Finding Peace, Hope, and Joy with Dylan Laine

For those who don’t know, in addition to writing this fabulous blog, I’m a regular writer for an online publication called Christian Media Magazine. I recently interviewed an up-and-coming music artist – you can read the original article and interview here. But since I do occasional music reviews here on my blog, I thought I’d share this post with you. Enjoy!

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I had the honor of interviewing Dylan Laine, a new voice in the Christian music scene. She’s not a newcomer to music, but she recently made a decision to change the direction and message of her music. Songs of anger and depression are now songs of peace, hope, and joy, and she wants to share this message with the world. I’ll let her do the rest of the talking:

Q: So you just launched your first EP. What is it called?

Yes! My debut EP is self-titled, “Dylan Laine.”

Q: When did you first get started with music?

Well, I remember being five years old and standing on my parent’s dining room table, belting out Enya’s “Sail Away” at the top of my lungs over and over until my voice was gone. My grandparents bought me a piano when I was seven, and shortly after I was taking classical piano lessons, I participated in choir during every year of my schooling from elementary through high school, and used books to help teach myself guitar and ukulele. A combination of my piano education, choir involvement, and love for performance led me to dabble in being a singer-songwriter. Once I realized I could mix my hobby of writing poetry, with piano, guitar, singing, and performing, I never looked back!

Q: This new EP is not the first music that you’ve written or recorded. What sort of songs have you done before, and how is this EP different?

I have been writing and recording music for the last 13 years. In fact, ever since I was 13, I would record every song the moment I finished writing them so that they would never be forgotten. As of August 2014, I had an inventory of over 200 original songs written and recorded in a file on my laptop, titled, “All My Songs.” The majority of the 200 songs in that folder were inspired by the heartache, confusion, and frustration which consumed my life throughout my early teen years to my early twenties. In August 2014, I made a decision to erase all but five of my songs. The five songs left standing were centered around peace, hope, and joy.

Q: Did your decision to change the direction of your music come to you gradually, or was there a defining moment that made you change your mind?

After graduating Berklee College of Music in 2010, I spent four years trying to decide which direction to take my music. After marrying in June 2013, my husband and I made a commitment together to guard our hearts from movies, TV, music, and all other sources of media that promoted a negative message. In Luke 6:45, we learned that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of,” and so we chose to fill our hearts with content centered around peace, hope, and joy. Once I implemented this decision into my day-to-day life, I knew that going forward in my music career, I had to apply the same principle.

Q: If you could sum up the message of this EP in just one sentence, what would it be?

You really are so loved.

Q: Would you say that your goal and vision is to use your music as a ministry?

My life is my ministry, whether it’s through my music, my conversations, or my simple daily choices. I would say my goal is to keep pressing forward, to never quit, and to always find the value in effecting even one person’s life for the better. My vision is that my audience will continually expand among Christian and non-Christian listeners, and that they will find encouragement through my lyrics so that they can feel passionate and safe to go out in the world and free-fall into whatever wonderful calling God has placed on their lives.

Q: Where would you like to be in five years – musically, as well as ministry-wise?

In five years, I would love to be making a living solely through playing live shows and selling custom songs as well as custom poetry. I am on my way, but there is much room for growth! My husband and I also have a dream to either start or be a part of a professional worship band. I would also like for my audience to extend out beyond (loyal and dedicated) family and friends, and to reach people from all over the world as I spend time touring and posting videos, using beneficial promotional tools such as YouTube and Facebook.

Q: What are some comments you’ve received from your fans?

The most frequent comment I hear from fans is that my music is very distinctive and refreshing. I love hearing this because one of my intentions when I put music out there, is to give listeners something unique to listen to.

Q: What’s your favorite part of the song-writing process – words or music? Which usually comes first?

There has been a pretty even balance of times that either the music has come first or the lyrics have come first. As far as my songwriting process goes, my favorite moment is when I realize that my idea is one worth using, either musically or lyrically, and then I know that I get to spend the next hour or two developing that idea.

Q: Do you enjoy performing live, or are you more of a studio artist? Any tours or shows coming up?

I absolutely love performing live! It’s a privilege to be able to showcase my art and to connect with people face-to-face. I don’t currently have any tours or shows coming up, but I am in the process of changing that!

Q: What’s your favorite song on your new EP?

My favorite song on my debut EP is, “Joy.” The lyrics embody one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn, which is to choose joy, despite my situation and circumstances, regardless of how unnatural it feels.

Q: Do you have a favorite song by someone else – either Christian or secular?

My favorite song is always changing, but as of now I love to blast Bethel Music’s, “You Make Me Brave.” The bridge build-up always gives me chills and leaves me feeling so encouraged and inspired.

Q: Do you have a favorite Bible verse, or a verse that particularly inspires you when you’re writing your songs?

Yes! My favorite bible verse is Philippians 4:8, which reads, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” This verse has been the motive by which I strive to live and write.

Q: Any other final thoughts you’d like to share?

For many years, I used music as a way to escape and therefore, became very consumed in self-pity as I indulged in lyrics inspired by heartache. While it felt good temporarily to cry along with the music, or even justify my anger or depression with the music, it didn’t affect me positively in the long run. In the last few years, as I’ve begun to listen to worship music, I’ve been able to let those encouraging lyrics nourish me and lift my spirits, rather than drag me down or make me cry like I had done in previous years with secular music. I want to challenge others to try letting go of secular music for a week, and to find music that is inspiring and uplifting, just to see if there are any noticeable positive changes, as I have experienced in my own life.

