We Made It!!

The Fourteen Stones crowdfunder hit its target this morning. Thank you so much to everyone who helped us across the line! My book goes to print very soon: it’s going to be a real book, out in the world. I might be crying a bit right now. πŸ™‚

It’s going to be a real book! Very soon!

I know I’ve said it before, but I can’t help saying it again: this novel means the world to me. I feel very lucky to have found a publisher who loves it as I do. You can listen here to an interview I did last week with Jax Goss, the “dog’s body,” as she says, of The Patchwork Raven. We talked about the inside scoop on my book’s creation, our favorite things about it, and what makes it a mold-breaker in fantasy writing. When Jax asked me what I’d most like folks to know about it – a tough question, when there’s so much! – what stood out most for me was the joy I felt crafting the fictional world, getting to know its people, and stepping into that space every time I sat down to work. I would love for people to share that with me, to visit my beloved Namora and Lassar, maybe to fall in love with the characters the way I did.

Mountains in Asturias, northwestern Spain; this area inspired my country Namora.

Thank you again to everyone who pledged and preordered and supported me and The Patchwork Raven in making this dream a reality. There’s still time to preorder a copy or e-copy, if you’d like: the crowdfunder runs through tomorrow, Wednesday August 31, at 8 pm EST. You definitely don’t want to miss out on this book. πŸ™‚

An excerpt from Chapter 2, introducing my favorite character.

As always, thank you for visiting the blog. See you next time!

Bonus post: Fourteen Stones Suite

We’re coming up on the end of the Fourteen Stones crowdfunder: two days and about six hours to go! We’ve made it three-quarters of the way to our target. Thank you so much to everyone who has pledged and preordered! If you haven’t yet, and would like your own copy or e-copy of this rich, unique, character-driven fantasy novel, you can order it (plus some excellent rewards) here.

Today’s bonus post is a partner for Friday’s character portraits. My husband, jazz musician and composer Paul Faatz, wrote a wonderful suite to capture some of the places and people in my novel. He’s a clarinetist and saxophonist, and I’m a pianist, so the two of us were able to perform his music together. We don’t get to do that often; it was a treat!

Please have a listen. The suite has three movements:

  1. Vatiri’s Dream
  2. Sostavi: A Foggy Morning
  3. The Lasska

A few notes with each video (for more, you’ll need to read the novel πŸ˜‰ ):

Mvt. 1 – Vatiri’s Dream – At the beginning of Fourteen Stones, a tribal people called the Pala Vaia are placed under grave threat by the ruler of Lassar, the country they live in. Vatiri, a Vaia woman, is a Lamp-Carrier whose dreams can show the future and provide guidance for her people.

Mvt. 2 – Sostavi: A Foggy Morning – Sostavi is the capital city of Namora, one of the two countries featured in Fourteen Stones (and my favorite fictional place ever). It’s a coastal city modeled on the real town of Cudillero, in Asturias, on the northwestern coast of Spain. Houses and buildings cluster on a long slope that comes down to the city’s harbor. In Sostavi, in the early morning, sea fog swirls through the streets in drifts of cloud-white.

Mvt. 3 – The Lasska – The Pala Vaia live in the country Lassar, across the Senai Mountains from Namora. Lassar’s resident people are the Lasska. Centuries of dictatorial rulers have made them an insular, proud, and warlike people, but change may be coming to their country, sooner than they know and from a quarter they would never expect.

Thanks so much for listening, and for visiting the blog! If you’d like to find out more about the story that inspired this music, check out our crowdfunder and order your copy of Fourteen Stones today!

Bonus post: Book Talk and Mood Music

We’re in the homestretch of the crowdfunder for the launch of my novel Fourteen Stones: only five more days! My publisher has put some cool new rewards up in the PledgeMe campaign, and I’d like to offer a little “bonus” too.

Last night, my publisher and I did a live interview, which was so much fun. We talked about the story, and what makes it a different kind of fantasy; and the characters, and worldbuilding, and favorite scenes and most difficult scenes to write. We also got some wonderful questions from the audience. Check out our talk here!

