Monthly Archives: May 2012

What I’m writing: Revision

I don’t love revision. In fact, because I outlined this book (Home), something I’ve never done before, I thought revision would be a breeze. Not so much. During my reading of the first draft, I realized I needed a big change in my characters, so I’m changing the  gender of one of the main characters. While revising, I’m also trying to keep an eye out for parts of the book that I can excerpt and submit to short story competions. I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to figure out the best way to go about it with not much luck. Then, in my blog reading last night, I found this article from Storyfix:  Hunger Games 6 — The Stealth Power of Sequencing. It’s exactly what I needed, both for the excerpting process and to help me with my revision. I have a hard time grasping these concepts sometimes, but the post does a fantastic job of using The Hunger Games, one of my recent favorites, as an example. If you feel like I do about revising, that is, similar to how you feel about getting cavities filled, this might help.

If you’re just beginning a book and you’d like help outlining, Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success is the book I used. It’s fantastic and a super quick read.

What I’m Reading: The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

At the suggestion of my writer’s group, I recently picked up The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Through Ester Greenwood Plath takes you inside the head of someone who is literally going crazy.

This book was suggested because in my current novel-in-progress, Home, I have a narrator, Ashley, who goes from being a normal, functioning member of society to a panic stricken agoraphobic who cannot leave the house. Not only does she not admit she has a problem, she doesn’t know how to articulate the problem to those around her.

In The Bell Jar, Plath takes you fully inside the mind of Ester, an english major in her junior year of college in the 70s. While the world seems to be open to her, Ester has an inherent distrust and uneasiness about her that she cannot articulate to those around her. She doesn’t even understand it herself. But by taking you inside her head, Plath lets you feel what Ester is feeling. You understand and even sympathize with her near-constant thoughts of suicide. You understand why she doesn’t trust her doctors, her mother, her friends. If you haven’t read this yet, it’s a quick read and will help you to see people with mental illness in a different way.

What I’m Reading: The Night Circus

I just closed The Night Circus. I loved it, and I think you should go out and buy it. Yes, you. I got my copy from the library, but I will be buying it. It’s a book to savor, with so much beautiful imagery you will want to read it again and again. And then read it to your kids.

When they are children, Celia and Marco are bound to a challenge that neither of them understands. Their teachers give no information, only that they will know when it has begun. It is a test of endurance and understanding of manipulating reality and disguising it as magic. The venue is Le Cirque des Rêves, an intricate dream world of tents and performers traveling and appearing if by magic, and only open at night.

I was able to catch a reading by Erin Morgenstern when she was in Nashville a few months ago, but wasn’t able to fully appreciate the discussion of the book as I hadn’t read it yet. Erin is an artist first, writing was something she tried on the side. She said that when she writes she sees the scenes like movies in her head and tries to capture that on paper. She did an excellent job.

This book took me a long time to read– a few weeks. Normally, I read books in matter of days. But her prose is beautiful, filled with just the right amount of flourishes that I had to slow down and let it fully sink in, but it never pulled me out of the story.

What I’m Writing Clouded #9: School

(Just joining us? Click here for the complete series.)

“So, are you going to observe one of Ethan’s bands’ sessions? Can I come with?” Sarah-Joe asks hopping up from the bench she’s sitting on.  She must have been waiting for me to come out of the room.

I hadn’t really considered trying to observe one of Ethan’s bands.  I had met two of the guys he works with, but didn’t know them very well.  I had actually been considering seeing if I could observe one of Revolver’s sessions.  I would need to be there a few times anyway to check in on the food, I wondered if they would mind if I just hung out.

“I don’t think anyone’s recording,” I say to Sarah-Joe.  There is no way I was going to bring her with to one of Revolver’s sessions.

“Are you sure?  I don’t want to observe some student who doesn’t know what he’s doing.  Besides, it’s always good to network within the industry.”

“Yes, that’s why I intern,” I say, a little more sarcastically than I mean to.  She doesn’t notice.

