Sunday, December 11, 2011

Music: A Muse Builder

Have you ever tried writing while some good mood music plays in the background? I have, and it often helps me keep going when, otherwise, I might dawdle over some detail. I’m not talking pop music here. Each generation has its own favorites when it comes to pop stuff, but they often fade into the distant past within a few months or years.

What I’m talking about is ‘classical’ music; music for the ages. Just as each generation provides a handful of ‘classics’ that linger, so does the music of the masters. Only, with the masters, their music will be here for centuries, providing a continuum for music lovers worldwide. How will their music help keep your muse amused? Let me show you what I mean.

For instance, say you’re a writer of romances. You have to write a love scene and you want it to be sensuous, but not blatantly graphic. There are two pieces I like to use at a time like this. The more sensual is Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, Movement Three; the slow movement. If you’ve heard it, I don’t need to embellish its languid seduction of the listener. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to treat yourself to some of the most sensual sounds ever penned.

It begins with a poignant theme that repeats over and over, but not monotonously. As it builds, you can almost see two lovers who kiss, separate, kiss again as they entwine themselves in a buildup to an irrepressible climax. Then they settle into a few moments where you can sense the lovers enjoying the afterglow, before they're overwhelmed with the need to couple again, this time more slowly but rising to an even higher peak than the first. And, finally, a peaceful settling into the classic ‘love-death’. A word of caution here; if you listen to this for love scene inspiration, stop the recording immediately at the end, because the final movement begins with a bang.

The other piece mention is Gustav Mahler’s slow movement in his Fifth Symphony. It is less sensual than Rachmaninoff’s, but somewhat more extended. Also, it fires up the muse in a most romantic way. I’ve used both of these as I write the love scenes in my romances, and I highly recommend them to you. (Hint: They also are excellent to play in the background if you want to create a proper setting when romancing your own mate.)

There are many other examples of music that 'lights your fire', sensually speaking, of course. Debussy penned dozens of short and medium length compositions that can lull you into a world where your muse goes wild. Also Ravel as well as Frederick Delius wrote similar ethereal music.

Alas, the contemporary music world bombards us with such cacophony that Don Juan couldn't get it up for one of his conquests. Fortunately, thanks to modern technology, we are not captive to live performances. We can go down the street, waking or driving, with some midget device crammed into our ear, and enjoy the music of the ages. For me, the greatest thrill is to listen as I write yet another story.

My advice; try it. You might like it. Cheers, and happy listening.

Pat Dale

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pump Up Your Blog


Hi folks. Our guest today is Frank Scully. We’ll be discussing his Muse novel, EMPTY TIME. Welcome, Frank. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of your story, can you give us a thumbnail of the novel’s background universe? Oh, and tell us a bit about your protagonist.

James Lang is like so many people today. He works in mid-management in a large corporation, Intelligent, competent and hard working. Loyal to the company. A vital cog in the wheel, yet always slightly afraid of losing his job so he bends to the whims of the corporate leadership. Divorced twice, alone, estranged from any family, his whole existence is tied up in the company. Like a serf tied to the land and the lord of the castle.

Corporate titans today are much like the feudal lords of times past. They fight and scheme their way up a ladder of prestige, wealth, power and privilege. The major difference is the lack of a belief in a coherent code of conduct or moral precepts. Chivalry is dead. Working on a global scale beyond governments and borders, these new aristocrats are almost untouchable. The only rule they obey is greed. They are willing to employ any methods necessary to win. The prize is enormous wealth. CEO’s are paid huge salaries to bring in the numbers. How they do it is not questioned. The ultimate prize for a CEO is to take the corporation private and own it so they have complete control. Then they become icons to the rest of the corporate titans.

Many corporations today have more wealth than some countries. For a CEO who owns his own large corporation it is almost the same as being the dictator of a country. And it is far easier to take over a corporation than a country and less dangerous. In addition, there are more corporations. You don’t even have to own the corporation. Often, all you have to do is control the board of directors. CEO’s of large publically owned corporations today can get paid hundreds of millions of dollars a year even when the corporation is losing money.

James Lang isn’t thinking about any of that. All he wants to do is get through each day and hang on to his job. To not lose his place on the corporate ladder, maybe to move up a rung or two. So he will do the bidding of his masters even when he knows there is something wrong. He may have in the back of his mind a realization that there should be more to life than this but like so many wage slaves he is a prisoner to what passes for reality and success in the culture that surrounds him.

To take over a large leading-edge technology corporation three top executives are willing to commit murder and fraud to manipulate the stock market and the international currency exchange market. To divert attention and provide a patsy they set up Jim Lang to take the blame before he is to be killed and disappear. Disappear he does, die he doesn’t. He survives and discovers through the sacrifice of another that in order for life to have meaning he must be willing to give it up for something. To save the people he loves he must put his life on the line to turn the tables on his former colleagues.

That’s a pretty amazing scenario, Frank, but one we can easily recognize from the corporate world’s recent headlines. As far-fetched as it sounds, this world does exist and I suspect that many of us would relish a hero who rises to the challenge of bringing at least one or two of those corporate moguls to justice.

