Musical Monday 11: Håll Om Mig

Look, it’s Musical Monday! Now let’s skip over how many months it’s been, and get straight to the main event…

This week’s song comes to you from Sweden, but it’s journey is complicated. I discovered this song through an AMV–an Anime Music Video. For the uninitiated, these are fan videos made using imagery from popular media, synced up to unrelated songs (done without permission by either original creator). “Fanvids” exist across fandoms, and are a kind of transformative fanwork. Although they play a little fast and lose with copyright law, they are an art form that expands on the original media, so generally I don’t have any moral qualms about them. And they can be amazing.

The video that features this song is called Hold Me Now, by a creator going by “alkampfer81” of Tidirium Studio (according to animemusicvideos.org, anyway). It was created in 2006, and gained a number of awards in AMV contests that year. And for good reason. It is a masterpiece. The timing is exquisite, with seamless editing and impeccable pacing. It convinced me to watch its source material, an anime called Princess Tutu, which is a loose retelling of Swan Lake that draws heavily on fairytales and ballets for inspiration.

Warning: there are spoilers to the anime in this video, since most of the imagery comes from the second half of the show, which has a decidedly darker tone than the first half.

The song is in Swedish, but even without knowing the lyrics, the video speaks pretty clearly for itself. The song is about being enchanted by love–a theme that definitely fits with the show.

 

“Håll Om Mig” by Nanne Grönvall

Lyrics | iTunes

I’ve love this song since I first watched the video. As I said above, it was the main reason I watched the anime. Until seeing this video, I’d brushed the show off as being another derivation Magical Girl anime. I could not have been more wrong. This show is not only darker than I ever expected, but deeper as well, with rich characters who grow and change over the course of the show, a complex plot, and a compelling heart.

The song can also stand alone, and is one of my favorites in its own right. It’s got such a strong beat, and really lends itself to singing along, even if I know I’m getting the lyrics all wrong.

“Att vår värld behöver ha,
Mera kärlek varje dag,
Det vet både jag och du,
Låt oss börja här och nu.

“Så håll om mig,
Släpp inte taget om mig,
Är som förhäxad av dig,
Och jag vill ha dig,
Kom och håll om mig nu…”
 
[translated]

“That our world needs,
More love every day,
Both you and I are well aware of that,
So let us start right here and now.”


“So hold me,
Don’t let go of me,
I’m as bewitched of you,
And I want you,
Come and hold me now…”

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Exciting News

I’m so happy to announce that I have a short story in a new anthology! The book is called Oregon’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction, and my story is called “Crush”, about a girl processing her crush on her band’s guitarist in the midst of their first gig.

oregon_s_emerging_writers_an_anthology_of_fiction_grande

Look, it’s a book!

Here’s a little excerpt from the beginning:


Sam has the prettiest eyes. They’re the color of Oregon sky above a drizzly sea, and only a shade grayer than her baby-blue guitar. No matter what she’s saying, or what song she’s playing, it always feels like she’s looking directly at me.

She’s straight as a flute, of course. They always are.

“Wow.”

I jerk, hitting the note too late, too sharp, and swear. Sam laughs.

“What?” I say, holding the mic tightly in front of me like a tether.

“Sorry.” Sam lets her hands fall from the guitar’s strings, cradling it gently in one hand. “I was gonna say, you just sing this song so well.” She winks. Bastard.

“You were great too, baby,” Mike, Sam’s boyfriend, calls from a table. Sam blows him a kiss, and then her eyes snap back to me.

“Should we take it from the top?”

I nod, adjust the mic on its stand. Rachel, our drummer, taps in the beat of the song, and Sam picks the first few lines of melody. I close my eyes, squeeze the mic, and let go.


Of course, to read the full thing, you’re going to need to buy the book. You can buy the softcover here, and they have an affiliate program, so if you follow any of the links in this post and end up purchasing something from their site, that’ll kick a little something back to me as well.

I am really excited about this! It’s my first real publication credit, and I’m pretty proud of the story itself. It’s YA and LGBTQ+, both things I love writing, and I really like how the voice turned out. Hopefully it’ll be the first of many!

