Playlist: Swan Song

Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I’m looking over the devastation for the spoils of my achievement. Obviously, 78k or so words of new draft now resides on my hard drive, triple backed up and awaiting revision. But what else have I brought back with me?Image courtesy of Tijmen van Dobbenburg @ stock.xchng

There’s the golden paperclip I won in a word war.

And a playlist. This is what I turn to when I want to remember the joy of creating this story. My list was actually much, much longer than this, but I’ve gathered the most essential songs to showcase the music I chose to accompany the imminent end of civilization as we know it-lots of instrumentals, electronics, and angst.

Click here to enjoy it hassle-free on YouTube.


Image courtesy of Gregorius GP Buir @ Big StockImage courtesy of Gregorius GP Buir @ Big Stock

Do you bring home souvenirs from your writing journeys? If so, what are they?

(Images courtesy of Tijmen van Dobbenburg @ stock.xchng and  Gregorius GP Buir @ Big Stock)

Something Completely Different

And now for something completely different.


A steampunk Lunar colony.

A question of where the man ends and the machine begins.

In other words, my story for NaNoWriMo 2012.

As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, in my never-ending pursuit of literary abandon I’m going to shoot for writing 50,000 words in one month. Or even 100k. It happens.

In preparation, I’ve stocked up on coffee, hot chocolate, and frozen dinners. I’ve backed up my computer. Reorganized my scene cards. Made playlists, one for each day in November, labeled by date and mood.

And I composed a letter to my main character, Teragus Swansong, warning him of my impending assault on his story. Here is what I wrote:

October 28, 2012 The Eleventh Hour

Whispering Pines Writing Retreat

Dear esteemed Lord Swansong,

Though I know it is late, I am writing to request your assistance in chronicling the early years of the Luna colony, as well as your involvement in its development. You might recall that last year I made a similar entreaty as I prepared to write the story of your daughter and future son-in-law, and I am still in your debt with regards to your efforts. However, once again I find myself in the difficult position of attempting to write your entire story in the period of one month.

I must confess that I wish you had you been more forthcoming with your involvement in the emergence of the DRAGN technology so that I might have written your story first. Fortunately, though I have been able to reconfigure my story to put Cerule and Rigel’s story second in the trilogy.

I hope you are not overly concerned that I will be delving deeper into the story of how you came to meet Avery, and why you decided to return to Luna, despite Luna’s betrayal and subterfuge. I understand why you chose as you did and will be sure to represent the story fairly. As far as your dalliance with Daphne is concerned, now that you understand how sparing her life led to a bright future for the DRAGN transports, I’m sure you will have no objections about my revealing the details to my readers.

And was that a hologram of you I saw as I was walking in the park the other day? You seemed so real, though I was surprised you’d chosen to visit me covered with oil and wearing your grey jumpsuit. I saw your eyes for the first time, and I think you were as surprised to see me as I was to see you. I would almost swear it was really you, and not a hologram, except that you were much younger than you are now.

I am still working through the intricacies of your inventions, and am amazed and impressed by your achievements, especially given that you did much of your work underground away from the supervision of the Lunar regime. If you might further elucidate how you managed that I would be grateful.

I hope my missive finds you well, and that I am able to do your story justice in the coming month.

With my regards,

Lady Larke


Tune in next week for Lord Swansong’s reply!

And, how about you? Have you ever written your characters a letter or an email? What do you do to prepare for NaNoWriMo?

Playlist: Remember

Playlists are often the first to guide my story’s direction, and I make them constantly. In the case of my current novel, my playlist really surprised me and landed me smack dab in the middle of the Summer of Love, alongside the Apollo lunar missions, the release of Sgt. Pepper’s, and the Vietnam War. Who knew this is where I would end up? But here it is.

Be warned though, I don’t always choose the biggest hits because I like to feel as if I’m hearing the songs for the first time, as someone who lived during that time would.  And, though some songs on this list were released well into the 1970s, I like to think they were written in the 1960s and only released later.

I marvel at the power of these songs to hold me spellbound even after all these years. I hope they do the same for you.


