Taking Perceval to the Next Level

230px-gofundme_logo_april_2012This past Monday, I launched a crowdsource funding campaign at GoFundMe to raise the money to finally, FINALLY, pay off the debt I’ve accumulated from the publication of Perceval’s Secret as an e-book. As part of this campaign, I’m also raising money to publish Perceval’s Secret as a paperback, and to pay the fee for a review for it by Kirkus Reviews.

Taking Perceval to the Next Step GoFundMe Page

Taking Perceval to the Next Level GoFundMe Page

My regular readers may remember that in the fall of 2013 I launched a crowdsource funding campaign at Kickstarter where their policy is not to pay out any of the funds raised unless you make your goal.  I raised over $3000 but did not make my goal and therefore did not receive any of the money I’d raised.  I published Perceval’s Secret in March 2014 and have received wonderful reviews at Amazon since. Sales have not been so wonderful.

But the debt never just went away, of course. I’ve been paying it off, a little every month, and as a result have depleted my bank account. I should have launched this campaign a long time ago, but it’s painful and embarrassing to ask for financial help.

I’ll promote this fundraising project for as long as it takes to raise at least what I need to pay off the debt. Please help me by promoting it to your friends and family as well.  There’s also other ideas to help, if you don’t want to donate money, at the project page.


I’ll also be setting up a promotion on Facebook for this fundraising effort. Go to The Perceval Novels public page for the announcement!

And what will I be doing while this fundraising project is running?  I have a couple urgent writing projects, nonfiction, that I’ll be completing as I continue to work at my part-time job and search for a fulltime job. Fiction writing has landed on the back burner for the moment since dealing with paying for basic living expenses has taken priority.

Life has once again intervened to force me to set aside my fiction for a while. If, after perusing the GoFundMe project page for Taking Perceval to the Next Level you find it in your heart to help out with a donation, every little bit will help!

Thank you!

C. C. Yager


Adam Burns, or Characters that are cut

Not Adam, but close to how I imagined him

Not Adam, but close to how I imagined him

Adam Burns has been on my mind a lot lately. He was an old guy, a bum, a journalist in hiding in a very early draft of Perceval’s Secret.  Evan Quinn met him once, in a wooded area not far from the Minneapolis neighborhood where the Quinns lived. Evan was ten years old. He knew Adam as “Old Man Burns,” the neighborhood drunken bum. The encounter Evan has with Adam brings into laser sharp focus for Evan the danger that his family is in. Adam isn’t really drunk when he meets Evan — he’s acting drunk and stupid — and he tells Evan that his father must leave the country. Later, Evan learns that Adam was murdered, his body found along the Mississippi River, a bullet in his brain.

I killed off Adam Burns and that entire encounter with Evan. In fact, just before Evan meets Adam, Evan and his friend Paul Caine have been hounded and abused by Harold Smith and his gang. I didn’t realize it at the time I cut out that entire section of the draft, but Harold Smith would become Evan’s nemesis in the Perceval series. He survives in flashbacks in Perceval’s Secret as well as in the flesh late in the novel. But I never put the childhood section back into the novel. And Adam Burns was lost, except in my mind. Now he haunts me.

Have you ever been haunted by characters that you’ve cut out of stories or novels? It’s strange. It’s like they want their own stories, they do not want to be forgotten. I have yet to figure out why Adam keeps popping up in my mind. What’s his deal?

When I began work on the Perceval series, it wasn’t a series. It wasn’t even a novel. It was a short story about a ten-year-old boy who wanted to be an orchestra conductor when he grew up, but the circumstances of his life in America in 2048 would make that dream impossible to fulfill unless he left the country, according to Adam “Old Man” Burns. Evan senses that Burns has a secret, and indeed he did. I knew his backstory although I never wrote it. It was enough that it was secret and something dangerous that Burns must protect or he could lose his life.

Adam’s backstory: first of all, Adam Burns wasn’t his real name. He made certain no one knew his real name, including me. He’d been a famous journalist on the East Coast during the Change, the period of time during which the New Economic Party (NEP) consolidated power in America with a permanent majority on the federal and state levels of government.

