A trendy British publishing unit offered the chance to pitch to its agents on twitter. There was not only the 140-character limit but a time limit, too!
It rips out my writer’s heart, but here is what I squeezed into the box along with the hashtag #PitchCB.  This is like speed-dating for authors, agents and publishers.

Quirky 24-hour tale of stolen wedding dress unites petty thief, pouty barmaid, alcoholic tailor and blind lottery ticket vendor in 1990 Barcelona. 


Ever spot someone with Madame Bovary on the bus?

I think we can all admit that we’re pretty judgmental. We judge people based off of a lot of things, but as bookworms, I think it’s pretty obvious that the biggest thing we judge people off of is what they read, even though we don’t want to. But is it truly okay to judge what […]

via [LET’S CHAT] Do We Have The Right To Judge People For What They Read? — The Well-Thumbed Reader

Music in European Streets

It was the contrast and juxtaposition that drew us to Angela Furtado’s compelling photograph of the lonely accordionist.

via The Accordionist — Discover

Exquisite photo that you can almost hear. The sounds of an accordionist resonate sometimes in a subway or metro station but often in the streets. In Athens, Greece, the early immigrants (refugees or not)  were Albanians, Bulgarians, Georgians, and Romanians. Basically former Eastern Bloc residents would pour across land borders or ‘island hop’ until reaching Athens.  They tried to find work, from cleaning houses to waiting on tables. On sleepy Sundays and holidays, they would wander residential streets in the better suburbs. Mostly they play the same three well worn songs : S’agapo yiati eisai oreos; Besame mucho, Amore, amore (nacio de Dios…).  We see in their repertoire the power of Hispanic music, including tangos.  Sometimes the gypsies do the same.  People actually throw money down to them. Romantic, quaintly traditional, but somehow poignantly symbolic in these difficult times for the Greeks and especially for migrants.  Who plays? Who pays?

Orwell in Barcelona?Homage

Ironically few people associate Orwell with Barcelona.  Say George Orwell and people automatically say 1984.  Orwellian became an adjective for what could be Kafkaesque with a futuristic edge beyond basic authoritarianism. The Spanish Civil War manifested only the authoritarianism.

My fascination with Orwell began with Homage to Catalonia.  This is probably his least known book, barely above his essays or short stories. Naturally Animal Farm is second in top-of-the-mind recognition but seems to have been eclipsed by 1984 even on school reading lists.

The expression, “Down and out in — “ comes from Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, an even lesser known tome.  Homage to Catalonia gives readers insight into this incredible 20th century British author who died young of tuberculosis.  George Orwell’s voice resonates with an earnestness, an authenticity that no one has ever equaled.  How could anyone? Orwell lived as a working poor ‘stiff’, clochard, hobo, in the garrets of Paris and basements of London.  An intellectual, Orwell went to fight in the Spanish Civil War. He even learnt a bit of Castellano (Spanish in Spain) as preparation. His linguistic efforts certainly helped him and lend his writing an honesty that few non-Spanish writers can convey.  In the most extreme conditions, he struggled, fighting to keep up his faith in the cause and humanity.  His health suffered as much as his belief in decency and democracy.  It is amazing to read the words of this man on the frontlines where he describes the soul-numbing monotony of war and primitive urges that take over.

His description of 1930s  Barcelona reveals a highly unequal city which serves as or hell depending on one’s social class and political stripe.  Orwell remains optimistic about people. He finds nobility in the poorest villager. In fact, his perceptions of place, people and patriotism make Homage to Catalonia timely today, right now as Madrid and Barcelona remain locked in a power struggle.  Worth rereading, Orwell, stands out as a truly engaged author whose credibility resonates across the decades.


Sr Barry White in Barcelona?


A soundtrack, a playlist, a mix-tape…Elevator music?

What do the above-mentioned have in common?

Soul, pop or classical flamenco, much does depend on taste and location.  Even before the coining of ‘world beat’, music would travel incredibly far and fast.  It is an international language, more powerful than Esperanto.

