Posts Tagged time travel

The Undercover Soundtrack – Rysa Walker

for logo‘Music is my cave, my TARDIS’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative environment – perhaps to connect with a character, populate a mysterious place, or hold  a moment still to explore its depths. This week my guest is the winner of the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA), Rysa Walker @RysaWalker

Soundtrack by The Section Quartet, The Jody Grind, John Philip Sousa, Scott Joplin, The Fratellis, Vampire Weekend, The Shins, A Fine Frenzy

I write in a house with two frequently noisy kids and a dog that seems to have missed the memo about golden retrievers being a quiet breed. Music is my writing cave in the midst of that chaos.  I have several carefully trained Pandora channels that keep me supplied with background music, either instrumentals or songs with lyrics I know so well that they cannot possibly distract me.  Instrumental covers of indie rock songs, by groups like The Section Quartet, along with albums I know by heart, like One Man’s Trash by now-defunct 1990s band The Jody Grind — these are the tunes that keep me company on days when I’m editing or revising.  While I don’t exactly hate those tasks, they are often tedious and if presented with any plausible excuse, my mind will stray.  If I listen to anything with lyrics I don’t know, a phrase will catch my ear, then I have to google it, and then I click on something else that’s bright and shiny.  Several hours later, I’m shaking my head trying to figure out where the time went.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn days when I need to actually create something new, however, music isn’t just a cave that shuts out the world.  On those days, music is my TARDIS.  The right song can evoke memories of events and emotions from my own past, and even take me to times and places I could never actually visit and that’s a vital tool when you write about time traveling historians. Sometimes I use period music to help set the mood while I’m writing, but songs from the era also shine light on the customs, social issues, and pop culture of an era, so it’s always part of my research.

The last third of Timebound, the first book in my Chronos Files series, is set at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair.  The Expo was home to the first Ferris wheel, which stood 264 feet high and could carry 60 people in each of the 36 passenger cars.  One of those cars was set aside to carry a full band that played songs like Sousa’s Gladiator March as the wheel rotated.  A bit farther down the Midway, a Broadway producer named Sol Bloom picked out this iconic tune while an exotic dancer billed as Little Egypt prepared to go on stage.  Visitors to the Exposition and the cafes surrounding the fair were also witness to the early work of ragtime great Scott Joplin, whose Maple Leaf Rag would take the world by storm a few years later.  A few recordings from the early 1890s are available online, like this very early rendition of Daisy, Daisy, but they’re all rather hard on the ears, so I relied heavily on covers by later artists.  I won’t claim that any of those songs from the 1890s is in heavy rotation on my iPod, but they definitely helped me get a feel for the era.

TimeboundCoverMusic is also vital for helping me manage another type of time travel.  Timebound is written from the perspective of Kate, who is 17.  When I was 17, many moons ago, I existed on a steady diet of pop music and could name every song in the Top 40 most weeks.  Thankfully, Kate is not autobiographical.  She’s more inclined toward indie artists. This is a very good thing, because otherwise I don’t think we could hang out together.   If I’m writing about Kate’s everyday life — school, friends, family — tunes by The Fratellis, Vampire Weekend, and The Shins help me climb inside her head.

There’s one last song I have to mention because I play it every few days—Borrowed Time by A Fine Frenzy.  I stumbled upon her album One Cell in the Sea when I was writing the second draft of Timebound, back when it was still called Time’s Twisted Arrow.   I love the entire album, but I’m deeply in debt to her for this particular song.  The voice, the lyrics and the music all combine magically to pull me into Kate’s reality every time I play Borrowed Time.

Rysa Walker is the author of Timebound, the first book in The Chronos Files series.  She grew up on a cattle ranch in the Deep South where the options for entertainment were talking to cows and reading books. On the rare occasion that she gained control of the television, she watched Star Trek and imagined living in the future, on distant planets, or at least in a town big enough to have a stop light. When not writing, she teaches history and government in North Carolina, where she shares an office with her husband, who heroically pays the mortgage each month, and a golden retriever named Lucy. She still doesn’t get control of the TV very often, thanks to two sports-obsessed kids. Find her website here, find the Chronos Files blog here, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter (@RysaWalker).

