Shifting gears abruptly

Came across this nice review today at The Bookbag. I am so tickled that the book is “classy”, especially after all my filking has other people calling me “the Weird Al of YA”. But y’know what? I’m comfortable with my contradictions. I can be both.

I live to filk another day

Oh, hi. I’ve been playing Skyrim and running errands and trying very hard not to think about the sequel, which is still in the capable hands of my editor. I’m afraid I have also been rewriting songs, which gives me a peculiar comfort. I like that there are rules – the rhyme scheme, the rhythm and melody – because that makes it an interesting puzzle to solve. This week’s bit of filking was originally “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay. Link to the source song provided in case you don’t know it. Once again, it’s something that happened to come on the radio and catch my imagination.

I’ve turned it into a song about burnout. Just in case you’re prone to worry: I’m not THIS burned out. But I have been before. I’m tempted to call this “Escriba el Escrito”, but that’s kind of nonsensical (and probably ungrammatical – it’s been many years since I had good Spanish). So let’s just call it —

“Burnout, or When I Wrote the Words”

I used to write the words,
Like a goddess, I created worlds
Then one morning I walked away
Guess I’d run out of things to say

Burnout crept up so gradually
I was sure it wouldn’t happen to me
I wrote all day and I wrote all night
And my characters lived, god they burned bright.
The story engulfed my life
Filled it with war, trauma, glory, and strife.
Then all at once I could take no more,
I gathered my heart, dashed to the door.

I hear accounting is nice and boring,
Driving taxis or laying flooring,
Manual work to bypass my brain,
No more digging in my own pain.
The life of the mind seems rarefied
Not the thing to leave you fried,
But that’s what occurred
Back when I wrote the words.

I stood off and I gave it time
I could barely stand to claim it as mine
Wondered whether I’d ever try
To speak its name or catch its eye.
But the story followed me
And I knew that I would never be free
Until leapt back and faced the fight.
Someone tell me why I wanted to write?

I hear accounting is nice and boring,
Driving taxis or laying flooring
Manual work to bypass my brain,
No more digging in my own pain.
The life of the mind is rarefied,
You can’t quit cold and be satisfied.
No matter what you heard,
I’ll be back to write more words.

(Seriously, you need to picture me dancing just like that dude in the video.)

Prog rock poultice

So where was I? Ah, right. Grumpy!

When attempting to relieve a bad mood with prog rock, Pink Floyd isn’t the only way to go. So much depends on the nature of the grumpiness. Pink Floyd should be applied when you’re experiencing a case of the Vast Existential Mopes, and/or if you see marching hammers (for that latter, maybe call a doctor too). There are certainly other variations, and other prog rock for any occasion.

Is your grumpiness dramatic and fierce? Medieval? Perfectly encapsulated by the phrase “Let the blood flow, let the blood flow,” sung by a shrill Scotsman in an Anglo-Saxon helmet? Yeah, I’ve been that grumpy. In that case, you want Marillion’s “Grendel“. In particular, you want the second half, where Fish (yes, that’s his name) puts his helmet on and disembowels a member of the audience. Y’know, metaphorically.

Is your grumpiness keeping you up at night? Is it just a touch paranoid? Are there submarines lurking in your foggy ceiling? Oh, I’ve seen those too, darlings. For this flavour of sulk, I prescribe King Crimson’s “Sleepless“. It’s all right to feel a little fear.

Are you so complicated in your cantankerousness that no one understands you? Do you feel pulled in conflicting directions by your inner Apollonian and Dionysian homunculi, one in a business suit, one in his birthday suit? Is your grumpiness an elaborate artistic snit? Then  you may already be living at Rush’s “La Villa Strangiato“. I’m there way more often than I like to admit, so I sympathize.

Take some prog rock and call me in the morning

So okay, say you’re grumpy. So grumpy you could steam-clean the carpet with your eyes, but you won’t out of pure peevishness. So grumpy your skin turns green and your friends all call you The Incredible Sulk.

You’re grumping through the kitchen, making yourself a cup of (Nas) Tea (Mood), listening to “Firth of Fifth” again in the vain hope that it will cheer you up, when suddenly… it does. Not all the way, mind, but a little bit. Enough for a thought, like a ray of sunlight, to get through your cantankerous cloud cover.

It’s going to take more than one puny Genesis piece. You’re going to need a whole musical regimen, says the thought. Some kind of Prog Rock Grumpiness Cure.

And that makes you laugh. Laughing is Kryptonite to grumpiness. It’s the beginning of the end.

However, maybe you’re not ready to completely let go of the Vast Existential Mope just yet. Here’s some dismal Pink Floyd. Not dismal enough? They can do MORE DISMAL.

Tomorrow: what I listen to when I’m done feeling sorry for myself.

