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author questions


Author questions: On dealing with distractions

Since I’m about to have medical joy next week, and likely will be unmotivated to type anything more coherent than “I like bouzoukis” onto the Intarwebz, and since I’ve finally gotten some breathing room in the mad dash to get Vengeance of the Hunter fit for you all to read, I’m trying to clear out my queue of backlogged Things to Deal With. One of them is this! I put out a call a while ago for amusing things to write blog posts about, and my sister gave me this one:

“How do you overcome distractions like music or instruments when you know you should be writing and the words just won’t flow?”

This is what we call in these parts a Damned Good Question.

Here’s the thing. If the words aren’t coming, I find it unproductive to try to force them out of my head. For the simple reason that for me, at least, it just doesn’t work. If I’m mentally blocked, it’s a decent sign that there’s a problem to solve in the storyline that I haven’t thought sufficiently through yet.

In this situation, a distraction is actually kind of useful. My various instruments are great that way. My flutes and guitars are usually in within immediate easy reach, and grabbing one of the flutes and playing a few tunes is a splendid way to give the front of my brain something else to do while the back of my brain mulls the problem I’m trying to solve.

On the other hand, if I know damn well I should be writing and I’m just in an I Don’t Wanna kind of mood–i.e., if nothing else is going on that’s impending my ability to work, I’m not stressed or sick or stymied by writer’s block–then that is a problem. The instruments are awfully tempting shiny distractions, and while I do love them dearly, nobody’s paying me to learn how to play Quebec tunes on a flute. (Although I’d take that job in a heartbeat.) Likewise for the shiny temptations of the various corners of the Internet (Facebook, I’m looking at you), Plants Vs. Zombies 2 (or, I suspect, Zombie Zombie Zombie from my very own workplace once I start playing THAT), or hell, for that matter, other people’s books. Mmmmmmmmm. Booooooooks.

So how do I deal with that scenario?

Simple. Carina’s paying me to write books. I therefore need to put my fingers on the keyboard and write ’em. Ditto for all the folks who pledged me money for the Kickstarter; they’re all paying customers. And now that I’m an author under a contract, with actual deadlines involved and everything, it becomes way more important to get those fingers on the keyboard.

Big Fish would not let me keep working for them for very long if I blew off doing what they were paying me for. Ditto for writing. Writing may not be my day job, but it is a job nonetheless, and I need to treat it accordingly even if I’d like to blow off the evening killing zombies with my peashooter plants.

This doesn’t mean I’m immune to the aforementioned temptations. I’m not. I’ve had my share of Fuck It I Don’t Wanna nights, but I do at least try to limit those. It helps to give myself permission to take a night or a weekend off every so often (nights and weekends being my usual writing times), because it lets me pace myself and improve the chances that I’ll keep up my love of making words.

And ultimately, that right there helps a lot when fighting distraction: loving building a story. If I’m actively looking forward to my next round of writing five hundred words, then screw it, the zombies can wait.

Great question, Becky! Anybody else got one you’d like to see me address in a blog post, let me know!


Author questions: In which I am asked about music

When I put out a call on Facebook for possible post topics for my last Here Be Magic post, I got a couple other excellent questions that I thought would be excellent post fodder on their own. One of those was on what I’m sure y’all will agree is a topic near and dear to my heart, to wit:

“How does your music influence your writing and vice versa?”

Mad props to Kaye for this question, for lo, it is a good question.

How music influences my writing is pretty blatantly obvious to anybody who’s read Faerie Blood. I mean, I’ve got a male lead character who’s a bouzouki player from Newfoundland, f’r cryin’ out loud–though to my amusement, I have in fact actually surprised a person or two when I told them that Christopher is not in fact played in the Faerie Blood Movie in My Brain by Alan Doyle.

And of course there’s Elessir, my Unseelie Elvis impersonator, calling upon the other great musical fandom of my life. Pre-dating Great Big Sea by years and years and years, even. I’m basically throwing all the music I love into the Warder universe, and that meant that it was absolutely imperative that Elvis show up somehow. (For the record–Quebec trad will also be eventually showing up. Christopher’s young cousin Caitlin is getting a boyfriend. And that boy’s going to be from Quebec!)

But in a larger sense, Faerie Blood‘s just one example of how music winds up being critical to just about all of my characters. Over in Valor of the Healer, Kestar Vaarsen (who is played in the Movie in My Brain by Alan Doyle) is a mandolin player. And back in the day, when I was active on my various MUSHes, a whole hell of a lot of the characters I played were musically inclined to one degree or another. Faanshi’s original AetherMUSH incarnation could play the lyre, and she wrote a lament in honor of her lost first love. Rillwhisper, my primary alt on Two Moons MUSH, played the flute. So did F’hlan, my bronze rider on PernMUSH. Shenneret Veery, my primary alt on Star Wars MUSH, was my bard babe with a blaster and could play any instrument she got her hands on, and she headed up the band called the Womprats for several months of my roleplay of her.

Long story short, in pretty much anything I write, there’s going to be at least one character who makes music. Probably more. It may not even be immediately pertinent to the plot–I keep thinking of one of the things I love about the Aubrey-Maturin saga, wherein one of the defining characteristics of those books is how Jack and Stephen periodically just take time out and play the hell out of the violin and cello. Because they love music that much. I want the same for my characters in my books, because I don’t get enough of that in my personal, actual life.

There are reasons that the covers of Faerie Blood and Bone Walker feature the characters with their instruments as well as hints of magic–because the instruments are as vital to them as the magic is. (And when I finally get Kiri Moth to do Christopher on top of Signal Hill in St. John’s with his bouzouki, oh, that’s going to be good.)

How my writing influences my music is the tougher flip side of this question. I have been known to occasionally write music–that aforementioned song of AetherMUSH!Faanshi’s? I wrote actual, singable lyrics for that, and I’m going to eventually turn it into a reel that could in theory be playable at a session.

But writing music is a different skill than writing prose, and I’m not very practiced at it. It’s hard for me. That said? I often find myself wanting there to be music to accompany my books. This is, after all, why Dara’s still working on the Bone Walker soundtrack. My history with filk is a contributing factor to this–I’ve heard so much awesome filk that’s about various and sundry books or graphic novels (especially Elfquest) that a big part of me would squeal in delight at the prospect of Warder universe filk.

And I keep totally wanting to filk Great Big Sea’s “Ferryland Sealer” to “Faerieland Sealer”, which is absolutely and unequivocably a Warder universe song.

That about covers it, I think! Any questions on this, drop a comment! Or any further questions you want to fling me, to be addressed here or in future Here Be Magic posts, let me know!