Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast – short stories episode no.13

Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast ‘short stories’ episode number 13 went live today.

I’ve been starting off the first few weeks with the flash fiction that have appeared on my blog as ‘Flash Fiction Fridays’, reading out three per fortnight. Do email me should you like to submit your own.

This episode contained three stories: Revenge is a dish best served… alive (701 words) by Christopher Farley, AJ Kirby’s I dream of violence (500 words) and Dreams (210 words) by JD Mader.

See the links above to read the stories… or hear my dulcet tones on the podcast by clicking on any of the following… iTunes, Google’s Feedburner, Podbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe).

The authors…

Christopher Farley.  He lived a sheltered life in the wilds of Kent from where he was saved by the written word.  So much so that he still corresponds with certain people with A PEN AND PAPER!!

Upon moving to London, a bit like Dick Whittington, searching for streets of gold, he happened upon a beautiful Italian lady who later decided to take him to the sunny realm of southern Switzerland, where he can still be found, smiling inanely, continuously in search of Weissbier.

When he is not working or drinking he sits in front of the computer, searching for fictional inspiration. You can find Chris via his blog http://talkingtosh.wordpress.com where he says he longs to make a living writing but…

AJ Kirby is the award-winning author of five novels (Paint this town Red, 2012; Perfect World, 2011; Bully, 2009; The Magpie Trap, 2008; When Elephants Walk through the Gorbals, 2007), two novellas (The Black Book, 2011; and Call of the Sea, 2010), one novelette (Bed Peace, 2011) and over forty published short stories.

He is also a sportswriter for the Professional Footballers’ Association and a reviewer for The Short Review and The New York Journal of Books.

You can reach him via his: Author website, Goodreads Author Page, Amazon Author Page, New York Journal of Books and Facebook Novel Home Page.

JD Mader is a teacher and writer / musician based in San Francisco. He has been fortunate enough to encounter many giving and inspiring people in his life. He hopes to repay the debt. And to make enough money with his writing to buy a house.

His website is http://www.jdmader.com where you can read more of JD’s writing and if you’d like more (and why wouldn’t you?) his first novel Joe Café, second, The Biker, and collaboration ‘Bad Book’ (with Hise and Brooks) are available from Amazon. He’s also just released a collection of short stories Please, no eyes which I have purchased (at the grand sum of £0.77!) and shall be reviewing for my Short Story Saturdays slot.

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Thank you for downloading / listening to this short story episode – I hope you enjoyed it. The next episode will be a hints & tips episode then short stories return a fortnight thereafter.

All the details of these episodes are listed on the podcast page of this blog and my email address to submit a short story for critique (or review for the Short Story Saturdays) is morgen@morgenbailey.com.

The podcast is available via iTunes, Google’s Feedburner, Podbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe).

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Flash Fiction Friday 37: Dreams by JD Mader

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the thirty-seventh piece of flash fiction in this series. This week’s is a 210-worder entitled ‘Dreams…’ by my regular guest San Francisco-based JD Mader.

Dreams…

Fevered, I wrap myself in lies and absolutions.  I am not what I am, but a sum of the sad cliches that have led me onward.  Truth falls around me, gathering at my feet like a technicolor dream coat.  You lie?  Of course you lie.  I lie?  Sometimes, indeed, I do.  I am made of thatch and rosemary.  I am hidden from your view and lost in a forest of deceit.  I want nothing.  I need nothing.  Shadows morph into phantasms too dire to contemplate.  I tear at my skin.  I am on a quest for destruction.

Green pastures.  I remember them well.  They are memories, crushed now with skyscrapers, ash, and soot. All has been sullied.  Nothing pure remains.  I feel the needle deep in my vein and hold on for one more day.  One more chance to betray myself.  I will take it gladly.

You think I don’t remember.  But I do.  In bits.  In drabs and scraps.  I remember summer fields of alfalfa and innocence.  They mock me now.  They disgust me.  I will lie in my room.  I will let the weight of lost abandon press upon my chest.  I will try to breathe and fail and my heart will pound with the sound of defeat.

Thank you, JD.

JD Mader is a teacher and writer / musician based in San Francisco. 

He has been fortunate enough to encounter many giving and inspiring people in his life. 

He hopes to repay the debt.

And to make enough money with his writing to buy a house.

