Birth Pains

Why do I write?

You know what? Writing a book is hard work. Getting anything accomplished when your internal editor is screaming at you the entire time is like trying to do a month’s worth of grocery shopping while three mischievous toddlers are stealing things out of the cart and then hiding them in all the wrong places around the store.

Actually, I’ve never had that experience but it sounded really good – before I put it down on virtual paper.

Oh, well…

You know what else? Writing a book is also a lot of fun and rewarding on a personal level. It’s especially nice when your beta readers tell you that they enjoyed reading it and are looking forward to the next installment.

black trunks of leaf-bare trees set against a lurid sunset with red-tinted clouds.
I would like to use a photo like this for the cover of the second novel, Wyldling Quest.

There are so many elements that I want to incorporate into the Wyldling Series. I have had so many ideas over the years that finishing the series was a daunting task, because my conception of what the story was really about kept changing as I matured. Finally, I had to put my foot down and say: “That’s it. Enough’s enough! Just write the blasted thing, already!” Breaking it up into six or seven books instead of writing it as a single novel has also helped.

Once I made a decision to turn it into a young adult fantasy series the path became clearer. I had defined my audience. But how to make it different from every other YA fantasy out there? Well, how many fantasy series do you know about that have a strong and overt Christian theme? By overt I mean that there are direct quotations from the Bible and characters that talk about Jesus Christ and believe in Him as their savior.

Please let me know if you find any fantasy books like that. I mean it. I would like to read them. I figure that there aren’t that many out there because I can’t find them. They certainly aren’t on the bestseller list on Amazon.

No, not anything by J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. I’m talking about recent young adult Christian fantasy.

I am aware of fantasy series that have good moral themes and point vaguely toward Christianity or have characters that resemble Christ as an archetype. However, there is no mention of the real Jesus or how badly people need to be saved from their own depravity. Many of these stories promote the idea that most people are basically good with some bad tendencies that can be overcome with hard work and the best intentions -with some help from our Heavenly Friend, of course! – because that is what we all truly want to believe, isn’t it?

I realize that these authors – even the ones that are Christians -probably did not intentionally set out to write a book that included Christian themes for the purposes of leading others to Christ. When it comes right down to it, there just doesn’t seem to be much of a market for that type of fantasy novel. In the publishing business, like in any other business, money talks. Very loudly.

I like to think that authors write books because they want to tell an entertaining story that was burning in their hearts and crying out for release into the world. It’s a like having a baby (and I can honestly say that because I have given birth to and raised children).

“There is no greater pain than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Maya Angelou

Quite frequently, I find myself thinking about my story and what I am going to write next. It is an obsession. I should be finding more work to do for my job, but I’m day-dreaming up plot points. I should be trying to fall asleep, but my brain is busy constructing witty dialogue and dramatic scenes. I should be doing housework, but I need to write. I should be weeding the garden (such as it is) but I need to write. Presently, I look at the clock and realize that it is past dinner-time, I should really cook something for my boys …

But I need to write!

I need to write because the people living inside of my head are begging me to tell their stories. And they won’t shut up until I do.

When I hear people talking about current events, or T.V. shows, or debating the strengths and weaknesses of sports teams, I often cannot relate, because my mind isn’t even on the same planet.

I am wandering around somewhere on Tehara.

People have gone into therapy for help in managing smaller obsessions, I’m sure, let alone an entire planet.

Other writers out there: do you know what I’m talking about?

Far Out Unicorn Medal

Groovy. Peace out, man.

This is what I was doing on Saturday morning: the Color Run at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. The run is not timed, so half the participants were walking instead of running. I alternated doing both, because I am woefully out of shape. It was a lot of fun. You get colored powder thrown at your white T-shirt along the course, giving rise to a tie-dye effect. Sadly, all of the colorful powder washed out of the shirt when I washed it. However, I got a UNICORN medal for finishing. Which was all I really wanted, anyway.img_20190824_105944165

There ain’t nothing wrong with the Radio

Another influence on my writing that cannot be ignored is music. Before I can go into detail about that I should lay out the groundwork and give you a little historical background – just as I did with my reading preferences.

Much like my reading preferences, my listening preferences have also evolved. My music collection can best be described as “eclectic.” If I commanded a spaceship it would be named MusicStar Eclectica.

As a youngster, I listened primarily to whatever was on the radio. My parents’ tastes pretty much dictated what was available to me, but I discovered fairly early on that I did not care for country music, which was what my dad listened to, pretty much exclusively – except for when he decided to really annoy us all by listening to the polka station. Now, I don’t have anything against polka music. I think it’s great to dance to; whenever I hear polka my feet start itching to hop around. However, listening to polka for hours on end strikes me as a form of audible torture. The same goes for country music. There are some songs that I like – primarily by the late great Johnny Cash, now that I think about it – for various reasons, but much of it does not appeal to me.

