Update: Taking Perceval to the Next Level

After 27 days, my Taking Perceval to the Next Level fundraising campaign at GoFundMe has raised $530. I need another $8370 to meet my goal.

My deadline for paying off the debt is May 30. The $0 interest promotion ends shortly thereafter and I’ll be back to paying off interest as well as the principal.

I’d love nothing better than to put this baby to bed sooner rather than later. Not long after I launched this campaign, I received an e-mail that still haunts me, calling this campaign “online begging.” Perhaps it is. Or perhaps it’s an opportunity to be generous, to do something nice for someone who is in need, or to invest in a writer who’d really like to get Perceval’s Secret published as a paperback.  That won’t happen until I’ve paid off my debt.

Taking Perceval to the Next Step GoFundMe Page

Click HERE to donate!

At this blog, I have an Appreciation page where I’ll list everyone who has helped with donations. I’ve run a promotion with giveaways at Facebook, and I plan to run another one soon. I’ll let you know when the next Facebook promotion goes live.

In the meantime, please consider a small donation to this campaign. Every little bit helps!

Thank you!

C. C. Yager

What is Classical Music and does it take a PhD to enjoy it?

classicalmusicFor the last few years, I’ve been accumulating ideas from interactions I have with people who claim not to know anything about classical music and who feel inadequate to being able to listen to it with any appreciation or enjoyment. I want to tell these people (and I often do) that classical music is music, just like country music, rock music, and religious hymns. Music is music, no matter what sort of label humans have attached to it. But I also recognize that this explanation does little to assuage their fears and doubts. In American society, we are taught that classical music is for “the elite” and is not for everyone.

To which, I say now, tell that to the five-year-old enraptured by Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf or the lilting dance rhythms in Dvorak’s music. Kids don’t put labels on music. To them, music is music, and they’re open to all of it.  So maybe adults need to learn from the kids and stop thinking of music in terms of labels.

Having said that, let’s look at possible reasons that labels have been slapped on music.

Differentiation

We could differentiate music in different ways. For example, by geography. We have Western music and Eastern music. We have European and American, Russian, French, German, African, Indian, Chinese, etc. music. Systems of how to put sounds together that’s pleasing to the ear have evolved in ways sometimes unique to specific locations. For example, the people of India listen to their “classical” music which is based on a different tonal system than people listening to German music. I would suspect, however, that the listeners in each country don’t think much about the specifics of the tonal systems but rather seek to listen and experience the music on a personal level. I suspect that this is universally true. If the only differentiation is geographic, perhaps everyone would be more open to all music, I don’t know.

Music can be differentiated also by tonal systems (mentioned above) and not refer to geography at all. In the West, we have the major-minor tonal system, but also the 12-tone system, the modal system, and the atonal system whose proponents compose music without any tonal references whatsoever. Eastern music has different tonal systems as well, and I suspect that African music would also, but I have not heard much African music.

None of this differentiation makes a whit of difference to a person’s enjoyment while listening to the music. You can know absolutely nothing about how music can be differentiated and still love listening to it…or not if you don’t like the sounds.

Musikverein Concert Hall in Vienna, Austria

Musikverein Concert Hall in Vienna, Austria

Marketing

As with writing, marketing influences how music is presented and sold to the listening public. Nowadays, people in the business of marketing music wrestle with the challenges of increasing audience, appealing to different demographics, and communicating the value of the experience of listening to music. The marketing and sale of music is something that gained traction over time beginning in the early 19th century. How did marketers know what to call the music?

Music Historians

As music evolved, scholars began to think about how to classify it, much as biologists thought about how to classify all living things back in the day and developed a classification system that helped them give each living thing a unique place in the world. According to that classification system, humans are Homo sapiens sapiens. I’m certain that knowing that really makes no difference whatsoever on how you experience and/or enjoy people. But Homo sapiens sapiens really like to name things, and this fits in with how classification systems developed.

In music, the classification system is based first by time period, and then some of these classifications have sub-groups. Renaissance music, for example, covers the historical period of the Renaissance, just as 20th century music covers the 20th century. But then there’s Baroque music, Classical music, Romantic music, Neo-Romantic music, Avant garde and so on.

Music Score by the blue deviant fox

Music Score by the blue deviant fox

None of this classification makes a whit of difference to a person’s enjoyment while listening to music. You can know absolutely nothing about how music can be classified and still love listening to it…or not, if you don’t like the way it sounds.

When you go to a movie, do you notice the movie’s musical soundtrack? Do you like it? Chances are, you’re listening to what has been broadly classified as classical music and not rock music or jazz or pop. We humans actually love music and have included it everywhere in our lives. If you stop to think about it, that Muzak you hear in an elevator or while you’re on hold on the phone is only one small part of the music you hear all the time in different places.

In conclusion, no, you don’t need to have a PhD in order to enjoy classical music, or any kind of music, for that matter.  All you need is a pair of ears, an open heart, and the willingness to take the time to open your ears and listen.

