Music Tuesday Debut: Guest Post by JT Twissel–The World’s Worst Folksingers

Here is a post I wrote for Mary Rowan whose first two novels deal with (amongst other things) the effect music has on our lives.

Today is the first day of a new blog series called MUSIC TUESDAY. If you’re familiar with my books LIVING BY EAR and LEAVING THE BEACH, you know they both have strong music themes, although they’re very different stories. 

I’m excited to have the wonderful author JT Twissel begin the series with her post, THE WORLD’S WORST FOLKSINGERS. So, without further ado, he-e-e-e-rs Jan! 



This post is going to age me somewhat but here goes.  My father refused to buy what he called a “boob tube” until I was almost fourteen.  Instead, our entertainment on cold snowy days consisted of listening to classical music, or show tunes, or the irreverent  monologues of comedian Bob Newhart,* who we’d seen many times performing in either Reno or Lake Tahoe.  (I was raised in Reno, Nevada).

My father had extensive knowledge of the Classics as well as Greek and Norse mythology…

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Let’s go fly a kite!

The other day I watched Saving Mr. Banks, a fictionalized account of banksthe filming of Mary Poppins, which I have to admit was not my favorite Disney film.  Apparently, PL Travers, the author of the book, had an even stronger reaction.  She gave ole Uncle Waltie such gas that at first she wasn’t even invited to the premiere.  The reasons she gave for her disapproval were: the nanny wasn’t strict enough and Disney insisted on adding animation.  After her experience, she refused to allow him to film any of her other books. (Watch the trailer from Saving Mr. Banks.)

The movie Saving Mr. Banks implies that Travers’ hatred of the movie went far deeper than a dislike of dancing penguins.  Apparently the filming brought back memories of her delightfully fanciful


The “loathsome” penguins.

but totally irresponsible father and the stern aunt who arrived after his premature death to pull the grieving family together.  In the Mary Poppins’ books, the nanny is able to save the whole family whereas in real life, help arrived too late. So you could say PL Travers used fiction to save a father she’d tragically lost and for that reason, seeing him and her beloved aunt portrayed as Disney caricatures must have mortified her. I can understand this feeling well. The other day someone commented that the Captain Wug character in FLIPKA was a “crazed geezer.” 

From Bing images

From Bing images

Since that character was based on a decorated war hero, I freaked.  What have I done, I thought.  Turning the beloved people in my life into caricatures? The person who made the comment was surprised by my reaction.  Many memorable characters in fiction began their lives in the impressions of children, he pointed out, and thus are often capable of the improbable, the fanciful, and the heroic. They are also subject to caricature.  Every book we publish is like a kite we launch into the sky.  Everyone who sees the kite will see it differently and about this fact we can do nothing except be happy the kite is flying. 

By the way, PK Travers was not the first nor will she probably be the last author to hate the film version of their baby:


I don’t know about Papa, but this book cover implies a little hanky-panky might be going on.

About the movie adaptation of The Shining, Stephen King complained the hotel was not sufficiently “evil” and Jack Nicholson acted “too psychotic.” Having read the book and seen the movie,  King’s comments made me think he doesn’t know what he wrote!  I could say the same thing about Ernest Hemingway’s response to the first adaptation of A Farewell to Arms.  He felt it was “too romantic.”  Okay.  Here’s what I think. The heroine was based on his first wife and by the time the movie came out he was probably on his third.  Sounds like the rascal was just trying to save a marriage!

The list goes on to include so many authors that I decided if anything I write is ever made into a movie or play, I’ll try to keep this in mind – it’s only a kite I launched which once airborne belongs to the world.

Let’s go fly a kite (click for video)
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Let’s go fly a kite! – Robert B. Sherman

Click here to read about other authors who hated the movie adaptations of their books.


It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything but a blog.  Lately my life has been edit, edit, edit.  Writing something new is like climbing back on a bike after falling off and getting a bad road rash.  So far I’ve dragged out the vacuum cleaner, called my mother, and done the laundry.  All blatant and transparent efforts to avoid getting on that old bike because it probably has flat tires and loose chains.  Besides, I might not remember how to ride!  

