Music Monday: Somedays by Regina Spektor

“Somedays” by Regina Spektor

Background: I love Regina. I really, really do.

Favorite Line: “They’re so much stronger than the friends you try to keep/by your side.”

My song history: I found this when I was immersing myself in as much Regina Spektor as I could lay my ears on, and this is one that kept coming back to mind.

What drew me in: I love this idea that a day can work outside of you and against you. That some days “come and go like someone else’s days/They come and leave you behind someone else’s face/And it’s harsher than yours.” That last bit is SO key for me. Because you know it’s true… there are days when you say things and you react sharply to other people, and you know it’s not you, but you couldn’t stop yourself in the moment.

For my writing: This song is for my dear Savannah. She’s a character in Jethro that I know a lot of people won’t like. She’s gorgeous, untouchable, and she rules Jethro High with an iron will. But Savannah is also vulnerable. She’s been hiding behind the mask of perfection so long that when things start to get out of control she just about loses it, and she tries her best to make enemies of the very people that should have her back—she just can’t feel comfortable with the fact that they also know all her secrets.

Five Things Friday: Five Things I’ve Learned…

So, as I’ve mentioned, The Mr. and I recently moved into a small apartment complex that we’re fixing up and going to be renting out and managing. We’ve been here a couple of weeks, and been on a tight budget, so things still aren’t up to rent-out-able states (this is a fairly old apartment complex!) but I have learned a few things along the way, and I thought I’d share a couple with you for today’s Friday Five.

1) VINEGAR is basically the most amazing thing in the world. It’s the best cleanser you didn’t know you already own. It kills most mold, bacteria and germs. PLUS it’s chemical-free and the smell dissipates completely after drying. You can clean anything with vinegar (seriously, you can even use it in your laundry instead of bleach, it’s a natural whitener). If you can’t get something off with vinegar alone, pour some baking soda on it—you get an instant scouring solution. Cheap and chemical free. You’ve got to love that.

2) (Somewhat less informative) Fitting into size-down jeans (even with your sweatpants on under them!) is slightly less exciting when the first time you squat in them, you split the inner-thigh. :: blasé face::

3) You CAN find time to write, even if the world seems to be falling down on your head. (So long as you have someone to share your responsibility with you.) (Probably even if you don’t, but I can’t claim personal knowledge to that!)

4) Sometimes things sell well on your Etsy site when you literally do not have time to touch it with a ten-foot-pole for three weeks straight. (I suspect this is partially due to Etsy’s new “relevance” search—when you looked for things on Etsy, results used to be itemed by “most recently listed”)

5) (More for me than for you) I really can’t complain about never winning a Kindle off of those big joint bloghops when I know full well that I’d rather have a Nook. And I do sometimes win books. So I really can’t complain. (Again not really relevant, ah well!)

Back to the grindstone for me, then. Or should I say, back to oven cleaning. Oh, joy.

Tuesday Talk: Momentum

Since NaNoWriMo was interrupted by a cross-state move for me, I’ve decided to try my had at JaNoWriMo—the same basic idea, but in January instead of November. I managed to write over 10,000 words in the first eight days of 2012. I haven’t managed to write over 1000 everyday, as I’d hoped, but I have tried to at the very least, keep up my momentum.

Something that’s helped me immensely in this, has been the Pomodoro Technique.

It’s so simple that it seems a little mundane:

-Use a timer.

-Work for 25 minutes straight.

-Take a 5 minute break.

-Rinse & Repeat.

It is that simple. And it works. At least, it works for me.

The timer is essential, though. You can’t just look down at the time on your computer screen and decide to write for the next 25 minutes… you need something ticking down that you can SEE. Or that will ding and tell you when you’ve run out of time. I personally either use the Pomodroido app on Android, or this free internet timer.

I’ve been getting an average of 1600+ words in an hour and a half. Which for me is A LOT. Of course, finding the hour and a half each day is a little trying. But the results have been worth it for me when I can scrape up the time!

Music Monday: “Let Go” by Imogen Heap (piano solo)

“Let Go” by Imogen Heap (piano solo)

Background: You probably heard this song back eight years ago (was it really eight years ago?!) on commercials for the movie Garden State, but if you haven’t heard Imogen Heap play “Let Go” solo on the piano… well then, you really haven’t heard the song.

