Listening to Music Whilst Writing

So, in addition to my love for my family, writing, brewing, reading, baking, lists, and sarcasm, I have another love – perhaps my oldest: music.  I have been singing and playing music for longer than I can even remember.  I’m not saying that for drama – I literally have made music for longer than I can remember.  My mom would likely say that I loved to sing as early as I could speak.  I’m not claiming to have a great voice, but when it comes to singing, I am certainly enthusiastic.

Before there was MTV, I loved music.  And I’m not picky.  I love it all.  I have deep places in my heart for Simon and Garfunkel, Elvis Pressley, The Beatles, Mrs. Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra (who I actually got to see sing in person many years ago – but that’s another story), and many, many, many more.  I love good rock.  I love metal.  Classic R&B? Sign me up.  Oh, you’re listening to Cheap Trick or Rush?  I’ll be right over.  Kenny Rogers or Lionel Ritchie?  Yep.  Love it.  Don’t even get me started on my love for the music of Neil Diamond.

Currently, I have been listening to a few different bands while I write.  So, I figure why not share?  Here are a few of my current favorites:

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TRON: Legacy  Soundtrack by Daft Punk.  I have enjoyed listening to this soundtrack for years at this point.  In most cases, when I sit down to write, I put on my headphones and queue up this album.  It’s excellent.  Very few words/lyrics to distract, but there is a great beat and – in my opinion – Daft Punk has written a modern symphony with this soundtrack.

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2112 by Rush.  I am a wholly unabashed fan of Rush.  This Canadian trio is – to my ear- about as good as progressive rock gets.  To say that I am a fan belittles my affection for their work.  I love most of their albums, but 2112 (as well as a few others) holds a special place for me.  Not only is the “A” side of the album a ludicrously ambitious science-fiction story, but it’s also just great music.  I will usually listen to this before I start writing to put me in the right frame of mind for doing creative work.  If you listen to the “A” side, you’ll understand why this album helps me get ready to be extra-creative.

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Emperor of Sand by Mastodon.  This is a brand new album (released on 31 March) from one of my favorite bands.  The album tells an excellent story, and the energy of the music just brings my spirit up.

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“Awaken, My Love” by Childish Gambino.  Ok.  I know that this album doesn’t exactly seem to fit into the rest of this list.  But trust me, it’s a great album.  It has this awesome vibe of mid-70s rhythm and blues.  It’s just ideal for being mellow.  When I said I like pretty much all music, it’s not about trying to impress anyone – I’m well-past the age of caring about someone’s opinion of my musical preferences.  I just like good music played/performed by talented artists who want to do something awesome with music.

I have many others to whom I listen, but those are the current three that are helping aid my work.

 

Currently Reading – March 2017

So, since I have promised to try and do better about updating my blog, I will tell you about the stuff I am currently reading.

I just wrapped up (last Thursday) reading Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber.  And I am currently working my way through John Scalzi’s The Android’s Dream.

First: Nine Princes in Amber – A decent book, but it wasn’t really to my taste.  I spoke with one of my very best friends about it, and his response was “Dude, you’ve got to read the first five books, then book one doesn’t seem so disjointed.”  Ok.  This is one of my dearest and oldest friends.  He has never steered me wrong on a book recommendation.  In fact, this friend is who put me onto Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.  I remember speaking with him over a beer (or three) about a new story idea, “Alright, so what I’m thinking is Sherlock Holmes but in a magical world”.  He looked at me and said, “You’re kidding with me right?  The Dresden Files.”  The rest is history.

But…back to Zelazny.  I didn’t really care for the first 60% of the story.  It felt like the first part was written when Mr. Zelazny was sixteen.  Then he put the story down and came back to it when he was thirty – except he didn’t go back and fix up the first part.  The ending of the book was quite interesting and I could see some glimmers of what would make me want to pick up the next book.  Perhaps, I will see if they are available via my local public library.

Second: The Android’s Dream – This has been an interesting book.  I’m currently at 60% finished.  The verdict on this one still remains to be seen.  At this point, I guess I like it.  Mostly because the story has finally calmed down and no new major characters are being introduced.  I will say that the main character’s Mary-Sue-ness is more than a little off-putting.  When it comes to Scalzi, you either love the story – or you hate it.

Once I finish The Android’s Dream, I plan to read Frank Herbert’s Dune. Sometimes, you’ve got to go with the classics.

Finally, the status of my current projects:

The Broken Pack (The War-Weary Saga Book 2) – I am currently working on round two of revisions and edits –  55%.

Due to all the crazy in my life, I have not really gotten as far on this in the past few weeks as I would’ve liked.  But, it’s still moving and I’m managing to spell most of the words correctly.

New Speculative-Fiction/Cyberpunk Story (Working Title: The Soloist) – 50% finished with the first draft.

No change on this project.  I have been trying to get some traction on my graphic novel Twenty Steps, and that is taking up the time I would’ve normally spent on this.

