Evie said that line to Rob at some point during the Moving the Chains series. It never made it into the final product, but it was a theme, nonetheless.
It's a theme in my life, too.
My master playlist on my phone was on shuffle yesterday while I was running errands, and Pentatonix's Hallelujah blared through my car's Bose speakers. It occurred to me that around this time last year, I wrote the last chapter for Third and Long. While I already knew how the book was going to end, that particular song sparked an entire movie-like scene in my head. I didn't know until I heard that song the last chapter would be written from Mike's POV. Something about the emotion of the voices and the meaning of the lyrics seemed to resonate with that character in my mind. More so than any of the others.
Immediately, I wrote the prologue for Fourth and Inches because around the same time, I discovered Marianas Trench's One Love. The song just...fit. It exemplified the mood, the character, the choices and the questions he asked himself constantly.
Even now when I hear any of those songs, they instantly transport me to where I was, what I was feeling, and which chapter of the book they're from. I don't even have to read it. Just listen to the music.
I'll always associate One Love with writing in my mom's basement to escape the holiday chaos, and being just so fucking excited to end that series on a high note. (Pun intended.)
I didn't care that I blew off NaNo to work on the series. I was high over finishing Third and Long, which was, undoubtedly, the pinnacle of the story ARC in both good and heartbreaking ways. I felt on top of the world. Nothing could slow me down.
The holidays necessarily meant I couldn't get in the writing time I wanted because there were cookies to bake, gifts to purchase and wrap, and quality family time to engage in.
And then, when everyone was back to school/work, the decorations were put away, and the disaster that was my house was restored to order, I got back to it.
Only to write 15k words and delete them all.
Write 60k, then delete 50k.
The story was going nowhere. The characters' lives had already played out in my mind, and no amount of music would bring back the movie. I call myself a pantser, but in reality I'm a bit of a plotter, too. I generally know the story ARC, characters, have some semblance of order of events, and know several scenes I need to hit.
But, for Fourth and Inches, other than the Prologue I KNEW was perfect, I had nothing.
To make matters worse, my behind-the-scenes author life was beginning to crumble around me. I sensed the collapse coming, but I had no idea how deep the fissures would grow to be until just a few days ago.
But, I wasn't going to give up on my readers. I owed them an HEA of epic proportions after they stuck with me through one hell of a roller coaster ride. So, I put on my big-girl panties, and wrote that fucking book. No mental movie, no music, just sheer will power.
And then it was...finished. I have never felt so simultaneously accomplished and yet like a complete failure. (Ok. That's a lie. This probably pales in comparison to that time I flunked out of Ochem 1 for the third time, was issued a letter by the Dept. of Chemistry that I would be barred from completing my degree, and had to either give up or regroup and set my life on a completely different track than that which I had been singularly working toward for the past 15 years. But, I digress...)
I will never forget standing in the middle of a muddy, hay-covered field, and listening to Marianas Trench play One Love live. I bawled like a baby, and it had nothing to do with the quality of the performance. There was a deep sense of putting so many things to rest. I could not fathom how true that was at the time.
Shortly after returning from Canada, editing for Fourth and Inches started while other things ended. It had been a long time coming, on both fronts. The series conclusion seemed to be an end-point for everything I'd been working toward for the past three years.
At some point, I felt so low about the whole thing, I couldn't listen to music at all. Because it reminded me of things it was best I forget. Things that were lies; narratives I told myself which never really existed.
My kids actually listen to the MtC playlists as much as I did. We were going somewhere in the car, and my oldest automatically put on my Marianas Trench playlist.
I turned it off. "I can't listen to that anymore," I explained when she gave me a questioning glance.
"Oh, are you working on a new book? Do you have a new playlist you want me to put on?" Yeah. My kids know my writing habits THAT well.
I didn't want to admit to my daughters, who look up to me and write their own stories because they want to be like Mommy, that I was seriously considering giving up. So, I told them just to put on something else.
We started listening to the radio again instead of the playlists on my phone.
And then it happened again.
A song that sparked something. Only this time it had nothing to do with a book. It spoke to me on a personal level about what I was dealing with in my life.
I put that bitch on repeat and speed-walked around my neighborhood to channel my anxiety into something productive. I'm supposed to be working on taking charge of my health, after all. (Running is ill-advised when you have a hernia, FYI. Much like dancing.)
I didn't feel better about the situation. Music certainly didn't bestow upon me all the miraculous solutions to my problems.
But, it did remind me of something I had forgotten.
"Honey, I rose up from the dead. I do it all the time."
And, it's true. I've been cut deeper by people far closer to me than what transpired in the past few months. Only, in all that time, no one made me DO anything.
(We'll come back to that thought later. It didn't catch up with me at the time.)
So, ok. Fast forward a few more weeks, and I'm feeling slightly better about things. I'm listening to music again (not ALL of it), and I'm still on my new health plan.
I'm not writing, though. No, no, no. No more writing. Writing is bad, mmkay? I never wanted to be a writer when "I grow up," anyway! It was a fluke! The movies in my head are never coming back! 100+ folders of WIP ideas doth not a book make! Still, best not to advertise that to the masses who proclaim you a one-click author (an achievement I never set out to unlock). A break is in order, for sure. Maybe I'll get back on the horse at some point.
