Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sunday Musings: June 1 2014


Did you find time this week to giggle and dance like no one was watching? Sure hope so.

This week we’re going to fly with Muse author, Heather Greenis' suggestion:

Do authors integrate music into the stories.  I know a few of us write with music playing in the background.

Chris...for editing I tend to play opera in the background as it breaks the silence but because I don't know the words or really the music by name, it doesn't distract me.

When I come across music in manuscripts I'm editing, well...unless it's a period piece (even set in the '80s is a period piece) you want to watch out for music. Outside of dating your piece, I've found some...and this is from reviewing as doesn't match the character's age. It fits more with the author's memory and tastes.

Let alone needing permissions  LOL.

However, it can set a mood which can help write the mood

In Broken Bonds, one of the major characters is a musician. She plays an alien stringed instrument called a rill. I'm a wind instrument player myself, so I researched stringed instruments because I needed to picture the blasted thing, know what I thought it sounded like, etc. I decided it was shaped something like a lute, and played with the instrument in one's lap, rather like an autoharp. It came in various sizes. I wrote the words to several songs for my character, Nidrani, but I haven't done the music.  The instrument plays a significant role in the book, but, of course, most of the stuff about the instrument itself didn't explicitly make it into the story.

In the fourth Aleyne novel, the one I'm trying to finish up,  another major character plays the piano, and, again, this plays a significant role in the story.

I tend to use music in my novels. Our stereo goes on shortly after we rise and isn't turned off until after dinner, when we're ready to watch the television. Jazz, classical, country, talk radio, etc.  My characters have an enjoyment for tunes. 

In the first book in the Natasha Saga, Natasha's Dream, concerts and theatre are mentioned. Music is carried through the entire 4 books.

I don’t really use music that much in my stories. However, in my new novel, When My Life Changed, coming out this fall probably, one of the characters has “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as her ringtone for one of her friends. I don’t need music to write and usually I can write when it’s silent. I have thought about adding music, but seeing how I had to go through so much trouble to add quotes from Dr. Seuss to my first novel, I think it would be difficult to add song titles and cost a lot of money. I know that videos of TV shows sometimes need to change songs because they couldn’t get the rights cheaper.

I do like the idea of using music to create an environment or as a historical marker, but so far I haven’t needed to do that.

When writing I prefer to have music on (or the TV) because I cannot stand silence. Besides, if the writing is time-specific, it sometimes helps stir memories or emotion (the Vietnam War) or helps create an atmosphere (music from the Civil War or Cavalry songs from the 1800s Western Plains). Only twice have I integrated music into my writing; once is in the forthcoming SHARING RACHEL. She loves classical music, so I did research and a lot of listening in an attempt to describe the music that is interwoven throughout the novel. The second time is the sequel PRAIRIE MUSE, except this music was from the Vietnam War era. Bottom line, when writing, music (or TV) is essential to me.

I don't usually listen to music when I write, though I usually sit outside when I can, and then I have the music of birds and the wind, or water if I go by the river. I'll usually only listen to music if there are loud noises around that I want to block out. Sometimes I listen to classical music, like Vivaldi or instrumentals from movies like Lord of the Rings. I've tried to listen to music with words, but it usually just distracts me, and when I re-read what I wrote, I might find some words that are completely out of place, which turn out to be words from the song I was listening to. It definitely makes you think about how people can be affected in their work by what noises or music there is around them.

I don't have music playing in the background when I write. I have HGTV on in another room. The changing of the shows acts as a sort of time keeper. (Yes, I know the computer has the time in the bottom right, but for me this works. :))

A couple of specific songs have influenced my writing. The first one will date me terribly, but oh, well. It's Barry Manilow. I love all of his pieces, but Weekend in New England always gets me. He talks about the rocky coast of Maine. (My favorite state.) When I write, I want to capture the passion, he expresses in his songs. I have a long way to go.

