Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Psychology of Duran Duran Tiffany Trent Talks Music and Writing

When I’m writing, music is a requirement. Nothing will get me into the mood to work faster than the perfect song. Although I am perhaps not the most widely-listened of people (I’m always looking for new tunes!), I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to come up with the perfect playlist for my work-in-progress. Sometimes a book will simply require a soundtrack or two, and that’s wonderful. THE UNNATURALISTS (my steampunk YA scheduled for release in August) was such a book. I alternated between the soundtracks for “The Duchess” by Rachel Portman and “The Illusionist” by Philip Glass—which was fairly easy, if extremely repetitive over the course of three years of writing and revising!

But some novels are a bit more demanding. Some require a bit more effort and some just require every trick I know to help me finally get to a place where I can work again. For me, the go-to band that never fails me has always been Duran Duran. Go ahead. Laugh if you like. But if anyone taught me the value of a good lyric, it was Simon Le Bon. And if anyone taught me how to pull an entire story from a three-minute song, well, I think Duran Duran gets all the credit. (If any band can claim a more direct bloodline from science fiction, please tell me—they took their name from the science fiction cult film “Barbarella”, after all!)

Most people know Duran’s catalog from the 80s—“Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Save a Prayer,” “The Reflex.” (They also might remember the resurgence in the 90s with “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone”). But it’s always been the band’s lesser-known songs that have spoken deepest to me. If you want to hear some really haunting New Romantic stuff, go listen to songs like “Waiting for the Nightboat” or “Friends of Mine” off of their eponymous album, DURAN DURAN. Or, on later albums like MEDAZZALAND, songs like “Out of My Mind” (highly recommend the video—I watched it endlessly when I was working on my HALLOWMERE series) or “Midnight Sun.” (And of course, there’s the lone album by Arcadia—the Duran that never was, according to some people--which has some lovely songs, but we won’t go there just now).

I’ve always loved Duran’s B sides and unreleased stuff best. See “Secret Oktober” for a taste of what I mean. I nearly died of joy when I first heard the song “Virus,” which was only released on the Japanese version of their ASTRONAUT album. With its slinky bass and spine-tinglingly morbid lyric drive, I’m still convinced it would have been a big hit had it been released worldwide. (Yes, I seriously should be given a PhD in the Discography of Duran Duran).

But I digress…

Even more amazing to me was when I discovered the album POP TRASH. I had avoided it for years because I’d heard it was truly awful. (And hey, everyone has a stinker in their history somewhere). But one day I decided that if I was a true diehard I would listen to every album. And this one was marvelous. The song “Starting to Remember” (which is only two minutes long) carried with it such a vivid, poignant scene that it’s now the basis for a series I can’t wait to write. Other songs on that album like “Playing with Uranium,” “Lady Xanax,” and “The Sun Doesn’t Shine Forever,” also hearken back to Duran’s lush science fictional roots.

I’m not sure if one can psychologically wire oneself into inspiration via sound, but Duran Duran’s music does just that for me. If I am really stuck, I have a special playlist of all my favorite Duran Duran songs and that will usually move me along. Though I love many bands and singers—Snow Patrol, Silversun Pickups, Florence + the Machine, Sia, Muse, Ray LaMontagne—I still go back to the music of my adolescence when push comes to shove. I suppose that means I’m obsessed, but thank goodness for obsessions that don’t fail us.

If you’d like to play along some time, here are a few of my faves:

-Tiger Tiger
-The Chauffeur
-The Seventh Stranger
-Lonely In Your Nightmare
-Crystal Ship (cover)
-Salt in the Rainbow
-Someone Else Not Me
-The Man Who Stole a Leopard

Tiffany's books are available here~

Thursday, June 21, 2012

In a Bad Space: From Lizzie to Ash

You don’t get more proper than Elizabeth Rae Perry. She was born in the late 1800s and lived through three major wars—the Anglo Boer War, as well as World Wars I and II. Life for a woman in the Union of South Africa was very different for those who were lucky enough to live later. Back then there were very few job options available for a woman, and you were either a housewife, a teacher, a secretary or a nurse.

Elizabeth or Lizzie, as she prefers to be known, went on to marry a man her parents thought was a good match. Richard Perry was a successful businessman involved in the railways. Little did they know that he was also a member of a highly secretive ancient Egyptian reincarnation cult, the Inkarna, and Lizzie was to be his next initiate.

And that’s also the point at which her life became a lot more interesting, as she soon found herself the soul custodian of House Adamastor’s Cape Town-based chapter house.

