Tag Archives: urban fantasy

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. 


The Curse

18 Apr



Homeless, the woman tours the cities of the world from dusk to dawn, striding down the sidewalks from one street lamp’s circle of light to the next, like stepping stones. She shimmers in the glow and every person she passes sees her differently, according to their own state of mind. But in between the blobs of light on the ground, in the dark spaces, she really changes. She is lemurs and antique cars, happiness and the sound of the wind, the color burgundy and that guy you knew in fifth grade. She slams across the universe and slides sideways into the fairy realm, drifts into the ocean and out again. Then she is back in the street light, shimmering, having taken care of the business of that shadow. It has happened this way as long as she can remember, but her memory skips with the blackness in between the light, so she may be wrong. She may have been someone different, before.

The bum sees her from a block away. His name is Reynold, and he most assuredly was someone different before, as all people are sometimes, but especially those who have nothing else to lose. He has only a bag left, a black plastic bag full of things that he finds and sorts, then eats, sells, or keeps. The bag is only ever half full. Everything else he owns, he wears.

Reynold sees the woman as a pretty girl, like one he knew when he was that different person. She looks almost exactly like that girl, just slightly off in the mouth and hair texture, different enough not to be her but close enough to irk him. He puts down his bag as she moves nearer to him and spits phlegm at her black polished heels, hitting the front of her right foot with a wet smack. The woman keeps walking.

“I curse you, creature,” he whispers vehemently. “I curse you to be like I am.”

At that, the woman stops, her left foot incorporeal in the shadows and the rest of her shimmering in the street light. She freezes stock still, then shivers, then shakes, her whole body twisting and contorting in every direction at once, a pinwheel of arms and head and torso. Then, just as suddenly, she stops. She is no longer shimmering and the foot in the shadows is firm and real. Her unearthly quality is gone and she is nothing but a woman, almost but not quite someone Reynold used to know.

She turns her head to him and smiles. “You unmade me. Thank you,” she says, stepping towards him. Reynold cringes back, but before he can move, the woman presses her lips to his filthy forehead. He stares into her eyes as she draws back slightly to look at him. “You unmade me and now I’m like you. I could do a lot before, but now I can do what you do.” Her voice is soft and full of wonder. Reynold sneers, curling his unshaven lip up from his yellow teeth and taking a deep breath, preparing to scream at her, to shove her, maybe to piss on her, anything to get her away from him, but she speaks again.

“I curse you, creature,” she whispers. “I curse you to be like I was.”

Reynold suddenly can’t breathe, and even though somehow he knows he doesn’t need to anymore, it still panics him. The world shifts, drawing in close then expanding in a flash of brilliant light. He can’t see and can’t hear, not with his eyes or ears, but he can sense everything, all at once. He tastes a grape in the mouth of a boy in India; he hears the thoughts of a beetle in Michigan; he feels the pain and pleasure of every love affair that’s ever happened; he knows the answers to every question on every test ever given or that ever will be given. The entirety of existence opens up to him and he steps forward instinctively, into the light of the street lamp.

It stops. The world slows down, his ears and eyes return, and he can breathe. But the darkness beyond the circle of light calls to him and he knows he has things to do, changes to make, ideas to follow. He turns to the woman.

“You made me, but now what do I do?” he asks, he face shimmering.

“Now,” she says, smiling, “you walk.”

Reynold looks at the next street lamp, the dim blob of light on the sidewalk down the block. He aims for it and steps forward into the shadow, his body melding and shaping, flickering and bending, until he emerges into the glow again. He looks ahead to the next light, but he already knows that looking ahead will not work for long. There’s too much to experience, too much to do, in the shadows. He can’t pause to think. He has to just keep moving. After a moment’s hesitation, he starts forward again. His form varying, indistinct in the darkness and solid in the light, he walks down the street and disappears around the corner.

The woman watches him until he’s gone. Then she picks up his plastic bag and heads down the dim alley, muttering quietly to herself and wondering who she is now.