Thursday, June 24, 2010

What are you waiting for?

My grandma died three months ago. It wasn't unexpected- she was two weeks from 92, had Parkinson's and had stopped eating. Of course, when someone dies, no matter how expected it is, you're sad. You miss them. If they were sick for a while, you mostly miss who they were before their illness. I find myself in moments thinking about doing Grandma's nails, playing Old Maid, watching her and her best friend dance a kick line, not quite as good as the Rockettes, but close.

Grandpa's having a really hard time. He thinks about her when he goes into the kitchen and can't decide how high to turn the burner. He thinks about her when he listens to Big Band. They used to go dancing. I'm telling you, Grandma and Grandpa could really dance. Even in their eighties, they would go out. And they were always noticed. Not just because they were good, which they were despite no formal lessons, but because they had an easiness between them. A familiarity. A closeness that everyone picked up on. They were in love.

When I see Grandpa now I let him talk. Some people, okay, most people, say Grandpa talks too much. That he repeats things too frequently. And true, we count how many times he says, "All the way along the line," and "After WWII," and "When the Lord taps me on the shoulder." (At the funeral it was 8, 7, and 2.) But Grandpa needs to talk, and really, I love to listen to him. Although, in the past he would tell stories about growing up a "river rat" or what it was like during the war. Now he talks about how sad he is, and how he thinks he's getting better, how he isn't thinking about suicide anymore. I try not to react, because I know when you're sad and depressed you think things you probably wouldn't normally think, and it helps to just say it out loud. It takes the burden off a little. And I'm not concerned about him doing anything rash. But I am sad. Because lately his repeat phrase is, "Every day brings me closer to your Grandmother," and I know that it's true.

I think about his life now, how it has become a waiting game and the end prize is dying.

I was at a counseling session the other night and my therapist asked me, "What are you waiting for?" It's a good question. Because I think a lot of life is waiting, and not just waiting like postponing, but also like 'I can't wait for this.' Biding your time until the next big thing. The anticipation of something better. We can't wait to graduate high school and go to college. To graduate college and get a job. To move out of our parents' house. To get married. To have kids. To change jobs. To retire. What we have right now isn't what we want, but what we are waiting for will be.

Seems like an awful lot of wasted time.

So what are you waiting for? I know there are a lot of things in my life I'm unhappy with. (Haha, hence the therapist.) A lot of things I don't change because I'm biding my time, waiting for something better to come along. The problem with this is two-fold. First, I'm wasting my time. I have no guarantee that something better will just land in my lap. Nor do I have a guarantee of how many days I'll have to live. Could be a house falls right on top of me tomorrow. What would I have to show for my life? A whole lot of things I wanted to do, but didn't make time for? Lame. Second, in the meantime, while I'm wiling away my life, dreaming of all the things I want in the future, I'm not appreciating the things that are very good in my life right now. Like my awesome kids at ages 8,6, and 4. Not at 10, 8, and 6. Or the fact that my size is two sizes smaller than last year this time, even though it may not be the one size smaller I wish it were. Again, lame.

I think the point is don't wait. Don't wait, don't spend your time anticipating. Do. Do something every day. Be. Be who you are, be who you want. Because the end prize should be satisfaction. But, really, you shouldn't have to wait for the end for that.

Listening to: Sunny Day Real Estate "The Rising Tide"

xo. kb.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Be the first! There's a prize!

The transition of blogging on myspace to blogger has been a little like moving to a new home/new neighborhood for me. The new house is pretty cool. Bigger. More amenities. But I miss my old friends. The nice thing about myspace is that I have a lot of friends there who would comment back and forth with me. And of course the view counter on the "manage blog" page that tells you how many people have read you by day/week/ever. It's nice to know you're being viewed. Because let's be honest, the whole point of having a blog is so people will read it. If you just wanted to journal privately, you could do that on paper or create a document. Right?

So everyone has a skill, hopefully more than just one, but we all do at least one thing well. My one thing is an amazing ability to make a mix, I used to say tape, but now must say CD. It's something I do for friends for birthday presents, or for writing inspiration, or just because I love them. And now I'll make one for you. I'm giving away a custom-made CD for my very first follower.

