Thursday, June 18, 2015

RECLAIMED playlist

It was brought to my attention that the link to the Reclaimed playlist is broken, so I am re-posting it here.

Listen in Spotify.

Welcome Home – Radical Face

I listened to this album on repeat while working on RECLAIMED, so just hearing this song pulls me into Solitude. I see the pine trees, the lake, Solitude Point, and the abandoned train yard. Though Solitude is a town I made up, I have lived in several small towns. I grew up in Arkansas, where the novel is set, so writing the scenery was a homecoming for me.

The line “the backs of my eyes hum with things I’ve never done” makes me think of Jenna. Solitude is her home. She has lived in the small town her entire life, just like her mother and grandmother. But Jenna wants to see different places and be different people. She knows she will never be able to do all the things she wants if she stays in Solitude, and she is reminded daily of the things she’s never done.

“Peel the scars from off my back/I don’t need them anymore” also fits with Jenna because she feels like if she can just escape Solitude, she can escape those things which scarred her as well.

Picking up the Pieces – Blue October

Sometimes I feel like weeping
Awake and when I'm sleeping
Perfecting how to put a game face on

This puzzle I've been keeping
Has been in hiding creeping out the closet door
Spilling out onto the floor

How long will I be picking up pieces
How long will I be picking up my heart

I chose this song because all three characters hide things from the outside world, and all three feel like they are picking up the pieces left scattered by those secrets. Jenna has to deal with her mother’s drinking while trying to keep it a secret from everyone, especially her grandmother. Every time her mother gets drunk, Jenna is the one who has to put her back together again. Ian is always putting on his game face. He’s the peacekeeper, and he feels like he has to put his family back together after the divorce. Because he is the responsible one, it’s his job to try and repair the cracks in his family. Luke is keeping a secret from his brother, one that has consequences that he is still dealing with. But the secret he’s been hiding will eventually creep out, and all three characters will have to try and salvage the pieces.

This is How I Disappear – My Chemical Romance

This is mainly Luke’s song. He feels like being in Ian’s shadow causes him to disappear. Ian is the good student and athlete, while Luke is the one always getting in trouble. But Luke feels like Jenna sees through all that, sees who is really is. She makes him feel like he doesn’t have to disappear.

Better than Today – Wes Kirkpatrick
no need to lie – cause I find the truth on your face and your ways

just realize, I don’t care if you like what I say
when I leave, you’re still here
the same old place year after year

I want to see the smiles on different faces, I want to see the stars from other places, it will do no good to stay, you’ll never be better than today

Jenna is dealing with her mother’s alcoholism and lies. She wants to help her mother, but she always wants to leave Solitude. She is sick of being in the same place. The chorus is exactly Jenna – she wants to go places and experience new things. She is angry that her mother may jeopardize that by being selfish and having to be taken care of.

Falling Away with You – Muse
so I'll love whatever you become
and forget the reckless things we've done
I think our lives have just begun
I think our lives have just begun

The relationships in this story are complicated in that each is dealing with a lot at home and each finds something in the other that helps them cope. Add in the fact that Ian and Luke both need each other and have conflict with each other. I wanted to write a story about three teens who come together as their lives are falling apart. I think I’ve done that.

all of the love we've left behind
watching the flash backs intertwine
memories I will never find
memories I will never find

All of the characters have left things behind in the past, things they don’t really want to remember, and things they wish they could get back.

What if We Could – Blue October

What if we could
Put our lives on
Hold and meet some
Where inside of the world
I would meet you
Would you meet me?

This story is about the solid places we find when our lives are crumbing. Each of these characters needs something from the relationship, be it Jenna and Ian, Jenna and Luke, or Ian and Luke. While their worlds fall apart, they find something in each other that helps them get through it, or deal with it, or ignore it just for a little while.

I'm glad to say that we've met
But I'm sad to say that the circumstances weren't
On our side

And the circumstances aren’t on their side. Ian has lost three solid months. Luke doesn’t seem to be able to do anything right. And Jenna has to be the responsible adult when dealing with her mother. Add in that Jenna is falling for both boys, and the circumstances aren’t ideal at all. But none of them are willing to give those relationships up.

Fix You - Coldplay

When you try your best, but you don't succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

I love writing broken, flawed characters. In some way, each of these characters tries and fails at something. Each needs something that may not happen. Jenna says at one point in the story that while she tries to do great things, she sometimes feels like she’s stuck, wading around in mediocrity, thinking she’s found her way out only to circle back to where she started. Ian is used to being successful (honor student and star athlete), but he can’t recover his memories as quickly as he wants to. And Luke feels he is always going backwards, stuck in a pattern of self-destruction.

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

They all lose things that can’t be replaced. Jenna watches her mother destroy herself with alcohol. Ian and Luke, who were once inseparable, now have what feels like an irreparable rift between them.
Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Home is an important idea in this novel, and in the end, while these characters find things they need in their relationships with each other, they cannot fix each other. In the end, we can only fix ourselves.

Ghosts That We Knew – Mumford and Sons

You saw my pain washed out in the rain
Broken glass, saw the blood run from my veins
But you saw no fault, no cracks in my heart
And you knelt beside my hope torn apart

For Jenna, being with Ian is like having a blank slate. He hasn’t known her all her life, doesn’t remember every stupid thing she ever did, so she feels like she has a new start. For Ian, Jenna gives him hope that he will be normal again. When his memories fail, he can make new ones with Jenna.

