Tag Archives: Music

Across the Universe

14 Oct

I’m taking a brief break from all things reading and writing in order to jump on a bandwagon.

Yep.  You read that right.

This bandwagon is called the HECK-YEAH-I’m-excited-about-Beth-Revis’s-ACROSS-THE-UNIVERSE! bandwagon.  It comes complete with a theme song (uh, also known as the Beatles song by the same name…) and a GORGEOUS picture to ogle.  (See also: the gorgeous, ogle-worthy picture of her book’s cover right next to this very paragraph.  I know.  You’re probably ogling already.)

The book itself won’t be out until January, but you can get a sneak peak at the first chapter.  And trust me, if you haven’t already?  You totally want to.

You might be wondering why I’m blabbering on about this, so I’m going to direct you to four places right now.

ONE: Melissa’s blog post about how awesome this book looks, based on the first chapter and the cover.

TWO: The first chapter itself, which is online.  You can either click over from Melissa’s blog (which I would recommend, because her enthusiasm is both warranted and fun to read) or just click here.

THREE: This fantastic post about first chapters, written by Beth Revis herself.

and

FOUR: If you’ve checked out all the other links and find yourself looking for more ways to pass the months until January rolls around, feel free to click here for my You-Tube cover of “Across the Universe.”

Hope you enjoy the links!  What other books you guys are looking forward to reading?

Oktoberzest, Revisited.

1 Oct

So, uh, wow.

I have it on good authority that October has arrived.  How is this possible?  This year has flown by.  FLOWN, I tell you.

Last year at this time, I was in the early phases of rewriting my first draft.  Now, I’m about to start actively crafting a fourth draft.  (As opposed to the past few weeks, where I’ve taken no concrete action on it, but have been mulling over crits received and changes to be made.)

  • Somewhere along the way, I developed two systems that worked well for my writing habits.  One was for adding meat to a WIP and re-writing it from a blank page, the other was for tightening a WIP based on the basic structure already in place.  (Here and here.  Both links are for the tightening phase, not the total re-write.)
  • I entered the beta-reading world, both as reader and as writer.
  • Over the summer, I participated in Merrilee Faber’s creativity workshop, which sharpened my coming-up-with-ideas skills, produced several ideas for new novels, and even resulted in two YouTube videos where I covered songs by Patty Griffin and Lennon/McCartney.  (Here and here.)
  • I read a tall stack of novels.
  • I figured out how to use Twitter to my advantage (as opposed to letting it rule my day and destroy my writing time).
  • At the end of the summer, I finished the third draft.
  • In the interim between finishing and starting the fourth draft, I started writing a pressure-free first draft for a totally different novel.

So.

That brings us to now.  Sorry to get all I did this, I did that on you.  It can be easy to forget just how far we’ve come, especially when we’re focused on how far we still have to go.

Where have you been, and where are you going? Specifically, where are you going this October?

Personally, I’m headed into somewhat uncharted territory: the wow-my-betas-have-given-me-some-awesome-feedback-now-how-on-earth-do-I-deal-with-it? territory.  This territory, I hear, is sharpening.  And by sharpening, I’m thinking it’s like an arrow: you have to whittle away at it so it has a sharp point, and will therefore pierce the target with precision.  Unfortunately, the whittling may be painful. That said, precision seems to be worth a bit of temporary pain.

Top of the World

8 Jun

Sunday was inspiring, Monday was a whirlwind, Tuesday is happening now.

I do believe I promised you a surprise, somewhere in there.

Before we get there, though, I have to tell you something fun.  The Monday Whirlwind saw fit to plop me down within driving distance from THE Melissa Williams.  As in, awesome blog-friend extraordinaire, known to the Twitterverse merely as @melissaiswrite.

We chatted for hours over a grande nonfat latte and an iced venti chai, and you know what?  She’s every bit as awesome in person.  Now I wish we lived closer.  Alas.  Maybe one day.  Hopefully.

So, the surprise!

