Hello, My Name Is…

October 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm (A Wounded Name, Writing) (, , , , , )

Hey, guess what guess what GUESS WHAT!

Elsinore Drowning has a new name!

We’ve been tossing around replacement titles for a couple of months and, no joke, I have a sheet of computer paper with about either possibilities on there, but we finally found one and confession time, as much as I love the original title, I kind of love this one like cake.

Red velvet cake.

With cream cheese frosting.

And red sugar crystal sprinkles.

That kind of cake, so you know it’s true love.

Titles are strange, strange creatures and there’s a TON that goes into them- a lot more than I had ever thought about before. Usually a title is one of the first things I know about a project, the piece that helps define everything else, but looking at it from a writing stance is very different than looking at it from a publishing/marketing view, so sometimes titles have to change.

And the new title is…

*drumroll please*

A Wounded Name

So, what do you think?!

If you’re wondering where it came from, we actually went to the source material. The book formerly known as Elsinore Drowning is a modern retelling of Hamlet, and in Act V, our eponymous character says “O God, Horatio, what a wounded name, things standing thus unknown, shall I leave behind me!” It’s appropriate in so many eerie ways and I’m super glad it’s official now so I can share.

Want to know a little more about the book? Check it out on Goodreads, and be sure to add it if you’re interested!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Soundtrack of the World

October 7, 2012 at 11:42 am (Writing) (, , , , )

I started a new project this week, one that equal parts thrills and terrifies me, and surprises me with unexpectedly funny moments. I love that I’m only three chapters in and it’s already surprising me- to me that says the characters are as real as I can possibly make them.

But, after all of the planning was done, after I had the outline of sorts written into my notebook, waiting to see how much or little I’d deviate from it, and before I opened up a fresh word doc and typed so much as Chapter One, I spend a few hours going through my music.

My life has a soundtrack. There’s music over the system at work (thank God or I’d go NUTS), there’s always music playing in the car, and when I’m home, there’s either music or something on the TV to provide background sound. When I write at home, it’s with my iPod plugged into a speaker. When I write elsewhere, it’s with the headphones in. Without music, my brain comes to a crashing halt. I lose the ability to focus, get way too distracted by all the sounds going on around me, and yet silence (such as could be obtained through noise cancelling headphones) freaks me out just as much. Not only does it make me feel deaf, but my brain starts trying to fill the void with imagined sounds, which does not help with the focus. Even when I’m asleep there’s music playing, or there isn’t sleeping.

Until writing Elsinore Drowning, I never created a specific playlist for projects. I had a couple of staples that I could write to- Scythian and The Town Pants, usually, two bands I know and love, and sometimes The Tartan Terrors- and every now and then as I wrote a specific scene, I’d find myself putting a song on repeat that really just sank me into what I needed to craft. Around the time I was researching and planning for Elsinore, though, I kept stumbling across posts by authors I enjoy that talked about playlists. How much they helped, how they really just nailed the characters or certain scenes, and in some of them, how the song they were playing at a given point could even give away spoilers. As long as it was one or two, I was pretty much “meh, whatever works for them”, but by the time I hit a dozen, I was starting to wonder if there was something to this.

So, I decided to try it. At the very worst, it wouldn’t add anything and I’d go back to my standards tracks. It was an experiment with completely acceptable stakes. In the interest of approaching the thing right, before I even opened my CD books or iTunes, I sat down with a blank piece of paper and wrote down songs or bands that in some way captured the atmosphere I wanted to bring into the book.

It was a VERY strange list, and not one I would I ever have imagined writing to. This may or many not give you an idea of the book, but there was a lot of Evanescence, Linkin Park, Lacuna Coil, and songs that had been accumulated on the Grey’s Anatomy soundtracks. There were individual pieces stuck here in there- a song from The Town Pants, which kept me from feeling totally out of my depth, Josh Groban’s cover of a Cirque de Soleil song, Peter Gabriel, Annie Lennox and Lord of the Rings, Saosin. I wrote the last quarter of the book to Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” on repeat, which stunned me when I realized it but also felt exactly right. There are songs on the list that I ONLY listen to while writing or editing this book, and the simple fact of how easily it let me slip into the world within the pages made me decide to do it again for my next project.

