Thursday, October 9, 2014

Goosebumpy Musical Musings

For me, writing without music so loud it surrounds me is like a cat minus fur. Yes, it’s possible, but vaguely disturbing in some way. In fact, my music is loud enough that well across the house my husband can easily identify the songs. His comment? “I don’t know how you concentrate.” Answer: Shrug. Or, the ever popular, “How many times can you possibly listen to that song in a row?” Answer: still counting, I’ve not hit the limit.

My mom once told me she was nearly certain if writing was in my future it would be as a song writer. I heart music that much (and I played piano as a kid.) But that really doesn’t fill the creative niche for me. It’s always been stories with supernatural elements. Always. Even when I was a kid, I’d read and listen to music simultaneously. ‘Born to be wild’ by Steppenwolf is forever entangled in my memory with L.J. Smith’s Vampire Diaries series. Can’t think of one without the other.

But there is a class of music that works pure magic on me from a creative standpoint. Songs that give me goosebumps. I know I’m not alone in this, though my husband shakes his head and labels the response ‘weird.’ I’ve tried to identify and label the pieces that make a song goosebump worthy, but it’s got to be a bit of magic. A dash of compelling lyrics, a pinch of haunting melody, a moment coalescing into transcendence… all to equal something beautiful and moving my body understands at a cellular level. Something like that, but different and individual each time.

So, in honor of goosebump-inducing October, I thought I’d share my top list of songs that take my breath away and unfailingly give me goosebumps. In no particular order…

  • “Blinding” ~ Florence + the machine (I could pick another half dozen of hers to add, too, but there’s something about this one. The woman is a genius.)
  • “Take Me to Church” ~ Hozier
  • “Can’t See New York” ~ Tori Amos
  • “Stay with Me” ~ Sam Smith
  • "Nightcall” ~ London Grammar
  • "My Kind of Love” ~ Emeli Sande
  • “Whiskey Lullaby” ~ Allison Krauss and Brad Paisley

 And, lest you think me a total sap…

  • “Turn the Page” ~ Metallica
  • “I am the Highway” ~ Audioslave
  • “Bad Company” ~ Five Finger Death Punch
  • “Female Robbery” ~ The Neighborhood (again, I could add several more by them but this is my fav)

 I’m always looking to add to my musical addiction, so what songs would you add to this list?

Monday, October 6, 2014

#Pitchwars: Before, Before, After & After

People love before and afters. I do. You do.

Come on, you know you do. So here’s my story about before and afters.

Once upon a time (ok, it was 2011) I wrote 90k words of knee-jerk reaction after rereading a story I’d written as a teenager. Then a freelance editor pried the monstrosity out of my grasping, anxious, authorial hands, and wrote all kinds of rainbowed-editorial comments all over it. Such as, but not limited to: You shifted POV. Get rid of slightly, began, tousled, small smile, soft smile, sarcastically. This is a big deal. Why are we hearing it after the fact instead of seeing it happen? Hard to believe. Unsure of meaning. Too much backstory. Ahem. You get the point. I threw the whole 90k into the shredder and started over. True story, except I didn’t shred it, I just never looked at it again.

Fast forward three years and a whole new manuscript, Before 2.0…

When pitching agents and editors with my Before 2.0, I got a bite. *Premature happy dance.* An editor loved the piece, but wanted some revisions. The most challenging ask was a cut down in word count of about 25-30k words. (I’ll pause here while you suck in your breath like you just got kicked in the gut…believe me, I understand.) But I was determined, over the moon about the opportunity, and got back to work. A few months later I had an ‘after.’ A damn good 77K after.

I entered #Pitchwars in August with the 'after,' like a good, compliant, little author. Got picked. *Premature happy dance.* Guess what? More revisions. Guess what she wanted? An increase in word count.

Upon hearing this, my shoulders slumped for about ten seconds. Then I got back to work. In fact, I was actually kinda excited. The preliminary feedback I’d gotten about my ‘after’ was some of things that had been great about Before 2.0 were missing in the ‘after.’ Now I had a chance to add them back in, After 2.0, stripped of all the things that had perhaps been superfluous in Before 2.0 but missing in After 1.0. Keeping up?

At the moment, I’m waiting to hear back from my mentor about the changes I made. For those that are keeping track, I added back in about 11K words, a good chunk brand new. And it’s the best version yet. After 2.0, coming in strong at 87K.

Through all the word play, I’ve learned tons about the revision process, listened to and read so many different authors’ accounts of all the versions of their work they dredged through before the final product arrived prettily on a shelf somewhere. I’d always thought, ‘I can do that.’ Now I’m living it, and I have no guarantees. No guarantees someone in publishing with the magical publishing wand will finally, ultimately, once and for all say ‘yes, it IS done.’ It’s hard. Each revision you dig deep into that creative surplus, hoping there’s more gas in the tank, more edge in the cut, more depth in the character, just…more. More and better.

I’m waiting to hear back from my mentor, agents, at least one editor. It’s all in flux and a big, fat question mark at the moment. But you know what? I’m grateful for it. Without the push from all those external forces, I would still be floundering, thinking Before 1.0 was the best I could do. I’m also certain if traditional publication does come with this novel, this ‘after’ is not the after. Heck, After 2.0 maybe end up to be only Before 4.0 in the larger scheme of things. And I’m ok with that.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

On #Pitchwars and the general awesomeness of my writing peeps

One of the first things I do when I wake up is check my phone. September 3rd was no different. Well, actually it was different. My phone had a scrolling list of notifications, the tone of which was 'congrats.' Huh? Then it dawns on me... #Pitchwars picks were being announced today. Was it possible, maybe I was picked as an alternate? I didn't really let myself consider that I was, you know, picked picked. I rushed to the computer, my phone woefully inadequate for the task of sorting through all the information.

Turns out, I was picked.

Sorry, just drifted off into a state of confused wonder again. Yeah. Picked. (Go #TeamKara!)

None of this would have happened if not for the strong -ahem- encouragement of one C.C. Dowling, CP extraordinaire. I had no plans to enter #Pitchwars, but she informed, cajoled, cheerled and even better, gave me some thoughtful insight on my query (which she is WAY better at than me.)

One of the biggest surprises so far on this journey toward publication and the writing/publishing community in general has been people do want to help you. The best weapon those of us seeking 'traditionally published author' status have is each other. Those hours holed away typing furiously, making weird faces at our computer screens, mumbling dialogue bits, they all take a toll and it's easy to lose perspective (is this really good, or possibly not worthy of wiping away dog drool?)

Good CP's are the ones who help us grip onto the real world, you know, the one where your characters don't actually exist. A great CP is the one who talks to you as if your character does suck oxygen for reals. And when they have to tell you your stuff is dog-drool worthy, they do it with compassion and an aim to help you get better. It's one of the best things about the writing community as I've experienced it so far.

Anyway... thanks C.C. No matter what happens from here, a bazillion agent requests or none, you were pivotal and I'm in your debt.