Monday, March 1, 2021
Monday, February 22, 2021
Humans need to feel not only joy but also sadness. I've written before about the need for melancholy. After all, the only real way to appreciate happiness is to know his flipside. For me, emotions are often connected to music, including feeling blue, but the only song that will turn me introspective immediately and almost always brings a tear to my eye is Killing Me Softly With His Song.
I'd heard the song on the radio many times, but when I heard Sherry sing it, the emotion it made me feel changed forever. She and I were in the same guitar class and almost immediately we found harmony. Not just metaphorically; our voices harmonized well. My voice was somewhere between bass and baritone but pretty unremarkable. She had the range of Olivia Newton-John but with the power of Linda Ronstadt behind it. Here's a sample from the spring concert of 1977 when she performed Sam; give a listen. Beautiful, right?
While rehearsing for a show, out of the blue, she played Killing Me Softly. I'd never paid attention to the lyrics, but at the same time, I was paying attention to her as she played. I felt the song for the first time.
I heard he had a style
She finger-picked the guitar, which added more emphasis to her voice and the words. Unaware she was doing it, Sherry was fleshing out the way deep and meaningful songs had affected me my entire life. Music told my story, the secret way I felt about life and love. She was laying out all of the profound darkness of my teenage angst. That is pretty deep exposure for sixteen.
The song is not difficult to play on the guitar. After a few run-throughs, we played it together, taking turns singing the verses and harmonizing on the chorus.
When I sang, I changed the lyrics a bit as needed, and by the end of the song, I was finding it hard to hold back the tears. It was an odd feeling. I've been affected emotionally by the music my entire life but never by a song that didn't have a specific event tied to it. This was a new and different feeling, and the song immediately had a heavy emotional weight for me.
The message I get from the lyrics is a simple one. A person is listening to a singer playing the guitar. Still, when she listens to the words, she is immediately slain by the fact that he knows her. Not just that he knows her, he knows her inside and out. He continues to expose even the darkest feelings as he sings and strums his guitar without concern for his effect on her. Her pain is the instrument he is playing, and her experiences have become his lyrics.
A bit of history... Lori Lieberman recorded and released the song in 1972 and it was included in an in-flight audio program that Roberta Flack heard and liked. Flack went to work on a cover arrangement injecting her own style. She first performed the cover publically at the Greek Theater in LA, where she was opening for Marvin Gaye. Gaye told her that she needed to go and record that thing right away. In 1973, Roberta Flack won the Grammy for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Killing Me Softly With His Song.
Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel are listed as the composer and lyricist for the song, but both acknowledged the contributions of Lori Lieberman for many years. In 1997, that changed and they began to dismiss her part in its creation. Realistically, I'm not sure how they could call what she did a contribution when in actuality, she wrote the first draft lyrics. Lori Lieberman's recollection of who the song is for and why:
"Don McLean," she said simply. "I saw him at the Troubadour in LA last year. ("And there he was this young boy / A stranger to my eyes") I had heard about him from some friends but up to then all I knew about him really was what others had told me. But I was moved by his performance, by the way, he developed his numbers, he got right through to me. ("Strumming my pain with his fingers / Killing me softly with his song/ Telling my whole life with his words."
She wrote the draft on a napkin while still at the concert. Here is a clip where she performs both Empty Chairs and Killing Me Softly.
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
Like many military brats, my years as a brat ended when I entered military service myself. In my view, this is no more unusual than the kid who takes over the family business from his parents. It's just that our family business was defending the nation. Those of us in the service who were prior brats walked in familiar with life on a military base. For us, it was just going home.
Now, some mornings I enjoy my coffee while spending a bit of time with ghosts from the past. I wonder what they are up to today, from Mary Ellen Anderson, the first girl I ever kissed, to Tom Arnold, who I attended second grade and graduated high school with. They are all out there somewhere. I hope they're all happy and doing fine. I also ponder the truth that at least three of the dozen or so bases I grew up on don't exist anymore. Not many non-brats can claim that their hometown vanished because of a BRAC.
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
One of my favorite writers, Edgar Allen Poe, only produced two novels during his career and only one in his lifetime. He did produce hundreds of poems and short stories that he called tales. During his life, he was not well known as a writer but more so as a critic. Now, most people know him as a writer and don't realize he was a critic in less you take college-level American Literature. Another of my favorites, Mark Twain, wrote eight novels aside from Tom Sawyer in Huckleberry Finn. In addition, Twain wrote many short stories, essays, and produced several collections of his works as well as an autobiography. Several movies are based on short stories that were written by Stephen King. King is also a prolific producer of short stories. Why the history lesson? It is a good lead-in to this entry about short stories.
This led me to discover many authors who later became my favorites. It also led me to seek out collections of short stories in the library and in the Scholastic Books flyers we got every couple of weeks. I still like short stories, most are self-contained quick escape with literary gratification within a page or two.
My first short story collection is titled Pimping Out My Sister-In-Law* Volume 1 (* A Collection of Short Stories That Has Absolutely Nothing to Do with the Title or Cover Art) The volume contains four short stories.