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Outlining: Easy As A, B, C

Alright now, before we go much further we have to introduce a common held belief in the NaNoWriMo culture: the idea that there are two kinds of writers, those that plot out their stories in detail beforehand, and those that write by the seat of their pants. They’re affectionately referred to as “plotters” and “pantsers.” Neither is right or wrong; it just comes down to how your brain works. With that said, I believe that we’re all a bit of both. The most meticulously planned out story can still take a wild turn, and even the most spontaneous story can often benefit from at least a bit of direction, even if it’s only so much as a vague idea or a few prompts. I’ve tried both, and while I find that more complicated outlining techniques are great for second and third and fourth drafts, I need something simpler for rough drafts. This technique is not unique or original. I picked it up from watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. The idea is to have three plot lines (A, B, and C, get it?), which you can jump back and forth between. Imagine an episode of TNG: the ship has been sent on a diplomatic mission, and Captain Picard is in charge of handling contact with an alien planet. That’s your A plot line. In the meantime, Wesley Crusher has discovered something strange in his studies, and Riker is humoring him and helping him figure it out (B plot line). And periodically, we see Data and Geordi preparing for their weekly poker game (C plot line). Throughout the 45 minute episode, we’ll jump back and forth between these. Ultimately, Wesley’s project may prove to be related to Captain Picard’s mission. Or maybe Geordi and Data will unearth an important malfunction while they’re trying to create the perfect poker program on the holodeck, and we’ll discover that Wesley was right all along, while Picard continues on undisturbed. Occasionally all three plot lines will overlap. You will see this format a lot through television; sometimes very overtly, like in the example above, and sometimes more subtly. But the point is, these three plot lines allow you the freedom to jump around in the story. It gives you something to turn to when you’re stuck, or when you need a change of pace to undercut tension, or a break for comic relief. It keeps your story new and interesting, for your future readers but also for yourself. With Nano, your biggest danger is feeling trapped in a scene you don’t want to be writing. If that happens, I recommend you skip it, and the easiest way to do that is to swing over to one of your other plot lines. Your goal here is to keep momentum going. You can come back to boring scenes in the editing phase (and chances are, you may not need them after all). You don’t have to use three plot lines, but too many and you’ll lose track of what you’re doing, and too few will leave you with not enough variety to keep your brain going. Now, how to keep track of those plot lines? I do it with three columns, shown below. Let’s use that theoretical Stark Trek episode, shall we?
Three columns:  A Picard preps for the first meeting. Picard is shown around the alien planet. Picards meets the two conflicting cultures he must mediate. Things go awry during the negotiations. Picard consults with Troi back at the ship. Through an interaction with Westley, they learn that the teenagers of the two cultures have been intermingling through an MMORPG They confront the adults with the help of the teens, and show that cultures can work together to overcome their differences. B Westley is studyng an MMO. He joins a new guild, and discovers that they’re not from the ship. He determines that his new online BFFs are from the planet below. But shocker: they’re made up of people from both cultures. He confides in Riker about what he’s learned, and they go to Troi and the Captain As they leave the area, Westley signs on for a session with his guild, still connected through the same server due to help from Geordi and Data. C Data and Geordi get ready for their next poker game, but they want to shake things up. Data has a new holodeck program for their game, but Geordi thinks it’s a little too clinical. He tells Data to consult old Noir novels. Data goes a little hard on the Noir theme, and Geordi has to reel him in, explaining that he needs to take his friends’  personalities into account. They all gather around the game at last, happy and content in the bar Data designed for them.
I’ve laid out the main plot points above. You can see that the three plot lines don’t all line up perfectly, and there are a lot of holes to fill in. But this way when I sit down to write, I just have to pick a plot line to focus on. If I finish a scene and need a change, I can jump to another one. It’s all right there; I just have to connect points, build up to others, and let inspiration strike. Most importantly, I always have something to turn to if I get stuck. I find this method really easy to generate quickly, and just as easy to adjust or ignore when I’m in the thick of writing. Hopefully, it’ll help you start building that road map to your own novel! Next time, we’re going to dig into characters!
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Habits for A Happy NaNoWriMo

My first rule of NaNoWriMo is: start on time.

I really can’t emphasize this enough; there may be no mathematical difference between being 5,000 words behind in Week 1 and 5,000 words behind in Week 3, but that 5,000 words will feel a lot easier to make up when you’ve already written 35,000, as opposed to staring down a big blank page.

