“Get Out of This Town”

We’ve all had that feeling. We’ve got to get somewhere, anywhere else. It can be a combination of weather (it’s snowing again?), friends and ex-friends, relatives that are driving us crazy, an insane boss or teacher, or in the worse of cases, all of the above. Anyone’s couch in a town far away sounds incredibly comfy.

Teddie hits her fed-up point mid-winter in Darjeeling, as she shares a room with a friend training to climb a mountain and finds herself avoiding everyone else at the school because she is tired of their questions about another friend who has gone missing. She doesn’t have the luxury of leaving, but at least she has her music, especially “Get Out of This Town” performed by Carrie Underwood

carrie underwoodDarjeeling stayed dreary and cold as school started, and for days on end the beautiful mountains could not even be seen. Teddie spent a lot of time avoiding the other students at the school so she would not have to answer their questions about Michelle, even though her slightly drafty dorm room was not the refuge she would have liked.

Haley spent most her free time in the room as well, using the impressive array of workout equipment that her father had insisted on sending back to India with her. She had weights and ab straps, rotating push-up bars and some sort of cardio jump device, and she used them all like her life depended on it. Teddie supposed it kind of did. However the net result was that the dorm room was generally filled with Haley’s grunts and groans, and it was now starting to smell like a locker room too. Teddie went out and bought some fruit-scented air freshener.

She tried doing the few exercises that Lhatu had left her with, but compared with Haley’s workout, they just seemed silly. Lhatu’s one week of waiting dragged on to two, and Teddie found herself spending more and more time curled up in her bed under the covers. She wanted to go home. She was supposed to be home, dammit. She found “Get out of this Town” on her MP3 player and started to listen to it over and over until it became her personal anthem.

You’ll feel like you’re exactly where Teddie wants to be; in a front row seat in this country-western bar in Green Bay Wisconsin as you watch this homemade video of Carrie Underwood performing her hit song live.

You can purchase this song at Amazon.com.

“You’re Gonna Miss This”

To me, this song is the very best of teary-eyed country music wisdom, schmaltzy and absolutely true at the same time. I’ve written a few times on this blog about the big changes I’ve made in my own life over the last several months, leaving a career and moving across the county and so on. Do I wish I’d savored things more before I changed them all? Eh ….what do you think? All I know is that I sure did a fair amount of crying as I just watched this.

Read this short excerpt from c3, and then find a tissue and enjoy “You’re Gonna Miss This” performed by Trace Adkins.

Trace AdkinsIt was the last week of school before the Christmas break started on Friday, December 16. Each of the girls was almost done with end-of-semester tests and papers, with only a couple of more deadlines left. Michelle had mixed feelings about her three-week trip back to the U.S. during the winter break, and Haley was determined to talk her parents into letting her come back to India for the next semester. Since August, Teddie had been counting the days until Sunday the eighteenth when her parents would arrive from Texas, brother Zane from Chicago and Ariel from London. The Zeitman reunions tended to be lively affairs, and if it happened at no other time during the year, they all five always managed to be together at Christmas.

Teddie knew that there would be nice hotels, and fancy meals out, and presents her mother would have insisted on hand carrying all the way over. Then Zane and Ariel would go back to their lives as grown-ups, and Teddie would go back to Texas with her parents and be a regular junior in high school. She’d get to wear her boots and jeans to school again, drive her truck to any fast food restaurant that struck her fancy, and get to blare her country music as loud as she pleased while she did so.

But the country song she heard in her head as she thought about it was “You’re Gonna Miss This.” Damn.

Now that the prospect of all those wonderful things was so close, she wasn’t nearly as excited about it as she once had been. A piece of her now was of Indian spices and silly, British-looking school uniforms and brightly colored weaves and noise and bodies closer together than any Texan would like. She enjoyed the strange way her classmates made English sound so exotic. A part of her looked at Junga every day, and even though she wasn’t going to climb it herself, a piece of her was of the mountain. She didn’t know how to say it plainer. A part of her had nestled into Darjeeling and gotten comfy, and now wasn’t so anxious to leave.

You can purchase this song at Amazon.com.

