27 November 2015

Music Day - Dancing On The Head Of The Serpent

I don't know how these guys do it. I really don't. How does a Swedish metal band write Sunday School lyrics with cheesy clichès and oddball lyric rhythms all over the place with illogical lyric construction in what is clearly not their native tongue and still manage to create songs that automatically make my day better?

Of course, by the time they recorded this song, Ulf Christiansson and company had a much better grip of the English language, but seriously, the idea of dancing on Satan's head is so ludicrous that nobody on this side of the ocean would even think of it, never mind actually write and record a song around it.

But in the hands of a band that performs with such exuberance and passion, the idea is fun rather than dumb. I mean, just listen to that bombastic keyboard riff and that bass and guitar chugging through the chorus and Ulf Christiansson's big voice belting it out like there's no tomorrow. These guys were out to praise Jesus and have the time. of. their. lives. doing it. Such fun is contagious. Maybe that's what's behind the appeal of their music. That and they were pretty fantastic musicians in their own right. These guys were such good players and they had so much fun playing that one can easily overlook the occasional awkward lyric.

Title: Dancing On The Head Of The Serpent
Artist: Jerusalem
Album: Dancing On The Head Of The Serpent
Year: 1987
Label: Lamb & Lion Records
iTunes here; YouTube here.

Party on, man.

15 November 2015

NaNoWriMo Day 14 - The Story

I suppose I should post about the actual content of my novel.

It's turning out to be a church drama (which is actually kind of fun): hundred-year-old small-town old-school Baptist church with secrets.

The main character is called Natalie. She hosts a TV show that basically goes around Canada and investigates/covers ghost stories. She and her co-host Matt are sent to film an episode in a small Bible-belt town. Things get weird when it turns out to be the town in which Natalie spent the first twelve years of her life. And she'd never heard anything about a ghost.

They go to the town and find that unlike most ghosts, this one has no firm identity or even a set legend around it. No-one's ever actually seen anything more than its shadow, and there are three possibilities as to whose spirit it might be.

But Natalie's not focused on the strangeness of the ghost story. While on location, she finds out that her closest childhood friend, a musical prodigy, vanished eighteen years ago, and nobody ever found out what happened to her.

In conducting an unofficial investigation into Sonora's disappearance, she dredges up all kinds of ancient history, stuff the church and the community would like to forget about. There's the shooting death of a nine-year-old, the church elder caught in an affair, the attempt on the previous pastor's life, the 'prodigal daughter'... At first it just seems like the town had a seriously messed up past, but as Natalie digs deeper, she finds that Sonora is the epicentre of everything that's happened there in the past 35 years. And even though Sonora's long gone, it's not all over.

Not only has Natalie been accused of causing Sonora's (unproven) death, she's digging into secrets that the town has spent 35 years trying to hide and she's got a camera crew with her. The silence surrounding Sonora's entire life needs to be broken and only Natalie can do it -- but the same gun that killed Sonora's sister is setting its sights on her...

So how is it actually going?

Awful, to be honest. The bulk of my word count is primarily made up of fictional deacon meeting minutes and annual reports (the fact that these bits are the most interesting parts of my novel is a testimony to how much the overall novel sucks). I started the contest writing 5k a day and am now having a hard time stringing three words together. My brain is completely tapped out. I try to think about my novel and there are literally no thoughts in my head. My main character should be fun to write, but she has no real internal thought process. She just kind of 'does things.' She doesn't really 'think' in words and sentences and flowery metaphors like most of my characters in other stories, she just kind of evaluates the situation and takes action without putting it into words, even mentally. I never realised before how much I depend on my characters' long-winded flowery internal monologues to eat up word count until this year. Basically, I have to write 50k of straight-up actual plot, which apparently I've never truly done before. I've never had a problem with the DoRD (Department of Redundancy Department) until this year, and the sudden change this year is entirely because I have literally no more words, so I have my characters repeat everything three times and just change the wording each time.

In short: I actually really hate my novel. Not even in a joking sense. I seriously hate this novel. It has so much potential, but no feeling.

Stats time!
Official NaNoWriMo Goal For Day 14: 23,338 words
Current Word Count: 40,727 words
Mary Poppins References: 1
Daniel Amos References: 2
Number Of Character Smoke Breaks: 1
Number Of Characters Who Actually Smoke: 0
Bags Of Doritos Consumed: like 5 (those miniscule 'fun size' ones that have like five chips each)

08 November 2015

NaNoWriMo Day 8: We Have Music!

So... Day 8 of National Novel Writing Month.

As I've lamented on this blog already, I had a ridiculous amount of trouble even thinking of an idea of what to write this year. Usually my problem is more like 'which of these 17 awesome ideas do I write this year?'

So this year, lacking any other ideas, I dug up a novel I started back in 2008 that had long since died of extensive family histories and minute geographical details (A.K.A. lack of ability to make the actual plot believable), gave it a chronological overhaul, revamped the main character's life, infused a plethora of juicy secrets, and decided that if I really absolutely had to, I could use this one for NaNoWriMo. All the time, of course, I was hoping for a much more exciting plot to come along.

