“W” is for “Wildfire”

Wildfire,” a song written by Michael Martin Murphey and Larry Cansler, was all over the radio when Murphey released it in 1975 on his fourth album. His most successful single, it peaked on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart at number 3 and at number 1 on other charts — Billboard’s Easy Listening, Canada Top Singles, and Canada Adult Contemporary Tracks. The Western Writers of America included it at number 15 of the Top 100 Western Songs of all time.

Murphey has attributed the song’s origins to Native American legends re-told by his grandfather “about a horse that could never be captured, and that horse represented freedom and escape.” Enlarging on those themes, Murphey’s take “is very much about escaping hard times.” The lyrics came to Murphey in a dream about a girl and her white horse who both disappeared when a “killing frost” became a blizzard. The song’s narrator, a disillusioned homesteader whose crop may have been ruined by “an early snow,” listens to a hoot owl’s howling nearby for six nights and surmises the girl and ghost horse are coming for him.

While the lyrics are memorable, intro and outro piano music bookend the haunting story. Most people have not heard that mystical framework, unless they listened to the album version; the piano sections were trimmed for radio play.

Enjoy this video of the untrimmed song!

 

 

 

 

 

 

“V” is for “‘Vette”

When I was very young, the only thing I knew about cars was, my father had a Ford and my next-door friend’s father had a Chevrolet. The Chevy was much snazzier than our Ford. Their car was bought for its flash; ours, for safety. The Ford’s back doors could be locked with a latch on the outside, so if a child pulled up the inside lock and pulled the handle, the door couldn’t be opened. (In fact, I’m not even sure the back doors had inside handles.) Apparently, in those days, no one considered how we’d get out in the case of a real emergency.

Cars remained mere transportation for me until I was in my early teens. I had been visiting Rhode Island relatives and, unbeknownst to me, my mother and aunt arranged for a cousin’s fiance to drive me home to Connecticut on his way back to New York. When he pulled up in his white Corvette, I fell in love. With the car, of course. Black leather bucket seats. Barely muffled powerful engine. For the entire two hour drive, I asked him to go faster, and he repeatedly explained the promises he had made to my mother and to his future mother-in-law that he would drive safely. He informed me that, despite the ‘Vette’s well-earned reputation for speed and power, its fiberglass body actually made it quite fragile. He assured me if we were to have an accident, the car would split in two. We’d die instantly; if not, however, my parents would kill him. Ah well.

The romance of a ‘Vette was still with me when I married my first husband. Our only car was an old Buick he inherited from his grandfather, who had cherished it. My husband planned to carry on the tradition, treating it lovingly. When we decided we needed a second car so I could get a job, naturally I assumed the new car would be mine to drive. Wonder of wonders, the car he had his sights on was a brand-new Opel GT. That car looked like a baby ‘Vette, with its low stance, streamlined body, and a relatively big engine for a compact sports car. I was thrilled that he chose my favorite color, blue, and black leather seats just for me. Imagine my disappointment when he handed me the keys to the allegedly cherished ancient Buick, claiming he needed the smaller car with the better mileage.

A year or so later, the Buick finally gave up the ghost. He couldn’t bear to part with it as a trade-in, so it sat on blocks in our yard while we shopped for a used car for me. My only stipulation was that our next car had to be an Opel GT. We found one a little older than his, a little more beat up, a disgusting shade of mustard yellow, with dirty cream(ish) leather seats. But, it was mine, and I loved it. It was the only thing I took when I left him.

In honor of my love for ‘Vettes big and small, here’s Prince with “Little Red Corvette.” Ironically, today is first husband’s birthday. Enjoy!

 

 

“U” is for “Universal Soldier”

Awaiting a flight from San Francisco to Toronto one night in 1963, Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie saw a group of Viet Nam veterans who were wheeling and carrying their wounded brethren. She thought of them during her flight, her mind tracking back through Army hierocracy and the political landscape, wondering who originated the order that sent them to war. She wrote her ruminations and conclusions in “Universal Soldier” upon her arrival in Toronto that same night. An anti-war protest song, “Universal Soldier” is also, as she explained years later, “about individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all.”  She released the song on her 1964 debut album, “It’s My Way.”  Never a “hit” for Sainte-Marie, it was more successful for Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan Leitch and for American singer Glen Campbell, both of whom covered it in 1965. Coincidentally, both versions peaked on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart on October 30, 1965; Donvan’s at #53 and Campbell’s at #45.