“Yeah, interning just isn’t my thing.  I mean, if I’m going to work I’m going to get paid for it.”

Good luck with that.  I start walking toward my next class, the opposite direction of where she needs to go.

“So you’ll ask Ethan then?”

I try to look at her without fully turning my head.  Eye contact will only encourage her further, and I’ve got to get to my Record Company Operations class.  Professor Heggelsburg is not nearly as understanding about my sleepiness in class as Professor Cunningham was this morning.  To be fair, I have fallen fully asleep in Rec Ops twice though.  It’s just a boring class.  “Sure.  I’ll let you know.”  I make a mental note to tell her tonight that he said no.



“Addison, nice of you to join us,” Professor Heggelsburg says as he shuts the door behind me.

I feel my face get red as I slide into a desk toward the back of the room and glance at the clock.  Even thought I’m a whole minute early, I am the last person to get to class. “I promise to give you your money’s worth in this class,” Professor Heggelsburg had told us the first day.  “You are paying over $1000 for the three credits this course provides. I will start and end on time.  I do not tolerate tardiness or people leaving early.” He wasn’t kidding either.  The door is locked at exactly 10:30 every morning and unlocked at 12:00 on the dot.

Professor Heggelsburg is in his mid sixties and considered either an icon or a dinosaur of Nashville recording, depending on who you’re talking to.  His credits include artists like Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers and he’s been involved in some pretty amazing music.  He’s not shy about his opinion that women should use their looks and sexuality to advance their career whenever they can, and sometimes I wonder if he thinks that women can advance their careers without using sex.  His slicked back hair and long handlebar mustache give me the creeps.

“Today we’re talking about contracts,” he says, standing at a podium in the corner of the room, clicking a tiny remote to advance the slides on the PowerPoint that is projected on the screen at the front of the room.  He looks around. “How many of you are on the Technology track?” About half of the class raises their hands.  “Oh, interesting.  50/50. This should be a good discussion then.” He flips to the next slide.  The top says “Objectives” and underneath is two column titled “Artist” and “Label” divided by a thin line.  “Take a moment to look over this list.  We’re going to talk about both sides of the contract negotiation process.  This is probably the only time you’ll ever hear both sides presented at the same time.”  He chuckles to himself and I half expect him to snap his suspenders against his chest.

I skim the words on the screen, then look around the class.  It is interesting that the class is so evenly divided between the Technology and Business tracks.  All Music Business majors must choose to either concentrate on the Technology side of the business: recording, producing, engineering, the actual sound of the music, or the Business side of the business.  Business track majors typically go into management or record label operations.  Rec Ops and Recording Technology are both required courses no matter which track you’re in.  You end up having most of your classes with students in your year and your track.  It’s nice to be in a class with people I don’t know.

“The standard pieces of any recording contract are?” Professor Heggelsburg waits, looking around the room.  We sit, fingers poised over keyboards, ready to take notes while he continues to challenge anyone to dare to try to answer.  “Advance, Royalty Rate, Territory and Options.  Most labels now also include provisions on online product sales, touring income, and synchs. Now let’s look at each of these.” He flips to the next slide and begins to drone about the boring details of contracts.  He does a good job of presenting the considerations that each side needs to make, but we all know that signing with a “major” label means that they get to call most of the shots.  On the flip side, the money they invest is the best chance any artist will get at super-stardom.

I consider Revolver’s situation.  They’ve been at the same label since their first record.  I don’t know how much of an advance they received then, or for any of the rest of their albums, but I do know that Simon has been very vocal lately about his dislike of label operations.  He told one reporter that “The fat men that sit behind the desks all day have no idea what goes in to making good music.  All they know how to do is pay off their cronies.  You have to have a major label deal because that’s the only way to get into their little club.  But we’re breaking out of it.” I wonder if those comments have anything to do with the negotiations that they’re in now.

“The label has a set number of “Options” written into a contract.  This means that they have the option of saying whether or not they want the next record from the band.”

A guy in a dark blue sweatshirt in the back of the room raises his hand. “What if the band doesn’t want to work with the label anymore?”

