Sunday, December 30, 2018

Song Styles

I've gone through a bit of a hibernation period as a harper.  Not that I haven't been performing and teaching, but before I started on my Christmas repertoire, I noticed that practicing had become a chore.  I wasn't looking forward to it the way I used to, and was even putting it off.

I've come to the realization I need to make a change.  Pre-Christmas, my goal had been to take old pieces from my repertoire that had gotten dusty and revive them.  A sensible project, but not strictly necessary:  even without these contributions, I have enough "active" music to play a solid three hour set, which is usually the functional limit for this poor harper's fingers.  (I did seven hours in a day once, lunch and then dinner, but I came out bleeding.  Literally.)

So apart from one or two obligatory repertoire projects - I need to revive / finish a couple classical tunes and make sure The Entertainer is still in the pocket; the latter is *not* a chore, because it gives me a total kick to play - I'm going to let myself play around, goof off, try things on a whim and see where the music takes me.  I don't need the tight discipline from a professional standpoint, and on an emotional level, I think I need to let go of the reins a bit.

Ha ... not like that's in my nature.

I've done this on the writing side.  I was feeling grumpy and that writing was becoming something of a chore.  That's when I decided to do a purely for-fun, goofy project that I thought was unsellable:  the zombie novella.  And I've never had so much fun writing something.  I'm approaching a review of it, and maybe it's not so unsellable after all, but the greater point is:  it rekindled a spark.  Maybe letting myself play will do the same here.

I don't believe in New Year's Resolutions, so the timing is coincidental.  From a harp standpoint, I've just gotten out of the Christmas rush, so it's a natural point for, "What next?"

Play on.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wednesday Wanderings

Happy Boxing Day, (belated) Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Wonderful Winter Solstice ... whatever you choose to celebrate or ignore, I wish it all to you with a homemade candied cherry on top.  I've been almost radio silence on this blog for most of the month due to the craziness of the holiday catering (and musician) season, plus some personal malarkey keeping me running amok.  (Amok amok amok!)

I haven't been writing as much as I would like, in part because a good chunk of that is editing, which takes more brainpower, and generates additional and undesirable desires to stab something.  Seeing as I work around knives, it's best to be cautious.  I have actually been contributing writing for a work feature, Kitchen Wisdom Wednesdays, and that's been a lot of fun.  I've toyed with posting Foodie Fridays here, but I know myself and I fear I wouldn't maintain it.

In my (leisurely, molasses-esque) editing, I noticed something new.  I've had a couple short stories go to press over the past few months, and both editors thought I used too many speech tags and, to a lesser extent, too many action cues connected with dialogue.  Now, for me, I often find that's a comment I give other writers in reverse:  their dialogue can feel like "talking heads" to me, words floating in space without clear connection to characters.

As I went back through these stories to trim up speech tags, I found I resisted it.  It made the characters' speech feel disconnected to me.  Somehow, having tags in particular spots made the dialogue feel more grounded, more attached to the character speaking.  
What I realized is that it comes back to something in my underlying nature.  I'm a very kinesthetic person:  I experience the world and learn through action, tactile sensation, movement and activity and *doing*.  So cutting those ties - via cutting the speech tags - was very disconcerting to me.

To some extent, I still feel as if I make good choices on this topic; I also feel that part of this is stylistic, a writer's way of crafting prose.  But this whole experience has taught me to look more closely at the dialogue and analyze, not always listen to the instinct I wasn't even aware of before.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Song Styles

Another few months, another set of music CDs to entertain me upon my driving ... driving ... so much driving.  As always, I create CDs with themes, whether it be "House and Home" or "Long Distance" ... and then one set that where the connecting theme is word association, the title of one song suggesting / playing off the next.  Sometimes, admittedly, the link is tenuous because I'm bound and determined to get a specific song in there ... and other times, my brain is just peculiar.  You decide.

