Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guest post by author Heather Hildenbrand

Welcome, Heather, to Planet Jenn as the FIRST-EVER GUEST WRITER! Sweet thing even threw in a little something about grammar...girl after my own heart.
On with the show:
On my process, and why I hate conjunctions...
Authors frequently get asked about what music they write to, or what songs inspire a story. Or, more specifically, what music do you use in your writing process?
Here's the thing about me. My process involves a lot of silence. Hours of it, really. Let's back up a minute. You have to understand, both of my kids started school this year. Full day. I drop them off by 8 am and I don't have to leave to get them until 2 pm. And even now, over halfway through the school year, I'm nowhere near taking it for granted. Oh, stop judging. I love my kids more than anything, but I love them MORE when I get a chance to miss them. And when they're here, our house is not quiet. They love to wrestle with each other, even though it always ends in tears, and they love playing their DS while watching a movie in surround sound, while the phone is ringing, and they're bickering with each other. So when I sit down to write, I'm way too busy enjoying the blessed, inspiring silence of my house to want to put any noise (I mean, music) on. 
Don't get me wrong: I love music. My MP3 is currently sitting in its little docking station, on my fireplace mantle, right next to the corner of the couch that I sit on whenever I'm using my laptop; it's plugged in and ready to go. I just rarely even think of turning it on. For those of you who like to beat a dead horse, I'll go ahead and answer the question. "But, what is on your MP3?" It's a funny mix, really. I've got Kings of Leon, The Fray, and Blue October. Then I've got some old school Oasis, Matchbox Twenty (the album with “Push” on it) and possible even some Skee-lo ("I wish I was a little bit taller..."). Then there's some Alicia Keyes, and some Gavin Rossdale, and maybe even some TLC, yeah, the old stuff. Oh, and I can't forget the Newsies soundtrack ("That's my cigar, you'll steal another, hey bummers, we got work to do..."). Favorite movie, ever. I was Christian Bale's original number-one fan, and he's still my secret boyfriend. Satisfied? I told you it was a funny mix.
Okay, so back to the silence. Like I said, the main reason is just to appreciate it. The second reason is this: When I write a story, I get so caught up in it, become such a part of the world that I've created, that I usually end up tuning the music out, anyway. I forget all about the song, the fact that I'm sitting on my couch in my PJs, whether it's raining or sunny out, and I just write. I've actually had to train myself to glance up at the clock at regular intervals to make sure I'm not late picking up the kiddos. Yes, I learned that lesson the hard way.
There is one time throughout my process that I've found music to be immensely helpful, and that is plotting. Mostly because without music, I feel like a delusional lunatic, because when I plot, all I do is sit on the couch with a notebook in my lap and stare off into space whilst tapping a pen against my chin. So, if the hubby were to come home early, it might look kind of creepy, in a vacant-eye sort of way, without the excuse of, "Oh, I'm just listening to music." Also, those are the times that the lyrics actually reach my ears, and help me form ideas. My character, Wes, from Dirty Blood was inspired by "Hey Jude" by the Beatles.
Now that you know all of this about me, and I'm sure that you are a better person for knowing it, you will be able to read any future interviews I do and laugh when they ask me what music helps me write. It'll be our private joke.
Before I go, one last thing. It wouldn't be right to guest post on Jenn's blog without venting about poor grammar. However, where Jenn usually vents about a grammar mistake potentially made by others, I have no choice but to call myself out.
Commas. Specifically, commas before conjunctions. Grrr. Apparently, I suck at them. I've prided myself on being pretty good with the grammar stuff, too, so to find this out now seriously pissed me off about myself. English was my best subject. I loved it. I hated conjugating verbs and such, but I was good at it. I might've lost my touch. Here's the rule:
Commas before Conjunctions in Compound Sentences

The basic rule: When two complete sentences are joined by a conjunction (most often and, but, or or), place a comma before that conjunction.
Here's how I found out I suck at it: when my friend, and fellow Accendo Press author Angeline Kace edited Dirty Blood for me. She sent it back with her suggestions and corrections, and the glaring error that persisted throughout the entire draft was my omission of those damn commas before the conjunctions! Gah!
Well, I've learned my lesson -- the hard way. So I feel compelled to share. Do not let those commas best you! They'll try...or maybe it's just me. 
Heather's new release, Dirty Blood, is available on as an ebook on Amazon and Smashwords.


  1. Hahaha! Do you like a good "Don't go chasing waterfalls" every now and then?

    And quit being so hard on yourself. Your manuscript was very well edited when you handed it over to me. The other stories that I've gone over for other authors were not nearly as clean! So, Go Heather!

    And everyone else; Go buy DIRTY BLOOD!!! It RoCks! Oh and Sleight too!

    Angeline Kace

  2. Oh, man...getting my students to stop starting sentences with conjunctions and to connect them instead with a comma is one of my yearly challenges. Japanese junior high English textbooks actually teach students to start sentences with and, but, so, or, because, etc.. The habit becomes ingrained, and they get flustered when I tell them it's bad form.