His website is http://www.jdmader.com where you can read more of JD’s writing and if you’d like more (and why wouldn’t you?) his first novel Joe Café, second, The Biker, and collaboration ‘Bad Book’ (with Hise and Brooks) are available from Amazon.

If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with non-fiction memoirist Carol Anita Ryan – the four hundred and eighty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Flash Fiction Friday 015: ‘That Old Feeling’ by JD Mader

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the fifteenth piece of flash fiction in this new weekly series. This week’s piece is a 548-worder entitled ‘That Old Feeling’ by J D Mader.

That Old Feeling

Joe sat on the tired bench and watched the pigeons scuttle and peck, forging their way through the crowds of tourists.  His sunglasses, dark black, covered two eyes that had not “seen” for almost twenty years.  Since the accident.  But it did not lessen his ability to see the pigeons work their magic.  At times, he thought he could see more clearly now than he had ever been able to before.

The accident was one of those things.  One of those things you beat yourself up about until you’re on the ropes, until it doesn’t make sense anymore…until you have to forgive yourself.  Fireworks.  A dumb prank.  But it had cost him.

Ally had been so beautiful.  It made him do stupid things.  Jump over fire pits that spat embers into the night sky.  Write songs that never landed right.  Songs he was always convinced were brilliant.  He liked to practice and practice, imagining her reverent face…the love radiating from her smile.  The reality, a kind of awkward silence.  A thank you…the kind you give when you get a sweater you don’t like.  Well, it always made him up the ante.  And then it took his eyes.  And he grew up and she married and moved away, but, by god, he could still see her face, too.  As clear as if it was in front of him.  For years, it made him angry to think of her.  These days, it just made him sigh.

There was no one to impress, now.  He spent his days sitting in the sun, drinking in the noises of the tourists and the cries of the gulls.  The seals.  He often chuckled at how similar they sounded.  He could see himself, too.  The old blind man chuckling to himself.  He wondered if he looked the way he did in his mind.  He wondered if he was kinder or more harsh in his assessment of what the years had done.  He wondered what that said about him.  And he realized it did not matter.

Losing his eyes had taught him that…the most important lesson of all.  There was not a lot that did matter. There was sleep, a good meal, friendship and love.  It taught him that the things he focused on were not the important things.  Perhaps blindness had made him a better person.  Closing his eyes had opened other parts of him.

He did see her face this day.  And he felt those old urges.  To prove he could run the fastest, drink the most, be the…best, most daring…something.  Perhaps that was what propelled him forward.

Witnesses told the police the basics.  The old blind man…the one who always sat on that bench…out of nowhere – over the railing and seconds later screaming and flailing in the icy waters of the bay.  They did not realize that the screams were screams of joy, dredged from deep within him, tainted with years of…well, life.  They did not try to speculate about the smile, and he did not feel the need to explain.  They took him home.  And the next day, he was back at his spot, listening to the pigeons and children scuttle about.  Nothing had changed.  He felt younger.  Fresh.  He wanted to ask if he looked younger. But it didn’t matter.

I asked JD what prompted this piece and he said…

The inspiration for this story was lethargy.  I thought, “I haven’t written anything today”.  So, I started with an image and the story came.  I suppose I was probably reminiscing about something.  Reflecting on San Francisco since we have just moved east a bit, perhaps.  Not a very good answer, I know.  A lot of times the inspiration for my stories is, ‘you better get off your lazy butt and write something’.

A great answer! Thank you (again) JD. 🙂

J D Mader is a teacher and writer / musician based in San Francisco.  He has been fortunate enough to encounter many giving and inspiring people in his life.  He hopes to repay the debt.  And to make enough money with his writing to buy a house. You can help him buy a brick (although I think the eBook is actually cheaper!) by checking out his debut novel ‘Joe Café’ and there will be more soon. He’s done a lot for my blog so probably the easiest way is to read them all is via the ‘Contributors‘ page… just scroll down to the Js (although not too quickly in case there are some other authors you like the sound of :)). 

If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with author Shah Husain – the two hundred and thirty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Guest post: ‘Flow – writing workshops for Inner City Youth’ by JD Mader

I’m delighted to welcome back ‘Joe Café’ novelist, short story author, blogger, biker and musician (and more) J D Mader on the topic of teaching writing to young adults. (I’ll never tire of this picture :))

Flow – writing workshops for Inner City Youth

I have spent the majority of my professional life teaching.  Much of that time was spent working with students who suffered from learning challenges such as autism, severe dyslexia, hyperlexia, auditory processing disorders… the list goes on.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  It was challenging and frustrating at times, but the kids I got to work with made it worthwhile.  And the insights I gained into the workings of the mind were incredible.  There is no doubt that working with these students improved me as a person and a writer.

