Going Out On a Limb

heartI’ve had a few limbs break off behind me. I’m still pumping my wings like mad to keep from hitting the ground, though every now and again, an updraft helps lift me up.

Sometimes it’s an unexpected, nice comment or even a review of one of my books. Sometimes it’s a hug, or seeing something beautiful out in nature or the world. Sometimes it’s a piece of music that seems to pierce in a wonderful way to my inner soul. Sometimes it’s a cup of tea and a quiet night in, with the wind howling around the house while I’m snug inside.

What are your little updrafts, when you’re pumping your wings to stay afloat? 🙂

“Food For The Muse”

books-and-musicThis blog post was inspired through a post written by fellow writer and blog-o-sphere comrade L. N. Holmes at her excellent blog A Vase of Wildflowers. You can check out her blog through the link of its title, or read the specific and wonderful blog post that inspired me here.

Anyway, it got me thinking about how important music is to my creativity, particularly in the crafting of characterization and the scenes I need to write to showcase some of the character issues and development I need to show.

Like many writers, listening to music is an integral part of my writing process. I almost always need music to brainstorm. I have to tease the Muse out, especially with the way my life is so cram-packed and highly disjointed with all the different hats I have to wear. I need a trigger to get me into the work as quickly as possible to maximize what little time I have to brainstorm and/or write.

You may have heard of authors who develop “playlists” for each book they write. I’m not so organized that I actually create a playlist, but I do have a group of songs that seems to serve as the background music for each book. It always sounds a little cheesy to me, though, when authors post their “playlists”, because what it means and how it triggers that author is not necessarily how those songs strike a particular reader.

basementIt makes me vaguely uncomfortable because writing in and of itself is such an intimate process, and using music as inspiration adds a layer to that, IMHO. To me, it’s akin to opening the basement door and inviting readers to mosey around in the stuff you’ve got hoarded down there…all your quirky, sometimes a little tarnished, or even embarrassing things you’ve collected that don’t mean much to anyone else but that give you that necessary jolt of emotion you need to write a particular mood, scene, or character. 🙂

So I’m only going to open mine a crack…but only because this song was unusual in the way it informed my Muse, as it didn’t just inspire a mood or character element for me. It actually caused an entire scene to bloom, full-formed, into my mind.

The Crimson Lady, originally released in 2003 and re-released in 2012

The Crimson Lady, originally released in 2003 and re-released in 2012

Such things don’t happen too often to me as a writer. The last time I can remember an entire anything springing into my mind from an outside source was when I was trying to come up with the basic plot/character in what ended up being my third published romance The Crimson Lady. Her character came to me like that, fully-formed. So much so that I could see her in my mind and hear her speaking. It happened after I watched a television program about third world prostitution (and no, that’s not what the book is about)…but that will have to be the topic of another post. 🙂

Copyright M. Reed McCall, Mary Reed McCall, novel, writing, writer, author, book, Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, preorderThis current one happened when I was nearing the end of writing Moose Tracks on the Road To Heaven. I hadn’t realized I needed it until it came to me. The scene begins on page 198 of the book, for those who might want to look it up, once it’s published in EIGHT DAYS!! ( it’s not a chapter, but a “past” scene dated April 15 1987). The song is “When a Heart Breaks” by Ben Rector. You can have a listen below, if you’re so inclined. It might give you an idea about the tone and mood of the scene, but I can’t give you too many details without giving a major spoiler for the book. 🙂

Anyway, it was a perfect scene for what I needed to convey, but had no idea how until that moment. I went home and wrote the entire scene in about an hour. Except for a few edits, what you see is how it came out of my subconscious mind…all thanks to the music that gave my Muse a shot of adrenaline.

A Blatantly Christmas Post and Music Video

As the title says, this is a post with an embedded video (just published this month) that I find incredibly beautiful, inspirational, and moving, with gorgeous music and images…and an ending that makes me tear up a little every time.

But it’s blatantly Christmas-focused (the focus is a traditional carol and the connection of the season to the history that inspired it), so if that is not your thing, or Christmas-related material bothers you, then feel free to go on to read someone else’s posting of the day.

For everyone else, I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. 🙂


Revisionist Creativity

I love revisionist texts – you know, the kind of text where the current artist reworks something from an original, often well-known or beloved text and produces something entirely new.

As a teacher, I often work with my students through texts that are revisions of earlier, “original” works; among them: Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer Prize winning A Thousand Acres, which is a revisionist text for Shakespeare’s King Lear, Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, which is a prequel and revisionist text to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, and John Gardner’s Grendel, which is a prequel and revisionist text of the original Anglo Saxon epic Beowulf.

Of course there are revisionist film texts galore – re-workings of  (sometimes beloved) original screen or other stories. Some have a very light and “fun” vibe – like all of the Shrek movies, which are compilations of original fairytales with satirical elements applied (I teach a unit on that too) 🙂

There are also some for the stage: Wicked, the revisionist text for the Wicked Witch aspect of the original Wizard of Oz film and book springs to mind.

Not as often, I hear/see revisionist musical texts – though usually it’s an “updating” of an old classic, such as “Unforgettable” with Natalie Cole, singing along with her father’s original version of the song.

But here is an example of a song that’s been revised backward…to an older style that was undoubtedly its long-lost relative anyway. It’s a cover of “All About That Bass”, done by Kate Davis; I love it, maybe even better than the original text by Meghan Trainor (of course my predilection for 1940’s music may have something to do with that too, LOL). Some of you may have seen it already, since it made its way around Facebook and other social networking sites, but I’m sharing it here, since I think it’s worth the listen, either way.

Anyone have any revisionist texts – written, film, musical, or otherwise that they enjoy? Please share in the comments, if you’re so inclined. 🙂