Sunday, May 27, 2012

Plotting Music

image courtesy of

Plotting music, he thought. I need plotting music.
He selected Beethoven's Symphony No. 7...
-Artemis Fowl, The Time Paradox

It's difficult to write, whether your medium of choice be poems, short stories, plays, or novels. As a result, this is one question writers are often asked: "Do you have any tricks for writing?"

There are many different ways of gearing yourself up to write, so different writers approach this question differently. Some writers hate having music on while they are working, while others suggest listening to certain types of music.

Personally, I tend to favour different types of music for different stages of the writing process. I prefer movie soundtracks and flute music while writing, as they provide scope for daydreaming, describing, and outlining. When in the editing and revising stages, I turn to harp and folk music(such as ballads) because of its traditional format and strict rhyme.

my writing album playlist:
R. Carlos Nakai- Feather, Stone and Light
Great Composers Series: Georges Delerue
Howard Shore-The Lord of the Rings soundtracks
Danny Elfman-Alice In Wonderland soundtrack
Danny Elfman-Charlie and the Chocolate Factory soundtrack

my editing album playlist:
Kate Rusby-Sleepless
Loreena McKennit- Live in Paris and Toronto
Derek Bell- The Mystic Harp
Celtic Woman- Songs from the Heart

Do you listen to music during any step of your writing process? If you do, what are your favourite songs to listen to?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

cover courtesy of Wikipedia

This book was recommended to me by more than one person as a good urban fantasy story. Since I am in the process of finishing an urban fantasy novel, I was interested in reading Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr. However, I found this book to be anything but a lovely read.

Aislinn has always been able to see the faeries that cavort through Washington D.C. She sees their sport- and their crimes. But none of the faeries has ever spoken directly to her. When one named Keenan takes human form and accosts her inside her favourite comic book store, it turns out that he's the Summer King, and he wants her to join him as his queen. She rebuffs him, but he shows up at her school as an exchange student. He continues to pressure her to join him, and finally she consents to attend a local carnival with him in the hopes that he will eventually stop asking. However, he tricks her into downing a magical drink that will change her, slowly but surely, into a fey. Angry that he would force her to drop her life and her budding relationship with her friend Seth, Aisilinn is determined to foil his plans.

I have a couple of reasons that explain my dislike of this novel.
One reason lay in the way that most of the characters were skeletal stereotypes- the evil queen, the protective grandmother...Marr seemed to cherrypick her idea of teenage "cool" people to flesh out Aislinn's school friends, and the lesser faeries. Even Aislinn seems to have no personality apart from her boyfriend, her ability to see faeries, and her schoolwork. Also, every character seemed to possess unearthly beauty- even the humans. The only semblance of fleshed-out characters are Donia, Keenan's best friend who was once human, but failed the test to become the Summer Queen and is now a Winter Girl, and Seth, Aislinn's artistic best friend.

Another reason I did not enjoy this book was the way in which Keenan, the Summer King, objectifies almost every female in the story.  Keenan is possessive of his best friend to the point of putting her under guard, and insists that Aislinn give up everything to become his wife. He can't understand why Aislinn won't give up her mortal life to join him. Yet Marr presents Keenan as an underdog- his father was murdered by his mother, who now keeps him under her thumb- and describes him in very positive terms, in an attempt to get her readers to like him. Marr also chooses to tell part of the story through Keenan's perspective, and because of his frankly nauseating way of looking at the world, I found him to be an infuriating character and not a sympathetic one at all.

Marr obviously did her research on faeries, as quotes from different books of folk tales head every chapter in Wicked Lovely. It's a pity she couldn't use this research to put together a more compelling story with an engaging narrator and fleshed-out characters, and refrain from resorting to stereotypes of what is "popular" and "likable."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My trip to Colonial Williamsburg

One of the many public back gardens to explore while in Williamsburg

When I visited my family last week, we made a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, a living-history site where actors dress in costume to portray colonists before and after the American Revolution. We chose not to buy event tickets, but instead bought bus tickets, as many of the historical buildings, such as Bruton Parish Church, do not require an event ticket, and we were only intending to spend one afternoon in the town.

Following the Fife and Drum Corps

We came at noon and had a picnic lunch, after which we stopped by the bakery behind the Raleigh Tavern for gingerbread. After eating our gingerbread, we walked around the historical shops and gardens on Duke of Gloucester Street, as we waited for the events of Williamsburg's street drama, Revolutionary City, to commence.This street drama encompasses some of the pivotal events that occurred in Williamsburg, from 1775 to 1781, over the course of the Revolutionary War.

One of the first dramas was about a British general who had been captured by the American army, who was meeting with the Governor.

He protested his and his men's treatment in gaol, and the slaughter of Native Americans who had been taken captive and then killed wantonly by the American troops.

The Governor, in return, countered with similar atrocities that the British had committed in the course of the war. This drama seemed to ask this question: if war is such an atrocity in itself, can a war be conducted without such atrocities?

This next drama was the story of a woman whose husband had been captured by the British. In order to become a camp follower, and be with him as he fought,  she had sent her two daughters to work as indentured servants. Now, she returns to Williamsburg destitute. While her friends feel sympathy for her, they are wary of aiding someone who has led the life of a camp follower. The stigma attached to her situation is addressed in this drama.

Then Benedict Arnold and his men rode up the street, headed for the church. We followed them, and a crowd gathered.

Benedict Arnold called freedom from British rule "a farce," and told several boys who were at the front of the crowd "to come back and talk to me when you grow a beard."  An older visitor told him "Liberty is freedom, the freedom to govern ourselves." Arnold told him to "jump down a well." As Arnold turned, he was roundly booed by the crowd.

We also got to listen to the dialogue between two slaves who were considering running away to join the British, who would give them their freedom.

We were joined by two Baptist ministers, who were asked by a young soldier about religious freedom. The man asked, "Wouldn't it be better for the government to decide what religion we should follow?"
The ministers explained that the division of church and state is a good thing, because it is not the place of government to dictate religion.

 The drama culminated with General Washington riding into Williamsburg and declaring the war to be over.

The militia then saluted the General by firing their muskets.

It was a very well-acted and historically accurate production, and I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Colonial Williamsburg. The only place that I wish I could have visited was Bruton Parish Church.

I took this photo of the churchyard by standing on tiptoe and holding my camera up over the wall.
Anyway, there's always next time!

My hiatus is over

image courtesy of wikicommons

Sorry for the unplanned hiatus, everyone. I just got back from a trip to Norfolk, VA, where I visited my grandmother, my aunts and uncles, and my cousins. I also visited Colonial Williamsburg (post pending) where I got to attend their excellent street drama, Revolutionary City.
Here's a teaser photo!

 Most of my time was spent at the beach (where I got a horrible sunburn), which was a good way to kick off the summer. Now I'm back at home, getting back into the swing of life.

This blog will now return to its regularly featured content.