Before I delve into this week's blog post proper, I have some amazing news: the official results of Metamorph Publishing's Summer Indie Book Awards are in! I'm proud to announce that From the Desk of Buster Heywood ultimately won 2nd place in the Thriller category! My sincere thanks to each and every one of you who voted ... I couldn't have done it without you!
Music is always an integral part of my writing ... I construct a soundtrack for each novel as I go along, with a little help from music cloud sites like Pandora and Google Play. They help me set a mood, and then as I refine the novel, I also refine the list, choosing songs to fit characters and scenes. Last year, I shared my list for From the Desk of Buster Heywood, so it seemed only fitting to celebrate In The Cards' release with its own soundtrack. If you haven't yet grabbed a copy, it's $0.99 on Kindle until September 25th! The reviews on Amazon are already phenomenal... but you're here for the music. Go ahead, punch play and follow along ...
1. Fall Out Boy - Fourth of July
This is one of my favorite songs for Ral, and his failed relationship with Natalie. He can't deny that he's still attracted to her, and there are a lot of regrets ... but there's a lot of anger surrounding how it all ended, too.
2. Nina Gordon - Horses In The City
A great, lovely, lonely song that captures Beatrice's mood on her first few weeks in Aviario perfectly.
3. The Bangles - Walk Like An Egyptian
This has been June's theme for many, many years, ever since I came up with the concept of a perky goth with a love for all things 1980s. It's what's playing in the Balefires the first time Beatrice sets foot inside.
4. John Mellencamp - Small Town
This is the Weldyns' theme, and the perfect music for writing Ral's visit to their house for dinner and conversation. I have always had this song as part of a generic Aviario playlist, and it's likely to stay there.
5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Messiah Ward
The Bad Seeds are my go-to music for writing Dr. Feistus in any stripe, but this serves his therapy sessions with Troy almost too well.
6. Oingo Boingo - No One Lives Forever (Live, Farewell Tour)
Dr. Jon Knight is filled, heart and soul, with the essence of Danny Elfman in the '80s. It's only fitting that this is what he's rocking out to when Sam comes to visit him in the morgue.
7. Peter Gabriel - Sky Blue
I had this song on loop while writing Beatrice's visit to Louise's house. For me, it has always been a song connected with magic and serenity.
8. Christophe Beck - Suite from Restless
Ral's nightmare about his initiation was inspired by this piece from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, and as such it was constantly playing as I wrote. It captures the sacred, ancient nature of the ritual along with the frenzied, wild panic which ensues as it all begins to go wrong.
9. Rasputina - The Olde Headboard
Melora Creager's violin-infused goth rock is my go-to music for writing Natalie ... her signature tune is "Things That I'm Gonna Do", but this one seemed to fit a little more with what happens to her during In The Cards. I put this one on while writing her breakfast date with Ral at Somethin' Brewin'.
10. Peter Gabriel - Cloudless
A song without words for the loss of a lovely character.
11. John Fogerty - Premonition
I was at a loss for any music for Troy until I heard this gem. It has a rustic soul like Troy's, and ties down into everything that's plaguing him by the time the plot really begins to gain ground.
12. Collective Soul - Where The River Flows
I wrote Troy's premonition at the bank of the Housatonic to Peter Gabriel's "Red Rain", but Pandora fed me this song one day while I was editing, and it seemed so much more gritty and visceral. (Besides, this was already a pretty Gabriel-heavy soundtrack.)
13. Florence & the Machine - Shake It Out
Ral lets go of his hang-ups, and it's about damn time.
14. Team Fat - Funky Tubes
What better music for the novel's final confrontation than a piece from something that inspired it all?
15. Cher - Heart of Stone
Just because Ral's decided what's best doesn't mean he's happy about it. I wrote his visit to St. Dymphna's with this playing ... in fact, it was the very first song I ever chose for him.
