“When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun…” I am in church—or not, but when “Amazing Grace” plays, I sing right out loud and out of tune. I am enthralled. But I am not musical.
“I’ve heard there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord…” The song is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and no, I don’t sing this because I can’t keep from crying long enough. I move, though. I, whose lack of rhythm is matched only by my terrible voice, sway and ache and weep with the emotions of the song. But, no, I am not musical.
My husband is a musician. He plays guitar and sings and occasionally writes songs. I have a picture of him when he was in Vietnam in 1970, a Polaroid he didn’t know was being taken. He’s playing the guitar, not wearing a shirt. I love the picture, and when I look at him now I still see the boy he was then, still hear that smoky voice. My heart beats funny and he can make my knees wobbly if he’s of a mind to. I dance so badly I can’t bear to watch myself in a mirror, but occasionally he and I will two-step, laughing, around the island in the kitchen. But I don’t hear the music even if he’s singing it.
My office is in the garage largely because I need silence to write. I don’t know when it happened, because when we first had an empty nest years ago, I used to call a kid and ask him or her to make some noise because I couldn’t write—it seemed they’d taken the words with them when they left. Yes, and the music, too.
So, though I’m not musical, though I need stillness to write, though I have two very, very left feet, it is music that is my inspiration. The Eagles, the Righteous Brothers, the Beatles, Wilson Pickett, and—oh, yes, and Duane Flaherty.
The people in my stories listen to music. They dance in their kitchens and their back yards. Sometimes—with the addition of a little alcoholic incentive—they even sing into their wooden spoons. There are pianos in some of their living rooms and guitars standing in corners, but mostly they trip over their own feet. When they sing with the car radio, they are a beat behind. Because they can’t hear it. Even if they have the mommy kind of audible range that knows a baby is crying from three blocks away, they can’t hear the heartbeat of music.
But they can feel it. So can I. And it is my most fervent wish, as a romance writer, that whoever reads my books can feel it, too.
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