716. Somewhere in My Heart

(Have you checked out the fun rewards in the Kickstarter, yet? See more news below… -ctan)

Later that week Ziggy and Barrett and I met at Barrett’s office to go over some things. There was a new, very airbrushed, very difficult-to-ignore poster of Ziggy on the wall. He was wearing a white oversized jacket, his chest bare underneath, white jeans, and white boots, a microphone in one hand, his head turned to the side to sing into it but his arms in a “W,” thrusting his chest forward. Along the bottom were the South American tour dates.

“Horns?” Barrett asked, trying to bring my attention back to the discussion.

I had to move so I was sitting under the poster so I wouldn’t stare at it. “Um. I think so. Well, definitely for Latin America. But I figure I need to get the arrangements firmed up and produce charts first.”

“Okay, you’ve got the number of the copyist?”

“Yeah.” The number was actually a sheet music service in the city where they had a bunch of copyists working. I was happy not to have to be the one to actually try to make all the charts myself, even if I did have a computer program to make it somewhat easier than in olden times.

Many logistics were discussed, including our timelines for rehearsal and when everyone would get measured for costumes, i.e. when Linnea (The Aesthetician) got back from a trip to Puerto Rico next week. What the costumes would look like and some other issues of that nature, including where in the stage design we were going to put the second drummer, would also have to wait until she got back.

We had basically a little over a month to pull together the musical part of the show. The fact that I was going to go out on tour again with Nomad starting July 21 made things a bit complicated. Normally one didn’t rehearse a bunch, then put everyone on ice for 6-8 weeks, and then hit the road, but it was something of a necessity. So the idea was we would get the band into shape, record versions of the arrangements we were going to do so that the dancers could rehearse while I was gone, and then reconvene everyone the first week of September for actual full rehearsals and dress rehearsals.

Dress rehearsals with actual dressing. What a concept.

From there we hopped into a car with Tony who was supposedly taking Ziggy to a dance workout and I was just along for the ride. Once I got in the car, though, and it was moving, Ziggy said to Tony, “I got my schedule mixed up. It’s vocal training day.”

“Well, that’s this direction, too,” Tony said, gesturing up the avenue. “Fortunately.”

Ziggy turned to me. “You’re coming in, right?”

I was sober at that moment and very very focused on him, so I neither missed nor decided to ignore the sudden anxiety in his voice. “Is something wrong? Ziggy, I’m sure your voice is fine.”

“But it’s changing. I mean, it’s changed since Priss has been working with me. You haven’t heard it all.”

“Are you worried I’m not going to like it?” I could not figure out why he would be anxious.

“Just come in with me?” His hand slipped into mine.

“Of course.”

When we got upstairs, though, I figured out it out–it had nothing to do with his voice–when Priss saw me and exclaimed, “Aha! You brought him finally.”

I may have taken a step backward in the cramped apartment. “I’m not here for–”

“Come.” She took me firmly by the hand and pulled me gently but unyieldingly toward the piano, the way you would with a recalcitrant five-year-old.

I relented and sat down next to her, but said, “Priss, I don’t need–”

“He told me you have new music and you’re going to be singing every night.”

“I’ve always sung–”


“Just a half-hour set.”

“You’re being stupid about this.” She swatted me on the thigh, not hard, but enough to make me jump a little. “I don’t understand it. Are you that thick in the skull? Your voice is not like a guitar, not like a string, not like a piano that you can have tuned or replaced. You have one. One instrument. One.” She pointed a single finger almost accusingly at me, aimed upward at my Adam’s apple. “If you damage it, mis-use it, or wreck it, you may never get it back. And liebling here tells me you don’t mistreat your instruments. You take special care of them. You hire people to care for them and maintain them. This instrument–” She reached for my throat and I half-thought she was going to choke me like Darth Vader, but no, she was just indicating my voice box, “–no one can care for but you.”

“Okay, fine, but I know how to–”

“Pffft. You don’t even know what your range is.”

“I know close enough.”

Ziggy, who was standing at the side of the piano, shared a look with her. I turned and looked at him. “Is there something more going on here that you’re not telling me?”

“What’s going on here is it makes no sense you’ve been resisting this so vehemently, Daron,” he said. “If there’s something more going on, it’s in your head.”

Ugh. The sinking feeling in my stomach undoubtedly meant he was right. “Okay, fine. Whatever. But I’m telling you, Priss, my voice is nothing special, I’m a run-of-the-mill rock backup vocalist at best, and you’re wasting your time giving me the same treatment you give him. He’s the Stradivarius; I’m the school rental violin.”

“All the more reason for you to learn how to get the most out of your meager cords, then,” she said with a sniff. “Let’s warm up, shall we?”

