Time, Place, and Billy Joel

‎If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.
– Billy Joel

Welp, ten days until Christmas, and I am nowhere near ready.  This surprises me. Christmas has been my favorite holiday since I was but a wee sprog, even more as an adult than as a kid, and, normally, I am in a constant Christmas frenzy from the moment I get up from Thanksgiving dinner.  This year, well, it’s snuck up on me. I’m not sure how that happened.

I’m not sure, for that matter, if it matters how it happened. Fact is that it did, I have ten days until The Day and all I can do is make the best out of what i have. Today’s quote is from Billy Joel, one of my all time favorite musicians, and I’m going to count him as a favorite writer as well, because “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” is a whole story of everyday genius, and there’s “Captain Jack” and he managed to evoke emotion in “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” which is comprised entirely of name dropping 20th century names, events and places. So yes, one of my favorite writers right there, as writers come in all flavors.

One of the reasons I love Billy Joel’s writing (and music) is that it is intrinsically tied to his voice. First few notes of “Piano Man,” and you’re there, in the bar, breathing the stale smoke and watching the regular crowd shuffle in and do their thing, again and again, day after day, while simultaneously inside the piano player who knows this can’t be his end point. It has to be only a stop along the way. (Pause here a moment to appreciate the storytelling mastery of “Stop in Nevada.“)  It’s a very specific place, and  yet a very universal feeling, and I think that’s why it resonates as much as it does with me.

I’m all about the emotional connection, which is probably a good thing since I write romance, and since I write historical romance, the connection to a time and place is also important. There’s a world of difference between Georgian England and modern day NY, but the same desire, to be known and accepted for the person one already is, that’s timeless. So, all in all, I’m in the right genre, and that’s a good thing to know.

This past Saturday, I sat in a room full of other romance writers and listened to the fabulous Marie Lark share her method of plotting via character motivation (which also works for pantsers. I think I’m somewhere in the middle, but not doing labels at this time.)  Where I’d come into the meeting wondering if I wasn’t off the mark with something regarding the new historical that I oh so greatly love but still didn’t quite grasp yet, by the time we were only a few minutes into the workshop, my characters, once reticent, were blabbering at me faster than I could write.

One of the things I found I tended to do during my wandering around in the woods years was focus so much on the plot that the characters faded. That’s not what I love. What I love is the characters driving the whole story, their needs and wants (especially when the needs and wants are two different things) taking me where we all need to go. This workshop was a great reminder of that, and exactly on time.

Which will be the same with my favorite season of the year. Play some Christmas music. Play some Billy. Write some story. Bake some cookies. Let the lights shine. Prepare the traditional Christmas zombie hand and dangle an ornament from its fingers. My mother used to say, “the more you do, the more you’ll want to do,” and she’s right. The Monday blog post is already up on Monday, I baked brownies, and story things are going to happen. Tree is decorated, gifts are in their process of being created and distributed, and far better to embrace the season with ten days left to The Day than turn Grinchy and let it slip by me completely. Besides, in our family, the twelve days of Christmas start on the 25th, so adding that all in, I’ve got oodles of time. Now where did I put those candy canes?


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