#amwriting

What’s in a Name? Part 3: Assignment 1

week3

 

I’m running a bit behind this time around, but post 1 for the Week 3 challenge is up. Check out the details of challenge here.

 


 

Silence. Blissful silence broken only by faint lap of the water as the oars moved in and out. An easy motion, practiced and fluid. Caesar’s shoulders tightened and released, propelling the small boat languidly through the predawn mist.

The edges of the night glowed in pale light, revealing the horizon through blurred shadows. Caesar pulled in the oars, resting the heavy wood handles on his knees. He inhaled, the coolness of the mist clinging to to his breath. A shiver crept up down his neck and out his arms in a pleasing reflection of his efforts.

This morning, he had rowed to the middle of the lake, trading the shelter of his favorite cove for the vastness of the open sky, though the mists hadn’t begun to pull away just yet. They wrapped him in a comforting embrace.

Caesar pulled in another long breath, locking the oars in their bindings on the exhale. He reached for the long, wooden fishing pole at his feet. Primitive. Old. Simple. Not unlike himself. Pinching the rod between his knees, he reached for the small container of worms. The moist soil clung to his fingers as he poked around, feeling blindly for the telltale smoothness of the bait. He had only stolen a few nightcrawlers from their respite in the garden, but he had chosen them particularly.  Plump. Long enough to wrap easily around the hook without stretching them too tight. .

There. He clamped his fingers around a worm and pulled it slowly out of the soil. It coiled around his finger as he settled the container back on the floor of the boat and pulled the hook from its clip. Bait set, Caesar swung the pole back and then flicked it forward. The line spun out, the tension of its loop around his finger carrying the tension of the cast. A plop sounded in the mist, and he pulled back on the line, adjusting his grip on the rod.

A smile quirked the corner of his lips as he leaned forward, elbows on his knees. Caesar closed his eyes, breathing in the morning quiet. A bird called out somewhere in the distance, greeting the rising sun. He was home.

Advertisements

WHAT’S IN A NAME, PART 2: ASSIGNMENT 2

week2

Check out the details for this week’s challenge here.


 

The rich aroma of sweets and fresh baked break mixed with coffee wafted through the open glass door. Almost strong enough to cancel out the city stench. It had been over a year, and I still couldn’t get used to the smells that came with the crowds. Maybe it was the acclimation to the craft services tables on set. They never smelled… edible, and they reminded me of the city, even a thousand miles away.

Today wouldn’t be the first time I considered offering the staff of Whistle and Thorn a position on my team. And it wouldn’t be the first time I talked myself out of it. I needed something to look forward to when I came home.

The hairs on the back of my neck ticked up. I had hovered outside for too long. The eyes had found me. I flipped up the collar of my blazer and the prickling dissipated. With a side-gaze over my collar, I spotted a trio of teenage girls hovering two stores down. They seemed indecisive enough. I might be able to slip inside without them following. Or I could acknowledge them. The choice was always a gamble.

I had hesitated to a further point of awkwardness. More eyes would follow if I didn’t make a decision. One of the girls had pulled out her cell phone, and was trying to discreetly take a picture. Honestly, it was more obvious that way than if she had just held the thing up in front of her.

Smiling to myself, I popped my collar back down and turned to face them. The one with the camera froze, cheeks flushing. I dug out my best publicity smile with a touch of snark. Feet spread apart slightly, back straight. Hand raised to my brow with a look into the distance. Hold. If their hands weren’t shaking too bad with excitement, they should have been able to take a few photos. Three, two, one.

I rolled out a sweeping, over-exaggerated bow, and with a wink, I stepped inside Whistle and Thorn. I could see the girls’ silhouettes through the squares of privacy glass that made up the street-side wall of the cafe. The girls had moved closer, but I had judged correctly. They wouldn’t follow me inside.

Turning to the counter, I pulled off my blazer.

“Afternoon, Mr. Walker. Your usual?”

“Yes, please. Thank you, Jane.” The ladies behind the counter were always so sweet. I couldn’t guarantee that they didn’t dissolve the facade behind the kitchen doors, but they treated me like a human. They welcomed me home. I smiled. “And please, call me Vance.”