So she took us through the usual sort of warm up, starting the “ah” and working first down the scale from the middle and then up, but not too high. Then “oh,” “oo” and eventually to “ee” going from loosest to tightest throat. Down, then up. Then up again. I stopped thinking about it and just let the sound go right from my ears to my mouth. Then we did syllables–“mah, meh, mee, moe, moo”–working upward, and finally she had me sing a round by myself with her just hitting the piano and the first note.

She was smiling triumphantly at the end of that, and I looked back and forth between her and Ziggy trying to figure out what telepathic messages–or prior conversations–they shared.

“You’re right,” she said to him. “He’s basically the same as you.”

“Don’t be ridic–”

“Daron.” Ziggy put his hand on my shoulder. “Has it never occurred to you that every damn day you lead me through a vocal warmup and you match me note for note?”

“Yeah, but just because I can squeak out some high notes doesn’t mean I’m–”

She swatted me. “Stop acting like a schoolboy or I will have to treat you like one. What is it, I remind you too much of the childhood piano teacher you hated? What? I am accustomed to my students acting a bit more professionally.”

Okay, that shamed me into behaving. And I had no idea why I was acting like I was. “Sorry.”

“Listen to me.” She put her hands onto my cheeks to force me to look into her eyes. “You have the same range as liebling here and nearly the same type of voice. I spoke to you once before of chest quality and the transition to head voice, yes? But you have not developed your top properly and with all your ‘back up singing’ you have pushed your chest voice too hard. All your development has been in the mid-part of your range and at the bottom. You will lose the top if you do not build on it now.”

I couldn’t argue with that not only because I didn’t know what to say, but because with her hands on my cheeks like that I couldn’t actually say anything. Her eyes were very intense, like she really really cared. Like she was telling me I had lung cancer and needed to quit smoking.

“You are young. If you start now, you have a chance.”

I nodded slightly and she let go of my head, perhaps realizing she was squeezing my face kind of tight. “I really am not cut out to be a lead singer–”

“But you are one now. Regardless.”

“True.” She was right. I could also feel Ziggy’s eyes on the back of my head. What I couldn’t feel was whether he was happy or upset. It was too hard to tell through my own emotions which I was, as usual, tamping down hard to try to take in new information about something musical. In other words, I wasn’t sure whether I was happy or upset, either. Or both. “Tell me more.”

She launched into a more detailed explanation of my vocal timbres, running her hands up and down the keys of the piano, to illustrate where in the scale she was describing. She told me to try to forget whatever I had half-learned about opera vocal styles and voice coloration and “fach” because most of it wasn’t applicable to modern rock or pop music, now that we had amplification and also the ability to record at very low volume levels, too. She had her own system that re-used a lot of the same words as the opera terms, while adding in other Americanisms she’d apparently learned from watching baseball on TV, like “sweet spot” and “strike zone.”

“Singers are like baseball hitters,” she said. “A very very versatile one can hit any pitch in the strike zone, but most have specific zones or specific pitches–you see?–that they hit best. You, you used to be able to hit every pitch but now you need to work on your swing to hit the high pitches with authority again.”

I wondered if she was even aware that the word “pitch” in baseball didn’t have any relation to the word “pitch” in music, but it didn’t matter. When she talked about how some notes were home run pitches for some singers and some weren’t I knew exactly what she meant.

I could see why she had a reputation as a go-to person for singers like Ziggy and Sarah.

And me, I guess.

What followed was a short vocal lesson for me, teaching me a couple of exercises I was supposed to do on my own, and telling me a few things not to do while rehearsing.

And then I sat on the couch across the room feeling utterly emotionally exhausted while Ziggy went through his stuff with her. At least then all I had to do was sit there and listen to his voice fill up my ears.

Anyone want to start a pool on how long it would take me to figure out why I was so fucked up about my singing?


Uh oh. I was running a writers retreat over the weekend, so I wasn’t online much to tweet or post about the Kickstarter and as you can see it flatlined for 3-4 straight days! Eeep!

I’m going to push for us to get to $2,500 ASAP though–how’s this for an incentive? The fantastic cover designer we’ve had on the previous two volumes emailed me some ideas for this one…and I’ll post them once we hit $2,500! Sound good?

Also mark your calendars! A week from tonight I’ll be back in Massachusetts (from Vegas, where I’m headed right now…) and I’ll do a live video chat! I’ll do a video chat from 9-10pm eastern time (6-7 pacific) and if we’ve hit $3,000 by 10pm that night, Daron will do a backers-only chat! Sound good? Wish me luck in Vegas, meanwhile!



  • s says:

    Way to put your superpowers to good use, Ziggy. Scheming for the greater good. 😉

    Daron, I think somewhere in the back of my mind it occurred to me that you warmed up with him and matched him note for note, but since I can’t actually *hear* you sing, it didn’t occur to me that you were *that good* at it (plus you downplay your voice like all hell). I mean, your duets are stunning, even if I can’t hear them, but I think that’s more the emotional side of them that gets to me. Idk, but I can’t wait to see where this goes.

