Write or Wrong Part 5: Where I listen to Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise…

So for Christmas I bought myself a small CD player. It was cheap. $25. But it serves its purpose. I have a ton of CD’s and had no way to listen to them! The player in my truck quit working a year ago and computers these days don’t come with players anymore. Yeah, I have an iTunes account but it would take thousands of dollars to buy up all the old stuff I loved listening to.  The CD’s were just sitting there, so yeah, I went old school and bought a player.  It’s not too old school. It does have a USB port so you can plug in your iPod.  I took the player out of the box last week and like a kid in a candy store, I tore through my CD’s to select what I was going to play first. I chose an album called Time to Discover by Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise.

Depending on how old you are (and what kind of music you listen to), you might not know who that is. Well, I didn’t either until around 1999 when I was working in Pier 1 Imports. Remember when Pier 1 stopped playing the eclectic worldly instrumental stuff and started playing some really hip B side stuff from singers you either loved at one time or had never heard of before?  Well, that’s when I met Robert Bradley. Track 3 from Time to Discover, a song called Baby, was on one of our store discs and I immediately bought the album once I heard it. I discovered several new singers this way that you never hear on the radio!

Here’s some background info on the band. In 1994, a band called Second Self was working on an album when a blind street performer named Robert Bradley was singing out on the street. They overheard him through an open window and invited him to come in to record some acoustic songs. After their session, they invited him to become their lead vocalist and a new band, Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise, was born!

As you might remember from Part 1, I said had started writing again.  Unfortunately, I’ve stopped.  Yeah… I knew that might happen. In 2012, before I started writing Dickinstein, I was writing a sequel to my second book, Stealing Wishes. I was pretty excited about it and had written over half of it when something happened. My muse turned my interest to something else. It was on June 22, 2012. I remember the date because that’s the day the movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opened and they were talking about it on the radio that morning.

That’s important to note because I had read the book a year or two before that, and on my way to work that day after hearing about it I asked myself, “Hmm, if I wrote a mash-up, what would I write about?”  My muse answered.  And that night I started pounding out a rough draft and doing tons of research, and I finished that first draft in eight weeks.  A year later, Dickinstein was published.

Now, I know what you are thinking.  What the hell does any one of this have to do with Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise, right?  Well, the band took a chance on a blind street performer and look what happened? I was sitting at my desk, savoring that raspy old voice of Mr. Bradley, letting the music feed my soul.  It was a new year. I had a new CD player. I was ready to write. I wanted to write. And I opened my eyes and looked at my work in progress and that blinking cursor on the screen, and I just knew. This wasn’t working. I imagine it’s what was happening in the studio with Second Self before they overheard Robert singing on the streets. Something wasn’t working and they needed inspiration.  I wanted to write, but my muse was telling me this story in front of me isn’t the one I need to be telling now.

You should listen to your muse. Listen to the voices outside the window.

I looked down on my desk at the CD case. The title of the album is Time to Discover, which is also track 7 on the CD.  I knew then it was time to discover something else. So, I closed that Word doc and searched the massive files in my head, looking for the one thing, the one idea that I knew needed to come next instead. I even pulled out my flash drive and searched old unfinished manuscripts.

And Robert Bradley sang…

Take time, sure to wonder
That there’s life in another place
Do you believe in the magic all around us?
In this life, you got to face

Spark!  I had it.  I knew what I should be writing. I knew what wanted to be given breath next. But just like when I was writing Dickinstein, I knew some research would be required. So, I did what every writer should be doing when they aren’t writing. I started reading. And I started taking notes. And I felt a smile come across my face because the story was coming together in my head. And I am almost ready to open a fresh new document and put my fingers on the keys again and start writing…again.

I’ve got some great guest posts coming up next week that talk more about muses and doing research and such. For now, I offer these simple pieces of advice. Play some music. Listen to the voices. And take time to discover.



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