 

What’s In A Name, Part 2: Assignment 1

week2

Check out the details for this week’s challenge here.


The crystal pins pricked against Niven’s scalp, and her eyes strained in the corners at the tightness of her swept back hair. Normally, she preferred the more relaxed style of the court – the flowing locks, dresses that didn’t suffocate. slippers instead of rigid heels with laces that pinched her smallest toe. But tonight was her brother’s night. His coronation. The highest ranking lords and ladies had traveled weeks to be here. They all had to be at their best. Even three-year old Letta.

Niven smiled as her sister pranced regally behind their mother, greeting each arrival with a clumsy curtsy and a twirl of her skirts. Her smile relaxed into a resigned sigh. To be that free again.

A light finger tapped Niven’s shoulder, and she sucked in a startled breath, spinning around. A half-quirked smile greeted her, and she laughed, bumping playfully into her brother.

“Jumpy tonight, I see.” Stefan swept her a bow, and Niven returned a curtsy. She couldn’t dip as low as she normally did, the boning of her corset digging into her ribs.

“It is a big night, brother.”

“For me, or for you?” Stefan winked and stepped away, letting himself be swept into the meandering crowd.

Surely he couldn’t mean her engagement. This was his night. If their father had orchestrated this night for that… well. Niven didn’t want to think about it.

Trumpets sounded from the dais and the crowd turned in a hushed wave of rolling attention. Niven shifted her way towards the back of the room, weaving through their guests with nods and half curtsies. She would make her way to the front of the hall from the sides of the room. Slip into her spot at the table with out anyone noticing. Niven was good at avoiding attention. Or maybe everyone was good at ignoring her. Either way, her parents preferred it that way, especially on a day like to day.

For me or for you?

Niven frowned, excusing herself as she trod on a young lord’s foot. What had Stefan meant by that? She glanced up at the head table, and stopped. He wasn’t there. Of all people, he should have been right there, standing next to their father. Niven’s frown deepened and a twist of anxiety clenched her stomach. Her father maintained a perfect court mask as he welcomed the lords and ladies to the event, but even from her spot half way through the room, Niven could see the telltale twitch of his left eye. Concern? Or something else.

A cloth pressed roughly to Niven’s nose from behind as a hand yanked her back.

“For Valen!”

Niven’s ears rang from the yell. Sinuses burned, clouding her vision. The room swirled in a blur of color. Someone screamed. Niven tried to scream, but an arm had looped around her throat. Spots joined the clouds in her vision and she tried to kick back with her feet, but she couldn’t find them.

The force at her throat pulled her away from the crowd. Her eyelids fluttered as she tried to keep them open – but they were so heavy. A moan of despair escaped her lips, the failing of her breath giving in.

“Just relax, love,” the voice whispered in her ear. A familiar voice. A warm voice.

“Stefan?”

The light disappeared.

What’s in a Name: Writing Challenge Week 1, #2

Running behind this week, but here is #2 for our first week of Character Names Study. Details for this week’s assignment can be found here.

 

week1

 

 

Sunlight seeped through the small, barred window on a mist of yesterday’s rain. At least Poliquin had a window, though he was almost sure he would have preferred the darkness. A window counted out the days of his imprisonment, which had lasted longer than it should have. He picked at the frayed hem of his tunic, cringing at its filth.

Poliquin stretched his legs out and leaned back into the damp stone wall. He supposed the window was a luxury for most, but really, he could have used a cot, or a chair. Even a straw mattress would have been nice, provided it was free of maggots and vermin. No, a cot would be better. He would put in a request with the guard, next time he came by. The man had seemed reasonable.

Or bribable.

They had, of course, taken his coins when they locked him up. And his ruby earring. He would have to talk to Kraz about that. Rubies were hard to come by these days. Regardless, the coins would be unnecessary. His name would be enough.

He was Poliquin Vane.

 

 

POV Challenge: Week Two, Sample 2

challeng-banner-pov-week-2

The POV challenge continues! Details on this week’s goal here.