How easy is that? Just follow, then comment below this post. I'll get in touch with you to find out what kind of music to put on your mix. *Disclaimer* I don't do Country or R & B. Sorry folks.

Listening to: The Promise Ring "Wood/Water"

xo. kb.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Music and writing.

I write to music. Actually, I do almost everything to music. When I was younger, I used to wish life was like a constant musical, or a movie and there could be a soundtrack playing at all times. Kind of like on Ally McBeal, where everyone had their own theme song, or in Dancer In The Dark where songs just erupt from the every day. It's now possible for me to do this. I have a good chunk of music on my iPhone, which goes with me everywhere, and I almost have the iPod function on.

So I am just slightly obsessed with music. It's not a big deal. It's not like it hurts anyone.

But I know that some writers need absolute silence to formulate thoughts, while some need the TV in the background. Some people can't write to music, but need it to edit. I need the TV off, the kids away or asleep, and the music quietly on. And the artist I listen to has to be just right. This is a very big deal for me. I have had a muse for each book. Each one has been different, maybe based on the tone of the character.

JUST A LITTLE RAIN was written exclusively to my Jeremy Enigk playlist, which includes all his solo work, Sunny Day Real Estate, and The Fire Theft. I'd start my writing day by picking a song to begin with, then shuffle through the rest.

When I started WHERE CURRENTS PULL, I started with the old JE playlist, thinking it good luck, but I found I couldn't get into my new character Natalie. Everything I wrote sounded like Eliza. I tried switching to Pete Yorn, because I'd recently seen him in concert and he looked just like my vision of Sawyer, which blew my mind. But his music wasn't right either. It took a while to find my muse, and happened unexpectedly, as usual. Every time Panic Switch came on the radio, my kids and I would freak out. So I downloaded the song. Then all the Silversun Pickups albums. (Legally, because artists should get paid for their work.) The book and character came easily to me then, and I wrote the rest to the SSPU playlist, this time not on shuffle, but in song order, album order. Although, the last chapter (that furious writing that comes at the end when you both want to see it come together and hate to see it over) was written to a mix. Matt & Kim, Monsters Of Folk, Pete Yorn, The Promise Ring, The Republic Tigers, the sea and cake, Shudder To Think, SSPU, Sleeping At Last, SDRE, Tegan and Sara, Timbaland, White Rabbits. I listened to that mix on repeat until I finished. It was a couple days, I remember, but the music didn't get stale. It was like a cheering section.

ABOVE THE WAVES has proven to be difficult. I've tried a number of bands that have worked for a while, but not enough to keep me going for the long haul. I started with SSPU, which was no good for Amanda at all. I still love the band, but they don't work for her. I have used the following bands: The Appleseed Cast, Local Natives, Bon Iver, Band Of Skulls. To no avail. But I think I've found what I'm looking for. I have two playlists I've been alternating between and, between them (and my JE playlist, which I use for times I'm feeling stuck because it's uplifting to me in the way Gospel music is for church-types), they're doing the job pretty freaking well.

Playlist 1: The Jealous Sound/Knapsack. Reasons: I love Blair Shehan's voice (which is why I include Knapsack, because TJS doesn't have enough music out there- *finish that new album, boys*), but the band is so fantastic. Energetic, and interesting. Emotional and thoughtful lyrics. Oh, and the fact that I named the book after one of their songs. Yep, love them.

Playlist 2: A Conor Oberst collection. It came to me either in the middle of the night or in a dream, I can't remember. But when you wake thinking of something, I find it's best to hold onto that thought because it's poignant. The something that hit me was the song "Bowl Of Oranges," and I knew I had to reference Bright Eyes in this book. Amanda has a Conor Oberst obsession, and now I do as well. This is a good thing.

Listening to: Playlist 2

xo. kb.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On rejection.

I received two rejection emails yesterday from agents I sent query letters to. Strange that they came on the same day- I sent one of them ages ago, and figured it to be one of those "silence equals no." The other one was from kind of a superstar agent, her clients include my favorite author, so I really was expecting a "no" from her. It used to be I'd get really upset after a rejection. I'm not counting-at least not in my head, I have a list here somewhere... but I didn't freak out yesterday at all, and I think about that.

