Friday, September 21, 2012

A Song For Every Story, A Story For Every Song

What started this music kick for me wasn't just The Ring Cycle, it was a simple, innocent tweet retweeted by someone I follow. The tweet simple said: "If you could adapt an album or song into a movie, which would you pick?" I tweeted two quick answers back, but thought about it for a little more and came up with a list of songs that might make good stories and the story I would tell.

1. Let Her Cry by Hootie & The Blowfish.

I love this song and think that Hootie is highly underrated. This is their best song and I could see me writing one of my melodramatic modern fiction attempts from my early 20s. I think I tried a story like it with a character named Finbar with a floozy-ish girlfriend that kept breaking his heart.

2. Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton

Fellas, we all know the frustration while we wait for our ladies to get ready that Eric was feeling in this song....but I once lived this song many, many moons ago and I still think that there's a short novel in it somewhere for me. A friend has a big party where big things happen (first kisses, admissions of love, infidelity, etc)....with big consequences.

3. All Along The Watchtower by...well various.

The very definition of epic-ness in rock music. Written by Bob Dylan but made famous by Jimi Hendrix, my favorite version is probably the live version as performed by the Dave Matthews Band. My second favorite? This version by Bear McCreary for the classic television show Battlestar: Galactica, mostly because it became a motif within the mytharc of the story:

The story I would tell? A big grand epic involving the siege of a great city and how two prisoners may be the key for the Princes of the realm to survive.

4. Two Step by The Dave Matthews Band

I am an unapologetic fan of DMB. I love this song and freak out when I hear it live. The version above is a classic version recorded live during a thunderstorm at Giants Stadium. I remember reading something about this song being about two people in love and one having to go to war. In my mind that's what it always was to me....and in my mind that became the story: a young man and girl are in love, courting one another. The boy is sent to a war in a faraway land while the girl is left to deal with loss and what is going on at home, meeting another boy along the way. It works right?

5. On The Turning Away by Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd is another one of those bands that are incredibly important to me in general, but for some reason this haunting song left a mark with me. The story I would tell is actually in the same world as my trunked novel THE FALLING DARK and the present rewrite SISTERS OF KHODA. It would be a NEW SPRING like prequel novella, but not even as recent in that world's history as NEW SPRING was in Randland's history. "By the Turning" is a curse in my world based on an event called "The GReat Turning Away," where a king turned away the refugees of a war that would eventually swallow that nation. I think it works more in my mind more than it does written out.

Would YOU buy these? DO they sound like good stories? If they do...don't steal them!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing

Welcome to the Music Extravaganza Weekend. I'm going to try and blog for four days in a row about music and writing.  

Last week, I carried on and on about Wagner's Ring Cycle and how it was moving me towards inspiration. Well, I started thinking really deeply about the influence of music on my writing and was preparing an entire blog post about a "soundtrack" mixtape I made many, many moons ago for a trunk novel I'd written...the one that I thought was my opus back in the day. I remember sharing it with my girlfriend at the time...we're talking close to 20 years ago, by the way. It was a mix of soundtrack stuff and modern songs even though the book was an epic fantasy. The funny thing was that the book wasn't even done. In a lot of ways that soundtrack was a very abstract outline of the story I wanted to tell. It's amusing and the only reason I thought of it was a conversation I had with a friend about Pink Floyd....I was really into Pink Floyd at the time and had included a lot of their music in the soundtrack. Oh, the halcyon days of the early 90s! Mixtapes were a romantic concept that has gone the way of the love letter.

Now a days, I know there are authors that post their writing playlists on their blogs so people know what helped put them in the mood for writing. I'd never done that, usually relying on Pandora radio to set me on my way or set my iTunes up for Shuffle and whatever comes up comes up. I've used You Tube as well, creating whole playlists heavy on Bear McCreary's Battlestar Galactica soundtrack. But recently I discovered Spotify and set up an entire writing playlist for me to listen to when I'm in the throes of writing. I've included all my favorite soundtracks and a lot of my favorite artists to get me in the mood. My playlist is made up of everything from Mumford and Sons to James Horner, the symphonic Pink Floyd and John Williams. I've shaken my curmudgeon-y shackles and moved into the modern era. Will I organize a WINTER'S DISCORD and SPRING'S TEMPEST soundtrack? Maybe, just for fun in the next couple of days. Who knows?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Waiting SUCKS

Seriously? Three days of blogging in a row? I'm hoping this means that there is a loosened mechanism somewhere in my head that is going to start the machine that all of us teachers have to get rolling every September. This is the problem with going from long block classes to shorter periods....I really can't get anything overly constructive done during my free blocks....48 minutes and my wonky hip prevent me from doing things like walking up to the main building for stuff and the canned curriculum I've been handed doesn't need much in the way of copies, so....wait, I'm whining about teaching and that's not the purpose of this blog. I want to talk about writing and maybe the worst part about being a writer: waiting.

To say that the publishing industry works at a glacial pace doesn't do justice to how slow it really works. I think of the line from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan when Kirk is asking how long it will take the Enterprise to be up and running...and no, I'm not talking about KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN! (It's hard to believe how hard it is to find that clip on You Tube!)...and Spock says, "Admiral, if we go "by the book". like Lieutenant Saavik, hours could seem like days." Well, each day feels like a million years passes and it's just awful.

