Shakespeare famously said “The course of true love never did run smooth”, and even though Snark and Circumstance ended happily, I knew it would be rough going for Georgia and Michael even so. Their love hits some snags in Snark and Stage Fright, and as I await the release date of this sequel – March 10th! SQUEEEEEEE! – that got me thinking about my ALL-TIME FAVORITE HEARTACHE SONGS, those songs that just hit where you live if you’ve ever been hurt.
We’ve all been there.
And these songs can really help when you just want to wallow in loss.
So here are my TOP FIVE “YOU HAVE BROKEN MY HEART’ SONGS, in ascending order of awesomeness:
5. Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black”
I’ve never had an affair (and neither has Georgia, my MC!) but we both know what it’s like to have someone we love go back to the girl they were with before, or to a girl who just seems “easier.”
When Amy sings
You went back to what you knew
So far removed from all that we went through
And I tread a troubled track
My odds are stacked
I’ll go back to black
We only said goodbye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to…
I feel it in my gut every time. I miss Amy Winehouse.
4. The Buzzcocks “Ever Fallen in Love”
Georgia’s friends have a punk band (the Cryptic Pigs from Hell) and when they play this song at a show, she’s sure they played it for her, because she’s feeling like she never should have let herself fall for Michael. But if she paid attention to these lines
I can’t see much of a future
Unless we find out what’s to blame
What a shame
And we won’t be together much longer
Unless we realize that we are the same
she’d see that the situation is far from hopeless. But when you’re wallowing, you can’t see your way out of it.
3. No Doubt “Ex Girlfriend”
Deep down, Georgia kinda always knew she’d end up as Michael’s ex-girlfriend. Now she has to figure out how much of that was a self-fulfilling prophecy and whether things can work differently without the insecurity that made things go south in the first place. It worked out all right for Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, after all. And Gwen got a kickass song out of the heartache.
Though I’m not sure how Georgia would feel about them,these next two are my personal favorites. Each represents a different stage of the heartache process for me.
2. Fleetwood Mac, “Silver Springs”
I have to admit that in the 70s, I was pretty anti-Mac. I was just so sick of their omnipresence, plus I had an adolescent knee-jerk reaction to anything that I felt was being shoved in my face, especially through the radiowaves that provided the soundtrack to everything I did. But for whatever reason, when I was pregnant with my daughter years ago, I became pretty Stevie Nicks obsessed.
This song represents to me the less generous side of pure heartache, the part of you that just feels hurt and can’t think of anything or anyone else, the part of you that has just a little bit of rage and disbelief underneath all of that hurt and pain (“How could you possibly not love me??!!”). It’s got that lovely Nicks-ian hippie dippie imagism and it is at once abject (“I know I could have loved you but you would not let me/Give me one more chance”) and a promise of revenge (“I’ll follow you down til my voice will haunt you.”) It’s a great song. It should have been on the Rumours album but it was worth waiting til the mid-90s for it.
And finally, number one:
1. Pearl Jam, “Black”
This song gets me every time.
Unlike “Silver Spring,” it represents the better angel of the heartbroken, the part of you that feels hurt but can still want happiness for the person who hurt you. You just can’t see why that happiness can’t be with you.
I love Pearl Jam’s lyrics and this song is a great example of them. In fact, if I had unlimited funds (and no qualms about consigning others to lives of indentured servitude), I would have Pearl Jam follow me around all day like the wandering minstrels in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Except they would be so bored narrating my life I would have to let them go. Could “Middle Aged Woman Cleaning the Cat Box” be the next “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter”? I doubt it.
And there you have a little taste of the sad parts of Snark and Stage Fright (but fear not! It’s no bummer, I assure you) and a great playlist for next heartache. May it be short-lived.
To kick off the pre-release extravaganza for Snark and Stage Fright – otherwise known as the SNARKNADO – I thought I’d let my main characters, Georgia Barrett and Michael Endicott, reintroduce themselves with a little game of “Would You Rather?”
SCENE: The Starbucks in Longbourne, located on Endicott Street in the Longbourne Shoppes, a faux colonial shopping center in a preppie New England town.
GEORGIA: Okay, Michael. . . would you rather . . .(presses lips together to keep from smirking) . . .live in a world without Ralph Lauren polo shirts or be poked in the eye with a sharp stick?
MICHAEL stretches out his legs and sighs with mock weariness.
MICHAEL: So it’s gonna be that kind of fun, is it? Go home, Georgia. You’re drunk.
GEORGIA raises the cardboard cup she will take home to recycle and replies haughtily.
GEORGIA: You know this is a soy Oprah chai. Even though I don’t like contributing more to the Oprah empire, necessarily, this is good stuff. Do you want another question?
MICHAEL: Yes. One that probes my many depths, please.
GEORGIA rolls eyes.
GEORGIA: No pressure there. Why don’t you ask a question? Show me how it’s done?
MICHAEL: Okay. Georgia, would you rather have to spend a day working in a slaughterhouse or in a coal mine?