One of the questions we got was about whether/how I used music in the story. While music isn’t mentioned a lot in Fourteen Stones, it definitely supported and inspired the writing process. Yesterday it struck me that some of my favorite piano pieces also work really well as “snapshots” of my four main characters, so I thought I’d share them, for fun. I won’t say too much about the characters (for that, you’ll need to check out the book! πŸ˜‰ ), but the moods of these pieces fit them well.

My youngest character, a sixteen-year-old girl named Khari, whose unusual skill in reading dreams is both a gift and a great burden.

Valdena Filtraikas, a woman who finds herself in a position of power that she didn’t choose or want, and must choose how she will meet the challenge.

Bereg Orlon, a career soldier on the point of retirement, who is issued orders he knows are wrong; but disobeying them would make him a traitor and would cost him everything he cares about.

My favorite character, Ribas Silvaikas: a priest with an extraordinary skill, great strength and compassion, a chronic illness that presents a constant threat, and a core stubbornness that shapes everything he does.

If you’ve enjoyed these pieces and would like to know more about the story, please do check out the Fourteen Stones crowdfunder. We’ll need all pledges and preorders by Wednesday August 31 at 8 pm EST, so if you’d like to get your book, e-book, or other rewards, please place your order today!

As always, thank you for visiting the blog. See you next time!

Launching and Looking Back

Today is the beginning of Fourteen Stones‘s Special Launch Week. My publisher is having a week-long online launch party, and we’re also going into the last week of our crowdfunder – which means if you’d like to get your own copy, now is the perfect time. πŸ™‚

That was my little commercial. The rest of this post wants to go in a different direction.

Launching a book is a weird experience. It’s what we hope for and dream about through the long process of writing, and especially submitting the manuscript – but when you get there, you realize it’s also an ending. That part is hard.

Very soon, my project, and the people who inhabit it and whom I’ve come to know and love, won’t be just mine anymore. They will go out into the world and meet other people who will have their own responses to them, put their own spin on this work of my imagination. I don’t know what Fourteen Stones‘s readers will think of the story. I hope they’ll find something to love in it, because I can’t begin to say what it’s meant to me.

At endings, we often look back and think about what we’d like to remember. Here’s what I’ll remember about this particular journey, which started seven years ago.

1 – Visiting Spain in the summer of 2015: crossing the Atlantic for the first time, and once on the other side, feeling as if the ground I stood on wanted to drop out from under my feet. It was so very strange to be on the far side – the “wrong” side – of that ocean. During those first couple of disoriented and yes, panicky days, I didn’t know I’d come home with a story that would reshape things for me.

At Las Fragas de Eume, in Galicia, Spain’s northwest corner

2 – That scenery. Northwestern Spain, its coasts and villages and mountains, provided the foundation for the world of Fourteen Stones. I would never have imagined Namora, my favorite fictional country, without the inspiration of those hikes in Asturias. (“This is the trail? But it goes straight up! And look at all these rocks!!” It was gorgeous, but I will vouch, it put my hiking skills to the test. ;)) I wouldn’t have met my favorite character, a Namoran priest named Ribas Silvaikas, if I hadn’t had the chance to visit churches that dated back a thousand years, where the walls were infused with history and devotion and centuries of prayer. I wouldn’t have imagined a girl whose humanity challenged her world, and laid the foundations of a religious faith, if I hadn’t seen the remnants of Iron Age villages, and felt the most profound sense of home I’ve ever experienced.

Rugged scenery at Covadonga Lakes, Asturias.

3 – (continuing from the above) The northwestern Spanish coast. I will remember the turquoise water, the pebbly sand, the scatterings of sea glass: blue and green and white. I’ll remember the clear tidal pools with their rainbows of crawling and swimming inhabitants. I’ll remember the fishing boats at Noia and the harbor at Cudillero, a town of brilliantly-colored, clay-roofed houses clustering on the hillsides. Cudillero was the model for Namora’s capital city, Sostavi, and I hope to get back to it someday.