    On a separate note, mostly because after 700-some odd chapters of this story this concept floors me, Garth Brooks was in Louisville last weekend. Apparently we really like some Garth around here. He sold out an arena that holds 22,000 for basketball games + probably several thousand floor seats around a central, circular stage (I didn’t go, but many of my FB friends did so I saw pics), and added extra shows. He played 2 shows Friday night and Saturday night, each show 2.5-3 hours long. His little wifey, Trisha Yearwood, was supposed to be there but she was sick, so it was just him. 4 shows, 2 days, 10+ hours singing, and everyone gushed about how great the shows were. My throat hurts and I’m exhausted just thinking about it…

    • sanders says:

      Ugh. Garth Brooks. I love me some Garth, but I got stuck in that traffic trying to get home from the art show. There were tears and sitting through three cycles of one light because nothing was moving anywhere downtown. I love that we have the arena since we get great shows, but I wish they’d also built in teleporters or something to get home afterward.

      Do you think Daron’s freaking out because having a voice that can match Ziggy’s translates into thinking it means one more reason someone could argue he doesn’t need Ziggy to have a band? He defines himself so strictly as The Guitarist, the thought of being capable of anything else seems to always throw him way off. I give him three posts before he figures it out. What do you think?

      • Bill Heath says:

        Agree that his relationship with Ziggy holds the key to his reluctance. I’ll see your four episodes and raise you to six.

      • s says:

        I think a lot of his problem is his perception of himself, just like what he went through accepting his sexuality. Like you said, he’s The Guitarist. He ‘needs a singer.’ He doesn’t see himself as a frontman (I don’t really see him that way either, tbh), so therefore how good he can sing doesn’t matter because that’s not his job. I’m not sure if it has something to do with Ziggy or if it’s just the way he’s always viewed himself. I don’t really think he gives a shit if other people think he needs Ziggy to have a band, but I do think *he* thinks he needs Ziggy to have a band, which is a whole different problem. I have no idea how long it will take him to figure it out. If he actually talks about it with Ziggy, he’ll figure it out faster, but he likes to chew on stuff sometimes instead of talking, so it depends on how he handles it.

        Btw, you’re nuts if you think leaving Rupp after Pearl Jam is going to be any better than driving downtown after Garth. Rupp holds 2,000 more people to start with, though I don’t know what their stage setup will be. If they don’t use all the seats it might be marginally better. And Pearl Jam is not doing 2 concerts in the same night, so that should help? Hopefully.

        • G says:

          I agree with you. I just don’t think Daron sees himself as anything close to being the lead singer. Remember recently when he, Bart and Chris were rehearsing and Daron forgot to start singing? Maybe it will really hit him, that he could have led M3 in the first place, when he accepts being a lead singer and is seriously rehearsing for the tour. He will have to come to terms with this aspect of his talent – he only sees his true worth and skill in other aspects of music.

        • sanders says:

          Oh, I have no doubt getting home from Lexington is going to be miserable. What makes me bitter about the other night is I wasn’t even AT the concert. I was innocently enjoying my city, way over on Bardstown Road, trying to get back to my lovely suburb. I don’t mind Yum traffic when I’m actually a concert goer, I expect it.

          I think Daron thinks he needs Ziggy to have a band, but I’m willing to bet he’ll frame it first in external terms. Like you said, he doesn’t see himself as a frontman, so it’ll start as doubt anyone else will really see him that way, especially because in his mind that’s Ziggy’s job. Then he’ll start to untangle why he can’t see himself that way.

          • s says:

            You know, if I’d known you liked Garth… I suppose I should have known. I don’t think we’ve disagreed on any music yet. Oh, wait, Eminem. Lol

            Somehow I see me needing to find concert ticket funds if I keep hanging out with you 😉

    • ctan says:

      The worst in New England is Great Woods (now called Xfinity Center) which is a beautiful outdoor venue between Boston and Providence, right near a major highway. But there is only one fairly narrow road to get from the highway to the venue, and only a few exits from the parking lot which all feed onto that same road. After seeing The Cure there we were literally three hours in the car in the parking lot trying to get out of there.

    • daron says:

      Just having *range* isn’t the same thing as having a good voice, much less having a fantastic voice like Ziggy.

      I think everyone would have better range if they just made everyone sing the Star Spangled Banner in school every day. I swear that’s where my range comes from. In pre-school they made us sing that or God Bless America every day. Remo can barely get through the Star Spangled banner unless it’s in the right key for him. I am mostly against our education system as you know, I didn’t get much out of it, but that’s one thing that should be mandatory. Srsly.

