The Sound of Madness: We All Fall Down

“Everybody feels these moments of sadness and moments of loss. And sometimes I think everybody can relate to sitting alone and feeling like crap and a friend of yours comes up and starts, you know, “Come on, feel happy!” And you don’t want that. Sometimes it’s all right to let yourself live in a moment and let yourself be upset about something and so that you can show yourself that, regardless of how low you feel, you can always rise out of it; but not at that moment. And so the song ends with the lyric I believe we all fall down but I don’t say, “But we get back up.” It’s just, sometimes you fall down and sometimes you feel low, and that’s okay.” ~ Andy Biersack, (Video)

I was one of many who saw Black Veil Brides’ Legion of the Black back in January and I knew as soon as this song started it was going to be one of my favorites. It was back in January that the only thing I was looking forward to in my life was the release of Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones album and the concert in Cleveland on the 22nd. My first manuscript, Tiger, Tiger was sitting untouched on my hard drive, I hadn’t read anything in weeks—which as a self-professed bibliophile is unheard of—and I was having a hard time even getting up in the morning.

Then, in March, I quit my job. And I was happy for a couple weeks. I finished Tiger, Tiger and started getting serious about querying and started writing again and started looking for a part time job I would be happier doing. The rainbows and sunshine didn’t last long. I hadn’t really intended to quit my job until the first weekend in May and didn’t have the money saved up that I needed/wanted.

Be absolutely honest, my mindset the last two weeks has been no better than it was when I was slogging my way through a dead end job I hated. I’m angry, I’m depressed, my moods are in flux. I wake up in the morning and I want to scratch my skin off and start somewhere new. I need a job and I know I can get hired on in a restaurant no problem. But I don’t want to go back to something that pushed me so close to the abyss of No Return I almost fell in. But if nothing else pans out here in the next two weeks I’ll have to go back to the thing that almost killed me.

            “Lost it All” gets me on a damn near spiritual level.

I ruled the world. With these hands I shook the heavens to the ground.

I laid the gods to rest. I held the key to the kingdom, lions guarding castle walls.

Hail the king, of death.

 

Then I lost it all.

I’m dead and broken.

My back’s against the wall. Cut me open.

I’m just trying to breathe, just trying to figure it out.

Because I built these walls just to watch them crumbling down.

I said then I Lost it All.

And who can save me now?

 

I stood above

another war, another jewel upon the crown.

I was the fear of men.

But I was blind, I couldn’t see the world there right in front of me.

But now…I can.

 

‘Cause I Lost it All

Dead and broken.

My back’s against the wall.

Cut me open.

I’m just trying to breathe, just trying to figure it out.

Because I built these walls to watch them crumbling down.

I said then I Lost it All

and who can save me now?

 

I believe that we all fall down, sometimes.

Can’t you see that we all fall down?

I believe that we all fall down sometimes.

 

            Here’s a Link to the song.

This is the song that sits with me when I feel overwhelmed by everything and when it all seems out of reach. This song tells me to take a breath, stop scrambling, stop panicking. Just breathe. This song is my safe place.

It’s also the song my character in Rebel Love Song is modeled after. She falls a little more every day. Without the plucky “but we’ll try it again tomorrow” sentiment at the end of the song it leaves her open for a gauntlet of decisions. She’s low, slipping deeper inside herself, and there’s the question of whether or not she’s going to give this song a hopeful ending or if she’s going to lose herself. Who can save me now?

Advertisement

Adventures of Aria: Culture Shock

            I recently read an absolutely amazing YA supernatural book by Jennifer Lynn Barnes called Raised by Wolves. It’s on the younger end of the YA spectrum—the main character Bryn is fifteen—but she was complex, witty, and smart. I finished this four hundred page book in only a couple hours. I couldn’t put it down long enough to even get coffee. I was completely absorbed in Bryn’s struggle, both emotional and circumstantial. I cried and laughed and cheered at the end. In other words, read this book.

            A few hours later—after coffee, shower, food, etc—I picked up an anthology of YA short stories centered on the theme of “warriors”. I picked up this particular anthology from the library to see how my character Aria stacks up against other “warrior” types. I got three pages in and I haven’t picked it up since.

            So soon after reading Ms. Barnes’ book I couldn’t get into the flat character of the first story. I can’t even remember his name. He was so…simple. His thoughts are shallow “warrior” thoughts about fame and glory and marrying a beautiful girl in the noble class. As a prolific reader of fiction, this is so genre standard it was boring to the point of anger.

            The thing that really pricked me about this is that it is genre standard. Every book I’ve ever picked up that involves a tribal or non-Caucasian culture has this flat character. The sentences and vocabulary is simple, short and they lack variety. It’s almost like these characters are written for grade school children not teens or even adults. The catch is, once these simple characters come into contact with the dominant, primarily Caucasian, culture they suddenly gain depth and more complex emotions. Suddenly, the syntax is more elegant and the vocabulary elevated.

            My character, Aria, sprang from Inuit/Nordic cultures. She lives in a clan society, but she isn’t simple. Her emotions are complicated when it comes to who and what she is and how she interacts with her clan. If I were to change her setting to the modern world, certainly she would have trouble describing modern technologies, but that wouldn’t make her any less intelligent.