Dance In The Smoke Argent Argent
California Dreamin’ The Mamas & the Papas If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears
Blinded By The Light Manfred Mann’s Earth Band The Roaring Silence
The Rain Song Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy
Dreamin’ of You Bob Dylan The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8 Tell Tale Signs-Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006
Dancing Barefoot The Patti Smith Group Wave
Maggie May Rod Stewart Every Picture Tells A Story
Light My Fire The Doors The Doors
From the Beginning Emerson, Lake & Palmer Trilogy
Let it Grow Eric Clapton 461 Ocean Boulevard
Love Alive Heart Little Queen
Angel Jimi Hendrix Cry of Love
Love Reign O’er Me The Who Quadrophenia
Dance The Night Away Cream Disraeli Gears
Unknown Song Pink Floyd Zabriskie Point (Soundtrack for the Motion Picture)
Ohio Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young So Far
Heart Full Of Soul The Yardbirds Greatest Hits Volume 1: 1964- 1966
While My Guitar Gently Weeps The Beatles The Beatles (White Album) [Disc 1]
The Pusher Steppenwolf Steppenwolf
Alone Again Or Love Forever Changes
Which Will Nick Drake Pink Moon
Woodstock Joni Mitchell Ladies of the Canyon
Scarborough Fair/Canticle Simon & Garfunkel The Graduate
Dust Fleetwood Mac Bare Trees
Stranger In a Strange Land The Byrds Turn! Turn! Turn!
Seagull Bad Company Bad Company
The Needle And The Damage Done Neil Young Harvest
Gimme Shelter The Rolling Stones Let It Bleed
Song to the Siren Tim Buckley Starsailor

To listen to this playlist on You Tube, click the linky, ‘Remember.’

Do you make playlists for your stories? And, what comes first: The story or the playlist? Or a little of both?

Conjuring Up Characters

Buckle up, folks. This post got a little long on me!

But a fellow student at How to Think Sideways had a question about how writers might understand their characters better, and as I explored my answer, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I was searching for a way to explain how my characters turned from nothing more than thought experiments into the companions, conspirators, and co-pilots of my novel-writing adventures.

Is there some sorcery involving a playlist, a handful of feathers, and a thousand words written under the light of the full moon that brings them to life? 

Probably not.

However, I think a part of me believes there’s sorcery involved. I call that part the Muse, and therein lies the key. My logical, rational self insists that I can’t possibly know what it is really like to be someone else, whether it’s a man or a marauding multi-tentacled supernova-eating sentient space being. (And I will leave it to my gentle readers to speculate upon the similarities between these two species!)

Unless we develop the means to read minds, I am stuck inside this head of mine forever. One brain, one human experience, one shot at this life.

I can hear the Muse already: “Boring!!”

(And, “What? I’m going to DIE?!)

In order to tap the well of experience, whether it’s my own forgotten memories, or some kind of conduit to a common human (or, heck, sentient) experience, the logical self, limited by my own perceptions, needs to let go of what is real, and allow me to believe these constructs actually exist. For them to be real, I can’t force the story on them. They must tell me the story, and I need to suspend my disbelief, on some level, for that to happen.

All of my writing exercises are predicated on that premise. Especially in the beginning stages, characters are fragile as soap bubbles to me. If I try to look too closely I will shatter the illusion and they might start to do things that don’t make sense.

Hauling them in for questioning under an unflattering fluorescent bulb is unlikely to uncover much that is interesting. How would you react if some stranger walked up to you and asked what is missing in your life?                  

You’d probably say, “Whoa—do I know you?”

I suppose I could search through my character’s imaginary rap sheet, and look up where she was born, where she lives and what kind of grades she got in school. But I have a better idea.

After all, I’m a writer. I have wings!

In free write mode, I can watch my characters from afar. A few hundred words a day will do it. I like to do this in my morning words which comes to 750 words, but the most important thing to me is that there’s no pressure. I just let the Muse ‘tell’ me what’s going on with this person. What does she do when no one is watching? What makes this character worth writing? Who are the people she cares about?

If I’m starting with an artifact or a world I ask, “Who would be worthy of such an artifact? Who would bestow it upon him?” Or: “Who is the most interesting person in this world? Why is he important?”