When I look at all the teaching I have done, however, what sticks out the most are the writing workshops I led for almost six years.  I was employed by a non-profit that worked with low-income, at-risk youth in San Francisco.

I “designed” this writing workshop, but it was like most writing workshops… like many writing workshops I have been in myself.  We wrote from prompts, pictures, discussions… all the standard stuff.   The big difference was that most people participate in writing workshops because they want to write.  They have the desire to mine their subconscious, to see if there is any gold there, to learn how to make it sparkle, and to learn how to make the process easier… faster.  This was a whole different ballgame.

The first workshop I did, I basically begged the most cooperative kids to participate.  They did.  We started out covering basic concepts like metaphor, showing instead of telling, the importance of vivid, interesting language and flow.  We met every day.  The first week was slow going.  Then something amazing started to happen.

Every day we would do ‘circle writing’.  We always sat in a circle.  And, well, we wrote.  Pretty ingenious name.  I or one of the students would provide a prompt.  Usually a sentence.  Sometimes an emotion, a color (my story ‘Green’ that has been featured here came from one of these exercises), anything that I thought would ignite that illusive creative spark.  The first few times, we would write for five minutes and then go around the circle and read what we’d written.  I wrote with the students, and, initially, this exercise resulted in the kids writing a few awkward sentences and me writing a few hundred words.  We talked about what we wrote, and the kids would listen to what I wrote and say, “Damn, that’s hella good!”  It made me feel bad, but I feel that modeling is a very important part of teaching.  We talked about what parts were good.  What parts seemed weak.  Why it resonated (if it did).  Why it sucked (if it did).  And before I knew it, the students’ writing got faster, more interesting, more emotive… more, well, ‘hella good’.  Instead of a few sentences, they were writing in a frenzy, begging me not to stop them when the five minutes were up.  They came up with bizarre and ingenious metaphors that would never have occurred to me.  They had their own styles.  They were not copying their favorite writers because they had no favorite writers.  It was raw and powerful writing.

These were kids with some serious shit to write about.  And when they were given the opportunity, they hit the ground running.  And word got around.  And, pretty soon, I had kids begging to be in the writing workshop.  It grew.  I got better at finding out what worked.  And every workshop was different.  If the kids really wanted to write poetry, we leaned more in that direction.  If they wanted to write their life stories, they did.  If they liked fiction, we wrote fiction.  I always covered a little bit of everything, but it was majority rule.  We voted on everything.  We were equals.  And some of the writing that was produced in those workshops was staggeringly good.  And only some of the good writing came from my pen.

I would be lying if I said there weren’t kids that never ‘got it’.  But there weren’t many.  There were a few kids who just didn’t have the chops.  There were a few kids that didn’t take it seriously and just tried to make everyone laugh with sophomoric poems and stories.  But 90% of the kids entered the workshop with no confidence in their ability to write and left as better writers and, more importantly, as writers who wanted to write and felt like they could DO it.  They wrote things I didn’t even assign and emailed them to me just because they were fired up.  They couldn’t wait to show their Moms, Grandmas, and friends.

We wrote everything from essays to rap lyrics to folk songs, but the one constant was freedom.  I did not try to control the process.  I did try to guide it… gently, with praise, love and respect.  And it worked.  And watching kids who have rebelled against everything “educational” find their voices and start to see the beauty in the written word… well, it was damn near miraculous.  They not only wanted to write, they wanted to read, too.  And when they read, they read like writers, amazed at the poetry in the language and the simple beauty of words.  Some of these students still email me years later.  I was very lucky to be a part of it.  We all were.  And we all realized it.  There are not many things in life I can say that about.

I loved that, thank you (again) so much JD and congrats on going freelance… I’m right behind you!

J D Mader is a teacher and writer / musician based in San Francisco.  He has been fortunate enough to encounter many giving and inspiring people in his life.  He hopes to repay the debt.  And to make enough money with his writing to buy a house. You can help him buy a brick (although I think the eBook is actually cheaper!) by checking out his debut novel ‘Joe Café’ and there will be more soon. He’s done a lot for my blog so probably the easiest way is to read them all is via the ‘Contributors‘ page… just scroll down to the Js (although not too quickly in case there are some other authors you like the sound of :)).

