Playlist: Toujours

Sometimes, a simple song, sung from the heart, is more powerful than a symphony. In my novel, one song traces a path through the story, leading the way into my guitar hero’s soul. Since I don’t play guitar, much less write songs, I relied on other artists to provide the inspiration, and imagine the song as an amalgamation of something I’ve heard. The name of the song is ‘Toujours’  and this is the playlist of the songs that inspired it.

To the artists who wrote and performed these: Thank you-your music transports and sustains me.

Bari Improv Kaki King August Rush (Music From The Motion Picture)
I Hold My Breath Artisan
I Hold My Breath-EP
Saudade Love And Rockets Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven
More Than Life WhitLey The Submarine
Without A Name KillSwitch Engage Alive Or Just Breathing
KapsBurger Clogs Lantern
Here Comes the Rain Again Coury PalermO Boxsideout V.1

The End of All Rivers Bruce CockBurn Speechless
TuOlumne Eddie Vedder Into the Wild (Music For the Motion Picture)
One Cowboy Junkies Early 21st CenturY Blues
Bonus Track-Days Go By Dirty Vegas Dirty Vegas
AirTap! Erik Mongrain Fates
Blue Monday Flunk Blue Monday Remixes-Single
Siesta del Sol In Credo Cancun Lounge-Chillout in Paradise
All The Way Down Glen Hansard Once (Music from the Motion Picture
The Truth (Acoustic Mix) HeadStrong The Truth (Feat. TiFF Lacey)
Naked As we Came Iron And Wine Our Endless Numbered Days
Embryonic Journey Jefferson Airplane Surrealistic Pillow
Road Nick Drake Pink Moon
Satisfied Mind Jeff Buckley Sketches for My SweetHeart the Drunk
About You The Jesus and Mary Chain Darklands
Not Too Late Lindsey Buckingham Under the Skin
Smell of Spring N.O.H.A. Dive in Your Life
Save The World (Acoustic Version) P.T. Walkley Nice Guy Johnny
Beyond this Moment Patrick O’Hearn So Flows the Current
Ice Age Pete Yorn Nightcrawler (Bonus Track)
Unknown Song Pink Floyd Zabriskie Point (SoundTrack for the Motion Picture)
That’s the Way Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin III
Zeplike Slightly Stoopid Closer to the Sun
The Past and Pending The Shins Oh, Inverted World
The Journey Socci & Pency Just Visiting
Black Eye Uncle Tupelo March 16-20, 1992
Wild Horses The Sundays Blind
You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket The White Stripes Elephant
Desert Garden VAST Nude
Silver Velvet Acid Christ The Art of Breaking Apart
I’m ON Fire (Instrumental Version) Stateless Matilda (Extended Version)
Teardrop José GonzáLez In Our Nature
Ritual Dance Kaki King August Rush (Music From The Motion Picture)
Be Here Now Ray LaMontagne Till the Sun Turns Black
Hurt Johnny Cash American IV: Man Comes Around

Link to play this one on youtube:

(Images courtesy of Dora Pete, ‘stem pi’, Gavin Mills, @ stock.xchng, fedegrafo and dpa watts@ Thanks for the great shots!)

Easing a Troubled Conscience

When characters write me letters I’m always eager to respond. I would hate for a character to feel neglected, and besides, I just never know what I might find out in the process. So this is my reply to the contrite Lord Teragus Swansong:

September 27, 2011

Behind the Whispering Pines

Dear esteemed Lord Swansong,

Rest assured that I will not be able to tell your story in the period of only one month! However, November Novel Writing Month presents me with the opportunity to write fifty thousand words of this story in the company of some extraordinary and enthusiastic writers, an opportunity that I simply cannot resist.

Many thanks for your kind letter and encouragement. I immediately took advantage of your offer and accessed the files at the Eden Library. I am learning so much about your world and found the materials to be extremely helpful.

I am disturbed to discover, however, that the history books state plans for the Exodus were in place during my own lifetime. How could no one even suspect that such a plan was already underway? Why, there are even some among us who believe the Apollo missions were a hoax, and that we never even set foot on the lunar surface. Can you imagine? If you might give me further direction on this point I would greatly appreciate it.

