On Feb. 6, 1997, after being single for many years, I met a guy in a bar in Madison and had a feeling of instant connection, even telling my coworker the next day I had met "the one." During our late-night conversation at the Blue Moon, John and I learned we both had parents who were teachers, and I always thought being a teacher's kid was our special connection. We married three years later, but if John and I had known about a deeper connection the night we met...
Last month, for the first time, I went on the annual "cemetery tour" in northern Wisconsin with John's family. The weather was gorgeous and we drove to cemeteries in Ashland, Clam Lake, and more to lay flowers. While looking at a grave in Mason, my mother-in-law, Deanna, remarked how her "Uncle Buck" Davey had taught high school in Kenosha. (My father grew up in Kenosha, then graduated from UW-Whitewater and taught high school science and math.) From the cemetery, I wrote my parents an email and asked if Dad remember a Mr. Davey. My step-mom, Marion, found Dad's 1949 yearbook, turned to the Science and Math page, and my dad--who is about to turn 91--recognized Mr. Davey right away. What a coincidence!
It's made me ponder the unknown connections we have with each other. For example, my great-great grandparents were a pioneer family in Sheboygan, and with two wives, my g-g-gp fathered 21 children. These people walked the same streets as me.
Now, I think about all the students my father influenced over the decades. At every class reunion, it never fails, someone comes up to me and tells me a story of how, as teachers, my Dad, or my mother or step-mom touched them. One even said my Dad changed his life, and a long-married couple I know first met in Dad's classroom. Being a science teacher is fundamental to who he is, and because of him I love science, photography, and nature. I do not know who influenced Mr. Davey, but I can bet his effect on my father has spread to thousands, if not tens of thousands of students.
This is not the first coincidence between John and me. My first husband was a roommate of John's brother Joe at UW-Madison in the early '80s and I remember meeting Joe way back then. But that's another story for another time.
At the Sheboygan County Fair over Labor Day weekend, my husband and I were disappointed to find the Zipper missing from the carnival. We went on a Gravitron instead--my second favorite ride--but the fair just wasn't the same.
In honor of the Zipper, here's an excerpt from my novel, "Radio Dreams and Dead Air Nightmares" which will be published very soon.
In this scene, the main character, Grace LaVette, has just finished broadcasting live from her country radio station's booth on the midway at the Winona County Fair, and after having grilled cheesed sandwiches and a beer, goes on a ride with her co-worker and crush, Jesse Roberts.
The novel's dramatic moment of poetic justice happens when Grace returns to the broadcast booth following this happy scene.
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CHAPTER 25: COME RIDE WITH THE WIND
Music blared from loudspeakers, growing louder as they approached the carnival.
“Let’s ride the Zipper,” Jesse said as he pulled an accordion string of complimentary radio station tickets from his pocket.
“I’m game,” Grace said. “Look. They’re loading. We can make it if we run.”
He held tight to her hand as they sprinted over the gravel, and at the line, her braids swung when he picked her up and twirled. After a quick, delicious hug, they waited. Grace kicked at the piney mulch under her boots, wet from the rain, which brought back memories from her teens at the Washburn County fair in Spooner. Like the time she found a twenty-dollar bill and her friend Faye insisted they spend it all on one ride--the Zipper. They rode until they were too dizzy to walk.
When it was Grace and Jesse’s turn to board, with heads bent low, they plopped into the metal cage. The wiry, tattooed carnie slammed the safety bar across their waists with a bang, then pushed a lever which quickly raised them thirty feet. Amazed at the view, she didn’t notice Jesse’s passionate gaze until he turned her face to his and kissed her.
The car jolted them apart as it moved to the next stop. Using a technique she’d learned from her brother, Grace gripped the welded handles and rocked with all her might. Jesse joined in, but they couldn’t quite flip it. Laughing and breathing hard, they sat back and waited for the ride to start for real. When it jerked into motion, her head bounced against the red duct-taped cushion. The Zipper catapulted them from the throes of laughter to wild shrieking as the car somersaulted forward and back with neck-snapping momentum. Delirious, they stumbled off, ecstatic from the loud music, the spinning, and their attempts to make out.
The ride had ended too soon.
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Since January, when my editor, Christopher Chambers, returned his critique of my book, I think I've worked harder on it than over the previous three years. I took out at least fifty pages, and wrote two new beginning chapters and a new ending. I've massaged awkward sentences, planted seeds of foreshadowing, eliminated repeated words, and checked the grammar twice using both Grammarly and ProWritingAid. I should have kept track; it seems I've read the book 100 times in the last seven months. And here I thought it was "finished" when I sent it to him last year!
