A New Undertaking…

Hello. Yes, I have been woefully absent on the blog yet again due to being crazy busy with work and life and the usual. Unfortunately, I haven’t been working on any new Cooking Adventures, nor any new Inspiration Through Music blogs. I have, however, developed a new idea for a bi-weekly/monthly blog that I think could be quite interesting.

Not too long ago, Amazon released a list of “A 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime”. In that list are several classics such as Orwell’s 1984, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Ellison’s The Invisible Man along with newer classics like Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and Zusak’s The Book Thief. 

Out of the 100 books on this list, I’ve read 13, and started but didn’t finish 2 others. Several of these are classic novels that are usually required reading in school. I’ve decided to work my way down the list and read the books I haven’t read, including the ones I started to read but didn’t finish. My goal is to finish them, however, if I find that I’m dragging through them, I will probably set them aside and move onto the next book.

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Inspiration Through Music: Toh Kay and Streetlight Manifesto

I’ve been introduced to so much wonderful music in the last few months, particularly things in the ska genre, which I had largely been disinterested in before. Not sure why. But I wholeheartedly regret that now. There are so, so many great bands in that genre that have been inspirations for the seeds of stories I’d like to work on. Several of these ideas have come from the works of Streetlight Manifesto and consequently, Toh Kay (the band’s lead singer) who has done acoustic covers of many of the songs. While I’d love to do an Inspiration Through Music post for just Toh Kay’s acoustic covers, you can’t really focus on him without also talking about Streetlight Manifesto. So, today’s Inspiration Through Music will be a bit of a split between the two of them.

Tomas Kalnoky AKA Toh Kay, is a Czech born American musician. While his music with Streetlight Manifesto has a much more upbeat, harder, and motivated feel to it, his solo albums are much smoother and often times, reveal a sadder tone to them. It’s amazing how one can listen to the original Streetlight Manifesto version of a song and then the Toh Kay version and feel as though they’ve listened to two completely different songs. But I love this. And I love that certain songs can be interpreted in both lights. I have a couple of songs from Toh Kay and Streetlight Manifesto that are on a playlist for my latest project (both versions of the same songs) and I’ve found that both work incredibly well for different parts of the story.

My latest project takes place in a fictional beach-side resort town where a vampire (name hasn’t been decided yet) is caught in the moral implications of his lifestyle and the jobs he’s often paid to do, the innocent people that are affected by it, and the dissolution of his own humanity the longer he does it. Toh Kay’s music speaks more to this character’s inner struggles, while Streetlight Manifesto’s songs are a bit more on point with action scenes integral to the plot. Because while I’ve described what this book is about in a deep and kind of nebulous way, it really is supposed to be more of a horror comedy and the playlist for it is chock full of other ska classics. Doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its serious moments though and I can get inside my main character’s head more when I’m listening to those pieces by Toh Kay.

So, today, I’m going to share with you a few of the Toh Kay and Streetlight Manifesto songs that I have added to my playlist along with a couple of generic scenes to illustrate what I’m thinking when I listen to them. Enjoy!

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Inspiration Through Music: Peter Mulvey

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If you’ve been following the Monstrum Chronicles blog for some time now, you’ll know that I love discovering new music and writing alongside said music. Recently, my boyfriend introduced me to a musician whose style can only be described as part Ray LaMontagne, part phenomenal guitar, and part…sunshine and coffee. Have you ever listened to someone sing and been able to practically see them smile through their voice? Peter Mulvey is this musician.

I was lucky enough to meet him at a recent performance in Hallowell at the beginning of June. He’s one of those people with a charming personable presence, the kind who can entertain with word and song and that you can never grow tired of listening to. He’s become my go to for car rides, down time in the house, and yes, even for certain story ideas. As I’ve been thinking more and more about starting a sequel for Night Time, Dotted Line (my dramedy), I’ve found that Mulvey’s voice resonates with both of the main characters, Calleigh and Spencer, well; particularly with Calleigh though.

Today, I’m going to share a few of Peter Mulvey’s songs with you along with some of the images that his songs conjure in my mind. This is a fun little exercise that you can do in your own spare time. Just take a pencil and paper, play to the songs below, and see what comes to mind when you listen. Enjoy!

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That Time I Accidentally Stabbed My Hand While Chipping Stale Brownies Out Of A Baking Pan a.k.a. New Cooking Adventures

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Don’t let the title fool you; this entry in itself is not a Cooking Adventure yet. But I have toyed with the possibility of bringing back video Cooking Adventures this year and the desire to do it is slowly overtaking me. One of the biggest reasons that I didn’t try to do them last year were because I was in the process of buying a new house and since I’ve moved into said house, I’ve been coming to grips with all of its various quirks. The kitchen is one of these.

It’s a beautiful kitchen. There are open beams, a large window overlooking the lawn, plenty of counter space, and lots of light and warmth…in the summer. In the winter, it has become the coldest room in the house due to a lack of insulation and the fact that it was an added room to the 1890 cape. So, in order to ensure that it’s warm enough for me to spend time in there, I’ve had to put up an insulated curtain over the big, light-bringing window and put on a space-heater. Filming in such a dark room isn’t very easy.