In honor of Set #2 for the Creativity Workshop, in which I’m loosely basing my four short stories on songs about birds, I’ve decided to take YouTube by storm.  Hopefully, said storm will be a small one, more like dreary uninteresting drizzle, because I don’t quite care to get in trouble for using someone else’s material. (That said, Powers That Be: if you want me to take it down, no worries.  I’m a YouTube novice, and don’t care that much about having an account.  This is just for fun.  I can sing the song in the quiet of my own living room.) (Typed by my inner goody-goody.)

Powers That Be aside, you may have gathered: I covered a song.  It’s not perfect, I fumble over a couple of words, but hey.  It’s not touched up by auto-tune, which is saying something these days.  Plus, to perfect it would take away from my writing time, right?  Right.

So.  Click here to watch and listen to my cover of Patty Griffin’s “Top of the World.” I posted a version that works on iPhones as well as computers, so hopefully you guys can see it.

This is the song that’s inspiring my story this week.  Here are the lyrics, in case you want to read along.  Hope you enjoy it, even though it’s a terribly sad song.  I can never say enough about how incredible Patty Griffin’s songwriting is.

Top of the World

by Patty Griffin

I wish I was smarter / I wish I was stronger

I wish I’d loved Jesus / The way my wife does

I wish it had been easier / Instead of any longer

I wish I could have stood / where you would have been proud

That won’t happen now / That won’t happen now

There’s a whole lot of singing that’s never gonna be heard

Disappearing every day without so much as a word, somehow

Think I broke the wings off that little songbird

She’s never gonna fly to the top of the world, now

To the top of the world

I don’t have to answer / any of these questions

Don’t have no one to / teach me no lessons

I’d come home in the evenings / Sit in my chair

One night they called me for supper / But I never got up

I sat right there / in my chair

(chorus)

I wish I’d have known you / I wish I’d have shown you

All of the things I / held on the inside

I’d pretend to be sleeping / when you’d come in in the morning

To whisper goodbye and go to work in the rain and

I don’t know why / don’t know why

Everyone’s singing, we just want to be heard

Disappearing every day without so much as a word, somehow

Wanna grab ahold of that little songbird

Take her for a ride to the top of the world, right now

To the top of the world


[tweetmeme source= “olsonkayla” only_single=false]

Writing Scenes That Resonate: What I’ve Learned From Patty Griffin’s Songwriting

19 Apr

Before the days of Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Britney, there were…well…people known more for singing and songwriting than weird outfits and wicked awesome dancing.  People like Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple, Sheryl Crow, and Patty Griffin.  Since I am neither a wicked awesome dancer nor a clad-in-bubble-wrap-or-the-occasional-kermit-the-frog-outfit kind of girl, I relate more to this selection of performers than the first.

[Um, speaking of mid-nineties music, I must take a brief detour to tell you that “Gangsta’s Paradise” just blasted its way over the coffee shop speakers.  Huh.  I was under the impression that the Ubiquitous Powers That Be had made an unspoken pact to never again let this song meet airwaves.  Guess I was wrong.]

Most of you don’t know this about me, because I hardly blog about it, but music has always been a HUGE part of my life.  I sing, play piano and guitar, and write music.  If I wasn’t pursuing all things author/novels/writing, there’s a good chance I would be more focused on songwriting and performing.  Alas, ever since I decided to aim for master of one rather than jack of all, music has been relegated to hobby status.

That said, I thought it would be fun to combine my two worlds today and write about how music has affected my novel-writing life.  Though I could write about each of the artists I mentioned above, I’m just going to focus on Patty Griffin.  This is because she’s my favorite, and also because I went to her concert last week and have pretty pictures I can include.  Did I mention she’s my favorite?  (I read a rumor somewhere that some of you *ahem, Melissa* have never heard of her.  To this I say, “HERESY,” and also, “I have links for you later.  Check them out because she’s my favorite.”)

So.  Why is she my favorite, and how on earth am I going to marry this to something writing-related, you ask?