I'm not one of those people who's going to save all her rejections and make a collage of them when she finds an agent/gets published. I'm not an angry person. I don't think that an agent telling me she/he isn't interested in my book is a personal attack. Really, truly, if they can't get excited about my project, why would I want them representing it? I need an agent who loves my books and thinks they're worth some energy.

But I'd be lying if I didn't say that sometimes, okay more often than that, I wonder if their rejection is less "the project isn't right for me" and more "eh, it's just not that good." And I wonder what that should mean for me. Am I just writing and working and eventually the time will be right? Or am I writing for myself?

I think this. I do not write The Great American Novel. I know my prose is nothing like Cormac McCarthy. What I write is a character. I write her, and I want you to be plopped down in her world. She's going to tell you all about herself. Sometimes that's in a story about her past, sometimes you're just going to see it in the patterns she's set up for herself. You're going to see her stumble and see how or if she gets up.

I think that's important.

I think we all have our Big Issue. Our reoccurring problem that surfaces all through our life. We could make tee shirts. They would say things like, "Why doesn't my mother love me?" or "I'm not good enough" or "I'm waiting for Life to happen for me" or "Victim" or "When will you notice how special I am?" We wear these shirts everyday. They get so dirty. Sometimes we'll take them off and wash them. The result of that is they are cleaner and softer, and more comfortable to wear. They are like skin.

But I think sometimes we have an occasion to look down and read the writing on our shirt, and then choose to confront what it says about us.

This is what I do for my characters. I give them the chance to see their Big Issue and do something about it. And, certainly, things don't always work out just how they want them to. Life doesn't really happen that way. But there is something in the learning. Something that makes us stronger and more capable. Better equipped to succeed next time.

And so, on rejection, maybe you don't notice how special I am. Maybe that's not the point. Maybe the point is that I know it. Maybe I've been looking at my dirty shirt and, instead of thinking it's my story's one-sentence synopsis, have realized it's my opportunity.

Listening to: Sleeping At Last

xo. kb.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Not that you would ever ask me for that.

Here it is anyway.

Keep running. Even when your lungs burn and your muscles ache and your head is telling you you can't go any further. You can go further and you'll thank yourself later.

Don't eat. At least, not as much as you want. Ever. Always leave food on your plate and never take as much as you'd like to. Even on Thanksgiving. Drink something instead. Not a milkshake. Or a frappuccino. Nothing with whipped cream. Okay. You get my drift. Oh, and this bit is null and void if you have a hangover. Then forget the above.

Write. Write, write, write. Every day and especially if you don't feel like it. If your WIP is getting to you, write something completely different. Or journal. But get it out. Your story is so much better out than in.

Get up. Do not take that nap. Do not sit on that couch. Do not be lazy. Not ever. Always be doing something until it is time to go to sleep.

Save your sick day. You probably aren't as sick as you think. Push through it.

Pick up after yourself. (By this I also mean, don't make your wife/girlfriend/mother pick up after you.)

Finish what you start. Unless you turned on Batman Forever. Even I walked out on that movie.

Use sunscreen.

Dance, sing, and act ridiculous. As often as possible. And especially if you have kids. They learn joy from you. Show them you can feel it. Show yourself while you're at it.

Imagine the best kiss of your life. Formulate it in your mind, every detail from the feel of the lips, the pressure, the smell of him/her, the taste. Where will it be, what's the situation, the weather, your outfit, his/hers. Think of this kiss whenever you need something to uplift you. Think: this could happen to me. But never before bed. Believe me, it will not help you sleep.

That's all for now.

Listening to: The Jealous Sound "Kill Them With Kindness" again, because those boys haven't given me a whole lot to work with.

xo. kb.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

When the writing gets hard, it's time for a makeout scene.

I follow a few writers on Twitter who are working on new manuscripts (MS). They've been tweeting their progress. Two of them write small and edit to expand. I'm not that way. Not saying that I write epic or anything, but the first draft of JUST A LITTLE RAIN was 156K words. The first draft of WHERE CURRENTS PULL was 125K and I felt like that was a major accomplishment. Just for info sake, most writing sites give adult fiction the range from 80K to 100K. I've seen some literary agents expand that to 120K. I'm still out of that range in both books, and trending that way with ABOVE THE WAVES.