On the hills above San Andres de Teixido, Galicia. That ocean!

4 – The writing. I’ll remember that first (awful) draft, written in a whirlwind of excitement after my husband and I came home from our trip. I thought I knew what I was doing and what the story was meant to be. I was completely wrong, but those few months were full of joy.

5 – The rewriting. After a couple of years, in which I learned a lot more about writing and saw the publication of my first book, I came back to the draft I’d called From the Circle House and gave it another look. This time, I could see the holes and messes, but there was a seed there, too. Another year of brainstorming gave me enough of a foundation to try again. The second time was much harder, but worth every moment. That was when Fourteen Stones took shape.

For the past four years, I’ve kept the maps of my fictional countries Namora and Lassar up over my desk, along with my floor plan for a Circle House, one of the most important places in the story. Now I have artist’s renderings of both the maps and the Circle House, turning those figments of my imagination into real places. It’s astonishing.

My Namora, as a real place…

I can’t wait until I’ll get to hold a copy of the actual book. That’s always the best part, and the scariest too. Now it’s real. Now it’s done. My novel takes flight very soon. I hope it’ll have a beautiful journey, and that its readers will too. Most of all, I hope that some of what I put into it, the love and dreaming, the real-world beauty that inspired the book and the fantasy-world beauty I tried to put into it, will come through on the page for the people who will share the story with me.

As always, thanks so much for visiting the blog. If you’d like to find out more about Fourteen Stones, don’t forget to check out the launch party events and the crowdfunder. Also, if you’d like a midweek creative pick-me-up, stop back tomorrow for a Maker’s Day prompt. See you next time!

My rather imperfect rendering of Isaac Albeniz’s piece “Asturias,” inspired by that region of Spain.

The Writer, Back When

Today’s post isn’t the one I meant to write. I’d planned just to post a “musical teaser” about my novel Fourteen Stones, but yesterday I was looking through some old photos, and got a new idea.

I’ve posted here on the blog about my experiences with mental health challenges, especially anxiety and depression. Both of those of course tend to get a lot more active during times of stress. These days, depression has made pretty regular appearances. Professional anxiety usually gets me going: “Am I doing enough?” and “Am I doing the right things?” turns into a litany of reasons why I’m not, and why that translates to my not being enough.

Last night, I pulled out a bunch of half-remembered photos I had in my desk. They’re all of me as a kid, starting when I was about a year old and going up until about age twelve. For a long time, I’ve had it in my head that I was a pretty challenging kid. Smart, but with a big tendency toward daydreaming and spacing out. Always a little out of touch with the world.

This was me at the beginning of first grade:

Age six. Looking pretty happy about school photos.

I was cuter than I’d thought. The one thing I don’t like about this picture is that it doesn’t show my glasses, which I started wearing in kindergarten. At that time, I was the only kid at school who wore them. That’s undoubtedly part of the reason my mother told me to take them off for every picture. These days, I’d much rather have the memory of how I really looked.

This little girl, six-year-old me, undoubtedly was pretty “spacey” and “dreamy.” I remember, though, that she was also the one who wrote her first original story. It was called “The River,” about a king who essentially “stole” water from his subjects by damming the river in his kingdom. I don’t remember how things got resolved, but everyone did live happily ever after. I also remember that I was inspired to write the story because of the way the bathtub faucet dripped. (Inspiration comes from everywhere. πŸ˜‰ )

A few years later, here’s fourth-grade me:

Age nine. Same smile.

Again, I should have glasses in this photo. When I look at this girl, though, I notice how pretty she was. I remember, too, that she was the one who fell in love with Tolkien. That was the year I discovered The Hobbit. I remember taking the time to memorize that wonderful “Far O’er the Misty Mountains Cold” poem, getting chills every time I got to the line “The mountain smoked beneath the moon…”

That little girl also wrote a lot. Some of her stories were “fan fic” imitations of favorite writers, but some were originals, start to finish. She wrote poetry too. She loved words, the way they tasted, the way they sang. I remember what that was like. I remember, too, how that little girl decided she would be a writer when she grew up.

