Downtime and the Back Burner

Every writer has moments when the flow of words stutters, stalls, comes to a sudden screeching halt. Call it writer’s block, call it what you want. In my case it’s usually a panicked ‘where do I go from here’ feeling which is almost always due to a misstep I’ve taken somewhere along the line. It’s that nagging sense of ‘something’s wrong’, and until I figure out what and how to fix it, I can’t move forward.

That’s where the ‘back burner’ comes in. That place at the back of your brain where you stick an idea to simmer while life goes on; never forgotten, but comfortably out of sight where part of your mind can worry away at it while you do other things.

While you have a little downtime from writing.

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Taking some time out at the White Memorial Conservation Center, CT

For me, downtime can be as simple as shutting off the laptop for the day, and going out to do errands and walk the dog. A couple of hours is sometimes enough to work out a plot tangle. Other times, if I’m really stuck, it can mean a week or two of doing nothing but reading other people’s words voraciously or binge-watching an entire season of Supernatural in the company of my daughter.

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A little break to enjoy the autumn colors

Eventually, after an hour, or a day, or a week, the pot finally stops simmering. The solution to my plot or character development problem is suddenly crystal clear. I can dive in again with new energy, and after taking a break things are stronger and better.

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Energized, renewed, ready for the next round

Everyone has their own approach to writing. Every writer has that rhythm that just works, and that is all their own. I love living in my made-up worlds, and can write happily for hours on end. But I get stuck, too. And for me, taking a break from time to time is essential to keep things moving.

All photos taken at the White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield, CT.

 

Write Yourself

Yesterday I went to a ‘decades’ costume party. I dressed as an eighties rock girl. I danced until my legs ached. For some reason, this got me thinking about my wedding, almost fifteen years ago.

I loved every bit of our wedding party. We didn’t have the latest trends in absolutely anything. I let my youngest flower girl decide the color scheme. Needless to say, there was a lot of pink!

We danced until 5am, and only stopped because the venue politely told us they needed to close. There was something for everyone: seventies, nineties, and plenty of eighties music. A lot of it was fabulously cheesy and fantastically fun. I danced my first dance to Bryan Adams, and threw my bouquet to Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman.

I’m an eighties girl, through and through. I spent my teenage years watching Back to the Future, Desperately Seeking Susan, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. My romantic ideal was Rutger Hauer riding into a church on a big old horse in Ladyhawke. I wore neon, and legwarmers, and shirts with mahoosive shoulder pads. Lipstick came in red or hot pink. Subtlety, thy name is not 1980’s.

This definitely affects me as a writer. It would be nice to write beautifully elegant prose, as sharp and balanced as a knife’s edge. But you can’t take the eighties out of the girl. I’ll always be a Die Hard kind of person. I like fireballs, and fight scenes, and people crawling through air ducts. I like a touch of John Hughes to my first kisses. It’s just who I am.

They tell you to write what you know. Well, what I know comes with an extra-large tub of movie popcorn on the side. It’s lighthearted and fun, and probably a little silly at times. But it’s me, and I can’t help that. I don’t do ‘dark’, though I love to read it. ‘Write what you know’, in my case, is definitely ‘write who you are’.

And you know what? I’m fine with that. In fact, I’m more than fine with it. I didn’t begin writing ‘for real’ until I realized that the only person I had to please at that point was myself. I was allowed to have fun.

I’m not entirely sure of the purpose of this blog post. Perhaps there is none, except to make an impassioned plea to write what makes you happy. Be it epic battles, or tangled quests, or stolen kisses in the moonlight. Have fun with it; write that thing that makes your heart beat faster.

And maybe toss in a fireball, for me.

 

Have Book, Will Read #8

There’s a steady March drizzle outside, but in here I have tea, books, and leftover Easter chocolate. Seriously, what more could a word-lover want? Here’s what I’ve been up to…

Recent Reads: Battles and books.

First up was Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. My daughter’s been on at me for a while to read this, and after the gorgeous trailers came out for the movie adaptation directed by Tim Burton I thought it was about time I dipped into it’s rather mysterious waters.

The tale of a troubled boy who discovers his own powers along with a whole hidden world of wonder and threat, Miss Peregrine’s was everything my daughter had promised and more. It’s a slow-burning story, which eases you into its often cold and murky waters inch by inch while at the same time pulling you so deeply into its world that by the time things begin to happen you’re right in there with the main character, Jacob, ensnared and enthralled as he is.

