For a period of roughly six months, I woke up frequently with a song snippet in my head.

I didn’t think much of it at the time. I wasn’t concerned by it. More than anything, it was an oddity. A funny trick that my mind seemed to be playing on me. When the songs happened, I kind of enjoyed them.

Those musical greetings gave my mornings a little bit of a twist.

Occasionally, the song fragments contained a portion of a chorus. This made pinpointing the songs easy.


Such was the case when I awoke to Van Halen’s “I’ll Wait.”  For any fan of mid-eighties rock, it’s an identifiable lyric that matches the song title.  Bang-boom.  Done.

Other song bits floated through my re-awaking brain and left behind lyrical flotsam and jetsam. These song scraps would require some noodling on them until I could remember their origin.

I woke up to “Tricky little Vicky” and struggled for hours to build a familiar verse.

“Tricky little Vicky walks along South Street” finally came to me and I repeated that damn lyric over and over.  Once I got the appropriate cadence to it, the next line came quickly.  It didn’t take much for me to prattle the rest of the verse.  Finally, I got to the chorus which allowed me to confidently say the bit belonged to Skid Row’s “Rattlesnake Shake.”

Once I awoke to a pounding drum rhythm.  Da-da-da-da-dum.  Da-da-da-da-dum.  It seemed familiar.  Da-da-da-da-dum.  Da-da-da-da-dum.  I couldn’t place it, though. Da-da-da-da-dum.  Da-da-da-da-dum.  The pattern bothered me so much that I had to go to my CD collection and hunt for a song that might fit that chugging rhythm.

Da-da-da-da-dum.  Da-da-da-da-dum.

Diary of a Madman

I finally pulled out an album that just felt right—Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary of Madman—but none of the songs jumped out at me. After putting the disc into my player, I moved from song to song. It was the fifth one—“Little Dolls.”

Why did my subconscious pick a song about drug use? No idea.

But I listened to the song, repeated it again just to hear the drum intro, then put the album away, and went about my day.

During that period, my subconscious wasn’t picky with the songs it decided to share with me. It once sent Madonna’s “Vogue” for my morning listening pleasure. It wasn’t much—just “Strike a pose. Vogue.”—but it was enough for me to know the song.  Which is funny since I’m not a Madonna fan. Nothing against her personally, but I’m more of rocker.  However, growing up in the eighties its hard not to know her music. Especially for fans of MTV.

I asked friends and family if they had ever awoken to bits of music like I was.  Not one of them had and to a person they all thought it was a bit weird.

After a time, the musical hallucinations (a real thing, by the way) stopped and I haven’t had one since that time period.

But as a writer, we look at the things happening in our lives and think, what if this was happening to a character of mine?

How would they react?

And how could I make this worse for them?

Writers are terrible to the characters we love.


One of my favorite heavy metal bands of the late eighties is Cinderella. I fell in love with them when their debut album, Night Songs, came out. I went to a local music store with my friend shortly after its release and one of the employees was playing it. Both my friend and I stood in the middle of the store, totally blown away.  We bought that album right then and there. It was a cassette actually, but you get the point.

Tom Keifer's voice was so distinctly different than anyone else’s at the time.  It was raspy as hell and at times it sounded like he almost growled instead of sang.

Friggin’ awesome is how he sounded!

Long Cold Winter

The band had a blues twang to them which set them apart from other metal acts.  They took that sound to the next level with their second album, Long Cold Winter. The title track was a blues ballad about the loss of love.  Keifer sang about how it was going to be “a long cold winter without your love.”

From the moment I heard it, that song has been a favorite of mine. I can’t even count how many times I’ve listened to it.


When I enjoy my favorite music, I often get ideas for stories.  Sometimes they are inspired by lyrics.  More often, though, they are inspired by the emotions a song evokes.

That’s what happened with Cinderella’s, “Long Cold Winter.”  I was driving to work one day and listening to the song.  My mind drifted away on the guitars and the lyrics I knew by heart.  The music faded into the background as my imagination took over.

Soon I envisioned a grieving detective standing in a snowy graveyard.

Mourning the love of his life, I thought.

At first, I wasn’t sure what this woman would look like.  Later, I decided she was his childhood sweetheart.  The high school girlfriend he would marry while in college.  She was the woman he’d spent his entire life loving.  She would be the only woman he ever wanted to be with...

Because her death was going to crush him.  He would struggle with the concept of living life alone and deciding if it was worth it.

Like I said, writers are terrible to the characters we love.


That’s when I remembered waking to the song snippets.

What if my detective—Dallas Nash—started waking up to music in his head shortly after his wife’s death?

The Long Cold Winter Cover

How would he handle it?

Would he think it was nothing?  Would he consider it some subconscious garbage his brain was trying to process?

Or would he believe it was his wife trying to reach him from the grave?

And if he allowed himself to believe it was from her, even in a moment of melancholy, did that mean he was crazy?

How would a person deal with that? I wondered. I thought I would like to find out and started to write about Dallas.

I decided he needed to go back to work.  He’s a homicide detective and there are still murders to solve. In fact, I send him on one almost immediately.

A body was found covered by snow in the middle of a field. And the city is suffering through a brutally cold winter.

As I’ve said, writers are especially cruel to the characters they love.

And, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I love Dallas Nash.

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