Nine-year-old me didn’t have the best situation at home. Much later, in my twenties and thirties, I came to understand why, for instance, I used to feel scared most days on the way home from school. I’m still tangling with and figuring out a lot of things, but I know that younger-me didn’t have the family a child deserves. I also have a better sense of why, these days, forty-something-me always struggles to think well of herself, or believe in what she can do.

Which brings me back to that professional anxiety thing, and depression thing, I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. Last night, I looked at my old pictures, especially the one of my fourth-grade self who decided to be a writer, and thought how proud she would be of how I turned out.

Those of us who grew up in unhealthy environments often learn, as adults, about self-parenting. I’ve had a lot of trouble with that idea, what with my ingrained sense that I was a “difficult” kid, but when I look at the girl in these pictures, I realize she wasn’t the challenge I always believed she was. Sure, she had her moments, but she was smart and creative, imaginative and kind. She always marched to her own beat, even when the people closest to her made that risky and unsafe. She was pretty cool. If I could reach into the past now, I’d tell her so. I’d tell her to hang in there, she and I will make it through together.

I have a feeling she would tell me I’m pretty cool too. You really write books? Wow!! Taking the self-parenting idea a step farther, I who don’t have kids (except feline ones): I would say that if she were my daughter, she’d think her mom was awesome. And if she were my daughter, I would be awfully proud of her.

My husband and me. Still the same smile, no?

This post has felt pretty personal and pretty risky, but it’s been good to write. Thank you for reading.

Since I can’t leave without plugging my book a little, please do remember to check out the Fourteen Stones crowdfunder campaign – link below – if you’d like to preorder a print or e-book. If you have a bookstore, or book groups, etc., and would like multiple copies, we do have a wholesale option. You can also choose to pledge other amounts to the crowdfunder. We can only take preorders and pledges until August 31!

>>Fourteen Stones crowdfunder link<<

Thanks again for visiting! Please stop back tomorrow if you’d like a Maker’s Day prompt. See you next time!

It’s a Real Book!

It’s getting real! Preorders are available now for my new novel Fourteen Stones, and I’m thrilled to share the cover. Will Thompson, the artist with my publisher The Patchwork Raven, did an incredible job turning a product of my imagination into a beautiful design.

Cover reveal!

The building in this picture is a Circle House. Circle Houses have tremendous significance in Namora, one of the two countries featured in the novel. They’re places of worship, and equally importantly, places for communities to gather and for people to find rest, strength, and hope. My favorite character, Ribas Silvaikas, is a priest who serves in the Circle House of his home village, Lida. From Fourteen Stones:

Back in the square [of Lida village], one building made of gray stone stood out in the cluster of white-painted shops and houses. Its shape made it unusual too: it was perfectly round, with a conical wooden roof whose point reached higher into the sky than any of the peaked tiled roofs around it.

This was Lida’s Circle House. Here, on Pirdina, the First Day of every week, all the villagers came together to worship the goddess Kenavi. No one able to leave their house would miss that tribute. Throughout the week, the House’s doors stood open from morning to night. Anyone in need of the Goddess’s guidance, or quiet time alone in the cool circle of the stone walls, might go in and set down, for a while, whatever burdens they had brought with them.

When my publisher asked if I had thoughts for the cover design, my first thought was I’m no visual artist. πŸ˜‰ Then I thought it would be awesome if we could feature a Circle House, but I knew I’d never manage to draw one myself. Will Thompson was brilliant at turning the image I’ve carried in my head for years into a real depiction of the place.

This is a sketch that Will worked from: my rough drawing of Lida’s Circle House complex. The blue box shows the relevant part. Like I said, I’m no visual artist.

The Patchwork Raven is a small indie press that handles all its own production and distribution. When I first spoke with Jax Goss, who runs the press, she said she would completely understand if signing my book over to her felt “too rebellious” to me, too far away from the traditional publishing model that a lot of us writers think we have to pursue. I’ll admit, it did feel a bit like going out on a limb. But what mattered most to me was Jax’s complete support for and delight in Fourteen Stones. I couldn’t ask for a better partner in this venture.