Two weeks ago, I saved the final text as a .mobi file for Kindle and sent it to a friend in radio, the one who inspired me to write the novel. As she read it, I read along on my own Kindle. So much jumped out at me from looking at it through her eyes and on a different device. I made many corrections. Then I sent the fixed-up story to another radio friend and re-read it through his eyes over eight hours in one day, finding more errors, such as where I described the cover of a polka album from Stanley Pulaski as having people in lederhosen. Whoops! And then I noticed my character mowed the lawn between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not in Wisconsin.
So this week, I've spent three days reading it again and taking notes. Just counted the changes needed--223. How is that possible at this point? Some are as simple as removing a comma or changing tense, others more time-consuming, like a little research to see if my character could have heard a clap of thunder in late October. Otherwise, the story is perfect, the action flows, my characters grow, and the structure includes three acts, an inciting incident, plot points, pinch points, climax, and resolution. So it should be good to go.
How does an artist know when a painting is finished? When they can't stand to look at it anymore?
New cover design
It's all about carts! During the 1980s, commercials, promos and even songs were recorded to cart! One of my radio friends told me in today's digital world, the term 'cart' is still used for spots.
Only 70 pages left in my final rewrite/edit, then one more pass through a grammar app and this book will go to press!
Okay, back to work.
(The pretty background and setting is from Book Brush.)
While I was getting the paper this morning, the neighbor stopped to say she is excited about reading my novel, then mentioned a post I'd written years ago. I couldn't remember. She said it was about a comment made to me at the local car dealership. "Yes," I said. "The book is full of these stories!"
Using the search on facebook, I found this:
Me, sitting in the lobby, waiting for car repairs. Man walks through, presumably a salesman, and said, “Your seat must be really warm by now.” There is no one else around.
I reply, gently, “That’s kind of a creepy thing to say.”
“What?” he asked.
I repeat my statement.
He laughs and remarks that I have been sitting there a long time. I say, "Yes, I have."
Does the man walk away wondering what he can say to a woman? I have some suggestions:
“You’ve been waiting a long time.”
“What a beautiful day.”
“Are you interested in any of our new cars?”
It just reminded me of when I was a kid. My grandpa babysat my sisters and me by taking us to the bar and giving us quarters for pinball and candy bars. If I used the bathroom, when I came out, the old men would ALWAYS ask if I felt better. That's what I mean by creepy.
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.
About five years ago, I decided to close my portrait studio. After ten years of doing business headshots, real estate, pet and family portraits, I began to face the fact photography was a lot of work for little pay, and like radio, required a lot of energy to entertain and engage my subjects. From sweeping the walk (I live in the woods) to cleaning up pet hair and maintaining expensive equipment, it was not worth the effort any more. Like many other industries that have gone digital, people place less value on professional photography.
When I was contacted by Whole Trees last winter, I knew it would be fun and challenging to document the removal of ash trees from the Sheboygan Marsh and do it in an artistic way. Best of all, they only wanted the RAW files; their own graphics people would take care of image processing.
On a 4 degree day in February, worried about the how my camera and fingers would function, I photographed every dead tree still standing, those that were lying on the ground, and the process of cutting them. Yesterday, I went back to photograph the trees being loaded onto a semi. They'll be taken to Muscoda for processing, and then to Eau Claire where they will be used in a beautiful way in a new building. Several will make for gorgeous columns in the new educational building at the Marsh. The trees, in their whole state, are stronger than steel and last forever.
The shoot was a great opportunity to stretch my ability as a photographer and to play a small part in the mission: "At WholeTrees we believe in the regenerative potential of structural round timber harvested from well-managed forests and supplied to construction job sites via regional forestry and fabrication networks." See pictures of finishing buildings at wholetrees.com.
On days like this, sand dances over the surface of the beach, right into little dog's eyes and noses. So we turned around and stuck to walking through the campground, on the woodland trail, and along the marsh.
I like the composition of this iphone photo, there is a distinct arrow shape; he is looking into it. The lines in the image keep your eye moving inside the frame. The shadow on the bottom right balances the image. The surprise, which I always like to include, is in the dotted clouds. Doesn't follow the rule of thirds. This image does have depth, which makes you feel like you could walk right into it!
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