I note down basic things. Is he neat and orderly? Well-dressed? Slovenly? Boisterous? Withdrawn?  Timid? Arrogant? Does she smile a lot? Is she graceful? Awkward? Forthcoming?

Whether I’m starting with my gifted but world-weary guitarist, my cynical warrior, a disenchanted dragon-builder, or the flower child’s ghost, all of them have a story to show me if I just let the Muse out of his cage to lead me to it.

After a while, when I have an idea of where the character likes to hang out, I put on my reporter hat and pay them an imaginary visit, in free writing mode again. I’ll catch up with them in the woods, in a noisy bar, a parking lot, or a coffee shop, but usually it’s somewhere ‘public’. Again, it keeps up the illusion that I’m dealing with a real person, since in real life I wouldn’t meet someone in a private place like a bedroom or their home if I hardly knew them. At least, not at first!

At this stage yes/no questions work just fine for me. Even something easy like: “Are you cold?” works. Sounds simple, right? But if I get inside someone’s head, by asking, “Why?” I can find all kinds of interesting stuff that leads up to my character’s answer.

For instance, if you were in my head today, you’d know that I shivered all day at work. But if you went deeper, you’d find more. I was cold because my boss likes to crank down the air conditioning, since he thinks it will make the employees more productive, and I don’t turn the thermostat up because the more things I ask him for the less likely it will be that I get a raise.

That’s a lot of stuff going on my head for a simple question. I’ll bet a character can give a long answer like that too.

Your character might be cold because it’s dawn and all he’s had to sleep under last night is a thin blanket. He gave the thick blanket to his little sister, in exchange for an extra potato in his soup.

Or take my marauding multi-tentacled supernova-eating sentient space being. Absolute zero is really cold, and if only it could find a way to gather enough supernovas, it could build a cozy nebula and finally settle down and start a family!

If I let the Muse field these kinds of questions, suddenly I get all kinds of interesting answers—like what is missing in my character’s lives. Before I know it, I’m dealing with another story that cries out to be written.

How about you? Where do your characters come from? What kind of questions reveal the deepest recesses of your character’s psyche?

And, have you ever encountered a man you nearly mistook for a marauding multi-tentacled supernova-eating sentient space being?

Related posts:

Black Hair, Grey Eyes

Character Interview: Rigel Mondryan

Not Nicholas

Playlist: Noir Piano


Billy Joel and Elton John can take a well-deserved break, and let these artists, both old and new, take a turn at the ivories. The songs featured in this playlist are contemplative and melancholy, perfect for writing on a long dark night.

Piano Song Charlie Alex March In the End-EP
The Rain Falls and the Sky Shudders
Moby Songs 1993-1998
Murder Made History Death In June Peaceful Snow
Hypocritical Kiss Jack White Blunderbuss
He Films the Clouds, Pt. 2 Maybeshewill Not for Want of Trying
Miles and Miles Minus Story My Ion Truss
Armageddon Piano Trevor Rabin Armageddon (Score)
October U2 October
Winter Kills Yaz Upstairs At Eric’s
Opening Philip Glass Ensemble Glassworks
Between Sheets Imogen Heap Ellipse
Sonata Bombay Dub Orchestra Bombay Dub Orchestra
Falling, Catching Agnes Obel Philharmonics
The Hill Markéta Irglová Once (Movie Soundtrack)
Perfect Circle R.E.M. Murmur
Mad World (Alternate Version) Michael Andrews & Gary Jules Donnie Darko (Music from the Motion Picture Score)
Lights in the Sky Nine Inch Nails The Slip
Sentimental Porcupine Tree Fear of a Blank Planet
An Other Name Thomas Newman Café del Mar, Vol. 8
Turn to Stone Ingrid Michaelson Turn to Stone–Single
Amok Diary of Dreams Alive
Doll Helen Jane Long Porcelain

As always, if you want to hear this one, click on my youtube link. Do you have a favorite piano song, or a favorite writing playlist?

Celebrating One Year of Blogging Fun

I’m surprised at this myself, but I’ve been on A Scenic Route for a whole year now! I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge this milestone with some thoughts about how I ended up here.