16. MGMT - Kids
As all-out terrifying and trippy as the video for this song may be, its bouncy, upbeat tune is a perfect match for the Fire Gang's gathering at Madie's in the final chapter.
17. The Rolling Stones - You Can't Always Get What You Want
It may be a little cliche, as final songs go, but I can't think of a better fit for Troy's last few moments on the page ... and for the man who sets him on the next branch of his path.
BONUS: Linkin Park - Waiting For The End
Heart of Stone may have been Ral's first song, but this was the song that helped me really get under his skin and connect with him. It got me through a very difficult part of my life, and I tapped into that to find his feelings and his thoughts about his uncle, Duncan. I'd be doing both of us a disservice if I didn't give it some form of mention.
That's all for this week, folks! I hope you enjoy the soundtrack and will come back next week, when I'll have a review of indie author L.M. Bryski's spectacular debut novel, Book of Birds! Until then, I remain your hostess,
A little over a year ago, I shared a short version of the playlist I used while writing From the Desk of Buster Heywood, but none of the actual music. Now that the book's been released, I thought it would be fun to revisit that list and give some of the stories behind the songs: liner notes to the soundtrack, as it were. I've created a playlist on YouTube, so if you feel like coming along with me for a 22-song ride, check it out ...
1. "The Little Things" by Danny Elfman.
Oh, Buster, you've come so far. This video is made from clips of James Urbaniak's minor villain role in a show called "Kidnapped" ... which inspired our hero, truth be told. Buster was never as horrid as his assassin counterpart, but the clean-cut, skinny man in a suit with wide eyes and just a touch of badass was firmly embedded in my mind. Add in my favorite musician, and, well, you might as well call this Buster's theme for the second half of the book.
2. "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega.
Earworm it may be, but this is the scene I wrote Chapter One to. Buster has a fantastic habit of people-watching, and what better background music than a song about the very same?
3. "Working Class Hero" by John Lennon
I doubt I need to add much here, since this classic speaks for itself... and for Buster, too...
4. "The Arrivals Gate" by Ani DiFranco.
Another people-watching song! The frenetic, bubbly energy of this one made it a perfect fit for Buster's lunch date with his older sister Dee, and their reunion in Grand Central Station.
5. "Tidal Wave" by Owl City.
The moment I heard this song for the first time, I knew exactly where our hero would wind up by the end of the book. I wrote the entire last chapter with this one pretty much on loop.
6. "Everything is Alright" by Motion City Soundtrack.
If I had to choose a scene or two to pair this with, it would be Buster's walks with his friend Cam: it's upbeat, but the lyrics are the counterpoint to it all, and fit how much he's floundering to keep his head above water once everything starts going sour.
7. "The Loner" by Neil Young.
Easy stuff: this is the song playing in Chapter Three when Buster enters Charlie's Bar.
8. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears.
... and this is the song playing in the Bar when he realizes what he's left behind at work ...
9. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Lorde.
... and this is what it morphs into as he has to go back and retrieve it. It was such a flawless and perfect choice for the little movie in my mind.
10. "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here" by Porcupine Tree.
This was my background for writing Buster's ride back from New York in Chapter Eleven.
11. "Wrong" by Depeche Mode.
In a perfect world, this song would automatically start playing for every reader at the start of Chapter Fifteen. The scene spooled itself out in my head perfectly the moment a dear friend played it for me. "I thought of Buster," she said ... and the book is infinitely better for it.
12. "Exile Vilify" by The National.
I don't really have a specific spot in mind for this, but both the sound and the lyrics fit Buster so very well.
13. "Big Casino" by Jimmy Eat World.
This is Buster before the novel even begins, as he's moving to Connecticut: a song that helped me lay the groundwork for his personality and a little bit of his background.
14. "He Films The Clouds, Part 2" by Maybeshewill.
Another song with no specific spot in mind ... I think it might just belong in the last chapter along with Tidal Wave.
15. "Lost?" by Coldplay.