Shivers - Rachel Platten
Ice - Sarah McLachlan
Cold Shoulder - Adele
Get Away - Chvrches
Don't Shy Away - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Whisper - A Fine Frenzy
Scream It Out - Ellie Goulding
Cry - Faith Hill
Cry to the Beat of the Band - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Is It the Beat? - Selena
Dr. Beat - Miami Sound Machine
Medicine - Shakira
Recovery - Broods
Better Life - P!nk
Good Life - Rachel Platten
Life Uncommon - Jewel
No One Like You - Sarah Brightman
Ain't No Other Man - Christina Aguilera
It's Raining Men - Geri Halliwell
Echoes in Rain - Enya
Cue The Rain - Lea Michele
Rain, Tax (It's Inevitable) - Celine Dion
Pot of Gold - Dian Diaz
Wrong End of the Rainbow - Anne Murray
Wrong Side of the Sun - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Brighter Than The Sun - Colbie Caillat
Sun, Moon and Stars - Loreena McKennitt
Heavenly - Lea Michele
All This and Heaven Too - Florence + The Machine
Heaven/Hell - Chvrches
Who the Hell Are You? - Emma Bunton
Who's That Boy - Demi Lovato
Fell in Love With A Boy - Joss Stone
A Boy Like That - Selena
My Boy Builds Coffins - Florence + The Machine
Building a Mystery - Sarah McLachlan
Ritual - Ellie Goulding
Black Magic - The Green Children
The Blackest Lily - Corinne Bailey Rae
Flower - Liz Phair
Opening Up - Waitress soundtrack

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Wednesday Wanderings

Since I've had a number of short story sales lately (huzzah!), I'm working on editing a new story to put into submissions soon.  This tale, "Lip Service," is a contemporary fantasy. where phantasmal creatures resembling bees secrete magical energy; their sting puts victims under their spell.  The story is told from the perspective of the teenaged daughter of a hunter who gets dragged into her mother's life.  It is also chock-full of references to both the word "kiss" and phrases / idioms that involve it, hence the title.

Editing it has been a bit of frustration, though.  I've gone through it twice now, and each time, the goalposts of what I need to revise change.  On the bright side, it's mostly tweaks and expansions, adding more detail rather than serious alterations to the plotline.  Though part of the point of the story *is* that the character is a teenager unsure of her direction in life, I've tried to sharpen her goals and motivations.  Another goal in the editing process was to intensify the sense of stakes - a fine balancing act between the trivial and, "Why would her mother let her get involved with this?"'

And then, just as I reached the end of the most recent pass through, I realized I needed to work a bit more on the line of investigation the story follows.  Why didn't I pick this up the first time through?  Am I just an idiot? ... don't answer that.

Making all this trickier is the fact that the story was just too long, somewhere over 7500 words.  Ideally, I want to get it under 6000 ... which means a lot of cutting while still building up the elements mentioned above.

Another point on my mind is the tone.  The story is light and sometimes humorous, but it's not intended to be comedy - it just incorporates human foibles and a narrator with a tongue in cheek streak.  It also includes some in-jokes about Celtic / traditional musicians that are probably only funny if you're part of that community.  I could push it over the line into outright humor, but I'm not really feeling that.  Conversely, it wouldn't bear the opposite treatment:  I'd have to strip out some of the bones to make it read as a truly dramatic, serious tale.

I'll be going over it one more time, but if I'm not satisfied after that, I may have to shelve it for longer to get somewhere I'm happy with.  Or maybe, perfectionist that I am, that's just not possible, and I should give up and be sensible ...


Sunday, December 02, 2018

"Super Solutions" now available!

The Fifth Di ... December 2018 issue is now out, with my story, "Super Solutions."  Check it out:  

The Fifth Di - December 2018

This is my oddball little superhero reality television show story.  I had so much fun with it, but humor always seems to be a harder sell ...

Song Styles

One of the reasons I have this Sunday feature is because as a professional harper, music is very important to me, though my listening tastes are quite different from my playing tastes, where I specialize in Celtic and early music, with some contemporary / show tunes.  

Sound like your cup of tea?  Or perhaps it perfectly matches someone you know?  (Here comes the shameless plug ...)  My harp CD, Rolling of the Stone, could be the perfect holiday gift.  Check it out here:

Purchase Page

Please do buy directly from me; Amazon not only takes a sizable cut, they require me to send them replacement CDs one at a time, which makes any profit I might make virtually nil.

If you buy from me and give me permission to cut the shrink-wrap, I would be happy to autograph the CD liner - just let me know.