Like any journalist worth his salt defending Freedom of the Press as well as the Bill of Rights, Adam had reported on those in power, exposing their corruption, greed, and lust for power. He’d reported on their narcissism, comparing them to the greatest dictators of the 20th Century. He knew the NEP cared only about enriching itself and insuring that they got everything they wanted. Adam had reported also on the Resistance, the Underground, and the Civil War. But the NEP wanted the American people to know only what they told them. So they waged war against journalists, arresting many who simply disappeared. The NEP wanted complete control over the media. They silenced the media by any means necessary.


The people had rebelled — the country was embroiled in a Civil War, with western states seceding, southern states threatening to do so, and Washington slamming shut all of America’s borders. By the time Evan is ten, Adam has been underground for over five years, running for his life. In Minnesota, he thought he’d be safer because Minnesota was a hot bed of resistance, led by Evan’s father, a poet, and Paul’s father, a composer. Artists throughout the country had joined the Underground, the loosely organized resistance movement. They could offer Adam a way out of the country.


I cut Evan’s childhood section when I realized that I was writing a novel and I needed to restructure it to focus on his adult life, what eventually became Perceval’s Secret. Now I find it a bit ironic that Evan carries a dangerous secret in the novel, one that could cost him his life. So perhaps Adam did survive in the importance of keeping dangerous secrets.

Future Classics 2017

93022-300x224-sheetmusicpagesEvery year I look forward to the Minnesota Orchestra’s Future Classics concert, the culmination of a week of  seven young composers chosen by the Composer Institute‘s composer-director, Kevin Puts, working with the Minnesota Orchestra. I cannot say strongly enough how much I love this concert. It is my favorite in the Minnesota Orchestra’s concert season. The Orchestra and their Music Director, Osmo Vanska, have committed to bringing promising young composers to Minneapolis for a week of seminars on composing for an orchestra as well as the business side of composing, and they have opened the rehearsals to the public each year. I used to attend the rehearsals, but my part-time job now prevents me from attending them. I attended the Future Classics concert, however, last night.

How are young composers thinking this year? Are they using conventional musical structures like rondo or sonata that composers in the past found so challenging and inspiring to their musical imaginations? Will there be any lyrical melodies this year? How will the composers use the orchestra? Will they engage all the instruments or focus more on one section like percussion? These are the questions in my mind as I take my seat in Orchestra Hall. Fred Childs, from Performance Today on public radio, hosts and introduces each young composer before his or her piece is performed. What struck me this year was how young they were. They are at the beginning of their creative output and still growing into their musical voices. Some have already enjoyed some success with their music. At least one was hearing their work played by a full orchestra for the first time. But overall this concert was a showcase for potential.

Photo courtesy Microsoft

Photo courtesy Microsoft

Also in my mind is my composer, Owen te Kumara, in the Perceval series that I’m writing. At the rehearsals of the first Composer Institute I attended, I sought a composer with whom I could talk about the composer’s life, to be a reference source for me while I developed Owen and how he’d fit into Evan Quinn’s life. Owen is not a young composer just starting out. But the elements of a composer’s life are the same in 2048 as now. So for me, the Future Classics concert is still research, a way to touch base with a composer’s world and remind me of how they pursue their art.

The music displayed great potential. When I look at the notes I wrote last night, I see over and over “good orch” which means a good use of the orchestra as a full instrument rather than sectioning out the sound. I also noted  far less emphasis on percussion which pleased me a lot. Not that I dislike percussion, but when a composer is using an overabundance of it, the experience is one of only sound effects rather than music. A really lovely surprise to see the harp used prominently as well as brass and piano and…oh, my, god, strings. And another interesting experience was listening to the instruments blended but at the same time used in unconventional ways to produce unconventional sounds, e.g. sliding the strings or doing quarter steps, muted trumpets and trombones in different ways. And there were a couple pieces in which I sensed a story being told. Programmatic music was the norm, i.e. music inspired by an event, experience, a story, a character, a landscape, etc. It was fun.

