Entries in writing (2)


ZC Playlist and the Writing Score

From since I was about twelve years old, music has been an essential part of my writing. I have used it to inspire scenes, to trigger visual elements, to lull me to sleep while imagining a favorite storyline, even to block out background noise so I could concentrate. While living with my parents, I would often leave a ten hour shift at the bookstore and drive around for at least a half an hour listening to particular songs to get myself into what I lovingly termed "writing mode" before arriving home and immediately heading to the computer. Specific songs would help me visualize the scenes I had planned out. They would pull me into the emotions of the characters I would utilize that night. Sometimes they would even be there to give me the characters' background stories, the information that no one but I would ever know, the super-secret details that would forever be mine alone.

It's become such an essential part of my writing that I can't create my stories without some sort of music playing in the background. Unfortunately for Tarl, my husband, it sometimes means a single song on endless repeat for hours on end, but...well...such are the sacrifices of living with creative types, eh? One learns to cope, and in his case it has meant noise cancelling headphones (not for him, mind you, but for me).

Where did all of this come from? Initially, it probably started because when I was a kid I used to listen to LP's of Disney movies. Yes, I realize many youngsters out there don't even know what the heck LP's are. (They're like oversized CD's with 2 sides that makes cool scratchy noises when played.) I would listen to the records and imagine the movies...over...and over...and over. You know how kids are. My favorite was "The Fox and the Hound". Out of that came the "Star Wars" soundtrack on record. I'd never seen the film, so came up with my own version of the movie based on the pictures on the album and the music. It was really strange, and it was different every time I listened to it. All I remember is that I used to break out into a really bizarre, epileptic-like dance whenever that cantina song came on. (Give me a break! I was, like, six years old!)

So after graduating from the "Star Wars" seizures, I made tapes wherein I acted out storylines, complete with soundtracks nabbed from the stereo. My sister partook in one that we titled "Nightmare" in which we were two sisters (surprise, surprise) who got lost in a cave and had to find our way out, all the while struggling against our mother re-marrying some evil new boyfriend who was trying to kill us. We even did our own sound effects. I remember some really bad friendship song coming on the radio that we thought was perfect for the end and we hit the record button just in time to get it. We ended up laughing and making running noises like we were tumbling through a field of flowers in complete bliss for foilling the evil boyfriend's scheme and escaping the horrific cave. How sad that the tape was lost.

My next real soundtrack experience was the score for "Edward Scissorhands". I snagged songs from that and completely remade them into my own stories, many of which worked their way into my film "Black" as Phear's storyline over 12 years later. First, however, they made their way into a short story called "Phear". That story is incomplete and ends with her mother shouting, "Run, Phear! Run away!". For those of you who have seen "Black"...gee...I wonder what part THAT is...

Anyway, so for every book I've written, there is a playlist. I now offer up the one for "Zurigan's Child". Some songs were used for specific scenes, and some for ambience. Some were used in conjunction with others, and some only briefly. Maybe some day I'll give more details, but for now, here is the whole for you to do with as you wish:

1. More Than This- The Cure (The X-Files: The Album)

2. Can't Run But- Paul Simon (Rhythm of the Saints)

3. Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove- Dead Can Dance (Into the Labyrinth)

4. Two Step- Dave Matthews Band (Crash)

5. Like Cockatoos- The Cure (Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me)

6. Fish Out of Water- Tears For Fears (Elemental)

7. Spark- Tori Amos (From the Choirgirl Hotel)

8. You Look So Fine- Garbage (Version 2.0)

9. Fragile (Reprise)- Sting (The Living Sea)

10. Wash Jones- Squirrel Nut Zippers (The Inevitable)

11. Never There- Cake (Prolonging the Magic)

12. To Have and Not To Hold- Madonna (Ray of Light)

13. Morning Breaks- Nellee Hooper (Romeo + Juliet Volume 2)

14. Little Blonde in the Park of Attractions- Tangerine Dream (Tyranny of Beauty)

15. Big My Secret- Michael Nyman (The Piano)

16. Iiee- Tori Amos (From the Choirgirl Hotel)

17. Can't See (Useless)- Oingo Boingo (Boingo)

18. Laura Palmer's Theme- Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks)

19. Where Would I Be?- Cake (Prolonging the Magic)

20. Selina Transforms (Part 2)- Danny Elfman (Batman Returns)

21. You Are the Pan- John Williams (Hook- Original Soundtrack)

22. 16 Horses- Soul Coughing (The X-Files: The Album)

As far as I know all of these songs can be had via itunes, so have at it. I found them all to be great for my writing, so maybe you'll feel the same. I have no idea what they might be like to listen to while reading ZC, so if you have comments on that, or any others, feel free to post. Ta!