Dark Fantasy Story (Working Title: The Cleric Gambit) – 25% done with outlining and character bios.

No change.  I still think about it quite a bit, but it’s in third place for a reason.  As I like to say, the idiots who are running around in my head helping me piece all these stories together are very excited about this one – as am I.  Just to clarify, I am not actually hearing voices or anything.  I just have background processes working on these ideas.

Short-Story / Graphic Novel (current title: Twenty Steps) – essentially done.

This one is pretty well finished.  Save for artwork and all that.  I’m taking a step back from it so that I can clear my head and I’ll come back to revisit it in June or July.  Basically when I publish The Broken Pack.

 

Well, I do hope that all of you are having fun and reading good stuff.

 

CL

And that’s what I’ve been doing

So, it’s been a while.  Yep.  Sorry.  Entirely my fault.  Life is just hectic so keeping up a blog becomes the first thing to fall off the radar.  So, what have I been doing the entire time?  Well, I have been writing my filthy black heart out.

Current Stuff:

The Broken Pack (The War-Weary Saga Book 2) – I am currently working on round two of revisions and edits –  35%.

This is getting 95% of my writing time these days.  I would (ideally) like to get this out by this summer.  The excellent news about this is: I’m very excited for it.  The writing is significantly improved, and I love what’s going on with the story.

New Speculative-Fiction/Cyberpunk Story (Working Title: The Soloist) – 50% finished with the first draft.

I’m super excited about this story.  Since I am working on three series in a row, this is my “palate-cleanser” story.  I write on this when I am shifting gears between other projects.  Expected release date? Fall?  End of this year? It all depends on what’s going on in my family.

Dark Fantasy Story (Working Title: The Cleric Gambit) – 25% done with outlining and character bios.

This is my next big project.  Highly episodic, with 10-15 “episodes” per “season.”  Each episode should (ideally) be around 25K words.  The plan is to release on a monthly schedule and at the end of the year do a wrap up of the entire season’s story with some extras to make it worth people’s while.  Currently, my outline for this project has five “seasons,” so this is a big story.  This is something I haven’t shown to anyone yet, so keep it under your hat.

Short-Story / Graphic Novel (current title: Twenty Steps) – this is basically done.

It’s short, but it’s intensely personal.  I’ve allowed a handful of very close, trusted friends read it, and that response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Still working on my vision for the art and layout, but it’s definitely coming along.

 

Life:

Well, Spudford is doing great.  He’s just awesome.  Walking and all that.  Really trying to talk.  Every vehicle he sees is a “Cah!”.  You’re right buddy, that’s a car.

My wife (Julie) and I are expecting our second child in a few months – our first daughter – codename: Stormageddon.  Whey yes, we are fans of Doctor Who, why do you ask?

Next:

Well besides the work as mentioned above, I’m reading some stuff for other author friends of mine, and just keeping my head above water.  But, I’m making time for writing through all the chaos.   I will endeavor to publish updates for my projects in a more timely fashion in the future.  I’m shooting for no less than two blog posts a month for this year.

 

 

On reviews

As I have mentioned previously, reviews are the lifeblood of the self-publishing world.  For big-time authors like Jim Butcher and Brandon Sanderson, there are teams of people who work to get the works of these authors into the hands of reviewers.  For freshman authors – such as yours truly – you have to rely on friends, family, and if you’re very lucky, complete strangers for reviews.

Several months ago (October maybe?), a reviewer came onto my horizon.  This reviewer has an awesome gimmick for their reviews: you have to “immerse” him (the reader) or your book “dies”; hence the name of his reviews: Immerse or Die.

The concept is great.  He steps onto his treadmill, turns on his Kindle and begins reading.  He does 40 minutes on his treadmill, and if you manage to capture his imagination for the duration, your book “lives”.  If your book does not, he gives a very fair review of what went wrong, and where (time-wise) he got into the book.  From what I have seen, he has a preference for science-fiction but doesn’t blow off fantasy works.

So, here is where my book comes in.  I submitted my book to him to see how well I’d do.  To be honest, I held out hopes that he’d find my first published work to be shaky, but a great start.  I was not up to this task.  Let me offer here sincere thanks to Jefferson Smith and his review of my book.  I cannot thank him enough for this review.  Not because it is some gilded ticket to the upper tiers of author-hood (is that a word?), but because he gave me a real review.

On December 9th, 2015, Jefferson Smith published a review of my book on his site.  I will admit that my book “died” at the 2:26 mark.  Here is a link to the review.  Mr. Smith provided a candid, and honest, critique of my work.  I will honestly say; he’s largely right on with his assessment.  As a first time author, I have little experience with the profession of “writer”.  I made tons of mistakes in my first book.  I have spoken at length on how much I wish I could go back and “just re-write that one part….” and such. But, I won’t.