The key to starting on time, and keeping on top of your word count, is to build good habits, and build them early. Since we’re spending this month prepping for November, I say, start building those habits now, while the stakes are low.

Figure out when you can fit writing into your schedule. It won’t happen naturally; otherwise, you’d already be doing it. If you’re planning to do NaNoWriMo, chances are you like writing, and have at least thought about being a writer before. Well, this is how you do it: writing, consistently, ongoingly. I’m not saying you have to write every single day or you’re not a real writer, but you do have to write to be a writer. And the easiest way to do that is to make it into a habit.

There is no cookie cutter answer to this question; the habit will be different for everyone. Maybe you’re a night owl, so writing before bed works the best. Maybe it’s easiest for you to get up a little extra early, and write before you go to work or wake your kids up for school. Maybe you’re going to go to a cafe everyday after class and bang out your word count. Try one thing, and if that doesn’t seem to work, try something else; you’ll find your sweet spot, and it’ll make the whole process easier.

The more of a ritual you can make of this, the easier it will be to trick your brain into being productive on a daily basis. My first year doing Nano, I bought packs of instant apple cider mix, and whenever I wrote, I made myself a warm cup of cider. To this day, warm apple cider is something I associate with writing, and when I have it, it’s that much quicker for me to slip into Writing Mode.

Of course, you won’t really know what works until you’re in the thick of it in November, but now is the perfect time to experiment. Set aside some time, start jotting down notes about the stories in your head, and find out what habits work best for you.

Next time, we’ll look at building a rough outline for your Nano novel!

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Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo 2018

Fall is in the air. Halloween decorations have started appearing on porches, leaves are falling, and pumpkin spice lattes are back on the menu. I love October, mainly because of Halloween. But thirteen years ago, this season gained a new meaning. In 2005, my freshman year of college, I first heard about National Novel Writing Month, and my life would be forever changed.

I had a tradition in college. Halloween night, I’d come back after midnight from whatever party or gathering I was at, open my laptop, and write the first few paragraphs of that year’s novel.

In a post-college world, I’ve had trouble keeping up that exact tradition (when you work at 8am the next morning, it’s a lot harder to justify staying up past midnight just to sleepily type a few lines of text). But I’ve participated in every NaNoWriMo since 2005.

I don’t intend this year to be any different. But this time, I want to take you with me.

Some of you may be wondering, what is NaNoWriMo? National Novel Writing Month is a challenge writers set for themselves: to write a 50,000 novella within the month of November. It works out to about 1,667 words a day, which is, roughly speaking, about three single-spaced pages. It’s a doable task. Not necessarily easy, but achievable. Imaginable.

One of the hardest parts of writing a book is getting the first draft out. NaNoWriMo forces you through that process; it gives you the drive and motivation to overcome the planning stage, to actually put words on paper. To learn how to turn your inner editor on and off, and to push through the writing blocks, even if that means you might not be writing your best. I can guarantee you won’t be writing your best, not every scene, not every chapter. But you’ll be writing, and that’s really more important.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a strong writer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good writer. Whoever you are, you will be a better writer on the other side of November.

And we’re going to get there together.

NaNoWriMo doesn’t start until November 1st, but just because you can’t be writing your novel yet, doesn’t mean you can’t be preparing. Everyone does this in a different way, and you don’t have to go into NaNoWriMo with a strict outline (there’s a strong tradition of writers just diving into it on the 1st, writing by the seat of their pants), but I’ve found I’m much more likely to finish the month if I have something to fall back on when I get stuck. You don’t need to have every little twist and turn of your novel figured out, but this month we’re going to work on building a roadmap. You can take as many detours as you need to, but at least you’ll have something to go by.

This October, you should be thinking about what story you want to tell. It can be something that you’ve been kicking around in your head for years, or something new that you’re itching to develop. It can be something you’ve written before (as long as you start writing again from scratch). Honestly, you can take something you’ve already started, and write a continuation, as long as you only count the words actually written in November as part of your word count. You just need some spark; some little nugget of a story that you’d like to develop over 50,000 words.

Start thinking about that this week. And tune in tomorrow for our first deep-dive into Nano prepping: building writing habits.