Another end-of-the-book song ... in fact, this was the one I considered my "end credits" of sorts before I heard Tidal Wave.
16. "Look Out Any Window" by Bruce Hornsby.
On his drive down the Post Road, I mention that Buster's singing along with the radio. This would be the song.
17. "Sunny Came Home" by Shawn Colvin.
Chapter Fourteen: "He grabbed a pack of gum and a disposable lighter from the racks beside the counter, as a girl on the radio sang something about kids and a sweater."
18. "Centuries" by Fall Out Boy
I don't dare spoil the end of Chapter Fifteen, but a song with a hook from Tom's Diner was just the thing I needed.
19. "Team" by Lorde.
The official theme of the Runoff trio: Jeremiah, Loren, and Daniel. "No secrets."
20. "I Can't Read" by Tin Machine.
This is what's playing on the jukebox in the Runoff when the Spanner makes his entrance. Those of you who saw last week's Dream Cast post will "see what I did there", so to speak.
21. "Helena" by My Chemical Romance (Piano Cover)
This is where Q.S.'s first name came from. There is an awful lot more history between Buster, this song, and I, but that's our own little secret.
22. "Stop A Bullet" by Black Light Burns.
This one's got as much attached to it as the Helena cover, but I can say with certainty that this is the song I chose for Buster's poisonous relationship with Loren. I have a few other songs I'd put on to get inside Loren's head - "Little Lies" by Fleetwood Mac and "Cruelty" by Cruxshadows were particular standouts - but if I had to choose one to stand as Loren's #1 theme, this would be it.
I have always, always known who would play Buster Heywood if anyone ever decided he should grace a screen. I know that it is a reader's prerogative to picture the characters for themselves: one reader of a very early draft of In the Cards once told me my redheaded main character had black hair in her mind. Who was I to stop her from seeing him that way? However, author K.M. Weiland recently shared her own dream cast for her upcoming novel, "Storming" (you can see it here), and inspired me to share the cast of "From the Desk..." with you all.
Clearly, there are several more characters in From the Desk of Buster Heywood, and I'd love to share them all with you ... but that would make for a very lengthy blog post, indeed. If you're curious, I've created a Pinterest board for the book. Currently, it only has photos of the dream cast, but I have pictures I've taken for location reference, and other tidbits that I'll be adding to the board soon enough. You can check it out here ... and I hope to see you again next week!
This week's excerpt is straight out of From The Desk of Buster Heywood, due for release in mid-September!
The overhang outside the door kept him dry as he looked out at the storm that had rolled in over the North End. The slush banks Cameron had kicked to pieces were already melting under the onslaught of the rain, pitted and spiked like termite hills, and rivers ran past the edges of the sidewalk into the gutter. Buster pulled his gloves on and buttoned up his coat to steel himself, then stepped out into the frigid deluge.
The tenement building had no roof overhang for him to duck under, so he was soaked by the time he reached the alley. Even so, the building shielded him from any gales coming at him from the side, leaving him to contend with the rain from above. He ducked beneath a fire escape and paused to remove his glasses, wiping droplets off with his scarf. It wouldn’t last long, but at least he’d be able to see long enough to find his way back to the Jetta.
“You,” an unfamiliar voice called out from behind him.
Buster turned, feeling his dinner turn, as well.
“Yeah, you.” A short, thin man with a patchy goatee moved forward into the alley. He wore a faded grey wool coat that looked as though it had seen several previous owners before him, and tattered jeans. The stained apron around his waist and red bandana tied over his hair marked him almost unmistakably as Luis’ busboy. “I know who you are..."
For the last few weeks, I've been sharing excerpts which fit the weekly theme for Twitter's One Line Wednesday. Though this week's theme is "coffee", I admit to stretching it a little with this scene out of From the Desk of Buster Heywood... by taking you to the haven of 9-to-5 coffee drinkers everywhere: the break room.
