May 17, 2011

Seducing the Muse

Firstly, before I jump off on the topic (that I hopefully have the attention span to stick with) -- I wanted to write a brief note letting everyone know that I am still running the second giveaway for a signed copy of Darkness Embraced: A Rosso Lussuria Vampire Novel. I didn't do the drawing this weekend as I got some shoddy sleep. So for those of you that haven't yet entered, there's still time to get your entry in (See here: Darkness Embraced - Giveaway). I'll perform the drawing either mid-week or this weekend.

I wrote a few blogs ago that the muse isn't always there, revving to go. Pretty to think so, but in my experience, I've learned it's completely unrealistic to think that way. When you sit down to work on a novel every day, trust me, there will be a time where all you end up doing is having a staring contest with a blinking cursor. It happens. In fact, it's happening to me right now, but you know what? Up yours, cursor! Ahem, anyhow. I don't believe in writer's block. I've mentioned that before in previous posts. I firmly believe that any blocks a writer or artist comes across are generally a result of something self-created. We wall ourselves in, we box ourselves in, and it's ultimately up to us to get ourselves out and over the wall we've built around ourselves. Walls arise for a lot of reasons, and yes, I've hit 'em. Most definitely. My walls generally erect during moments of self-doubt, uncertainty, when I'm questioning the writing too much, or when I'm trying to get a character to do something they don't want to do. The best cure for writer's block or any artistic blockage is to steadily work through it. If you don't like it the first time, you can do it again, and again, and again -- until you're satisfied. Eventually, you'll find your flow, your muse, your mojo...whatever you want to call it.

Something I've learned after writing four books is how to seduce my muse. Moments of inspiration are wonderful and exhilarating but they don't keep a book going. Diligence, patience, dedication, and passion keep a book going. Every writer and artist is different when it comes to the creative process, their likes and dislikes, and that's something we learn along the way. One of the things that working on two series of books has taught me is to pay attention to what inspires me, to learn to strike the match of my own creative spark without the rush of inspiration first-hand. Sometimes, all it takes is just getting away from the hustle and bustle (and all of the cats) and hiding in a room alone. Other days, I have to create a sort of sacred space; candlelight, incense, perfume, silk, whatever works to help create the right atmosphere in which to get my head in a scene. There's something very transcendental about writing for me. I'd go so far as to call it a spiritual experience, like slipping into a deep meditation for hours and when I finally come up for air, the mundane world is still a bit foggy. Once I find my flow, I lose myself in the writing. I transcend reality. I can't write clinging to it. I have to surrender to the sweet lure of my muse, to the process, to my characters and their worlds. Sometimes, it really does feel as though there's an in-between world that us artists step into in order to work, to create. There's a rush to it, yes, and a comfort, a home. It may sound strange, but think of it this way: I cannot think of a single person I have known or met that does not crave such a thing. Look at the world around you, look at history -- there's always been a need within humanity to transcend (not necessarily escape). We do so through movies, television, magazines, books, music, poetry, games, and so many other various ways. If you've ever watched a really good movie and left the theater still feeling slightly unreal, that's similar to what I feel when I step away from a book. When my wife and I got together, she kept reminding me of the importance of finding a balance, of keeping one foot in the world of the imagination and one foot in this. You can't lose yourself entirely to one or the other, and truth be told, without reality imagination would not exist.

When working on Darkness Embraced, I realized that I could use music to create atmosphere. When I wrote my first book, I was against listening to music when writing. I was cautious and I didn't want to take the risk of distracting myself from writing Kassandra's story. Yet, even though I wasn't listening to music -- there were times when working on a scene that a song would get stuck in my head. I've mentioned musicians and songs in the books and have received e-mails from readers that checked the bands out and really enjoyed their music. But it wasn't until Darkness Embraced that I started listening to music when writing and actually using it as a way to seduce my muse. I'm kind of ashamed to admit that, really. Why didn't I realize sooner that I could use music to enhance the feel of a scene? Well, mainly because I've always been a very lyrical person. I focus on lyrics and when I listen to a song, that's what I'm doing: listening to a song. I adamantly believed it would only distract me. When writing Darkness Embraced, I found myself craving music. I flitted through songs and realized that if the music was in some aspect reflective of what I was working on, if I could relate it to the story or a character, then it clicked into place like a soundtrack and actually enhanced the atmosphere in the room where I was writing.

