My Novels Now Have Playlists on Spotify

No question that writing is my calling, but if I had my druthers (or any talent), I’d be a musician. I missed my chance during the punk era, when ability was optional.

Music is exceedingly important to my writing – and the rest of my life. I can’t write while listening to music, yet music dictates the shape and feel of every page.

I’ve now got playlists on Spotify (a digital music service). These playlists summarize the music that constructed my latest novels, Scar Jewelry and Nica of Los Angeles. I put these playlists together after the fact, and they each hold a couple hours of music. Spotify compiled some of the album covers:

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If you’d like to hear both these playlists, take out a free membership on Spotify, then follow scperryz. Or you can listen to the playlist for Nica of Los Angeles. Or the playlist for Scar Jewelry. (I’ve provided browser links but most folks prefer the phone app.)

I’ve got a still-evolving playlist for the still-being-written, second book in the FRAMES series, Nica of XXX. (Nica’s location in the second book is currently embargoed.) Today the new playlist is 9.5 hours long… I suppose that only the music I listen to repeatedly should survive to the final playlist. Anyway, here’s the Spotify thumbnail of the playlist for the new Nica:

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Let me close with a few digressions. (Bookmark this page! Digression on this blog – a first!)

Digression #1. Looking at these album covers, I am reminded that, on the whole, musicians are way cooler than writers. Which sets me to wondering. Do people become musicians because they are that cool, or is it the playing of music that makes them cool?

Digression #2. Spotify is an amazing invention and it rules my version of consumer heaven, along with the automobile seat warmer and the iPad. Driving to a concert recently, Spotify let me listen to nearly an hour’s worth of different versions of Moonshiner. Who knew so many existed? (Verdict: several otherwise-lackluster bands have excellent covers of this song; however, the various cheery Irish versions are creepy. This ain’t no happy drinking song.)

Digression #3. Who wrote Moonshiner? When? No one knows for sure. There is even debate about whether it originated in the U.S. or Ireland. Typically when great art generates immortality, it is not anonymous immortality. To me this adds bittersweetness to one of the saddest songs I know.

My personal favorite Moonshiner isn’t on Spotify because Kelly Joe Phelps hasn’t recorded it (yet?). Fortunately YouTube, bless its digital heart, has a live version:

There is No DOH in Book Marketing (And Yet…) (P.S. Free Book Stuff)

Note to self: When you put a book on sale, or into a giveaway contest, it is generally a good idea to tell somebody.

Psst – the e-version of the speculative fantasy detective novel Nica of Los Angeles is $0.99 through the holidays at Amazon and most other on-line stores. I’m thrilled to report that Nica has been getting some truly rave reader reviews.

Also Psst – you can win a signed paper copy of Nica in this Goodreads giveaway.

These promotions are also part of Read Tuesdaya newfangled answer to Black Friday (not that any question was posed). Read Tuesday is an on-line sale just for books and it happens today, Tuesday, December 9, 2014. (Note to self: maybe next year let people know about this before it is in progress.)

And so my no-love affair with book marketing continues.

Something that has been a blast for me to do, though: I’ve made Spotify* playlists for Nica of Los Angeles and Scar Jewelry. In each playlist is a combination of music the characters listened to, and music that shaped the writing. Follow scperryz to listen – and let me know if the music that writes the novel also enhances reading the novel!

* Spotify is a digital music service and the best ten bucks a month I ever spent. (You can also get a free version with ads; I used that for a long time.)

Oh, and speaking of music, that reminds me of all the cool free -legal!- music downloads at Noisetrade, which now has free book downloads, too. You can download the first half of Nica of Los Angeles on Noisetrade books. (And – for the moment – all of Scar Jewelry!)

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When rookie private eye Nica takes on a mysterious case, she enters a world of multiple dimensions called Frames, where buildings and lawn chairs can be sentient, a stray cat has great powers, books can be killers, and clouds can be spies. At home, Nica tackles missing person cases, while in the larger reality of the Frames she is swept into an escalating battle with stakes that could not be higher.

Cover for Scar Jewelry

What do we really know about our parents or the way they shape us? For twins Deirdre and Langston, 20, the answer is: not enough. With their father long dead, and their mother now in a coma, they realize they don’t even know whom to notify. In fact, they understand almost nothing about their mother. They delve into her life, and as they do, they uncover secrets that revise the past and transform the future. Set in southern California in the present and in the early days of the punk scene.

