CHRISTINE M. KNIGHT

An Australian author who provides insight into the human condition.

Author Christine M Knight's Blog

Saturday, February 22, 2014

LIFE SONG excerpt - Chapter 2


"We do all the top artists’ hits as well as the golden oldies,” Tony began as he, Mavis and the band grouped together behind the band tent, unplugged guitars in hand, the drummer with his sticks. The sounds and life at the showground were a blurred backdrop to them.

The drummer and bass player, after a sharp reactionary side look at one another, hijacked the discussion. They listed the musicians whose material they preferred to play: “Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Men at Work, Beastie Boys, Silverchair, U2 …”

“Stop, fellas! They’re all great, but … I can’t do their songs with only a rushed run-through. A lot of them I couldn’t pull off at all!  I’m sorry, Tony, you’ll have to cancel.”

Denying defeat, Tony said. “But we’ve stacks of material. Let’s work this from your end. What would you do for the gig if circumstances were different?”

“Well … your audience is a mixed bag so I’d have a cross section of entertainment and dance music. ‘Love is in the Air’ is still huge given the success of Strictly Ballroom. A lot of the Keimera Show Society are ballroom dancers so that’d work. Don’t cringe like that, guys. Maybe ‘Waterfalls’ by TLC or Garbage’s ‘Only When It Rains’ as we up the beat. Some country rock like Shania’s ‘I’m Outta Here’ What I’d pick is no good though. You’re used to workin’ with a guy.”

“No, we know those songs. Sylvie Martin was with us until she broke up with our drummer. That’s when Matt joined us. How about Mellencamp?”

“Do you know ‘Wild Night’, Tony?” Mavis asked.

“Yeah, we’re tight on that, and our bass player loves it!”

“Cool. So, which ones will we do?” Mavis asked.

In unison, the guys said, “Not ‘Love is in the Air’!”

“Fair enough.”

“One thing, Mavis,” Tony said, “you’ll have to wing it. We haven’t got sheet music here for that material.”

“I suspected that. Anyway, I can sing those songs backwards. Let’s run through them and see what’s what. Oh, and while we’re doin’ that, Gary, I want you to talk to the sound guy. The band’s volume has to be based on my volume. I want it balanced and at a reasonable level so lyrics are heard. Tell him the baseline is: if you need to raise your voice a bit to have a conversation then the band is at the right volume; if you need to yell in his ear, the band is too loud. No arguments about volume, guys, or I’m out.”

“We’re ahead of you there,” Tony said. “That’s been another pain in the arse with Matt.”

The drummer and bass player wore an air of sullenness, their brows lowered. Later, when Mavis was out of sight and earshot, they exchanged heated words with Tony over his capitulation. The exchange built into an expletive-laden argument before an uneasy truce was reached.

* ** 

Nervous but maintaining the appearance of calm, Mavis settled on a stool in front of a microphone, the borrowed guitar resting on her lap. She strummed the introduction to her solo, one of her own creations, and relaxed into the music. The grassed area before her was sparsely populated. She focused on her friends, her son, and on the song penned before she had given birth to Dan.

Mavis’ voice, pure and strong, attracted attention immediately.

Those people already seated or standing in the grassed area stopped what they were doing, absorbed in the soaring notes of her music and the beauty of the lyrics. As distinctive as a fingerprint, her voice had a textural quality, more than vocal colour or skilled intonation, which signalled its uniqueness. She sang with passion, with the joy of someone who had reconnected with her life’s love. Her performance drew people from other parts of the showground to her.

As the last bars of her solo faded, the drum, wah-wah guitar, and keyboard picked up the interlude to ‘Waterfalls’. As this was happening, Mavis put aside her guitar, stood, and stepped backward to the standing mike to join the band. Entering the rhythm of the song, her hands moved in synch with the drummer’s. Cued by the drummer, she began the verse. There was a sultriness to her voice in this song, a siren’s call. She carried the melody in counterpoint to the rhythm.