My next read was Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades. I adored the first book in the series, City of Stairs, and thought there was no way he could top the charismatic Shara as a main character. But then he brought back a side character from the first book, General Turyin Mulaghesh, and I was smitten all over again.

Bennett is a master at producing original and unexpected protagonists. Mulaghesh is a stocky, aging, foul-mouthed, one-armed former war hero with a very dark past and a sense of right and wrong that goes above and beyond the call of duty. She is also deliciously stubborn, so when she is sent by the now Prime Minister Shara Thivani to investigate the strange substance uncovered in ruined and embattled Voortyashtan she resolves to get to the bottom of things no matter what it costs her.

After all the strange and divine powers of the last two reads, it was time for a little science fiction with Pierce Brown’s Red Rising. I’d heard this mentioned a few times but it had pretty much slipped under my radar until one of my town librarians suggested I’d enjoy it (hooray for librarians!).

Set on Mars, Red Rising tells a tale of oppression and the thirst for change, as lowborn miner Darrow infiltrates the elite Golds in the name of revolution. This one will definitely appeal to Hunger Games fans, and it’s not for the faint of heart as the battle scenes of the trials Darrow must go through to truly become one of the elite are pretty horrific. It’s incredibly fast-paced and I tore through the entire thing in one day, breathless and with nothing left of my poor, chewed-up nails.

Last on my list was Django Wexler’s The Forbidden Library, first in his middle grade series by the same name. It’s the story of Alice, who goes to live with her Uncle Geryon after her father dies in a shipwreck. An uncle she’s never heard about, who lives in a house full of mysteries. But the biggest mystery of all is the forbidden library. Until Alice creeps in at night and discovers magical powers she never imagined she had.

Alice shows us a world where books are a source of power – and also of grave danger. The creatures she finds inside them are no sweet fairytale things; they’re often nasty, vicious, and happy to kill. But Alice is both clever and fiercely determined to succeed. After all, if magic is real, perhaps her father is not really dead, after all?

Now Reading: Following the horse trail.

Loaded up on my Kindle and ready to go is The Art of Forgetting: Rider by Joanne Hall. All I’ve done so far is glance at the first page, so I’ll have to fill you in on this one next time round. A coming-of-age fantasy tale following a boy’s journey to become a cavalryman, it may be just what I need after all the strange directions my reading has taken me in lately.

To Read:

I have the first two books in Orson Scott Card’s Mithermages series on request at my library, so I’ll dive into those when they arrive. The Lost Gate and The Gate Thief tell the story of Danny North as he discovers his gate magic and the perils that follow.

I also have three novels on pre-order, all of them out at the same time at the end of March. I love the excitement of waiting for a new book to arrive! Myke Cole’s military fantasy Javelin Rain is the sequel to his excellent Gemini Cell. Sunset over Abendau is the sequel to Jo Zebedee’s dark space opera Abendau’s Heir. And The Adventures of Sir Edric, by Thaddeus White, is a fantasy comedy, with history’s most un-PC knight ever, the drunken, womanizing Sir Edric.

Words to read, worlds to explore. And my tea’s getting cold. Happy reading!

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Love, Longswords, and Lightsabers

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With Valentine’s Day approaching, and a serious need to distract myself from all the chocolate treats on sale, I started thinking about romance in science fiction and fantasy. I’m not talking paranormal romance, oh no, that would be too easy. I’m thinking about all the love stories that hide under action-packed tales, weaving their way delicately through the adrenaline surges and the blaster fire, the sword-work and the combat spells.

Take a good look at your favorite novels and chances are there’s a love story in there, somewhere.

Why is love a recurring theme in fiction, even if it’s quietly hidden away under an adventurer’s cloak? For one, it helps ground your characters. Along with pain, fear, and other easily recognizable and relatable feelings, love helps us understand a character and gives that character extra dimension and realism. Even if they’re a magic space knight. An underlying ribbon of romance also provides a secondary plotline that can run alongside the main plot, adding both tension and depth.

Is romance necessary in a novel? Of course not. But sprinkling those action scenes with a little of that loving feeling can be a whole lot of fun. I’ve chosen five fast-paced books with great love stories in them for anyone looking for a Valentine’s Day read. The chocolate treats are optional.

 

Gemini Cell, Myke Cole

A fast-paced military fantasy novel with a killer love story to fuel it on, Myke Cole’s tale about a dead Navy SEAL who turns into an undead zombie warrior may not be an obvious pick for a romantic Valentine’s Day read. And yet the central core of the story is the death-defying love that Jim Schweitzer has for his wife and child. Full review here.