The problem with that mindset is the world doesn't stop turning around you during a hiatus. The deepest trenches won't shield you from a grenade when the person beside you has been holding it the entire time.
And that shit blew up fantastically well.
So well, in fact, the only sound in my ears was a persistent ringing. In a million years, I never saw this explosion coming. It rocked me to my core and made me seriously step back and take a long, hard look at what I've done with my time for the past three years.
There are the health issues, sure. That's easy to see with numbers, graphs, and fancy test results. (And much easier to release to the public, too.) But, the far more pernicious issues, the ones which have soul-deep consequences, aren't so easy to diagnose and treat.
Remember T. Swift's anthem of being born again in a fiery Phoenix? It's time to come back to that.
No one made me DO anything.
I'm a fuckin' unicorn. I do what I want. (Please understand, this is a double-edged sword.)
I did some really, really stupid shit.
But, I own that. And I'm sorry for it. There are no stupid mistakes; only lessons we're too stupid to accept and learn from.
For some reason, even though this second explosion hurt less than the first, it did far more damage.
Much like that time I had to switch my major to Linguistics from Biochemistry/Molecular Biology/Neuroscience and give up on my dream of becoming a doctor, I needed an escape plan from the business of authoring. I'm not cut out for this, after all. I don't have the personality for it. I've been trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
And, I did. I tried SO. FUCKING. HARD. to quit. (As it also turns out, I'm not a quitter, which is also a double-edged sword. I didn't drop out of college, after all. I graduated with a BA in Linguistics, magna cum laude.)
But, my square peg has nowhere to rest. So, I go back to my first love of reading while in limbo. As it turns out, I'm not ready to completely cut the cord on this phase of my life yet. And I'm feeling more like the me I used to be. So, that's good. It's comfortable. Safe. Predictable.
And so fucking boring.
So. Fucking. Boring.
I mean, I love coffee, but legit just drinking it in the morning and doing NOTHING else?
I can't go back. I'm not the same person I used to be. For better, for worse, forever. At least until the next cataclysm re-shapes me.
And that damn radio is still playing in the background while I try to catch up on real life and convince myself writing was just a "hobby."
Have you ever heard the Sick Puppies song, That Time of Year? No? You should give it a listen.
I'd already taken stock of the past few years and decided I was lacking. What I failed to see what all the success.
Hallelujah reminded me of that.
Success I never asked for, didn't expect.
My daughters write their own stories. Because Mommy can, so they can, too. Readers claim my stories helped them fight a life-threatening disease. High school students thanked me for portraying sexual assault in a realistic way. Fellow authors knocked at my doorstep during the pits of my despair, and said, "You're not giving up. I won't let you."
Why on Earth would I give those less weight than the words and actions of people who tried to betray me and bring me down?
Yesterday was my birthday. I'm 38 years old.
Something I've known for a long time, but tend to forget in the moment, is that we're only old, we're only DEAD, when we stop learning and changing.
I heard a song on the radio the other day. It didn't spark a movie in my head, but it spoke to Revenge Love, which I've been trying to coax out of hiding for months.
"I see you in a different point of view."
With the MtC series, I had this glorious movie. The characters were so easy to bring to life. Each book had several thematic songs which made the stories seem effortless.
This is THAT song for THIS book.
It's not going to be the same. That's okay. I've written books without the movies before. Besides, I'm not the same, either.
I'm still learning. God, I hope to never stop.
And, you know what? This standalone bridges the gap between MtC and a series I've had in my head for as many years as I've been writing MtC. And the theme is music. I'm not ready to quit yet. I didn't quit before; I just altered my trajectory. And without that trajectory, I wouldn't have the love of my life at my side, or my three children looking up to me as a role model. They are the BEST things I've ever done with my life.
If I can give one more person the strength to fight off cancer, to keep moving forward in the face of heinous acts they never asked for, then why would I stop? Isn't that what I always wanted to accomplish as a doctor? To help people?
I got a new MacBook from my husband for my birthday yesterday. The attached card said he was proud of me. He wasn't talking about the writing.
There is no greater gift of love than believing in someone when they don't have the capacity to believe in themselves.
Knowing my chosen partner in life still believes in me, no matter what, brings all the music back. It makes the music WORTHWHILE.
Our wedding song?
Hanging by a Moment by Lifehouse. It's as true today as it was nearly two decades ago.
Thank you, all of you, for believing in me. For sticking by me through rough weather. I promise to always hold your hand and help you through the rough times, too.
Let's keep learning and growing together.
Let's make more music.
I'm listening to Marianas Trench again. I'll have Fight For Something tattooed on my arm as a reminder to never allow anyone to take away the soundtrack of my life ever again.
"Apologies. I'm not myself, but I can guarantee that when I get back you won't believe that you knew me well.
Don't wanna think about it. I'm fucking tired of getting sick about it.
Now stand back up and be a man about it.
And fight for something, fight for something, fight for something."
I'm still fighting.
I hope, no matter what in life you're facing, you will, too.