Friday, October 29, 2010


If research were a Transformer it would be named Distractionator, but it would be an Autobot because it's totally necessary and good.

NaNo. *Sigh* If you've been reading along on my blog, you know that I already have my songs and lyrics, and have created something of a poem to lead me. As of a few days ago, I have my characters named (purposefully) and am now writing little blurbs and summaries of each chapter. Generally I do this as I go, but with the goal of 2000 words a day and the estimated chapter size of 4600 words, I'm feeling like it'd be best to have something to work with ahead of time. So I can finish. And so I can celebrate Thanksgiving without excessive guilt and freaking out.

Anyway, I'm planning Chapter 1 and my MC (Laurel- $5 for real if you can guess what/why) has Bunco plans for her Friday night. (Because she's a suburban mom and that's what a lot of suburban moms do one Friday night a month.) I actually have never played Bunco, but I understand it uses dice and a ton of wine must be involved. So now I have to look up Bunco and figure out how to play. And I'm considering hosting a party one night this month so I can see how it plays out. Or you could just invite me to your Bunco night and I'll bring a bottle. Whichever.

So I'm only in Chapter 1 planning and already totally distracted, and it reminds me of all the research I've done for past novels. With JALR I was all up in Millennium Park, the Shedd Aquarium, and running.

WCP had me researching dresses, dresses, and more dresses. And baseball. The story takes place during the 2003 NLCS/ALCS and World Series. I now know more than I should about those games/series. Truly. Want to see my notes?

ATW takes place mostly in MC Amanda's condo, so I had to do Chicago neighborhood and housing research (and am still getting listing emails), then had to figure out how the condo's interior looked. I spent an entire morning drawing a rough sketch.

And then I had to decorate, so spent over an hour looking at Persian rugs. I found the perfect one, and at a deal. Amanda was so proud of me.

It's a huge time-consumer, but I think that the extra research I do as a writer makes me more able to see my character's world. I want to understand how she lives. And I want my readers (all two of you) to be able to experience it as well. Just like you're there, like you've fallen into a Pensieve and are watching, rather than reading words on a page.

Listening to: my NaNo playlist

xo. kb.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Here are the chapters, the lines I've chosen. It tells the story, I think.

Oh mirror in the sky- What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?

Always hoping for something quicker than heaven
To make the damage of her days disappear

Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic

A part of my own sense of what is right
A part of my own sense of where it went wrong

Too long been keeping my love confined
You tore me out of myself alive

I’ve brought this on us more than anyone could ignore
What I’ve done, what I’ve done, what I’ve done

Then I heard your heart beating, you were in the darkness too
So I stayed in the darkness with you

We knew when she landed
Three days she’d stay

Your lover who just walked out the door
Has taken all his blankets from the floor

And now we can’t even touch it
Afraid it’ll fall apart

Oh yeah, life goes on
Long after the thrill of living is gone

I kind of love it.

xo. kb.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Initial NaNo planning.

So I did it. I officially signed up for NaNoWriMo. I have mixed feelings about this.

My first three novels were written out of a need to hash out some things I had going on. The ideas weren't planned, and the stories came from me, something like Athena. Here now is my first attempt to write something I'm not specifically emotionally dealing with. So I'm building from nothing. But I have a few ideas, and, of course, they came to me at 2:30 in the morning. (Thanks Elsie, for licking my knee and waking me up.)

What I'm working with right now:

A Playlist.
I asked for songs, and ten of you shared. Here's the list.
"Burn" Jeremy Enigk
"Jack and Diane" John Mellencamp
"Fascist Architecture" Bruce Cockburn
"Cosmic Love" Florence + the Machine
"Landslide" Fleetwood Mac
"Guinevere" Eli Young Band
"I Don't Feel It Anymore" William Fitzsimmons (featuring Priscilla Ahn)
"Into The Mystic" Van Morrison
"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" Bob Dylan
"3 Days" Jane's Addiction
"Carry The Zero" Built To Spill

The Chapters
I thank Doug Martsch (Built To Spill) for the idea for this one. He's got this fantastic song called "You Were Right" that borrows lines from famous songs, and turns it into a story. For instance, "You were right when you said all that glitters isn't gold/ you were right when you said all we are is dust in the wind/ you were right when you said we're all just bricks in the wall/ and when you said manic depression's a frustrated mess/ You were wrong when you said everything's gonna be alright."
He uses that line from Jack and Diane "Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone" and I can't hear Mellencamp without thinking of BTS. I was trying and trying to think of what to do with that completely incongruous list of songs, and listening to them, waiting for inspiration. Of course, it came to me on the elliptical. Kind of a take-off from "You Were Right", I'll pick a line from each song and use it somehow in a chapter. So the novel will have 11 chapters, the same as the number of songs.

