Putting the Heart in Art

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Have you ever been happily reading when suddenly, a passage from the book pops out at you? I was doing my annual read-through of The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini last summer when the following passage from Inheritance (the fourth and final book in the series) jumped out at me:

 “You must be capable with your weapon, but anyone with the time and the inclination can acquire technical proficiency. To achieve greatness, though, that requires artistry. That requires imagination and thoughtfulness, and it is those qualities that the best warriors share, even if, on the surface, they appear completely different.”

photo_1780_20060712This is the part where the dragon Glaedr teaches Eragon, the protagonist, about the mental aspects of swordplay. However, the quote can apply to musicians, artists, and writers as well, if you think about it. ANYONE can learn to play an instrument proficiently…ANYONE can pick up a paintbrush and apply it to a canvas…ANYONE can sit down at a computer and type out a story. But it takes something more than technical proficiency to become a great pianist, artist, or writer.

I have seen this principle in my personal musical education. My junior-high piano teacher was AMAZING…I adored her, and I tried to imitate her style with every note I played. I learned much from her, and was devastated when I moved to another town two hours away. However, that has been the best thing to happen to me musically, for now that I was away from her teaching and in a small church that needed my skills, I was forced to teach myself and to stretch beyond what she taught me. I experimented with different styles of playing and blended them together until I reached my own, personal style.

Now, I would not consider myself a “great” pianist, by any means, but I feel like I have crossed the boundary of simple technical mastery. I didn’t become truly ‘fluent’ in piano until I began to use my imagination in my practice sessions. Although there are echoes of all my past teachers in my style, I am not a carbon copy of any of them.

 Some musicians that I consider to be great are The Piano Guys. If you have never heard them, then I highly recommend you check out their channel on Youtube. As you can see from the video above, they put all of themselves into their music. They took an ordinary pop song and turned it into an extraordinary instrumental piece. So what separates TPG from any other pianist/cellist duo, or the average piano major at Juilliard from a professional classical pianist like Arthur Rubenstein? What’s the difference between the struggling artist next door and Vincent Van Gogh, or any of the thousands of writers working on an epic fantasy novel and J. R. R. Tolkien? Two things, I believe: imagination, and heart.

Anyone can achieve technical proficiency in any area of art. However, like Christopher Paolini said, achieving mastery requires something more, something from inside us.  Just like I failed to achieve mastery of the piano until I placed my heart and mind (imagination) into it, so I will not be all that I can be as a writer until I do the same.

What are some ways that you incorporate part of yourself, your heart, into your art?

~Suzanne~

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New developments!

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This is the full map of Thíortha that I drew some time ago.

This is the full map of Thíortha that I drew some time ago.

Suzanne and I got to talking this week and we have some new developments for the Thíortha Chronicles that we are very excited about! Some things (like plot points) we cannot discuss yet unfortunately (you know, “Spoilers!”), so I’ll focus mainly on the other things.

1. The Thíortha Chronicles

We have decided to split them into two separate series, but they will still collectively be called the Thíortha Chronicles. Bloodlines and Battlelines are the tentative titles of the two separate series as of right now. The reason we decided to split the 10-book series down to two complimentary series  is so that we could focus on the two main story arcs that run through our stories.

?????2. Battlelines

Battlelines will include Poisoned, Tuned, Cursed, Locked, and Rejected. Even though Battlelines chronologically happens after Bloodlines, we have decided to complete Battlelines first. The reason for this is that we are already pretty much done with Poisoned and we’ve got a good start on Cursed, so it makes the most sense to continue on with Battlelines.

?????????3. Bloodlines

Bloodlines will include Bejeweled, Hunted, Enchanted, Manipulated, and Boarded. These five novels are all still in the planning stages at this time. We’re excited to begin working more on fleshing out their overall story arc and individual plots, whenever that may be.

 

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4. Poisoned, Locked, and Rejected

Poisoned has quite a lot of things that Suzanne and I need to work on, and I’m itching to make the much-needed improvements to the plot. We had a good talk yesterday about some finer points that we were a bit unsure on, and I must say, things are definitely improving. Hopefully we’ll be able to finish the first draft of Cursed soon so we can get back to Poisoned.