2015-06-02_172349195_9e08c_ios

The phone dinged relentlessly in my pocket. I had been away from the office for five minutes. Clients, associates, the dry cleaner reminding me for the fifth time this week my suits were done. I hadn’t changed out of the one I was wearing in three days. Hell, I hadn’t left the office in three days. Ding, ding, ding.

Knuckling my temples, I stepped into the only empty pocket of the revolving door. It bumped me from behind, the worn rubber seals squelching across the marble floor in a lego-sized tidal wave of rain water. It spit me out under the protection of the bronzed awning.

“Afternoon, Mr. Angelo. They let you out of the cage for a bit?” Bruce tipped his hat and pulled an umbrella out of the bin. He shook it once and rain flicked off the black nylon. The umbrella popped open and Bruce held it out to me.

“Jailbreak. Keep the suits of my trail?” The glossy rosewood handle met my skin like an ice cube. I left my gloves on my desk. Again. I wasn’t going back up.

Bruce chuckled and clasped his hands behind his back, the sleeves of his rain gear bunching up at his elbow and making him look twice his size. “I never saw you, sir.”

I nodded my thanks and tucked myself under the umbrella. Once around the block. Ten minutes of fresh air. My feet sloshed through standing pools of water on the sidewalk. I didn’t try to avoid them. Every calculated detour around added a fraction of a second to the time I had already stolen. My cell phone still dinged and buzzed in my pocket. I could turn it off. Drop it down a gutter maybe? They would have a new one on my desk in an hour if I did. The effort would be a waste.

Gains, Gains and Andrews occupied an entire city block on the edge of Central Park, a cosmetic marvel on the shoulder of a tamed wilderness. Anymore, the city seemed the wild thing – unyielding, unforgiving. A spreading virus of discontent bred by suits, greed, and bitterness.

My fingers clenched around the umbrella handle as I trudged on. I had been gaining on the hunched trench coat in front of me for half a block. We had the sidewalk to ourselves, apparently the only two people in the city who hadn’t opted out of the rain. The man had seen better days. A frayed shoelace trailed behind him. The oatmeal tan of his coat barely showed through the spattered stains and the rain had soaked through. He had flipped the collar of the coat up around his ears, and with the cap pulled down to meet it, he looked not to have a head at all.

I jogged to catch up to the man and water spattered up my legs, soaking my socks. “Excuse me. Sir?” He kept walking, either ignoring me or oblivious. I reached out and tapped his shoulder and the man jerked away. “I don’t mean to bother you, sir. I just wanted you to have this.” I held out the umbrella.

He stared at me for a moment, cool grey eyes narrowed beneath heavy eyebrows dripping water onto his cheeks.

Rain dripped down the back of my neck, pooling above the collar of my shirt where the tie cinched it tight against my throat. I pushed the umbrella at the man, hoping he didn’t notice the shiver in my jaw.  “Please, take it.”

He reached forward hesitantly and I slid my hand up from the handle so he could grab it. Rain raced up my jacket sleeve and I shook it out as the man took the umbrella.

“Thank you.” A flicker a smile ticked the corner of the man’s lips and I nodded.

Rounding the corner to the front of the building, I smoothed out my sodden suit jacket, readjusting it on my shoulders in a half-assed attempt to make it presentable. I would have to send Julie to pick up my dry cleaning.

“Ah. Back already, Mr. Angelo?” Bruce cocked his head to the side as I approached. “Your umbrella, sir?”

I smiled and shrugged. “Wind turned it inside out half way around the block. Dropped it in a bin.”

“You have terrible luck with the wind, Mr. Angelo.”

“Indeed.”

Save

POV Challenge: Week 2, Sample 1

challeng-banner-pov-week-2

The POV challenge continues! Details on this week’s goal here.

 


 

 

2015-06-02_172349195_9e08c_ios

 

Rain crawled down my skin like sweat, warm and salty, vile with the city’s acidic stench. I pulled the collar of my trench closer around my face, but the damage had already been done. Piss water. That’s all the rain was. I had been pissed on by every agent in the city, and now the city itself was pissing on me too. I didn’t have what it took. I had played a hundred shows back home. Sure, it was the same 50 people in the same shitty bar,  but I couldn’t even get ten minutes on a stage in the city. 