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‘Music is my cave, my TARDIS’ – Rysa Walker

for logoI am so delighted my guest this week writes to music. She’s the winner of the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) with a story of genetically enabled time travel, death threats and romance. She says music is her writing cave and time machine, shutting out the modern chaos of family life, rewinding her to times in her own past and conjuring up periods like the 1893 Columbian Exposition. She is Rysa Walker and she’ll be here on Wednesday with the Undercover Soundtrack to Timebound.

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The Undercover Soundtrack – Nathan Singer

for logo‘Lonely one in this town’

Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative process – perhaps to open a secret channel to understand a character, populate a mysterious place, or explore the depths in a pivotal moment. This week’s guest is musician, playwright, performer and award-winning novelist Nathan Singer @nathansinger1

Soundtrack by Howlin’ Wolf, Skip James, Robert Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, Robert Wilkins, Mississippi Sheiks, LeRoy Carr, but mostly Nathan Singer

My music and my fiction are often so inextricably linked there is very little separating the two.  The music that I write for my bands is fairly ‘literary’ I suppose … and sometimes I just rip off my own novels for lyrics (gotta do whatcha gotta, and so on). Each of my novels corresponds to a different musical genre: A Prayer for Dawn is a thrash novel, In The Light of You is a punk novel etc. As such I often write — and occasionally record — my own soundtracks for my books to get a sense of tone first and foremost. Today I will be talking through the sounds that inspired/created/were created by my blues novel Chasing the Wolf, my only novel to date whose original soundtrack album was officially released, originally as part of a special limited edition of the book, but now for all to have on its own. So here is the (free) full soundtrack album that I wrote and recorded to accompany Chasing the Wolf called On Through the Night. It’s best to listen along while you’re reading the book.

Nathan Singer headshotBeyond my own original music, though, many masters of the form make direct (and indirect) cameos within the novel, and their music was playing constantly throughout the writing of the book. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Part One – Midnight Creepin’

The song quote that starts Part One is from a song by Rev. Robert Wilkins called That’s No Way to Get Along. It captures the deep well of the main character’s sorrow (as does the Blind Willie song below), and it’s also foreshadowing of what’s to come in the story.

The plot of Chasing the Wolf, in a nutshell, is this; a young white artist named Eli Cooper is living in NYC in the early 2000s with his beautiful African American wife Jessie. Jessie is a dancer. They are an ultra-hip couple. All is going just swell, until Jessie is killed in a tragic backstage accident. Overcome with grief, Eli attempts to commit suicide. He runs off into the night in a bind frenzy, passes out in Central Park … and wakes up in Mississippi 1938. Cue Dark Was The Night, by Blind Willie Johnson.

Once Eli accepts that he is not dreaming, he sets out through the dark of the night to try and make sense of what has happened.

Part Two – Dry Long So

Eli muses that one of his favorite blues legends Robert Johnson would by murdered at a juke house soon. He ponders how cool it would be to go witness it when he realizes that a mysterious young black man he had met some time ago back in NYC was actually the one and only (and long deceased) Howlin’ Wolf (the ‘Wolf’ of the title). He decides he needs to find Howlin’ Wolf in order to get back home. What Eli does not yet know, however, is that both he and Howlin’ Wolf are being followed by group of men in fancy, pinstriped suits that are likely not men at all. They are the hellhounds on your trail that Robert Johnson sang about. (Robert Johnson makes a brief but important cameo in the novel as well, but Eli never meets him.)

(Here I am channeling Robert to the best of my abilities at Morgan Freeman’s blues club Ground Zero in Clarksdale, Mississippi.)

Part Three – In Devilment

Even though Skip James only gets a passing mention in this novel, his music informed the entire vibe of the novel and I played him constantly during the writing. His music is just so sinister and otherworldly, it provided the perfect ambiance.

In his search for The Wolf, Eli takes up lodging at a boarding house near West Point, Mississippi. To his shock he discovers a beautiful young widow working there named Ella Brown. Ella Brown looks, talks, and by all appearances is his late wife Jessie, even though she doesn’t know Eli at all, and is a bit frightened of him (much to his heartbreak).

Unbeknownst to Eli, Ella and another maid from the boarding house slip out of the house to a juke joint one night to see Howlin’ Wolf. After the show Wolf comes up to Ella and says, desperately:

You gots to tell him come find me, Miss Jessie.