Which brings me to the “getting real” part of this post: as mentioned, preorders are now available! The Patchwork Raven is having a PledgeMe crowdfunder to support the first print run. When you pledge to the campaign, you can choose your rewards: an e-book, a print book, a package that includes artwork, and other rewards which we’ll be adding as we go. When you pledge the cost of a print or e-book, you’re preordering your copy of the book, and you’ll receive it in October.

By pledging, you’re supporting me, Fourteen Stones, and The Patchwork Raven. Indie presses are wonderful about championing their writers, giving us fair contracts, and respecting our work. They’re also an essential voice in the publishing world, where traditional presses so often go with “safe” commercial options. Indies give more voices and stories a place at the table.

Interested? Please check out the link below to visit the crowdfunder and make a pledge if you’d like. If you need a little more convincing, I’ve also included a vid of my top five reasons (only a little tongue-in-cheek πŸ˜‰ ) to read this particular book. Please note: we’ll need all pledges by August 31, to hit our crowdfunder target!

Fourteen Stones crowdfunder link!

As always, thanks so much for visiting the blog. If you’d like to receive weekly updates, as well as Maker’s Day prompts every Wednesday, please consider subscribing. See you next time!

The Writing Cave

Our crowdfunder for Fourteen Stones’s launch is coming very soon! I’m so excited to share this book with you. Today, as we gear up for the start of the crowdfunder, I thought I’d share a little “virtual tour” of the place where my novel took shape.

I’m not the greatest housekeeper (in fact, if there’s a list of good housekeepers, my name is nowhere in its remotest vicinity). To put it mildly, my space is cluttered, usually chaotic, but I love it anyway.

The writing space

My writing desk, which is pretty much invisible under all the stuff, was an antique-store find ten years ago, when my husband and I moved into our house and I set up my own office for the first time. The desk is a narrow secretary with pigeonholes and a front you can close, which I never do. Here you can see the playlist up on my trusty laptop, and the pile of notes I always keep around, and in honor of Fourteen Stones, the sketches I drew four years ago when I was fleshing out my fictional world. I’ve kept those drawings up ever since, as a promise to myself that the book would be out in the world one day. (And now that day is almost here! πŸ™‚ )

Keepsakes

I’m a huge fan of knickknacks and keepsakes. The top of my desk, and the wall above it, are repositories for some of those. The feather is a hawk feather, found on a hike my husband and I took. The top photo is one of my husband’s pictures. The gray cat in the other photo is Robin, whom we adopted as an elderly former-feral and who was my beloved companion through her last years. The lovely colorful painting was done by a friend.

View of greenery

This is the view from my office window, out at our backyard. We get lots of birds: cardinals, chickadees, wrens (we had a wren nest this year), nuthatches, titmice, finches, bluebirds, and we’ve even seen a pileated woodpecker at our suet feeder. We also often see groundhogs, and many springs have had families of baby groundhogs living under our shed. (We’ve named all groundhogs Henry, just because.)

Books and stuff

And of course, no writing room would be complete without lots of books. I do have a keyboard in my office too, which mainly came in handy for my job as a church musician, when Covid closed the church I worked at and all of our services were streamed online. I played many Zoom services on this keyboard.

More books

The smaller bookshelf on the left is devoted almost exclusively to the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. He’s one of my great heroes; I’ve read all of the Discworld novels many times. If I had to pick one favorite, it would be Night Watch, although Unseen Academicals and Going Postal are also right up there.

Hardworking assistant

And, last but very much not least, this is my co-editor Fergus. He’s the youngest of our three cats, and hangs out with me the most when I’m working. Sometimes he gets a little distracting:

Apparently it’s his chair…
…and also his keyboard.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of the “cave”! If you’d like to stay updates on all things Fourteen Stones, plus get Maker’s Day prompts each Wednesday, please consider subscribing to the blog. As always, thank you for visiting!