The ideal innocent Spouse Candidate

The ideal innocent Spouse Candidate

By the way, I trash-canned  last week’s blog about taxes.  Ick! Who wants to read about unjust tax burdens? Apparently no one as even my regular commenters were morbidly silent.  Of course, not knowing about tax law is what got the main character in my still unnamed WIP into such dire straits.  But the subject of taxes seems to turn readers off and I can understand why. 

Regarding the afore-mentioned unnamed WIP, lately when I think about the story I hear a symphony – crashing, rebounding, weeping, laughing – full of tragedy and romance and the occasional light moment.  But I don’t know anything about music (after five straight years of piano lessons, my instructor wouldn’t let me go near anything but a scale). So I called a friend who knows a lot more about

MusicDummymusic than I do.  She entertained the idea for awhile and then sent me this list:

(Musical terms are beautiful, aren’t they?)

  • A cappella – without instrumental accompaniment
  • Ad libitum (ad lib) – the speed and manner of execution are left to the performer
  • Appoggiatura – one of more grace notes that take up some note value of the next full note
  • Arpeggiato – a way of playing a chord, starting with the lowest note and moving successively higher.
  • Mozart

    Great CD to write to!

    Glissando – a continuous sliding from one pitch to another, or an incidental scale executed while moving from one melodic note to another

  • Augmented sixth – predominant function chords, resolving to the dominant. Chromatically altered subdominant chord
  • Obbligato – required, indispensable
  • Ostinato – obstinate, persistent
  • Poco a poco – little by little
  • Portamento – carrying; sliding in pitch from one note to another, usually pausing just above or below the final pitch, then sliding quickly to that pitch.
  • Recitativo – one voice without accompaniment
  • Rinforzando – reinforced, emphasized, often applied to a single note
  • Ritornello – a recurring passage in the first or final movement of a solo concerto or aria
  • Sense misura – to play without a beat, using time to measure how long it will take to play the bar
  • Syncopation – a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of downbeat rhythm, with emphasis on the sub-division

She felt Arpeggiato – a way of playing a chord, starting with the lowest note and moving successively higher – most fit the theme and tempo of UNNAMED.  I’m leaning towards Recitativo – one voice without accompaniment.  


Mozart soothes the savage cat!

Anyway, time to get on that bike and ride. Enjoy the symphony of your life, whether it be either Poco a poco or Sense misura or …

(Thanks JO!)

Fresh from the Trash Bin

When I first posted this blog on November 13, 2014 I worried that the subject matter might turn viewers off.  Let’s face it.  Tax law is something few people want to read about.  How boring.  No vampires.  No zombies.


We’re from the IRS!

Well, if that’s the way you think then you’ve never been in trouble with the IRS. Not knowing your liabilities, right or wrong, under tax law can result in a truckload of vampires arriving at your front door, IRS agents whose bonuses and raises are dependent on how much blood they suck from a delinquent taxpayer.  Followed by the courts of last appeal whose zombie lawyers blindly follow the tax code and whose senses of sight and hearing are long dead.  Good luck finding a living human in the muck of legal marshland.

After much reflection, I’ve pulled it from the trash, made a few changes to the vitriolic tone and am reposting. Here t’is – fresh from the trash bin…

If you ever find yourself divorcing a con man, there’s just one way of escaping a shared tax debt without providing your death certificate or going to prison and that is to prove you were too stupid and dimwitted to understand the tax forms you signed. If

The ideal innocent Spouse Candidate

The ideal innocent Spouse Candidate

you can’t prove you’re a moron,  you will be charged with willful avoidance.