My tastes in music as a child tended to align more with my mother’s. I liked the music that she enjoyed listening to in high school. And I still do. I’m talking about Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, the Who, Styx, Steppenwolf, and The Grass Roots, to name a few. I have fond memories of listening to her vinyl records by these artists when I was in middle school. But my love of music goes back even further than that. In fact, one of my very first memories is of listening to a Styx 8-track on the stereo while watching our dog trotting over to the front door from the kitchen.

My mom and I both liked rock and roll from the 1980s, too, but that was the stuff that I grew up listening to, so it was more my bag than hers. I still liked the older stuff, but I added artists such as The Cars, Madonna, Talking Heads, Cyndi Lauper, Toto, Billy Joel and the Police to my favorites playlist. As a caveat, when I was pre-school age, “Burning down the House” by the Talking Heads was the song that I was most obsessed with, probably because I was going through a pyrophobia phase at the time. My mom tells me that when we went to see Bambi in the theater, she had to drag me outside during the forest fire scene because I started screaming in terror. I remember having awful nightmares about fires a little later on after my brother was born…but now I’m going off on a tangent. Maybe I’ll examine my childhood fire fixation in conjunction with sibling anxiety in the future, just not right now.

Here’s an interesting fact: I never got into Bruce Springsteen, even though my mom loved him and had a sizeable vinyl record collection of his work. I can’t explain it. My apologies to any Springsteen fans out there. I’m sure he’s a perfectly decent guy, but something about him creeped me out back then.

In any event, by the time I was in fifth grade, I had already discovered the joys of audio cassette tapes (remember those???) and recording my favorite songs on the radio. I believe it was around this time that I also learned about the Beatles, thanks to a documentary video (also, remember VHS tapes???) that one of my uncles gave me for Christmas. Like many an impressionable young girl before me, I fell in love with the Fab Four. I found out that certain radio stations still played songs by the Beatles, and by the time I was in middle school I was spending a lot of time listening to “oldies.” At that time, oldies music was anything from before the 1970s, and “classic” was ‘70s and early ’80s music. (I realize that the current definition of oldies now also encompasses the music that I grew up listening to. Cripes, do I feel old!)

I spent a lot of time during my “tween” years listening to popular music on the radio and recording my most favorite songs on cassette tapes. I was given cassette tapes of my favorite artist as gifts and spent my hard-earned allowance on them. Still ’70s and ‘80s music, but since time marches ever onward my musical taste eventually expanded to include the music of the 1990s as well – but not as much as you might expect. In fact, my pattern of musical attraction seems to follow a retrograde path. For the longest time, I was obsessed with a certain cassette tape of Queen’s greatest hits, and another cassette live album of INXS. I tended to prefer the older stuff. I usually lagged a little behind my cohort in embracing popular trends, if I did so at all. I suppose I was always an “old soul.” Or maybe just an “odd soul.”

I was well into high school before I got into grunge bands like Nirvana. Somehow, despite my sheltered and innocent life, I learned about Rammstein. I owned a grand total of one album by them: Sehnsucht. On CD, of course (it took me a little while, but I did finally convert to purchasing CDs after cassettes become rare and more difficult to find). I even remember buying that Rammstein CD from a store in the local mall. One of my older male friends had driven me there so that I could obtain it (currently, I own most of Rammstein’s albums in the mp3 format).

By the time I graduated from college, I owned quite a few CDs and more than 30 cassette tapes that I stubbornly clung to. It was only after I married my husband that I came into contact with those enlightened folk who “downloaded” music from the internet and/or ripped music from CDs to store on their computers. I never got into the whole Napster movement; I felt it was unethical even before it became illegal. However, my eyes were opened to the possibility that technology had to offer for expanding my music collection without having to buy more and ever larger containers in which to store CDs.

To paraphrase Bob Dylan, the times they were a-changin’.

At present, I have close to 1000 songs that I ripped from my CDs and my husband’s on to my laptop –  plus we have over 800 songs in our Amazon cloud. Thanks to one of my husband’s friends who had a song by Apoptygma Berzerk on his hard-drive I really got into electronic music about ten years ago. And thanks to Pandora I found tons of other electronic acts that I enjoy. Now, keep in mind that I still like all the stuff that I grew up listening to on the radio and don’t necessarily “have” in my collection. This means that I probably love over 1500 songs, spanning multiple genres of music. I don’t know if that’s a big number or not.

I could go on and on, but this entry is growing too long to be interesting anymore and I haven’t even said anything about how my musical tastes have affected my writing. I suppose – in summary – just like my reading preferences my taste in music went through phases.

As did my writing.

To make a long story short, I guess I’m just one of those people who really gets into music and isn’t too particular about “type,” just what tickles my fancy or resonates with me. And as much as I love utilizing apps like Pandora and Spotify to discover new favorite songs, I still enjoy listening to whatever is playing on the radio (my favorite local station is Life 102.5.)

Are you one of those people, too? Which artists or genres are your favorites?