The crowd grew.

Delighted by the bass solo, Mavis focused the audience’s attention on the bass player by turning toward him. He stepped forward, pleased. At the refrain, Tony joined her in harmony. Clearly, they were having a good time in the joining.

The audience before them moved in time to the music. Music spoke to them, connected them through emotion in a way other language did not. At the front of the crowd, Mavis saw Kate dancing with Dan while Gary danced with his blonde, blue-eyed girlfriend, Sarah, whose chic dress and silver sash made her a standout in this crowd.

Through a series of chord changes and pick up in drum beat ‘Waterfalls’ merged into ‘Only When It Rains’. During this sequence, Mavis turned her back to the crowd, stepped further back into the band, took a deep breath, and visualized her transformation. She remembered the best of past times when she’d been a pub singer.Drawing energy from the music, she returned to the standing mike. Her performance was uninhibited and her voice raunchy. The crowd was hers; the band owned the stage. It was an easy transition into ‘I’m Outta Here’. Mavis took the mike off the stand, played to the crowd, encouraged them to join her in marking the rhythm through clapping. She was alive in the full sense of that word. Tony moved forward and joined her in chorus. Transported by song, she danced and sang. The drummer’s tempo on the kettles cued the crowd who joined them in, “I’m Outta Here”! Mavis spun, gyrated to the interlude, and then began the next verse.

While the crowd was cheering at the end of the song, the drummer picked up the tempo again and led into a bass riff for Mellencamp’s  ‘Wild Night’. In time with the drummer’s cueing of four strong beats, Mavis literally jumped into the song, adapting some of the lyrics to suit her gender. Tony stepped up to the mike for harmony. The music built into an emotional crescendo. The crowd sang with them in the chorus. They needed little encouragement when Mavis sang the words, “C’mon out and dance!” The showground around them rocked! The song ended sharply on a final strong beat. The air resonated with the silence that was immediately broken by the cheering crowd.

“Well,” Kate said to Gary, who stood with Dan beside him and his girlfriend on his other side, “we all know now where Mavis truly belongs.”

“And we all know what her parents think,” Sarah said, her right arm linked through Gary’s. “Dan’s the picture; Mavis is the frame.”

  ***


The onyx darkness of the night sky heightened the brilliance of the stars and moon that hot summer’s night, while in the darkness, ocean waves whooshed against the nearby harbour retaining wall. Passing under the arched canopy of trees that marked the wooden gates to her parents’ town house in Keimera, Mavis, her son, and her two friends returned to her home. The Mills’ cream, cement-rendered, circa 1857 colonial cottage stood at the forefront of the 1500 square metre housing block that overlooked Keimera harbour, while Mavis’ smaller sandstone cottage stood at the rear. Instead of rebuilding on their fire devastated dairy farm as previously planned, the Mills had invested in renovating this house back to its former glory.

“Can I see Gran, Mum? I want to tell her …”

“Tomorrow, Dan. Time for a bath and then bed for you. It’s been a big day.” Turning her attention to her handbag, she said, “I’m goin’ to have to do something about my house keys. I always lose them no matter what size my handbag. I was sure I dropped them in …”

“Know exactly what you mean,” Kate said. “That’s why I have my keys clipped onto a ring and chain and then hooked onto the corner of my handbag. Finding keys is simply a matter of following the trail.”

“Gran has a spare set. I can get them, Mum.” Dan was already on his way to his grandparents’ back door.

“No!” three voices spoke in unison followed by laughter.

Dan stopped in his tracks and looked back at them, puzzled.

“No need. I’ve got them, Dan!”

Passing through the front door, they entered the main living area, a simply furnished room. The house throbbed with the day’s heat.

“Throw the lounge room windows open will you, Kate, while I work out what we’ll have for supper. Dan, I’ve had second thoughts about you goin’ to bed. You can play out back for a while.”