I am also in need of architectural plans of the early Colony. They seem to have gone missing from the library’s files. Since I know you have been discussing plans to remodel the sun room at the retreat, I thought that perhaps you might have them in your possession? I would be grateful if you could enlighten me as to their location.

As for your digestive ailments, may I suggest that you modify your diet to exclude the meat products you have so long deprived yourself of? Hundreds of years of vegetarianism might have wreaked havoc with your digestive tract, and from one mortal to another, let me assure you, the digestive system does not take kindly to sudden changes in diet.

Unfortunately, I fear I can offer no easy remedy for your troubled conscience. Though, since, it has always been my contention that our mortality offers surrender to something higher than ourselves, perhaps the choice you have made to join mankind in our frailty may give you the forgiveness and salvation you seek.

But I, like you, know not what lies beyond the confines of our awareness, and admit to spending my dark hours wrestling with similar questions as yourself.

With my sincerest regards and best wishes for Rigel and Cerule,

Lady Larke

Letters, I Get Letters!

From my characters, that is. Here’s one I got today regarding my NaNoWriMo planning:

The Year of Our Mission: Three Hundred and Thirty Five

Lunar Month Lilac, Day Ten

Dear fair Lady Larke,

I have yet to comprehend what compels you to attempt to tell this entire tale in the span of only one month, but if you truly feel you must, I will do my utmost to aid you in this endeavor.

Though my mind is not what it was before I became guardian of the forgotten world, you have my assurance that you may avail yourself of any materials remaining in the Eden Library. What was written from Cerule’s crown is also at your disposal, though, naturally Rigel would not part with it, so his present adventures will remain a mystery to us both.

Since it appears you will be working late into the night you may correspond by star scroll, as I am up most nights myself, plagued by my ailing digestion and a guilty conscience.

I hold out hope that you will use you literary prowess to portray my misdeeds in a more flattering light than they seem to be in my own recollections.

I remain,

Your most humble servant,

Teragus Swansong

Characters. Where would I be without them?

(Photograph courtesy of ‘asafesh’ @ Stock.xchng)

I Wrote This?

10,355 words today. This has to be my limit, even if I am just mostly copying words from the handwritten, taped, and glued cut to a clean draft. Tomorrow, no writing, lest I turn into a zombie permanently.

And I wrote this!?

For, as the darkness recoiled from Nick back to Jack, she saw all of Jack. She saw his remorseless acquisition of that which others had toiled to achieve, the joyless hoarding of souls. Collecting the wings that took others out of darkness and mounting them like butterflies behind glass, forever flightless, dulling as time burnished the fairy dust that once made their wings shimmer. At the end, she saw the form that spun inside the glass vial emerge, fluttering from the ethereal to the material, to supple living, pulsing flesh, from a cloud into stone and from stone to flesh. For less than an instant, which in her world of elastic time could last a lifetime, she caught the anguish in Jade’s symmetrical features, as the secrets of her existence floated free between them, a butterfly out of its element in the rainy night air. 

Yes, I need to learn the value of an occasional verb. But, where in the name of heaven, did I get those words?

(Photograph courtesy of Jonathan Ruchti at Stock.xchng)

Block Revision Completed!

It’s done, it’s done!

Finally, I have reached the end of the end of the write-in: the rearranging, re-shuffling, pulling apart and stitching together phase of my revision. And I should probably take a break, but I am more excited than ever to get started typing the thing in. I am so proud of it, and I am dying to show it to someone. The thing is, it would be cruel to subject them to this handwritten, glued together, labor of love.

Here is what this looks like:

First draft (on left): 127,358 words. 303 pages long.

Revision (on right): 82,896 words. 437 mostly handwritten pages long.

One of my scratched out and rewritten pages of first draft. This is why I have to type the whole thing in again.

Most of my pages were  handwritten and for me, this turned out to be one of the best things that happened to my revision. Handwriting slows the process down, and limited me to only a few scenes at a time-mostly only one per day- and gave me time to think and visualize what happened in the scene before I began to write it. Many times, not always, but by the time I sat down to write it, with my headphones over my ears to tune out the world, I would find myself so inside the scene that it played out before my senses as if I were there. I fell in even more in love with this story, and realized that I was utterly hooked on writing.