Richard assured her that death was not the end, and that through a series of rituals she’d be able to survive after death, and find her way to House Adamastor’s mystical “house of life” Per Ankh in the Tuat (or afterlife). Of course she had no way to prove his words, but being the ever-dutiful wife, continued to maintain his legacy after his passing.

By the time she popped off this mortal coil in 1966, the old lady could pack quite a punch, and was in possession of a formidable arsenal of daemonic powers, which included telekinesis and psychometry. On top of that, she was also hyper aware of the spirit world. While her body aged normally, as all humans do, she was equipped with power and wisdom beyond that of a normal person. A decent trade-off, if you ask me.

She trained up her own initiate to take her place once she died, before making her own journey through the Black Gate.

The scope of my novel, Inkarna, is such that I couldn’t cover all that transpired while Lizzie dwelled in the Tuat, but I can share this much that the Inkarna use this space to meditate and regroup. They are able to access the memories of the “Blessed Dead”—regular humans who have died—as they move toward the primordial chaos that is the Sea of Nun, and thereby keep in touch with changes that have occurred in the land of the living.

Surprisingly, Lizzie finds that she does have the next opportunity to return to the world of matter when her House needs to send someone new. But complications arise when she wakes in the body of a 21-year-old male instead of the three-year-old girl she was promised. To make matters even more uncomfortable, Lizzie has to pick up the pieces of the previous host’s life—and Ashton Kennedy really did make a hash of things.

Why did I do this to my main character? I asked myself, what is the worst possible thing I could do to a prim and proper lady? It doesn’t get much worse than sticking her consciousness inside the body of a virile male with long hair, who’s covered in tattoos and used to be a barman. It’s how she deals with her predicament that provided me with the most entertainment while writing. The contrast between the man everyone else thinks they know and the person Lizzie has become, is quite delicious, and results in quite a few unintentionally humorous situations.

At the end of the day, Inkarna explores the theme of love that transcends the boundaries imposed by gender, time and death. It’s a story about doing what is right, even though one’s actions might be considered morally reprehensible. It’s a tale of magic, myth and adventure, set against a backdrop of eternal conflict.

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Nerine Dorman

Buy Inkarna

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Song is Worth a Thousand Words Melissa Ecker Talks Music

Melissa Ecker has made a name for herself in both the Romance and Erotica worlds. Her most recent book Giving up the Ghost  has elements of Urban Fantasy and Horror as well. Talk about a writer who can do it all, that's Missy! Here she tells us what music does for her writing. Enjoy

I started reading on my own when I was four years old. I remember that feeling of being able to look at lines of letters and understand what they meant. First, it was cereal boxes and hairspray cans. Anything with words caught my attention. I didn’t spend hours in the bathtub playing with toys like other children. I read shampoo bottles and soap boxes and toilet paper packages, anything I could get my little hands on.
My parents bought me a record player along with the soundtrack to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and a whole new world opened up to me. Sure, I’d heard songs on the radio in the car but this was my own music with words I could understand. It was another form of storytelling. I would close my eyes and listen to the lyrics and see pictures in my mind. This was how the tie between music and stories began for me.
Someone recently asked me what kind of music I like. My response was simply, “I like it all.” I can’t pinpoint one particular genre that moves me more than another. I grew up listening to country, Motown classics and 50’s and 60’s rock and roll, including Elvis Presley. Lots of Elvis Presley.
When I hit my teenage years I went through phases where my mood dictated what I listened to. My taste ranged from Duran Duran and Tears for Fears to hard hitting punk like TSOL and the Sex Pistols and into the beats and rhymes of The Beastie Boys and Run DMC. I never subscribed to any one type of music. Every song tells a story and either it speaks to me or it doesn’t. My likes were, and are, mostly artist motivated.

As I sat down to write this, I realized how significant of a role music has played in my life. With today’s technology, we often hear, “There’s an app for that.” In my mind, I think, “There’s a song for that.” So it goes with my writing. There are songs that can reduce me to tears or make me giggle like a school girl and I use that.
In Giving Up the Ghost, I really had to dig deep to grab a hold of the emotion and sorrow I wanted to convey to the reader when the main character loses her husband in a tragic accident. I read somewhere that some of the best writers are those who have suffered. They know what pain feels like and when you write what you know, it’s authentic.
It wasn’t hard for me to pinpoint my most profound pain. I lost both of my parents in a three year period. As morbid as it sounds, I listened to the selections from my mom’s memorial service while I wrote the first chapters of Giving Up the Ghost. I needed to feel that kind of pain to write that kind of pain. And, once my character moved on to a happier place in the book, I segued into more upbeat music like Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift. Yes, I like Miss Swift and I refuse to defend myself.
My latest story came to mind while I was reading about the untimely death of Type O Negative’s singer and bass player, Peter Steele. I had the urge to listen to the October Rust album. Love You to Death came on and a new character popped up and insisted on telling me a story. A ghost story. The music I play while writing isn’t always for my benefit either. This ghost happens to enjoy not only TON but Nine Inch Nails, The Pretty Reckless, 30 Seconds to Mars and Five Finger Death Punch.

