Macabre & Mysterious Music: Little Drummer Boy (Plus The Sing-Off.)

Ahoy to you folks up there, on the SS Holiday Madness! It’s me, Renae. I’m down here, following along behind you in my battered but sturdy dinghy. In a couple of minutes, I’m heading out to see if I can find a cheap little Christmas tree and a string of lights or two, but first I thought I’d babble for a bit.

I’ve slept for about four of the last thirty hours, and I’m flying pretty high. (Santa brought me a little mania for Christmas.) This is good. In these last couple of days, I’ve organized and cleaned the hell out of my life and home. There’s still some vacuuming and scrubbing to do but, by tomorrow evening, I think I’ll be able to relax with The Boy and Ogre for a few days.

QUICK BLOG UPDATES:

  • I apologize for not getting to #NetNet this week – I’m just too far behind on my blog reading to do it justice. I’ll cover two weeks, come next Saturday.
  • Once the Big Day is past, I’ll have a new chapter in the #ParanormalHotel saga for you: Langston and the Night of 14 Cops. It’s not a very seasonally appropriate story, and I’m not sure all the facts are in yet, so I’m going to hold off on that for now.
  • I’m uncertain about the fate of Macabre & Mysterious Music in 2014. I might drop it; I might change it to be about all media (excluding books & movies, because they get their own treatments here.) Let me know what you think: should I continue to post a song every Monday, or should I mix things up a little?

Tonight, I want to share a not very macabe piece: The Little Drummer Boy.

The Pentatonix version of this song is showing up at least once in every 10 posts on my Facebook feed, so you’ve probably already heard it, but – if not – have a listen; it’s really lovely.

Speaking of Pentatonix, they will be appearing on tonight’s finale of The Sing-Off. We’ve been following the show enthusiastically around here. (Even The Boy, who hardly ever watches TV, is a fan.) In the following space, I have typed up our opinions and winner prediction in WHITE text. Highlight the area between the *s if you aren’t afraid of spoilers.

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We predict (perhaps “hope” is a better word choice there) that our hometown boys, Home Free, will take the title. At first we weren’t so sure about this country a cappella thing, but those harmonies are just so tight and resonant that we were won over. We don’t think the group’s musical selections have been all they could have been, but we think they might get it right tonight. If it’s not Home Free, then we’re pulling for the high school group, Vocal Rush. There’s an awful lot of maturity and power in those young bodies. For whatever reason, none of us really like Ten. Ogre says it’s because they aren’t really a group, and they don’t have the dynamics we really enjoy. (It was amazing, though, seeing them pull one amazing voice after another from their ranks in last episode’s sing-off.)

[EDIT] How cool is it that Ben Folds and Vocal Rush did the Crosby/Bowie version of the song? I didn’t know that was going to happen. Lucky post.

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THIS is the version of The Little Drummer Boy that will always bring tears to my eyes. When I saw it on television when I was a child, (yes, I am that old) I had no idea who that pretty young man with odd eyes was, but I thought he had the voice of an angel.

Merry Christmas, Everybody. I’ll be back soon.

NOTE: Because I’m a stickler for respecting copyright, anything posted here at the blog will be carefully vetted – I’ll only embed videos and sound clips posted to YouTube by the artist for sharing, or those being offered by the original artist from the artist’s home page. If you know of a cool, creepy, macabre or mysterious song, drop me a comment. I’m always looking for good stuff.


In the depths of mid-November, it’s not too late to start a NaNoWriMo project, right?

It’s turned cold. The pond has become frozen in time, transformed by a clear sheet of ice. It’s as if I’m looking at a photograph of it, even when I stand on the deck, feeling the chill wind that should be rippling its surface.

It is a visual metaphor for the last twelve days of my life.

I’ve been absent from blog, but you already knew that. After posting daily for all of October, I needed a break. I think I intended to take a couple of days off, but that stretched into twelve.

hit graph

I knew this would happen, but it still stings.

I gave the first five days of my blog vacation to just being with my family, while my daughter was still in town. On November 4th, we rented a game called Beyond Two Souls and the kids played it through, while Ogre and I watched. It was a good distraction for those last 24 hours before Pooka had to catch her flight.

Beyond-Two-Souls-Gets-Emotional-and-Cinematic-Official-Cover-Art

I’ll be reviewing this in the near future.

She left on the afternoon of November 5th. It’s ok that she’s gone home – I know she missed her Beau, and her cat, and her own computer, and her own life. Facebook, and the internet in general, make being separated from a family member much more bearable than it used to be. Interacting online is our normal, and always has been. (When Pooka was a kid, it wasn’t unusual for us to communicate via instant messages. When she was home for her extended visit, we continued to send memes and reminders to each other through various social media channels.)

So that’s all right then. I suppose I mention it because I’m feeling disconnected, but it’s not the 1,300 miles between my daughter and me causing the problem.

mn to nc map

Despite my good intentions, I pretty much lost the six days between her departure and today as well. I’m not entirely clear on what I’ve been doing. I guess I’ve been reading, cooking, cleaning – all the normal stuff. I’ve watched most of three seasons of The 4400. I spent one day sorting through my knitting books, yarns and needles and making swatches. I even went to the gym once. Beyond that, it’s pretty fuzzy.

This happens every year at about this time. November through January are tough months for me. First there’s the loss of light and the advent of the bitter cold that makes being outside, even in the few available daylight hours, painful. Soon there will be icy roads to enforce my isolation and trigger my vicious winter-driving anxieties – for myself and for everyone else I love. Next there will be Christmas – a season that makes me feel poor. I become sensitized to finances, of course, (and this year the finances are especially bad … again) but it’s more than that. I become increasingly aware of how tattered my once-large tapestry of extended family and friends has become over the years.

