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.
I love a band that can inspire me no matter what genre I’m writing. Presently, I’ve found my mind leaping across three different writing projects in the last few weeks, trying to get work done on all of them and not go crazy at the same time. Between doing that, working full-time, and writing weekly blog posts…well…let’s just say I like to stay busy. alt-J has provided numerous opportunities to immerse myself in the story, no matter what the genre, and to get right down to business. This has been the case with a certain travel comedy sequel I’ve been planning (you’ll know the one), a short story directly linked to my latest book “Memento Mori” and my coup-de-grace of projects, my untitled apocalyptic novel. There is something undefined about alt-J’s style. Certainly one could imagine blazing across the country in a car, the wind in your hair from the open window as “Left Hand Free” blasts, or trekking along a deserted road in the wake of a catastrophe to “Hunger of the Pine”. That’s how amazing and diverse their music is and why I’ve been listening to them so much. Today, I’m going to share with you a few of their songs and describe what I see when I listen to them. Enjoy!
I have fond memories of playing the PSOne console. It was a video game system that my brother and I shared and it was housed up in the attic of our house. The attic wasn’t creepy and dark like most would assume. The sewing machine was up there, with a couple beds, my mom’s craft things, and the old Performa Apple computer. There would sometimes be daddy long legs scaling the sloped ceilings and sometimes you would have to curl up in a blanket in the winter months when you sat down to play a game. My favorite memory of playing Rayman 2 is with a hot cup of peach tea on a sunny afternoon. I let the sun and the tea warm me and played through the adventures of limbless Rayman, trying to defeat robot pirates as they took over his world, all to the sound of a diverse and playful soundtrack. I eventually sold the game in favor of another one (can’t remember which) and continued on. But that memory stayed with me: the sun, the tea, and the music from that game. I eventually tracked it down and bought it again and every once in a while, give myself a refresher of the environments and the fun tunes that accompanied this game.
This is not the first time I’ve done a dance with Tomb Raider music before on this blog. Earlier, I talked about how much the soundtrack to “Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness” (composed by Peter Connelly and Martin Iveson) had inspired several scenes for my latest book in The Monstrum Chronicles and earlier projects (including an earlier version of Night Time, Dotted Line when it was a thriller and not a comedy.) Admittedly, the Tomb Raider series is one of my favorites from my childhood, especially the first two games. When I discovered I could play the games in the CD player and listen to all of the different musical tracks, I was beyond excited. I was writing a fantasy novel about cats at the time (NOT the vampire/cat book…Ugh) and listened to these songs as inspiration. Losing myself in a song allows me to imagine places that don’t seem to be of earthly creation. It’s easier to create a place that is more sinister, or magical, or mysterious if there is a distraction from my everyday surroundings. At the time, that was being bullied at school and listening to my brother practice his trumpet. (Sorry, bro.)
A couple years ago, I was introduced to a short animated film called Varmints. This 24 minute film covers themes of deforestation and urbanization in a touching and inspiring narrative. While I was impressed with the film, its music, composed by Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson, was what I truly enjoyed about it. The kind of music that is subtle and dark and lovely in its composition because it’s not trying too hard to be noticed. It complimented the imagery on screen and hinted at the darker themes that the film was highlighting. I kept an eye on his other projects and was excited to see that he composed for the film, “Prisoners”, a thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman. Both protagonists in their pursuit for justice and understanding, begin to slide down a blurring path or morality and find themselves doing things they never thought they’d be capable of. As of late, Johannsson has won a Golden Globe Award for his work on the Stephen Hawking biopic, “The Theory of Everything”.
There are those of you out there that have toiled with the idea of writing a horror story. It may have been just a quick campfire tale, a one-shot Creepypasta, a full-length novel, or even the background for a survival horror game. There are the cliche ways to go about doing this. Five teenagers meet at their house in the woods, one by one are separated, and end up dying horrible violent deaths (Only Joss Whedon has managed to re-invent this genre and do it like a boss, in my opinion). Then, there are the truly fun and unique ways to go about writing horror. This is what I enjoy. However, there’s always that daunting task of how to go about starting a project like this. Sometimes taking that first step can be the most intimidating thing you do. For the lazy, I was horrified to discover a wiki page on how to write a horror story. A WIKI. Are you freaking kidding me?
Formatting with Microsoft Word: A Guide to Frustration
Yes, the above picture sums up my reaction every year I must format and layout a paperback with Microsoft Word. I am currently undergoing this mission again as I work on the paperback version of my latest novel “Memento Mori”. I am fully aware that there are other programs I can use for this task; but since I’m practically surviving on rice and bread right now, I’m not in the position to make that kind of change. I’m also aware that there is a 2013 version, which doesn’t seem to have cleared up some of the issues that have caused me problems in the predecessor. After having spent a substantial amount of time dealing with page alignment, headers and footers, page numbers, glossary writing, and the always tricky page breaks, I’ve decided to create a guide to how I feel about each one of them. Continue reading →
So, if you live in Maine (or anywhere in New England for that matter), this picture above probably describes how you felt today. On three separate occasions today, I spent time digging out my door from impending snowdrifts, and even futilely attempted to dig out the staircase at ground level before the wind filled it all back in again.
Doing all that work in the bitter cold and cutting wind was, however, a welcome experience for me. Why? Because as I’ve now sat down with a nice hot cup of tea, I’ve returned to an apocalyptic story set during the Maine winter that I’d begun a couple years ago and lost my focus on. The characters have been speaking to me for a while as I’ve been working on other projects and I know I can’t ignore them any longer. I feel as though I’ve found the right mood, the right voice, and the right way to tell this story now and I can’t wait to really buckle down and work on it.
Horror media, whether it is a film, video game, or book loves to employ jump scares. What exactly is a jump scare you may be wondering? Well, let’s put it this way: Say your main character is driving to a party at a friend’s house outside the city. All of a sudden, their car breaks down. They’re on an empty stretch of road and are forced to walk to find help. After trekking through the woods for over an hour, they happen upon a derelict mansion and go inside searching for a phone or something to aid them with fixing the car. The house is old, dark, and creaks with every gust of wind. The character digs out a flashlight and begins exploring. And then…this happens…