Heads Carolina

I am not the fan of country music that my character Teddie is, but there is one song in her story that skyrocketed into my list of favorite songs as I was writing this book. A good bit of how much we like music has to do with our own circumstances, doesn’t it? I wrote c3 at a time when my husband and I were contemplating a major move from Texas to one coast or the other.  I was lobbying for Oregon or Northern California, he was pushing for something along the coast in South Carolina. New Mexico became the compromise that neither of us quite wanted. Then we started talking about the mountains of Western North Carolina and everything seemed to come together.

It’s not surprising that “Heads Carolina Tails California”  by Jo Dee Messina became my theme song for a few months.  In the end “heads” won for us, but I will always think fondly of the Pacific coast, and of the restlessness in this song.

A Girl from Texas

I believe that one telling characteristic of a person is the music they enjoy. So how could I not feel the same way about my characters? I think about what songs they like (and their favorite foods and favorite sorts of entertainment) as I am getting to know them early in the process of creating my novels.

Each main character from my five books has a distinctive list of favorite songs, many of which are woven into the story. Teddie likes country music (and cowboy boots and Tex-Mex food). You learn this and more about her from this scene early in the novel.

At night, Teddie took refuge from all the strangeness. The collage of colors and faces and smells that permeated her world now by day subsided into the comforting greys of darkness. She lay in her bed and thought of how much she missed boots. Western boots, on her and others. Pickup trucks and country music and bar-b-que and dead armadillos in the road. Now wasn’t that stupid? Pine trees and Tex-Mex food and front lawns and churches everywhere even though her family didn’t belong to one. It was her world, and she missed its familiarity.

Luckily she had been able to keep her MP3 player, and sometimes she thought that the music was saving her sanity. She fell asleep that night crying softly and listening to the song “Texas Kind of Way” while she smelled the musty non-flower smell of her mother’s geraniums in her head. And that was the night that she starting sleepwalking.

Enjoy this video of Cody Johnson performing the song live.

The fact is that I started each of my novels off with a special song. Click to read about x0’s “Time After Time“,  y1’s “A Whole New World“, z2’s “Fame” and d4’s “Lights“.

You can purchase “A Texas Kind of Way” at Amazon.com. You can purchase c3 at Amazon.com, too.

Heads Carolina

I moved to Texas in 1989.  I didn’t particularly like country music then and I still don’t. But the seventeen year old hero of c3, Teddie, loves listening to the stuff. Each of my books has a nine song soundtrack that reflects the taste of its main character, and for this book I needed to find nine country songs that I actually liked and that fit well into my novel. I wasn’t sure that it was even possible.

asheville

Asheville NC

Lucky for me country music turns out to be a much wider genre than I realized, slopping over into rock and folk with some fun stuff around those edges. Even better, I had help from from a country music fan who knew my tastes and kept feeding me possibilities. Before long, I found more country music to enjoy than I expected. I don’t think that I’ll ever listen to a lot of it, but I have to admit that each song that I ended up using spoke to me in a certain way. Some told stories I appreciated and some made me feel stronger and a few brought tears to my eyes in spite of how silly that made me feel.

All nine songs I picked live in my playlists now, though in the end I developed a clear favorite. The 1996 hit single that launched Jo Dee Messina’s career, called “Heads Carolina Tails California”, made it into the book about the time that my husband and I began talking seriously about leaving Texas. We’re nomads at heart and we’ve been here a long time. For the last couple of years we’ve considered Oregon and New Mexico and Northern California and North Carolina. I put the song into c3 to tie into Teddie’s desire to get out of Darjeeling. However, the truth is that I played the song over and over for myself as well as we struggled with our decision. I even thought of suggesting some sort of coin flipping ceremony to my husband, who occasionally is oddly open to ideas like that.

Time passed, c3 got finished and published and d4 is in the works. Our plans somehow gelled and we made our selection, no coin toss needed. It’s “heads” for us. Carolina won, after we spent a week in the Asheville area this summer and felt like we had found a home. We’re off house hunting there in a couple of months. Meanwhile we are packing stuff up here and starting the home selling process. It’s not quick when you’ve gown roots as deep as we have, but we’re as exhilarated as Jo Dee is here as she sings the song live.

Isn’t it funny that it doesn’t matter what the genre of music is? In the end your favorite songs are always the ones where the lyrics seem to be speaking directly to you.