Music Monday: “Ashes and Wine” by A Fine Frenzy

“Ashes and Wine” – A Fine Frenzy

My Song History: This is a song about giving up on a relationship, or rather, being right at the point where you realize that things aren’t going to work, so giving up might be the best option.

According to my last.fm, this is the most commonly played song on my laptop. I’m not too surprised. I use this for writing on repeat constantly. Somehow it always puts me in the mood for writing Daughter, even though the lyrics and the story of the song are nothing like the story it inspires me for. I just love A Fine Frenzy, from the first time I heard “Almost Lover,” and something about the music and the ups and downs of Alison Sudol’s voice inspires me and makes me want to write.

Favorite Line: “Is there a chance/a fragment of light/at the end of the tunnel/a reason to fight?”

(I also LOVE “All the same/I don’t want mudslinging games”)

What Drew Me In: Quite honestly, the title. Such a delicious promise of wreckage. Something beautiful that’s turned into something desolate. And desolation is a feeling music does help me with…

For my Writing: As I said, this song is an inspiration for my WP, Daughter of the Falling Leaves. Surprisingly this was actually the key to unlocking a big conflict/fight scene in the story for me. Since then it’s become a general inspiration for the overall story. Even though the song is about a relationship ending, its general feeling of melancholy and wanting desperately to fight for something that you may not be able to win is perfect for this story. Because maybe it’s worth it, even if you can’t win.

Poseur

I had dinner with an old friend the other day. I guess you could say my oldest friend. It’s nice to touch base with someone who’s known you since your awkwardest of high school days, and who you still like and can relate to years later. We talked about high school, and our odd little group of friends that we had—a very nerdy, clique-y group of friends that completely imploded our senior year.

Yes, I did say nerdy AND clique-y. We were a fairly elitist back in the day*—we were smart, and likely to go places, and in a barely-accredited high school, that was something. Oh I could talk about how it all stemmed from insecurity and a somewhat fear-driven determination to not only succeed, but soar—about how our need to prove our independence lead us to tear ourselves away from the only foundation we had (each other)—but that’s a whole other post. This friend is the only connection from those days that is upheld on both ends—the only one that has lasted beyond facebook friends.

*I promise I’m not elitist anymore. I did it a lot when I was young… it’s not worth it.

What I’ve always enjoyed about this friendship is that this friend of mine has always given me a steady sounding board for my life, whether he’s realized it or not. I mentioned offhand to him while we were talking about how I’d always felt like a poser in the little liberal arts college I went to in UC Santa Barbara (where his sister also attended—she was at the dinner, too). I’d studied Literature, and most of the students in my classes wanted to be poets or write their own Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius—or whatever. I, meanwhile had always had my heart and mind focused on commercial Young Adult fiction—nothing deep and literary like my classmates wanted to write.

My friend laughed outright at me—”Don’t you think they were all posers?” he asked, outright. “It sounds to me like you’ve stayed true to yourself.”

And just by his saying it, I realized that he was right. As he went on to say, a lot of the people in that school want to be novelists—like the ideology of it, and the “romance” of being kept up all night alone in a room with a typewriter—but instead they’re teaching or holding down tech writing jobs or doing something else that has nothing to do with literature.

Meanwhile, I have made it my business to not only keep writing, but to learn about the publishing business, understanding the querying process, network with other writers and learned the mechanics behind writing a good novel. I also have almost 60K of one WIP, and 55K of another, and am closer than ever to seeing my goal of finishing a novel and querying it out to agents. I’ve also worked hard on building up an online presence, so that if and when I get published, readers will be able to find me and have lots of platforms to interact with me on.

This isn’t to say that none of my other classmates are on that same path, of course. But somehow I don’t feel like much of a poser anymore. Well, except when I actually try to use the word “poser,” that is.

J is for Jethro

Jethro, Arizona isn’t on any maps. That’s mainly because it’s plucked straight from my imagination. I was traveling all over the southwest a few summers ago, on business with my dad. Luckily this was made interesting on account of my father knowing the southwest like the back of his hand, and his willingness to travel off the beaten path.

I had a story in my head that, while not exactly just beginning to form (it had been a story before, you see, but it had been demolished and salvaged for scraps when it had gotten out of control and unpublishable), was definitely in the beginning stages in most cases. A lot of my time on this trip was spent writing poetry about desert lizards and musing on this story.

I was looking for a place. I knew it would be in the desert, but it had to be somewhere special, somewhere that was mine. And then I found a place that was almost perfect. We drove through Jerome, Arizona, a small mining town that’s all topsy-turvy and thriving on tourism alone, with intrepid architecture and dangers of mine shafts all round.

I knew that I had found something magically close to where I wanted the setting of my story to be. I regret that I haven’t woven more of its magic into the story yet, as I feel that will be something left up to the rewrites, but it’s all the glory of the modern world in an older western settlement, with the beauties of the hot Arizona desert, a desert I’ve grown to love in my years of traveling across it time and again in my youth. This is a story I love, so it’s fitting for it to have a setting that I love, too.

And I’ve just realized I now have two J entries… le sigh.

Writing bumps (and successes!)

Sometimes writing feels like walking in the dark down a bumpy road. I’ve had a lot of bumps in my writing the past few months, mostly in the form of minor freak-outs that I just can’t cut it. I’ve been lucky, though, that I always have someone waiting to listen to me as I worry, and miraculously a lot of my worries have been followed immediately by a light clicking on, and my being able to see that much further of my path.