Reviews are always good, so long as they are helpful.  Mr. Smith’s analysis is outstanding.  And trust me, I could only wish he could’ve found some part of my book to be more to his liking, to entice him to finish reading the book.  My start might have been a tad rough, but the book ends well.  In the interest of providing my real opinion on his review, I was a little disappointed but happy that someone else had given it a chance.  As a freshman author, I always hold out hope that someone will love my story as much as I do.

What I’ve learned – six months in.

As a self-published author with a few sales (THANK YOU!), I will now impart what I have learned from the experience – so far.

  1. Writing is tons of fun.  Writing for yourself is super fun.  Writing for your friends and family is fun, but can be very stressful.  Writing for complete strangers, in hopes that they will like your story?  Fun but terrifying.
  2. Reviews are worth their weight in gold.  Any review.  Seriously ANY REVIEW.  Turns out, people aren’t interested in reading the first book from a freshman author when they have no expectation of quality.  Hence reviews and their importance.  More on this in another post.
  3. Writing the second book of a series is WAY harder – though much more fun – than writing the first.  The first is just me trying to see if I can do anything worthwhile with my story.  The second book is essentially me saying, “Yep, I can do this.  And I’m going to keep doing it.”
  4. Editing and revising (E&R) never seem to get easier.  All can say on this matter, at least, I’m making different mistakes.  E&R is where the meat-and-potatoes of writing happens.  Anyone can put words on a page.  Very few get it right on the first try – I certainly don’t.  It takes discipline actually to take the edit/revise steps seriously.

 

So there’s what I’ve learned.  Make no doubt, I’m not complaining about any of these things.  It’s been super fun so far, and I hope that it will continue to be fun.  I have tons of story ideas, all I need to do is add 14 hours to each day so I can write all of them.

CL

About my story: The Toothfairy

So….aparently there are a few people who have expressed interest in my story: The Toothfairy.  It was just me playing around.  I like storytelling.  Storytelling, to me, is just so cathartic.  So The Toothfairy…. It’s not my usual story.  Hell, it’s not my usual genre.

Several months ago (August?) I was informed of an open call for short stories of the “Creepy, weird or skin-crawly” variety.  I don’t really enjoy the horror/suspense genre, I get bad dreams from such things.  I still shiver when I think of The Dollhouse in the Attic.  Even though I read it cover-to-cover, at least, fifteen times.  But, for some reason, I felt compelled.  I like a challenge.  So what would I write?

I wanted to write a story that didn’t go the way you’d expect.  And then I wanted to tell a story about something that never made sense to me as a kid.  And I remembered how the whole concept of the Toothfairy never made any sense.  Even as a kid, I had questions.  But, hey, a quarter is a quarter (this was many, many moons ago).

My questions came from the fact that my dad is not exactly the type of person who’d tolerate someone creeping into our house and doing anything that might mess with or scare his children.  My mom is not the kind of person who’d tolerate it either.  I just think that in the grand scheme of things, mom would shield my brothers and I and dad would’ve charged in like a knight errant bent on a singular task: removing the perceived threat to his family.  Trust me, growing up, dad was a flipping superhero.  But don’t make any mistake, it’s not like mom wasn’t capable of defending us.  She just would’ve been more than happy to let dad do his thing.  Turns out, when it comes to my dad on this matter the sayings are true: Once a Marine, always a Marine.

So here I am, age six, I’ve lost my first tooth.  I vividly remember it.  I had just gotten to school when I stopped to get a drink from the fountain when I saw some blood.  I pulled the tooth and kind of froze.  Once I accepted that it was perfectly normal, and it wasn’t because I was a poor flosser (which I was), I took the now detached part of my face to my first-grade teacher.  She – having seen this type of scene a million times, grabbed a few tissues, balled them up and pressed them into service to staunch the flow from my jaw.  She then dutifully packaged up my tooth and told me she’d hand it over when the day was over.  She was worried, as was I that I’d spend the day looking at it and eventually would lose it.  She was most assuredly correct.

The next morning, there was incontrovertible proof of the existence of the Toothfairy.  Where’d he (I always pictured this particular Fey creature as male) get the quarter?  What did he do with the teeth?  Was this the same Toothfairy as the rest of my classmates?

So I wrote the story and tried to answer those critical questions.  Apparently a few people like it.  I’m very glad for that.  As far as the journal which put out the open call, they politely rejected it.

On 2015

What a year.  2015 might be the best year ever.  Well done 2015, you managed to make it happen for 365 continuous.  Did 2015 call out sick when Fallout 4 was released?  Nope, 2015 continued right on.

It’s rather weird to me how easily I can come up with such random crap like that.

So….2015.  Interesting year.  A year of changes.  My wife (Julie) and I had our first child (Spudford).  I published a book.  I read a whole mess of books – which is always a good thing.  I reviewed a few books, some for fellow first-time authors.

All-in-all, I’d give 2015 an A-.  Great, but room for improvement.