My song history: I first heard this song (or a piano solo version, rather) a couple of years ago, late, late at night on an Arizona radio station after a long day of driving. I was in the car with my dad and we were driving to Texas, so we had an even longer way to go. It was past midnight, probably closer to one, and somehow in the drivel of radio music, this gorgeous, ephemeral version of an old favorite. I had found the Frou Frou version about a year before Garden State‘s soundtrack made Imogen Heap a household name to any one remotely plugged into the music scene (which I’m not really remotely, anymore… but you know, you have to be in college, in order to survive).  We found rest at a cheap hotel just moments after the last notes of the song ended on the radio… but my goodness did I want more. Of course we’d stopped at a hotel that had no wifi whatsoever, so it was weeks before I could even look it up on the internet and indulge in it a little more.

What drew me in: Well, really the slightest hint of Imogen Heap being involved in anything perks my ears up. (I have to admit, part of the reason I finally consented to watch the Shrek movies was because I knew her cover of “I Need a Hero” was for the credits of the second one). But I especially love recordings of her live stuff. She’s a musical genius, flat out. I’ve never been disappointed with a single thing I’ve heard by her. This has been true as long as I’ve known of her… which as I hinted, dates back to when I was a junior in high school.

For my writing: I turn to Imogen when I don’t know who else to turn to. Her music is always by turns soothing, exciting, challenging, and utterly confounding—especially when it comes to the things she can do with a mixer machine. If I want emotion to burn or linger or chime in just the right way, Imogen Heap is often slipping through my headphones, and this song is one of my absolute favorites.

Halloween Scarefest Blog Hop: “Bullet”

halloween scarefest badge

I’m a day late on this, but thought I’d participate anyhow! The prompt is a 400-or-less word scene with a theme of “Fear.” I interpreted this a little differently, but you’ll see what I mean. I’m cross-posting this on Tales From the Hollow Tree. :)

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“Bullet”

I seem to hear the crack of the bullet before I feel it. And then I’m pushed back, slammed like I’ve been hit by a fist or a train—not a piece of metal smaller than my pinky toe.

It takes another heartbeat for the pain to hit, searing and screaming its way through me, my whole body on red alert, my blood racing to see what’s wrong, what’s wrong. Only to slip and drain out of me.

I can’t remember where I am or how I got here. Can’t remember the enemy who has shot me, even. Can’t fathom who could hate me so much. All I know now is that I am dying and alone—that there is a hole torn through me and that the poets are right.

My heart pounds harder than I can remember ever having heard it, as if it knows the blood running to leave my system isn’t enough and wants to help—stupid heart! I want to tell it to slow down, but my whole mind is in a panic.

I’m dying.

And that’s when the fear hits me. I’m not afraid to die—so much of my life has been spent on the run, it’s a relief to finally stop—but in that split second, I seem to see all the things that I’ll never do, never have a chance to do, and that scares me. All the time I’ve wasted, all the opportunities that I skipped out on, thinking someday

All my somedays are lost now, and my foolishness in wasting them is what scares me now.

Maybe I’ll have to answer for it.

Someone screams, and I know I’ve been found. A woman hovers over me, uncertain, saying words I can’t understand in soothing tones. I want to shake her, scream at her. Tell her I’m already gone, not to waste her life. Tell her to go. LIVE. Tell her there’s no time not to.

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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.

Music Monday – Save Me by The Pierces

“Save Me” by The Pierces

Background: This song is all about being crushed under the weight of secrets you can’t share. It’s about deciding whether or not to put your trust in people, and knowing for some things that it’s not the best idea. Would you have the strength to keep a dangerous secret if letting it out would put people in danger, or would you find someone you can lean on to take the pressure off of you alone? What’s the trade-off? Is it worth it?

My song history: I first heard this song on the killer episode “The End of the World” from the 1999 TV show, Roswell. In case you don’t remember it, it’s about four teenagers who are actually aliens from the 1947 Roswell crash. If you’ve never seen it and you love YA paranormal (okay, technically it’s sci-fi, but it’s special-powers sci-fi, not that kind of sci-fi) then I encourage you to give it a watch… it was way before its time. Anyhow, this song was featured in one of the most heart-wrenching episodes, and I’ve loved it ever since.

What drew me in: Really it was the utter perfection of how it fit into the Roswell episode. That show had a savant for music—one that was sadly butchured when the show went to DVD and 95% of the music was replaced. I loved the theme of the song, too, though. The narrator’s secrets have piled up so much that she is the “only one” who can save herself. It’s that forced independence that really rings true in the song, and a theme that is so very important in YA fiction—and life, too.