My Writing Trends – and a Couple Cartwheels

First, the cartwheels. I have just finished a very rough first draft of the first book in my fantasy detective series, Frames. Now I set it aside for a week, and remind myself to savor the sense of accomplishment. Then the real work begins, as I read through it, make notes, then revise.

This is my fourth novel.

Having completed this draft of Frames, I see some encouraging trends:

TIME NEEDED TO FINISH THE FIRST DRAFT:

Longest time: first novel – 7 years!!  I had issues with writer’s block. Eventually forbid myself from rewriting or rereading the prior day’s work.

Shortest time: fourth novel – 8 months – aided by time in bed recovering from surgery, where I wrote the second half in 7 weeks.

LENGTH OF FIRST DRAFT MANUSCRIPT:

Longest first drafts: novels 1 and 2. Editing required deletions.

Shortest first drafts: novels 3 and 4. Editing required additions.

 My novels, in reverse chronological order, are:

Frames, Book 1: Nica of Los Angeles. First book in a fantasy detective series that is a missing person case in this dimension, a battle between good and evil elsewhere. Available probably by the end of this year.

Scar Jewelry. A coming-of-age drama about a family with secrets, set in the present and in the 1970s punk scene in Los Angeles. Now available as an ebook and trade paperback.

?Was It A Rat I Saw?, a psychological thriller involving a series of murders, real-life split brain research, animal rights, and a love quadrangle.  Now available as a serial, soon available as an ebook and trade paperback. A few hardcover copies from the first edition are still findable on-line but I hope you buy one of the new editions instead!

Headliners, a character study about rock fans who travel the country to follow the tour of a life-altering opening band. Coming next year as an ebook.

A Novella of Unknown Trends

I also wrote a detective novella, which I cannot add to these trends because I remember nothing about the writing of it, except that at the time I was the mother of toddler twins:

C.R.I.M.E. Science, Book 1: The Beginning follows a misfit group of scientists and techies who investigate the death of a volcanologist. Set in Eugene, Oregon circa 1999. Available as an ebook and trade paperback. Next book in the series will be in Los Angeles in 2014.

DIY Writing Career

The latest Weekly Photo Challenge focuses on nostalgia and these photos conjure nostalgia in so many ways!

Fake fur chair by a Los Angeles designer named Harry. Back in those days, I worked in Hollywood and supported only me, so I had money for such things.

My writing room. Tile floor by me. Fake fur chair by Los Angeles designer Harry Segil. Back in those days, I worked in Hollywood and supported only me, so I had money for snazzy chairs.

In these photos is a tile floor I laid myself. Laying the floor took a long time, but not nearly so long as coming up with a design I liked. When I did the floor, I listened over and over to two record albums by my favorite band  the Replacements: Tim, which had just come out, and Let It Be.  There is still a bit of grout on the LP labels.

This was the room where I did my writing, and I wanted it to be special. I furnished it during the first of the mid-century revivals. I loved writing in that room. It was here that I wrote my psychological thriller about split brain research*,  ?Was It A Rat I Saw?, under contract to Bantam-Doubleday-Dell. BDD gave me an advance to write ?Rat?, so for a year, my only job was writing. Bliss!

I published ?Rat? then I stopped writing novels for a long time, until I resumed with Scar Jewelry, my novel about family and music, which I wrote on weekend mornings in between everything else. I had forgotten how great it is to have writing as my only work, until the last couple weeks:  I am laid up convalescing after hip replacement surgery and am getting a ton of writing done. More bliss! In fact, I expect to complete a first draft of my new fantasy detective novel, Frames, before I have to return to the d-a-y  j-o-b.

I am writing Frames on my iPad, as I recently posted. I wrote ?Rat? on a technology of equal or surpassing greatness, the IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter. Kids, you had to be there to appreciate it.

More of my tile floor, and the world's greatest writing machine: the IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter.

More of my tile floor, and the world’s greatest writing machine: the IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter.

P.S. Contrary to what this image shows, the desk did stand plumb with the floor. I “digitized” these old prints by photographing them with my phone and that introduced the skew.