Ironically, I remember Kenny Rogers on the radio in Spain in 1990, as the search for the  stolen wedding dress continued.  But Barry White?  Yes, like Neil Diamond. Barry was blaring from a semi-basement bar sound system. His soulful sound of “Never Gonna Give You Up”.  This drinking establishment was just around the corner from a municipal pound which held cars for 7 days. Remember, the wedding dress was in the car.  These vehicles had either been abandoned or parked illegally. The Renault 5 with French plates was not there, so we kept looking, scouring garage, alley and municipal parking lot. Barcelona has more than one pound to which cars are towed daily.

Each song title listed in One Dress, One Day corresponds  to a that 24-hour quest for the stolen car and wedding dress.” “Love’s Theme”, originally performed by Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra, in a ‘Muzac’ version reveals the tense situation between the illicit lovers, Inma and Gustavo as she confronts him in a hotel lobby bar.  A touch of irony that perhaps neither of them felt.  People  do react to music differently.  Can you read while listening to music? If so, what type of music?  Restaurants play louder, faster music to move their diners through faster.  Volume in sound and client turn-over meet in many bars.  As a waitress in a funk bar where live bands played, I developed talent in lipreading most drink orders. Besides Barry White, the sound track includes Janet Jackson. Janet Jackson’s beat and message resonates with Inma, the young determined singer.  Oddly enough, these great American hits provide the authentic atmosphere of  Barcelona in One Dress, One Day.   As the late, soul man himself once sang:  Let the music play ! 

Barry White

Never Goin’ Give You Up


Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra

Love’s Theme.


Janet Jackson



What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Janet Jackson













Neil Diamond in Barcelona?

A soundtrack, a playlist, a mix-tape…

An old clock-radio, a reel-to-reel tape-recorder, base from a passing vehicle soundsystem,  Andean pipes echoing in a bus station…

The notes, the sounds, the lyrics all ring out differently depending on the time and place.

Like scent, music possesses tremendous evocative power.  Be it Bennie Goodman or the Beatles, watch the old folks jive or sing along at a wedding reception dance. Remember the old tradition of choosing ‘our song’, either a hit from when the couple met or a piece to be played at the wedding. This is especially sweet if the band later plays requests, too!

Music can drive someone crazy.  Remember how they tried to draw out or punish the dictator Noriega with tinny pop music. Music can heal the sick.  Doctors encourage patients to listen to the radio/headphones/i-pod/ whatever  form they can use in the hospital.  Of course, a simple live performance, even a capella,  still enchants.

Kitschy, corny, pop or classic, much does depend on taste.  The memories flow with the notes  and words, especially in One Dress, One Day. Old American songs on the public address system or on the radio were playing in Spain in 1990, as the search for the stolen wedding dress continued.  One example, the saccharine “Sweet Caroline”, seemingly a Karaoke anthem, was playing on the radio, even at the police station where the theft was reported. Each moment of the tale corresponds  to a real song from the time.  And the Gypsy Kings’ “Bambaleo” was a global hit early in the wave of Spanish-language music gone mainstream!  Curiously “Sweet Caroline” and “Bambaleo” fall on the playlist near “Vogue,” by the then reining queen of pop. These songs all follow the movements of Francisco the wedding gown thief as he tries to fence the dress or parts thereof.

Sweet Caroline

Neil Diamond


Followed by the classic Gypsy Kings’ Bambaleo instrumental

Sound familiar? Where were you when you last heard these tunes?  The soundtrack of life runs through good and bad times.  Remember an invitation to come over to listen to music? Remember making a party or mix tape for someone special? There are also the songs associated with faith, hymns like “Amazing Grace”.

The One Dress, One Day theme song remains “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, in three moving renditions: early rock (The Animals) , disco (Esmeralda) and blues (Nina Simone).  Each version suits the tale at that specific moment.  Each musical moment (there are a dozen)  adds to the atmosphere of 1990s Barcelona. As in ALMODOVAR’s cinema, there are nods to the Spanish tradition.  Songs are indicated along with sound effects throughout the novellario and a final list gives the reader over a dozen titles to sample.  After all,  this genre provides the best of both film and novella.