Nell Iris


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Music of my youth

These past couple days, I’ve completely immersed myself in music. It’s been research…if one can call music one’s been listening to a million times research. But it’s for one of my current WIPs (I’ve got two going right now), the one I mentioned in my Monday update when I was trying to write lyrics.

Music will have a very prominent part in that story, and I’ve spent hours on Youtube watching videos with the music that’s important to the MCs. Music that’s also been incredibly important in my life.

And that got me thinking.

Do you remember when you were a teenager and discovered something you loved? How that thing consumed you completely, and you loved it with your entire being? A book, a movie, a boy (or girl – not discriminating)?

Or in my case: music. Music has always been an essential part of my life. And while it’s still as important to me as ever, I miss the way I listened to music when I was younger. How I fell in love with new songs or bands or artists. How I scribbled their names in my text books in school (hooligan!) and wallpapered my room with posters of my favorite bands.

How I would lie on the floor and listen to my favorite album and cry because it moved me so much. Touched me to my very core.

When did I lose that? When did I become this practical grown up, who still loves music desperately, but not like before? Sure, I still buy the records. I listen to Spotify and check out videos on Youtube. But when was the last time I laid on the floor in complete darkness and listened to my favorite record so loudly my mother would have exploded with anger if she’d been home?

It’s been decades.

Why do we become so hard to impress when we grow up? When do we lose that enthusiasm and overwhelming love for something we feel in the teenage years? Why do we lose that passion?

Let me paint you a picture: one of my favorite albums when I was a teenager was Mind Bomb by a British band called The The. (I was an alternative girl. I didn’t listen to mainstream music (there were exceptions, of course, but mostly not)). I bought it on vinyl (I’m that old!) in the local record store in the tiny town where I lived, and I listened to it again and again.

Printed on the inner sleeve of the record was the following “instruction” from the band: To obtain maximum pleasure & effect from this album, please play VERY LOUD!, VERY LATE, VERY ALONE…& with the lights turned VERY LOW!

I followed those instructions to a T. Lying on the floor with only the display on my stereo illuminating my room, I listened to the record loudly in my headphones (to avoid disturbing my parents and my brother). I immersed myself in the songs, learned the lyrics by heart, and sang along (or mouthed along, if I had to be quiet). And I felt like he was singing about me.

You were the girl I wanted to cry with
You were the girl I wanted to die with

I wanted so desperately to be that girl for someone.

Or this song, originally by The Smiths, but performed live by the singer (Morrissey) in this version. The boy I was desperately in love with when I was fifteen was also a big fan of this band. And I would lie on the floor, listen to this song, think about him, and cry because he didn’t love me back.

Last night I dreamt
That somebody loved me
No hope – but no harm
Just another false alarm

I like that I’m older and wiser now than when I was fifteen, but why did I have to become so cynical and hard to impress?

I want that innocent enthusiasm back. I want to be able to lie down on the floor and listen to my favorite album without feeling silly (or fearing I won’t get up again because I’m too old). I miss how my heart started to race when I heard the first notes of my favorite song playing on the radio.

***

The MCs in WIP#2 (working title Cinnamon) were best friends when they grew up, but were separated when they were fifteen, because the narrator moved away. My story starts when they meet again, sixteen years later. They have inherited that love of music from me, and Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me (the song in the second video in this post) is a part of the story.

Here’s an excerpt. Bear in mind that it’s fresh of the presses and completely unedited. And the “it” that they used to lie on the floor and listen to, was Strangeways, Here We Comethe record that song was featured on.

We’d used to lie on the floor and listen to it. Learning the lyrics by heart and singing along, happy we hadn’t been as miserable as the singer seemed to be.

“I can play it now, you know.”

I jerked at the sound of his voice, not having heard him come back upstairs.

“What?” I asked as I looked up at him where he towered over me. All the tension from before was gone, and the corners of his mouth were turned up in a fond smile.

“Your favorite song,” he said and tipped his head down at the record. “If it still is your favorite, that is.”

“Yeah, it is.”