*P.P.S. Another post-op project has been to convert ?Was It A Rat I Saw? to an e-book. That new edition should be available in 4-6 weeks.

P.P.P.S. Harry still makes amazing furniture, worth an oogle regardless of your price range.

My Writing Companion

With much enthusiasm – and no shame – I contribute to the Weekly Photo Challenge using my worst photos ever. This week’s topic is companions, and despite the lack of viable photos I have to do a shout-out to my beloved writing companion, my iPad. I recently wrote my novel Scar Jewelry on my iPad, and now am close to finishing a first draft of my fantasy detective novel Frames.

With my iPad I write on my patio on a balmy sunny night. With my iPad I carry my words and ideas around just about all the time, keeping them in the glove compartment in case I get a spare moment to write. And with my iPad I can slip over to play a few games and think things through subconsciously when my writing gets stuck.

Below are my writing apps in action. I wasn’t sure that screen shots should count as photos so I snapped these photos with my phone. Hence the unforgettable quality.

Early version of my latest novel, as planned out using presentation slides instead of notecards.

Early version of my latest novel, as planned out using Keynote’s presentation slides instead of notecards.

I organize and reorganize elements in a scene using the mindmap software Poppplet.

I organize and reorganize elements in a scene using the mind-map app Poppplet.

The writing itself I do with Pages.

The writing itself I do with Pages.

It’s the Moments

During my recent visit to New York, during a sudden torrential downpour my rain parka pocket filled with water and drowned my phone. The Apple store rushed me in for urgent care but my phone could not be revived. I had to turn in my phone to get a new one. It was either that or go several days without my lifeline crutch thingy while traveling. Everything was Cloud backed up. Except for four months of photos. Except.

Most of my photos stink. That’s not the point. I don’t remember what all I lost. I guess that’s the point. I use my photos to capture all the days and moments of my life. Get-togethers with friends and family. Hikes. Concerts. (The concert photos are always especially bad, of course, and mostly photos of stage lights and the raised phone screens of other attendees.) Cats. The dog. Places I visit. I’ve been surprised at how big the hole feels to have lost this segment of my life. Fortunately it was only a few months. Only.

I never thought I would quote Reverend Jim, a well-despised character in my novel Scar JewelryBut I now realize that at least one of his views is spot-on right. “Yeah that was sure a good scene, wasn’t it? What a moment. Nobody remembers the whole movie. Book. Concert. It’s the moments.”

[Insert bi-decadal, chagrinned, too-late reminder about regular backups here.]

Better? Worse?

Someone I Love Dearly (SILD) is a heroin addict who has recently entered treatment. SILD is doing great, on a tremendous voyage of self-discovery and new beginnings. Meanwhile I seem to be in the throes of some kind of PTSD and all my initial work in discovering codependence and in recognizing changes I need to make — all of that overwhelms me, saps me of energy, and really pisses me off. I just want to live my frigging life. I already did therapy back in my 20s and 30s. I don’t want to go to more meetings. I want to wake up having learned what I need to learn, adjusted what I need to alter. However, that approach never worked for learning Spanish so I assume it won’t be effective here, either.

I keep thinking about all the ways addicts seem to have more energy and fun* than those closest to them and in my darkest moments I imagine addicts as vampires of the spirit. In my self-sorriest moments I see the codependents as second-string sidekicks, leeches who latch on to give themselves purpose.  In more open moments I look around me in the meetings and see the addicts and the loved ones united by a drive to improve, to not waste another hourdayyeardecade of our lives.

Curiously, of late I am learning a lot from a character in my novel Scar Jewelry, Heather. “Curiously” because I don’t entirely like Heather. But lately I keep thinking about back in her wild younger days, when she was Heater, and her husband died in a motorcycle accident, and her friends feared that her devastation would provoke suicide. When they voiced their concerns, her reaction was No way! I’m not done yet! Lately when I spiral into the darkest or self-sorriest  moments I find myself repeating that phrase.

*After all, as Neil Young first pointed out, “every junkie’s like a setting sun.”

Musical Hypocrisy (Ooo! Ooo! Ooo!)

