In the draft of my novel Radio Dreams and Dead Air Nightmares, the main character, Grace LaVette, gets a job at a country radio station. Her co-worker, Jesse, becomes her music mentor. One day in the studio, he recommends a song by Merle Haggard and charmingly sings Mama Tried.
Like photographs, lyrics are protected by copyright. When I began to fill out the licensing application for Mama Tried, I noticed the fine print: the publisher's minimum license fee is $300. In a previous scene, I quote lyrics from another song, Golden Ring by Lee Greenwood. I'd be lucky to make $600 in book sales, LOL!
Since I’m writing fiction, it makes more sense to write my own country songs. After all, I've got a bachelors in music and in the mid-90s, I left my radio job to learn Music Technology at the Madison Media Institute, where I wrote and recorded many songs and commercial jingles.
So here you go. The first little ditty is called "Takin' Me Too Soon" by the fictional singer Chet Hale. The second is "Love Knot" by Amanda Stacks. (Both works in progress.)
TAKIN' ME TOO SOON
I went to jail for life, for somethin' that I done,
I left behind my wife, a daughter and a son.
Forgive me dear for dying,
Death row's takin' me too soon,
I assailed, and I failed.
Life's takin' me too soon.
Takin' me too soon,
To that barren room,
I'll never know our future
Time's running out, dear Sue.
Takin' me too soon,
Life's over at high noon,
The reaper has no humor,
Life's running out, dear Sue.
On the way to the bar, she takes off her ring,
And drops it inside the glove box,
Her lover slips in, shares shots of dark rum,
She's well on her way to a love knot.
No beginning, no end,
An affair among friends,
There's no untangling this love knot.
Entwined in his arms, alone in their fling,
Feelings unfold without forethought,
Her husband slips in, and stands there numb,
The love knot ends with a gun shot.
A beginning, an end,
No way to make amends,
Suspended in time in their love knot.
© Lisa A. Lehmann. All rights reserved.
When I began writing in 2017, I labeled my novel about working in radio a "fictional memoir" as it was a highly embellished version of my experience in the business. The original title of the book, The Road to Riches, came from a radio contest we played when I was part of a morning show team at WISQ-100 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, there are a number of finance books using that title!
As I studied writing it became clear, in order to make it into a real book there had to be character development, structure, plot points, a climax. The Me, Too moments--some which happened to me, others to my peers--could be incriminating. And I wanted to incorporate the universal experience of deejays. It had to be fictionalized.
Rewriting it in third person took two years. During that time, I earned a certificate of literary writing through UW-Madison and attended two of their week-long workshops.
It's hard to believe it's taken so long, yet the process has been necessary. Just yesterday I read an article about writing emotions that helped me improve a scene. I'm not sure when it will be 'done' done, but I'm very pleased with what I have, which is a collective, universal story of radio announcers. It's set in the 1980s, yet rings true to this day.
In 2020, after a read-through by a beta reader (who wanted 'more juice') I rewrote many portions, then hired a professional editor, Christopher Chambers, who not only line-edited the book, but skillfully mapped out chapters, outlined each character, and provided a long summary. After that, everything unraveled. I wasn't sure if I could put it back together, but since then I've culled over 50 pages, discovering how a many-page scene that dragged on could be written into an anecdote. I've taken out backstory and added the content into scenes at the beginning. I ditched the ending and wrote a new one. There are less characters and each has their own arc. There are inciting incidents, pinch points, and poetic justice moments. It's been a process of pulling apart, putting back together, then massaging and smoothing.
Last week I wished that before I solicit agents, I could find someone to read it to look for grammar issues and tell me if the inside-radio jokes need to be explained better. Without asking, two friends offered to read the book.
The satisfaction I feel after four years of frustration mixed with excitement is indescribable and I cannot wait to present this book to the world! When? When it's ready! If you'd like to receive a notification when the book is available, shoot me an email.