No. I had it wrong. The city was my stage.  

 

POV Writing Challenge: Week 1, Sample 3

challeng-banner-pov

Hot on the heals of NaNoWriMo and determined to keep the energy flowing, a group of writers and I have decided to take up a 4-week writing challenge. After a month of spewing words out as fast as possible, we are taking a step back and focusing on craft, specifically looking at point of view through flash fiction. If you are interested in how the challenge works and want to follow along, check out the details here.


2016-04-18_231429552_5dee7_ios

© Katie Rene Johnson, 2016

Wind lashed against Brant’s cheeks jetting pellets of river water into his skin with needle pricks. He hated the wind, especially in the city, though the way it thrashed the Brooklyn bridge edged its way up for a close second. Brant looped his thumb through the keyring in his pocket, flipping the two small keys around each other. Top to bottom. Bottom to top. A chill spidered down his neck. Nerves or wind – he couldn’t tell the difference.

A shoulder bucked into him from the left, and Brant’s toe caught on an uneven plank as he stumbled. His eyelid twitched. Safety hazard. Priority seven. His free hand flicked to the railing and he steadied himself. The wind choked out his calming breath and he exhaled in a sputtering cough. The planks might as well have been wet concrete. Each step sucked him down, heavier and heavier. Impossible to move. He inched his hand further up the rail, dragging his feet forward. The rail held his weight without a tremor. Satisfactory. The keys in his pocket tumbled over one another. Bottom to top. Top to bottom.

The wind kicked an empty water bottle along the walkway barrier. It skittered to a stop against an overflowing garbage bin. Health violation. Priority three. Brant tipped the water bottle into the less full recycle tub and skirted around them both. A paper bag made its escape on a gust of wind and Brant clenched his teeth. Not my problem. Not my responsibility. Not anymore. Almost there.

Tucked against the brick of the support tower, the wind seemed less belligerent, and Brant rolled the tension out of his shoulders. A dozen paces away, chains of padlocks encased the bridge support cables. The keys in his pocket bit into palm of his hand. The lock pushed against his leg, suddenly heavy and unwieldy. Pulling his feet out of the concrete, Brant stepped forward.

Up close, Brant could read the names drawn onto the locks with paint or marker: Danny, Joe, Sharon, Casey. Ribbons tied to various shackles clipped back and forth in the wind, edges frayed and disintegrating. He couldn’t count how many locks there were. Dozens? Hundreds? Enough that the weight had built up for sure. Safety hazard. Level four. Priority five. Brant traced his fingers up and down the cables, reaching, testing. The higher the stack, the more solid the the stands of locks. They gripped one another, locked together by downward force. One cable, two.

The third was shorter, newer. Colors hadn’t faded yet in the sunlight. The ribbons less frayed. Brant could almost reach the top of the stack. He pushed up on the one of the locks and it gave, opening a small gap on the cable. He let it fall back into place, taking a step back. The wind raced against his ears, blurring out the traffic below, the hum of passersby. His own breathing cut in and out, catching on the rise and fall of the wind. Reaching into the heavy pocket, Brant pulled out the lock. Candy apple red. Gold shackle. One name.

One of the keys slid easily into the lock, and he heard it click, even over the drone of the wind. The body rotated to the side as the shackle pulled free. Brant pulled the key from the mechanism, and reached back up the stack, pushing the same forgiving lock out of the way. The gold shackle looped around the cable, and Brant twisted the body back into place. The lock snapped shut and he exhaled sharply. The sounds of the city wedged their way into the place over the breath he had been holding, and he took a step back from the rail.

Brant glanced over his shoulder, first right, then left. No one seemed to have noticed what he had done. Easing the keyring from his finger, Brant let the keys rest on his palm, holding his hand up to eye level. He closed his eyes, drew in another breath.