Ella has no idea who ‘Jessie’ is. Out behind the juke house, Ella catches Wolf ‘killing’ a white man (actually one of the hellhounds).

chasingthewolfPart Four – Hellhound on your Trail

There goes Robert Johnson again. And Blood in my eyes for you by Mississippi Sheiks. Eli says:

When I’m upset, blood leaks from my head. When I’m over the edge my gums bust open and my nose bleeds and my eyes get little red polka dots on them.

You’ll have to read the novel to find out why.

Part Five – Lonely One in this Town

Eventually Eli catches up to Wolf. For a moment Eli thinks he sees a way out of his situation and con maybe even get Jessie to come with him. But, as Mr LeRoy Carr says in How Long Blues, the train seems to be gone. Here I am reading/ performing the scene – enjoy!

Nathan Singer is a novelist, playwright, composer, and experimental performing artist from Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the author of the critically acclaimed novels published by Bleak House Books A Prayer for Dawn, Chasing the Wolf, In the Light of You and the forthcoming sequel to A Prayer for Dawn, Blackchurch Furnace. He is also the lead vocalist, lead guitarist and principal songwriter for the bands Starshaker and The Whiskey Shambles. He is currently at work on two new plays, an opera, and three albums of original music, plus probably some other stuff. His website is here, connect with him on Facebook, or Twitter @nathansinger1

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‘Ambitious and mostly enthralling – reminded me at times of Robert Silverberg’

Rather excited about this review from Don DaMassa’s site Critical Mass. Interestingly he classed it as fantasy, not just ‘fiction’ – but if he’s comparing it to Silverberg I don’t mind!

‘The theme of reincarnation is not among my favorites, either in fantasy or in horror. I’m not sure why that is, probably because the mechanism seems totally random and implausible, but I have no problem with other random and sometimes implausible speculations. Given the existence of reincarnation, however, we have some interesting situations for exploring human character and it’s not surprising that most reincarnation novels are very much involved with psychology rather than overt action, which is the case here as well. The author turns the idea on its head a bit here. The protagonist doesn’t remember a past life, she recognizes that she is the past life of something who has yet to be born. The novel is almost entirely inner directed, as the protagonist suffers an injury which prevents her from playing the music that is the focus of her life, forcing her to seek new anchors for her thoughts and ambitions.  An ambitious and mostly enthralling novel that reminded me at times of Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside.  1022/11′

 

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A novel in 4 novellas

Everyone’s talking about how publishing has broken all its rules this year. We’ve had agents publishing their authors’ backlists as ebooks, or arguing about why they shouldn’t. We’ve had agents lobbying for authors to get a much higher percentage of ebook rights. We’ve had authors tearing up their contracts and going indie – and some of them have become the infamous Kindle millionaires. (Apologies, BTW, if you’ve already read this stirring speech at the purple blog… if so, skip to the last line.)

One idea I’ve heard whispered in these discussions is whether longform fiction should be serialised. Usually it’s quickly dismissed. Oh no one’s doing that.

Yes they are. I’m going to.

I’m publishing My Memories of a Future Life in four hefty parts.

The entire novel is a scale-breaking 100,000 words, so each episode is roughly 25,000 – a good novella’s worth of reading each time.

Yes, this is an experiment. It could be argued that it’s a 150-year-old experiment as it’s the same model used by another famous self-publisher – Charles Dickens.

How much will it be? The magic 99c per episode. If you’re late getting to an episode, don’t worry – once they’re up in the Kindle store, they will be up for ever. Although you might have to block your ears to the chat on Twitter about it…

Starting Tuesday August 30th, then Mondays thereafter – September 5, September 12, and the final episode on September 19th.

The title of episode 1 will be released in a few days. Stay tuned…

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I don’t believe in reincarnation

I don’t believe in reincarnation. I’ve spent my whole life making up entire worlds, knowing exactly where they came from and knowing how to make other people believe them – myself included.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t see the phenomenon of reincarnation as a wonder. Certainly it is. It is an unlocking of the imagination, the fabled 90 percent of our incredible brains that we can’t explain, that lies unused and gives us immense capacities for art, music, love, endeavours like going to the moon, harming each other (unfortunately), healing each other.

Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveller’s Wife, says she doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but she believes it makes great stories. Reincarnation is one of the ways we try to understand this unkillable sense that we all contain something far more than what is already explained. And I think that makes terrific stories.

 

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My Memories of a Future Life by Roz Morris

If you were somebody’s past life…

What echoes would you leave in their soul?
Could they be the answers you need now?

Find out more here. Or on Amazon here


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