It was probably worse when I was still seeking an agent, but it's just as frustrating now that I am represented by an agent. I know I probably drive my agent insane with all my little email notes about what is going on. I'm working very hard at avoiding sending him something unless I absolutely need to. But it's hard. I'm not patient and this is my first run through on all this, so naturally I have questions about what the heck is going on. But it's part of the game. Trust me, people aren't laughing at you, saying "Heh, let's see how long I can keep this sucker strung along." It's just the nature of the business. It's expected to be this way and you just have to sort of work through it. I'm not saying it's easy and it helps when you have something to work on, but sometimes it wriggles past all that stuff and works it's way into distracting you from getting work done.

The worst days are the ones when there seems to be a flurry of reports on deals on the various places where those things are announced: Twitter, Facebook, Galley Cat, etc. Now, I don't subscribe to Publishers Marketplace...and thank God for that. I would probably be homicidal reading about the deals being made and that is even less productive than sending the email equivalent of those notes you used to write to girls in class back in the day: Do you like me? Check Yes or No. Today seemed to be one of those days where people were talking a lot about book deals. But, if my recent eagerness to blog is any indication, I may have found a second writing wind and may be at the edge of a writing flurry for the rest of 2012. 

So, it's time to take a deep breath, dive into what I need to do and really contemplate if my daughter deserves a co-author credit on my YA version of Wagner's Ring Cycle....

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Inspiration Comes From the Craziest Places

This evening I was charged with cleaning the living and dining rooms after everyone went to bed. There was nothing on television, but my friend Kenneth Mark Hoover had been live tweeting PBS's broadcasting the Wagner's The Ring Cycle. I was very excited about this and turned it on to play in the background while I cleaned. Now Ken did a nice job of tweeting some of the basics for noobs like me to understand but a funny thing happened while I was watching. My daughter Natalie, who I thought was asleep, came down stairs.

Now, Nat is a precocious child and stared at the screen, watching intently for a few minutes before she strung together about a half dozen really good questions about what I was watching. I answered as best as I could, using my old friend Wikipedia, Ken's answers and what I'd cobbled together watching. Nat then took it and ran with it, doing a pretty good job of cobbling a story together with the help of my occasional commentary of what was happening in the opera. And I have to be honest, I kind of like her version better.

I have to say this, my daughter has some pretty good story telling chops. Listening to her play, she's meticulous when it comes to the story, consistent in her characterization and comes up with some pretty interesting stuff...enough to make me put aside what I'm doing to listen to her because it's pretty clever. Now, she needs some work on her magic systems (she uses some combination of incantations that may or may not require rhyming and the use of some kind of a focus, be it a staff or a wand....I don't want to stifle....she'll figure it out!) and her male characters need some work, but she's definitely cut from the same stalk as he father in that area.

Now, I know what you're thinking...I'm her dad, I have to think this. And I do, but there's more there.

I was sharing what my daughter was saying with Ken via Twitter and I think he was just as impressed at her story as I was. There might be a darn fine YA fantasy in this, if I can manage the story Natalie's dictated to me.

The only question is: does she get a co-authoring credit or not?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Running On Fumes: An Update

With a heavy heart, I announce that summer is officially over. School has begun and I welcome with open arms the class of 2016 into my bosom. It's still a science fiction number in my head and I think that when, in 4 years, I welcome the class of 2020, my mind just may implode. There's lots to complain about when it comes to the start of school, but the purpose of this blog is not for me to lament on and on about the ills of working in education at the dawn of the 21st century, but to talk about writing, so I will.

It's been over two months since my last entry and what a two months it's been. Thanks to the surgery, I've dropped about 60 pounds and I'm feeling pretty darn good. Last week I was finally given a surgery date to get my damaged hip fixed, which in and of itself is a massive weight lifted off my shoulders. (December 6th if you are wondering, almost a year to the date that I decided to get my stomach surgery.) Summer wasn't nearly as productive as I would've liked it for it to have been, but it was productive nonetheless.

I scrapped on project and started work on another. I had to back burner that project (ROAD) to work on a second rewrite on a previous project (SISTERS). My agent felt SISTERS was a good story, but it needed some depth, so I set about working on that bit by bit, making August a darn fine writing month, but school came up and kind of put that aside. Couple that with the start of school and September is usually a month I don't write much since I am, as the title of this post suggests, running completely on fumes the first month of school. But I'm pressing on.

So what are my plans, you ask? Here's what I'm thinking the rest of 2012 is going to hold for my writing:

I'm going to give a real go at the SISTERS rewrite once I get the routine of school down. It's the fourth new schedule we have in four years, so every year there is some new adjustment time. I'm about a third of the way done with the rewrite and I think that I can make a run at fixing the draft and making it better. SISTERS is an epic flavored adventure story and the first in a series that I've always imagined as being standalones....but I think they may have to change some of that to make it salable. I guess I can compare it to Arthur Slade's "Hunchback Assignments" series in that they stories are connected but stand alone-ish. Good thing the fourth book is coming out this week to help guide me.

After that, I've got some choices to make and I'm going to have to talk to Bob (my agent) and see where I should focus my energies in the coming weeks. The best part about the surgery is that I'm going to be out for the entire month of December, which means I'll be writing my butt off. (I hope!)

I want to make a run at finishing my SPACE PRINCESS book and then I'll be free to move on to a new project, either ROAD, the last SEASONS book, the EPIC CHRISTMAS book I've been planning for years OR a big huge traditional epic fantasy book. Who knows?

Plus, there's always the chance that the first two SEASONS books sell and they become a priority.