I could get out of my co-dependent family situation, but I didn’t have the smarts to figure out how I would: get work, get a place to live, avoid the authorities, and, most of all, hide from the long arm of my mother. As good as I was at all those other things, I was hopeless at saving myself. In fact, I think I’ve only just got there now, in my old, mezzo-soprano fucking age. *sigh*

When we got off of the plane in Philly, the parents of all of us were there, and mine were in my face. They wanted me to be soooo excited to see them. They wanted me to be more interested in them than anything else. And my mother wanted me to tell her every detail of the trip, because I wasn’t allowed to have private adventures.

At some point, feeling like my life had ended and I’d never be free again, I came upon fellow student and traveler, Adrian. He stopped to say something to me, and I walked up to him, slid my hands up his cheeks and into his hair, and pulled his face to mine, and laid one on him, just like in the movies. Just like you would expect a person to do in Paris, of course. Just like that guy in that photo from when the war is over, and he just kisses that nurse, and she just has to take it, accept it, give in to it, because it’s all beyond anyone’s control, but it is loose and reckless in a forgivable and not at all stalkery sort of way.

Yes it is.

And you can blame it all, on the nights on Broadway.

When you’re “singing them love songs, singing them straight to the heart songs.”

I wonder where Adrian is today. I certainly wasn’t in love with him, but he was a very nice guy, and I was in love with the me who could just lay a guy out with a kiss. I wonder if that girl’s still in here somewhere.

Ultimately I think what I did with all the co-dependence and control was to find a way to live with it. A therapist once told me that we’re all in a rubber fence with our families, and maybe even a rubber cage is better to say. We can never be free. Not all the way. And some don’t have families they need to be free of, and others do. And those that do probably learn to live inside the lines, a bit of a shrunken life, or they escape in some other way, which could be substances, and was for my brother, and I am glad, as boring a human as I may be, that substances was never where I went to pop the top on the cage. If someone keeps yelling at you, and you just walk away, well, you’ve pretty much taken the weapon away. But, I don’t think you can go back. I don’t think you can accept the cage sometimes and ignore it others. I think, in all honesty, I finally just realized the cage was a construct, like the Matrix, that I no longer needed to believe in.

Or maybe I just got swept up by the “Nights on Broadway.”

May you not stalk or be stalked, but may you have a little romance with yourself, and if you get a little tipsy on love, may you be able to blame it all on the “Nights on Broadway.”

AN ADVICE COLUMN ON WRITING, FROM THE EDITOR IN ME TO THE AUTHOR IN YOU: K.I.S.S.

This is a writing advice column. If you don’t want my unsolicited writing advice, do not, I implore you, read on. Fair warning. 😉

I belong to one or two Facebook groups, and recently, in one that is writing focused, someone asked whether a character’s thoughts always had to be in italics.

“Yes,” I responded, “that is standard.”

And then another member jumped up my butt to tell me how all kinds of “world-building” is happening now and people can do whatever they want!

Both are true.

But, listen, Author, even as you create new, far-out worlds, and that is so much fun for you, you have to judge a few things: Is it fun for your editor, your publisher, your agent, and your (hopefully) eventual readers? One piece of advice I might give you is that you have to tread a line between what you want from your book, and what your reader will want.

“I’ll publish myself!” you might yell back.

And yes, you could, and that is what is absolutely happening: lots and lots of people are publishing whatever they want with no feedback from anyone else, and publishing it anywhere they want, and I (me, personally) can just go scratch.

True, until nobody buys your book, or people buy it in a Kindle (or other) online format and you see by their page views that they don’t finish it, or it gets bought in paperback and never read, or they buy it, read at least some of it, and leave you a crap review.

I can promise you, the number of books that will be written that change all conventional rules (or just the ones that particular author doesn’t like or understand) and do well out of it will be small.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

You have to be especially educated about the rules to break them and do it well, in an effective way. And you need some of them anyway, because your reader (if you self-publish and don’t care about the editors and etc.) will need some rock to put his/her/their feet on, or they have no place to stand with the book. Yes, you could drug me, and wake me up in a foreign country with zero information, language, or money, and, depending very much on which country, I might make it out alive with an interesting experience that I enjoy discussing with friends, but few of us would choose that experience, and choose it multiple times.

Can I be annoyingly prescriptive here for a moment? I want to tell you that you have one job: to tell a good story.

All that other stuff that may seem super important to you is fluff to your audience, and could stop them from loving your story.