And then there’s the thoughts of my dad – who inadvertently carved my hatred of winter into me – rising closer to the surface of my mind every night as I lie awake, wishing for a way to get warm for more than a few minutes at a time. Experience has taught me that such thoughts come with the cold and become more frequent as we draw closer to January 29th, the anniversary of his death.

dad with pool

Apparently I was dubious. I’m told he eventually just sat down in the middle of the pool, still wearing his dress pants, and pulled me onto his lap, so that I wouldn’t get scared.

I hardly knew him, really. My parents had divorced when I was two, because my father was physically abusive to my mother and drank too much. In the years between the divorce and his death, our relationship was confined to infrequent, usually supervised, visits. I think I last saw him in 1976.

In 1977, he froze to death in a field alongside a deserted road, on the coldest night of the year. I was nine years old.

Of him, I have only the stories told to me as I grew up, a few distinct memories, and a handful of photographs – including thirteen – taken by a cop or coroner – of the “accident scene”.

dads car with cop car

Most of them don’t show his body, but some of them do.

The photographs are in a pink and white envelope, emblazoned with the words: photosshare your happy times, order reprints and enlargements.

Right now, I’m supposed to be writing about him. Well, not about the truth of him, but rather about the stories I’ve woven about him. Back in early October, I decided this would be the year I would tackle my feelings about what happened in my fiction. NaNoWriMo seemed like a great time to just let everything go onto the page.

But, aside from some pre-writing and outlining, I’ve not started.

Writing anything about him is hard. Even here and now I feel guilty about bringing this up. I just ran a search on the blog, to make sure that I haven’t already written about all this. I usually want to, but it seems I’ve not allowed it to bleed into this blog since I started it. 

I guess, some part of me recoils from the drama of it all. This is not my first slow-motion melt-down about my daddy issues. I assume folks around me are sick of it. I’m pretty sure that, as an adult, I ought to be able to put this to rest. But not talking about it, or writing about it, has not made anything easier, so I’m going to go ahead with it. (and wordcounts and deadlines be damned.) 

Tomorrow, you’ll be returned to your regularly scheduled programming here at the blog. (I’ve already written Wednesday’s post, a fangirl squee about Tom Hiddleston.)  I’m betting, however, that this won’t be the last you hear of my father this winter.

Tonight’s post is just my way of breaking the ice.


Triggering hypomania in search of the muse.

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I didn’t even know there was such a thing, until I got an email invitation to participate. The atmosphere for camp events appears more relaxed than November’s nano. You can set your own word count goals.You can continue an existing manuscript.  You can revise and/or edit, as long as you can come up with a fair equation for comparing such work to raw prose generation.

2013-nanowrimo camp fb cover

At the time, I was thinking, “Hey. My work schedule has mostly settled down to 3 nights a week. The boy seems to have a handle on school. Ogre likes his new job. The days are getting longer … yep, it’s time to settle down and do this.” I carefully examined my available time and set an ambitious but manageable goal: to spend the month of April editing the complete Lizzy novel. I figured the pass I intended to make would require between 80 – 90 hours. (This goal, btw, required me to actually finish writing the ending to Lizzy’s novel in March.) I set to work with a will.

In the last year, I’ve been counting on one of the two effective strategies for generating content: slow, steady, consistant work. I managed to get 50,000 words down in Novemeber 2012 by carving slots of time from my schedule so that I could put my butt in the chair every day for a set period of time. I planned to schedule my way through editing the Lizzy novel too.

Then my boss called to tell me he’s going out of town … three times in March and April. Consequently, I will be back to working more than full-time for three of the next six weeks. And a lot of it is bad: Seven days in a row. Nine days in a row. Working until midnight, then back at the desk by 9:00a the next day. My available time was obliterated.

Then I had a melt down, which I didn’t post.

Then I made a decision to suck it up, which I did post.

Then – the good news – my daughter (of recent button-making fame) called to tell me she is coming home from North Carolina for her friend’s wedding. And she’ll be staying with us for 16 days. I was ecstatic until I remembered the insanity of my work schedule in April. I checked the calendar and discovered that most of her visit does not overlap with my boss’s trips.

Then I called my boss. I explained the situation and told him I would abide by the schedule he’d made for the weeks he was going to be gone, BUT that I wanted a total of four days off on the other weeks. He balked at first, but I held my ground. It’s complicated, but I will only have to work five of the sixteen days she’ll be here. (He’s still pestering me about one Saturday, but I will not yield. What’s he gonna do? Fire me?)

Then I sat down with the calendar again, and recalculated the month. This time, instead of looking for available writing slots, I assessed the big picture.

Spring is coming. My family will be together. My mood is likely to be positive. I figure, maybe it’s time to return to my old ways … to the OTHER effective strategy for making prose happen … getting caught up in the story and succumbing to the muse. (Am I the only one who thinks “the muse” is just a romantic way to describe the hypomanic state?) In my schedule, I blocked out additional space for sunshine, exercise, flirtations, adventures, nutritious and delectable foods, and copious amounts of caffeine, chocolate and liquor. 

So now, I have decided not to drop out of Camp NaNoWriMo, but I have revised my goal so I won’t go insane. I will not likely finish a complete editing pass in April, but I can make a big dent.

I’m heading out for the gym. Then I’m going to have a date with my husband. Then I’m going to stay up late and write.

Let’s see if this works.