During the Q&A with the audience after the concert, one guy asked if any of the composers used musical forms such as rondo or sonata. The composer who answered stated rather emphatically that those “archaic forms” were irrelevant to her as a composer. That made me smile. After all, programmatic music is also a very old form, and that composer as well as the majority of them had written programmatic music.  The next question came from a guy who sounded irritated when he asked if composing in a key was irrelevant, too. I thought: and now these young composers are coming face to face with an audience, and what the audience wants to listen to, in fact, demands from them. Another composer tackled that question by pointing out that it was impossible to write atonally, i.e. without a key, when writing tonally, but they still played with pitch. They were all amazingly articulate when talking about their music, but I was left a little disappointed.

Photo from artofcomposing.com

Photo from artofcomposing.com

I began thinking about my experience as a writer and how I had wanted to write the way I wanted to write and not be constrained by any kind of narrative structure or rules governing plot, character development, story, or dialogue. Writers experiment with form as much as any artists, but an interesting thing often happens. With me, too. I discovered that artistic forms or structures challenge the artist to be creative within the form and that paradoxically liberates the artist to truly be creatively expressive. Furthermore, readers might read one or two experiments but will always return to the “ancient” narrative structure called 3-act dramatic narrative. Within that “ancient” narrative structure, a writer can do anything. So, I smiled when that young composer stated that those “archaic forms” of rondo and sonata (and others, I’m sure) were irrelevant to her. She was well on her way to discovering just how relevant they could be to art if she was truly as open to her art as she seemed to claim she was.

Osmo Vanska spoke about how he and the Minnesota Orchestra wanted to insure that there would be good orchestral music for future audiences. They are committed to finding young composers to support and help through the Composer Institute. Kevin Puts, the Composer Institute Director, brought the evening to a close by commenting that composers needed to understand that it was great to experiment while in school, but afterward, they needed to consider creating music for subscription concert audiences which received loud applause. Undoubtedly, the Composer Institute and the Future Classics concert are important experiences for these young composers and I suspect will change them in ways they cannot even know right now, but I hope will discover when the time is right.

And now I can’t wait for next year’s Future Classics concert….

5 qualities of a brilliant story

Roz Morris nails it with this post! Here are the elements that make a story brilliant. Print and save!

Nail Your Novel

3389004318_2e8d3200fb_zI write a lot of posts about problems with book drafts. But isn’t it just as important to look at the positive? If we listed the qualities of a brilliant read, what would they be? (Plus, I think we need a feelgood post.)

So, as I sit here on Sunday morning in London with an hour to get this post out of my head and into the grey matter of the blogosphere, this is the list I’ve come up with. I hope you’ll storm your brains and join in at the end.

Here goes.

Deft use of details

A writer needs to give a lot of details to evoke the setting, time period (if it’s not contemporary), distinguishing features of the characters, points about the weather. A skilful storyteller will smuggle a lot of these in as part of the action. A historical period might be evoked by showing a character…

View original post 415 more words

Food for Thought Going Forward

Music Score by the blue deviant fox

Music Score by the blue deviant fox

My blogger friend, Damyanti Biswas, lives in Singapore and regularly travels around the world. She’s posted a thoughtful reflection on using social media in a time of upheaval and intense disagreements. I think it’s worth our time to read her words and think about them, think about our own behavior on social media and how we might help others to understand us and how to understand others.

Thanks for reading.

Damyanti’s post: How do you disagree on #Social Media?

Music often brings people together in ways that words cannot. Right now in the USA, the political scene swirls with rumors as well as Trump’s pronouncements. It’s difficult to know what’s real and what’s not. One of those “rumors” is that Trump wants to pull funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as any other kind of government financial support for the arts. This includes writing in all forms. Let’s be vigilant and stay informed about what is really going on, what Congress really intends to do. I encourage anyone who wants to do so to contact their federal representatives and share your thoughts and support for the arts calmly and respectfully.