This is the fourth project with a specific playlist, and I’ve learned that forcing myself to really think about what the music will help me do helps me understand even more about what I want from the book. The single hardest song to find was one the evoked the atmosphere of a specific place, because while I had plenty that could fit the bill, I needed it to be non-intrusive, as well.

Because one of the things I’ve learned about book specific playlists is that it’s not enough that they work for the book- they also have to work AS A PLAYLIST. If the songs don’t somehow work together, if the jump from one song to the next is choppy and jarring, it’s going to bring you out of the page. Ideally, a playlist should do everything you want it to do for the book but also become something you don’t consciously notice. I know a playlist is right when I start the first song, start writing, and look up at some point later at the silence and realize the entire playlist has gone by without pulling me from the words.

Even after I’d pulled all of the songs, I had to spend another hour figuring out the order. Were there songs that acted as a theme for a specific character? For the first time, the answer was yes, so I knew I wanted that song to be where we meet that character. There were songs for specific scenes, which needed to be placed more or less with those scenes if you pretend the playlist and the outline are equal timelines (did that make any sense?). But then there are attitudes or places that repeat, and I didn’t particularly want to repeat songs within the playlist. Repeat themes? Fine. But not the individual songs. It required a greal deal of thought to come to something that worked both musically and inspirationally.

This playlist had another first, as well. There are some soundtracks that are so brilliantly done, so completely inmeshed in the situation in the movie or show they’re from, that I can’t write to them. I can’t hear them without seeing the images from the screen. I can’t hear “Cassandra’s Waltz” without seeing lips and a pair of baby blue peepers on a skin flap. I can’t hear “Impossible Planet” without seeing that beautiful, deadly black hole. (Why yes, Doctor Who IS on my Do-Not-Write-To-List, what makes you guess that?) For the first time, though, a handful of songs from Doctor Who so beautifully fit with the other songs in the list, as well as drew the appropriate suggestions of the characters and scenes, that they’re on the playlist.

In no particular order of significance, timeline, or frequency, Shiny New Project’s playlist includes songs from: The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo De Silos, Doctor Who, Cirque de Soleil, Scythian, Children of Dune, Inara George, Daft Punk by way of TRON: Legacy, The Piano Guys, Adele, Celtic Thunder, District Tribute, Pan’s Labyrinth, Celtic Woman, Final Fantasy X, Green Day, The Tartan Terrors, Masters of Chant, PianoSquall, and Solas.

Just looking at the names, it’s a STRANGE list.

And yet, when I put in the headphones and press play for the first song, it immediately sucks me in to this world so incredibly different from the one that surrounds me.

How about you? For those of you who write, do you listen to music when you write? And if you do, do you make specific playlists for it?

Until next time~
Cheers!

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Book Review: Amy’s Eyes, by Richard Kennedy

August 15, 2012 at 7:07 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

This is less of a book review than it is talking about a book re-view.

When I was in fourth grade, I pretty much lived down in my school library. I finished my assignments so far ahead of my classmates that my teacher sent me off to the library so I wouldn’t get bored and cause trouble. (Not that I was a troublesome kid, but if I was bored, I would try to entertain myself- sometimes caused unintentional problems.) I read through great swathes of that room in my years at that school, and one of the books on the shelf was this great fat thing with selveged pages called Amy’s Eyes, by Richard Kennedy.