At the end of the day, I don’t really have a formula for how I use music in my writing. It serves different purposes for me. Sometimes it forces me to feel something deeper in order to convey a particular message, sometimes it makes me happy dance in my seat while typing like the wind and other times it sparks a new idea. I can only say it’s important to my process in one way or another.
In closing, I’d like to share one of my all time favorite songs. Closer to the Edge by 30 Seconds to Mars. This song makes it onto all my writing playlists because it touches me on so many levels.

Melissa Ecker is the bestselling author of horror, paranormal and erotic romance. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Diamond State Romance Authors. She lives in Central Arkansas with her husband, two children and a myriad of pets.

To learn more about Melissa, please visit her website and her Amazon Author Page You can also follow her on Twitter @MelissaEcker and like her on Facebook

Friday, June 15, 2012

Character Theme Songs, Chelsea Mueller talks MC's

Chelsea Mueller is the face behind the wildly successful blog  Vampire Book Club, she is a friend to all writers and readers, and an aspiring writer herself. Having just finished and submitted her first novel, I wanted to hear her take on writing and music. Here is what she had to say about things

I rarely listen to the music inspiring my writing while actually, you know, writing.

Instead, I use music to fuel my characters.

For me, anything with lyrics has me singing along or, worse, writing along. When I’m actually fingers-on-keyboard writing, my music picks are instrumentals. Movie scores (Lord of the Rings and Tron: Legacy were primary on my dark young adult novel) and baroque pieces dominate my actual writing playlist.

That said, I do a lot of listening to music before I write. This is especially true to get into characters’ heads. While my protagonist could link up to any number of songs, all of my secondary characters have theme songs.

Yeah. I know. Theme songs.

It wasn’t intentional. I just started adding to the playlist as I ran across a song perfect for a character. The most helpful here is that one of the lesser antagonists is going crazy in a literal sense. He’s under the influence of an underworld goddess and she likes to inflame insecurities, emotions and fear. This guy is having trouble processing why our protagonist ended their quasi-relationship.

As insanity flares, he acts out flashing from manic and violent to depressive and scary. As such, he gets two theme songs.

At times he’s everything in “Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t” by Brand New.

And at other times he’s 100 percent “I Should Have Sent Flowers” by NORA.

Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, blogs for Heroes & Heartbreakers and writes dark YA lit with a mythology bent. She loves strong heroines, paranormal worlds that feel real, TV vampires, nerd-ery and snarky comments from the crowd. Find her online at or @ChelseaVBC on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chronic Monster Baiter, Mark Henry baits our taste in Music

Mark Henry aka Daniel Marks is an evil genius, his upcoming YA novel Velveteen is chocked full of teenage angst,serial killers, ghosts and the best kind of dark humor. (the sick kind) Mark and I have a friendship forged on 80's shoe-gazing music and horror films. Although our taste is wildly different, we do agree on many bands with only one exception..Well two really,The Cocteau Twins(which he craftily snuck into this post) and Tori Amos. That bitch scares me something fierce.
So without further ado, I give you Mark Henry...gird your loins

I remember the exact moment I stopped being a casual listener of music and became an avid fanatic. 1985. Tower Records in Tacoma. The album was a compilation of rarities and b-sides from the Cocteau Twins called The Pink Opaque. From the opening strains of the sublime Millimillinery I was hooked. The music was strange, the vocals near angelic and yet quite off. See for yourself.

Fifteen and drifting--I hated school and connected with very few of my peers—music was a safe place to explore some really out there ideas. And I was ravenous, I’d skip class and drive to Seattle with friends or sometimes alone to pour over bins of records and haunt the nightclubs and concert halls. Southern Death Cult (later just The Cult). The Mission (later the Mission UK). Skinny Puppy. My taste was always a little dark. But that soundtrack really was a good backdrop for my thoughts.

My head was full of monsters. It still is.

