Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Layering and Rewrites

I barely know what Skyrim is. But I do know that this music video of the Skyrim theme is AMAZING! 
At the beginning, it states "Everything you hear on this track was created by 
One Voice, One Violin,120 Tracks".

Wow! Do you know how long it takes to create one track of music?
I know sometimes I get OCD on a favorite song and I play it for about 120 times but...
Singing through a song about a hundred times and learning all the different harmonies. 
This takes some serious work! 
Then, they went and made costumes and filmed it and choreographed fights and everything!
As my kids would say, "Whoa!"

This is a high class, well done piece of music and videography.
All that work shows in the quality of the end product.
It was worth the effort.
The work paid off.

Now to work in the writing angle. (You knew I would.)  
I am on my seventh major rewrite of the beginning of my novel. I was staring at it near midnight last night and wondering, "When will I know its good enough?"
See, I don't consider myself a writer. I did well enough in English class in high school and college. But nobody said, "You should consider writing." 
No, they said that to my sister. And its true. She is a great writer. 

I am a storyteller. The writing is secondary to the story. And sometimes, that is obvious. 
(Very obvious, sob!) 
I am still learning the writing craft and so I stumble upon a piece of wisdom that I never heard (or never remembered hearing before) and I think, "Oh gee! Why didn't I do that! It makes so much sense!" So the story that I've been working on has grown and developed from a promising story to a long, lanky, epic tale that I am desperately trying to wrestle into shape. 

But it takes many rewrites, many revisions and edits. Right now there are more than 200,000 words in my manuscript. Thats more than twice as long as a Young Adult book should be. And I've cut over 30,000 words in the past six months. I just keep adding more in. *sigh*
I have finally come to the conclusion that this will be a trilogy. I know the spots where I can cut it and wrap it. 

I take comfort from a quote I heard (and I will now mangle). Paraphrasing, "Don't just write an 80,000 word novel and stop. Write 200,000 words and boil it down to 80,000. Those  120,000 words will still be there." I imagine it as a good beef or chicken stock with lots of vegetables and good meat, simmering on the stove or in the oven for most of the day. By the end, the stock has a flavor that is rich and full bodied and twenty times better than five bullion cubes in a pot of water. (Though I've done that too.)

So the layering of voice and sound, the layering of the many words, when boiled down, well-edited and presented to the public, is a rich and multi-faceted work of art. Delicious and tempting and inviting consumption. And well worth the effort.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy Together

This is a fairly new video from The Piano Guys that just tickles my funny bone. Steve, the cellist takes his cello with him EVERYWHERE... from the buffet restaurant to the carnival to late nights in the coffee bar to bicycling. 

It got me thinking about Date Night.
And Writing.
(Of Course.)

I dunno about all you married folk out there, but sometimes it gets easy to fall into the 
"What Redbox flick should I pick up this weekend" 
kind of Rut.


Yep, I've been there. 
As in, that's what I said to my husband last night.
"Tomorrow's Friday. What movie do you want me to get at Redbox."

Augh! It was a Given!
How far I've fallen.

I thought about my current Amazing Novel in Progress (ahem) and the romance that I've built there. It has been important to me that its not all wine and roses. I made sure there were quiet evenings together. I have the hero give his sweetie a foot massage after a long day of work. Heavenly. But I also make sure there are the moments when he Sweeps Her Off Her Feet with kisses and smoldering looks too. 
And there is adventure. And swords. And funnies. And danger.
All to keep the public entertained and wondering, "What's gonna happen next?!?"

Except...I know what's gonna happen next in my own love story...(Yawn).
Five kids 
(Five boys that steal your breath and your energy out of you) 
And almost fourteen years together.
I guess I know all my honey's moves.

Except last night, instead of picking a) Action or b) Romance, he said something unexpected.
"Can we do something else?"

"Why yes, Sweetie! We can!"

So, I'm gathering CDs and vacuuming the living room floor (and picking up all the Hotwheels and Thomas trains) so we can have a night of 

Okay, for some of you, that sounds like torture or for others an impossible dream. 
But Mark and I met (practically) on the dance floor. 
We do a fabulous Cha-cha, a pretty smooth Waltz and a fun (if not exact) Swing.
And it's been about six months since we danced.

Ack! Talk about becoming complacent and losing the passion!

Okay, so we're gonna move the living room furniture and DANCE tonight!

What are you gonna do that's fun and gets you out of your rut...
whether it's date night, writing, your dream project that's sitting on the shelf or that new recipe on Pinterest that's caught your eye.

Live it up, shake it up, make it happen.
Have some Fun!

And get outta that rut!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

This is NOT How My Story Ends

Take your power!

Writing by the seat of my pants is not always the wisest way to go about creating the novel of your dreams.
I have learned this to be true.