Locked was one of our more under-developed story lines, until now. We’re still working some things out, but it is going to be good. We’re very excited for it’s future progress.

photo_1501_20060430Rejected is kind of my (Marie’s) baby. It is inspired by my favorite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast,  so when Suzanne brought me in as a co-author and we began developing the series, I had to come up with a story line that would work in the Thíortha Chronicles. Unfortunately, I have a hard time putting my thoughts into words all the time occasionally so it was difficult to get my vision across to Suzanne. Thankfully, I was able to go through my ideas for the plot with Suzanne and she now understands what I envisioned.

So, there’s our progress report! We’ll try to keep you up to date on our progress!

~Marie~

Frozen: A Review

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frozenWe are aware that since this is not out on DVD yet, some of you may have not seen the movie. That being the case, this is a spoiler alert. Major plot points will be discussed in this article.

SPOILER ALERT.

I mean it. If you haven’t seen Disney’s Frozen yet (shame on you), then stop reading this post and go watch it.  Or at least go listen to the soundtrack. By the way, please excuse my extreme fan-girling over the music…I am the musician half of this writer team, after all.

Frozen is loosely based upon Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale entitled “The Snow Queen.”  The movie begins with a truly haunting song (“Frozen Heart“) that acts as a premonition of sorts, referring to Elsa’s cryokinetic powers that occur later.  The four main characters and the songwriters are all Broadway veterans (including Idina Menzel from Wicked), which guarantees at least a powerhouse soundtrack, if nothing else.  However, Frozen captured Marie’s and my attention for a number of other reasons:

1. Character names

The genius writer team recreated Hans Christian Anderson’s name in three of the characters’ names: Hans, Kristoff, and Anna.  How cool is that? What a neat way to pay homage to the original author of the story!  Plus, out of curiosity, I looked up the name of the other main character, Queen Elsa.  One of the meanings of her name is “noble”, which fits her perfectly.

2. Elsa

Speaking of the newly crowned queen of sass, can we just take a moment and appreciate how amazing Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) is? As if her solo song “Let it Go” isn’t enough to make you absolutely fall in love with her, her complicated character angst should do the trick.  She reminded Marie and I a lot of the character we’re currently developing, so of course she struck a chord (literally) with us.

3. Prince Hans

Can anybody say “best Disney villain ever”? Ok, maybe not…it’s hard to beat Scar or Frollo or Gaston.  But he’s definitely up there with the best.  From playing with the heart of Princess Anna to taking over the kingdom of Arendelle, Hans has got some serious villain flair going on. But more on him and his deviousness later.

4. Sister love!

Disney finally got around to having some princesses who are not only children. And it’s about time. The broken relationship between Anna and Elsa is the driving force of the story. (“Do You Want to Build a Snowman“…need I go any further?) When they reconciled at the end, it almost brought tears to my eyes (which, considering that I laugh at most tear-jerking scenes in movies, is saying something).

5. True love

Okay, so I’m not a fan of “true love” as it’s portrayed in movies. I totally concur with Elsa’s opinion of the matter: “You can’t marry a man you just met.” *looking at you, Snow White, Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella* While “Love Is an Open Door” is a simply ADORABLE song, it’s not representative of real life.

However, for the first time in forever (sorry, couldn’t resist), Disney has shown the true meaning of love in one of its movies.  True love isn’t about romantic feelings–though they often accompany it–as Anna found out the hard way when she learned of Hans’ deception. True love is shown when you but someone else’s needs before your own, like Olaf the snowman did when he risked melting in starting the fire for Anna, or when Kristoff disregarded his own safety to try and save Anna from freezing to death, or when Anna gave up the chance to be healed of her curse and threw herself in front of Hans’ sword to save Elsa from being killed.  For once, true love has been portrayed correctly, and it’s about time.

Anyway, this is why Frozen became an instant favorite with Marie and me.  What did you think of it?

~Suzanne~

“Our Story” From My Point of View…

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TechWriter_ImageLet me start off with a confession: I never wanted to be a writer. Sure, I wrote the occasional story–for instance, when my best friend broke her arm, I wrote that the reason she did that was because she was saving the world from the aliens that obviously invaded my 5th grade class–but that was just for fun. I was actually determined to say no when Suzanne asked me to help her write novels.