The Story
So I've got the songs, and a basic idea of how I'm going to approach the structure, but absolutely no idea what this is going to be about. I've been poking around other NaNo's pages, and people have outlines, white boards of ideas, full synopses already written. Okay, so I'm a pantser, but jeez. I should probably have a little more done.
I was up this morning (thanks again Elsie!) doing the toss/turn thing, and letting my mind float around in the way that sometimes helps you fall back asleep. Problem is, my mind tends toward things that get me riled up and I started thinking about that stupid comment from Anonymous several weeks back. It really pissed me off. But then I thought, What if a person was trying to find love while within the confines of their marriage? And then I thought about FREEDOM, that post about "Perfection" I read by @danoah, and about a comment a customer made years ago that struck me, "I used to listen to good music. I'd forgotten that about myself."
I'm going to write about a woman's infidelity.

I wonder if this story's not a little like calling decoupage art, since all my ideas have come from outside sources, but I suppose inspiration can come from anywhere. And, really, there's no such thing as an original idea. Anyway, it's just 50K, it's just a month, and this exercise is more about me working on my writing than working on a project I adore.

Listening to: I should be listening to my NaNo playlist, but I'm actually listening to my WHERE CURRENTS PULL playlist.

xo. kb.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Years ago, back when I was living with my parents, I came home after a long day. I was just in time for dinner. I was starving. I hadn't eaten all day, and the food looked and smelled so good. I couldn't wait to start. We sat down at the table, and I began to pile my plate. I noticed my family looking at me skeptically. We had a rule in the house: You eat what you take. I gazed back in defiance and responded, "I'm hungry." Then I raised my eyebrows, inviting them to question me. My stepmother pursed her lips, then sighed. "Do what you want."

So I did. I took as much food as I could fit on my plate, then a little more, just to prove my point. We began to eat. I shoved the food in my mouth, hungrily, too fast to taste. Within minutes my stomach was thanking me. And my plate was half empty. I slowed down.

And then I began to feel full. It started as a sense of satisfaction in my stomach, but, as I continued eating, turned into a weight, and then a discomfort. I eyed my plate, still half full, and realized there was no room for the rest of this food. But I had taken it. And I knew the rule, so I needed to eat it.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and continued eating. The food had lost its flavor. I looked at our serving plates, unnecessarily emptied of food that could have been eaten by another person on another day, but wouldn't because of me. I had been wasteful in my need. But nothing could be done about it now, because the moral of this story is: You finish what you start.

Time travel.

I believe in the possibility of time travel. I'm not talking about crazy, complex machines built in Surrey, or Deloreans with 1.21 gigowatts. I mean our senses, which can trigger a very specific memory, and shoot us to the past.

I'm working on my rewrite of JUST A LITTLE RAIN tonight, and listening to my Jeremy Enigk playlist because it's Eliza's music. The song "Carry You" by The Fire Theft came on. At the end, there's the sound of wind chimes in the background. I've noticed it before, but it never struck me until tonight, when I realized they sounded exactly like the wind chimes hanging outside the front door of my dad's house. Suddenly I was in my dad's house, standing in the hall between the bathroom and the kitchen, feeling the revolting avocado green/harvest gold, once shag carpeting beneath my feet, looking out the three glass cut-outs on the door, at the magnolia tree in the front yard and the red house across the street.

I love how specific sensory memories are. When I smell sweetgrass (my most favorite smell in all the world- I'm sure I've said that before) I'm on the high school bus. I'm wearing a pair of too big jeans, a black leotard, my scratchy blue Express cardigan with the black zig zags, and one of my many pair of Converse low tops. I'm listening to Nirvana "Nevermind" on my walkman and looking out the window. There's a field on the north side of Butterfield Rd, just past Orchard and before Arrowhead that's filled with the weed, and, if my window's open, I can get a lung full. I imagine getting off the bus and running through that field, or a field like it, and going... somewhere. Anywhere but school. (Yeah, I read THE TALISMAN quite a few times, and the idea of traveling across the country on my own was super appealing.)

Our minds are attached to our past. It's such a part of us- we can't help it. My dad would tell me the same story from his childhood every time he ate ravioli, my friend can't do yard work without recounting the times he had to cut his grandfather's grass, I hear this tiny part in an Appleseed Cast song and think of my mom's best friend Penny, who had an instrument in her house that played a similar tune. I sometimes wonder how it works, which things our brains choose to flag as keepsakes and why. Because, certainly, I never would have imagined randomly remembering wind chimes.