I have also learned that having a stiffly constructed plotline kills my creativity. 
There is a balance to be had, but I have not yet achieved it. Often times, new Ideas happen like this:

A new, shiny plot point pops into my head while I'm writing trying to figure out if grocery shopping is necessary in the current scene (usually not) and I'm off, like a kitten chasing a ball of string. The problem occurs when that ball of string rolls under a chair or behind a couch or some other obstacle lies in my way. 

"Wait a minute!" I cry. "I can't have her in the market place now, the rascally Merchant will see her and tell her of the nefarious plot which will spoil the scene between Viola and her lover when she learns the truth in the Cathedral!"

Ah! So frustrating ... and such a waste of time! 
I have found that the best way to find a (fairly) happy middle is to get an outline. Not one that breaks down into alpa-numerics, though that works too for those more organized than me. Just an overview like connect the dots for your characters.

Headstrong mermaid rescues human prince while in out-of-bounds area of sea. (set-up_
Falls in Love. (catalyst)
Can't join sweetheart on land (obstacle)
Asks sea witch to change her (plan A)
Voice taken as payment (complication)
Joins prince on land, but cannot communicate who she is (more complication)
He considers her a buddy while he falls for other girl (even more complication)

Now at this point, the story can take a few different paths. If you want to follow Hans Christian Andersen's version, the Little Mermaid finally commits suicide to allow her sweetheart to be happy.

In real life, I hope none of us take that path. Really!

In the Disney version, the Mermaid's friends help her romance the Prince and defeat the Other Girl (who is really the sea witch in disguise).
This is good. It shows the character Doing Something. Taking control of her Destiny.
Even if she needs a fish a crab and a seagull to help her.
(Don't get me wrong, I loved the movie.)

But there are also Path C or Path D or others.

What if she said: "Forget this, I'm going home. This fellow's not worth it. I might have to eat some humble pie and play the Prodigal, but it beats the alternative!"

Or perhaps: "Look at that cute fisherman over there. He sees me for who I really am, a Princess of the Sea. Maybe my life would be happier with a fellow who can see the real me and love me for it?"

Or maybe its a Merman from the sandcastle next door who finally looks so much cuter from her new perspective.

My point is sometimes in writing and in life, we make choices that lead us on a path (of good intentions) that goes nowhere good. But that's what God gave us erasers for. That's what the Backspace key is for and the reason we have words like "rewrite", "edit" and "revise".

If we ever find ourselves written or painted into a corner. Don't just sit there admiring the perfectly squared wallboards. Do an about face, figure out where you started going astray and tiptoe your way back to that point. Then start fresh with your mistake new wisdom tucked under your arm and make a better choice.

So true!

You are the hero/heroine of your own story. Make it a fabulous one!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Thank Goodness for Towels

I am an optimist most of the time. But there are moments when I question myself. Not my hopes and goals, but if I am doing what I should to achieve them. I have to realign myself and it naturally leads to a cozy little bout of self-flagellation. Okay, bit of exaggeration...more of a pity party.

It's hard to acknowledge that we've fallen off the path or gotten distracted by the pretty roadside flowers or just slowed down to a shuffle towards my dreams. But I love this message. That wherever we are, as long as we are heading in the right direction, then there is hope. We can make better and more diligent efforts as we yoke ourselves with the Savior and leave the self recriminations behind us.

Oh, and as I've been writing this bright and shiny post, I heard a little too much laughter and giggles from the bathroom nearby. I just came from investigating. Three little boys, a sinkful of water and a toy from the school "treasure box" which is essentially a gigantic version of an eye dropper, but capable of sucking up and dumping a half cup of water.

Yes, a lovely little mess and three soaking boys are what I just found. So I handed out beach towels, pointed to the floor and to the laundry room next door and decided to see if I can calm down and see the funny/bright/good side of this in five minutes.

Ah! Just returned from a check on them. Floor was (mostly) dry and older boys were trying to get themselves dry. Handed out pajamas and helped the little one. Almost done and back to normal. Really, it was just a five minute hiccup. But when I discovered it, it had the potential to ruin the rest of my evening. So hard to keep perspective sometimes. I am grateful for moments like these when I can remember what life (and motherhood) is really all about.

To quote a favorite Christian rock song:

"We lose our way, we get back up again
It's never too late to get back up again.
One day, you will shine again,
You may be knocked down, but not out forever..."
-TobyMac, "Get Back Up"

I am grateful for the Hope of Repentance and Forgiveness and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
I am grateful for kiddos that remind me why I have Towels and Washing Machines and Hugs when its all over.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I Will Rise

Though I am at a good place right now with a (fairly) good balance of family/work/church/writing/everything else, there have been some times when Life wasn't so peachy!