GEORGIA blinks, then laughs.
GEORGIA: Wow. Well, you know I don’t want to be part of the meat industrial complex in any way, but you also know I am kinds claustrophobic, but . . . I am going to have to go with coal mine. I would rather be in a coal mine for a day. I can wear a metal hat with a lamp on it and sing mining songs.
MICHAEL: I like that you would make the best of it. I’d go for the coal mine, too.
GEORGIA: Okay. pauses to pick at Michael’s cherry oat bar, then laughs. Would you rather have to be a contestant on Survivor or American Idol?
MICHAEL groans: You know I would hate both. And you know why I agreed to that non-singing part in The Sound of Music. You know exactly why I did that – Georgia blushes and he grins – so you also know that I would be eliminated long before I ever got to Hollywood on American Idol. That’s how it works, right? They pick you in some obscure town and if you’re good enough you go to Hollywood? I don’t watch it.
GEORGIA: Neither do I. So Survivor, then? You’d take life in the outback, or an island without lobster thermidor, over being a singing sensation?
MICHAEL: I would last longer than you in the outback and you know it. Pops the last bit of bar into his mouth and grins. Don’t be a hater just because you would get voted off the island first.
GEORGIA ducks head and looks up under her lashes, smiling. I’d be okay being on an island with just you.
MICHAEL smiles and brushes crumbs off her hand before places his fingers over hers.
MICHAEL: Me, too. Unless we were on reality tv.
GEORGIA: We could find a cave and hide in it until the cameras went away.
MICHAEL: Sounds like a plan.
If you want to know how Michael ends up in a high school production of The Sound of Music, you have to check out Snark and Stage Fright. Here’s the Goodreads link!
CONTEST: Ask Michael or Georgia a “would you rather?” question. I’ll put the best questions in a future post and send a copy of the ebook when it comes out to some lucky winners. So leave a question in the comments below!
SNARK AND STAGE FRIGHT releases on March 10th, and to celebrate, I’ll be posting a bunch of plot teasers here, on Twitter and Facebook to get you in the mood. Here on the blog I’ll also have some other fun stuff like:
- the plotline in song titles
- the Snark and Stage Fright playlist
- hard-hitting interviews with myself (I’m not afraid to ask the tough questions)
- the plotline in picture collages
- any other fun stiff I can think of!
So stay tuned. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.
Writers – how well do you know what your characters look like?
Readers – how much do you want to know about a character’s appearance? Do you want to know the location of every freckle, or do you like to have some details left to your imagination?
Two recent events lead me to ask these questions this morning. First, I realized recently that even though I have written two books now with a main character named Georgiana Barrett and spent much time off and on over four years thinking about her, I’m still not one hundred percent sure what she looks like. This struck me as odd and probably negligent on my part as an author, akin, almost to not being able to describe one of my own children well enough to to a security person if he or she got lost in the mall. (Fortunately both kids are well past the “wandering off” stage and only one of them will go to the mall with me willingly). Am I a bad author-parent? I know for sure that Georgia is pretty tall and she has dark hair that underscores her “black sheep” status in a family of blondes. It is not long and I suspect it is layered. Her eyes are brownish. On the other hand, I know very well what her boyfriend Michael looks like – probably because I saw him through her eyes as I was writing. Then again, I have a strong sense of what my characters in other works in progress look like even with a third person point of view, so that theory may not hold water.
The second incident – leading to the second question – was my YA fiction writing class’s insistence that characters be physically attractive to be “compelling.” Not all of my students felt this way, but many, possibly the majority, did, and seemed surprised that I found this disturbing. Of course pop culture from fairy tales to Disney films to Nick tween shows has taught us that one embodies goodness by having a good body.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get over that myth. I do know that whatever Georgia looks like, she’s not perfect. But she is good. (At least, she means well, which counts, I think).
I’ve had beta readers and critique partners ask me for more physical description of my main characters. And I’ve tried but found it hard to oblige them, and not just because it’s clunky and awkward in first-person narration (Do you have the character comments, “I was brushing out my shoulder-length chestnut curls when the bomb went off”? Of course not. Or “I reached out to save him but could not meet his grasp. Damn my stubby fingers!” Even worse.) There’s something in me that just doesn’t want to describe them too much, probably because as a reader I like a a writer to provide a little prompting about a character’s appearance and let me imagine the rest myself. Even so, I find it disconcerting when a film version of a book character doesn’t resemble the character in my head, though a great performance always wins me over. I resisted Jennifer Lawrence but that only lasted for about eight minutes of the first Hunger Games. Now I can’t remember what “my” Katniss looked like.
So how much do you need to know, as a reader or a writer, about a character’s physical appearance? Leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you.
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted and I hope you guys are still out there! I’ll be back here more regularly soon but for now I’d like to thank everyone who read the Snark series of e-novellas and wish you all a happy and healthy new year.
