The Music I Write To

Posted on February 12th, 2024 · 1,368 words
Categories: writing
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Ugh. That just feels wrong, doesn’t it? Ending a clause with a preposition? Well, the Elements of Style tells me to ‘write how I talk’. It’s also a title. So there you have it.

But that’s not what this is about. This is about the music I listen to when I’m writing. I don’t very often see it advertised how someone wrote some book or another. The behind-the-scenes, if you will. But I would love to know! Some books, you can just tell what the author was listening to. Like that part in ‘So Long and Thanks for All the Fish’, where Doug Adams is talking about how Mark Knopfler plays the guitar. You know he’s a big Straits fan, and was almost certainly listening to their music as he wrote that scene. Maybe the whole book. I love that. And if I knew what someone was listening to while he or she wrote a certain part, I would certainly want to listen to it myself, while I read said part.

I use music in a lot of my books, in a lot of ways. And typically, if I throw out the name of a song in a particular scene, you can be pretty sure that’s the song I was actually listening to when I wrote it. And it takes longer to write a scene than it does to read it. So sometimes, I have to restart the song several times to carry me through what takes just a couple of minutes in the story. My lovely wife has been witness to this, God bless her. Hearing the same song come from my writing dungeon four or five times in a row, very loudly, must surely be annoying to everyone else. But music just paints so much emotion into a scene!

There’s a scene in ‘Into the Darkness’ where Codi is dancing with Sam in the dim light of the living room, while Rebecca and a friend are on the couch doing their own sort of dancing. I think that the music I was hearing really helped make that scene intimate and realistic. It’s one of my favorite scenes. Every song I listed there was part of the creation of that scene.

So in that case, it was seventies pop/rock. In ‘A Flutter in the Window’ during the lab scenes where Shawn was dealing with the dead, and one dead person in particular, I needed it to be very emotional. She was really going through it. So I listened to Max Richter. His work with violins and pianos – though there are no vocals at all – is superior. Simply, if you need to cry, listen to some of that. ‘Mercy’ comes to mind. Dear God.

When I worked at the Geek Squad back in my younger days, we used to have to tolerate the recycled music of Best Buy Radio. I worked with a guy named Austin, and once when ‘Use Somebody’ came on, I commented on how that guy’s voice just rubbed me the wrong way. “You know that I could use somebodeh!” Ugh. Well, Austin, a lot younger than I, retorted with something like, “What the hell are you on about? He’s got the sexiest voice in music.”

Well, I didn’t start listening to Kings of Leon that day. But some years down the road, Austin’s comment returned. You see, I always listen to what people say very closely when we speak of music. I held that comment in some recess of my mind for five or six years. I had started ‘Into the Darkness’ back in 2013. I got about halfway through it, to about 70,000 words and then it just died on the vine. I lost the muse and walked away from writing all together for a long time.

Well, some ten months later, I came back to it, thinking I would get back in the groove. But I only wrote about 4000 words over a couple of days, and then was out again. We moved around this time. Got a new house in a new city, and everything was up in the air for a long time. But I now had a new office. It was wonderful, and did a lot to inspire me. So a year later, I picked it back up again. I had about 75,000 words down, and I reckoned that was about half of the book. I started writing.

But before I did, I looked for some music to accompany me. See, back when Austin had said those words about Kings of Leon, I had trusted him enough to think I might someday give them a chance. Just not enough to listen at the time. So, I had downloaded all of their albums in mp3. I had them in my library, just sitting there, never getting on the rotation. Well, I thought, now is the time. I want to give these guys a chance.

So I built a playlist in Audacity made up of their first five albums – arguably their best five – and set it to shuffle. Two things happened: one, I quickly realized what Austin had said was absolutely true. Caleb Followill does have one of the sexiest voices in music. And two, I became a huge fan, almost instantly. I couldn’t get enough of their music.

Well, a third thing happened as well. Over the next month, I put down 80,000 words in ‘Into the Darkness’, listening to nothing but Kings of Leon on shuffle. That was the bigger half of what remained to be discovered of the book. My fingers were like little tap dancers, just blasting through words. The day I finished that book, I put down over 14,700 words. That’s a huge day of writing. And I cannot say that the music had nothing to do with it. Boy, it did.

My second novel, ‘Resurrecting Mars’ was written back before we had streaming services. Sure, I had mp3s in a limited capacity. But in this case, my office was more of a music studio, and I felt too distracted when I tried to write in there. So I set myself up a little temporary office under the stairs. Cramped and barren of any distractions, I wrote that book in just a couple of months. I had no internet down there, but I didn’t need it. I had a little jam box and some CDs. Well, the only CD I ever spun while writing that book was ‘Euphoria Mourning’ by Chris Cornell. I absolutely cherish that album still today. One of my top five of all time, it is. And I still have fond memories of writing an entire book listening to nothing but that on repeat. Though the story has nothing to do with the music.