Listening to: duh, I already told you.

xo. kb.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's your favorite song?

I've been hearing a lot of authors talk about NaNoWriMo. The first time an author mentioned NaNo, I asked her if it was a chemical compound. I'm pretty sure she was laughing when she informed me it was short for National Novel Writing Month, which is November. I checked out the website to learn more, and found that it's this huge thing. Authors sign up on the page, and the goal is to write a 50K word novel by the end of November. The site even word counts for you when you 'cross the finish line.' The point is to get people who might be intimidated by the enormous undertaking of writing a novel to sit down and produce; it's just one month, it's just 50,000 words. It's about quantity and not quality, so lower your expectations and just put out words.

Sounds cool, right?

For someone else, right? Yeah, that's what I thought, too. I've got what's trending toward a complete rewrite instead of a revision on one ms, edits on another, and its query letter to write/revise/get critiqued/send out. So I really should focus on those things. On the other hand, I've been struggling with finding a solid idea for my next ms, and this might give me something to work with. 50,000 words to work with, which makes NaNoWriMo pretty appealing to me.

If you've read my blog, or if you're one of my two friends, you know that I get my titles from song lyrics. I've also been toying with the idea to write a novel based conceptually around one album. Not sure if I'm ready for that one just yet, but I think there's merit in the idea. I want to try a twist on that, and I'm hoping you'll help.

I'm asking you to let me know your favorite song- like favorite song of all time, the one that you'd take with you if you were deserted on an island- and list it in the comment section below this post.

I'm going to make myself a playlist of the songs and try to write an outline of a story around them. If I can figure out a way to make it all make sense, that'll be my story for NaNoWriMo.

I'll start. My favorite song of all time is "Burn" by Jeremy Enigk.

xo. kb.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Method Writing.

I read somewhere that James Dean would so go into his character that he, when playing a drunken, would fool his cast mates and crew into thinking he was really inebriated. I also read that Bjork, following completion of DANCER IN THE DARK, was so absorbed by her character that she vowed never to act again. It had broken her heart. I love this idea, of being so entrenched in your character that you become them. It's something I do every time I write a book.

I didn't set out intending to write this way. Frankly, I never actually set out to write, I just sat down one day and began writing. With my first novel, it was easy for me to write as though I was my main character. JUST A LITTLE RAIN is a very fictionalized, semi-autobiographical novel. It's not all me, but it's enough me that I *got* Eliza right from the get-go. I never had to ask myself, "How would she behave in this situation?" or "How does she feel about this?" or "What things does she notice when she looks at the world?" I just thought about how I would see, feel, and react, then wrote it.

WHERE CURRENTS PULL was more difficult for me to get into, because my intention with that novel was to tackle a problematic area of my own personality (my inability to make big decisions, and my near-obsession with the small ones), but to assign it to a character who was very much not me. I found myself writing in Eliza's voice for a while, before I realized I had to change my approach for Natalie. I changed the music I was using to write to, and thought long and hard about her voice. Natalie spoke in run-on sentences; she began sentences with "So" and "And" a lot. She over-explained and over-thought everything. She was detail-oriented to the point of being either annoying or charmingly strange.
The more into her character I got, the more I behaved like Natalie. I started dressing in dresses exclusively just like Nat, started talking long, noticed all the small details of everything around me, appreciated sparkly things (not vampires) and the color blue, and- even more weird- developed a very easy, breezy attitude with life. Actually, I was probably the happiest I've been in a long time when I was writing Natalie, just because she's, generally, a very happy person.

Then we get to ABOVE THE WAVES. When I started on this novel, I already had it in my mind that I become my characters as I write. I found Amanda a specific playlist (which was difficult- I wrote a blog about it some long time ago), and set out to discover her. Amanda's a tough one, because she starts out this totally confident, dry, and hot girl. When I wrote the beginning, I curled my hair in waves every day, exercised twice a day, and limited my drinking. As the writing progressed, Amanda devolves into a huge mess of depression. So did I. It wasn't specifically intentional, but when you're trying to understand how a character will behave when she's feeling that way, you have to tap into something. It's interesting, because I imagined her depression to be this heavy sadness, but it didn't end up that way at all. She(we) felt a general numbness to the world, interspersed with fits of anger. Actually, it really worked for her character and, I think, was tons more authentic than weepiness would have been.

*It didn't work very well for me, however, and I'm finding it very difficult to break away from Amanda. I guess it doesn't help that the story doesn't end all rainbows and unicorns.*

Anyway, I wonder if other writers do this? I mean, I know I'm a weirdo, but there have to be more of us out there, right?