What do I mean? Well, I’ll tell you.

Firstly, I had a BIG block on Jethro… I’m talking about a month and a half’s worth of block. I knew who my bad guy was, I could see him, I just didn’t know how to get him to find out about my characters… and how can he hunt them down, if he can’t find out about them?

I avoided this block for a long time. I basically didn’t even open my manuscript because until I knew how to connect point A to point B (or more like point Q to point R, in relation to the story) I was sure I couldn’t get anywhere else. I was in California living with my sister at the time, and she basically called an intervention, worried that I wasn’t doing any writing, which I was specifically there to do. I flipped out on her pretty much, spilling all over to her about my seemingly impossible situation. Then after talking through the complexities of it to her and virtually draining myself of anything I could even think on the subject, the answer popped into my head a few days later. And it was the simplest thing in the world. So obvious, in fact, that I was really tempted to knock my head against a wall like they do in movies sometimes. (Movies? TV shows? Does anyone ever do this anymore?) (Maybe I should say, I literally wanted to headdesk.)

I had a similar freak-out on my Secret Project. I was worried that the middle wasn’t exciting enough, and there was a lot of middle. A part of me thought that this was going to have to be the story I shelved for years and years until I was “good enough” to write it. I talked to Isabelle Santiago about this one, and she assured me that what I had was good, that I already knew what I needed, just like I had before, and that this was a story that needs to be out in the public. (It’s so nice to have a friend who fangirls your WIP unabashedly.)

Starting in January I joined a critique group through Authors Incognito, a group of LDS writers (that’s writers who are LDS, not necessarily writers who write LDS books)(and yes, I’m LDS too). I’ve been having the chapters of Jethro critiqued—so far just the first chapters of Jethro, the ones which flowed like water onto the screen that I’d thought were so good. I’ve gotten them back torn up and abused, with red ink all over them… and then I had another freak-out, this time needing both my husband and Isabelle’s assurance that firstly, Jethro was good, and secondly, this is a first draft… all the little things get fixed in the editing, which is way more fun than writing. (Would you have ever believed that back when you were in school? I sure wouldn’t have.)

Part of me wanted to run into a corner and hide, and bury my poor little manuscript under a shroud of anonymity so that it would never be critiqued again. But most of me was starting to realize, yeah, these are things I need to address in my writing. I have good, gripping prose in me, I know I do… but maybe I don’t have it in my first drafts, and that’s okay, so long as it’s in there by the end.

My latest flip-out experience was also Jethro, and it was just the other night. I’d been reading a bunch of blog posts about writing the book from the right character, and even though Jethro is really an ensemble piece, suddenly I was terrified that the character I’d chosen as the “main” was wrong. And I’m talking about thinking  this nineteen and a half chapters into writing it. One of my secondary characters just sparkles so much more, and I know she has some serious demons that’ll be in her path very, very soon, and I thought maybe the character I’d picked just couldn’t hack it, couldn’t carry a full-length novel that would keep teens and adults reading.

This was maybe my biggest heart-attack yet. How could I have so misjudged? How could I have gotten it all so mixed up?

But then logic kicked in… the character I’d chosen had to be right. Considering who she was, what her personal history was, there was no way she was wrong. She was the one. The only one who could tell the story as a hero. Well, maybe one of two… but that’s a bit of a secret.

Still, this presented me with a problem. Luckily, this problem also turned out to be a solution. You see, I knew the answer to this question, too. The question being, “How to make my main character be more exciting,” or more to the point, “How to torture my main character just a bit more?” I knew because it was already in an earlier version of this story, but it was something I’d thrown out because I’d wanted to involve another character in that story arc, a character that it was vital to the plot that she be involved.

So again, I panicked a little bit. I had 1+1+1, and I needed it to equal 2, because in this case, 3 just wouldn’t cut it. 3 would be preposterous.

I ranted at my husband about this problem for a few minutes, but he was working on other things and I was talking too fast to really understand probably, anyhow. In this instance, I pulled out my trusty notepad and just started scribbling. I basically did a web-diagram, in the messiest, fastest cursive that I can claim.

And you know what? My problem worked itself out. In a way that not only was simple and logical, but that actually solved another little problem I’d had with my plot, and had me feeling like standing up and cheering for my characters, because they’d just proved to me how awesome they really could be. I jumped from that to writing almost a full scene, only stopping because it was late and I was bone-tired.

The one other bump I’ve had recently had nothing to do with writer’s block, but more with my laptop charger, which died on me unexpectedly about a week ago. Without a charger, my laptop turned into a big ole’ paperweight for a few days, and stealing time on my husband’s desktop wasn’t fully cutting it. I got my new shiny charger in the mail from Amazon the day before yesterday, though, and while I was out pretty much most of the day yesterday, I got on today to find that Jethro had actually crossed 40K while I wasn’t looking. I’m excited! Secret Project has over 55K, but not in a solid, chronological block like Jethro. I can’t say this is the longest thing I’ve ever written (I was a fanficcer, once upon a time… ssh… it’s a secret!) but it’s the longest I’ve had of a wholly original story.

Success suddenly seems a lot closer in hand than it ever has before.

(And hey, while I’m here, check out my contribution to The Hollow Tree today. We post free reads there every Friday, don’t forget!)