Things I've Learned as a Modern Author

   Coming into writing as a youngling, I had many preconceived notions.  Some of those are very common.  For one, I thought I would become a renouned besteseller after submitting one query to a publisher.  I believed my words would inspire the downtrodden, and weary consumerist driven individual to exclaim, "Holy crap!  I have never seen such words strewn forth upon a page!  Why! This shall be greater than Tolkien!  This will be greater than everything!".  Who hasn't had such dreams?  Needless to say these were just that: dreams. 

    I began my journey to publication at the age of twenty-one.  I had just finished my first novel, a fantasy entitled (and, yes, I am using the word entitled despite some embittered agent's recommendation that I not use it because "it makes it seems like one is entitled to something in return"...sheesh!) "Zurigan's Child".  Summoning every ounce of courage I had (which wasn't much at the time), I wrote and re-wrote query after query, synopses after synopses to present at conference after conference.  Alas, to no avail.  Most often I was told, "What an interesting story, but it's not what we're looking for right now.", or "We don't buy fantasy, only science fiction." even though they were agents listed as scifi/fantasy agents in the catalogue.  Many a time I was even openly mocked in front of agents I paid to have time in front of.  Such is the life of a young, aspiring author. 

    I turned then to the "Writer's Market Guide" book, and spent the better part of two years writing short stories and fine tuning my queries to suit the markets wherein, all the while continuing the saga of Caroline in the Assaudian War series.  Again, no avail.  I amassed a great deal of "We love your story, but it doesn't fit our market right now" rejection letters (what the heck does that mean anyway?!), and found myself doubting my talent.  This happened for a long, long while.  It wasn't even a matter of the feedback being negative because it wasn't.  It wasn't as though the editors and publishers were saying, "Hey, your work sucks and there is nothing we can do with it." or, "Get yourself a copyeditor." or, "Get a day job.".  They had positive things to say.  The worst they said was, "It's not what we're looking for."  So vague.  It was like they expected me to read their minds, or be part of their club, or screw their publicists for tips.  I didn't get it.  I still don't.  I felt like an idiot.  It was like I was missing this one mystical key that would open the door to everything, and no matter how hard I tried over the years, I just did not get it.  Over and over, I did not get it. 

      So I stopped submitting.  I said, "Screw it.".  I couldn't figure it out, and it was tormenting me beyond belief to the point where I was doubting my abilities as a writer (which was one of the things that made me truly happy), so for years I submitted absolutely nothing and focused instead on writing more of the novels for the Assaudian War series, a stand alone novel entitled (there's that word again!) "The Scourge of the Bone Cages", one called "Kraysh" which is one of two, and a bunch of shorts...oh!  Plus I made a movie because I got sick of the book bs and decided to try my hand at the movie biz.  I hooked up with an old friend of mine, Billy Garberina, via an old writer author of mine, Bob Vardeman, and got in touch with local indie film guru Scott Phillips.  From that, "Black" was born.

      I am currently self-publishing via Amazon, Lightning Source, and Kindle, and am finally getting my works out for the public to see.  My faith in the old method of submitting to agents is no more.  With more and more of the publishing houses merging together and fewer and fewer of them publishing new authors, the chances of new authors seeing print through them is so slim it's ridiculous.  The chances of seeing a regular income is even more ridiculous. 

      My initial goal was just to see my books in print so people could read my work.  I didn't care if they thought it was like so-and-so's work.  I didn't care if they thought it was too wordy, or too...whatever.  It was mine.  I wasn't trying to cater to a market, or to anyone's tastes, or to inject it with a literary botox.  I was writing to make a statement and express what I wanted.  I believe the same now, and I'm glad that I still can.        

      Much has changed since ten years ago, but not that much.  Publishers are still looking for the next bestseller.  They want who they can tag as "the next so-and-so".  Whoever sells the most is whoever is marketed the most.  Sometimes there is a "runaway", but it is rare, and it is nothing to count on.  It is definitely nothing to bet your career on, and even then, the career is probably fleeting.  Don't sacrifice what you don't have to.  I really don't think it's necessary anymore.