All of these styles of music are so disparate. But they’re all so important to me. I am a lover of music almost over everything else in my life. My grandfather was the band director at a university for many years. He also wrote songs that you’ll find in your church hymnal. My father sold music. He has gold and platinum records on his wall for his part in selling it. And while it’s true that I do make music myself, I am much more of a consumer. It’s always on. And records are the best way to consume music, if you ask me. It takes an effort to get out a record and listen to it. You have to stand up and flip it after 22 minutes. You’re there for the engagement. It sort of forces you to listen to the whole thing. I love it.

Whatever music brings you to tears when you need them, brings you joy when you seek it, makes you break out in chills, gets you pumped up for your morning workout or even just gets you singing on a road trip… Use it. If you want to write with passion and conviction, use that music to inspire. I think you’ll find that it helps your characters relax a little and be themselves. Because the best way for them to relax – maybe the only way – is if their creator is relaxed and enjoying himself. Music will help you get there.

Happy New Year!

Posted on January 1st, 2024 · 389 words
Categories: writing
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With all eight of my books edited, updated and published, I have begun my next endeavor. At the end of Hello, World, Cory took Shawn on a cruise. She met a woman who was able to spend some time with her and answer questions. Shawn’s questions were of the Should I quit my job and join the cruise life? variety.

This book endeavors to tackle that life-changing decision.

Cruise Lines offer a trial-period contract, in which people can sail for shorter contract lengths to see if the lifestyle is for them. Shawn is on a three-month test drive when we start this book. Deciding if she wants to leave her Jeep, her Indian motorcycle and her boyfriend for life on the sea. But when people start going missing from the ship, Shawn begins to wonder if she will even be able to make it three months.

She also has a recurring dream that I won’t go much into here, but it serves the theme, and will end up showing her there’s more than just what she sees around her. This one will be called The Ghost at My Door.

When I mentioned editing above, I meant it literally. I decided to read through the entire Callie Simmons catalog during my Christmas break. I read all four of the books in about two weeks, and really enjoyed taking the journey. I’ve read them all before, of course, but never all in a row. I had a lot of fun with it. But I also, being a stickler for mistakes and typos, had to go back and edit them out. That may be my undoing – always wanting a better or more perfect product. Which is silly, and unattainable, I know. But it is so easy to go edit my manuscript and upload a new copy to all my outlets. I hope to someday get to a point where I no longer feel the need to do that. I would very much like to accept what is out there now as final. And leave them at that.

I also updated some of the book covers, as – well, I have no excuse. I just like tinkering with graphics. But I think everything is as good as it can get now. So, moving forward. Happy new year, and I hope you find many blessings this year.

Hello, World!

Posted on June 24th, 2023 · 513 words
Categories: update, writing
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After a huge night last night of 6000-plus words, and a huge morning where I awoke and started writing at 7:30 and added another 6500 words, I have completed my eighth novel. It is likely to be called Hello, World! because I think it is most fitting. It is the story of a missing satellite, a challenging AI personality, and the growth of one woman as she deals with new decisions and experiences in her life.

I had a huge month getting back into this book that I started last year shortly after finishing Flutter. I had high hopes for it, but not very many ideas. I never plot my novels, but I do believe in setting milestones. Like knowing certain things will happen. For instance, an AI built in an inescapable room will find a way to get out. Okay, let’s work with that. But that’s a huge story with tons of room for screwing up. It’s much bigger than me. I have completed eight novels now and I still don’t know if I feel qualified enough to tackle such a monumental tale. I don’t know if I’m good enough.

But I thought I would at least give it a try. There are plenty of other things I can drop Shawn and her friends into that will flesh out the story. I just happened onto the disappearing satellite by accident. It just made sense, because it’s what happened, and I learned about it just the same way you will when you read the novel: by surprise. Shawn comes into the office and is greeted with the news that one of their client’s servers has gone offline. And that server happens to be onboard a satellite in geosynchronous orbit over a spot in West Texas.

I genuinely didn’t know that was going to be in the story until it just was. And I genuinely didn’t know what it had to do with anything until my characters explained it to me. And I genuinely did not know how to fix the issue. But Shawn figured it out. She, of course, drew on my twenty-plus-years’ of experience in server engineering, But I was only a resource for her story. It still amazes me that these stories seem to exist and I am just the vehicle for their delivery. Like Stephen King said: the story is there, you just have to find it. I don’t listen to a lot of other stuff he says, but boy, that one stuck with me. And it amazes me every time I sit down to write when it reveals itself to be true.