            This sub-conscious ethnocentric assumption needs to stop. So you’ve chosen to write a character with more melatonin than you? That doesn’t mean they are stupid and slow witted children who need a more dominant culture to hold their hand and “educate” them.

Adventures of Aria: Necromancing the Snow

Currently Playing: Black Veil Brides, Devil’s Choir (on repeat)

I have finished my second manuscript—the first that will see the light of day—and as I re-read it for the hundredth time I’m still stunned that I actually wrote these pages. I can’t believe I sat in Cathy Day’s (http://cathyday.com/) novel writing class a year and a half ago and, from the depths of my mind, created these characters and the world of Tiger, Tiger.

I. Cannot. Believe. It.

It’s far from being perfect, every read through I find something that could still use more polishing and tinkering, but at this point every time I try to fix it I make it worse. And if I learned nothing else through four and a half years of college writing courses, author interviews, and literary agent blog posts it’s that this is actually a good thing. I’ve reached the limits of my current skills and it’s time to ask someone else to lend their talents and skills to this manuscript.

You know, writers like to think the blank page is scary, but the terrifying part has only just begun. After months of writing, editing, crying, screaming, and moping it’s time to send my baby out into the world. The query letters are written, months of combing through agents via social networking and google searches have finally come to a head. I can’t put it off any longer. If I want even a chance of making some kind of living off my imagination, other eyes must see it. Fortune favors the bold, right?
I haven’t slept more than three or four hours a night since I wrote my first query. I’ve gone over those eight letters four and five times, re-read the submission guidelines, picked up every book I could get my hands on that felt like it fit with the world and characters I created.

I Am Terrified.

I know agents aren’t big scary creatures. I talk to them on twitter and I’ve met a few at the Midwest Writers Conference (http://www.midwestwriters.org/). They’re good people who love reading and writing just as much as I do, hence their occupation.

I’ve been telling myself for a year to brace for form rejections and, really, I thought I was ready. But now the time is here to send my manuscript into the world, as prepared as my beta readers and I can make it, and I’m not ready at all for that rejection. I could cry just thinking about it.

All those pesky “what-ifs” I could shoo away while immersed in the world are now coming up hard and fast. It’s time to take a critical business eye to my work; is it saleable? What audience am I aiming for? What genre? What sub-genre? Are these first ten pages good enough to hook?

A lot of the agent profiles I looked at said they were looking for “excellent” writing, “wonderful” worlds, “endearing and complex” characters. Their Bestsellers are listed, their authors and all their awards are proudly displayed.

And then there’s me.

This is my first novel. I don’t have any awards. The only things I’ve submitted were three poems to Ball State’s Broken Plate magazine and received a polite form rejection for all of them. Is my writing excellent? Is my world developed enough? Are there too many details? Not enough? Does my character properly show off her many sides or is she only one dimension?

I don’t know if I have the ego to handle eight and more form rejections for something I’ve spent two years pouring blood, sweat, and tears into.

The Sound of Madness: The Beginning

 

            It being the start of Camp NaNo, I thought I’d really kick this blog off with what I’ll be occupying myself with this month. I’ve spent several months, even years, with the idea percolating in the back of my mind; there are scraps of paper with random words and short phrases jotted on them scattered in journals and drawers, and when I look out my window I see the characters on the street.

Now, either it’s time for medication or it’s time to write.

Music is a part of who I am. I’m always listening to something while I type. A lot of people use background music, this isn’t something new. This has never had much of an impact on my writing; it’s just something to occupy my mind when I hit a snag or to block out background noise or a way to set the mood for a scene. But this manuscript, this storyline, these characters; they’ve proven to be quite different from anything I’ve ever written.

The story wriggled its way into my head after I got Black Veil Brides’ album Set the World on Fire. Track number six has become something almost sacred to me. It’s the song that hit the top of my “Songs that will get me Fired” playlist for work. It’s the song that gave me the courage to flip my major from anthropology to creative writing my final two semesters of college. It’s the song that told me to look beyond this dying town and go. If you’re a fan, you’re probably humming the chorus by now, if not; the song is called “Rebel Love Song”.

This song is freedom. I can’t fully express the buoyant joy the chorus fills me with, the teeth-grit determination the verses give me and the inexplicable feeling of flying I get when that guitar solo kicks in. And it’s that whirlwind of emotion, that impact that goes deeper than skin when you hear the words, that my newest manuscript is built on and why it’s working title is Rebel Love Song.

I’m writing my character to embody these songs that—through my own hectic life—have become pep talks, shoulders to cry on, hands to pull me up, and a friend to sit with me when I start to break.

I have tailored a song list to fit this storyline. Every section, every chapter, right down to the paragraphs; correlates with a song. And I hope I can find the words to do these songs and these feelings justice.

 

P.S. It’s not too late to join Camp NaNo this month! You can sign up at www.nanowrimo.org or www.campnanowrimo.org. You can find me there as Writing_Fiend. Happy Writing!