Jenna sees through the dark version of himself that Luke throws at everyone. She knows Luke is broken, but she sees deeper than that, and she likes that they can be a little broken together.

So give me hope in the darkness that I will see the light
'Cause oh that gave me such a fright
But I will hold as long as you like
Just promise me we'll be alright

In the end, they help each other believe that things will be okay. Spending time with one another shows them there is hope and redemption, that the past might possibly be escaped, and that a life can be reclaimed.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Summer of Disconnect

I’ve decided to conduct an experiment this summer. I’m disconnecting (or attempting to) from social media and deleting many of my apps and seeing just what kind, if any, of a difference that makes in my mental health and productivity.

I love Twitter. I’ve met so many awesome people on there, and for me, it’s mostly a positive place. I’ve been very lucky not to have any hate slung my way. But I find that lately, it has become a very negative place for some, and that bleeds into my timeline, even if I don’t want it to. This is not the only, or really the main, reason I am taking a break. I find that I check Twitter or Instagram or play a quick game of Candy Crush almost mindlessly. (Deleting that app was physically painful. I had made it to like level 450-something.) I pick up my phone without even realizing I’m doing it.

I worry that going dark will be bad for my writing career. People may forget me when my face isn’t in their feed daily. But I also know this is an unfounded worry, because the worst thing for my writing career is being distracted from writing. It’s not just (or even mainly) my writing time that is affected by distraction. I am pretty good about carving out time to work and staying focused. But it is those quiet moments when I’m not working, when my brain is free to wander, that some of my best ideas or lines find their way to me, and that can’t happen when I am constantly tuning those ideas out in favor of social media or games.

I worry the most about being absent because I won’t be there to support the writing community. I am on Twitter mainly for those connections, those conversations and pep rallies. I will miss out on awesome book recs, deal announcements, and cover reveals. The writing community has been so very supportive of me, and I want to be the same in kind. I hope I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings for bowing out for a bit.

Of course, I may flatter myself. You may not even notice I’m gone. J

But I want to reconnect with myself. My focus for this year is to “Be Present,” and right now, I’m not doing so well. I want to recover those lost moments and lost experiences. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. I may fail miserably and crawl back, hollow-eyed and in need of a fix, before the week is out. I may find that too much disconnect only makes me lonely. Like I said, this is just an experiment.

I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"You Can't Add Awesome"

Copies of RECLAIMED revisions.
The beginning of my writing life was spent in isolation. I didn’t know any other writers, and I was not on Twitter or Facebook. This was both a blessing and a curse. The good part about this was that I worked on my craft. I wrote and read basically in my own little cushioned bubble, and it was lovely inside, all warm and cuddly. Of course, the bad part was that I was missing out on awesome collaboration and conversation, advice I desperately needed, tips I could have used. Some days I needed to be alone; others, I needed to know I really wasn’t.

Once I decided to pursue publication and start querying, I spent a lot of time researching and finally, because all the cool writers were doing it, got on Twitter. (I still don’t have a Facebook.) One of the first pieces of writing advice I saw was “You can’t add awesome.”

It knocked me down a little.

I don’t know who said it, and maybe they were commenting on "you can’t fix a blank page" kind of thing, but if my memory is correct, the conversation went on to say that all the really good stuff has to come out during drafting or it won’t come out at all.


But see, I was a beginning writer, and I didn’t know how much bad (read: doesn’t apply to me) advice was really floating around out there. I was comparing the crap I was working on with books and words I loved, so I felt very disillusioned to learn that I would never write something worthwhile because I knew just one thing about my own writing: my first drafts were abysmal. Truly. Like I should burn them they were (are) so bad. And while I knew I could clean up the grammar and reorganize the plot, at that point I worried I would never write something with that awesome in it because my awesome never showed up in the first draft.

Of course, now I know just how untrue that is. You can totally add awesome. Sometimes a funny bit of dialogue or a poignant piece of wording sneaks its way into my first drafts, but rarely. I smear that crap all over the page, and then I fix it. Yes, I whittle it down, exposing the good stuff. But I’m going to be honest—there’s not much good stuff to uncover that first go round. I delete and add, delete and add, until the story is a little better. And then I do it several more times before I am willing to even admit to myself that I might have something worth sharing.

One of my favorite lines of RECLAIMED  was added during copy edits. The climax was rewritten (and vastly improved) at the eleventh hour. Neither my editor nor my CPs had told me that the climax was wrong, and it was fine, but there was just something about it that niggled at me. I’d worked on that story for three years, revised more times than I could count, but there was just a small feeling that it wasn’t where it was supposed to be. I couldn’t shake it. And then, on New Year's Day, driving home from the in-laws, one single sentence floated to the front of my mind. It was exactly the missing piece, and I rewrote the climax, even though my line edits were due in just a few days. I do feel that change added to the story.

The writing process looks differently for everyone. Don’t let anyone else’s experience invalidate your own. The end game is the only one that matters--writing a story you are proud of. How you get there is up to you.