Playing Favorites

Last week on the blog, I posted a teaser reading from the beginning of my novel Fourteen Stones. I’ve got another teaser today, this one introducing my favorite character from the book.

Fourteen Stones follows the stories of four major characters. Three of them were pretty easy to write, especially the “bonus one” who got added only after I started writing the book, when I realized I’d need his take on the action. The fourth one – my favorite – was incredibly tough.

He’s a priest named Ribas Silvaikas. Even as I put together words for this post, trying to come up with a few to sum up who he is, he’s giving me a hard time yet again. He’s contradictory and challenging. He cares profoundly about other people, but very seldom lets them get close to him. He would always rather listen than talk, always rather help than be helped. He has weaknesses, one of them crippling, and is very much aware of that; but although he doesn’t lie, he’s rarely fully honest about his weaknesses even with himself. I explored his life more thoroughly than I did with any of my other characters, digging back into his earliest memories. He was damned hard to get to know. At the same time, I came to love him deeply.

A view from Sotres, a village in Asturias, Spain. My husband is playing clarinet on the porch of the house we stayed in. Asturias inspired Ribas’s homeland, Namora.

The book alternates perspectives by chapter. During the writing, I looked forward so much to Ribas’s chapters. I couldn’t wait to get back inside his head and spend those pages in his company. Every time, though, I’d arrive in his mind and feel as if I’d hit a roadblock. There he’d be, as warm and kind and generous as ever, and as elusive and stonewalling as ever, all at once. As one of my other characters put it, Always so stubborn, RibΓ©.

Having a favorite character created a particular challenge in the writing. I wanted my portrait of Ribas to do justice to the man in my imagination. I don’t know if we can ever be sure we’re doing that, and it’s especially hard when that imagined figure seems to draw us close with one hand and push us away with the other.

Even now, with the book finished (?!), I’m not entirely sure I drew him the way he deserves. When he got especially difficult to write, I held onto specific things I knew: his smile, the way his voice sounded, the heart trouble that left him vulnerable and how he felt as he struggled against it. I went back to sketches I’d done from his childhood and revisited the young boy who was forced to grow up much too fast. With all of that in my head, I tried to stay connected with Ribas even as he seemed to “want” to push me away. Don’t write those things, I could imagine him saying; I have to be the strong one here, the anchor for everyone else. I pushed back as well as I could: But this is what’s true of you, my stubborn friend.

This has turned into a longer post than I meant to write. I’ll close it with the teaser I mentioned: a short reading from Chapter 2 of the novel, the first paragraphs in which you’ll meet my beloved and difficult priest.

If you’d like to stay updated on the release of Fourteen Stones, especially our crowdfunder coming up in August, and also receive weekly Maker’s Day prompts on Wednesdays, please consider subscribing to the blog. As always, thank you for visiting!

Fourteen Stones sneak preview

My novel Fourteen Stones is shaping up into a real book. πŸ™‚ We’re working on the proofs, and yesterday I got my first look at the official maps of my fictional world. Four years ago, I drew sketches – I’m no visual artist – to help me keep the places straight in my head and more-or-less consistent on the page. It’s amazing to see how those sketches (like Exhibit A, below) have turned into beautiful images.

My rough original sketch. Real map coming soon!

Fourteen Stones has had an unusual path to publication. When I first wrote it, I’d planned to try for the super-traditional route of agent and “regular” publisher. The challenge is that if you want to go super-traditional, you’ve also got to get used to thinking of yourself and your work mainly in terms of saleability. I’d thought at first that Fourteen Stones could be a commercial venture, but figured out pretty fast that it meant something else to me.

My publisher, The Patchwork Raven, is doing a beautiful job bringing this venture of my imagination to life. My book is the first novel they’ve published. All along the way, I’ve been so grateful for their love of the project and their belief in it.

