I was almost at work this morning when the song Abraham, Martin and John came on Sirius. Going through the parking garage, the signal cut out and I was forced to sing it by myself. I continued singing (to myself) as I walked out of the garage and, as usual, started to get choked up. It got me thinking about songs that always make me cry, so I decided to write them down.
There are several early ones that have affected me for decades. The Green Berets is a good example. I swear, I can’t not cry at the end of that one. Then there’s Old Rivers. I think it’s sung by Walter Brennan. I get misty just thinking about that one.
A Friend of Mine is Going Blind by John Dawson Reed. A real tear-jerker. I keep wondering what the story is behind it, and who Tommy Davidson is. I googled it once, but didn’t find an answer.
Those are the most heart-rending songs I can think of, but here are a couple of second-string songs that always get me: Big Bad John and El Paso. More will probably come to me, but those are all I can think of for now.
What about you? What songs always get you?
Thinking back on books I’m writing, or have written, several are about ghosts, or have a ghost that’s important to the story.
I don’t think I have more than the usual amount of interest in ghosts. Maybe a little more, considering how many people don’t believe in them at all.
So, how do I feel about them? It’s complicated. I can’t say I’m a total believer, but I can’t say I’m not. I think I lean a little more toward the believer, though. Maybe 85/15. Okay, that’s a lot of belief.
I will admit to being fascinated by the thought of ghosts. And curious, too. I’d kind of like to see one, but I think I’d be afraid if I did.
After my dad passed away many years ago, I said to him, “Dad, don’t visit me at night when I’m by myself, okay? I’ll be too scared. So, if you’re going to visit, can you do it during the day?”
I’m pretty sure I won’t ever have a visitation like that. Because my mind is too noisy. I don’t meditate or do anything to calm my thoughts. I don’t sit tranquilly contemplating nature or anything. So, a ghost could be standing just beyond the veil yelling my name and I probably wouldn’t be aware. It would take a pretty strong spirit to pierce through to my inner mind.
But I believe I’ve been visited by both my mother and my father after they were gone. I suppose you could call it circumstantial evidence, but I choose to believe wholeheartedly that it was my parents.
In the case of my mom, my cat Allie went through a phase in the first year or so after I lost my mom where Allie would sit on my dining room table and stare at a wall. There was nothing there except a picture. Not a photograph, but just a print of a pretty scene. Anyway, I’d find Allie sitting there looking at the wall almost daily for months. Once or twice, she’d stare at the ceiling above the wall. Several times I got out my phone and took pictures of her sitting on the table. She’s a pretty cat and it was sort of photogenic to see the back of her as she watched the wall. Then one day I took several pictures and when I looked at them on my phone I saw orbs in them. I think there were five pictures with the orbs. Don’t believe me, what do you think?
Three before and four after. Oh, Allie didn’t sit on the table looking at the wall any more after that.
Then there was my dad. On my birthday this year, I was getting dressed for work and put on a new pair of pants. You know how the pockets are often sewn closed so that the pockets don’t get stretched out? Well, the pockets on these pants were sewn closed. I was looking in the mirror smoothing the front of my pants when I felt something in the pocket. I tried to stick my hand in the pocket to see what it was, but the pocket was sewn shut. There was one tiny opening on the right side where the thread was starting to come loose so I managed to maneuver the item out of my pocket. It turned out to be an old Halls Menthol-Lyptus throat lozenge. My dad always carried them in his pocket. Always. He had one handy anytime any of us had a cold. The wrapper on this one was faded and wrinkled, like it had been carried in someone’s pocket for a long time. I think it was my dad’s way of wishing me a happy birthday.
See, circumstantial evidence, but it’s the best I can do.
I wonder if anyone but me sends their Work in Progress manuscript to their Kindle to read. I love that it turns my manuscript into a real book, by a real author. At least, that’s how it feels to me. It brings a different perspective to my work, a distance, perhaps. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat in a restaurant reading my novel on my Kindle app and becoming lost in the story. If you haven’t tried it yet, I recommend dropping everything else and doing it immediately. You’ll understand after you’ve experienced your book nestled among the other titles on your Kindle.
Have you ever read back your manuscript and run across words you don’t remember writing? It’s happened to me more than once, and it’s an odd sensation. Sometimes, I’ll read something and wonder, Did that come from me? Most of my book is familiar from multiple readings, but now and then something will surprise me. It’s a great feeling to think to yourself, Wow. Did I really write that?
The Way of the World
Don’t you love getting a new purse? It probably took you forever to find the perfect one. You bring it home and sit on the floor with your new purse and your old purse and start the transfer process, tossing out old papers and receipts that have been lurking in the Old Purse (OP), and maybe whittling down the number of business cards and credit cards you don’t really need to always have with you. Maybe get rid of makeup items you haven’t used in a year. Throw out old napkins and tissues that have found their way into the OP. That kind of thing. Then you painstakingly arrange all your can’t-live-without items in the NP (New Purse). You hold up the NP and admire it, thrilled at the thought of how organized you’re going to be. Instead of tossing most the old items you’ve decided to leave behind, you stick them all in the OP and stash it on a shelf in your closet. You never know when you might need some of that stuff in the future.