I fell in love with that book. It was an epic thing of sailors and pirates, the search for treasure, family lost and found, secrets, dolls coming to life and even little girls becoming dolls out of loneliness and sorrow. It had orphanage hi-jinks and adventure on the high seas, it had mutiny and religion and nursery rhymes, and what made me truly fall in love with the book- and this may or may not say something significant about me- was that it taught me the song Greensleeves. I checked that book out several times that year and next, and when I found that my middle school library didn’t have it, I checked it out from the public library. I read that book at least twelve times through the next three years.

But then Things Happened, and real life intruded, and with how insane my schedule was, the public library became rather hard to get to, and while I still thought fondly of the book, there wasn’t really a chance to catch up with it.

Fast forward to senior year of college, as I’m sitting down with my honors thesis advisor and talking about the influence of books in my life, and he tells me to track down a handful of books with significant influence and re-read them. Some were things I still read again and again- David Eddings’ Elenium trilogy, for example, which is largely responsible for my sense of humor- but I immediately thought of Amy’s Eyes. I remembered it as being a great adventure full of sweetness and laughter. It was out of print and a little tough to track down- none of the libraries I had access to had it, not even the trusty library back home; it had been stolen and they hadn’t replaced it. I finally found a used copy online that a former library copy, and not too dinged up (I’m a little OCD about my books), and when it came, I settled down to immerse myself in childhood nostalgia.

HOLY CRAP.

Somehow in reread after reread after reread when I was younger, I had managed to completely miss how CREEPY large portions of that book was! There were some sections, even some characters, who absolutely made my skin crawl coming back to it almost ten years later. This went far beyond merely unsettling- this was sit up awake in bed clutching the baseball bat against the moving shadows terrifying. As a child, I’d categorized the characters into three groups: Good, Bad, and Surprise. As an adult, the characters were much more difficult to dismiss into those simple corners. I understood a lot more of the nuances in their personalities, got a lot more out of the shifting loyalties and the plaintive confusion at their existence. The nature of identity, the simple fact of existence, weaves through this story in ways I never could have grasped when I was nine years old.

As a child, I thought parts of the book were sad. As an adult, I found some parts downright tragic- and not always the same parts. I learned about disguise as a part of truth and how far some people would go for love- and for greed. There were a few stray elements that I remembered as being the same, but in so many ways, it was like I was reading a completely different book.

For the next two weeks, before my next advisor meeting, I tried to wrap my brain around just how different this was from what I’d remembered, and therefore expected. The book, of course, hadn’t changed. I was two years old when it came out, and the text hasn’t altered a bit since the date of publication.

What had changed was me.

Another decade of life, another decade’s worth of experiences, had changed my perspective on things. As a child, I didn’t understand anything about betrayal or greed or black-hearted villains except for what I read in books. As an adult, I’d learned, and if I’d sometimes mourned the knowledge, I still had the deeper experience. Limitless devotion wasn’t something I took for granted anymore, so seeing just how far some of these characters would go to protect and reunite with the ones they loved wasn’t something I took for granted anymore either. Because of those life experiences, everyone reads the same book in different ways.

What I learned from re-reading Amy’s Eyes proved invaluable when I wrote the novel for my thesis, and for each novel after that. The character who was most deeply unsettling was also the one for whom we feel the deepest sympathies. Good and evil were not nearly as separate as I’d previously imagined, and just because a person is Good, it doesn’t mean they don’t have deep flaws within them. And perhaps the deepest lesson- the one that wove its way through again and again in what became Elsinore Drowning: sometimes we injure those we love the best, even when- or perhaps especially when- we’re trying to do what’s best or right.

Have you ever had a book that seemed drastically different upon a re-read?

Until next time~
Cheers!

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A Moment of Shameless Self-Promotion

April 8, 2012 at 9:17 am (Writing) (, )

Thank you guys so much for your congratulations here and on Twitter- it’s been a crazy week! It’s all happened so quickly that I haven’t had much of a chance to figure out how much I can say about the book and things like that. Obviously I’ll be talking about it on here at some points, especially as it comes closer to release date next fall, but I don’t want to turn this blog into something that’s all about my book, rather than celebrating the wide range of amazing books out there. I may be a little wobbly trying to find a balance.