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Inspiration Through Music: Moonlight Original Soundtrack

I’m often drawn to the understated elegant soundtracks. They don’t sound grandiose; they don’t sound imperial or adventurous or over-the-top. The smallest nuances in how the individual tracks are composed, the development in the pieces that grow along with the characters and plot… These are the soundtracks I hunger for.

Recently, I found myself checking out the nominees for best original soundtrack for the Golden Globes. Of course, “La La Land” was the winner of the award with its whimsical, jazzy soundtrack. It’s something fun and different and puts people in a good mood when they listen to it. It’s a phenomenal soundtrack and for cooking or hanging around the house, it’s a joy to listen to. But for writing…I look for the darker more serious soundtracks. This is why I was immediately enamored by Nicholas Britell’s score for the Golden Globe best drama motion picture winner, “Moonlight”.

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Writer Thoughts Thursday: The First Draft

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Writing the first draft is a wondrous experience for the most part. You have all these ideas swirling around you that you want to incorporate: characters that seem cool, smart, funny,  and sexy; places that will make your readers long to travel there (or stay as far away from it as possible); a plot so Machiavellian, you wonder if you should be examined by a psychologist… The possibilities are limitless.

You know what’s wrong with a first draft though?

The possibilities are…limitless.

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Top 10 Video Game Soundtracks in 2016

And just like that it’s the end of 2016. I realize I wasn’t as active as I’d purported I’d be at the beginning of the year. I owe that to moving into a new house though. The transition has eaten up a lot of my valuable time. Not only that but I’ve spent much of my autumn beginning a new book and when I do that, I tend to dig in deep and not come up for air. That being said, I’d like to change the topic back to what this blog post is really all about: my top ten picks for video game soundtracks this year!

Several of you readers know I’m a sucker for video game soundtracks. I’ve always been a fan of film scores and in the past few years have developed a love for these equally arresting and inspiring albums. I didn’t want to break with tradition so here I am at midnight on the 30th/31st of December to share with you the soundtracks writers who love music should buy. But why you ask? Keep reading and you’ll see…

#10: Dead Secret Soundtrack by Ben Prunty

Why:  The  Dead Secret soundtrack begins with jazz-inspired flavors and some Asian influences to fit into the storyline. Because it’s a murder mystery, there’s an air of suspicion and curiosity in each piece, growing darker and darker as the game progresses. However, it’s the tracks that are most ambient that stood out most to me. In particular, WOODCUTTER (the theme of the antagonist) is one of the most bone-chilling on the soundtrack and inspires fear from its minimalist drumming. Another is “Permanently Altered” which I listened to several times while working on my latest novel. I recommend this to anyone working on crime or noir fiction, or perhaps something historical in the 1920-1950’s. Track picks: WOODCUTTER, Kwaidan, Permanently Altered, What were you up to?

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October Update (Yes…I know…I’m a lazy bum)

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I know. Oh, believe me, I know.

It’s been months since the last update. I was thinking (hoping) I’d be on a more regular schedule following my move but it’s been harder than ever to stick to one. I’ve barely had time to write (a sentence I hope I never have to utter again) during these last several weeks. The house has required a butt-load of attention. I’ve been doing lots of painting, yard work, and decorating to make it feel more homey. It’s coming along. It won’t be done this year. It probably won’t be done next year. But at this point, I have a few rooms completed or nearly completed.

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Inspiration Through Music: Abzu Soundtrack

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At least once in your lifetime, you’ve put on the radio in your car or on the internet or your digital music player and went about your daily activities. Somewhere within the mix of songs you listened to, there came that one song, the one that made you stop and listen in awe to it, one that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It impressed you, thrilled you, made you want to listen to it over and over again. Years ago, I found that feeling with Austin Wintory’s soundtrack to the game “Journey”. It was plaintive, arresting, and called to a deeper part of me. Now, I’ve found a similar impression again with Wintory’s soundtrack to the game “Abzu”.

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Horror FAVE Friday: Inside by Playdead

I’ve been waiting years for this one. YEARS.

I didn’t get to try Playdead’s first game, Limbo, until well after it had released. I still fell head-over-heels in love with it. Everything from the monochromatic environments, to the ambient soundtrack, to the simple side-scrolling puzzle platforming… Limbo remained one of my favorite games to play for several years and the Limbo soundtrack, composed by Martin Stig Andersen, is my absolute favorite writing music (even though there are only six tracks). When I heard that Playdead was developing a new game, the mysterious INSIDE, I knew it would be just as atmospheric and somehow even more intense than its predecessor. I couldn’t have been more right.

Utilizing splashes of red here and there while keeping mostly to greyscale, the game features an unnamed boy as he creeps through woods, farmyards, water, and industrial locations, all while hiding and being chased by an unknown faction of people. The game hooks you early on by showing this group taking a van full of people away in the rain to an undisclosed location. You’re then sent into a pulse-pounding chase as you’re spotted and forced to flee, dodging gunfire and snarling dogs.

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