Patty Griffin’s songs are like little windows into the souls of people’s lives, poignant portaits of strangers.  She creates scenes with her songs, elicits emotion with just a smattering of well-chosen words, then sings them with conviction.  Her voice is authentic, never forced.  Being familiar with most of her writing has taught me a ton about conveying emotion, and that specific details make a scene resonate.  Patty’s songs inspire me to be more creative in which images I choose and the way I present them; that it’s not how many, but which, words are used.  Words that subtly hint at raw emotion, without being too terribly on-the-nose.

Rather than just tell you vague information, I decided to include specific examples for you.  Deep in the dumpster of YouTube, I waded for an hour (an hour, I tell you!) trying to decide which song I should focus on.  Then, I gave up.  All of her songs are good.

I refuse to leave you with zero examples, and this post would go on until tomorrow if I included everything.  So, as brief as possible, here are three of my favorite examples of things I love about Patty’s songs:

1

Long black limousine / shiniest car I’ve ever seen / the backseat is nice and clean / she rides as quiet as a dream // Someone dug a hole six long feet in the ground / said goodbye to you, then I threw my roses down / ain’t nothin’ left at all in the end of bein’ proud / with me riding in this car and you flying through them clouds // I’ve had some time to think about you / and watch the sun sink like a stone / I’ve had some time to think about you / on the long ride home.

— “Long Ride Home,” from her album 1,000 Kisses

Another line from that song goes, “Forty years go by with someone layin’ in your bed / forty years of things you’ve seen and wish you’d never said / how hard would it have been to say some kinder words instead?” Details of the limousine and the roses and the hole in the ground all just kinda work together to make this sad story of someone who just lost their spouse; in verse 2 (the part quoted in this paragraph) she adds this whole story of regret into the mix, with one simple line.  Painful, and brilliant.

2

It’s not far / I can walk / down the block / to Table Talk / close my eyes / make the pies all day // Plastic cap / on my hair / used to mind / now I don’t care / used to mind / now I don’t care / cause I’m gray // Did I show you this picture of my nephew / taken at his big birthday surprise / at my sister’s house last Sunday / this is Monday and I’m makin’ pies

“Makin’ Pies,” also from 1,000 Kisses

This song has a distinct Eleanor Rigby feel to it: lonely.  The part about the plastic cap on her hair, how she used to mind but now doesn’t care?  Breaks my little heart every time.

3

Diamonds, roses / I need Moses / to part this sea of loneliness, cross this Red River of pain // I don’t / necessarily buy / any key to the future, or happiness but I / need a little place in the sun sometimes or I think I will die // and everywhere is somewhere and nowhere is near / everybody got somebody with their wine and their beer / and I’m just this tragic figure in the corner over here / go home to an empty apartment and call a best friend who is queer

— “Moses,” from Living With Ghosts

Talk about being surrounded by people, but alone, desperate for love and inclusion.

I could go on and on.  I won’t.  If you want to hear more of her stuff, I recommend these two albums (Living with Ghosts and 1,000 Kisses) — not a bad song on either of them. [PS: For some strange reason, 1,000 Kisses isn’t on I-Tunes.  Here’s a link to the album on Amazon, if you’re interested.  I think you can even listen to samples.]

Since I don’t want my hour-long YouTube dumpster dive to be in vain, here are links to two songs that relate to what I’ve told you about here.  First, “Long Ride Home,” which I quoted earlier; second, “Useless Desires,” another song about loneliness with particularly good use of imagery.  (Click here to see lyrics to that one.)

Anyway.  Maybe I’ll share one of my own songs with you guys one of these days.  Until then, happy writing (and listening)!


Scarves, Shoes, and Other Good News

11 Dec

  After a lackluster start to this week, I must say, it’s ending on a high note.  And, might I add, not one of those wow-that-is-such-a-high-note-that-it’s-gonna-crack-the-glass sort of high notes.  The good kind.