 

The Demon King, Cinda Williams Chima

YA is full of wonderful love stories, and The Demon King and the subsequent books in the Seven Realms quartet are a perfect example. Cinda Williams Chima serves up everything you could possibly want in an epic fantasy series: high magic, low magic, warcraft, sieges, court intrigue, international politics… And of course, a fabulous romance too.

 

Time Salvager, Wesley Chu

This one is a time travelling science fiction tale set in a bleak future. Sounds romantic, right? Not really? Wait until you meet James Griffin-Mars, a depressed chronman bent on self-destruction, who falls for a woman from the past and forfeits everything to be with her. Although Wesley Chu’s novel is packed with intrigue and exciting action sequences, at its heart it’s a love story.

 

Fade to Black, Francis Knight

How about adding a little fantasy noir to the mix? Francis Knight’s Rojan Dizon is a jaded, disillusioned P.I. with pain mage powers. But as he’s unwillingly dragged into a battle for civil freedom that he has no real wish to join, he finds love. Messy, unrequited, ill-fated love, but love, nevertheless. And this love is what keeps him going throughout this and the next two books in the trilogy, pushing him to make ever-harder choices and sacrifices.

 

The City Stained Red, Sam Sykes

Okay, you might say, now you’ve gone too far. Where, you might ask, in this veritable bloodbath of a novel, is the romance? But Sam Sykes does like a bit of loving, and he certainly doesn’t shy away from the sex scenes. Lenk and Kataria’s on-off flirtation is the one constant thing in this novel; whatever mayhem happens to be going on, we know that somewhere around the corner we’ll get another dose of the awkward love and even more awkward lovemaking that is part of the wonderful train wreck of their relationship.

 

Bonus title: The Princess Bride, William Goldman

Yes, I know you’ve probably watched the movie at least a couple of times, and can most likely quote from it with your eyes closed… But HAVE YOU READ THE NOVEL? Because, if not, get thee to a bookstore or library and please, please, please read this immediately. This is the ultimate swashbuckling, sword-toting, cliffhanging, magic-wielding love story: a quest for romance and the best kiss in all time. And it’s incredibly funny, too.

 

All that’s left to say is, enjoy!

*please consume chocolate products in moderation. or not. hey, it’s your call.*

Oh, Nuts! Where do I begin?

I had a blog post planned to kick off the New Year. It was going to be all about beginnings. I had several books lined up to take a look at how the authors began their stories, but then I had houseguests staying and the blog post kept being put off, and off, and off…

And then, bang in the middle of all the delicious chaos of houseguest-landia, I look out of my window and see this:

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The Grey Council convenes.

Pretty cool, right? Maybe they’re discussing emergency winter prep. Maybe they’re hatching a nefarious plan to break into my house and steal ALL the birdseed. Or maybe they’re just trying to keep their furry hindquarters warm, and the floor is made of lava, so they’ve devised a ‘death’ game where they have to shoot each other off the tree trunks with nut-powered magic and in the end there can BE ONLY ONE!

Or perhaps it was just a wonderful serendipitous moment that I just happened to capture. But it’s fun to imagine the stories behind the shot, and it sure entertained a bunch of us on Facebook that day.

And more: there, in that absolutely random photograph, is a beginning. Is it one I’ll ever use? Probably not; I don’t usually write about tiny, furry battle mages. But it was a little slice of life that got me thinking for a while and, really, that’s all that a beginning is. Something that sticks in your mind and keeps on growing until it’s so big and full of awesome that you just have to sit down and write and see where the story takes you.

That weird dream you had that you can’t quite forget? A beginning. The oddly shaped tree you pass every day on the way to work? A beginning. Those comments you overheard in the coffee shop that day? Bam! A beginning.

Because the true beginning isn’t the much-edited and highly polished first page of the novel you love. Trust me, that thing’s probably been rewritten a gajillion times to look that sleek and wonderful. No, the true beginning is that image or concept that makes you want to spend hours slaving over a keyboard in the first place. The primordial spark of life, the moment you stop in your tracks in the middle of the grocery store and go, “Oh!” while your heart beats just that little bit faster, and your eyes get that gleam that anyone who knows you will recognize as the ‘forget me for the next few months’ look.

So here’s to a new year and to many, many new beginnings. And if the well runs dry, you can always have my furry battle mages.

