Category Archives: Short Fiction

Another Gig of Sorts, or, Is It Possible To Be Afraid of a Song?

Monday night I had a Random Acts of Music shoot with local artist and up-and-comer Zach, a nice kid with lots of talent who puts on a great show as a solo act – I need to see him with his band sometime.

Anyway, before he arrived, it fell to me to provide a source of noise for the sound check. So I picked up Henry J’s Ovation and started going through some of my songs. And the funny thing is that there was nary a bit of stagefright in my veins. I played Going to Texas #4, Red Riding Hood, and Three Fingered Mickey, all without so much as a tremor.

So I decided to whip through The Santa Claus Song, and guess what? The nerves came back. Not as bad as they had been the night of the taping, but still enough to make its presence known.

I finished and switched to Wish I Were. Nothing. I was fine.

Now the wise-in-the-ways-of-music Henry J says that you don’t really know a song until you’ve played it in front of an audience. I haven’t coffeehoused any of the songs I played for the sound check, but Henry has heard everything but Wish I Were, which means I’ve sort of played all of those songs for an audience.

(Incidentally, my nervousness during the taping of The Santa Claus Song caused me to improvise a bit during the playing, including the addition of a silent beat before going into the chorus. After hearing it, I kind of liked it, so I kept it. Henry was right about playing a song out, but that still doesn’t explain why it makes me nervous.)

Conclusion? I wasn’t sure what to think. Maybe I’m scared of the song. Or maybe there’s still some subconscious apprehension behind the song because I haven’t played it as much as some of the others just because it is a Christmas song.

Well, I’ll keep thinking about it. Or maybe not. Maybe that’s the whole problem. Well, I’ll try playing the song throughout the year and see what happens.

There was one other thing that came out of the sound check. After we finished taping with Zach, Henry decided to let our intrepid intern, Amanda, try her hand at running the camera. And he decided that I should have some more practice at performing in front of a camera. So I grabbed his Ovation and performed Going to Texas #4, accompanied by the HJ himself on egg shaker and sound and light man Bob Felmly on tambourine. Great fun, and a much easier shoot than before. But maybe it was the song.

Also, I did Texas for a reason. It it an important part of Evolution, an unfinished page in the Writing section of this blog. He’s going to edit the song (I flubbed a couple of places that he’s going to fix so I actually look competent) and post it on YouTube so I can imbed it as part of the exhibit. Look for that to post soon.

The Bee

Today I had occasion to go to one of the most thrilling and suspenseful events I have ever seen. Sporting events never did much for me, and they certainly couldn’t hold a candle to the excitement of what I saw today. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time… a real white-knuckler. And in the end, there was only one winner.

I was at a spelling bee.

Fifty-two kids from four counties participated in a regional spelling bee this afternoon to determine who would go to the national bee in Washington DC later this year. My daughter was one of them. What I didn’t expect was to find myself rooting for every one of these kids. I wanted them all to win. Every time one of them got up to wrestle with their word it was a new moment of suspense. You could tell from the looks on their faces whether or not they knew the word, and you could see the wheels turning as they tried to get clues (definition of the word, language of origin).

I’m not sure why I connected so much with watching a bunch of junior high students spelling words. It might have been the connection with my tool of trade, the English language. Or maybe it was just watching 52 kids who were the best spellers in the school. The fact that my daughter was one of them this year no doubt was an influence. All I know for sure is that I had a great time, and that I’m thinking about going again next year.

Tonight I got about halfway through the Ferman’s Devils manuscript with multi-step formatting. This consisted of:

1) Turning all special fonts and font sizes into one twelve point font. Palm Digital’s reader for PDA’s doesn’t support special fonts, and there’s a lot of them in the PH books.

2) Reformatting the video scripts to be PDA friendly. I don’t think the PDA reader supports parallel columns of text, another trick I used in PH when formatting TV commercial scripts.

3) Redoing all of the chapter headings and titles so they were consistent with the layout as Bantam did it. It looks better than the way I had it in the manuscript, all lower case and flush right.

4) Turning all of the underlined text into italics. In the old days, an author underlined text that s/he wanted to appear in italics. That convention carried through to today, or had at least was still in place in 1995 or so, when the first manuscript was turned in. This was simply making the conversion easy for the reader (which does support italics).

5) Whatever miscellaneous things I spotted that needed to be done, along with making notes for some of the bonus material to appear in the e-edition.

It’s kind of interesting going through the book at high speed like this. I’m not doing a word-for-word read – instead I’m scanning pages – and I’m so familiar with the story, it’s like the whole thing is being freshened up in my brain. I’m not the type of person to laugh at my own jokes, but I did catch myself snickering at some things that I’d forgotten writing. I tend to discount my books once they’re in print because I see the all the flaws in my wordsmithing. This is making me think that perhaps the Pembroke Hall books weren’t so bad after all.

I also surprised myself by finding a reference in Ferman’s Devils to the Mihaljevic Act. Sometime after I first moved to Ohio, a girl in Cleveland named Amy Mihaljevic was abducted and later found murdered. As far as I know, her murderer was never found. This was before it was an everyday headline like it is now, and it really haunted me. So I wrote a short story called “Going To Texas (Extradition Version)” that involved, in part, a draconian law enforcement measure called the Mihaljevic Act that was designed to protect children. It was my way of lighting a candle for poor Amy.

It turned out to be one of my rare published short stories, appearing in Amazing Science Fiction. I found out later… years later… that the story made the list of recommended stories for the Hugo award (the science fiction equivalent of the People’s Choice awards) that year. It didn’t make the final cut of final nominees, but apparently was on the reading list for the year. I’ve been thinking of posting that story in the Library section of the main site.

Spelling bees, folks. You just can’t beat the suspense…

NP – iTunes Shuffle Play (Vangelis, “Tears in the Rain”)