Aside from the excitement I feel about the new things pictured here — this pair of on-sale Nine West cuteness, a dangly-yet-simple-and-classy gold(ish) necklace, and a scarf I crocheted in my most favorite color — there is a whole blizzard of cool things going on.  For one, I get to wear all this stuff this weekend, to a wedding.  Another?  The bride opted to pay me on the high end of my price range for playing the piano for her ceremony — a timely bonus.  Yet another?  My completely incredible husband, who works so hard, all day every day, has finally been rewarded for his integrity.  His bosses gave him a stellar review along with a 12% salary increase.  Also timely.

Still more good news: Diligent December is finally, um, diligent.  In the past two days, I’ve nearly caught up to where I should be, despite not writing a word for three out of the past eight days.  Not only is my word count up, but I’m feeling involved in the emotional aspects of the story, enrapt, and am confident that the quality is there, too.  The scenes I wrote this morning were intense, emotional, important.  They’re the beginning of what I’ve been building up to this entire time.  Just as I was completely satisfied with the Glee winter finale, it’s nice to see loose ends begin to wrap up, lies get exposed, drama unfold.  Consequences.  

On top of all that, it is cloudy and cold and I love it.

In honor of the Glee finale, and in hopes that December stays awesome, here’s a link to a fantastic rendition of “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” as performed by Lea Michele in this week’s episode.  So.  Very.  Good.

Thanks for all your support in this process, you guys.  I can’t tell you enough how grateful I am to have connected with you all.  

Diligent December Update: 56,829 down | 13,171 to go | 81.18% finished!

(Not Quite) Starstruck (But Almost)

13 Nov

Erin McCarley

You may not know who Erin McCarley is, but you should.

Last night, she took the stage (by storm) at a small venue in Dallas, and — whoa — she was SO. GOOD.  Like, way-better-than-we-expected-we’re-so-pleased-we-chose-to-see-her-over-the-competing-Regina-Spektor-concert good.

She’s like this firecracker mix of Fergie and Evangeline Lilly, and from the looks of her, you’d wonder if she’s just another gorgeous pop star whose voice is molded by that ubiquitous chisel known as autotune¹.  But…no.  Her voice is full of depth and texture, her lyrics are substantial, her song-writing and chords are creative.  

The venue wasn’t packed, but we liked it that way because the next time we see her, the secret will be out and we’ll probably have to use binoculars to see from so far away.  Her show, and the opening acts, were laid-back, warm, personal.  She poured out her soul only ten feet away from us, and afterwards, we got to chat with her for a bit.  She was as kind as she was talented, and carried on quite a bit of actual conversation with us.  

On this blog, I usually write about only one of my passions (writing) and leave the other (music) to kind of float along in the background.  Today, though, I feel so inspired to write some music, which is something I haven’t done in a long, long time.  My husband will probably be jumping for joy when he reads that last sentence, because he is Mr. Amazing-Talented-At-Everything-Sweetheart, and has been asking me for a while, “When are we going to play music together again?”

Soon.

Now…can I write a song and meet my 1,500 word writing goal² today?  (Um…that might be too ambitious for one afternoon.)  If you need a break from cleaning, writing, worrying, or anything else that ends with -ing, check out this, this, or this video of Erin McCarley³.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

¹Thanks to you, Andy Hildebrand and all you people at Antares Audio Technologies who created this particular chisel, we live in a world where we are surprised that our famous musicians can actually carry a tune.

²By the way, I didn’t list my word count today, because it hasn’t changed since the last time I posted.  I plan to fix that.

³None of these clips are from the Dallas concert, unfortunately.  All are live performances: #1 is an original song, called “Blue Suitcase;” #2 is a cover of “Dumb Dog” from the musical Annie; #3 is a cover of “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega.  Though all of her originals are fantastic, I included the covers because of their creativity — I mean, really, who covers Annie at a concert?  Plus, the beat-boxing guy on “Tom’s Diner” is pretty awesome.  His name is K.S. Rhoads, and he was one of the opening acts last night.

A Cornucopia of Strange References Here: Warning.