Listening to: Mates Of State "Re-Arrange Us" again. I'm a Tuesday, remember?

xo. kb.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tuesdays, Fridays, and everyone else.

This blog post is totally stolen from Natalie, my MC in WHERE CURRENTS PULL, who thinks about these types of things more than I do. She's a clever, funny girl and I thought I'd share it for those of you who haven't met her. For those of you who have, this will be something like repeating a scene from a movie you love. Because you love that story, and you enjoy repeating things (I'm talking to you, Babs, and I'm referring to DREAM OF AN INSOMNIAC.)

I'm a music freak. Literally a freak. I listen to music all day, sometimes at night. I have a song in my head every moment of every day. I listen to a lot of bands, but there are a few I OBSESS over. I'm a total Tuesday. What's a Tuesday? Glad you asked.

There are three types of people in the modern world: Tuesdays, Fridays, and everyone else.

Tuesdays love music, but they love their bands/artists specifically. They are intense, obsessive people- the type who know the year the album came out, who mixed it, who produced. The bands they love are like extended family, and they look forward to release dates like some people look forward to Christmas or birthdays. I call them Tuesdays because that's when new albums come out. A Tuesday will take off work to wait outside the record store so they can be the first to buy the new release and then listen to it all day.

Fridays are also music lovers, they just don't freak out as hard. Fridays don't need to take a day off. They wait until payday (hence Friday) and then go shopping, where they'll buy a few CDs and/or LPs. A Friday tends to have more diverse taste, and makes the best mixes. Everyone should have a Friday friend because they expose you to new things- helpful for a Tuesday looking for a new obsession. My Friday is Rich Sexy Hot Voyager. He's an awesome resource.

Everyone Else is literally everyone else- those people who like songs, but don't know the title or artist. The people who download a single, but never the album. They've never heard of Reckless Records or Wax Trax, couldn't make any money at Disc Replay. No dis on these guys. Some people just aren't into music that much. I don't get it, but it's okay.

Listening to: Sia "We Are Born"

xo. kb.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What have I done to deserve Blue Oyster Cult?

My friend and I were talking the other morning. We were musing about life and the shit storm we occasionally find ourselves in, when everything hits at once and pummels you and you feel like you can't breathe and you don't know if you can take anymore. (Breath, sigh.) It's been a particularly rough patch for me for a while, and she said to me with the kind of love and well-wishing a good friend gives and means, "You deserve to be happy." It was a sweet offer, and I thought about it for a moment before replying, "Eh, I don't think it works that way."

I used to work for Starbucks. I opened almost every shift (not complaining, because I wrote the schedule) which meant I had to get up at 3a to be in my car at 330 to get to work by 4a. I am a morning person for sure, but 3a is certainly not morning. I know this because it's the time I used to come home from being out all night. Night. So I'd be in my car at 330 and driving the same dark route to work. There were two redeeming aspects to this drive: the time alone, and the music. One morning I had the radio on; I was sick of the cds I had in my car and wanted a bit of variety. Every channel had commercials except one so I kept it there, despite the fact they were playing lamer songs than I wanted to hear. But I kept the channel put- I'm an optimist. After a succession of bad songs, you're due for something good. You deserve it, right? So I hung on, and the next song came up. "Don't Fear The Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult.

There are people who may like Blue Oyster Cult. I am not one of them. That songs ranks right up there in my list of "Shoot me now" songs with "Werewolf Of London" and "The Sign" by Ace of Base. I wanted to puke. But I held on there, because surely now after this horrorshow of a song something good would come on. I was nearly at work, needing just one little bit of musical goodness to help me face the morning rush and mid-morning lull. I continued listening and the song ended. "Finally," I thought, and drove with expectation for something better, and was rewarded with... wait for it... a commercial.

It was in that moment of musical disappointment that I realized we don't get what we deserve.

I will not find an agent/sell a book/win the lottery/get that promotion/lose weight/find the love of my life/beat this horrible disease just because I somehow deserve it. I've been good, I've worked hard, I've waited a long time, whatever the reason, things don't happen that way. Bad things happen, good things happen and they're arbitrary. I don't think that's so horrible. When you spend your life thinking you deserve good things, and then they don't happen like you wanted, you waste time in frustration. Likewise, when you're consumed with wondering why bad things happen to you, like there's some grand scheme of ill-will against you, it's like a self-inflicted lengthening of the suffering. I think it's more important to just take what comes, and continue to plow forward. Live life without a sense of pity or entitlement. And enjoy that we have this opportunity at all.

Listening to: Mates Of State "Re-Arrange Us"

xo. kb.