Obviously, none ever came.

I came up with one heck of a backstory for a nonexistent story, but that was it. It was either my impossible ghost-mystery plot or my backstory-without-a-plot. I went with the ghost mystery.

One of my biggest hang-ups about this year was not knowing what my novel's 'soundtrack' should be. Often my novels are heavily inspired by music: last year's Kyrie came from Mr. Mister's song of the same name (although the Newsboys' Elle G. was another strong influence); Angel Falls (2013) was directly inspired by the Veil Of Ashes song; the plot of Chasm (2011) was entirely inspired by the Flyleaf song and a radio interview with Stryper, and so forth. And even in my novels that aren't named after songs, you can always tell what I was listening to that year just by reading the novel. And this year I had nothing. None of the music I listened to captured me at all. And even once I had a plot, I couldn't find music that fit. None of it felt right. I lifted the title from a Daniel Amos song, but even that song didn't fit the feel of the story. But I had no other ideas, so I had to use this intricate, impossible story-without-music.

It's funny how I always think I'm such a pantser (technical NaNoWriMo term for 'writer who makes crap up as they go along') until I actually attempt to do it and realise how much I suck at trusting my imagination. That said, I'm actually quite a long way ahead, but that was mostly because I hated my plot so much that I wanted to get away from it as soon as possible so I've been writing like a madwoman so I could finish it sooner. It's actually starting to pick up a bit (now that I've used up almost every single one of my plot points).

But today -- oh, today was a glorious day! for I decided, while writing, that I hadn't heard Steve Taylor's Hero in a while. And then his song Jenny. And then Sin For A Season. And somewhere between Jenny and Sin For A Season, I realised that those two songs perfectly described the two main players in the central conflict. (Of course, this happens when I'm over half-done the novel.)

Of course, by now my brain was in Steve Taylor mode, so I listened to two and a half entire albums. And nearly every single song applied to at least one character or one aspect of the situation.

So on this, my eighth day of panicking, I would just like to say:
Thanks, Steve Taylor. You saved my novel.

And now, stats time!
Official NaNoWriMo Goal For Day 8: 13,336 words
Current Word Count: 27,461 words
Number Of Characters Killed: 0 in story; like 5 in backstory
Number Of Song References: 0 (what is wrong with me?)
Number Of Doctor Who Episodes Watched: 4
Number Of Injured Wrists: 1
Snow Days: 0

07 November 2015

Music Day - Little Crosses

(Apologies for the late post -- Internet was out yesterday.)

So the other day I was thinking, Man... I haven't seen a good Kickstarter project in a long time. Then I logged into Facebook that night and saw not one, not two, but FOUR different projects.

1. The Choir is reissuing what is widely referred to as their best album (Circle Slide) on vinyl.
2. The 77s are releasing like four of their early albums on vinyl.
3. Phil Keaggy's making a new album.
4. And Jerry Chamberlain of Daniel Amos fame is recording a solo album.

Jerry Chamberlain is perhaps one of my favourite guitarists. As I've said before on this blog, I'm not really into guitar, even as a listener. Just not my thing (plus I think it's way overused -- I'm looking at you, CCM industry). Yeah, I'm a rocker, but I listen to that for the keyboards and the bass.

But Jerry Chamberlain and his guitar have been a crucial part of Daniel Amos since its inception in the late 70's. He was a huge part in DA's shift from country to... whatever Doppelgänger actually is. He did leave the band for a time in the mid-80's (during which time his shoes were ably filled by Tim Chandler), but he returned to work alongside Chandler in the '90s sometime and I believe that's still the state of affairs in the band today.

So here's a Chamberlain-penned track from DA's seminal album Doppelgänger.

Title: Little Crosses
Artist: Daniel Amos
Album: Doppelgänger
Year: 1983
Label: Alarma Records and Tapes
iTunes here; YouTube here. Buy the (deluxe remastered two-disc edition) CD from the band here.

It's a brilliantly sarcastic jab at Christians' tendency to put measure their spirituality (or even our very salvation) with pictures of crosses at sunset and flowers after the rain and mustard seeds as necklace pendants and pewter fishes on their bumpers. There's a delicious inversion of Matthew 6:20 in the first verse. And it's set to rock music, so really, what's not to like?

05 November 2015

Self-Doubt: The Things I Say

- I'm being a moron.

- This is the same thing I did last time. I'm just rehashing an old idea.

- No-one's going to come see this/want to be a part of this.

- I don't know what I even want to say, never mind how to say it.

- I'm not healthy enough.

- I'm too old. No-one will want me.

- There's no money in this.

- Everyone wants it 'fierce' (at best) or 'erotic' (at worst).

- I can't afford this.

- I'm so physically spent...

- I don't know if this is what God wants.

- I don't know if God can use this.

- Maybe I'm just being a prideful little prick and I'm not actually as good as I think I am.