When I started writing—back in 2006—my musical taste had gone through all the appropriate phases for an aging goth kid; Industrial (Front 242, Ministry, Swans, Nitzer Ebb) gave way to shoegaze (Lush, My Bloody Valentine) and pretty soon, we were back in the eighties. Still are. I compiled lots of songs as set lists that I embedded into my first three books (HAPPY HOUR OF THE DAMNED, ROAD TRIP OF THE LIVING DEAD, BATTLE OF THE NETWORK ZOMBIES). But I never used those songs as inspirations rather as accents for scenes. They were an afterthought.

When I sat down to write VELVETEEN, my first young adult novel about the victim of a serial killer plotting revenge from purgatory while her world crumbles around her, I specifically tried to do things differently. I wrote certain scenes to music, particularly the new wave of shoegaze exemplified by The Raveonettes. I love them. They have a retro, Jesus and Mary Chain vibe that destroys me. Here’s a Dead Sound:

They’ve got a fuzzbox…and they’re gonna use it (ten points for that reference)! By the time I got around to revising the book it needed to go a little darker. Luckily, Trent Reznor had traded in his bad boy hat for an orchestra leader’s baton and scored THE SOCIAL NETWORK, a great film about Facebook and Asperger’s Disorder, whether it’s mentioned or not. The themes he and Atticus Ross explore in that soundtrack were a perfect undercurrent for enriching my story with darkness. It certainly helps to get in a mood. Even if it’s a bad one. Here’s Hand Covers Bruise:

Feel the monotonous grating mechanics of it? Makes me stare into space and grit my teeth. Every. Time.

Well that’s it. My musical trip down memory lane is done. I’m going to go listen to some Book of Love and cleanse my palate from all of this darkness.

Just kidding.

Mark Henry writes adult urban fantasy, screenplays and young adult horror. He spends way too much time glued to the internet and collects books obsessively (occasionally reading them). He’s been a psychotherapist for children and adolescents, a Halloween store manager, has survived earthquakes, volcanoes and typhoons to get where he is today, which is to say, in his messy office surrounded by half empty coffee cups. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Caroline, and three furry monsters with no regard for quality carpeting. None.

you can find Mark Henry/Daniel Marks here~
on twitter~
Daniel Marks
Mark Henry

Daniel Marks

Daniel Marks

Friday, June 1, 2012

How I hear my books, Jaye Wells talks music.

I am really please to welcome Jaye Wells to the Music Series, she is one of my favorite author types, and we talk music on a regular basis. Here are her thoughts on music and writing.

It always confuses me when writers say they can’t listen to music when they’re writing. It just doesn’t compute. For me, listening to music is the quickest and best way to achieve specific states of emotion that I need to access to write.

To me, writing is a lot like method acting. I don’t just transcribe things on to the page. I generally have to tap into emotions that relate either specifically or generally to the ones my characters are facing. To do that I recall times when I felt that way or similar and I heighten it by playing music that evokes the same.

So when Synde asked me to write how music affects my writing, it was a little overwhelming because I can’t separate the two. Music is story to me and story evokes music.

I decided the best way to show you what I mean is to list some of my favorite songs for different types of scenes.

Fight Scenes:
Temptation Waits” Garbage
Clap for the Killers” Street Sweeper
Heriarate Mich” Rammstein
Killing IN The Name Of” Rage Against the Machine

Sex Scenes
Bloodsport” Sneaker Pimps
Ringfinger” Nine Inch Nails
Fade Into You” Mazzy Star
Paradise Circus” Massive Attack Featuring Hope Sandoval
I Put a Spell on You” Marilyn Manson

Black Moments
Hurt” Johnny Cash cover
Brake” Melissa McLelland
If I Was Your Vampire” Mariyln Manson
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” Guns N Roses
Everybody Knows” Leonard Cohen
The Trick Is To Keep Breathing” Garbage
Hallelujiah” k.d. Lang version

I also have specific songs that reflect different characters. Early on in the series, Sabina Kane had a lot of Garbage and Hole kinds of songs, for example, but as the series progressed the songs became less angsty and more rock n roll tough chick-- Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde.

I’m working on something new now and the songs are less shiny black metal and more rusty and gritty blues and Americana. But one thing is certain, I do not write a book until I have started compiling my playlist. I write my books using all my senses, so I can’t imagine writing without sounds to inspire me.

If you’d like to hear the soundtracks of the five Sabina Kane novels, check out my web site. 
Jaye Wells

After several years as a magazine editor and freelance writer, Jaye Wells finally decided to leave the facts behind and make up her own reality. Her overactive imagination and life-long fascination with the arcane and freakish blended nicely with this new career path. Her Sabina Kane urban fantasy series is a blend of dark themes, grave stakes and wicked humor. Jaye lives in Texas with her saintly husband and devilish son. Her work is represented by Rebecca Strauss of McIntosh & Otis.