5 Nov

This morning, at 5:30am, I awoke with one thought:  what do you call those little metal things you stick into a hand-mixer?  You know, those detachable tools that do the actual mixing?  Turns out, the answer is pretty obvious – they’re called blades – but in the darkness and in my still-half-asleepedness, blades sounded too sharp and harsh.

It’s November 5th, and I’m a full day behind on my NaNo goals, despite my best intentions.  So, I woke up determined to spend as much as possible of this day playing the catch-up game (in other words, write at least 3200 words).  Hence, the thought about mixer blades, completely random though it is.  The image of the blades spinning in place, never colliding with each other, rotating in perfect harmony¹ – well, for some strange reason, I felt urged to pray for myself to have creativity and clear vision that work together as well as hand-mixer blades².  That’s the only way I’ll meet – and, hopefully, exceed – today’s goal.  Broken mixer blades equal chocolate cake batter that’s lumpy and uneven, and I have a feeling a clash of creativity and mental acuity leads to the same kind of writing.

So, now that we have that out of the way: my word count isn’t dreadful, but it will be if I miss another day.  

That said, I’m totally loving writing this book.  Interesting images and scenes keep popping up from nowhere, and I’m discovering a lot of new things about these characters.  Like I wrote the other day, I’m surprised to find I like them so much.  I want to describe how I feel, but I think J.C. Hart said it perfectly in her November 5 post:

I’m spending a lot of time not even consciously considering the next steps it will take. I’m sure that it’s all simmering below the surface, but it’s lovely that I don’t have to spend time deliberating over what will happen next. I’ve got complete faith in myself, and in the story.

Which is a really strange but beautiful place to be in. Maybe it means I’ve finally hit a point in my writing where I can trust myself enough to loosen the reins a little.

Yes.  This is exactly how I feel.  I know the direction the story is about to take, but right now I’m letting myself sink fully into each scene as it happens, not worrying too much about the specifics of what’s next.  It is nice to have some idea of what comes next, though, because it helps me write more layered scenes and dialogue.  J.C. is right, it is a strange and beautiful place to be.

I told my husband yesterday how much I’m enjoying my characters, right before I told him I felt sorry for them – they have no idea what’s about to happen to them, and their pretty little worlds are going to get completely obliterated by unfortunate circumstances.  It might get ugly, but I’m twiddling my fingers like the scheming puppeteer that I am³.

Happy writing today!  How are you doing with your goals this week?  …And I don’t just mean word-count-goals, I mean the substance of those words — how is your story shaping up?  Surprises, no surprises?  Obstacles?  Do share, even if you’re not partaking in the madness of November.

(PS: Wow.  After re-reading this post, I am curious to see what will come out in my novel today.  Just saying.  Not often you read about mixer blades, wedding singing, scheming puppeteers, and goatherds in the same post.)

NaNoMeter: 4920 down / 45,080 to go

¹Fun Side Note:  Writing perfect harmony brought back laughable flashbacks of singing in a wedding one time.  The florist for my wedding recruited my husband and me – two weeks before her wedding – to sing a duet in her wedding ceremony.  The song was full of horribly cheesetastic lyrics such as “He made the sun, he made the moon | to harmonize in perfect tune | one can’t move without the other, they just have to be together | And that is how I know it’s true – you’re for me, and I’m for you…”  Since we were engaged at the time, we kept getting asked if we were going to sing this song TO EACH OTHER in our wedding.  It was hard enough keeping a straight face while singing the thing, and near impossible to keep a straight face (and be polite) when answering, “No freakin’ way.  Ever.”

²Except at 5:30am it looked more like, “I pray for creativity and clear vision that work together as well as those little metal thingies that you stick in a hand mixer when you make chocolate cake.”  Eloquent, right?    

³When I use the term scheming puppeteer, do you also get images of Julie Andrews singing “High on a hill was a lonely goatherd” with the Von Trapp family?  No?  Oh.  That must just be me.  I’m soooooo menacing, with these instincts that lead me directly from scheming to yodeling in less than a heartbeat.  Oy.