As I’ve mentioned before, my sister and I had a certainly magical childhood. Much of my love of writing came from the stories we put together ourselves. I was writing novel-length books when I was a teenager, and she was often my collaborator–sometimes literally. We wrote a book together!

Well, Llana is not only a more remarkable and talented woman in her own right, but she’s also currently fighting Hodgkins Lymphoma; her last chemotherapy treatment is tomorrow, in fact.

About a week ago, I was telling her that I needed some extra music for Alderpod, and asked her if she’d put something together, if she wanted. She’s done instrumental work before, and I had a feeling that she might enjoy doing something apart from feeling like crud. I told her a cross between Unforgiven or Young Guns and The Lord of the Rings, then really let her just have at it. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d hear back from her for a while.

We’ve collaborated musically and imaginatively all our lives, so I should have expected it. But when I heard her piece (which is 6:00 long!) I was absolutely blown over. I still can’t listen to it without tearing up. There’s something about the art produced from people that have had the same upbringing, who have steered the same steely seas together, and it’s quite beyond words. So, I’ll leave it there.

So here, for your enjoyment, is the piece of music, which will be featured in the last few Alderpod episodes as I gear up (pun intended) for the very end. As everything on the site, it is Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0, etc.

The Territories

To learn more about Llana, and read about her fight–and her art–you can visit her website at Llana Barron.

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This the .mp3 for Beyond the Veil, separate from the post before, which was causing issues in iTunes.

There is an ENTIRE chapter, not just a song. Apparently, iTunes chose the song portion and not the podcast as the “podcast”. This should fix it! Let me know if you have issues like I did!

The Alderpod

Yesterday was ideal for podcasting. Don’t know why, exactly, but as I sat down to FINALLY finish #10, I decided to go right ahead and record #11. #11 is Chapter Nine: Remembrance, which is Brick’s next chapter, and one of my favorites. Being able to do all the voices of the knights is just fun beyond measure; it’s like I have my own little one-woman show going on. But on top of that I was able to record a new bit of music to go along. So far I’ve written about five different themes for the book. It’s an immensely rewarding process, though I do wish that my keyboard allowed for a little more range of color and tone to the notes. It’s not a weighted keyboard, and working with digitial instruments (especially the strings) can occasionally lend a synthetic air to the whole thing. Ah well. I do it for fun, and perfection be damned.

I always pick up momentum toward the end of writing/editing a book, and this time is no different. I can feel the chapters moving, feel the plot and characters–at this point it becomes more of a spectator sport. So I’m trying to keep ahead of the game by recording the chapters two at a time; I decided to keep #10 as is, and deal with my own editorial annoyances later, and #11 is in the can and ready to roll. As soon as our FTP is back up and running, I’ll send ’em out (likely one today and one tomorrow, or sometime this weekend).

I’ve decided to go easy on the job search today. Too much full-kilter is driving me a little bananas, and so I’m kicking up my heels a bit this morning, doing laundry, and contemplating the finish of the book. It would be awesome if I could have the bulk of it done before NaNoWriMo… but we’ll see what happens.

Anyway, to those who listen: thank you. It really makes my day.

When I have the spare time, I find one of the most useful brainstorming projects I can do is to write music for my novels. So far, in every book I’ve written, music plays a very important part. The first dealt with music as a power, as magic. One of the main characters weaves all her magic through songs and music, as opposed to other more traditional practices. The character, Tasha, is by and large one of the most trustworthy and “good” characters in the whole tale, I think, and her music has a lot to do with it. Music is disciplined, mysterious, and powerful, and she wields that responsibility well.

This time around is a little different. Magic in The Aldersgate is extremely watered down. The world has suffered, and is lost. Magic is believed, for the most part, to be myth. However, as the world begins to change quite rapidly, a few people begin to feel odd stirrings inside of them. Emry Roy is one of those people. Though trained classically as a bard, he’s never had training in magic because, well, barding is simply believed to be a discipline of academics and talent, and nothing that has to do with what they call seidcraft.

But what happens when your talents become your curses? As Emry travels through the story, he learns that his abilities do not come without consequences. He discovers just what terror the wrong (or right) chord can wreak, especially if weilded by unknowing hands.

This piece of music was written last night to accompany the podcast that introduces much of Emry’s plight. I use bits and pieces of it throughout, but I wanted to provide it in its entirety for you if you so wish. I’m pleased with the outcome so far, but am far from a trained musician–I write by ear, you see. My abilities to read music are limited to one line at a time.

Emry’s Theme – mp3

Every book has its own song. You can’t always hear it, but it’s there. Sure, it isn’t the kind of song that you can play on your iPod, but any story has its own melodies and harmonies, moments of dissonance, and at last, resolve.

Before our words were written, they were sung. This served not only to make the telling more beautiful, but also more memorable. Words are much more easily committed to memory with the inclusion of music. Sometimes when I’m in a rut writing wise, I take out my guitar (or ukulele, or keyboard) and work out melodies, then harmonies, listening for the story within the music. Sure, that sounds terribly new-age, but it’s a part of world building for me–it helps me understand what I’m doing more clearly.

Most of my world building happens while listening to music, it’s true. There are certain songs that I associate so intimately with characters (Cora, Runaway Horses, Philip Glass; the Aldersgate itself, Samuel Barber‘s Adagio for Strings Op. 11; Sir Gawen, most of Sir Edward Elgar). I’ve had some of the greatest epiphanies simply driving in my car, listening to whatever Fine Tuning or WCPE will give me.

Stories are a force to be reckoned with. The right (or wrong) story can inspire a nation to greatness, or plunge them into a war. And most of our most beloved songs are just that: inspiring stories. From national anthems to battle cries to stadium rock outs–we seem to understand stories on another level when music is involved.

To come to my point though, music ought to be considered during your world building sessions. Even on our planet, small as it is, what is considered to be beautiful music is as varied and individual as can be. While many of us from a Western tradition puzzle at the music of the East, they puzzle back at us. So consider what your characters might like to listen to, and what sort of musical traditions have grown up in your culture. Note, too, that music has a habit for driving people to all kinds of unsavory behaviors–even Mozart was considered scandalous in his day!

My inspiration for Emry Roy, my resident bard, was a hybrid between a court bard from the Irish tradition and the folk singers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in America. For a great resource, I turned to the Popular Songs in American History site which (blaring midi excluded) is a delightful window into popular music in a variety of time periods.  Some are simplistic, and seem trite to us know–but there are some incredible gems. How about this bit from the song “Eight Hours” by I.G. Blanchard (so delightfully steampunk):

From factories and workshops
In long and weary lines,
From all the sweltering forges,
And from out the sunless mines,
Wherever toil is wasting
The force of life to live
There the bent and battered armies
Come to claim what God doth give
And the blazon on the banner
Doth with hope the nation fill:

Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will;
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will.

So find your musical inspiration, and flavor your world with it!

I just noticed that I hit 2,000 views for this happy little blog over the weekend.

Now how ’bout that?

To celebrate, here is Knights of Cydonia by Muse, a music video and song that features cowboy knights, laser guns, and all things awesome.