Videos for all three singers are reproduced below. In my opinion, Campbell’s peppy, upbeat, “Campbell-ized” version misses the mark. According to Wikipedia, when “[a]sked about the pacifist message of the song, he said that ‘people who are advocating burning draft cards should be hung.’[28]

First, here are the lyrics:

Universal Soldier
© Buffy Sainte-Marie

He’s five feet two and he’s six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He’s all of 31 and he’s only 17
He’s been a soldier for a thousand years

He’s a Catholic, a Hindu, an atheist, a Jain,
a Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew
and he knows he shouldn’t kill
and he knows he always will
kill you for me my friend and me for you

And he’s fighting for Canada,
he’s fighting for France,
he’s fighting for the USA,
and he’s fighting for the Russians
and he’s fighting for Japan,
and he thinks we’ll put an end to war this way

And he’s fighting for Democracy
and fighting for the Reds
He says it’s for the peace of all
He’s the one who must decide
who’s to live and who’s to die
and he never sees the writing on the walls

But without him how would Hitler have
condemned him at Dachau
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He’s the one who gives his body
as a weapon to a war
and without him all this killing can’t go on

He’s the universal soldier and he
really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from him, and you, and me
and brothers can’t you see
this is not the way we put an end to war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“T” is for “T, Tea, Tee”

Sighing, she dropped the laundry basket next to the ironing board then filled the iron’s reservoir with distilled water and plugged it in.  The kettle’s shrill whistle reminded her she intended to relax with a cup of tea and a nice buttered english muffin before starting the ironing. She truly hated to iron. Am I the only woman in America who still irons tee shirts?

Almost as if he heard her thoughts, he bounded down the stairs. “Didja iron my shirt yet, ma?”

“Waitin’ for the steam. Have some tea and an english with me in the meantime.”

Sitting silently together, they ate their meal. She cleared the table and started the ironing while he lost himself in a video game on his phone. On the third shirt he looked up to check her progress.

“Didja finish my shirt yet, ma?”

“Three so far. Take your pick.”

“Don’t need any of them. Need my Dunkin’. Can ya hurry it up, ma? The T ain’t gonna wait for me, and Joe says I’m fired if I’m late one more time.”

Should’ve taught the boy to iron his own shirts. She quickly ran the iron over the orange and pink tee.

Grabbing the still-warm shirt, he gave her a quick kiss before slipping it over his head. “Thanks, ma, you’re the best! Gotta run. See ya at supper.”

 

 This re-post from July 28, 2018, was originally written in response to Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt. Tweaked a little today.

“S” is for “StoryADay,” “Superstars,” and “Scrivener”

My intention today was to write only about StoryADay (StADa). However, I am compelled also to write about Scrivener for Windows.

StoryADay originated in 2010 when Julie Duffy decided to challenge herself to write a short story every day in May. She invited a few friends to join her, encouraged them with daily writing prompts, and a vibrant writing community was born.  Although the May challenge to write a short story every day remains the centerpiece, Julie has continued to add features to the website. The Challenge is repeated in September, she hosts a weekly podcast, a weekly “Write on Wednesday” writing prompt, an annual “StoryFest” celebrating the May stories and their authors, a monthly Serious Writers’ Accountability Group (SWAGr), and a host of various writing resources. Writer’s Digest has, for many years, named StoryADay as one of the 101 Best Writing Websites.

The best part of StADa as far as I’m concerned is the “Superstars” community Julie created a couple of years ago. The original enticement for me was that she enhanced the May and September challenge prompts with her commentary and suggestions. As with the public website, however, she has continued to add features to Superstars. We have a private Slack forum, where we share our setbacks and triumphs, suggestions/news about workshops, places to submit, our blogs, and a weekly SWAGr thread. We have regular critique weeks for feedback on our May and September stories, daily writing sprints, and specialized workshops and master classes. “Superstars” isn’t free, but it’s the best investment I’ve made in my writing. Unlike other paid writing communities, Julie fosters a nurturing, non-competitive group, without any pressure regarding how much or little someone participates. Lurking is acceptable.

Join us on May 1st! You can write daily if you want or set a schedule that works for you. It’s a great opportunity to exercise your writing chops.

Now, for my thoughts on Scrivener. I’ve been an enthusiastic Scrivener user since I started writing fiction in 2018. After plowing my way through the Scrivener tutorial, I decided to invest in “The Scrivener Coach” Joseph Michael‘s, “Learn Scrivener Fast” tutorial (an excellent course, by the way). That’s when I discovered that Scrivener for Windows was an earlier, more cumbersome, version (Version 1) than the Version 3 available to Mac users. The course focused primarily on Mac but was very good about correlating the differences and providing instruction for Windows’ users when necessary. With that brief exposure to Version 3, I (and many Windows users) have been salivating for our upgrade which, at the time, was promised within months.

Months stretched into years. Luckily, Literature and Latte, Scrivener’s owners, promised a free upgrade to users who had bought version 1 in a particular timeframe. I signed up for their mailing list, checked for upgrades every time I opened my Scrivener app, and fairly patiently waited for the upgrade. While Beta versions were available, I decided against that route because apparently working in a Beta version didn’t jibe well with existing projects in version 1.

So, here it is, two and a half years later. I’m doing a Google search on some unrelated subject and accidentally discover that Scrivener 3 for Windows was released ONE MONTH AGO. Words cannot describe how thoroughly pissed I am that Literature and Latte didn’t deign to notify/email we legions of Version 1 users that the Holy Grail of writing software for Windows is here at last. Nevertheless, I am equally thrilled to have downloaded it and can’t wait to immerse myself after I finish this post. Just in time for the Story A Day May Challenge.