I pretty much stumbled into blogging. WordPress makes it incredibly easy to start a blog, so the temptation was great to come in and take a peek. What I discovered thrilled me. Themes, ready to fill with pictures and words! Widgets to track my word counts! Fonts galore! Spam blockers! I immediately set about making this place feel like home, rearranging the furniture so that my words might feel comfy here.

It never occurred to me that I was going to get visitors. I was just playing around. I’m a super shy writer. In fact, when I showed my blog to a writer friend, who knows about my inhibitions, she asked me, “If you’re afraid to show your work, why do you have a blog?”

Well, she had it exactly right. That is the perfect reason for me to have a blog. Blogging has been a great way for me to start overcoming my self-doubt, five hundred to a thousand words at a time. Many of my first posts were password protected, partly because they contain copyrighted How to Think Sideways course material, but also because exposing so much of myself to the world was downright scary for me. Clicking the publish button and the thought of someone coming upon my words induced stomach cramps.

Image via

Because writing isn’t supposed to induce gastric distress, I knew this was something I had to work through. I resolved to post something once week and wrote about anything that crossed my path. (Surfing by moonlight, anyone?) Usually though, I ended up with writing related posts: research discoveries, progress reports, playlists, or character interviews. The random nature of my posts fit in with the title and intent of the blog–to chronicle my writing journey.

The first few months were challenging for me. Even after the piece was published, I would usually edit it at least four or five times. I couldn’t imagine my words ending up in someone’s inbox, where my leaps of logic, typos, and grammar faux pas would be exposed for all the world to see.

Before I knew it though, I found myself looking forward to putting something up on the blog. I got a deep sense of satisfaction seeing my words up here, neat and edited, with pictures on the side, just like the pro blogs do. I looked at the Freshly Pressed blogs and aspired to be just like them, polished and pretty and popular.

Then, I gained a follower. Just one was enough to make me feel that I was now big time. The pressure was on, and I felt my posts had to be more perfect than before. Lo and behold, my practice paid off. I only edit my words once (or twice … ) after they post.

Now that I have a few followers—and believe me, the fact that you have invited me into your inbox means more to me than you can even know—I feel I should let the world know what joining me on A Scenic Route means.

My goal from the beginning was to make my blog a peaceful place to visit and read about my words and my stories. No hustle, no credit cards, no exhortations to visit this or that. No blatant pitches to buy my book—not that my book is anywhere near being finished. A Scenic Route strives to be a one stop shop for fun and relaxation. My writing is my holiday, my rest stop, my few hours of escape from the hassles of the everyday. I want my blog to be the same.

What is your vision for your blog?  How long have you been blogging?

Playlist: Precipitation

… Like the fingers of angels drawing life from the parched ground. 

Rain and music have always felt like a part of the same continuum to me, so maybe that’s why I have linked them so inextricably in my novel. Naturally, my fascination with rain led to a playlist, and to coincide with the wettest month of the year in the midwestern United States, I offer this one.

Lots of variety here, folk, rock, retro, alternative. It seems lots of songwriters share my affinity for stormy weather. Enjoy!

Nice Weather for Ducks Lemon Jelly Lost Horizons
Rain In The Summertime The Alarm Eye of the Hurricane
Shadows In The Rain The Police Zenyatta Mondatta
Fool In The Rain Led Zeppelin In Through The Out Door
It Never Rains Dire Straits Love Over Gold
Flood Jars of Clay Jars of Clay
Tired of the Rain Black Stone Cherry Black Stone Cherry
Everyone Thinks I’m a Raincloud (When I’m Not Looking) Guided by Voices Half Smiles of the
So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry) REM Reckoning
Prayers For Rain The Cure Disintegration
Rainy Monday Shiny Toy Guns We Are Pilots
Naked Eye Luscious Jackson Fever In Fever Out
Let It Rain [Radio Edit] 4 Strings Ultra. Trance 2
Purify Balligomingo Purify Remixes EP
Reign UNKLE & Ian Brown Never, Never, Land
When the Rain Falls (12” Version) Mike Monday Smorgasbord
November Rain Guns N’Roses Use Your Illusion I
Steel Rain Chris Cornell Euphoria Morning
Love, Reign O’er Me Pearl Jam Love, Reign O’er Me (As featured in the Motion Picture “Reign Over Me”)
Let It Rain Eric Clapton Eric Clapton
Riders On The Storm The Doors L.A. Woman
The Rain Song Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy
MLK U2 The Unforgettable Fire
Here Comes the Rain Again Coury Palermo Boxsideout V.I.
Florida Rain Matt Bauer The Island Moved In The Storm

Click here to listen to this playlist on youtube. 