The water cooler was one of the most useful yet frustrating points of interest in any given workplace. Long before fad diets had started pushing the importance of eight glasses of water a day, Buster's mother had been a vocal fan of hydration. When most kids had gone on field trips with bottles of Gatorade or foil pouches of Capri Sun that shined like status symbols, the Heywood kids had clambered aboard their fair share of buses and mini-vans with thermoses full of fresh, filtered water. But while there was an ingrained predisposition for Buster to seek out the nearest watering hole in lieu of cracking open a can of soda or popping out for a cup of coffee at the shop across the circle, there was also the fact that he often felt like the lone gazelle in a crowd of hyenas.
"... and can you believe what they did with the lobby of the Courier? Completely gutted it, made it all modern. I don't know how the Historical Society ever let that one slide, or who approved the building permit there." Ben, the salt-and-pepper-haired town registrar, was leaning against the counter near the microwave, addressing two of the clerks who were sharing their lunch at the table.
Buster winced: the three of them had formed the dreaded Break Room Triangle, a configuration which not only allowed for the maximum amount of possible social interaction before he could collect his cup of water and retreat, but demanded that he pass straight through the middle of it in order to do so. He prepared for the imminent small talk, and stepped forward with his customary nod of greeting.
"Oh, hey, Buster. How's it going?"
"That good, huh?" Ben chuckled, though Buster found the joke as funny as he did every single time it was made. "I was just telling the girls about the remodel the Courier had done. They're the first winners of that local business makeover contest Loren's committee started."
Buster's hand hovered below the cup dispenser as something clicked. Loren's committee... maybe this had something to do with his promised errand, later in the afternoon. There was a slim chance of it, after all. But he wasn't prepared to doom himself to being stuck in the Triangle just for a slim chance, and made another quiet noise of agreement.
"What is it, one every three months? They're due to pick the next one pretty soon." The part-time girl from upstairs nudged a carrot stick through a Tupperware container of dressing. Buster couldn’t remember her name, but it was hard to forget the heavy floral perfume she tended to drench herself in, or the way her feathered blonde hair stuck out at strange angles, like tiny wings all over her head. He'd learned to keep his eyes fixed on the water cooler as he filled his cup, so he wouldn't stare at her head, wondering when it was going to take flight off her shoulders.
"Probably voting on it at the next town meeting, yeah," Ben agreed, sipping at his coffee. "Whoever it is, I sure hope they do something nicer than the paper's done. The whole point was to keep the spirit of the town, not ... I don't know, try and drag it kicking and screaming into modern day style. People like this place because it's classic, you know? Some things need to be kept the way they are."
The part-timer pointed her carrot at him with a raised eyebrow. "I bet you don't want that new shopping center, either, Ben."
"Right you are. Even if I did, I couldn't afford to go to it, am I right? Not on what they pay me." At this, he let loose a wheezing, fake laugh - something that most people found charming in a self-deprecating sort of way, but just tended to grab Buster's spine and twist a little. It reminded him of sitcom scenes where a character was choking, but no one else noticed until the last minute: something else that he had never thought was funny. He topped off his cup and headed back to his desk.
We've finally reached the end of the Rainbow! It's hard to believe that I started writing about this three months ago! Last week, I promised a tally of my own edits to From the Desk of Buster Heywood, and I do try to keep my promises. I used this tally to find the areas of my writing that needed the most work and conscious effort, and hopefully I'll have different results when I start editing the next book, In the Cards. For those of you who aren't interested in this sort of thing? I apologize, and there is already a fantastic anecdotal entry simmering in my brain for next week. So, without further ado, proof of my own imperfection (she said, grinning).