Dan disappeared into the dark of the house.

“Dan, did you hear me?”

“I heard you, Mum!” was the boy’s muffled reply.

“Gary, can you keep an eye on him? I don’t want him …”

“Visitin’ your mum?” Gary held her gaze for a moment.

“You’ve got it in one.”

Reappearing with a zippered black bag that held balls, a jack, and measuring line, Dan asked, “Gary, will you give me a game of bowls?”

“I think you’re gettin’ too good for me these days, matey, but I’ll give it a shot. Your grandpa’s a champion, and I reckon you’re goin’ to be one as well. So how’s about givin’ me a handicap lead of …”

“Not a lead, but we can bowl from the same line.”

They passed through the faded stained, double French doors into the backyard.

Kate sat on one of four white stools positioned under the breakfast bar. “So, how are you going to tell your mum about performing with the band for the Show Society’s dinner dance?”

Mavis looked back at Kate from her small recessed pantry. “Don’t know, but whatever happens, I’m not letting this opportunity pass. I had thought of not tellin’ her.”

“There are some secrets that can’t be kept in a small town like this.”

“It’s at times like these I wish I lived in the city.”

“You sure you won’t reconsider and let Gary and me shout dinner?

It’ll save on the mess and heat of preparation and eliminate the need for washing up.”

“Friendship involves give and take, Kate. Besides, it’s my turn to spring for a meal. I thought for supper we’d have an antipasto plate, and Dan can have a snag sandwich.”

“Perfect. I’m not that hungry, and I doubt Gary is either given what he has stowed away today.”

“His body will become an Esky for his six-pack if he’s not careful.”

Kate laughed. “Anything I can do to help?”

“Would you mind gettin’ the cold meat out of the fridge and addin’ it to these ingredients while I open up the rest of the house? The onshore breeze should cool my room and Dan’s pretty quick if I open that part of the house up now. It’s one of many Reasons I like livin’ here. When I was a kid, the farm homestead seemed to get hotter and hotter each summer’s night. Bein’ in a valley, we didn’t get the benefit of sea breezes. I am so glad Mum and Dad decided against rebuildin’ after the bushfire.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean about hot summer nights in the country. When we lived in the Northern Territory, during the wet season, I learnt what awful summer heat really was. Mum longed to come back home and to the coast.”

“I’ll be back,” Mavis said, terminating the conversation. Exiting, she paused and looked back, “I just felt like …”

“The Terminator?”

Mavis nodded.

“Yes, that catchphrase always brings Arnie and that movie to mind for me too.”

Mavis disappeared into the house.

After foraging through the fridge and coming up with only sliced ham and a lone sausage, Kate returned to Mavis’ small pantry in search of more ingredients. Disappointed, she returned to the fridge, having decided to add raw vegetables to the mix. She had rejected her fleeting idea of popping down the road to the nearby shops to buy more ingredients. Chiding herself for forgetting how financially tight things were for Mavis, she regretted her thoughtless extravagance earlier that day with the hat purchase.

The envisioned lavish antipasto plate reduced in reality to marinated olives, shaved ham, a few aging mushrooms, carrot sticks, and thinly sliced tomato. Kraft cheese – a cheese product publicised across the nation for its nourishing goodness and an Australian staple – had been cut into triangular slices and positioned with slices of crusty bread to bulk out the platter. Kate put the sausage under the grill, taking care to add water to the grill pan to reduce shrinkage.

Having thrown a white patterned tablecloth over the wooden outdoor table and set out plates and drinks, Kate sat down. “Fellas, five minutes till supper.” She found the chilled white wine, a budget brand, surprisingly refreshing.

“Time enough to finish this game,” Gary said. “Looks like I’m trounced again.”

The screen doors swung open, and Mavis emerged with Dan’s sausage sandwich in hand. “Sorry, it took longer than expected. I just had to change. Fellas ….”