The sequel to Snark and Circumstance, Snark and Stage Fright, releases at the end of February, and to celebrate, I’m going to be posting a series this month about writing humor, as well as some teasers about the new book.
So let the Snarknado begin! Thanks for coming along for the ride!
I’ve been away from the blog for a couple weeks as I was working on another blog/website that reviews YA romances. The experience of reading so many newly released books in such quick succession reinforced something that I have suspected for a long time: it is better to not rush a book, no matter how impatient you are to get it out into the world. So, with this revelation in mind, I am going to devote September’s posts to a plea for patience in writing and publishing.
PART ONE: THE WRITER AS CROCK POT
I’ve said it before: for better or worse, I am a child of the Seventies. I know from crock pots. As moms went to work in those heady days of the Women’s Movement, crock pots allowed them to stick some meat and veggies and sauce stuff into the pot as they left in the morning and then come home in the evening to a kitchen that smelled like they’d been toiling in it for hours (instead of toiling somewhere else). And your book (and your brain) are kind of like a crock pot.
Your story/novel/poem needs to marinate in its own juices, as it were, for a good long time, and you, the writer, are the crock pot in which all that juiciness simmers into something tasty. But you’re not really a crock pot, of course, and there is no such magical appliance that will make your story/novel/poem marinate to glorious fruition while you go do something else. You have to do the writing. But you also have to give it time. And sometimes that means walking away from your manuscript and coming back to it weeks or even a month later to see it with fresh eyes. An undercooked book is as unsatisfying as an undercooked meal.
I’ll talk next week about the signs of a book that needed more time in the creative crock pot. For now, I’ll talk about patience and why it is a virtue in publishing as in all other walks of life.
A few years ago, when I was drafting and drafting and drafting, I heard a joke-story about a guy who’s at dinner with his in-laws. He tells them he wants to be a writer and the imperious father-in-law says something like, “Ah, you want to have written!” And that made sense to me. The actual writing part, much as I love it, is not always all that fun. It can be very frustrating an make you want to go
But being published! We all imagine that that would feel like
So many people I know who are just starting out as writers are focused on being published, not on writing. They think about finding an agent and making a book trailer or making cover art more than they do about writing (and rewriting, and rewriting, and rewriting again). They’re not focused on the actual book.
I also know a few people who rushed into self -publishing because they were convinced that their book was ready and didn’t want to go through the query-and-wait process. I have enormous respect for self-publishing but recently I have read enough self-published books that certainly would have benefited from not just an editor but from a third or fourth or fifth revision. And those revisions take time.
No one likes to wait. And no one likes rejection. Those two factors make querying your work as painful and drawn-out a process as performing a root canal on yourself with a pair of pliers. But so often rejection comes from an editor or an agent because the book is just not ready. Unfortunately, they won’t always tell you that. They get so many queries that often they don’t even respond. But when they do send comments, they can often be summed up by the phrase “this manuscript is not ready yet.” The characters’ motivation may not be clear yet. Plot points may be confusing. The writing may need more polish. Scenes need to be cut that delight the writer but don’t further the plot. It will hurt when you receive these comments but you’ll get over it and get back to work, producing a better book for having learned its faults and corrected them.
As a child of the Seventies, I remember those commercials for Ernest and Julio Gallo wine. I think Orson Welles was their spokesman, and he would intone in his deep, important Orson Wellesian way:
We will sell no wine before its time.
This is sound advice from a man known for his meticulous attention to his craft (okay, at the time he was shilling discount wine, but still. The man was an auteur and he’s not wrong about this.) So my advice, to be read in a deep important Orson Wellesian way:
Don’t put something out there just so you can say you have something out there.
Take your time. Let the ideas, sentences, scenes marinate in the crock pot of your brain and time and your book will be the better for it.
Next week I’ll cover the signs of a Rushed Book (and how to avoid putting one out there yourself) and the following week will be dedicated to the Rushed Romance. Please check back and weigh in with the comments! Cheers.
Here it is, folks! The cover to the Snark enovellas’ sequel.
I am so happy that Michael finally has his curls in place.
And here’s the official blurb:
Happily-ever-after isn’t as happy or forever as Jane Austen makes it look. Just something Georgia Barrett learns when her sharp tongue costs her the only guy she’s ever really cared about: Michael Endicott.
Determined to move on, Georgia lands the lead role in the school’s fall musical. But to survive on stage, she’ll need to learn to express herself without her protective shield of snark. She soon discovers being honest with others means being honest with herself, and the truth is she’s still in love with Michael.
But from the looks of Michael’s new girlfriend, Georgia isn’t the only one who tried to move on. Apparently, some people are just better at it than others. And when Michael and his girlfriend join the cast of the fall musical, Georgia finds out that snark and stage fright are the least of her worries…
Add it on Goodreads, please.
As I await the release date, I’ll fill you in on what George and Michael have been up to, my own experiences with snark and stage fright, and all sorts of other stuff. But if you want a little visual preview of the book, check out my Pinterest board for Snark and Stage Fright.