Undertale was something that honestly passed me by at first. I missed the initial hype about this game. I am so, so glad that I didn’t let it slip by completely. Undertale tells the story of a human falling down a hole into another realm ruled by monsters. After a feud several years prior, monsters were banished underground by humans and have been searching for a way to pass through the barrier. The human naturally also wants to find a way through it to get back home and so embarks on a journey to get there, encountering oodles of odd characters along the way.
Late in October at one of the Halloween Readings that I organize, I listened as several fellow writers and friends discussed plans to partake in this year’s NaNoWriMo. Never heard of it? It’s like a month-long marathon for us writers. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. Think of it as a writing spirit quest if you will. A writer commits to the challenge of writing 50,000 words in one month’s time, therefore writing an entire (or most of) one book. In order to accomplish this seemingly Herculean effort, a writer must write at least 1,667 words a day to finish on time.
However easy it might seem, there is something that we writers seem to excel in all the better: procrastination. It’s one of my top ten talents actually. I didn’t decide that I was going to join the scores of writers participating in NaNoWriMo until 9 days into the month. I should have had 15,0003 words written. Here we are now 19 days into the month and I still have less than 10,000 words. I’m supposed to be more than 1/2 way completed by now.
How would you capture the depth of the ocean in your writing? How would you creatively sculpt its darkness, its mystery, its vastness, and its beauty into words? How would you even go about composing such a piece? Everything about John Luther Adams “Become Ocean” does this. There is a natural grace, a gentle ambiance, and an escalating reverence that perfectly captures how mankind loves, venerates, disrespects, and is in awe of the ocean. But the song isn’t just about what the ocean is; it is about becoming it. It’s about transforming and transporting.
I was lucky enough to have been introduced to “Becoming Ocean” through the Discover Weekly playlist in Spotify, an online music program. The playlist updates weekly, introducing you to 30 new songs each Monday. Last week was when I was graced with “Becoming Ocean”. It is a collaborative effort of composer John Luther Adams, Ludovic Morlot, and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.
Some of you probably caught my Horror-FAVE Friday blog featuring Lisa: The Painful RPG and all the things about it that make it an outstanding game. I briefly touched on the music composed by the game’s creator, Austin Jorgensen, or as he prefers to call himself, Widdly 2 Diddly. There is a very eclectic mix of tunes in Lisa that call for more atmospheric, scene-setting pieces, as well as outright pumped up beats. Since the game contains a lot of RPG battles, there’s a fair amount of dubstep, hiphoppy, rap, and rock type pieces and even some that are a bit more undefinable. The premise of the game revolves around Brad, who is living in a post-apocalyptic land called Olathe with some of his childhood friends. All of the women and children of the world have vanished in something known as the Flash. Brad happens upon a baby girl who he names Buddy and takes it upon himself to raise her and protect her. When she’s taken from him, he vows to get her back using any means necessary. Thus begins his humorous, depressing, hopeful, and often depraved journey.
Last night in an effort to sit down and finally make some headway with my current WIP, I plopped down in front of my word processor, brewed a nice pot of coffee, and opened up the story. It’s sitting at page 200 and in my mind, I’m about 2/3 of the way done with the novel. I had hopes of finishing it up by the middle of September and then allow it to sit so that I could come back with fresh eyes later. Except that I have now found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place with my protagonist. She’s injured, in confinement, and with very few (and I mean VERY few) options of escape. As I’ve plugged along, I’ve known that this was going to take lots and lots of revising and editing, that the story seemed off-kilter the way it was and could use tweaking. But I wanted to save it for when I’d actually completed the 2nd draft of the book. (The first draft was only fifty pages long and I’d decided to reinvent everything and start over).
In my opinion, the most moving of music is always the music that contains no lyrics. Unless they are vague, lyrics tend to force a certain set of images into one’s mind when listening to a song. They set a theme, they set a story, and a character and really put walls up. They box in your ideas for what this song could be about and who it’s written for. Instrumental music is freer. There’s no male or female vocalist, there is no particular story being told other than the one the instruments tell, and you can feel anything from pain to pleasure as you listen. While I’ve had inspiration from a handful of songs with lyrics while working on books, I primarily listen to instrumental, soundtrack, or ambient music and can dive into a story so much deeper this way. As of late while working on my apocalyptic novel, The Wild Dark, I have fallen in love with a particular composer who I had not had the pleasure of listening to before: the wonderful Arvo Pärt.