“I’ve already given them the five-minute call,” Kate said.

“You know our routine so well.”

“I do that.”

“Geez, Kate, supper looks better than I thought it would.”

“So, how are you going to tell your mum?”

“I’m dreadin’ it and haven’t a clue as to how.”

“Nor do I,” Kate said. “You won’t let her talk you out of this, will you, Mavis?”

“No way! I really want this, Kate. Nothing is goin’ to stop me.”

MAVIS' COTTAGE




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LATEST BLOG POSTS

    Wednesday, October 10, 2018

    Reflection on 'In and Out of Step'

    Wednesday, October 10, 2018

    Set between 1988-1990, In and Out of Step’s thesis picks-up on a period of significant change in Australian social and cultural history which mirror the wider western world. The novel reflects the popular perceptions of the era and explores reaction to changing roles and values, the relationship between generations, gender dynamics, and power in society through contrasting character perspectives.  

    The novel charts Cassie Sleight's (rhymes with slate) and her generation’s journeys in new and uncharted territory in their relationships: personal, social, and work after the second wave of the women’s movement.

    Life forces the women in my novels to reassess what they are doing, how they are doing it, and to evaluate who they are and want to be.

    Through Cassie’s experiences, the reader is entertained and provoked to consider the perceptions held and dualities of women’s roles in western society. That may suggest that this is a non-fiction work masquerading as fiction. However, this aspect is firmly set in the external world of the story and Cassie’s experiences.

    In and Out of Step explores:

    • how identity and relationships are shaped by the way gender operates and gender differences
    • how place—geography, attitudes, values, and culture—shape people’s lives and actions
    • the culture that supports and promotes sexual harassment in the workforce and social spheres
    • changing perceptions of gender roles
    • adapting to change in oneself and the wider world
    • the personal, social, and workplace influences that contribute to change.

    My novelsIn and Out of Step, Life Song, Song Bird portray the diverse and changing realities of women in the time the novels are set: 1980-1990, 1996-1998, 2000-2002.  The stories are anchored in the social and historical context of each period.

    Read more

    Saturday, August 12, 2017

    Life Song - a story of metamorphosis

    Saturday, August 12, 2017

    Twenty-two-year-old Mavis Mills first appears in my novel In and Out of Step. Outgoing, gregarious, and confident, Mavis is a significant secondary character in that novel.  Mavis' story - a subplot - is used to provide contrast to and insight into Cassie Sleight's (the central character) journey. 

    At one point in the novel, effervescent Mavis is severely injured – physically, emotionally, and psychologically - by domestic violence and the fire of her partner’s rage. He also destroys her guitar and the copies of her original songs. Part of  the subplot from In and Out of Step explores the context of the domestic violence and provides insight into the psychology of it. Excuses are not made.

    At the start of Life Song, Mavis is twenty-eight-years-old and very different from the young woman who shone throughout most of In and Out of Step. She is the central character in Life Song. She has become subdued, distrustful of her own judgement, and an echo of her former self. Unexpectedly, she discovers she has a choice: continue to live a life tainted by domestic violence or seize the opportunity before her and try to rise above her circumstance and, like the phoenix bird, leave the ashes of her past life behind.

    'Could she live the rest of her life as she'd been living. She couldn't, not now she'd glimpsed another world, fleeting though that vision had been.'

    Life Song is not a cliche 'chic musician on the road' story and is definitely not a romance. It is about the woman Mavis becomes and the people who stand by her as she undergoes transformation – physical, psychological, and to an extent spiritual. She does not solve her problems in the arms of a man but makes the hard choices herself.

    The drama comes from the tugs-of-war that Mavis has to work though. It is made all the harder because Mavis' heart is in conflict with itself. One person, no matter how strong, cannot win a tug-of-war alone. The same applies to Mavis.

    Readers learn about the things that give Mavis strength and that enable her to boldly embrace the inevitable changes coming into her life as she becomes Nikki Mills, the Song Bird from Oz.