His fingers wrenched shut and he pulled his arm back. Swing, release. The keys flipped through the air and over the edge of the bridge.

Inspection passed.

Save

Save

Save

Save

POV Writing Challenge: Week 1, Sample 1

challeng-banner-pov

Hot on the heals of NaNoWriMo and determined to keep the energy flowing, a group of writers and I have decided to take up a 4-week writing challenge. After a month of spewing words out as fast as possible, we are taking a step back and focusing on craft, specifically looking at point of view through flash fiction. If you are interested in how the challenge works and want to follow along, check out the details here.

 


 

2016-04-18_231429552_5dee7_ios

© Katie Rene Johnson 2016

 

Cara’s feet ached. Miles in the city tallied up quickly, and despite her month of preparation, she regretted the decision to cross the bridge after a day of exploring. The inherent stubbornness kicked in the moment she stepped foot on the first plank, and she wouldn’t turn back until she had made it all the way across. But then I have to come back.

Sighing, she hitched her satchel up on her shoulder and moved on. Pain twinged in her left heel and her shoulder ached under the weight of half a dozen notebooks and her roll of charcoal pencils. Cara never went out for the day without them. Her obsession with notebooks, pens and pencils bordered on the edge of crazy cat lady, minus the fur balls. Tomorrow, I am picking one. The rest can stay home. She smiled to herself, tracing a finger along the smooth metal railing as she walked.

“On your left!” a voice snapped from behind her, and Cara jumped aside. A man in a business suit rushed past her on a bicycle, the flap of his leather bag flapping behind him. Well excuse me! Cara’s heart raced and she gripped the railing with both hands, grounding herself in its solidity. People in the city moved to fast for her country girl roots. She hadn’t even made it to the first of the two towers on the bridge before she had been nearly flattened. I don’t know if the city and I are going to get along. Readjusting her satchel, she slipped back into the pedestrian flow of traffic.

Cara had picked the bridge as the best vantage point for her first drawing. She wanted to start broad and narrow her focus over the next two days in the city. Now, she wasn’t sure she would be able to pull if off without getting run over. At least if she found a good place to stop, her feet might not hurt as bad when she started walking again.

Bike bells chimed and angry yells joined the blur of car horns stopped in the rush hour traffic below as the walkway congested. Someone bumped into Cara’s shoulder and she glanced back. She couldn’t tell who had bumped her and she let herself be pushed along in the throng of impatient travelers. For no reason at all, the line loosened up again, and Cara stepped off to the side, using an empty bench as a shield.

Then, for the first time since she stepped onto the bridge, she looked back at the city. The setting sun had turned it into a back lit silhouette of rectangles, square and triangles bunched together in one geometrical shadow.

A couple stopped at the opposite corner of the bench to snap a selfie with the city in the background. Cara cringed. How many people had stopped at this bench to take in the same exact view? It doesn’t matter. I just have to make the image my own. She set set her satchel on the bench and sifted through her notebooks. Black cover, blue cover, marble cover. Her fingers fell across a plain cardboard cover. Decided, she reached past it to her pencil roll and pulled the them out together.

Biting her bottom lift, Cara plucked her favorite pencil from the case without unrolling it and dropped the case back in her bag for safe keeping. Chewing on the end of her pencil, she looked back at the city. Her drawings always started at the bottom of the page, but here it was only shadow. I could pull in the riverbank. Texture the buildings. No. Outline them. A line sketch. Cara frowned. Lines aren’t enough. Turning her back on the city, leaned into the barrier. Maybe lines are everything. The support cables of the bridge checkered the fading sky, dividing the distant skyline like stained glass. Half way up one of the vertical cables, three balloons had tangled themselves into the hard lines, breaking up the rigidity of the scene.

That’s it! Cara plopped down onto the bench, tucking her satchel between her knees and wrapping the strap around her ankle. With a satisfied smile, she flipped open the sketchbook and lowered her pencil to the page.