Willful Avoidance means, in brief, that it is your duty as a prudent taxpayer to fully understand tax returns you have signed.  It doesn’t matter if you’re married to a billionaire with more properties than you can count, Swiss bank accounts, and an office full of tax accountants.  If he (or she) disappears owing taxes, the IRS will be after you, particularly if you’re living in the primary residence.  And you can’t claim you knew nothing; they will harass you continually as each day brings rising penalties and interest on your debt until it’s so ridiculously inflated that one lifetime alone will not be enough get out from underneath.  Trust me, this is an awful feeling.

th-2For this reason I believe a taxman should be in attendance at all wedding ceremonies and that the following should be written into the vows:

Preacher:  “According to IRS Code, Section 40.01(c), Article 99, Rev. Proc. 2013-2014, do you, Chester Morton, promise to provide your wife with an audited set of financial records every quarter.” 

Groom: “I do.

Preacher:  “And do you, Sally Murgatory, promise to fulfill your duty to the IRS as a prudent taxpayer, by scrutinizing all financial records and tax returns with the help of CPA and refusing to sign anything you do not completely understand?”

brideIf the bride objects thusly: “Golly Preacher Man, shouldn’t I be obeying my man and making him feel like a king in his castle?”

The taxman in attendance must interject:  “To blindly obey your husband constitutes Willful Avoidance, a crime in the eyes of the IRS!”

Granted it would probably take some of the romance out of a wedding to have a taxman standing between the bride and groom, but it needs to be done!  Too much of that honoring and obeying is what leads to willful avoidance and you don’t want to go there.

Here is another fact about marriage and tax law which should be made clear to both bride and groom:  Even if you don’t work, even if you stay home to take care of the children, no spouse has the right to say the following:

“It’s my money.  I made it and I don’t have to tell you what I do with it!”

MrToadVehicleWRONG!  In the eyes of the tax man, both spouses are equally responsible for paying taxes on any money and or property brought into a marriage.  State laws may differ but I wouldn’t bet the bank on it.

Okay, I’ve painted a pretty dire picture.  The IRS has provided a way out of an unfair tax debt.  It’s not an easy road but it can be done.

***Images and cartoons are from


Remember that wonderful feeling after you’ve taken your last final and written your last paper and suddenly found yourself without any deadlines?  It’s like being weightless.  Shoved from the mothership without the tether of responsibility, nothing to hold onto, drifting into space but exhilarated, light as air, free.Gravity

Well, the feeling lasts about two seconds.   Then you start to feel lost, rudderless and without a cause.  That’s me today.  After a seemingly endless round of edits on a currently unnamed WIP, I’m done. But am I really? Maybe the book wasn’t really ready and I pushed it out the door too fast?  Maybe I missed some hideously embarrassing typo, some absolutely horrid bit of writing that will sink my already paralyzed and gasping-on-its-last-breath career.

move-onLuckily I’m not a perfectionist.  I do have a switch in my brain that says Move On.  Somewhere in the cob-webbed jungle of my mind past the tigers and hyenas and beneath the ravings of the Night Hags. I  just have to find it.


My virtual friend

On a separate though equal topic, I just reviewed my friend Duke’s guidebook for the hopeless in which he rifts about transmuting reality with virtual life, a problem he’s begun to encounter as his work gets into the hands of more and more admirers all with their own stories to tell. He doesn’t know if the stories he hears are real or something they’ve concocted for attention and fluctuates between an obsession with knowing the reality and trying to convince himself that it doesn’t really matter.


The closest I got to a brand – Writes with cat’s butt in face

When I first entered the virtual world (which is a requirement for all emerging writers) I was told by the marketing folks that it didn’t matter if my “brand” was the real me – I just had to come up with some kind of gimmick that would get me noticed.  I interpreted this to mean that gradually I would lose myself and become this other thing.  Cat Butt in Face Woman or whatever.  

Two years later and I still haven’t found my brand (probably because of a fear of transmuting) which brings to mind this quote from Olive Kitteridge, a movie I watched the other night.


“I’m going to call you later to see if your heart’s still ticking.  You are in the book, right?”

“I’m going to call you later to see if your heart’s still ticking.  You are in the book?”

My answer would be no, I am not in the book yet. 