Heggelsburg laughs.  “Well, unless they’re recouped, they don’t really have a choice.  Who can tell me what recoupment is?”

No one raises their hand, even though we all know it.

“Addison?  Can you share with the class what recoupment is?”

I look around, hoping he’s talking to someone else.  I feel my face get red.  “It’s when the artist has earned enough money for the label that they’ve paid back all of the expenses.” I immediately look back down at my computer.  I hate being put on the spot like that.

“Correct!  And how long does that usually take for a normal artists?”  Again, no response from the class.  “Let me rephrase.  How often does that happen for a normal artist, over the course of their career?”  Still, silence.  Professor Heggelsburg looks from one student to the next, like he’s building dramatic tension.  “NEVER!” he booms.  I jump. He notices and laughs.  “Is this shocking to you Addison?”

“No,” I croak, barely audible.

“Good.  Tell me about cross-collateralization.”

He flips to his next slide and waits for me.  I don’t know what I did to cause so much teacher attention today.

“It’s when the profits from one project are used to recoup the costs of another.”

“Very good.  And how often does this happen?”

“All the time.”

“Correct.  It’s standard in any label agreement.  If they pick up the option, there will be cross collateralization.”

“It sucks,” the guy in the blue sweatshirt says.  Professor Heggelsburg looks up.

“Excuse me?”

“It sucks.  It’s not fair to the artist.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The deals are always structured for the label. It’s like the artists have become indentured servants.”

Oh geez I think, and stare at the door.  I wonder if I could get it unlocked and out without being noticed.  Professor Heggelsburg has moved towards Blue Sweatshirt in the back of the room. His walk is slow and deliberate, and I know what’s coming.  He is famous for his ability to argue why the labels are within their rights to operate the way that they do.  Literally famous.  He’s been on CNN more than once to comment on lawsuits that bands try to bring against the labels.

“Tell me more,” he says to Blue Sweatshirt.

Shut up I telegraph.  He doesn’t get it.  He launches into a long diatribe about how labels are big corporations that have all of these protections and they shouldn’t be allowed to operate the way that they do.  Professor Heggelsburg answers him point by point, and soon blue sweatshirt is fuming the back and of the room and Heggelsburg has forgotten what the point of today’s lecture is.

“What if,” I say, raising my hand, “the band records their new album without telling the label?”

“They can’t. Who’s going to pay for the studio, the producer, engineers, musicians?”

“Let’s just say they can afford it themselves.  Can they record without telling anyone?”

“That’s an interesting question.  Class?”

“If the label hasn’t exercises the option yet, they can do whatever they want.”

“Wait, are they still under contract?  Is the label still working on the last record?”

“Does the label have options to exercise?”

The questions are coming too fast for me to answer without giving away details.  Everyone is staring at me, and I kick myself.  Why did I even bring this up?

“This is, uh, a hypothetical situation.  So, um, yes, the label has options.  The band is still touring for the last record.”

“Are they recording on their own?  I think it’s different if they’re just doing some stuff on their computer rather than in a studio.”

A debate over whether a recording is less valid if it’s done in a bedroom versus in a studio ensues, and the attention gets turned away from me.  I know I don’t know all of the details of Revolver’s situation.  I’m not sure whether or not I think what they’re doing is wrong or not.  On the surface, it seems shady.  But, even so…


Well, that wasn’t so smart

I broke the fast last night with one little square of Olive and Sinclair chocolate. It. was. a. mazing.

I guess I was missing chocolate a little more than I realized. This morning, I had a half-caf (because I don’t want to get addicted again) dark chocolate latte with almond milk and an apple with chocolate almond butter. Because today I’m adding back nuts and seeds. And apparently chocolate and sugar. Ugh. My tummy hurts.

Justin's Chocolate Almond Butter

I think it’s a combination of the chocolate, sugar, and the fact that I just haven’t been eating that many calories at one time. On the plus side, I have no desire for anything but veggies for the rest of the day.