The second piece of music is by a composer introduced to us on our last trip to Maine. Two sweet ladies in a small gift store had the best music playing. We asked what it was and they said it was by Tim Janis. We bought 3 of his CDs. They are all great, but my favorite piece is Water's Edge from the CD of the same name.  Oh, boy does he capture the spirit and beauty of the state, absolutely stirring--like standing on the bow of a sailing ship. Interestingly my WIP is set in Maine.

I know lots of folks have whole playlists with their writing. I'm so bad with names, I had to go look these up. That's probably why it doesn't work well for me. :) But like everything in writing. Find what works for you and stick with it. :)


I never listen to music while I am writing…it is much too distracting for me! I love music and feel very inspired by it. However, I frequently find myself singing along, or wanting to get up and dance. In order to really focus on my writing, I need complete silence.

In Black Cats and Ballet Slippers, my main character, Gemma, is a ballerina. Although I don't use specific names of songs or music in the book, music is definitely a very important part of dance.

A lot of times I come up with playlists of songs that remind me of my favorite books. I'll be listening to the radio or a CD, and then I'll think "Oh, this song reminds me of when (insert scene) happens!" Then I'll listen to my playlists while I'm driving, cleaning house, or simply relaxing. :)

DAWN KNOX, author

I very rarely listen to music when I'm writing. I like silence but occasionally, I turn on the Beatles or Train. As I'm not very musical, I haven't incorporated any music into any of my writing so far but I'm now keen to have a go!


I did a blog entry a while back about the soundtrack I’d use for “Life With a Fire-Breathing Girlfriend” and it covered several of my favorite sources of inspiration.  The entry is at

Two of my favorite albums are the soundtracks for ‘Conan the Barbarian’ and ‘How to train your Dragon’.  Both have great mood pieces for romance, action, and despair.

My guilty secret of writing music is a two and a half-hour playlist of disco hits.  Xanadu, Saturday Night Fever, the Village People, Blondie – It’s a bouncy, keep –things-moving collection.  I do, however, make up for it by having a good collection of AC/DC albums.

From time to time, I also use vintage comedy albums, especially Bill Cosby, Hudson & Landry, Monty Python, and the Capitol Steps.  For dramatic scenes and getting over writer’s block, ‘Cats’, ‘Phantom’, ‘Evita’, ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ work quite well.

My characters love and appreciate music.  They listen to symphonies from prespace Terra and 'orchestrations' from Varn's ultrasystem plus traditional homeworld tunes and material heard in other locations.  The characters in my other books also enjoy it.

I love music, too, listening to it, that is.  When the Lord was handing out talent in that area, I was on a secret, urgent mission to the nether regions.


This is my favourite Sunday Musings topic to date!

But it is challenging for me to limit what I listen to when I write. I’m a musician, raised in a musician’s family, with 2 musician sons. Yes, it’s a passion. So I have to keep my favourite songs out, in order that I can stay focused.

But jazz and classical are amazing inspirations to write to, because they are (mostly) instrumental, yet offer up the serotonin / endorphens to complement the Muse.

On Friday afternoons I treat myself to pop music from the fifties (before my time) and sixties (the formative years). I become a less-efficient, but happier writer during those hours.

In my opinion, music and writing go hand in hand. I can’t do one without the other. So I listen to inspiring soundtracks or mood music when I write. Naturally, my love of music leads me to incorporate it into the story

In my first book, Not Long Ago, I refer to it only vaguely. However, when writing In My Own Shadow I went a bit further.

And in From Now On, I went as far as to write the song Rhylie sings as they approach Manx Island.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sunday Musings: May 25 2014

Hope you're all having a good week, so far.

Thought we would go and visit senses again this week...touch. 

And right now my nose and eyes are touched with allergies. So, going to jump right in while I can see through watery eyes and sneezing.

In the first paragraph of my YA novel, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, the heroine touches the cheek of her crush and smooths his dark hair. In the third chapter her friend grabs her arm to bring her back to her senses. In another scene they slap hands to celebrate something and in the same chapter the heroine collides with her crush and the two of them land together on top of book bags.