I thought for this blog that I'd go ahead and reveal some of my process a bit more intimately by sharing some of the music I listened to when working on Darkness Embraced and Bloody Claws.

Inkubus Sukkubus

Vampyre Erotica; Viva La Muerte; The Dark Goddess

I'm pretty much an all-around happy author if Inkubus Sukkubus is on my playlist. If I could only have one artist to listen to when writing, I'd go with IS. There's a lot of versatility with their music, many of the songs I can draw a connection to or simply enjoy. "Woman to Hare" (Vampyre Erotica) is a great song, especially since it covers the topic of shape-shifting and is pretty much a, "Hell yeah," to female power. "Vampyre Erotica" was on my playlist when writing Bloody Claws and is a song that strongly puts me in mind of Eris (a bit of a teaser for those of you that have asked if Eris will feature more in future books). "Vampyre Kiss" (Beltaine) is another wonderful song that I listened to when working on BC, though, quite frankly, I have a hard time deciding if it reminds me of Lenorre or Eris. I'm leaning toward Lenorre on that one. The character that I've had the most difficult time trying to find a song to listen to when writing has been Rosalin. There was a scene in Bloody Claws that I wrote while nearly in tears listening to "Emergence" (Viva La Muerte). Another song that worked for a scene involving Ros was "Lunancy" (The Dark Goddess). The song focuses heavily on the moon and her many faces. I think it's fairly fitting for a preternatural being governed by the moon. "I Am The One" (Belladonna & Aconite) and "Danse Vampyre" (Vampyre Erotica) are songs that I listened to when working on Darkness Embraced. I hit a bit of a block writing one of the sex scenes in DE (stuck in a sex scene -- oh no!) and found myself listening to "Danse Vampyre" to get my head into a more darkly sensual frame of mind.

Tarja Turunen

My Winter Storm

Several songs from this album made it to my playlist when working on Darkness Embraced. "I Walk Alone" reminded me of Epiphany, as well as, "My Little Phoenix." Tarja's cover of Alice Cooper's, "Poison" is bloody effin' sexy and "Damned and Divine" is beautiful and haunting. "Die Alive" and "Minor Heaven" also worked for some great background music. (Note: As you can tell, I don't listen to entire albums, only the songs that I can twist in my head to fit what I'm working on).

Lacuna Coil

Shallow Life

I started out listening to a lot of the songs on this album while working on Darkness Embraced. "Not Enough" and "Spellbound" worked for the feel of character relationships. "Wide-Awake" was another good song that I listened to. Really, the only aggressive song on this album that I found myself listening to when writing Epiphany's story was "Underdog."

When I finished DE and started working on Bloody Claws, many of the more aggressive songs on this album went on my playlist. "Survive" and "I'm Not Afraid" and "Unchained" really helped me to get in touch with Kassandra's anger and resilience.

Florence + the Machine


I only listened to one song off of this album and that was when writing Bloody Claws. "Howl" is freaking epic. I heard it and instantly caught the inner beast/werewolf reference. There was a night when I couldn't sleep that I got up to work on a scene between Lenorre and Kass. I put the song on repeat. I must have listened to it twenty times. The song doesn't necessarily reflect any story-line, but it captured a certain depth of emotion and passion that I found fitting and very Kass.

So, there you have it. One of the tricks I've learned to help get the creative juices going -- finding music that reminds me of my characters and using it to help fuel the creative spark.

For those of you interested in checking the above music out, I apologize for being too lazy to link directly to the official sites in this post (and I'm seriously not computer savvy). However, as Inkubus Sukkubus is one of my favorite bands, there's a link to their official website under the links section of my blog.

Brightest Blessings,

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