Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ambient Music: Conni St. Pierre’s “Spirits” Albums

I’m always in search of music to write by. Everyone’s needs (not to mention tastes!) are different. Added to this, I’m like many writers in having a fairly narrow set of requirements for “writing music,” but when I play the same pieces over and over again, they might as well be white noise. It’s downright depressing to find that an old favorite has been drained of joy by excessive repetition (not to mention becoming emotionally contaminated by stories that just won’t come together!)

I came across Conni St. Pierre’s work through an amazing community serendipity. She calls her music “meditations, tone poems, and ambient improvisations.” As I understand it, “ambient music” provides atmosphere and flexible structure to some other activity — in this case, writing. 

The three albums I have are Mountain Spirits, Forest Spirits, and Beyond the Sky: Legends of the Starry Night. She plays native flute, shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute), and alto flute, as well as keyboards and other instruments. The flutes give the pieces a haunting quality, but not in the way so much “New Age” music ends up being emotionally manipulative. Listening to many of the tracks, I felt as if I had wandered into a borderland between ordinary and dream realities. There’s just enough melody to create a sense of movement, but not so much as to be distracting. I found that I could wander between the story I was writing and listening to the music with seamless ease and without any sense of losing my place in either. I found myself setting my CD player on endless repeat but never feeling that the music was taking me around in circles, as it were.

You can listen to her music on her website here. The piece on the upper left, “Crossing the Never Summer,” is from Mountain Spirits. You can click through to get more samples. My favorite of the three albums was Beyond the Sky: Legends of the Starry Night, with such pieces as “Message in a Dream” and “Darkness Before Creation.” I found the albums to be uniform enough to have no jarring surprises and varied enough to not get monotonous.

What are your current favorite pieces of music for writing?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Guest Post: Elizabeth Moon's "Chainsaw of Correction"

The Chainsaw of Correction Is Being Applied to Scenes of Great
Beauty and No Particular Utility.

There was snarling from the Chainsaw
And weeping from the words
As whole paragraphs broke open
and stray letters flew like birds.
There was savagery and violence
beneath the Chainsaw's roar
And the velvet curtains shredded
In a whirlwind of rose gore.

For the Writer had decreed
from her throne and keyboard fine,
"There has got to be some cutting!
I must draw a thick black line!
Though this character is charming
Though her face is very fair
She must earn her place in this book
Or I'll yank her out of there!"

"But" the fair-faced character pleaded
"I'm a queen, you know that well!
I am gracious, I am stately
And I fight so very well."
"Then advance the plot," cried Writer
As the Chainsaw snarled its song,
"Or like all this other rubbish
You'll be gone by midnight's gong."

Though it's vivid, no description
Can escape the Chainsaw's bite
Without being more plot-relevant
Than a tourist's pretty sight.
Conversations too are falling
One by one and two by two
And as branches crash around them
Story's real road comes in view.

Weighty ponderings of nobles,
Clever backchat from a child,
Long and boring dissertations:
Their death sentences are filed.
Does it matter who dismounted first?
Not a bit...then cut it out.
Does it matter what they ate for lunch
or what they talked about?

Ever onward through the undergrowth
The Chainsaw snarls its way...
(But writing verse will not get done
What must be done today.)

Elizabeth Moon, a Texas native, is a Marine Corps veteran with degrees in history and biology. She began writing stories in childhood but did not make her first fiction sale until age forty. She has published twenty-three novels, including Nebula Award winner The Speed of Dark, three short-fiction collections including Moon Flights in 2007, and over thirty short-fiction pieces in anthologies and magazines. Her latest book is Kings of the North (second book of Paladin's Legacy) a return to the world of The Deed of Paksenarrion, and the third in that group, Crisis of Vison, is due out in 2012.  The first book of Paladin's Legacy, Oath of Fealty, is now in paperback also.
In non-writing hours, she enjoys nature photography, gardening, cooking, Renaissance style fencing, messing about with horses, and music, including singing in a church choir. And wasting time online, of course...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Thunderlord snippet - In The Mountains

Please remember that this is a work in progress and drafts have a habit of changing drastically from inception to finished book.

From Thunderlord Chapter 6

They paused now and again, mostly to give the horses a breather after a steep climb. When the slope was not severe, they went on slowly, at a pace everyone could manage. The humans ate when they could, but there was nothing for the horses. Past midday, Francisco called for the men, Edric included, to dismount to ease the burden on the beasts. Dom Francisco protested, but weakly, as if he realized the wisdom of saving his breath for the climb. Although the captain pointedly excluded the women, Kyria got off and insisted she was strong enough to lead her horse.

“That way,” she explained to Francisco, as if it were the most reasonable thing in the world, “if 
 Alayna’s horse needs a rest, she can ride mine.” With those words, she took the reins and headed uphill, taking her place behind Timas.

Edric led his horse beside her, for the trail here was wide enough for two animals to walk abreast. “That was a kind thought, but hardly necessary. Neither you nor your sister are stout enough to pose much of a burden.”

“That is as it may be,” she replied with a hint of tartness, as if she were quoting someone else, “but is hardly the point.”

“What is the point, then?”

“Can you not guess?” She glanced at him, mischief hovering at the corners of her eyes. “I have not been waited on and pampered all my life, and I do not intend to begin now.”

My promised husband – Edric, caught off his guard, heard her thought in his mind – will doubtless try to turn me into a beribboned plaything, but he will not succeed!

“I – excuse me, damisela,” Edric stammered, quickly slamming his laran barriers closed.

“Why, whatever for?” She gave him a curious look, as if she too had sensed the moment of their rapport, but had not known what to make of it.

Thinking fast, he replied, “For joining ranks with those who would pamper you.”

She laughed, a sound that rang through him like silvery bells. “You have not offended me, or if you have, it is not for that!”

“How have I offended you, lady?”

“By asking too many questions.”