For my writing: This is the song I turn to for secrets. The whole song shouts about secrets that can’t be told—which is just what a secret feels like sometimes when you’re dying to share it… like it’s the loudest thing in your head. I haven’t used this song a whole lot in my own writing yet, but I’m building up towards something that can justify its implied importance. I love the character in the song—someone who is all alone in a fight, basically—and my stories—Jethro in particular—will definitely be taking me to places like that in the future.

Something Expansive

What author set off that spark of inspiration for your current Work in Progress?

I don’t know that there’s one particular author who set off the inspiration for my WIP. I’d been reading a lot of young adult and middle grade fantasy of various types, and really what drove me to work on this story was the wish to write something expansive. Not “epic” necessarily… but definitely expansive.

If I had to point fingers, though… I think I’d have to single out Shannon Hale.

Despite what I just said, I’m really not much of a reader of fantasy. There is very little of it out there that doesn’t give me the urge to roll my eyes… especially high fantasy. Unless you’re J.R.R. Tolkein or Brandon Mull, you can keep your dragons to  yourself, thanks. And fairies? There was the occasional brilliant book (Lament and Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater) but mostly they seemed like a thinly veiled analogy for teen angst, which I didn’t care for. And unless it’s Harry Potter, don’t even talk about wizards.

But Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl reminded me of the fantasy that I loved—had always loved. Fairy tale magic. Subtle, natural magic. Magic like the whispering of words on the wind, or later on in the series, of the language of fire and water. The Goose Girl also had this wide, sweeping landscape and crossed whole nations. It had castles and communities and class-action suits. Okay, not exactly that last one, but close enough—a group of people who were fighting for equal standing, for recognition.

Shannon Hale’s world was so real that I felt like I’d been there, maybe in a dream. I wanted to create something like that. A dream-memory-worthy world. That sure sounded expansive to me. I didn’t want to retell a fairy tale, though. Too many people were doing that… or just about to do that. I wanted to write my own fairy tale. It’s one I’ve fallen dearly in love with, with elements from many of my favorite stories throughout folklore, but I’d like to think with my own special twist.

Other inspirations for my WIP include things like Willow, The Princess Bride, and The Polar Bear King, a movie that I loved to death when I was a kid. I wanted my world to stand alongside worlds like these… quietly magical, wonderfully alive fantasy. Even Robin Hood has had its influence here and there.

Another thing all these worlds have in common? The hero in the story isn’t quite what you’d expect. Sad girl, pirate, misfit… There’s a lesson in a lot of these stories that strength can come to anybody who stands up and fights for it. That’s something I wanted to write about, too. About extreme conditions, extreme need making even an outcast into a hero.

Wish me luck with it.

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.

Independence Day Flash Fiction Blogfest

The rules are deliciously simple. Sign up below, and on July 15th, post an original piece of flash fiction, 250 words or less along this theme (and, FYI, “independence day” can mean anything you’d like it to mean–don’t feel you have to be restricted to the July 4th holiday!):

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I snap my suitcase shut. It’s a classy vintage number—maybe I should have thought about how much space it’d take up in my dorm room when I saw it at the thrift shop, but I couldn’t help myself. It was so pretty.

I couldn’t be more excited about getting out of this town. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad town. It’s just suffocatingly small. And the only person who made living here worth it left three years ago. Not that Kyle Landry ever really saw me that way, anyhow. I got into a good college on the coast and other than holidays, I’ll never have to look back.

A knock comes at the door and my mom pokes her head in. “Just about ready? It’s a long drive, you know.”

An unexpected tear pricks my eyes, but it’s gone in a second. It’s just because Mom is trying so hard to be strong. If she was really so nonchalant, I would be too.

“Yeah, I know. I’ll be there in a sec.”

Most of the car is packed. Pillows, comforter, a box of books and another of knickknacks I didn’t think I could live without. The truth is, I’m not taking too much. This is little girl stuff, a lot of it. Time for something new. A whole new life, far away from here. Then again, my best friend Sheila is coming with me, so that takes up some space.

I lug my suitcase downstairs, and there’s a knock at the front door. Has to be Sheila.

I flick my messy strands of hair out of my face and throw the door open—and Kyle Landry is standing there, his eyes lighting up until he sees my suitcase. My suitcase drops. So does my heart.

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Check out the other participants here:

“It’s Independence Day and something unexpected happens . . .”

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