What music do you choose to listen to the most often?  Have you noticed all the different ways music is in our lives daily? Have you gone to a concert to hear the music you like to listen to?

Becoming a Writer: “Whisper of the Heart”

Hayao Miyazaki (from documentary "The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness")

Hayao Miyazaki (from documentary “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness”)

Life demands and a lack of money have prevented me from going out to movies very often in the last couple of years. I had to end my Netflix subscription also a year ago in order to save money. I hadn’t realized how much I missed movies until a co-worker and I got into a conversation about the brilliant Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. We’re both dedicated fans of his work, and my co-worker offered to loan me an early movie that Miyazaki had done the screenplay and storyboards for and I’d not seen. All he’d say about it was that it was sweet and wonderful, more grounded in reality than Miyazaki’s later work but with touches of magic. I jumped at the opportunity to see a Miyazaki movie I hadn’t seen before.

DVD from Disney

DVD from Disney

In Whisper of the Heart, Shizuku, a young teen, has reached the point when she’s begun to question the direction of her life and what her true talents are. She loves to read and her father works in a library which gives Shizuku easy access to lots of books. She notices that a boy, Seiji, has checked out all the books before her that she’s been reading. This strange fact sparks her curiosity and imagination. One day, as she’s on her way to the library on the train, a cat with one purple ear catches her attention. The cat jumps up onto the seat next to her and studiously ignores her attempts to befriend him.  When the cat gets off the train at her stop, she runs after him, follows him up hills to a lovely residential neighborhood. True to cat behavior, he continues to ignore Shizuku, but seems to point the way to an intriguing antique store where she meets the elderly owner and The Baron, a cat figurine.

By this point, I’m totally hooked into this story, especially as Shizuku keeps running into a mysterious boy, Seiji, who turns out to be the grandson of the antique store’s owner. I don’t want to give away too much of this gentle story revealing the emotional lives of creative teens and how they help, support, and inspire each other. What I want to review about this movie is how Miyazaki reveals the life of the creative artist, and what the creative process is really like.  For Shizuku is a budding writer, and Seiji a budding violin maker who can also play a mean violin.

Shizuku and the Cat (Studio Ghibli/Disney)

Shizuku and the Cat (Studio Ghibli/Disney)

How does someone become creative? More specifically, how does someone become a creative artist?  Every human being on this planet is creative in his or her own way.  For example, problem solving requires creativity and imagination. Relating to each other successfully takes a lot of imagination (for empathy) and creativity. But when it comes to art, this is when the human mind and imagination fuse to bring forth truths of existence in ways that stimulate the imaginations of the people who are experiencing the art. As Miyazaki has done with Whisper of the Heart.

I believe that we are each born to certain lives but we each have the choice of whether to fulfill those particular lives or do something else. My father, for example, loved music and art — he played the clarinet and painted oil pictures — but he chose not to fulfill that creative spark; instead he chose to pursue a job in financial services. He allowed the powerful influence of American society to pursue “business” and the making of money to squash whatever creative inclinations he had. Fortunately for me, he supported my creative pursuits from my first forays in elementary school, but only up to a point. He notoriously said to me when I announced my music major in college, “You can’t eat a piano,” and when I told him and my mother that I’d finally recognized my creative spirit in writing, he responded with the pithy, “Writers are prostitutes.”

Shizuku and the Baron

Shizuku and the Baron (Studio Ghibli/Disney)

Which brings me to the crux of Whisper of the Heart. Being a creative artist is extremely difficult even in the best of times or most supportive of conditions. Other people — family, friends, as well as strangers — will pressure the artist to do something more “practical,” to not pursue creative expression, and this pressure can be incredibly strong, often hurtful, and constant. It takes power and a belief in the strength of the soul’s desire to be creative in spite of the pressure not to be. And then there are the self doubts. Both Shizuku and Seiji eloquently show and tell others their doubts about their abilities and talents. But they keep going because they must. And that need is inspired and supported and sustained by each other as well as Seiji’s grandfather. (Not to mention the cat with one purple ear and The Baron!)

My favorite moment in this movie (in addition to the moment Shizuku meets the cat)? It’s when, after Seiji’s grandfather has read her story and told her that it’s a wonderful raw gem that now needs cutting and polishing, Shizuku bursts into tears, wailing that she doesn’t know if she can do it.  Been there, done that!  Many times. So, Whisper of the Heart is not only Miyazaki’s homage to the creative process, but the moving story of a young writer discovering her imagination and the creative process in writing.

I loved this movie! (It’s now on my Amazon wish list.)  I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the creative process, in writing, in Japanese animation, or in the early work of Hayao Miyazaki to see how his creative expression was developing.

cute-cat-picture-wallpaper by jasonlefkowitz.net

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.

A-hand-writing-with-a-pen-006

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.

320px-battalion_march_with_gas_mask-jpg_76839_20120924-43

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.

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107

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.