You’re welcome.

Books? What Books? 2015 Reading Highlights

This has been a great year for books. Many, many words have been devoured. I’ve discovered new authors, and caught up with my to-read-list. Well, partially, at least: that thing is a never-ending pit of doom and delight. Hopefully you’ve had a great year for reading too… But if you’re still looking for bookish inspiration, I’ve invited a few guests to share their reading highlights for 2015. Enjoy!

 

Jo Zebedee, author of Inish Carraig, Abendau’s Heir, and the upcoming (2016) sequels Sunset over Abendau and Abendau’s Legacy:

Mother of Eden, Chris Beckett – I really love this series, it’s probably one of my favourite sf reads for a long time. I wondered how Chris would balance the story moving so far forwards and new characters and what not, but he did it beautifully. Love it.

The Minituarist, Jessie BurtonReally enjoyed this. Very clever, very evocative of its time, nice central male character (I found the female ones a little harder to like but overall more intriguing). Well worth a look at.

The Woman who Stole my Life, Marian Keyes – Just finished this. Fabulous. Well worth a look at for use of a frame story and for how to keep the predictable will-they/won’t-they story fresh.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers – This is also nearly on my biggest disappointment list. I enjoyed it but it didn’t come close to the hype for me.

Marina, Carlos Ruiz Zafon – Sumptuous. Just sumptuous. And creepy.

Winter Ghosts, Kate Mosse – I’ve never been a huge fan of Mosse, but this I loved. Very evocative of the time and place.

Finally, one of my very favourite reads was a beta/first read of the Sir Edric books by Thaddeus White. I was begging for the next installment as fast as it could be written. Out next year from Tickety Boo Press and I’ll be getting the nice shiny new version the day it comes out!

 

Steven Pooreauthor of The Heir to the North and the upcoming (2016) sequel, The High King’s Vengeance:

All That Outer Space Allows, Ian Sales – Tour de force conclusion to the Apollo Quartet that ought to be an award-winner in any year.

A Darker Shade of Magic, VE Schwab – A gloriously fun start to a new series, told with pace, clarity and verve.

The Stars Seem So Far Away, Margret Helgadottir – Fractured stories of a fractured earth; as bleak as the tundra, and as deep as the ocean.

 

Jennifer Carson, fantasy author and editor, has worked for a number of publishers such as Simon and Schuster, currently an editor for Tickety Boo Press.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline – I read this book at the nagging of my husband, and I have to admit, he was right. It was one of four books I read this year that put me in page-turner mode. Wade Watts is a teen who prefers to live in a Matrix-like construction called OASIS. When the OASIS creator dies, he leaves his vast fortune to the first person who win his easter egg hunt with only riddles to guide them. I’m usually quite put off by VR stories, but I loved this one. Mostly because I’m a closet geek, and I got 90% percent of the references and had played all the major games named in the story. I even out-geeked my true geek husband and got one of the riddles right away. He was floored. “How did you get that?” he asked. To which I replied, “How did you not? We spent our first date playing that game. You introduced me to PCs with it!” So if you love the oldies…or were there when those games were cutting edge (we won’t say which category Hubby and I fall into…but you can guess), this book is most definitely worth the read. The only negatives for me were that I wished the end had been a little stronger, and I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it so thoroughly had I not played these games. But if you like VR stories or video games, it’s certainly worth taking a look at the free download sample. I was hooked by the end of that!

Endeavour, Ralph Kern – This is the only project I’ve worked on that I chose to include. Why? Because in my thirty years of editing, this book was my favorite project. I found myself reading it when I should have been working on it. Even when I came to the end of my editing day, I would read just a few more pages ahead as a sneak peek for the next day’s work. I was quite happy to follow our intrepid explorers as they tried to answer the Fermi paradox: If space is so huge, where is everybody? As they search for extraterrestrial life, we watch the people of earth leap into the future and pass by our team who, as a byproduct of relativistic time issues, become one-way time travelers. The weakness of the book would have to be characterization. The characters are good enough to do the job of carrying their share of the story, but they aren’t deeply fleshed out. Rather, this book is a plot-driven story. I enjoyed how it took a mystery from the past in our real world and used it to generate a science fiction story that answered that mystery (But then, it was one I was always interested in, even did a book report on it in school). All in all, I really feel that Ralph has captured some of the flavor of the heyday of SF and the midcentury greats, then modernized it for today’s audiences. This is true hard science fiction, driven by story and science, and one very enjoyable read.