To some this may sound far-fetched. Unfortunately, after working in a variety of large corporations for almost 40 years, I have to say it is not. This exact story line may not have happened, but executives of corporations have manipulated their stock with impunity many times, colluded with government agencies for nefarious purposes, cheated to obtain lucrative contracts, and employed people or other corporations to get around the law or intimidate others. Now they have the right to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections. The Robber Barons of the late 19th century and the feudal lords of the middle ages would be jealous of the power wielded by the corporate titans of today.

I simply use this as high concept backdrop for the story of James Lang, a man who finds his way out of the morass of empty time. Through good fortune and the help and sacrifice of others he learns that life has no meaning unless you are willing to give it up for something.

Well, I’m sure we’ll cheer James Lang on as we read your fascinating book. My guess is this one, with its worldwide scenario, was not easy to accomplish.

It was a fun book to write. It required considerable research, but that was part of the enjoyment, particularly learning about the waterways of Europe and those who work and live on them. That specific aspect is an essential part of the story. The waterways of Europe have been used for commerce for hundreds of years and still are. Boats of varying sizes haul goods all over Europe on these waterways. There are also boats that take tourists throughout Europe on the inland waterways. Many people live on their boats and do not have a permanent address. It is into this world that Lang disappears after the attempt on his life.

How in the world did you come up with such an engaging story?

I can’t honestly say how this story line came into my head. Ideas simply pop in and I follow them. Some are discarded if I don’t like where they go. Others I develop because I like where they go and enjoy the characters. What happens usually is a general theme or story line will come to me. Sometimes it comes with a set of characters, sometimes without. I write it down and start developing it. What theme or message is it trying to express? Who are the characters and what is their backstory? What is the crime and how does it play out? Without a crime how can it be a mystery/thriller? I may spend a few months ruminating over a variety of story lines before any of them make it to the stage where I am ready to settle on one to be the next book. I may be writing one while I am thinking about the plots for several to follow.

You certainly have raised lots of intriguing questions here. Would you elucidate your writing process for us?

Once it makes it past the initial stage, I will start doing more detailed notes on the characters, place, crime, time lime, and other aspects of the story. However, I do not do an outline. The prime things I want to know before I sit down at the computer are the characters, the crime, the setting and a general idea where I want to end up. Once I am comfortable with that, I work on the first few paragraphs. Developing that hook is the hardest part. So much rides on capturing the reader in the first few paragraphs.

Once I am past the first chapter, the book tends to flow. I allow the characters to come to life in my mind. It is almost like a movie starts to run in my head and my job is to get it down on paper. As the characters and the story move along I have at times found that the story and the characters will take different directions than what I originally had intended.

I don’t wait till I complete the first draft for re-write and edit. Each day, as I start to write, I go back and review what I wrote the previous session and do some editing as well as checking for consistency in the character and the story. Once I am done, I set it aside while I work on something else. I need to let it get out of my head for a while so I can approach it with a more open mind for the final editing and re-write.

Sounds like a pretty complicated process, but one that yields very satisfying results for certain. I’ve read your other novels so I don’t have to ask whether this is your first. How many books have you done now, Frank?

I have now completed six novels and am working on my seventh. EMPTY TIME is the third one published by MuseItUp Publishing. RESURRECTION GARDEN was the first, DEAD MAN’S GAMBIT was the second, and BLOOD SINS, the fourth, will be coming soon. All are part of what I call the Decade Mystery Series. I am writing at least one novel set in each decade from the beginning of the 20th century to the current time set in different locales with both continuing and new characters in each one. There is something unique in each decade that marks it as separate from what went before or what follows. I explore aspects of what is unique as it is expressed in the locale chosen and how it affects the culture, characters and the tenor of the times and yet also see the common humanity that never changes.

All are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and other online eBook retailers as well as the publisher’s bookstore at:

Well, Frank, I’d like to thank you for dropping by to visit with us today. You’ve shared a bit of your book and your writing regimen. I feel we know you a little better now, and I’m also sure we’ll want to visit a site where we can pick up a copy of EMPTY TIME and cheer James Lang on. Best wishes for a successful career as a novelist.

About the author:

Frank Scully was born and raised in a small town in North Dakota and received a Bachelor’s degree in History with Phi Beta Kappa Honors and a Juris Doctor degree in Law from the University of North Dakota. He then served more than five years as a Judge Advocate General Corps Officer in the U. S. Army in the U. S., Vietnam, and Thailand. After that he attended the prestigious Thunderbird School and received a Masters in Business Administration with honors. In his professional career he has worked as an executive with large aerospace and defense manufacturers and also owned his own small business.

Depending on the vagaries of the universe he has been well off at times and broke, but never broken, at other times. Blessed with an understanding wife who gave him twin sons, he has remained through it all a dreamer whose passion is writing stories.


Thanks for dropping by. Please leave a comment if you can. Happy reading! Pat Dale