Tag Archives: Music

Music to Create Worlds By

14 May

A lot of authors put a list of music that they listened to while they wrote at the start of their books. I love this idea. It not only gives the readers a soundtrack of the book to establish atmosphere and background, but it pimps out the author’s favorite bands, which is great. Cross publicity is always good, in my world. And it makes the author infinitely cool, if they happen to choose the right blend of new bands nobody has heard of and old bands that everyone thinks are awesome, with a couple of cheesy favorites thrown in to grab the widest demographic.

I adore reading a well-put-together musical inspiration page.

I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to have one in my books.

My problem is this: I have a hard time listening to music with lyrics while I write. At least if I’m playing it. If someone else is playing it, like the friend I write with, I can tune it out as background noise, occasionally surfacing to watch him riff lyrics and dance a jig.

This is not my writing partner, but he dances like this.

This is not my writing partner. He does dance like this, however.

But if it’s coming from my computer or my stereo, I want to hum along and get lost in the song. I’ll be writing away, happy in my little imaginary world, and then BAM! the mix I created to do housework to is distracting me with super-long-and-totally-unrelated-to-the-plot-but-incredible-sounding titles for novels, or inspiring character flaws from the self-centered woes the singer is moaning about, or sparking post-apocalyptic love story ideas I don’t want to have right then because I haven’t finished my current project yet. It’s annoying.

So, in order to deal with this, I’ve put together a playlist of instrumental dance music on my laptop. It’s up beat, word free, and goes on forever with just enough difference from song to song that I don’t get bored. It’s perfect. Of course, most of the artists are from the nineties and no longer even produce work. So there goes the whole “I’m really cool because I listen to the hippest music” thing that most authors’ music lists put forward (subconsciously, I’m sure…oh, wait, no, I’m not).

I’ve added instrumental movie soundtracks to my writing playlist as well. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, any western that’s come out in past decade, eighties sci-fi movies, maybe some Guillermo Del Toro stuff to lighten things up…it all flows nicely behind the story unfolding on my computer screen. But I can’t pimp these out either. The minute I say Bram Stoker’s Dracula, you see Gary Oldman, stalking Winona Ryder in his way too tall hat and John Lennon glasses, right? Not really what I want to associate with my novel about teens with superpowers. Brad Pitt with a six-shooter? Not appropriate. The end of the world with saxophones? Not really going to give readers the gist of my tales either.

Recently, I’ve discovered the worst possible music to admit that you write to, if you want people to think you’re cool: classical music. I turned on the cable music channel on my TV a few weeks ago and proceeded to switch through all the stations, from pop to alternative to 80’s, with the same problem as above. They all yanked me right out of my writing space and made me want to dance. Not conducive to a fulfilling work session. Then, on a whim, I turned on light classical. Guess what? It’s fantastic. I’m talking light classical, too, not even regular classical, which was too heavy and depressing. No, I worked for hours to the sort of music your great great grandma did her cross stitch too. Happy, tickling notes and up sweeping crescendos that make you want to have a ball and invite Mr. Darcy. That’s what I wrote my novel to. It worked better than the dance music, even though my novel’s not a period piece.But it really doesn’t work if I put light classical artists in the music list of my urban fantasy novel. What, I’m gonna promote Mozart and give him a boost on iTunes? That guy doesn’t need my help. And I’m pretty sure any readers I may get for my tale of a teenage werewolf cop investigating the murder of the head of the Illuminati won’t really care about classical music*. I could be wrong, but it’s just a hunch.

This guy is doing just fine in sales, trust me.

This guy is doing just fine in sales, trust me.

So I’ve resigned myself to being hopelessly uncool on my novel’s musical inspiration page or maybe not having one at all. I guess I have to give up on the hipster dream in exchange for long and fruitful writing sessions. It seems like a fair trade, overall. I suppose. Maybe. Sigh.

* Story ideas have been changed to protect..well, my story ideas. Although most of my plots are just as silly, if not sillier, than this. 


A Confession

16 Apr

I have a terrible secret to tell. Let me start at the beginning.

I’m around 15, at a friend’s house when I’m supposed to be at school. My friend is older and cooler and much, much more hardcore than me. I’m a baby wanna be punk, whereas she’s an actual punk. She does drugs, sleeps with boys, and the run down house she shares with three other people has a name. A name, for god’s sake, as in “I’m going to a party at The Glass House.” I’ve never smoked pot, am still a virgin, and live with my mother in an unnamed house the suburbs. So I’m a bit in awe, let’s just say.

I’m drunk on butterscotch schnapps, which has given me horrible heartburn. My friend is high and drunk as well, so when she leaves the room and comes back with a dubbed tape, I know it must be important if she’s willing to get off the bed for it. She puts the tape in her player and turns it on, her heavily black-lined and reddened eyes fastening on me for my reaction. All I hear is noise. Thinking it’s one of her boyfriend’s bands, I smile and nod along to the disjointed beat. She sighes dreamily.

“God damn, I just love these guys,” she says, slumping back down on the bed.


Flash forward a few months, maybe a year. I’m at a birthday party at the local college’s apartments (originally built for married students), called the Mods. The apartment is tiny, full of inebriated punk rock kids, and also full of smoke, both legal and not. A band has set up in the dining area/foyer, just inside the door. Getting in and out of the place is like pushing through a mosh pit. My best friend and I decide to take a walk around campus and look for the guys we came with, but she has to use the rest room first. I wait outside in the rain. When she comes out, she grabs my arm and hurries me away towards the main square.

“Sorry,” she says when we finally stop. “I tripped over the bass player’s amp cord on the way to the bathroom and unplugged it in the middle of a song. He was screaming his head off and about to kill me.”

When we return to the party half an hour later, the fire department is there. We call a cab and go home.

Flash ahead again. I’m in a down town underage place called The North Shore Surf Club, watching a band with a boy I like A LOT. We’re standing on the dirty carpet-lined seats that line one wall of the packed club, bouncing with the crowd as the band rocks. I don’t care about the music at all. I’m completely enamored of the mohawked boy next to me, with his tan skin and open plaid shirts. I will end up falling hard for him, then getting my heart broken a little bit later when he goes back to his much younger and sluttier ex. But at that moment, in that filthy and earsplittingly loud club, I am happier than I ever have been before. I’m living the street kid dream.

Ok, now for the first part of the big reveal: The band in all those stories was Nirvana.

The second part of the reveal is the shameful secret part. Deep breath.

Even though I was around for all of this, an alternative teen in the Pac NW in the 90’s, totally at the right place, age, and time for these world-changing moments in music history…

I don’t like Nirvana.

There. I said it.


I’m a dance music girl, through and through. When the grunge age hit, I was still listening to Depeche Mode and The Cure. I was more of a goth punker, and even though we all put on our Doc Marten’s one boot at a time, I had very little tolerance for bands that rocked instead of rolled.

I obviously have memories connected to Nirvana and their music. I even own Nevermind on CD, given to me by a dear childhood friend who has since passed away. I will never get rid of that CD. I’ve listened to it one and a half times. Maybe. I even respect them as artists. I just don’t groove on their vibe or mesh with their beats or however you want to put it.

So I’m sorry. I’m sorry, to everyone out there who should’ve been there, who would’ve loved it, who would tell these stories with fanboy vigor, relating exactly what song was playing when and how, who would go to their grave with these treasured memories stored faithfully in their minds as shining examples of musical awesomeness.

Unfortunately, these are my stories, my memories. I was there. And I treasure them, I do.

But I still don’t like Nirvana.