Save

NaNoWriMo Relflections: In The End

15056429_10157763536395287_3576656766158497027_n

 

I have known about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for several years. For those of you who don’t know, it is a thing that happens every November where writers try and write 50,000 words in a month. A couple of years ago, I even signed up on the website, but each year I have made an excuse for not jumping on the bandwagon and getting some words down. Usually, the excuse was – I don’t have enough time. Which is a total load of crap. There is always time, some moment to put some words on the page. Even one sentence is better than no words at all.

This year, after a crazy summer that destroyed my writing groove, plans for finishing my novel Solidity by November 1st were quite thoroughly thwarted. As the end of October barreled into view, I found myself lamenting over another failed attempt to finish just one story. Even as my writing fell to the wayside, these characters still made appearances in my thoughts almost daily, sometimes even to the point I had to spend hours repeating what had transpired just to make sure I remembered it well enough to write it down when I had the chance.  Owen, Lucian and Jera are certainly persistent. In fact, they are the most persistent characters I have ever written.

In the last week of October, a post about NaNoWriMo came across my Facebook feed. Or maybe a friend mentioned it. I honestly can’t remember. I have been in a slump lately, and for whatever reason, NaNoWriMo woke me up. I decided that I needed to do this for ME. Step back and focus on myself and my goals for a month. So, on the 27th, I logged on to NaNoWriMo and announced my novel. We have a pretty active group in Bozeman, and I jumped in head first, attending a weekend of Pre-Nano events where I met and several of the locals who had all been down this road several if not many times before. I can’t remember the last time I felt so alive and inspired.

I have never considered writing as a social experience. After all, it is mostly hanging out in your own head with characters no one else can see or hear. NaNoWriMo forever changed that perception. Even during the first couple of meetings where we just sat around (and talked a bit about cats – turns out that’s a pretty good ice breaker) I went home feeling like I could tackle the universe. On the first day of the month, I wrote 1,800 words.  Which was more than I had written in probably the last three writing sessions combined. That in itself felt pretty good.

As the month drew on and I met with other local writers – people who are just as passionate about story telling as I am, people in all stages of their writing careers – I realized that I am not so alone in this dream. Surrounding myself with those who share my dream was inspiring in itself and as we moved through the month together, our stories grew.  We held each other accountable, challenging one another to word-sprints and meeting at coffee shops for write-ins. We left trails of messages on Facebook as we we coordinated and participated in home-based write-ins. Because we all have  a story (or two or three) to tell, and we all had that elusive goal to meet.

Once I committed to doing NaNoWriMo, it wasn’t difficult to keep going. The support system and inspiration from the other writers kept me as excited as the story I was writing. This project was the first time that I sat down and said, “I am doing this, no matter what. Writing first, everything else later.” I experienced waves of excitement, inspiration, dread, and guilt, all mixed together in a giant stew-pot of words and real life.

I only missed one day of writing out of 30 (I might have been achievement hunting a little bit… I blame the video games). That one day had set itself up to be a close one in the first place, and then it blew all possibility out of the water. Before NaNoWriMo, that one day and the associated disaster would have prevented me for writing for days, maybe weeks. But I didn’t stop. I got up the next morning and kept writing. I proved to myself that I can still do this, no matter what life throws at me.

November finished out at 56,000 words. I didn’t quite finish the story, but I met that goal and it felt amazing. I am so close to the end of Solidity. It will be the first novel manuscript I have ever finished – finally wrapping up a nearly twenty-year-old goal. The idea is frightening and invigorating. And I have NaNoWriMo to thank for it. I was blown away by the experience. I find myself excited to be writing again, and absolutely determined to keep going, to live my dream.

NaNoWriMo woke something in me I haven’t seen or felt in years. Combined with the friends I made during the month – who I much look forward to continuing this journey with outside of November – it was an amazing experience. I can’t wait for next year.

 

 

Experience: Metal Rock Opera, Part 1

… A somewhat long-winded introduction to my love of Avantasia and the once-in-a-lifetime concert experience of the first leg of my NYC 2016 #writinginspirationvacation…

 


 

When I found out that Avantasia was going to be in New York City the weekend that I would potentially be in New York, I could barely contain my excitement. It is also the one thing that made me seriously consider making the trip if I didn’t get the writing residency I had applied for. I have been following the band for about 8 years, and knowing that they originate in Germany and have very little following in America, I assumed (and resigned myself to the fact) that I would NEVER see them live. When you make a list of bucket list bands, there are just some that will always remain on that bucket list.

