Tag Archive for: The Black Hour

While My Guitar Gently Teaches

Sparkle Abbey with Lori Rader-Day

Today we’d like to share a guest post from our friend and fellow mystery author, Lori Rader-Day whose book, The Black Hour, will be out this July 8th. 

Lori – You have the stage!

a YouTube video I can’t stop watching. It’s a clip from a tribute to George
Harrison from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in which Harrison was posthumously
inducted as a solo artist. Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne, and Harrison’s
son Dhani, perform While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

I like the Beatles as much as anyone who wasn’t alive while
they were a band, and I adore Tom Petty. But the reason I can’t stop watching this
clip is because about three and a half minutes into the performance, Prince
enters the stage and breaks out a guitar solo that shuts down life as we know

The clip has been viewed more than 3 million times. One of
the comments says something like, “If civilization ended after that Prince
guitar solo, I’d be OK with it.”
This is the stuff of procrastination. Watching videos of
puppies learning to howl and little kids belting out songs with lyrics far beyond their years is what we do when we’re feeling uninspired and stuck. And
yet I keep going back to that Prince guitar solo, not because I want to waste
time, but because something in the way Prince throws that little red Corvette
of a guitar around on stage teaches me something I want to know—about

Here’s the lesson I keep trying to learn from that video:
mastery shows. Mastery is worth the effort. When an artist is in command of his
or her form, you want to be a part of it.  

Coming July 8th
Haven’t you ever opened a book in a bookstore and found
yourself within a couple of sentences in the firm grasp of a master storyteller?
As readers we’re often forgiving. We’ll give a writer pages, chapters,
sometimes a full book before we decide if we’re satisfied. We’re all willing to
be captivated. We’re hoping to be
captivated. It doesn’t always pan out. But when it does, there’s something
magical about being under the spell of an expert at ease in the command of her
story, someone we can trust completely with our time and attention.

This theory holds until you realize that the original
recording of “While My Guitar” by the Beatles featured a guitar solo by Eric
Clapton. Clapton, it’s safe to say, is a master of his genre, too. So why is
Prince’s three-minute guitar-weeping solo like a bomb going off on that stage?
I think it’s because he’s playing with expectations. The
song may be one we all recognize, and Petty and company are doing a serviceable
job for their parts, but when Prince enters the fray, he’s doesn’t merely do
what’s necessary. He doesn’t recreate Clapton’s notes. He throws himself body
and soul into creating something new from the expected.

And that’s the lesson we writers can take to the page.
Mystery writers, perhaps especially, have signed on to fulfill certain
obligations to the reader. We have to set up the crime, dole out the suspects,
pin down the clues, and for the love of all that is holy, solve the crime by the end of the book. But that doesn’t mean there
isn’t room for creativity in how those expectations are met. Riffing on what’s
expected, in fact, means you’re in the conversation with all that has come
before you. And like Prince, you can step up to honor that history and still
blow everyone’s minds. 

Again, Lori Rader-Day is the author of The Black Hour, out from Seventh Street Books on July 8th. She’s a fan of music, mysteries, and mutts. Learn more at: www.LoriRaderDay.com 
A great post Lori! Thanks for being our guest. 

Readers, what do you think? When was the last time you were totally blown away by a keep-you-up-all-night-read, a performance, or a work of art? 

Leave a comment and share your thoughts because we’ll be doing a random drawing from among the posters for an ARC of Lori’s The Back Hour.