    I recommend you listen to two songs from that novel: Sunshine Days and Life Song (A Vision Splendid) to get a feel for this story.

    There are many kinds of wins in life, most of them personal rather than widely acclaimed. It's those personal 'brave heart' moments that define Mavis. Reader feedback through my publisher and website is that Life Song is a gratifying read.

    As part of your journey in reading this blog,  I suggest you listen to Move On.  In my imagination, it is first sung by Mavis' support network, but ultimately the song becomes her personal mantra.

    Australia is a diverse landscape and has diverse communities. Life Song gives readers an opportunity to spend time in some of those communities. The title alludes to the fact that each character's life has its own melody and when sung in concert become the symphony that is Life Song

    Notes:

    Life Song is one of four novels in The Keimera Series. Each novel is a standalone narrative and has the backstory woven into it.  The Keimera Series is an opus.

    Keimera does not in any way allude to chimeraa monstrous fire-breathing hybrid creature from Greek mythology.

    If you would like to lend me your support so that I can produce more music from my novels, you can buy any of my songs from CD Baby.  Each of my songs can be purchased for the very small price of $1.69. My music is also on iTunes and other major online music sellers as well.



    Read more

    Sunday, June 25, 2017

    The story behind my song 'The Flame'

    Sunday, June 25, 2017


    'The Flame' features in my novel ‘Song Bird’. In the novel, it is sung by rock legend Rick Brody who serenades Nikki Mills (the central character in the novel). In real life, it was sung by Funnie Williams and Thanapat Yarchartoen (aka Film). I produced the song through Karma Sound Studios in Thailand.

    BACKSTORY TO 'THE FLAME' - The Singer or the Song?

    In ‘Song Bird’ and its prequel 'Life Song', Nikki Mills - the Girl from Oz - is a survivor of domestic violence. Once an innocent, she believed the very convincing serenade of her first significant love, Terry Kikby. Long before Nikki met Rick, his song 'The Flame' resonated with her.  She believed that Rick's songs really expressed his own ideas and values.

    Having been at the top of the music industry for sixteen years, Rick finds his music is dropping in the charts. Defined by his 'bad boy' image, he has lost sight of his real self. Consequently,  his music has lost its connection with his fan base. Interested in Nikki as a woman as much as in her skill as a lyricist, Rick collaborates with Nikki on a new album. 

    Flattered by Rick's interest in her and impressed by 'The Flame', Nikki embarks on a relationship with him.  A subplot in the novel explores the ramifications of that decision.  Can she help Rick find the heart that his music once had?  Will Nikki be hurt or healed by the relationship with him?  The answers are found in my novel 'Song Bird'. 

    Readers of this blog may also find the pop rock song 'Masque' and interesting insight into Rick and Nikki's relationship issues.

    I currently have 8 songs on CD Baby and iTunes. You can help me raise the money to produce the rest of my songs by buying one or more of my songs at the very small price of $1.69 per song. They are on sale at CD Baby and  iTunes. Online music streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer promote my music, but I only earn approximately one cent per one hundred streams. 

    Read more

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NEWS

  • Media article about Christine's music

    03-Jul-2019

    Christine's rock song 'Masque' featured in an article on Marquix TV (http://www.marquix.tv/features/ChristineMKnight1.html) and Avastar (http://www.avastar.tv/features/ChristineMKnight1.html)..
  • As engaging as Bohemian Rhapsody

    10-Mar-2019

    Are you tired of dark narratives on TV, in the cinema, and on the news? Then escape into the world of 'Life Song' and 'Song Bird' , available on Amazon and other major online sellers. Th..
  • Christine M Knight's music update

    10-Mar-2019

    Thank you for visiting Christine M Knight's website. She is not only an author of wonderful novels but also a song composer and producer.. We ask you to help Christine's music cross over to comm..

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