Asher fetched an acoustic guitar from somewhere I couldn’t see—one even more beat up than the one he’d played downstairs—and sat cross-legged in front of me. He plucked the strings, and twisted the tuning pegs a little at the time until all six strings were in tune.

He went from plucking to strumming the first chords, and I smiled as I recognized them. But then he started singing, and every hair on my body stood straight up, and my mouth fell open.

His raspy voice was perfect for the sad lyrics. It was impossibly intimate to sit this close to him and listen to him as he poured his soul into the song. And when he came to my absolute favorite part and sang about how he’d felt real arms around him last night, hot tears welled up in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks, leaving burning trails in their wake.

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Good morning, said the fire alarm

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See that little thing there on the wall, next to the air con unit?

I’m angry with it. Very, very angry.

A while back we replaced our regular smoke detectors with a fancy new smoke alarm: Nest. Not only does it detect smoke, but it also detects carbon monoxide. It’s connected to a smart phone app, meaning we can check it even when we’re not home. We even get a monthly status overview via email.

And it gives me a heads up before it goes off. A nice female voice says Heads-up, there’s smoke in the hallway. I know this, because one day when I was cooking, I’d forgotten to turn on the kitchen fan and smoke seeped out into the apartment, and she was nice enough to warn me about it, instead of just blaring off the siren.

It’s all very high tech and we feel much safer than before.

It also performs self-checks to see that the system is up to date. At middle-of-the-night-o’clock in the morning, apparently!

Hence, the anger.

I was up really late because I was in a writing flow, and since I’ve been in a slump lately, I wanted to take advantage of it. After I decided enough was enough, it took me an hour or so to unwind, before I finally fell asleep.

Only to be woken up TWO HOURS LATER by the beeping fire alarm, who also blinked its lights as if it didn’t have a care in the world.

I had no idea what was going on, it didn’t sound like a regular THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE-warning, so I woke up my husband (who didn’t wake up because he’s deaf on one ear and if he sleeps on his hearing ear, he can pretty much sleep through anything. But don’t worry—he won’t sleep through the real thing!) and told him about the beeping.

After a few minutes’ detective work, he realized it was just the check up. Everything is fine, he said and went back to sleep like nothing had happened.

I—on the other hand—could not sleep. Waking up from the fire alarm got my heart pumping and adrenaline rushing through my body. I tossed and turned and tossed a little more, but it was no use. After a couple hours, I gave up. Instead, I got up to help a writer friend with a thing, thinking a little work would tire me out, and maybe I’d be able to go back to sleep for an hour or two at least.

After I was done, I crawled back into bed. And that was when the husband decided he wanted to cuddle and scooted really close. I mean close like I only had the tiniest strip of bed left for me to sleep on. Not that I’m complaining: I love cuddling, but all I wanted to do right then was go back to sleep, so an inch or two of space wouldn’t have hurt.

Just as I felt myself starting to drift away…my husband’s alarm went off!! It was time for him to wake up for work. And since he was still sleeping on his hearing ear—guess who had to listen to the alarm and poke him when he didn’t wake up?

You guessed it. Me!

And it wasn’t like he jumped out of bed and started his day. Oh no, he’s a snoozer (so am I, btw) so exactly nine minutes later we repeated the process.

That was when I gave up.

So, here I am. Mrs Grumpy Writer, who got exactly two hours of sleep last night. And while I’m very grateful that I clearly wake up when the fire alarm goes off, I’m going to put in a request with the husband that he reprogram the time for the self checks.

Say, like for two in the afternoon, instead of seven in the freaking morning?

And now I’m gonna take a nap on the couch. Do not disturb.

dnd


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Tired writer

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This is me. Seriously. All last week I was too tired to get any writing done, and yesterday I was too tired to even post my writing update like I usually do on Mondays. Bad, lazy writer.

I’m tired, guys. I either need two weeks sleep or a coffee IV-drip, whatever’s more efficient.

Anyway. What did I do last week? I edited one chapter of The Locked Room. I wrote a bonus scene to celebrate my one week anniversary of the release of Unconditionally. I decided to name MC2 in my WIP Jerome. And I mocked up a cover for Find His Way Home.