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with firefighting mystery novelist Kurt Kamm – the one hundred and eighty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can read / download my eBooks from Smashwords (Amazon to follow).

Guest post: ‘NaNoWriMo – Mt. Everest for writers’ by JD Mader

This evening I welcome back ‘Joe Café’ novelist, short story author, blogger, biker and musician (and more) J D Mader on the topic of writing 50,000 in a month.

NaNoWriMo – Mt. Everest for Writers’

I am starting this guest blog at 4:05 pm.  My goal is 500 words.  I have a glass of water beside me and the house is quiet.  I have a sinus infection, a viral ear infection, vertigo, and I am balding.  So be it.  I must write.

Last year was the first and only year that I have participated in NANOWRIMO, the contest that challenges writers to write a novel (50K words) in one month, making November the month that espresso sales spike all over the world.  I had heard about the contest for years before deciding to try it.  It is a contest with no prize.  You “win” if you make it to the goal.  You can buy a t-shirt saying you won (I did).  You can write “the ugly dog sniffed the fetid road kill” over and over again until you hit the word count.  No one cares.  No-one checks.

It is not something you do for recognition.  Everyone has their own reasons, I would imagine.  There is a big social element to it.  Writers get together to write in groups.  There are parties and events.  I did not involve myself in any of that.  I decided I was going to see if I could actually write (conceive, write, edit) a novel in one month.  Some people run marathons.  Some people walk on coals.  I set a goal of 2K words a day and went to work.

I had written novels before.  My novel, “Joe-Café” is currently available on Kindle.  I would consider myself more of a short story writer, though.  I have written many stories.  And, while I often wrote long stories, 50K words seemed like a LOT.  But I jumped in and started typing.

I had a vague idea of what I was going to write when I shoved off.  I wanted to write a story in the style of an old western, but modernized, with motorcycles instead of horses, and set in San Francisco.  I had no real idea about plot or anything like that at first.  But that is how things usually go for me.

Time.  That is your enemy when it comes to NANOWRIMO.  I found the actual writing fairly easy.  Even fun.  It forces you (or it did me) to be a different kind of writer.  There is no time to look back.  You just go and hope it makes sense.  I managed to pull it off.  At the end of the month, I had ‘The Biker’, an edited (I’m sure it’s missing a comma here or there, but it makes sense) novel that I am actually proud of.  It is much more linear than my previous works – due to the fact that you just start running and don’t stop.

I don’t know if I will ever do NANOWRIMO again.  It reminded me of my start in journalism.  Fast paced and furious.  I like to take my fiction more leisurely.  I sure am glad I did it once, though.  And I am at 500 words. 4:16 pm.

Morgen: sinus infection, a viral ear infection, vertigo – wow, I’m a hard task mistress (the balding I knew already and gets no sympathy vote :)). Well, again, JD rose to the challenge and in 11 minutes; want to do my NaNo for me this year JD? 🙂

J D Mader is a teacher and writer / musician based in San Francisco.  He has been fortunate enough to encounter many giving and inspiring people in his life.  He hopes to repay the debt.  And to make enough money with his writing to buy a house. You can help him buy a brick (although I think the eBook is actually cheaper!) by checking out his debut novel ‘Joe-Café’ and there will be more soon.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast ‘red pen session’ number 4

** Please note that I no longer run red pen episodes but do offer critique (first 1,000 words free) via https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/editing-and-critique.** 

I’m delighted to announce that this week’s podcast released today, Saturday 17th September (two days earlier than normal), was the fourth of my episodes dedicated to reading a short story or self-contained novel extract (with synopsis) and then talking about it afterwards.

I run a fortnightly critique group as well as critiquing other authors’ writing which I really enjoy so I thought I’d create podcast episodes doing this and I’m grateful to the authors who have already volunteered their pieces. I’d be thrilled if you listened to the podcast (links below). Please remember that it’s only one person’s (my) opinion and you, and the author concerned, are welcome to disagree with my interpretation – I will never be mean for the sake of it, but hope that I’m firm but fair. I also type my comments for the recording as I read through the story as a reader would think as they read the story, although they of course would be reading, not analysing.