But, here’s a start.

This week I ran around like crazy adjusting things and starting things and generally swearing at facebook (I think they make it more complicated each time just to sit back and laugh at us), so here are various places you can gradually find out more about my book Elsinore Drowning.

If you’re like me and don’t have a Publisher’s Marketplace subscription yet, here’s a copy of the official announcement:

Dot Hutchison’s ELSINORE DROWNING, a contemporary Hamlet adaptation, wherein Ophelia narrates and the roots of her madness are intertwined with modern pharmacology, Celtic and Breton faerie mythology, and her own promise to her parents, to Andrew Karre at Carolrhoda Lab, in a nice deal, for publication in Fall 2013, by Sandy Lu at the L. Perkins Agency (World).

Apparently PM has a rule that all announcements have to be one sentence long; it leads so some pretty funny announcements, really, and by funny, I mean so awkward that you can’t help but laugh. Every time I read a PM announcement, I hear several of my English teachers in my head, lecturing us on run-on sentences.

Elsinore Drowning also has a Goodreads page. You can add it to your to-read shelves if you’d like, and I’ll be updating details there as I get them.

I also started a Facebook page specifically for author/book type stuff, and funny how that took four times as long as everything else.

And I’m on Twitter as @dothutchison

Like I said, I’ll definitely be talking about the book here, but in an attempt not to make it overwhelmingly-Dot-oriented, I’m also going to be keeping a lot of the smaller updates on these other sites.

Until next time~
Cheers!

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BIG BIG NEWS!

April 3, 2012 at 5:49 pm (Industry, Writing) (, , , , , )

The Lolcats are going to help me with this one: I have BIG BIG BIG news, and big news always goes better with a lolcat or twenty.

Some of you may have noticed that I didn’t post on Sunday; there’s a very simple explanation for that. My brain right now, let me show it to you:

Well, less with the caffeine than with “OH MY F#*&Y^($Y# GOD IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?!”. Yeh, the brain? It was none so good this weekend. There were lots of questions and worries and what ifs, most of them painfully ridiculous. You know the kind I mean, the ones you know- even as you have them- are stupid and unnecessary but you can’t help but freak out over them a little anyway? Okay, so maybe the caffeine does play into it a little.

But now I’m all:

I queried for three years on different projects before signing with the fabulous Sandy Lu, and if I’m honest, there was a large part of me that expected to have to slog just as hard to find an editor to take me on. How much of that was me trying not to get my hopes up to unmanageable levels is anyone’s guess. For three years, my computer greeted me with emails that left me wondering:

And some days that led to:

And sometimes, when a bite had seemed particularly promising or I was staring at the decision whether to keep querying a project or start over with something that might be stronger, my wonderful friends and family jumped in with:

But although I didn’t know it at the time, there was a light! And not even the ACME train tunnel painted on the rock wall kind of light, but REAL light! Because I found Sandy, who was:

And she sank her teeth into mine!

Now, all of this you’ve heard before (plus or minus some illustrations), but here’s the BIG BIG NEWS! A month ago, after some revisions, Sandy started pimping my manuscript out (because let’s face it, that’s really what it is, right? As bloggers, we pimp the books we love, and agents do the same thing; it’s just a different audience). And now…

And now…

*drum roll please*

MY BOOK SOLD!!!!

The official PM annoucement is yet to come, but Elsinore Drowning sold to Carolrhoda Lab yesterday, and I am…well, over the moon doesn’t even seem like enough. It still hasn’t entirely sunk in and there’s still a lot of work yet ahead of me but…HOLY CRAP MY BOOK SOLD.

So next fall, you’ll be able to find my book on a shelf and:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go dance around the apartment like an idiot again. There’s a lot of the dancing going on right now. Feel free to dance with me!

Until next time~
Cheers!

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