Next, my lovelies, in support of aforementioned WIP, I begin blogging about something I know you’ll all find absolutely fascinating!  The Tax Code. Does anyone know what the term “Willful Avoidance” refers to?  If you live in the US, not knowing what that term means could land you in deep doo-doo with the taxman.

In “The Valley”

T’was such a lovely day today that I took a walk around the reservoir near my house, listened to the water sparkle in the sun, watched fishermen load their gear onto aluminum rowboats, and thought no thoughts at all.  It was my way of decompressing after finishing the edits on my third book, writing back cover blurbs and brainstorming over a title that just won’t come to me.

The problem is the title I wanted to use (Wrestlemania) I can’t. It’s a trademarked name and the people who own the trademark, might object.  Plus, people might get the wrong idea.  It’s not about Hulk Hogan.

I’ll tell you what it’s about and if you have any ideas for a title, let me know and I’ll be forever in your debt.

motherIt’s about a woman, an ordinary woman you’d see in the grocery store with her two children, or maybe she’s your neighbor and you’d see her outside and wave every now and then.  You don’t see too much of her husband but you’ve heard from the other neighbors that he’s an executive at a highly successful brokerage and you wonder “why doesn’t she drive a fancier car?”

Then one day there’s a for sale sign in front of her house and you stop seeing her during the day or at the store but you start to see a lot of her husband.

HappyValleyYou live in “The Valley” where husbands aren’t seen during the day and if they are rumors start to swirl.  It’s a community famed for its schools and high property values.  It’s a community – you sadly lament – where misfortune is treated as a contagious disease and the victim must be quarantined.  You’re not happy about that fact but, you tend to agree with the fellow denizens of “The Valley” that misfortune is the result of bad choices.

Eventually the woman, her children and the dog move away and suddenly!  Poof! You don’t see them anymore. Life goes on.  You walk with your friends around the reservoir, provide snacks for your children’s soccer games, your husband works late but that’s okay.  He’s an accountant.  He can be trusted with your finances and your children’s college funds so you don’t worry.

And then one day there’s a knock on the door.  You peer through the glass and there she is.  The woman who no longer belongs to “The Valley.” But you’re a kind person so you begrudgingly let her in.

wolfAfter polite conversation she asks hesitantly for a favor.  At first you’re shocked.  You want to help her but.. you don’t want to do anything that would put you under the scrutiny of the IRS in any way, shape or manner.  At first you agree – yes, I’ll sign a paper saying you weren’t driving fancy cars or taking expensive vacations – then you wonder.  What would your husband say if you signed a document testifying in favor of Maya Bethany’s application for Innocent Spouse?  Why did you need to get involved?  You didn’t really know her. She was just the woman who lived next door.

You send her away hoping she’ll never come back because in “The Valley” misfortune only happens to other people.  You, on the other hand, can totally trust your spouse.  You’ve followed the recipe.

You can read the prologue here. Thanks everyone!

Feed Your Hypos Well


View on a morning in November

Generally depression is not a problem for me, however, I just finished the edits on a third book and, after reviewing the sales of my last two, the gales of November have come early.  Is writing really worth it?  Low sales, too few reviews, a body none the better from lack of exercise. Last night I announced to my hubby, I was over. Done.  I’d written my last word, blogged my last blog, tweeted my last tweet. Then, to ramp up said depression to a fever pitch, I picked up Moby Dick:

Moby1“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.” -Herman Melville

While listening to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald:

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they said, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early – Gordon Lightfoot

One of my hungry hypos!

It’s not exactly what a shrink would prescribe.  I should be taking a walk on this fine crisp day, making myself a pan of brownies or volunteering to help people who are truly misfortunate instead of selfishly indulging my “hypos.” (love that word, don’t you?  Can’t have sex right now love, my hypos are acting up.)

Hubby just stopped by on his way to the market with this bit of snideness: “I see you’ve really given up writing this time.” The cad.  Just because I’m on the computer doesn’t mean I’m ever going to write again.  I’m not, truly, no way!



When the gales of November come early, what do you feed your hypos?