Sophistication (Original Entry)
Show vs. Tell (Original Entry)
Character & P.O.V (Original Entry)
Character, Pacing, and Beats (Original Entry)
Dialogue, Monologue & Sound (Original Entry)
Voice (Original Entry)
I could break these down by chapter, since I did make a list of them, but that would ruin so many surprises. Here are the things a lot of my favorite passages had in common:
Other Edits & Instances of "Kill Your Darlings"
A lot of my generic edits, done in pink ink, involved tightening up sentences, or reordering them so that they read more smoothly on the page. A few places needed a little more "oomph" to ramp up suspense, and others needed extra taken out to speed up the pace. My proverbial darlings, passages that I loved but didn't necessarily need, got highlighted in yellow. The fifteen pages in Chapter 1 I mentioned earlier were a doozy, since that scene was the first glimpse I had of Buster's sister, Dee, and loved her immediately. I also had a few funny lines which were pretty good, but didn't fit Buster quite right. These have been saved and tucked away for later use. One particular darling remains, but in a pared-down and much more subtle form, to help tie the first book to its successors. I won't give it away, but a couple of books from now, it'll be clear as day in a reread.
That officially wraps up my entries on the Rainbow Editing Method! Thank you for sticking through it with me, and I hope that some of what I've had to say over these last few months has been useful ... or at the very least, somewhat entertaining. See you all next Thursday!
First,let's start with a writerly update: For The Desk of Buster Heywood is complete! I finished it in late October, and took a break from it to start the next novel of Aviario, In The Cards, for National Novel Writing Month. Then, of course, the dreaded holiday season was upon us, and now I have been away from poor Buster and his perils long enough to edit with fresh eyes. I am almost through my first round of editing, and hope to have the ebook version available soon! To thank you for your patience, I have two shiny new excerpts up on the Writing page.
Now: let me talk just a little bit about social media. As those of you who've been with me thus far know, I am primarily a Twitter and Tumblr person, and have stayed away from Facebook for a few years now. I know I have addictive tendencies when it comes to the more social functions of the internet, and Facebook has all the hallmarks of being something I could easily lose hours to.
Unfortunately, it's become the norm for authors to have and rigorously promote their own Facebook pages, and use these as one of their primary sources to find and court their readers. I would prefer to do that via this very blog, since it seems more intimate and personal to me... but the world of self-publishing is what it is, and over the last couple of months, I have been grappling with the concept of a necessary evil.
I also realized that re-establishing myself on Facebook would be a fantastic opportunity to do something I've been horrible at recently: keeping in touch with friends, both old and new. While in an ideal world, I'd spend hours on the phone or write them lengthy letters to catch up, my current job doesn't afford me much free time. So small sound bytes of social media will have to do. I was self-conscious about this, until I realized that most friends, in the true sense of the word, will not care if you only have a few seconds to say hello: only that you still do.
So, I'm pulling myself up by my digital bootstraps and wading back into the tides of social media: but for the moment, I'm only going in up to my knees. I have a novel to finish editing, after all.
Since I'm still mainly trying to focus on finishing From the Desk... so that I can share it with you, this week's post won't be very long. But I have been digesting a lot of information lately, both for and about writing. It occurred to me that not too many of the blogs I frequent talk very much about something that's always been a huge factor in my writing: the music that inspires me.
Every writer has their own opinion when it comes to music. Some find it too much of a distraction, some prefer instrumental tracks from film scores or classical music, and others (like yours truly) craft whole soundtracks for plots or single characters that help them get in the right mood for a scene. From time to time, I'll be sharing lists of the songs I listen to when I write. I'm not as savvy as I'd like to be with sites like Grooveshark or 8-tracks, or there would be a playlist file embedded here for you to click and listen away. Maybe with some luck, future music posts will have that ability! In the meantime, here are my favorite writing songs for Buster Heywood, himself (in no particular order, and without hinting at any major surprises):
Look a few of them up, if you feel curious... I hope you enjoy them, and maybe even get inspired to create some lists of your own! Have you always had a song you associate with a character or scene? Or maybe you'd like to start using this trick to nudge your mind in the right direction, but aren't sure where to start? Drop me an email or a line on Twitter and let me know! I'd love to hear from you.
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