Dust and Light, book one of the Sanctuary duet, Carol Berg – Carol Berg is a favorite author of mine. I absolutely loved her Lighthouse duet and her Rai Kirah trilogy, so I was thrilled to find out she was doing a Sanctuary duet in the same world as the Lighthouse one. This story is about a sorcerer character whose talent is to sketch the truth of a man’s soul, and just how far others will go to keep those truths covered. Lucian pays the price for a talent he only fully comes to understand through the course of the book, and it costs him everything…family, liberty, even sanity. Angst-driven characters are a specialty of Berg’s, and this one was no disappointment. Following Lucian’s tortured journey kept me turning pages, though they are not necessarily for everyone. My husband doesn’t like the tortured-hero schtick as much as I do. He finds these characters to be downers. But if you like the suffering hero who endures and is transformed, a character who is reforged in the crucible of life, give this talented author a try. I still like the other two I listed above better, but this one did not disappoint. I can’t wait to dive into book two over the Christmas break!

 

Thaddeus White, author of Bane of Souls, Journey to Altmortis, Sir Edric’s Temple (to be re-released in 2016) and the upcoming Sir Edric’s Treasure:

Abendau’s Heir, Jo Zebedee – a deliciously dark tale of empire and family feud in space. It takes the reader into the hearts of its protagonists, and features a number of stellar moments, including a fantastically grim scene two-thirds or so into the book [the best fiction I’ve read this year].

The Greatest Knight, Thomas Asbridge – William Marshal was apparently the first man not a king to have his own biography, and this book reveals why. From being abandoned by his father and threatened with death as a child to rising to prosperity thanks to his military skill, Marshal served multiple kings during one of the most turbulent times in history, and this biography is well worth reading.

Ghost on the Throne, James Romm – when Alexander died his generals and relatives were thrust into a decades-long struggle for supremacy. Akin to a pack where every wolf considers himself (or herself…) alpha, the cadre of bold and clever men and women Alexander left behind engage in ferocious war for the ghost’s empire.

 

Nathan Hystad, author of many science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories and editor-in-chief at Woodbridge Press:

Fool’s Quest, Robin Hobb – She is my one of if not my favorite author, and though the book could have been condensed in the middle by a couple hundred pages, the ending was enough to push this to one of my top reads of the year. She is one of the authors I can’t wait to read.

Salem’s Lot, Stephen King – I am a huge King fan and since he has so many books, I have really only read maybe a third of them. This was a wonderful book, and it was hard to believe it was published fourty years ago. If you haven’t read this book…do it!

Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C Clarke – This was my first Clarke experience, and it was a great one. The sense of tension and build up was palpable. It ended slightly disappointing but the book was so good, it was inspiring. I also read Childhood’s End after it, and really enjoyed it too.

 

A big thank you to all my lovely blog guests and readers. Happy New Year, everyone, and may 2016 be a year of great stories!

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Just Shoot Me: always an archer’s girl

Here’s a little something about me: I do love a good archer in my fiction. Yes, those dazzling sword fights are very nice and all, and gunfights or laser blasters do the job quite prettily, but my heart sings at the twang of a bowstring and the zip-hiss of an arrow in flight. I’ll even take the ker-thunk of a crossbow if I have to.

I know exactly what began my love of storybook archers. When I was around seven, I was given a couple of Ladybird books about Robin Hood. And I was instantly smitten by Robin and his brave Merry Men, especially by dashing Will Scarlet (but not by Marion, who I considered to be a bit of a let down for the female side). The Ladybird books were followed by other versions of the tale, including one where Robin died at the end and I always ended up in tears.

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The tale that kicked it all off.

 

Afterwards, when I discovered the Narnia series, I was quite cross to see that my favorite (Lucy of course) got stuck with the lame knife and the healer’s cure while silly Susan got the bow. But then Jill – another archer – more than made up for Susan in The Last Battle. I always loved the bit where Tirian says to her, “If you must weep, sweetheart, turn your face aside and wet not your bowstring.” And she grits her teeth and follows his advice, game face all the way!

Feisty Jill would probably have got along well with Katniss – they could both field dress a rabbit and do a decent bit of shooting. Of course, by the time the Hunger Games came along I was a grown woman, but not too old inside to enjoy her post apocalyptic flair for doing all the right things to mess with all the wrong people.