Wherein I am the grumpy

I’m afraid I have a bad mood to sort out. But all is not lost! Here’s Firth of Fifth, by Genesis, and that improves the world on several fronts at once. Isn’t that piano solo at the beginning the most gorgeous thing ever? And that line (or possibly pair of lines) — “He rides majestic, de blah de blah”. Almost doesn’t matter what comes next, “he rides majestic” is perfectly sufficient.

Back later. Sometime. In all likelihood.

Done! (for now)

I sent the sequel to my editor last night! It’s out of my hair! And if any of you have seen the vast thicket that is my hair, you know that’s an accomplishment.

Now, let us have no illusions about this: there will be revisions. Probably many stages of revisions. There always are.

But! For now let us bask in one of my favourite parts of the writing process: pretending I’m done! Woooo-hooo!

I celebrated last night by going to choir practice – I know, I know, I am out of control. Off the hook. But I sang really loudly, and I played YES at excruciating volume in the car on the way there and back.

I considered inflicting some ABWH on you, since that’s the other thing I was listening to last night while in decompression mode, but I think instead I’ll give you the song I had going on endless repeat while I worked yesterday. It’s called “Hope”, which seemed apropos at the time, and it’s a solo by Alex Lifeson, the all-too-often overlooked guitarist for RUSH:

It was just the right touch of optimism at just the right time. And now I get to rest. See you next week, friends.

This week

I see the end of this, friends. Just one last big push, and I think the sequel will be ready to hurl at my editor, like a rotten pumpkin off a trebuchet.

Or, y’know, a flaming piano. I’m not sure which one this manuscript most resembles, to be honest.

In any case, that’s why I will not be here much this week, barring unexpected and exciting news. I’m working.

Back soon, I hope!



I (re)write the songs

Those of you who are new to The Rachel Hartman Experience (with Rachel Hartman) will not have been exposed to this side of me yet, but it has to come out sometime: I am an incorrigible filker. Filker may not be exactly the right name for it; I’m not a member of the filking community, after all, and my subject matter (and source songs) aren’t genre-standard. But I don’t know what else to call what I do.

When my son was very small, I used to rewrite song lyrics as a way of turning my frustration into something more palatable. I came up with songs like “Psycho Toddler”, “I Want to Ride My Tricycle”, and “I Am the Man (of Constant Teething).” I don’t do it that often any more – certainly not about the boy – but every now and then I’ll still be struck by something. Usually when I’m driving and can’t write it down.

Anyway, REO Speedwagon’s “Roll with the Changes” came on the car radio today, and I suddenly realized that with just a little tweaking, it was all about novel revisions. Here’s the source song for those of you who aren’t time-travellers from the ’70s.

I need to add: this is written from an editor’s perspective. My editor is a fabulous human being, and he has never speculated about monkeys teaching me grammar. Any silliness in this song must pertain to those other editors at other publishing houses. I mean, obviously.

“Write Me Some Changes”

As soon as you are able, writer I am willing
To let you know your book could use some rewrites.
Notebook’s on the table, and the red ink’s spilling.
You’ve got plot-holes that ought to keep you up nights.

I get so tired of the same old story.
I think you need to cut some pages.
I will be here when you are ready,
To write me some changes — yeah!

I knew you couldn’t end it, knew you’d pull your punches,
I’m thinking that a monkey taught you grammar.
This trope, you can’t defend it. There are no free lunches.
Get right back in there with a saw and hammer.

I get so tired of the same old story.
I think you need to cut some pages.
I will be here when you are ready,
To write me some changes — yeah!

Keep on writin’
Keep on writin’
Oh, write me some changes
Keep on writin’
Keep on writin’
You got to, got to, got to write me some changes — got to! Got to!
(ad nausem, until awesome synthesizer solo. Yeah, baybeh!)

More nice news

My writer friend Elizabeth May just brought to my attention that Seraphina made the Summer 2012 Kids’ Indie Next List’s Top Ten. (say that ten times fast!) Looks like Seraphina clocks in at #2, behind Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue. I’ll take that!

(Technically, my agent and editor also pointed this out to me, but Elizabeth’s mention let me know this information isn’t a secret.) (Hey, some things are secrets. I’m bad about spoilers and secrets, both.)

If you look further down the list, you will also notice a book called Dragons Love Tacos. Ironically, that’s the opposite of what you learn about dragons in my book. I don’t assert outright that dragons HATE tacos, but I think it’s strongly implied*. I suppose readers will have to read both books and decide for themselves.

* That’s a joke, not a spoiler. There are no tacos in my book. OK, THAT was a spoiler.

Two months, and a teaser!

Seraphina comes out two months from today, friends! (In North America, that is. I understand there’s some variability around the world.)

In honour of the very exciting fact of time passing, I have something special for you: a short excerpt from the book! Yes indeed. I will pause whilst you caper merrily about.

Prancey-prance. Aw. You’re cute.

Anyway, without further ado or silliness on my part, the teaser is under the fold. Enjoy!

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