What’s your favorite song about precipitation?

Playlist: Living Proof

If you go to southern California and drive along the PCH-1, somewhere south of Newport Beach, and north of La Jolla you will find the Hacienda Beach Bar, and on most nights they’ll have live music. The house band is called Living Proof, and the other day, when I stopped by, I found their set list from the night before, scrawled in Magic Marker and taped up on the wall next to the stage.

Figures, they’d start with Van Halen. Show offs. But there’s something for everyone here, covers of classics, new songs destined to become classics, and something obscure enough to be written by the guys themselves.

Here’s what it might have sounded like if you’d been there. Enjoy.

Running With The Devil Van Halen Best of Volume I
Never Gonna Stop (The Red Red Kroovy) Rob Zombie Rob Zombie: Past, Present & Future
Champagne Cavo Champagne-Single
Drift & Die Puddle of Mudd Come Clean
Heaven Beside You Alice In Chains Alice In Chains
Battle of Evermore The Lovemongers Singles (Movie Soundtrack)
Devil’s Daughter Silvertide Show & Tell
Burn It To the Ground Nickelback Dark Horse
Breaking the Habit Linkin Park Meteora
Let It Die Foo Fighters Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
Testify Carney Mr. Green, Vol. 1
Bloodhounds On My Trail The Black Angels Passover
Shuffle Your Feet Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Howl
The Godspell According to A.A. Newcombe The Brian Jonestown Massacre Bringing It All Back Home Again
Don’t Fear the Reaper Retromotive Corpses & Tightrope Walkers
Wanted Dead or Alive Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door Guns N’Roses Greatest Hits

To play the whole list on youtube: click here.

A Christmas Playlist

This week, I offer my Christmas playlist. Some are old favorites, some are new discoveries, all of them are sweet. Enjoy and celebrate the holidays!

Christmas Time is Here (Vocal) Vince Guaraldi Trio A Charlie Brown Christmas
Carol of the Bells Haberdashery Christmas-EP
Christmas Sweet: Carol of the Bells
Mannheim Steamroller Christmas (Mannheim Steamroller)
In Dulci Jubilo Mannheim Steamroller A Fresh Aire Christmas
Ave Maria Version 2 Chet Atkins
O Come, O Come Emmanuel Enya And Winter Came
River Sarah McLachlan Wintersong
Skating Vince Guaraldi Trio A Charlie Brown Christmas
2000 Miles Coldplay (Pretenders Cover) Live
The Holly and the Ivy George Winston December
Prelude to Cello Suite No. 1 Michael Hedges A Winter’s Solstice, Vol. 2
New England Morning William Ackerman and Joan Jeanrenaud A Winter’s Solstice Vol. 1
Greensleeves Liz Story A Winter’s Solstice Vol. 1
O Holy Night Haberdashery Christmas-EP
Coventry Carol Mannheim Steamroller Christmas (Mannheim Steamroller)
Snow George Winston December

Link to this playlist on YouTube at Christmas Playlist
(Images courtesy of Richard Dudley, Jenny Erickson, and Stephen J. Sullivan @ stock.xchng)

Hitting the Spot: For Music Lovers

All right music lovers. Just an update on my latest fix for my music addiction. It’s free, it’s easy, and it pays the musicians for the music they make. It’s called Spotify.

After downloading the free software, a window quite similar to iTunes appears where the user can enter the name of a band or song and choose from a list of matches. Even among my admittedly odd music choices, I have yet not to find one of them. I can make playlists of my selections, with the only drawback being that the playlist can’t be shuffled. The free option has occasional ads, and the omnipresent plug for Facebook on the screen, but for the price and convenience I haven’t found a better option yet. You do have to be on Facebook to get an account, which is something to consider, but so far I haven’t had any problems with it.

Happy listening!