That’s it. Let’s hope this week turns out to be more productive.

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promo med review mindre

You want to read Unconditionally? It’s free with Kindle Unlimited and you can buy it at all the places listed below.

Buy Links:
JMS Books | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Smashwords | iBooks | Google Play | B&N


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Follow-up

On day 23 of the #30DayWritingChallenge I wrote a letter to myself, containing a plan on how to stop procrastinating and get my writing going again. I decided to follow up after 30 days to see how it worked, and now it’s time. (I realize it hasn’t been a full month since I wrote the blog post, but it was scheduled, so I wrote the letter and started my plan a few days before.)

It’s actually been 30 days, and here’s the evaluation:

Make a to-do list every day:
I realized quickly that every day didn’t work for me, so I tweaked it to a weekly to-do list. And that works like a charm. I can pick and chose what I feel like every day, so even though I have a to-do list, I still have the freedom to let my mood decide. Freedom of choice is super important for my creativity.

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Here’s the last two week’s to-do lists. And yes, I’m old fashioned, I have a calendar made out of actual paper 🙂 

Write 500 words on WIP every day:
I tweaked this to write or edit 500 words every day, and it works really great. Even if I’m tired and grumpy, I feel like I can manage 500 words. And when I sit down and write, I often do a lot more, but if I don’t feel like exceeding 500 words, I don’t have to. Perfect!

Write/edit in blocks of 30 minutes: 
This worked in the beginning of the 30 days, when I had a hard time getting back into my writing after Christmas. You can do 30 minutes, Nell, I told myself. It’s nothing. And I could. I wrote 30 minutes, took a break, and started over. But as I got my flow back, I became irritated when the alarm told me it was time for a break if I was in the middle of something. So I scrapped this point rather quickly. I will, however, use it as a kick-starter if I ever find myself in a funk like that again, because it helped get me going.

The verdict:
I actually procrastinate less, so I’d have to call the plan a success. At least the tweaked version of it. Yay! 🙂


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Instead of writing update: beach picture

Mondays are usually for writing updates, but since I told you on Friday what I’ve been up to and have been lazing about the entire weekend it feels unnecessary.

Instead I’ll post a beach picture for you to enjoy, while I finish the edits on Find His Way Home.

It’s taken this weekend in Penang. The ocean was so warm it was like stepping into a shower and I splashed around like a kid, pretending to be a mermaid. Thankfully there’s no pictures of that 🙂

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Aaaah, I miss the island already. I wonder if I can persuade my husband to move? I bet editing would be much more fun on the beach, or what do you think? 🙂


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You know you’re a writer when…

Yesterday we booked a trip to a Malaysian island called Penang, flying out on Friday, returning on Sunday. We’re celebrating the 45th birthday of both my husband and our friend visiting from Sweden. We’ll stay at a lovely hotel by the beach, sip on colorful drinks with tiny umbrellas, gorge on  super sweet pineapple, swim in the ridiculously hot ocean, and enjoy ourselves.

It’s just… I woke up at dawn with a gasp and my hand clutched to my chest, Hollywood style. Something I hadn’t thought about when we made the arrangements yesterday, had occurred to me in my sleep!

This means three days of editing Find His Way Home is stolen from me! And I’m on a deadline! 

So I spent some time mentally going through what I still have to do, and arranged my schedule for the coming days before my mind got calm enough so I could go back to sleep. But I woke up feeling stressed. As writers we never really have days off, there’s always a deadline or something poking our brains, demanding attention.

And then I remembered I work best under pressure, so it’ll most likely turn out okay.

Ah well, I’m sure all this anxiety will be forgotten when I strut around here on Friday:

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And if that’s not enough: our room is a great incentive to be done in time. We have access to the pool directly from the deck outside our room. Like this:

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And I can always lie sprawled on one of the sun beds on my deck, and do research on my phone for my new WIP if I feel like a bad, lazy writer. Right?

I’m pretty sure I’ll be fine. But I better get to work now 😀