This compendium's title comes from the answer I’d give people when asked what my next book title would be. It became a running gag over the past few years, and when I decided to put this collection together, I could think of no better title to use. I can guarantee you that none of these stories have anything to do with pimping anybody. The cover photos also have nothing to do with any of the stories and are not of any sister-in-law. You will find a collection of short stories from various genres to keep you entertained for a brief bit of time. Some are shorter, some are longer, but all fall within a short story's basic guidelines. Here is a brief description of each of the stories
Years have passed since Carson and Melissa broke up. Even though time has passed, both still dwell on the last time the two were together. Was that night a way of marking the end of their relationship, or was it a desperate attempt on both their parts to prevent their breakup from being permanent? Neither of them said a word during that last time together. Will either of them be able to find the words to express what is going on inside their minds and hearts today?
He was deep into that summer between being a kid and being a teenager. She was the kind of woman that was the building block of a young man’s fantasies. As he sat there alone, she walked up behind him unnoticed and for a brief moment became the center of his universe when she made a simple request… a swig of his Coke.
Peter’s grandfather brought him to live on his farm during his most turbulent years. As the man he loves succumbs to the deterioration of age, Peter is increasingly frustrated as he is forced to deal with the aging man’s belligerent and sometimes dangerous behavior. Fertilizing a section of the lawn should be a simple chore, especially when there are explicit directions. But then again, maybe not.
Unlike my novels, I chose to serialize the collection into three volumes, to be released over the next year. The volumes can be read in any order, just like the stories within each volume. After all the volumes are released, they will be combined into a single tome and released in paperback.
I hope the stories provide you with a brief escape from where you find yourself at this moment. Each will allow you to leave this reality and take a quick trip into a different one. Have no fear. It’s a nice place. Even better, they know you there.
eBook available now, Audiobook coming in January 2021...
Thursday, November 19, 2020
I heard this song the first time when I was on the duty train going from Frankfurt to Berlin for an extended TDY. To say I'd been having a wild time on my tour of Europe would be an understatement. But I discovered* the song when I was re-examining who I was and what I should be doing versus what I was doing. At 23 or so, it was the right thing to be doing at the right time. It took a few more months before I calmed down and took my self-discovery to an action level.
This song always reminds me of that ride through the stark German night contemplating the person I needed to become. Never regret your past; it makes you who you are now, only regret not taking time to consider the things that might need to change to let you discover yourself.
Monday, September 28, 2020
Saturday, August 29, 2020
It is very satisfying to have this story completed. I was part of the events that occur in the book on Guam in 1986 and the story came to me shortly thereafter. I have no idea why this was not the first book I wrote, I guess I was waiting until I had something else written before I went back and grabbed what I knew was going to keep the audience in suspense. Of course, like any story from the past, the ending is mostly known upfront, but it is how you get there that matters.
From the back cover:
When an unexpected flight arrives carrying a weary flight crew and a colossal secret –a cache of stolen gold bars – a series of events finds Dex and his associates embroiled in a plot that puts a bullseye on their backs. Tempted by the wealth and a future full of riches blinding them, the four Airmen commit to sneaking a portion of the treasure off the plane.
Unknown to them, the plunder belongs to Col. Talan Madulás, the head of a secret death squad. But the conspirators fail to consider what kind of person would steal and then smuggle such a treasure, and what lengths might they go to, to get it back. Madulás’ bloody reign is over, his president fleeing. When his gold nest egg is stolen, he doesn’t hesitate to step back into his dark skills to hunt down the thieves.
Based on an incredible true story, Dex Kevan and his fellow thieves will learn that a man’s thirst for revenge can be just as dangerous as his greed and that no amount of wealth is worth an early grave.
Some early reviews of the book:
"... a fun weekend read. It's got adventure, mystery, and is quite thrilling. The author, Charles, is a rather skilled story teller with his ability to use his descriptions to make the words come to life off the page, I ended up reading this in 1 sitting. ★★★★★" Rory, Amazon
“★★★★★ A well-crafted espionage thriller with perfect pacing! Ferdinand's Gold had every element a good story should have. An intriguing plot, attention to detail, but best of all fleshed out, well-written and well-rounded character development. There’s an abundance of well-illustrated scenes that make you feel like you are right there in the story…It’s one of those stories that come along once in a while that makes you want to read it non-stop until you get to the end.” Piaras Cíonnaoíth, Emerald Isle Reviews
“Sheldon’s very brief synopsis offers the bait to seduce us into this terrific novel…once opened, the action and events and premises are so compelling that pausing the experience is not likely. Highly Recommended” Grady Harp, San Francisco Review of Books
"★★★★★ Each page keeps you gripped as you turn page after page, curious to know just what is going to happen next. The emotional grip of greed, mystery, and revenge all weave together wonderfully with the author's descriptive words" Jason Mann, Amazon
As with any large effort, it is easy to label it the best you've ever done upon completion. I'll wait and see what a few more folks say before I give this book any such label, but I do think it is an excellent story with enough twists and turns to keep a demanding reader entertained.
I hope you will consider adding it to your late Summer/early Fall reading list. It is available in Paperback, EBook, and shortly Audiobook.