I recently hit page 50. My second milestone. As a celebration, I allowed myself to check the word count. Yes, that's celebratory to me. I'm at 30K. I think I'm maybe a third through this book. I guess that's trending towards a pretty good word count, if things work out. Who knows, though. Here's my problem. I'm an explainer. (Yep, made up that word.) I love detail. I love backstory. I think it's the best part of the book. This is why. Because those details, the stories behind the story are how you learn about the characters. You understand why they make the decisions they do, you see how their flaws developed, or how they impact their lives. And that's the thing. We are not just events. Our lives are not just action. There's the everyday and the relationships and the small happenings that create us. And I love to read a book and *get* a character. I love when I can identify with them. I love dropping in on their lives for the short period of a couple hundred pages, but leaving feeling like I know them, and feeling a sense of loss that I hit The End. I enjoy making up the afterstory in my head.

I guess this is why I write big. I want to know the entire story. I want to know it all. And I want my readers to know it as well. To feel like my MC (main character) is their friend, who they laugh, cry, cringe, and grin with. Whom they champion.

The downside to this. I write every day. I mean, I do write each day, but I'm talking about my story. I feel weird spanning time, so I tend to very specifically write the goings on for my MC. Eventually, like during the editing process, I adjust this. But to get the feel, while I'm writing I get into the details. And even for me, sometimes, this gets pretty laborious. Like the last few days. I'm on the cusp of events in my ATW, and getting there is making me exhausted. I want to just get there already.

While writing the last two books, this happened for me so I skipped around. JALR was weird because it's split in two, the first half MC Eliza 16-20 and the second half when she turns 30. So when I found myself getting bored, I'd jump to another time in her life. That really kept me on my toes because I had to switch to completely different mindsets, but I think it was good because it kept things fresh. With WCP I got stuck around pg 50 and skipped ahead to the falling in love/courtship part of the book. Always a nice thing to do. There's nothing more fun than writing a makeout scene. Okay, maybe making out is more fun than writing one, but that's largely dependent on who you're making out with. In a book, it's as good as your imagination allows it to be, where he puts his hands, how it feels when he touches you, the music in the background, the setting.... Alright, I need to stop, because I'm getting distracted. Point being, skipping around has worked for me in the past.

So I tried to do that with ATW. Problem is, we start the story and she already has the boy. The point of this one, folks, is that the right boy doesn't solve all the problems. He doesn't make it all better. Neither does getting the right job. So really, the focus of this book is to go down that tough road, to look at the scary, to know that life is good and bad and the bad always feels so much more powerful than the good. And to weigh within yourself if any of it's worth the effort. It's not as fun to skip ahead when ahead is certainly darker and gloomy, but I suppose that my need for detail will make that gloomy *feel* that much more painful for the reader. Strangely, for me that's a positive.

I have this file of outtakes. Parts of the books that I've decided to take out, but can't stand to lose forever. The nice thing about having characters who all know each other is that it feels like a little world, and I can visit any of them without feeling like I'm losing touch with my current work in progress (WIP). So I think that, when I find myself having trouble with ATW, I'm going to open the outtake file and just write a random makeout scene. Just because it's so good.

Listening to: Knapsack "This Conversation Is Ending Starting Right Now"

xo. kb.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Makes me insane.

If words or phrases were tangible objects, here are the ones I would smash with a hammer and burn:

Bump. In reference to a woman's pregnant belly. So freaking lame.

Tat or Ink. In reference to a tattoo. I know it's two whole syllables, but you can do it. Say them both.

Pop. In reference to a color. Like, "Ooh! That shade of paint really makes the room pop!" It was fine when designers used this phrase, like, ten years ago. It loses any cool when the rest of us use it each and every time we look at a throw or a pillow.

Cap. It's not a hat. It's a cappuccino. You drink it, you don't wear it on your head. Shortening the word does not make you any more in the know or cool. In fact, as a former barista, when I hear this phrase it gives me insta-cringe. I think: Douche.