Just one year ago, I was at one of the most stressed out times of my life. My family had been going through unemployment/underemployment for nearly nine months before my husband got a (real) job. He worked a thousand miles away. We skyped for three months. My kids didn't know which way was up sometimes throughout that entire school year.

As the Lord led us through a (miraculous) quick sale of our house in Virginia (we never even had a chance to list it with a Realtor before we had an offer) and helped us get into a (cheap and big enough) house in Arkansas, I knew that God was guiding our footsteps. But daily, I would go through immense highs and lows. I would stress out for a few minutes and wonder how everything would come together. Then I would look over my shoulder (so to speak) and see how the Lord had carried us on his shoulders from the moment all of this had begun. He had fed us when we were hungry. He had given us clothes when we needed them. He gave us just enough money to pay the bills through the generosity of others, the patchwork of part-time work and renting out our extra bedroom. He gave us the blessed assurance that all would be well when not a single resume would result in a phone call or interview.

We had walked through the Death Valley of Unemployment and had not just survived, but had our testimonies strengthened as we witnessed one small (and not so small ) miracle after another. I KNEW that God had blessed us and sheltered us throughout that year. And I knew that for the next month in the last leg of packing and moving and uprooting our lives, he would see us through.

There are times when I grieve over the loss of my friends. I miss my neighbor-friends and my church-friends and my kids' playgroup-friends. My kids missed their neighborhood elementary school and the cheerful faces they knew. They miss our old house and the yard and the trampoline. We all miss the walks in the Arboretum and along the Appalachian Trail and along the sidewalks of home. There are times when I remember a close friend and I begin to cry. When I read on Facebook about their child's accomplishment and all I can do is give a two sentence "Congratulations". There is sadness and there is an emptiness that those particular people can only fill. And I miss them.

But then I am amazed at how wonderfully God has provided for me and my family in Arkansas. We have friends, new friends that have already become dear and irreplaceable. We have a new neighborhood elementary which is different, but still nice. We have a park that is fun to walk to and play in. If we want longer walks we can drive to the walking bridge that spans the Arkansas River or go clime Pinnacle Mountain. We have a home which, though is still looking like a "Before" photo in a magazine will someday (I hope) become a welcoming hospitable place. (To note: the inside is nice enough. The exterior just looks like a brown 70's design project that somebody dropped into the neighborhood  by mistake.)  I am still amazed at how perfect this house is for us in price and in size and in location.

As I watched this video and listened to the words and felt the Spirit of its message, my soul resonated with this declaration: "I will Rise on eagle's wings." Though the resurrection of my body may be a long time from now, I know that we each can rise through the troubles that beset us in this life. God can walk before us and prepare the way. He can walk beside us to comfort us along the path. He can if we invite him to be our companion in our struggles...If we share our burden with him...If we look to him for strength and for our help. He will be our Savior. Not just from the distant Grave, but from our personal Hells that we may be going through this very day. He can and he will. Reach out. He is already there, waiting.

"I Will Rise"

There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well"

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There's a day that's drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
"Worthy is the Lamb"

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Family: The Ultimate Cure

As I listened to the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this weekend, I was struck by a bold pronouncement by Elder M. Russell Ballard, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and a modern day Apostle. He spoke in the Sunday afternoon (closing) session of the conference. I perked up my ears when I realized his subject matter was something I had been thinking about lately. This is a quote from the church website, giving an overview of his talk.

Much of the world has lost its way, particularly in regard to the values and priorities within the home. “It is in our home and families that need reforming in this increasingly materialistic and secular world,” he added.
Elder Ballard then spoke of the connection between prosperity and education and traditional families and values. The question is about cause and effect. Do some sectors of society have stronger values and families because they are more educated and prosperous—or are they more educated and prosperous because of their values and strong families?
“In this worldwide Church we know that it is the latter,” he declared. “When people make the family and religious commitments to gospel principles, they begin to do better spiritually and often temporally as well.”
Societies are strengthened as families grow stronger.
“When couples marry and make commitments to each other, they greatly increase the chances of economic well-being. When children are born in wedlock and have both a mom and a dad, their opportunities and their likelihood of occupational success skyrocket. And when families work and play together, neighborhoods and communities flourish, economies improve, and less government and fewer costly ‘safety nets’ are required.”
Societal and economic ills, he added, can be remedied by living correct principles and values.
How powerful! How bold! Sometimes we may think this, but so often our leaders, political or spiritual don't come right out and say it. We need families. We need moms and dads who are purposefully dedicated to their homes and children and society. I have been in the political middle for several years now. I don't like the agendas of the far Right or Left. But I'm grateful for common sense and people who are willing to say clearly that we must rekindle the fading glory of our amazing country and that it begins where? 

In the home.

Thank you. *grins bashfully* I will get off my soap box now. Please go about your business. :)