Regardless of what genre you write I hope that this helps you think about the way fiction is constructed and that you have enjoyed hearing another author’s work, the copyright of which remains with them.

This episode’s was kindly emailed to me by JD Mader of San Francisco, USA whose story ‘Green’ I discussed in episode 1. This story is entitled ‘The Sow’s Ear’ and I’m going to be picky this time because I found so little to criticise with Dan’s original story. 🙂

The format of the episode is me reading the short story then giving an in-depth critique with a conclusion of the whole story then, where time allows, it did in this episode, reading the story again as sometimes it’s better to understand a story when you’re not concentrating on the plot. I’d be interested to know, upon hearing it twice, whether you feel any differently about it after the second read-through.

UPDATE: JD told me that he had written this piece for a contest and the guidelines were that it had to include an iron, water, and something in the pocket or something to that effect. Sadly JD didn’t win but he still had a great short story to use as he wished (on his blog and for my podcast). 🙂

JD Mader is a teacher and writer / musician based in San Francisco.  He has been fortunate enough to encounter many giving and inspiring people in his life.  He hopes to repay the debt.  And to make enough money with his writing to buy a house. Please do visit JD’s website, perhaps ‘like’ his Facebook author page, follow him on Twitter and it would be fantastic if you’d pop along and buy his novel ‘Joe Café’.

The podcast is available via iTunesGoogle’s FeedburnerPodbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe).

If you have any feedback on today’s episode or any other podcasts or aspects of my website or blog, I’m always delighted to hear from you – my email address is morgen@morgenbailey.com. And if you’re feeling brave enough to send me a short story or novel extract (with a brief synopsis please) – ideally 1000-word maximum – for these red pen sessions then feel free. Thank you.

Guest post: ‘Four Tracks and Typewriters’ by author JD Mader

I’m delighted to bring you this guest blog post, today on the topic of music vs writing, by Joe Café novelist and musician (and more) JD Mader.

‘Four Tracks and Typewriters’

When I was very young, I fancied myself a writer.  It was silly.  I was a six year old, weighted down with bird books and half finished ‘novels’ written in colorful spiral notebooks.  It wasn’t until I was fifteen that I truly began to write.  I worked as a sportswriter and columnist for the local paper.  I also played in a punk rock band with my best friend, Pat.  The newspaper fed my ego and gave me money for cigarettes and beer.  The band did the same and gave me an outlet I truly needed and a friendship that has survived many years.  The articles were OK.  Some of the songs were actually pretty ingenious in hindsight, but we were not talented enough musically to make it beyond the local club scene.  I did not start seriously writing fiction until I was in college.  I did not stop sounding like someone doing a seriously bad impression of Kerouac until I was out of college.

Morgen asked me to write this piece comparing my “writing” writing to writing music, and I am glad she did.  As strange as this sounds, I have never really given it much thought before.  Considering I have been writing pretty seriously for over half my lifetime, you’d think I would have tried to analyze it more.  Go figure.

When I was young and first playing in bands, I wrote the lyrics and Pat wrote the music.  (I later played in a few bands without Pat, too, but I still generally wrote the lyrics).  That was the arrangement and it worked pretty well.  I would spend all day at school (and later college / work) writing lyrics and produce a stack of notebook paper at the end of the day from which to pick and choose.  For whatever reason, writing lyrics has always come easily to me.  I stopped playing live a decade ago, but Pat and I still write and record music for fun all the time (‘The Flying Black Hats’ on last.fm or bandcamp).  I write some of the music now, and Pat writes some lyrics, but our original arrangement hasn’t changed much.

As I walked to the park with my daughter today, part of my mind was dancing over the similarities and differences between writing prose and writing music (I do not write poetry).  As I said, writing lyrics has always come pretty easily to me.  Writing in general has, I guess.  But the most striking difference is that, when it comes to fiction, I am obsessive about revision and I’ll spend ages on a story.  I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than five minutes writing the lyrics to a song and I never change them.  And I am not sure exactly why this is.

Part of it, I believe, is that I don’t consider writing music to be as ‘serious’ an undertaking.  It is fun.  I have never tried to make legitimate money from it.  I do it because I enjoy it.  I don’t like playing shows… never had stage presence… but I love the act of writing a song.  But it is something I do, record, and then forget about unless I am playing it in my living room.  There is no endless tweaking to get things just right.  I wouldn’t even consider it.