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Musical Monday #10: No Hopers, Jokers, and Rogues

Ok, I’ll admit, it’s been a few…uh, weeks, since the last Musical Monday. If you’re new here (or it’s been so long you’ve forgotten), this is a weekly series I’m doing where I stare my discomfort with talking about music right in the eye, and see where it takes me. I don’t claim to know what I’m talking about, but I”ll try to keep it interesting!

“No Hopers, Jokers, & Rogues”
by Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends

Lyrics | iTunes

Every summer, me and a couple thousand other people take to a small town in Oregon, and play pirate for a week. The event is called Sea Dog Nights. It’s kind of like a music festival, meets Burning Man, meets a Renaissance fair. Basically, a flat park is converted into a village of personal tents, merchant stalls, and yes, pirate ships, for a week of immersive fun. You’re expected to be in costume, and keep your campsite as period-appropriate as you can (some people have the kind of period tents you’ll see at an SCA event, and many of us make covers for our mundane tents or construct period-appropriate structures around shade popups or carports). It’s a little less structured than more reenactment-heavy events, though. Most people are in pirate or similar garb, but you’ll see the occasional fairy costume, cosplay, or steampunk outfit running around, too.

This was my fourth year attending the event, and while there are many aspects of it I love, one of my favorites is the music.

See, we have a tradition on our ship of gathering around a fire pit and singing songs. Most of them are sea shanties, but some of them are celtic or folk songs, and we’ve snuck in a few pop songs here and there.

No Hopers, Jokers, and Rogues is one of my absolute favorites.

This song to me says: summer. It says leaving my normal life behind for a week, hanging out with some of my closest friends, unplugging from technology while I drink a beer and gaze at a clear starry sky. It says new friends, new adventures, and a sense of community that often feels unattainable in normal city life. For a week, we become a village, and this song always takes me back there.

“Leave all your furrows in the fields where they lie,
The factories and offices, kiss them all goodbye
Have a little faith in the dream-maker in the sky
There’s glory in, believing in, and it’s all in the beholder’s eye…”

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Musical Monday #9: History Maker

Happy Musical Monday! I was feeling pulled in a lot of different directions this week, but finally decide to look at a song that’s been on my list for awhile.

This is one of those songs I love for a few different reasons. First off, it’s used as the opening to the anime Yuri!!! on Ice, which is fantastic in its own right. Secondly, as an opening, it’s accompanied by some truly stunning visuals that really set the tone for the series. And thirdly, it’s just such a catchy, up-beat song.


“History Maker” by Dean Fujioka

Lyrics | iTunes

(For the record, I really like the full version of the song also, and I think it’s worth downloading if the song catches your fancy.)

Yuri!!! on Ice is the story of the titular Yuri, a professional figure skater who, as the series starts, has failed pretty hard in a number of important competitions. The show follows his comeback, and the ups and downs of overcoming his own insecurities as he strives to open himself up to those that care for him. Yuri’s helped by his idol, champion-turned-coach Victor, and as the two begin a quiet romance, the show becomes as much about how you define yourself and your relationships as it is about the sport and any concept of winning or losing.

For a show that is all about chasing and overcoming dreams, this song couldn’t be more perfect. It’s a call to overcome darkness–those thoughts that creep in and try to bring you down, and are sometimes manifested in people around you. Yuri is a bundle of anxiety, and although Victor has the best of intentions, he has to learn how to help Yuri just as much as Yuri has to learn how to accept help. And at the same time, that help can’t just come from outside; both characters have to draw on their own strength as well.

The animated sequence that accompanies the song is truly lovely, and seems to so perfectly fit the song, the characters dancing fluidly across the screen as the music swells. I really appreciate that the animation is unique; often anime openings will just take animation from within the show, and re-cut it. I’m sure this partially comes down to budget constraints, but it’s a nice touch to not only use original animation, but also keep it so abstract. Yes, the story is about figure skaters, but most of the scenes in the opening are symbolic rather than literal; a lovely depiction of the thoughts and actions of the characters, if it were all rolled into one musical number.

It’s also just damn catchy.

“Can you hear my heartbeat?
Tired of feeling, never enough
I close my eyes and tell myself that my dreams will come true…”

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