      • Bill Heath says:

        Sort of. You can’t make a guitar, regardless of range, sound like a Mighty Wurlitzer. Your pipes are what you were born with, and range is one aspect. Size and shape of nasal cavities, mouth, tongue and lips all influence timbre. And, except for nasal cavities, you can change the shape of the others. Breathing and posture seriously affect the sound.

        You will never sound “exactly” like Ziggy. For some purposes, your trained instrument may in fact be better than his.

        I agree with those looking into Daron’s past for the origin of his “I don’t sing” mantra. His reluctance to get trainng, though, may be connected to the collaborative nature of his musical relationship with Ziggy. When he felt he and Ziggy were in competition with song writing, the angst dripped off my computer screen. Angst avoidance? I don’t know.

      • s says:

        While that may be true, you have to have some talent there or Priss wouldn’t be so excited to work with you, right?

        • daron says:

          Talent and tone are two totally different things, and range is a third thing. She’s excited to work with me the way a car mechanic is excited to tune an out of whack engine. She thinks she can fix me. I’ll let her because she’s exposed that I’m letting down my own musical standards by not doing what I can to improve my voice. So I will.

          • G says:

            Ugh, Daron. There you go again. “I’m really not worth it but I’ll just go along.” Dammit, obviously you’re worth it vocally or Ziggy and Priss wouldn’t be doing this, they wouldn’t have had conversations about you. Priss,you said yourself, only works with certain people. It’s notable that she is so adamant about you!

            • s says:

              You beat me to it!

              Daron, she thinks she can HELP you, not fix you. She thinks she can make you better than you already are. She’s not taking a broken down engine and trying to make it a hot rod.

              • daron says:

                She can help me by fixing what I’m doing wrong and shoring up the weak spots. She’s taking a worn out engine and making it into a car that’ll run the next 100,000 miles instead of breaking down in the middle of Arizona. (ps that was not foreshadowing)

            • daron says:

              Because Ziggy put her up to it. And you know Ziggy can talk anybody into anything.

  • AshleyM says:

    Delurking to say Priss is awesome! I hope we’ll get to see more of her occasionally. 🙂 I love it that she doesn’t take Daron’s bullshit and forces him to literally work (sing) through his issues. I have a couple guesses as to what’s causing Daron’s angst. I’ll wait for him to figure it out though.
    Loved this chapter so much. Reminded me of my own vocal lessons.

    • ctan says:

      I have a feeling I’m basing Priss on someone I must have known in my life, but I haven’t figured out who. We’ll have to keep seeing her occasionally until I figure it out! 😛

  • Maggie says:

    I always thought Daron’s hang-up about singing was leftover from the time when Digger got upset after he sang in a show with Nomad as a kid.

    P.s. This is my first comment, but this story has inspired me to start playing guitar.

  • Sommy says:

    I think his hang-up about singing started with Digger. I remember vaguely Digger hitting him for singing in the bar while performing with Remo in Jersey when he was still a child. Digger is a bastard.
    BTW, I just discovered this story three days ago on Wattpad (SomtoNnoka- my username) and I haven’t stopped reading it since then. I’m in love with everything about this world you’ve created and I love its subtle undertones
    of pursuing excellence and rising back up no matter how many times you knocked down. Its very inspiring and emotional.

    • ctan says:

      Welcome to the roller-coaster ride! 🙂

      New chapters post on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on Saturdays whenever the donation counter reaches $100. We also have fanfic and fanworks challenges every so often. 🙂

      Next new post goes up in 6 hours or so!

      • Sommy says:

        Looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the warm welcome

        • daron says:

          Oh yeah, one thing ctan didn’t mention, if you leave comments for her, she answers. if you leave comments for *me*, I answer. Right now everyone’s getting on my case about my apparent lack of self esteem about my singing voice. Heh.

          • Sommy says:

            Hi Daron, pleased to meet you. I’ve spent the last few days learning about your world. You are awesome and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your adventures as they unfold.
            BTW, You really should listen to Priss. She knows what she’s talking about

            • daron says:

              Welcome to the crew – we work hard around here but we have a good time, too and yeah Priss is great. She’s helping me a lot. (I never said she wasn’t.)

          • s says:

            Hehe you’re outnumbered, love. We can’t ALL be wrong. Right?

    • Amber says:

      You read all 716 chapters in 3 days? You must not have slept at all. There was only 343 chapters when I discovered DGC and I think it took me 3 days then to get through it and all the comments.

  • Kaien says:

    I actually don’t remember the scene about Digger hitting Daron for singing with Nomad. But thinking on it now, if he did, could it be because Digger was somehow reminded of Claire and didn’t like it.
    It seems that people tend to vent their hang-ups of other people onto others. The way, Claire didn’t want Daron playing the guitar in the house because she had that thing with Remo.

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