I have written hundreds of songs with Pat and he has always been amazed that the lyrics just come.  Oftentimes, he will have an idea for a song, tell me, and I will sit down for five minutes and then hand him a page of lyrics and wait for him to do the hard part.

When I write fiction….well, there is really nothing I take as seriously as my fiction.  It is the most important non-breathing thing in my life.  My first drafts are generally pretty clean because I “write” in my head before I start with the typing, but I edit and edit, and I ask for help, and then I edit some more.  I would never consider doing this with a song.

Part of it has to do with rhyming.  The rhyme makes it easier.  It limits your choices.  It narrows the playing field.  For example, one of my favorite lyrics is “Feeling like a vacant lot, my cars are up on blocks / I got so sick of sitting there through all your morbid talks / I hear your voice in whispers like a pinball in my brain / I woke up from a nightmare with my lips around your name.”:

http://theflyingblackhats.bandcamp.com/track/standing-waiting-in-the-rain

I like it.  I feel like it is one of the better chunks of lyricism I have come up with – I like the lyrics to the whole song, but that part especially.  It is interesting metaphorically.  It incorporates some intriguing personification.  I don’t like the last line much, but what are you gonna do…it rhymes.

There is a freedom in that… the restrictions of rhyme.  With prose, everything is open.  I am not stuck with keeping the fourth line because I like the first three so much.  The sentences relate, but they relate like comrades in a common cause, not like inbred cousins.

Maybe if I was a better musician (I can play guitar, harmonica, and bass passably), things would be different.  When I do write music, it is simple, and a vehicle for the lyrics.  Maybe it is because there is music… rhythm is important to me in my fiction, too, but there is no drum track.

Maybe music is the writing I allow myself to play with… to not take too seriously.  But that’s not right either, because there are times, and especially when I was playing in bands as a teenager, that I took it all pretty damn seriously.  Maybe there is no making sense of it.

If I had to guess, however, I would guess this: I don’t consider myself a great musician, so there is not as much ego wrapped up in it.  I have worked damn hard to become a good fiction writer, so I don’t let myself off the hook nearly as easily.  Both extremes are probably unhealthy.  I should strive for the middle ground.  But I don’t, and I won’t.  And I have eight words left.  And I still don’t have a good answer.

As I have been doing for the past 18 years, I sent this to Pat after I pounded out the last sentence.  I think his reply is interesting.  And his ending is better:

Interesting topic. I think the freedom in restriction concept is very true.  That coupled with writing about a certain topic produces good results. I also think when you write lyrics you seem to tap into the subconscious realm more rawly (at the risk of sounding pretentious). I’m sure the same thing happens in prose, but probably less so.  The lyrics just pour out stream-of-consciousness style (and in rhyme) and are more concentrated.

By the way, I’ve also lifted lyrics from your stories before.  “The Trucker Song” was mostly lifted from one of your stories.  Back in the day, I went fumbling through your other lyrics and ended up picking those out. I guess that song was the exception.  One more thing, it’s true that you don’t edit the lyrics much, but it’s also true that you’ve written a shitload over the years and only used about 50% (or less).  So, even though I’m sure you edit the stories / novels much more, there has still been some filter with the lyrics.

For two interviews about music I did, do click the links below (and support Oded, who cares about music enough to track people like me down):

http://laughingevergreens.blogspot.com/2009/01/featured-artists-flying-black-hats.html

http://laughingevergreens.blogspot.com/2009/03/catching-up-with-flying-black-hats-part.html

http://laughingevergreens.blogspot.com/2009/03/catching-up-with-flying-black-hats-part_27.html

Morgen: Fiction doesn’t breathe? Really? That would be like saying that Santa Clause doesn’t exist. 🙂 Thank you JD! I look forward to reading your next posts. Oh, and the last line from ‘Standing waiting in the rain’ was my favourite of the excerpt – go figure. And how cute is the picture at the top of this page. 🙂

JD Mader is a teacher and writer / musician based in San Francisco.  He has been fortunate enough to encounter many giving and inspiring people in his life.  He hopes to repay the debt.  And to make enough money with his writing to buy a house. Please do visit JD’s website, perhaps ‘like’ his Facebook author page, follow him on Twitter and it would be fantastic if you’d pop along and buy his book. 🙂

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me at morgen@morgenbailey.com with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).