(Pictured from left to right: Top; Scott Goudsward, Peter Dudar, Josiah Pitchforth, and Duane E. Coffill. Bottom: Dale Phillips, Katherine Silva)
This past weekend, I battled hordes of cosplaying people and visited Port-Con, an annual convention celebrating geek culture in South Portland. This was my second time doing an event like this and so naturally, I was a little nervous about some things going in. For one, I was pretty sure that some of the costumes I saw, I wouldn’t be able to unsee (I’m referring to you, man in the pink spandex suit). Some were outrageous, some were super cool, and some were unidentifiable for me. There were lots of anime characters at this con, which is one of the areas I’m not too versed on. I was able to recognize some video game characters here and there and some obvious Doctor Who impersonators (of which there were many). Didn’t see any Harry Potter which struck me as odd, though.
Music can rejuvenate. When you are feeling at your most tired, lonely, or sad, it can have the power to bring you back out of it, to lift you back on your feet and push you forward. As it has been raining a ridiculous amount this past week, I’ve fallen into that funk that affects you when you haven’t seen the sun in a while. I haven’t wanted to write or really work on anything. And now that the sun is out, I’m finding it very hard to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Thankfully, I’ve found a musical artist who can infuse me with that much needed dose of “You’re a bad ass. You can do this and then, have your fun.” That’s right. That musical remedy is none other than Blackmill, aka Robert J. Card.
Card is a twenty-something musician from the UK who has been producing music since he got an acoustic guitar for his eighth birthday–according to Blackmill’s official Facebook page. Blackmill is a more recent project of his, a blissful combination of dubstep and dance swirled with calm and speckled with house beats. I’m not entirely sure when I heard Blackmill for the first time, but I know it was while working on my latest book, “Memento Mori” and that the song “Evil Beauty” has been a major inspiration in that and other projects. There is just something about those melodic beats that makes it easier to concentrate, to push aside distractions both mental and physical (I’m looking at you, dirty dishes!) and sink into a story. Today, I’ll be sharing a couple of Blackmill’s tunes with you and describing what I see when I listen to them. Enjoy!
Summer is coming up mighty fast here in Maine (although it did just snow in Presque Isle a few days ago. True story.). The thing of it is…as we start to have warmer and warmer weather, I find myself craving the need to work on my Night Time, Dotted Line sequel. Night Time, Dotted Line was a comedic novel I wrote a couple years ago involving two very different and complete strangers who embarked on a cross-country road trip together. It’s a novel of friendship and through the strange situations that these characters find themselves in, they ultimately learn that dealing with their own issues alone is causing more pain and that they need to open up and trust others. Wow. That doesn’t sound very comedic at all. But believe me, it is. When I finished the book, I knew that their story hadn’t been told completely; there needed to be one more book. And so, over the last couple years, I’ve been developing the story or how I’d like the story to go. Music is a HUGE inspiration for this. Recently, I played a wonderful game by Tim Schafer called “Broken Age”. Not only was I blown away by the art direction and story, but the music, composed by Peter McConnell, especially called to me. It reminded me of my characters and of the journey they still need to take.
I made a list not too long ago of my top ten video game soundtracks. I missed one. I missed a major one. I was so busy concentrating on newer games that I forgot one of my absolute favorites from my childhood. Legend of Dragoon is a brilliant RPG in a similar vein as Final Fantasy that revolves around a war between humans, a race called the Winglies, and, well, dragons. Think Game of Thrones: Young Adult edition. Though the game did deal with some pretty dark material here and there, it fast became a cult favorite for thousands. Its characters, story, and music have stayed with me for years. Occasionally, I’ll break it out and play it on the PS3 just to relive the adventures of Dart, Shana, Albert, Rose and the others.