I was just as surprised by the ending as you will be, too. And in the end, a small story about a woman and her fun tinkering with an AI personality turned into an epic story with world-ending consequences. Holy cow. And somehow they figured it out. I can take no credit for the resolution. All I did was write what I saw.

I hope to have this one published in the next six months, maybe by December. Stay tuned for it!

A New One in the Works

Posted on June 1st, 2023 · 301 words
Categories: update, writing
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Hello, friends. Just a quick update to let you know I’ve finally gotten back to my writing. After a move earlier this year, I had to spend several months updating and doing construction on the ‘new’ house. My office is finally back in order and ready to accept some new words. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

If you’ve read A Flutter in the Window, then you are familiar with Shawn Stedwin and her team at BlueBird Innovation. She is at work on a new project there, and I’m almost at a hundred thousand words on it. I expect I’m about 60% done.

Here’s a quick synopsis:

One of BlueBird’s longest-tenured clients has a satellite in geosynchronous orbit with a server on it. When Shawn Stedwin gets a call that the server is offline, she finds it’s not just down, but that the entire satellite seems to be as well.

She must enlist the help of the US Air Force Satellite Command center to locate the satellite and bring it back online. When they finally bring it home, what she finds threatens to…

And that’s where you insert the Hollywood drama bomb. “Rock her world” or “Change everything she thought she knew” or even “bring the entire world crashing down upon her”. It’s not that dramatic, but it’s pretty fantastic. I will figure out later how to write the cover flap. For now, just know that it’s going to be great. And it will shake you to your very foundation and challenge everything you thought you ever knew about books.

The side-story in this novel is that she’s also working on an AI personality in her spare time, and so that’s a fun little side project.

I expect to be done with this one by the end of the summer, maybe publishing in December or January. Stay tuned!

Callie & Walter Series On Sale!

Posted on August 9th, 2022 · 109 words
Categories: update, writing
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I have a limited number of bundles of my Callie & Walter series. That’s four books: Midnight’s Park, Resurrecting Mars, Into the Darkness and Red Bell. I am selling these bundles for $40 plus shipping if they need to be shipped. That is a savings of $27 off the retail price!

Email me if you’re interested and I will sign & ship them.

Callie & Walter Complete Series

If you order this bundle and leave me a review on Amazon or Goodreads for each book, I will send you a free copy of my newest book in ebook format! This is not a request for a five-star review. Just an honest review.

All Projects Complete

Posted on July 22nd, 2022 · 438 words
Categories: update, writing
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As I’ve discussed before, most of my projects have crazy timelines by the time I’m finished with them. Some I didn’t think I would ever get back to. Chasing Comets is maybe the craziest of them. The writing log is erratic and ridiculous. I started the book in 2016 and wrote 50,000 words or so. Another 50,000 or so in 2020, just over 3200 in 2021 (that’s all for that year) and then I finished it in May of this year, in about a week of writing.

In the midst of having that on my to-do list, I started Red Bell with about 7,000 words in April of 2019. That’s it. Three years later, I picked it back up, April of this year, and finished it in about six weeks. Meaning, I wrote somewhere around 143,000 words in those six weeks. Clearly, it can be done. Why can’t I just do it?

Well, I did it. My latest endeavor, A Flutter in the Window, was my personal mission to write a book without a large, multi-year gap separating its beginning from its end. I charged myself with writing on it at least a little bit, every single day. And some days I didn’t have much, but I put in a couple hundred words – just to get something down instead of a zero for the day. Other days I wrote 10,000 words. And with this commitment, I achieved a personal goal of finishing a book in one go. 43 contiguous days of writing, and I finished it. And here’s the best part: it’s the longest book I’ve written yet, clocking in at around 175,000 words. Pictured here is the woman I envisioned while I wrote Shawn’s parts.

Shawn Stedwin, from A Flutter in the Window

Last week was kind of a daunting one. I actually had to take off the week from writing because I could see my editing work piling up in front of me. I suddenly have three books that need to be edited. I’ve never been this far ahead, and it’s a good feeling. Since my Ideal Readers Group is done with Red Bell, I knew I needed to do my edits. I still have the other two to go.

3 Books to Edit

So Red Bell will be available for purchase by the end of next week. Chasing Comets will be published in December 2022, and Flutter in the Window will hit the shelves in April of 2023. Exciting times! Keep in touch for more updates, and maybe a snippet from my latest project, where Shawn is tasked with building an Artificial Intelligence that can escape from a non-connected computer.

Another One Down

Posted on May 29th, 2022 · 445 words
Categories: writing
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My wife and I sneaked away to Ardmore for the weekend. I don’t usually take off a week at a time for work holiday. I prefer taking an occasional Monday or Friday off, adding it to the weekend, and getting away. We usually do this every couple of months. I’ve found that week-long vacations don’t really last a week, and you’re right back to work. And you only get a couple of those a year. I’m doing this six to eight times a year. Zing!