For several days, you’re careful to keep everything in its place in the NP. No willy-nilly stuffing things in there for you. Then one day a week later you go to lunch with friends and get a credit card receipt. You fold the receipt neatly and slip it down the side of your NP. And don’t think anything about it. With the next couple of receipts you fold them neatly and slip them down the side of your NP. And then you’re in a hurry one day and you grab the CVS receipt and wad it into a ball and jam it in. Funny how that now becomes the norm.
It’s been three weeks. NP isn’t so new anymore, although you still admire it and the new life of organization you expect to live. However, as you walk past your NP sitting on the kitchen counter, your head whips toward it in frustration as you see that the NP looks just like the OP, with papers, envelopes, tissues all spilling out the top. You shrug your shoulders and tell yourself, that’s just the way of the world.
A Start to Writing
I had an odd and unexpected start to writing. One Saturday at Starbucks I was having coffee with my friend Mike Oldham, solving the problems of the world. He described a romance novel he’d been thinking about writing. He had the title and the ending and they were catchy and interesting. he said he was too busy, and asked if I wanted to collaborate on it. I thought it was a cool challenge. Even without ever thinking of writing a book, I didn’t hesitate before saying yes. We collaborated to the extent that he provided the title and ending and I wrote the book.
It was such a fun project. I reported on each milestone I reached, 5,000 words, 10,000, 25,000. Back at the beginning, the words just flew onto the page and I thought how easy is this? Then I was overwhelmed to realize I had to write at least 70,000 words. How would I get there?
It didn’t help that I’m a very literal, linear person. I don’t think in offshoots and meanders. It took years of work and a few readers and editors to get me to the end. It was immediately apparent how valuable those editors were. Applying their comments and suggestions, and rewriting more than once, I witnessed my novel growing into a polished story. A polished story that’s sitting in a drawer somewhere. Needless to say, it wasn’t a very lucrative collaboration for Mike.
But I got the bug. Now, a decade or so later, I’ve written five or six novels, and have a few more that are WIPs. It’s fun. Maybe someday it will also be lucrative!
Some Thoughts on Writing
Pamela's Rules For Everything
Do you have pet peeves? I do. I turned mine into rules. I think everyone should follow them. It will make the world a better place.
Coffee should always be served with a saucer. I HATE having nowhere to put the spoon after it’s been used and before it’s used again. Really? On the tabletop or among the scrambled eggs on your plate?
Restaurants should provide each table with a pitcher of salsa. Or at least a bottle of the red Sriracha sauce. Either goes well on anything except dessert. And I wouldn’t rule even that out.
When someone asks for egg whites cooked over well, how about flipping them over and making them lacy around the edges instead of scrambling them into little bits?
Come on. If you’re going to have a salad bar, can you at least make sure the lettuce and produce look fresh? Maybe mist them or something? Is it so hard to make things look appetizing?
And do you have to have the salad bar ingredients so far back that even a tall person has to bend over and reach to be able to access items at the back of the bar? Seriously! What are short people supposed to do?
For God’s sakes people. What’s with speeding up when someone wants into your lane? You know you’re being a jerk if you slow down once they have moved over. You know you only sped up to keep them out. Really?
If you move over into someone’s lane in front of them, at least have the decency to maintain a good speed so they don’t resent you for blocking their forward momentum. As a corollary to the above rule no. 1, you know you’re being a jerk if you speed up to pass someone and change lanes in front of them and then slow down so the people already in the lane have to slow down to your speed. If you want to go slow, then go to the back of the line where you don’t hold everyone else up. It’s not rocket science!
Use your turn signals, people! Do you know how many times I’ve been sitting waiting to make a right turn but someone is coming up the street I want to turn on so I have to wait for them to pass, only to watch them turn onto the street I’m on! Why did I have to wait for you? Arrggh!
Why are there so many angry shoppers, particularly during the holiday season? Everybody’s in the same boat, people! Would it kill you to be polite?? Everybody wants a parking space. You’re not the only one! Have you already forgotten the Golden Rule? Treat others the way you want to be treated!
What is the deal with EVERY movie and TV show having someone brushing their teeth? Is it supposed to be sexy to see someone drooling and spitting? It’s like an epidemic. Stop it! I don’t want to see it! I particularly hate it when they spit in the sink and don’t rinse it out. I’m gagging!
And what about when you get in the car with someone in the morning who waited until just before walking out the door to brush their teeth. You’re shut up in the car with them and they open their mouth to speak and a blue cloud comes out. You know the one. Toothpaste fumes! Is it so much too ask for you to please brush your teeth when you get up in the morning and not make it the last thing you do before leaving the house so you inflict your toothpaste breath on everyone stuck in a small confined space with you?