I will probably always remember this summer as the one where I wrote-really wrote this time-the story I love so much. I will miss the long evenings with the window open to my backyard, flipping page after finished page into the revised pile, and the long weekend afternoons drinking the strawberry banana smoothies that got me through until dinner while the cat came around to ask when I’m going to eat already. I will miss catching snatches of dialogue as my characters fill me in on what really happens in the story  and committing them to post-it notes as I go through my workday.

My subtitle for this version of my story is called ‘The Summer of Love.’ I think that title applies in more ways than one.

A Name, A Name, What's in a Name?

I love my morning words.

After exploring my main character’s bedroom with them yesterday I got to chatting back and forth with Mr. Muse (who also needs a name!) about last names for Raiyce. Ideas started to pop. It started with DuMonde, a moon word and sort of French, which is always a good thing. Even the venerable Stephen King thinks so—in his words:

French is the language that turns dirt into romance.

So Raiyce DuMonde wasn’t too bad but the name felt too modern. The letter ‘D’ was messing me up, even though ‘D’ was the letter I initially chose as the first letter of  Raiyce’s last name.  I needed the connection to the dragon, and the letter ‘D’ was to be that connection.  In the end, the French thing wasn’t what I wanted and Raiyce DuMonde wasn’t really what I was looking for. Too effeminate I think.

I thought some more about the Moondragon, a name I’ve always loved but is too obvious in a book called ‘The Dragon’s Milk Chronicles.’ But Mondrian, a variant of that, was available. I liked it, the Dutch painter notwithstanding. Broad soothing swatches of blue and red and yellow have always appealed to my sense of inner balance.

I ended up with Raiyce Mondrian.

Not so good. Way too many vowels; ai, e,o, ia. Yikes, it was starting to feel like Old McDonald’s farm in there-e,i,e,i,o. If I was going to use Mondrian I needed a new first name. I like Raiyce, but the whole Race/Rayce idea is not what I am going for, so I was willing to part with it. I decided to look into men’s names starting with ‘R’ when I was done working on my revision for the night.

Enter a debilitating migraine that brought my writing day to a screeching halt. I crawled into bed with my hands pressed against my temples. No names for me today.

As sometimes happens though when I’m not looking, the name that fit came all on its own in the dark.

Rigel. Rhymes with Nigel. I’m not crazy about Nigel-too British-although I might use it in another story when I need a Brit. But Rigel sounds like the name of a galaxy, which is always a good thing when choosing a name for a hero. (Turns out Rigel is the name of the brightest star in the constellation Orion, which is even better.) No one I know has that name, at least not until I Google it. Probably some kid in South America or something, but that isn’t a deal breaker. I can still picture my main character with this name. It fits his personality. Not too effeminate, not too intellectual, but still smart. Not too tough, or too ambitious. Just right.

Rigel. I like you already.

Sometimes, it takes a random name generator to discover a character’s identity. Sometimes,though, it feels more like magic.

(Photographs courtesy of ‘andrea j’,’JR3′, and ‘LaDeon’ at Stock.xchng)

Book review: I & Claudius: Travels With My Cat

This has to be one of the better books I will read this year. It will most certainly be the funniest.

The laid back narrator Clare decides that she will take her aging cat Claudius on a trip across the United States, since he is nineteen years old and not likely to have much time left. Claudius is amenable to the idea, and accompanies her, commenting on her various misadventures, which include visiting men and women she has contacted previous to arriving at her destinations.

She starts in New York, where she visits some friends and finally tires of the city and heads to Nashville and Memphis, then takes a southern route through Texas, then Arizona and the Grand Canyon, and ends up in California. Claudius gives her several health scares along the way but she manages them with her usual aplomb, arranging to visit the vet and getting Claudius the Kentucky Fried Chicken he favors. Claudius, it turns out, is the only one she can depend on in this crazy world.

The narrative is so well written that I often found myself reading it twice because it was so funny and perceptive. Being British, Clare had some keen observations about American life that, though not deprecating, were still dead on accurate, simultaneously wacky and sage. The pages fly by, and despite the inevitable conclusion to Claudius’ journey, the devotion Clare has for her cat is positively inspiring. In fact, I think this story may be part of the inspiration for one of my own stories, temporarily shelved for the current Nanowrimo project.

A book I want to lend out so that others will enjoy, but will insist on getting back.