I believe that Dylan’s message is a powerful one, and a much-needed one in today’s world of darkness and heartache. If you’d like to find out more about Dylan and hear her music, you can find her online:

Dylan’s website: www.dylanlaine.com
Dylan on Facebook: www.facebook.com/dylanlainemusic
Dylan on Twitter: @dylanlainemusic

The Nitty-Gritty of Writing: Capitalization

Some days it seems like basic capitalization is becoming a thing of the past. With texting, auto-correct, and even intuitive typing in word processing programs, it’s easy to just not bother with a silly little thing like capitalization. I’ve been guilty of rushing through a text and not bothering to check and see if my phone automatically changed the i to I or not.

Typos and all lowercase in texts to your friends is one thing, but when it comes to actual writing (as in a blog post, story, query letter, resume, school paper, etc.) capitalization matters. I’m going to highlight just the basics here. Refer to your style manual of choice (Chicago, AP, etc.) for the finer points of capitalization for things like acronyms, honorary titles for individuals or groups, headings and subheadings in articles, and so forth.

The first word of a sentence

This should be a no-brainer. The first letter of the first word of every sentence should be capitalized, even if the word is “the,” like in this sentence.

Proper names

Proper names include:

People’s names – Joe, Sue Smith, or yours truly Grace Robinson

Place names – America, New York City, Grand Canyon

Other proper names (brands, stores, organizations, etc.) – the White House, the Blue Angels, Saks Fifth Avenue

In English, the only pronoun that gets regularly capitalized is “I.” This makes English unusual, because in most languages, the first person singular personal pronoun is no different from “he,” “they,” or “you.”

Book, movie, and song titles

Examples:

The Notebook – as in the Nicholas Sparks novel, or the movie based on his novel. If you’re writing about just a random notebook, it would not be capitalized – unless it’s the first word of the sentence, of course.

“Let it Go” – a perfectly normal phrase, but if you’re referring to the song from Frozen (see, more capitalization), then it now goes in caps.

Other Really Important Words

This is sort of a joke, and sort of not – it mostly depends on context. Unconventional capitalization can be used for humorous effect in a blog post, like this Really Important Post about Capitalization that you’re currently reading. Capitalizing ordinarily non-proper nouns is common in genre fiction like fantasy, such as the One Ring in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. “One” and “ring” are common, unimportant words, but in the context of that story, the capitalization lets the reader know that this particular Ring is anything but common.

One important thing to note, though, about capitalizing ordinary words for emphasis: it’s basically universally agreed that texting or posting on social media IN ALL CAPS is the equivalent of shouting, and should be used sparingly. And by sparingly, I mean putting ONE word in all caps for emphasis, NOT THE ENTIRE BLASTED POST. (That’s my opinion – and widely-agreed-upon internet etiquette).

So there you have it – a few small basic rules of capitalization. As I mentioned, please refer to an actual style guide if you get bogged down with capitalization details. But in the meantime, sticking to these basic rules for school papers and internet posts can help add a little professional polish to your work.

Happy Valentine’s Day from a Few Fictional Couples

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, here is a brief post about romance. I’m not a reader or writer of the romance genre, but I like a good love story as much as the next gal. So here are four of my favorite couples from sci-fi and fantasy.

Éowyn and Faramir – Lord of the Rings

I could have picked Arwen and Aragorn from this series, but I actually like the story of Éowyn and Faramir’s relationship better. There’s less romance, since they don’t actually get together till the very end, but I like how these two tragic characters who have faced death and lost loved ones find healing and joy with one another. And their union helps to re-forge the ties between the kingdoms of Rohan and Gondor, so that’s always a plus, too.

Helen Rossi and Paul – The Historian

This couple is from a book that I recently read called The Historian. (I discussed this book briefly in another post here). These two people wind up together on an unexpected quest to find a common loved one who’s gone missing (Paul’s professor, who is also Helen’s father). Since the story is told in the first person by Paul, we get only his feelings for Helen, but the author did a beautiful job of showing Helen’s growing affection for Paul even without getting the reader into her head. Although the actual “love scenes” in this book are minimal, the characters’ passion for each other is evident on every page.

Gomez and Morticia Addams – The Addams Family

I mentioned the Addams family and love in another recent post. Gomez and Morticia are well known for their propensity to drop whatever they’re doing at any random moment and engage in a passionate encounter. But in addition to their chemistry and sweet murmurings in French, they have a solid, deep love that is never shaken by external or internal conflicts. They are a together-together couple who raises their family with strong (albeit bizarre) values, and they show unconditional love to everyone in their family.

John Sheridan and Delenn – Babylon 5

This pair is probably my favorite fictional couple ever. There’s a lot to say about these characters and the way that their relationship is written into the story. Their romance grows slowly and naturally – it takes a year and a half before they begin to realize their feelings for each other. They’re from different races (which used to be at war) and so the cultural tensions are always subtly present, even after they’ve been married for years. I also like how these two stay happily married, even through the rough spots, and they always make decisions together as a couple. (Short-term romances seem to be very popular in TV shows, and almost expected in sci-fi TV shows, after the precedent set by Captain Kirk in classic Star Trek.) Also, all of the other characters (well, most of them) love Sheridan and Delenn as a couple, and are constantly supportive of their relationship. Their goodbye to one another at the end of the series is one of the most poignant partings ever (can anyone watch the finale “Sleeping in Light” without crying?)

Delenn and Sheridan, from "Babylon 5"

Delenn and Sheridan, from “Babylon 5″

So who’s your favorite fictional couple? Please share!