It’s wild to think it’ll be out in the world in just a few months. Writers can’t help but dream of finding lots and lots of readers, but when I think about what I really hope for this book, my biggest hope is that it’ll find people who escape into its world the way I did, and love what they find there. In the writing, I wanted to offer some food for thought, sure; but I also wanted to carve out a space of peace and beauty. I hope readers looking for those things can find them in my pages.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be talking more about the novel and offering a few more “teasers.” Today, I wanted to share the opening couple of pages. The story begins with a folktale, “Fourteen Stones,” which gave the book its name. Here’s the beginning of it:

The peninsula in the story, where Klaya’s homeland is, was inspired by a place in Spain called the Castros da Barogna. Located on a peninsula off the northern coast of Galicia, the Castros are the ruins of an Iron Age village. You can still see the village’s guarding wall and the foundations of houses.

View of the Castros da Barogna

Over the coming weeks, I’ll also be sharing more pictures of the places that inspired the world of Fourteen Stones. If you’d like to stay updated, please consider subscribing to the blog. Meanwhile, thanks so much for visiting!

Musical Motivation

If you’re a writer, do you like to listen to music while you work? For me, that used to be a hard no. I love music, but I used to need all the quiet I could get when I was writing, to get myself into the right head space.

Things have changed a little over the last couple of years. When I started working on my big rewrite of Fourteen Stones, in the spring of 2020 right as Covid was turning things upside down, I needed some help to “stop thinking so hard” and get past some creative blocks. Last week I posted about how writing in general was pretty hard for me then. I wanted to do it, but my mental health was a big challenge. It didn’t work too well to sit in silence at my computer and try to will myself into the world of the story; that was overwhelming and scary, and I would give up pretty fast. Instead, I tried something new: making a playlist of songs I thought would help me get out of my head.

I’m a classical musician. Listening to and playing classical music has been a huge help to my mental health, especially when I’m having high anxiety. To help me get back into Fourteen Stones, though, I found myself thinking about other kinds of music, mostly favorite pop tunes going back to when I was in junior high. The playlist I eventually came up with was pretty eclectic, with everything from the Temptations and Genesis to Vance Joy and Maroon 5. (You can definitely laugh at some of my song choices; so do I. πŸ˜‰ ) Since Fourteen Stones is set in a fictional world, in a time period that doesn’t parallel our 20th or 21st century, my playlist wasn’t meant as a real soundtrack for the story. (My husband, who’s a composer, has been working on a real soundtrack for it, which I hope to share as we get closer to launch!) Instead, the songs I picked each had some kind of emotional resonance or energy that got me headed in the right direction.

Today I thought I’d share three of the ones I listened to when I was working through that rewrite. They helped cut through my anxiety and resistance, and made it much easier to dive back into my created world and get to know my characters again.

Oldest first: “Follow You, Follow Me,” by Genesis. This was maybe my first-ever favorite song; I fell in love with it when I was in sixth grade. Revisiting it was a kind of personal anchor. Fourteen Stones also has a love-story angle that this song fit with well (at least in my head).

Another favorite was “Exes and Ohs,” by Elle King. Very different energy. πŸ˜‰ This was on the radio a lot a few years ago, when I was writing the very first drafts of what would become Fourteen Stones. I usually listen to the radio when I drive, and when this song came on, I’d turn it up for an energy boost.

And finally for this sampler, “Sorrow and Joy,” by Indigo Girls. This was a tougher one. In the summer of 2019, a friend of mine passed away very suddenly. I first heard this song a few months later, and found it hard to listen to, but at the same time, it had a lot of resonance.

The revision-playlist trick was so helpful that, when I started writing a new book this past fall, I made up another playlist to help push me through the first draft. That book, Nicky True, is set in 1945, but my playlist mostly taps music from the ’60s and ’70s. I found that, again, it was less about the time period or making a “soundtrack” for the story than about finding songs that had the right kind of energy for me. I’m using the same playlist again as I dig into revisions of that draft.

If you’re a writer or another kind of creative artist, what supports your process? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

As always, thanks for visiting the blog. If you could use a little creative inspiration, please stop back tomorrow for our weekly Maker’s Day prompt!