The sense of touch is very important in bringing readers into a story and making your characters seem real. You can feel the cheek as she caresses it and the joy as she slaps her friend’s hand after a victory. The reader can identify with all of these feelings and it brings them deeper into the story.  This was all unintentional. I didn’t actually think to put in the sense of touch it just came naturally with the scene and the characters. When you are writing and you know your character very well it is very normal to have situations that have the sense of touch. Think of real life and how many times you use it yourself. It is part of everything and so needs to be in the story. There are many other instances of touch in my novel, but then you wouldn’t need to read if you haven’t already.

Touch does play a part in my books:  The touch of a breeze, the comfort of a long session under steam jets are one indication.  One character reaching out to brush or take the hand of another in sympathy or understanding is another.  That one touch says what volumes of text could not.

The sense of touch. It keeps characters human. It makes the story realistic. 

Just as important, it forces the author to show and not tell the story. As a reader, I want to feel the story unfold.


I'd like to wegh in with this one. I think touch is often overlooked. I know I'm guilty of it, but I am including it more. Touch is definitely important to fill out a charcater, to put the reader in the scene. To make it come alive. To bring texture to the story, slippery or cool on the skin. Sticky, rough, the slimy fell of a wall if your character is in a dimly lit cave  with moisture filling its air.

I've read that most senses are overlooked by novice authors. and I the experienced could get lax. don't forget the gritty sand on her bare feet.

Touch is very important in the universe of my aliens. They are mind speakers, and among them, touch conveys a great deal of information. They do not shake hands, since among the touch is an intimate gesture.

Here's a paragraph from "Broken Bonds," chapter 1, that illustrates:

    Brad clasped Ardaval's outstretched hand, and the other man's suppressed arousal flowed over him. Aleyni considered the touch of hands an intimate gesture because the contact conveyed the other person's thoughts and emotions. Brad may not have the mind speech abilities of the average Aleyni, but by God, he was empath enough to get plenty from Ardaval's touch.

In our middle reader novel, THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM, touch was very important to the plot.  If a person is holding something of brass at the same time they try to perform a spell that will take them backward in time, the brass has the effect of holding the physical body in the present resulting in a horrible death.  Jennifer uses her knowledge of this effect to kill off the evil Malman before he and his henchman can kill her and her brother and their two friends..

 “Accept my parting gift, Mr. Malman.”  

With those words, she tossed him the chain.  By instinct, he caught it in his two hands.  A look of horror crossed his face and he tried to throw it away, but the brass clung to him and as he continued to resist, the chain dug deeper into his flesh as if he was being branded.  It was working!  

“Yes, Malman, you evil creature!  The brass chain is holding you in the present, just as a brass chain and crucifix around Semprus’ neck did to him so long ago.  Now you will die as you deserve, Malman!”  

Within seconds, his skin began to draw back tight on his forehead like stretched leather, his cheekbones protruded, and his eyes sank into his head.  A howling scream of pain and dread emerged from his shriveling form behind the coiling air.  Then the whirlwind stopped and a pile of dust remained where Malman had stood.  The brass chain was spread out on the floor in a circle.

When I begin writing a new scene, the first thing I do is close my eyes and envision myself in the setting. One by one all the senses come into play. We don’t always pay a great deal of attention when we’re experiencing during a moment, but the memory is always there in our subconscious.

Erin, my main character in Not Long Ago and the sequel, From Now On, goes from a modern world to medieval society. Talk about a sensory overload!! She sleeps on scratchy hay she’s certain is filled with crawly bugs, she wears a tunic of coarse linen that feels like burlap. The sand she uses to polish Sir Griffin’s armor is gritty, the water she bathes in feels like silk, the night air is cool against her skin, the humidity in the air feels like a heavy, wool blanket against her skin.

The more I can use the senses to describe the scene, the more my readers can relate—a goal we, as writers, are all striving to reach.

Dear reader, thank you again for joining us and we’d love to hear from you. Keep smiling and have a fun week. Never stop believing. See you next Sunday…nothing better than being cozy in bed with some Musings.

If you have a question or comment you’d like us to muse upon, do not hesitate to contact me Christine Steeves-Speakman  at