Another fair warning, this paragraph is about me, exclusively, my qualifications and my ability to be prescriptive in this way, and you can skip this if you don’t give a hoot:
I was lucky that I read every freaking thing I could get my hands on when I was a kid. If you read an earlier post about my Kindle Vella I mentioned that I read The Godfather, by Mario Puzo, when I was under ten years old, by which I mean nine, because we were in our old house. I was not a genius, but I was a precocious reader. I also read my way through The Bible quite a few times while I was bored in church. I preferred the Old Testament. I read The Stranger (Camus) in sixth grade, and it was very upsetting, and I became really overwhelmed by existential dread until I got a new Encyclopedia Brown. I also tried to write a book report on The Stranger, and my teacher admonished me and said my parents should be monitoring what I read. My parents did not monitor what I read, and my middle school had annual used book sale where kids collected books from their neighbors and gave them to the school for the high used book sale, and I bought a book of S&M pornography there in seventh grade because my parents did not monitor what I read, and the school did not monitor what I bought, and, to this day, I think both were the best thing, the not being monitored, not the porn book, which was a parody of A Tale of Two Citiesand about Marie Antoinette, I remember. I also remember buying complete collections of comic strips like Battle Bailey and The Lockhorns, and novels like M*A*S*H, and The Wide Sargasso Sea. For $20 bucks, which my parents would give me, I could get around 20 books, and I was done them in a few weeks. When I got to high school I was in advanced English, where we really took apart the books we read, and in college I majored in English literature, where we did so much more of that, and then, when I went to my MA writing program, my two teachers, Luann Smith for fiction and Chris Buckley for poetry, taught us how to write by making us read and analyze the writing of other well-respected really good authors like T.C. Boyle, Tim O’Brien, Philip Levin, Czesław Miłosz, Diane Wakowski, and Amy Hemple, among many others. I am long-time trained, by my educational experience and my own varied and precocious reading habits, to be very good at spotting what makes work work, and what makes it flop. This is one of the things that concerns me when I see a person on FB say, “Hey folks, I’ve decided to be an editor. I’ll do your book cheap because I’m just getting started!” And people hire them, because they’re cheap. Okay. You get what you pay for, but you may never know what you’re not getting. This is just to say that I am well-prepared, and probably have advice that is not fluff or uninformed. And “This Is Just to Say,” interestingly enough, is one of my all-time favorite poems.

You’re the author. Do whatever you want. And publishing it yourself is always an option.

And my best advice is to also think about the life your story will have without you, when someone is reading your book, and you are not in the room with that person to answer a question or explain. Will the life your book has, without you in that new home, be a good and celebrated one, or a sad and relegated one, or somewhere on the spectrum in between? I would truly like to see us all reach our writing dreams, and, therefore, my advice is because I care, and not because I am competitive with you or want to stop you, or fence you in. And I have to again give you the same piece of advice: you have to tread a line between what you want from your book, and what your reader will want.

Your story should be good, and, if it suits the story and the genre, maybe it should be complex. The mechanics, the things the reader has to do to reach that story, to get that ride or message or what-have-you, should not be the things that cause or add to the complexity.

K.I.S.S. It’s advice that serves me well, all the time, in all situations.

IT SHOULD BE LIKE A HALF AN HOUR VOLUME 10

Okay, I am pretty sure this is the original Paul vocal, but not so sure it is the original music. HOWEVER, I am using this clip anyway because you get to see my boyfriends… and Paul gives me that conspiratorial wink at the end. Yeah, 1968 Paul wants to get with me. And you know what? He can. Oh yeah. The door is always open for that guy.

Sally Star, Philly peeps, always played this song on her show on her birthday. She had a crush on Paul too!

O-STARR — Sally Starr, the gun-totin’ cowgirl who rode a palomino with a silver saddle and introduced millions of children in the Philadelphia area to Popeye, Clutch Cargo and the Three Stooges.

My brother, Billy (nicknamed Ear to his friends, but always Billy to me) and I loved Sally and the Beatles. Hell, I wanted to be Sally. I mean, look at her! In fact I am sure my brother introduced me to Sally (and I know he’s responsible for The Beatles), and he and I loved The Three Stooges and Bullwinkle! My poor baby sister, Lee, came a lot of years later, and she missed out on all of that. 😦 But I know I definitely wanted a sister, not a little brother, and in that aspect I lucked out. And my brother, as usual, was gracious about me winning (we had a bet; he bet on brother).

I have NEVER liked being sung to. First of all… SHY PeRSON! For fucks’ sake, please don’t sing to me in a public place! OMG, people. Secondly the song Americans sing is almost a dirge; it’s slow and boring and awkwardly high in the middle. My favorite part of it is the “and many more” I always add. Otherwise it kinda blows. Birthday by the Beatles (like most British things over American things) is better. Waaaay better.