But nice as it is seeing girls with bows (Merida, you rock!), Robin and Will (*sigh*) were my first real crushes. Which is probably why I like CW’s Arrow so much: Archer? Check. Dressed in green? Check. Shades of grey vigilantism? Check.

The Robin Hood stories were exciting for many reasons; the hunted becoming the hunters, the guerilla warfare, the daring feats. But the archery was what ultimately remained long after I’d lost the books to the passing years.

Why bows and arrows? A sword wielder (at least in fiction) is all passion and instinct; he or she trains incessantly so the movements come without thinking in the heat of battle. But ultimately they’re the thugs in stories, the ones who get up close and personal and aren’t afraid to get a little messy, or even a lot. At the end of the day, it’s all about sticking a big old chunk of metal in someone else.

Archers now, they represent cold logic under fire. However skilled they may be, they still have to pause and factor in the distance, the wind, and take aim. That’s a lot of quick thinking, especially in a fast-moving brawl. They may be toting the long-range weapons, and have the luxury of standing back on a battlefield, but try making all those calculations with the pressure of enemies closing in and your friends (the sword folk) getting slaughtered out there.

So, at the end of the day, you can keep your Longclaws, your Andurils, your Excaliburs. I’ll take the unnamed trusty lengths of seasoned yew, the feather-fletched shafts, the quivers and bracers. I’ll go for brains over brawn, for sharp intelligence and a keen eyesight. Robin, sign me up for your Merry Band, and away to the green depths of Sherwood. Because that arrow launched so many years ago?

Straight through the heart.

 

Yesterday we spent the day in New York City, celebrating my niece’s 13th birthday. It was a rainy, grey sort of day, with that veiled beauty that comes from a wet and misty sky. This was my first summer visit to the city. Central Park is a whole other beastie when all decked out in seasonal finery, and Battery Park was truly enchanting.

A few snippets of NYC greenery. Enjoy!

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Battery Park wilderness

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Bee garden

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Central Park lilies

Song and Story Structure

The other day I was driving around doing the kids’ after school activity pick-ups and all that jazz. And I was listening to music, as you do. There was nothing particularly interesting on the radio, so I started playing around with song structure and thinking about the parallels to novel writing.

Turns out, there are quite a few.

Now, I’m no songwriter or musical connoisseur. You need my husband – the former band member and absolute music junkie – for that. But I can tap my foot and hum along with the best of them. And from my detailed scientific study (a.k.a. fifteen minutes in the car) I figured out a few things.

For sake of illustration, I’m going to take Taylor Swift’s Stay, Stay, Stay. Why this one? Well, we listen to Taylor a lot because my daughter likes her work, and she tells ‘proper’ stories in her songs, with beginning, middle and end. Also, that particular song cracks me up. It’s the line about the football helmet; it just gives me the giggles (you can find the song itself as well as the lyrics on the interwebs).

This song has a pretty standard layout, so it works well as an example. It starts out, like many others, with an intro verse that is sung as fast as the rest, but sounds slower because the accompanying instruments are lighter. Here she lays out the main plot and introduces the characters, easing you into the song’s ‘world’.

Just like the first chapter or two of a novel.

The song picks up with a second verse, fully instrumentalized this time, so it sounds a little pacier. Writers, you just know we’re heading for some plot action, right? And there it is, the first chorus. The chorus in a song works like a climax in a novel; it changes the speed of the narrative, whips things up a little, adds excitement. But just like a song or novel can’t be all verses, they can’t be all chorus either, so after all that frenzy we’re back to another verse.

But the novel, I mean song, is at a different pace now, and this time Taylor only waits one verse before she plunges us back into another chorus. We’re bang smack in the middle of the novel, I mean song, and things are happening fast. Instead of another verse, we’re sent into the slow-down-to-warm-up-again tease of the bridge, and any reader or writer worth their salt knows that now we’re gearing up for the heart racing end climax, the main fireworks, the mother of all Armageddons.

And there it is: three slightly different versions of the chorus, one after the other, bang, bang, bang. The big jitterbugging, hero-gets-the-kiss climax.

So next time you’re wasting time in the car, have a listen to the songs on the radio. A proper listen. What story structures can you spot?

If nothing else, it’s got to beat staring at the traffic in the rain…

Next week: learn to write a query by reading the back of a cereal box!

(Just kidding. Or am I?)

My lawn is full of wild violets…

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So pretty. They’re supposed to be ‘lawn undesirables’ but I love them. My neighbors can keep their perfect, labor-intensive lawns; I’ll take violets in spring any day!