I should start from the beginning. (*sings* It’s a very good place to start!)

aliens-history-channel-guyradio-geeks-and-beats-podcast-ddutbncuSuzanne has always wanted to be a writer. ALWAYS. So she would write stories all the time. I looked up to her (not anymore, being that I’m several inches taller) and decided to try my hand at writing. I thought I was pretty rubbish at it and decided to hang up my writing hat at the age of seven. I did not stop coming up with stories, however. I loved making up imaginary friends *ahem* characters and having grand adventures with them at my desk in school.

JUL100366I have also really loved fairy tales, which is probably why my darling brother gave me an epic copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales for Christmas (You rock, Daniel!). So when Suzanne told me about her idea for a take on Sleeping Beauty, I was all for it and ready to offer advice whenever she needed it.

She started writing it, calling it The Pearl of Aireland. A couple of chapters in, she had an idea, connecting more than one fairy tale. We thought about the ones she should add to it (Snow White, Cinderella, etc.), but we had to cut the conversation short on account of my having to get ready for work.

At work, I got to listen to songs on my iPod (which was really, really nice) and I got to this one particular song that gave me a plot idea for her Snow White story. The song was “Midnight Well” performed by Ryan Kelly of Celtic Thunder (love them!). I must have listened to it about ten times as this plot developed in my mind. I must be honest, I could barely concentrate on whatever pastries I was busy making.

tumblr_static_writing450Once I got home, I completely forgot that I had a computer and hand-wrote about eleven pages of my basic plot idea. It took about three hours, but I was happy with my idea. Then I had to type it out and send it to Suzanne. She liked the idea, and then we went over and tweaked the finer points of it. Then she had the bright idea of combining forces and co-writing these books.

I was like, um, what? No thank you. Fortunately, she gave me time to think about it.

I think it was about a week later that I said yes to her proposition. Honestly, I’m still surprised that I said yes. That being said, I’m glad that I did. It has been and will be a lot of work, but it is also a lot of fun as well. There are days that writing comes fairly easily to me, and other days…ugh.

?????Anyway, my saying yes put into motion what is now the Thíortha Chronicles, a ten-book long series. We will hopefully have our first book, Poisoned, ready for publication by October of this year.

~Marie~

New Year…New Beginnings

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2014

So I have never done New Year’s resolutions…until this year.

My dad encouraged Marie and I to make some goals this year, as a way to help us focus our energies on a few tasks instead of a hundred.  Now, I normally have a few pertinent goals for myself in my head all the time, but I think writing them down will help me keep them.  Posting them on this blog is another venue of accountability.  So, here are MY goals (although some are co-joined with Marie) for the year:

writing-end1. Finish Cursed.

Until a few weeks ago, Cursed was going to be the second book of our series.  However, a new character (who we are just DYING to tell you about some other time) showed up and started twisting things her way, so now she has her own book set between the events of Poisoned and Cursed.  However, since we are almost finished with the first draft of Cursed, it will be expedient for all if we just complete it before moving on to our attention-sucking new character and her book, Tuned.

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2. Graduate college.

This shouldn’t be a problem. Now that I’m done with student teaching, I only have 10 credits left! Of course, I still have a senior recital to do…which means LOTS of practicing (and consequently little social interaction).

 

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3. Blog regularly.

While Marie and I haven’t been very faithful at keeping up with our blog, we have decided to change that.  Our aim this year is to post four times a month: twice from me, and twice from her.

 

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4. Publish Poisoned.

Recently, Marie and I have taken a hard look at Poisoned, our first novel together, and have decided that it is lacking in many areas and is in dire need of an overhaul for the third draft.  Though a hard bite to swallow, we know that Poisoned will emerge from the fire as a better book.  However, we also want to be published, so that means we will be cracking down hard to finish it in time for the October 15 deadline that we want to have it published on CreateSpace.

Well, that’s what has been going on with us.  Soon both of us will be out of school and able to devote more time to write, so hopefully we’ll have more book news for you soon!  Live long and prosper!

~Suzanne~