But the Beatles song, “Birthday,” makes me glad to be alive. And YES, shy or not, I will freaking karaoke and dance, while sober, if you dance with me! Can’t we go singing and dancing? OMG, why did all the singing and dancing stop in 1986??? I have more in me!

Today is also the day I first held Sophie (though I think it was 12/21 in China), and pretty late at night, after we flew 2-3 hours from Beijing to Nanchang in a plane that sounded like an old broken down escalator or monorail. We were sure we were going to die, but we had no choice but to get on that plane and go, and then drive 2 more hours through the cold dark to Nanchang proper to receive the best addition to our lives that we (Dave, my spouse) and I could ever imagine. Poor Sophie had been waiting in the lobby for 4+ hours, bundled up like it was arctic winter, so she was as red as a beet, and her nanny handed her to us, and then all the SWI staff headed out for the two hour drive home. Just like that, the only people Sophie had ever known left her and disappeared. Well and truly dumped, with us. They left her with the weirdos. And ever since then my birthday has been more lovely and more sweet, and less about me, which is good too.

Aw, my spouse brought me flowers this morning. Amazing!

And I am currently wearing about 8 new pieces of jewelry (why be subtle on your birthday folks?) that my life-long friend and talented artist Krissi made me, including this gorgeous bracelet (green is my favorite color too!):

As for this song… the lightly veiled reason for this shameless post about my own birthday, I could listen to this any time of the year, and all day long. It’s a great song! It’s all about rocking out, and so is this old lady! Listen to it; you’re gonna love it. And hey, you should own The White Album anyway. ON VINYL. That’s right, buy a record player and experience it!! I love vinyl! More snap crackle and pop than Rice Crispies!

So yeah, they say it’s my birthday ((my happy birthday as my sister always says), and it freaking is!!

I’m glad it’s my birthday… happy birthday to me…

MEET MY FAVORITE AUTHOR OF ALL TIME

Anyone who knows me well has heard me rave about Tom Robbins. One story that I especially like about him is that, along the path of his career, he found drumming. Like Ringo, drumming, but more like a drum circle sort of drumming, as I understand it. Why?

If you know Robbins you know he is a slow writer. He’s not cranking out a book a year, and he is, for me, perilously old now… meaning I might not get another book out of him.

Robbins, one of the most unique writers ever, uses drumming to help him find the music and rhythm in his writing, and also to fight procrastination. When the mind wanders, as Robbins’ mind surely must, the drumming helps him refocus on his writing.

What can you do with a writing coach? You can meet, as often, weekly, or as little, every other month, as you like, but when you meet with me you will have to hand over some of your writing: a page, a chapter… you’re going to get there. We can work on your schedule; we can read your work to each other to check on the music and rhythm in your writing; we can try exercises; we can craft your online author presence. I help you give your writing the time, grace, and respect it needs, and I make you accountable so that you finish your damn novel. Robbins has a dozen books. That is not enough for me, and I wish he had more. Those books have gotten me through some dark nights, and some long days. Who is waiting for your book? Who will you rescue from a long dark night with your story?

Coaching is so reasonable and so worth it. For $50/hour, and you can split that into 2 half hour meetings if you like, you get editing, planning, encouragement, a clear head, and the friendship you need to get your book done. When you’re Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, I can help you wake up and get to the keyboard. And it’s my favorite thing to do, after reading Tom Robbins, that is.

BTW, late bloomers, did you know Robbins was just on the cusp of 40 when he published his first book? And it took him 2 years to write it?

And did you know that all coaching inquiries come with a free hour-long Zoom meeting to talk about what you want and if coaching is right for you?

If you really want to be a writer, and you have an idea, or many ideas, but you just don’t know if you can do it… if you just don’t know if you are an author, but you want to be, coaching can get you there.

Good luck with your book~

Much love~ Dianne, possessor of an MA and an MFA, writing teacher and encourager for over 20 years, and Tom Robbins’ #1 fan. My favorite book: Still Life With Woodpecker.

Find out all about coaching, shoot me an email (dianne@devilspartypress.com) or fill out the nice form Dave made.

PUBLICATION OPPORTUNITY

Luanne was my teacher back in the day!


NOTES FROM LUANN:

Anthology looking for submissions. The deadline has been changed to January 15, 2023. Also, just so you know, Ana Castillo had to step away from editing. The other information on the flyer is correct.