Friday, March 11, 2016

A Week of Accomplishment

This is a week of accomplishments. For one thing, unless things go incredibly crazy, I will likely finish this draft of the book today. My usual daily word count would bring me to right about the word count I want for this phase of the book. I've seen the "movie" of the rest of the book in my head and played out the scenes, so I think it should go pretty smoothly. I just have to decide exactly where to end it, as the movie seems to continue to set up the next book, and I don't know if those parts need to go in the next book or this book.

One of my characters has really surprised me by rising to the occasion. I'd always imagined that this character might be able to do some things, but I didn't see it happening in this way or at this time.

I have to say, this book is turning out to be pretty good. That publisher is going to regret passing on it because this may be the one that starts the buzz for the series in a big way.

Of course, that will be after I've done some rewrites. I may give myself a couple of days off before I go back and start rewriting. By "days off," I mean doing my taxes and giving my house a good cleaning. And doing a ton of reading, as I need to read a book for a possible blurb and read all the Nebula nominees by the end of the month. In fact, Sunday is going to have to be a serious reading day for me.

My other accomplishment this week was playing a piece of music on the piano with both hands. I've always been fascinated with the piano. I had a little toy piano as a child, and I taught myself to play some basic things on it. The girl who lived across the street when I was in preschool through first grade was taking piano lessons, and when I was at her house, I'd go through her piano lesson books and then go home and try to do those things on my toy piano. I was the weird kid who begged for piano lessons while all my friends who were being forced to take them begged not to have to. But I didn't get to do anything musically (other than the regular elementary school music classes) until sixth grade, when I got to be in band. I'd sort of taught myself to read music, but that was when I really got fluent in reading treble clef, without having to stop to think what each line and space was.

When I was in my mid-20s, my parents gave me an electronic keyboard for Christmas, and I bought a "learn to play piano" book. Then I hit a major roadblock of frustration. I would look at an easy piece of music and find myself totally unable to play it. While I can look at the treble clef and identify a note at a glance, on the bass clef I had to stop and go "good boys do fine always." I'd played oboe and flute, so I wasn't used to the idea of playing more than one note at a time or having to make my fingers work independently. The keyboard got put aside, other than occasionally for helping me work out notes in choir music, but even there, it was easier to play it on the flute to see how it would go, since I couldn't play the piano in rhythm or at tempo.

A few years ago, I got a stand for the keyboard, so it sits more like a piano, and so I played with it more often. I got to the point where I could identify the keys without counting from middle C, and then I was able to play the melody line of music in rhythm or at tempo. I've also been trying to work on reading bass clef, so in choir when the director is working with the men, I make myself figure out the notes in their part.

So this week when I was working on my solo for church Sunday, I worked out how to play the chord that leads into my part (that first note is tricky to find). Then I thought I might be able to try playing for real, and I got out that book. This time, it seemed to click. I'm still in the early beginner stages, but I've worked my way up to playing songs that use both hands at the same time and that even use chords on each hand. I'm actually playing the piano! I've even managed to sing while playing. The keyboard is just outside my office and near the spot where I've been writing, so it makes a good break between writing sessions. I feel enough excitement about the achievement that I may even stick with working my way through this book, and then I'll have to look for more piano lesson books to keep developing.

One of my motivations right now may be the fact that a friend in choir has offered to lend me a Celtic harp and teach me the basics, but he has to get his loaner back from someone else. Since that will require using both hands and playing more than one note at a time (and a piano is basically a harp on its side), I figured that playing the piano would be good preparation while I wait. My goal is to be able to play something I can sing with, and a small harp is more portable than a piano. I tried playing guitar, but my skin doesn't form calluses, so pressing the strings against the frets was painful and didn't get better. I was taking lessons, and my teacher even said that it wasn't the instrument for me.

I've been trying to spend less time online, and this is what I've been doing with the time I've freed up.

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