When I was growing up – musically speaking – I hated ultra-pop and ultra-popular. I couldn’t stand Stevie Nicks and it was a big deal when Patti Smith admitted that she liked “You’re the One That I Want” by Newton-John and Travolta. What a relief! I loved that song and thought I was crazy!

But seriously – and it was a big, serious deal; we were rightly passionate about music that was real and music that was bogus – I tried hard to judge music on its merits and not on what was cool. Of course, nowadays saying cool is not cool. Sick. Whatev. Making such an effort was one thing I have in common with my Scar Jewelry character, Heater. (Below I excerpt her remarks* on the subject.)

During the writing of Scar Jewelry there were a few songs that I kept playing again and again, and I quoted them in the book. When I got to quoting “Landslide”, by Smashing Pumpkins, I discovered it had been written by — Stevie Nicks. And it turned out to be incredibly difficult for me to process this fact. I don’t want Stevie Nicks in my book. But I want “Landslide”. But she wrote it. But I don’t want-— you get the idea.

P.S. I won’t try to justify my antipathy to Nicks. Partly some kind of kneejerk purist thing about Fleetwood Mac after Peter Green. A niece is probably named after a Nicks song (not “Landslide”) and I do love her so there you go.

P.P.S. I still love “You’re the One That I Want.”

*Here is what the always-opinionated Heater wrote about this, back in approximately 1979:

Today’s kids got no respect for their elders. Or for anybody else, I am usually proud to report. Respect should be earned, not ordained based on age, status or the other trappings. But so too should disrespect be earned and likewise not be due to superficial claptrap. Punks are no better than rednecks when they disdain Neil Young. So he is from the Sixties, so fucking what. He moved on. He’s always moving on. That’s what makes him an artist. Now I’ve said the A word. So come and get me. You’ll have to catch me first. And I’m moving fast because I just got to interview Neil Young. Who appreciates the great wherever he finds it. Hank Williams, Johnny Rotten. He gets Devo, he gets Kraftwerk, and I’m betting that in another decade he’ll be getting whatever else is new and fresh, while you’re still rattling your rusty safety pins. If he were in Ellay he’d be going out to hear the music that was the most honest and true around. He’d be at all those Alleycats – Differentials nights at Blackies West.

Sequels and Missed Opportunities

Some of my readers have requested a sequel to my recent novel Scar Jewelry. While I am thrilled that they care enough about the characters to want a part two, I suspect the requests come from desire to witness certain conversations and interactions that, well, frankly, won’t ever occur, even if I were to write a sequel. Such additions would make the story more tidy, maybe – but no longer right.

Here’s the bottom line: at any moment, life stretches in all directions and sometimes the options feel endless. But most of those options are fleeting opportunities and it can really be too bad if we don’t say something or do something or change something when we have the chance.

If this is a spoiler it is an enigmatic one that shouldn’t harm the reading experience.

The Idea Aggregator that Produces a Novel – Case Study

My novels apply a filter, sieve, microscope, and paintbrush to my life, with the occasional fun-house mirror or handful of feathers thrown in.

Scar Jewelry evolved through disparate experiences and observations that gradually connected inside my head:

  • When my twins were toddlers, a friend would look to incite reaction in me by stage whispering to them, I know things about your parents.
  • A decade later, I was hanging around with other parents at our kids’ track practice, when one mom came over to introduce herself. Her husband had pointed me out and said, She’s wearing a Billy Zoom t-shirt. Zoom was the guitarist for an obscure but legendary punk band, X, which we had all loved long before. From that point we became friends – and I looked at the other parents differently, wondering who they were before they were parents.
  • We set aside so much of ourselves to become parents. Some of us never regain those set-asides. Most children don’t much care about the non-parent parts of us and can be so dismissive of what matters – or used to matter – to us.
  • As parents, we don’t always appreciate what matters to our children. We make decisions that can dramatically and permanently change their lives, yet we rarely consult them as we decide what’s best for them. Hey, we’re the grown-ups, right?
  • I am adopted. As an adult I was lucky enough to be contacted by my birth family. It turns out that after I got adopted away, my birth parents married each other and had five more children. Meeting them transformed my views on many things and they’ve been a part of my life ever since.

By the way – though it may seem otherwise – nothing I’ve said here gives away Scar Jewelry‘s secrets!