Anyway, the theme of this weekend’s trip, besides relaxing and celebrating her summer break from teaching sixth-graders, was for me to spend some real time working on my sixth novel. Having finished Red Bell earlier this month, I went back to working on Starstruck, which is a working title. I haven’t yet decided on the actual name.

So I set up a little workspace in the corner of the pool house we’re staying in. I brought a TV tray, my laptop, an extra monitor and stand and a lap desk and set up a nice little writing area.

Temporary Writing Station

It’s so crazy to me how this one came together. I planted plot devices all throughout the book, just thinking I was writing. Just having fun, telling a story, getting to know him or her here and there. I had no idea these little plot devices would so strongly tie into the end of the book.

Now there’s your chicken/egg argument: did the end rely on those plot devices because I had put them in already? Was I subconsciously moved toward using them that way? Or did I really, actually write these things that ended up being divinely utilitarian? I think it was the latter. I don’t understand a lot of how I write. Or rather, why it works. I just know it does. I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth though. What I will do, is have my traditional cigar and whiskey in celebration of finishing another novel. Because, yes, our little weekend getaway to Ardmore gave me plenty of writing time. And I wrote around twenty thousand words over the last two days, finishing the book.

I’m excited about this one because it’s a different kind of story than I’ve done before. I call it the anti-romance, but that won’t feel true as you’re reading it. There’s a lot of romance in it. Dancing in parking lots between two vehicles, car stereos blasting into the night, while snow falls in their hair? That kind of romance. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Then it’s on to my next project, which I hope to start and finish all within the same year! Imagine that.

Lost Backups

Posted on May 19th, 2022 · 274 words
Categories: update, writing
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Well, this is awkward. I’ve been designing and building websites for about twenty-five years now. And I still haven’t learned to backup properly. So you might have noticed some new updates that were here. Updates from 2020, 2021 and 2022. And now they’re not here. I won’t lay down a bunch of lame excuses and try to make you think I’m smart. I’ll just say I was abducted by aliens and they forced me to remove all those new updates. Still. Makes me want to scream.

Anyway, I finished my next novel, tentatively called Red Bell about a week ago. I’m now getting hard to work on Starstruck, which I’m already about two-thirds of the way done with. Zing! Here’s the thing: I need a model for the front of the bookcover for Starstruck. The one I have, see here I can’t use for publication. I designed that to have a different kind of extension of my art to hang on my wall at home. I built the Stone cover and wrote an article for this purpose. But now it’s time to get real. I can’t use someone else’s image for the published book. Nor can I use Rolling Stone as the magazine. So if you’re interested in applying to be the face model for this book cover, that is the image I will be trying to replicate. Including the purple hair. Know anyone? Send me an email and let me know.

So while I’m hard at work on my next novel, my Ideal Readers Group is working on their copy of Red Bell with a red pen and a fine-tooth comb.

Pre-Press Copies of Red Bell

Hardcovers Available

Posted on August 25th, 2019 · 148 words
Categories: update
Tags: , ,

Hello, friends, foes, fans and family. I’ve some exciting news to share. As you’ve probably already seen on the home page, my novels are now appearing – one-by-one – in hardcover format! This excites me greatly. I’ve always wanted my own books on my bookshelf sitting next to my favorite authors, in hardcover format. Complete with dust jackets and foil spine lettering. Yes, these are exciting times. They are expensive. But so is gasoline. There’s nothing I can do about that. I’m making less than a dollar per book on them. If you add up all the books I’ve ever sold so far, then subtract the number I’ve given away, you’ll see that I’ve spent more on giving my own books away than I’ve ever made. And that’s fine. I just want them out there. I want people to read them. And I thank you for reading them.

Book Cover Model

Posted on February 9th, 2019 · 171 words
Categories: update
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Greetings, everyone. A young lady named Kiera agreed to model for my book cover. I’ve been waiting for three years for the right model to come along. The book has been finished. My Ideal Readers Group literally finished their read-throughs and edits three years ago. January of 2016. Good word, how time gets away. Anyway, for whatever reason (perhaps going through a messy divorce and subsequently moving several times) this book found the back burner. Well, last month I pulled it out, blew the dust off of it and shot Kiera for the cover. And now it is ready. The Kindle ebook will be the first available for purchase on Amazon. They have this deal where if you buy the paperback you can get the ebook for 3 bucks. So if you want to wait for the paper copy, I strongly support that decision.

Anyway, I’m excited to announce its complete completion. Completely. Finally. Look for it on Amazon over the next week! And thank you for all your support and patience.