Eight years ago I stumbled across the video “Dying for an Angel” by a group I had never heard of featuring the lead singer of The Scorpions. I love The Scorpions and moreso the uniqueness of  Klaus Meine’s voice, so I figured I couldn’t go wrong.

The video blew my mind. It had a solid rock vibe, a good beat, harmony – I couldn’t help but tap my foot and try to sing along. Avantasia became my new obsession. After listening to a few more videos, I realized that this band, founded by Tobias Sammet in 1999 encompassed essentially everything I loved about music from the epic soundtrack type orchestrations to 80’s hard rock. They had ballads, rock epics, radio tunes. I couldn’t find a song I didn’t like.

I am pretty sure I have subconsciously decided they have to be played enough to make up for the time lost the first 21 years of my life not knowing them, to have them so engrained that they were to me another Beatles or Eagles. My husband can attest to that amount of obsessive listening.

Avantasia is a project band, meaning the majority of the songs are collaborations with other artists. Even Tobias Sammet has his own band Edguy (who I also love), so when Avantasia comes together for a new album, it is quite a feat, and you can guarantee it is going to be epic. Tobias Sammet is a musical genius. He writes all of the music for Avantasia (by the way, the Avantasia playlist on my phone is nearing the 8 hour mark). He sings, orchestrates, organizes – he is by far the mastermind of this incredible project. Songs have included guest artists Klaus Meine, Dee Snider, Alice Cooper, members of Warrant, KISS, Twisted Sister, Queensryque, Within Temptation, Nightwish, and many many others. From early on, Helloween front runner Michael Kiske has been a regular as well as Ronnie Atkins and Jorn Lande.

Just the list of guest artists is impressive. Then you start listening to the music. I still find myself closing my eyes when certain songs start to play and sinking myself into the melodies. The music pulls me in, sparks my imagination, warms my soul.

When I started expanding Better to Pretend from a short story to a full length novel, the addition of music to the story surprised me. I didn’t realize until I started working on that piece how much of myself could translate into a character. Jenna is not me, by any means, but parts of my own life and personality definitely shine through her character. When the idea of creating this connection of music I between her and the male lead transpired, I pictured her similar to me – classic rock roots and a stubborn aversion to new and modern bands and genres. I decided she would have a band obsession, straight down to the giddiness of being close to the stage and making eye contact with the lead singer. I created a band called Love and Lace, and they became my creative interpretation of Avantasia and Edguy mixed with my favorite 80’s hair metal.

At first, I thought it was a fun, minor detail of the story that I would enjoy because I knew the secret. Then Jenna’s love of music became her solace, the thing she could turn to when the world came crashing down. Certain songs could keep her afloat in a sea of desolation, disappointment and misery. My connection to the music of Avantasia seeped from my soul onto the page and into my characters.

I believe things happen for a reason (see Inspiration: Fate) and it was undeniably a crazy, fateful, serendipitous string of events that led me to New York City last Thursday, not only on my first solo travel endeavor, but my first solo concert and first trip (hopefully of many)  geared towards research and working on my novels so long postponed by irrelevant excuses.

After a whirlwind 36-ish hours in NYC, I hopped a train down to Marlyand to visit a dear friend of mine for a couple of days. As I settled in for the 3 hour train ride, I put my headphones in and shuffled my Avantasia playlist, the previous night’s concert still so fresh in my mind that I could have been there all over again. Now, two days later, I still feel the buzz of the experience (and I’m still listening to the playlist on repeat). But after two days of good company, good food and good booze, I have spent a good deal of time reflecting on the experience adjusting my mindset into creative mode for the remainder of the trip.  Now, as I sit on the return train to NYC, I can’t wait to share in more detail the concert experience. Look for it in the next post (since this one is already over 900 words….).