babarnett: (angel wesley crazy fu)
I'm the kind of person who likes to have some structure to my life. It can be a little bit of structure or a lot of structure, but preferably a mix. If I need to practice piano earlier in the day than usual to accommodate something that can only be done later in the day, I like having that flexibility. But if I didn't have my piano lesson at the same time every week, I'd have a hell of a time planning around it and remembering when I need to head out the door (note to self: you need to leave in about 45 minutes for this week's lesson).

But trying to maintain any kind of structure to my days this summer? Didn't happen. Too much flux, which is one of many reasons I've been so scattershot about blogging the last few months. Hopefully, though, September should bring a touch more stability with it. Classes for my MLIS program start this Thursday. Regular weekly choir rehearsals start up again next Wednesday. My last day at Ye Olde Day Job was a week ago; I'm hoping to find something part-time and library related, but in the meantime, there's a freelance database project I'll probably be taking on. And with all of those things set, maybe I can get back into something resembling a regular routine for writing and exercise, both of which I'm ashamed to say I've been mostly neglecting lately. Bad me. Bad.

Related to all of the crazy flux in my life right now, trying to answer the question "What do you do for a living?" at my grad school orientation last week was far more difficult than it used to be. "What do I do? Up until a few days ago, I was a grant writer for a theater company. Why did I leave something that sounds so cool? Well, working in the performing arts was cool, but fundraising made me miserable, and I really loved the two years I spent working in a music library, which is why I'm pursuing my MLIS now. Why didn't I stay at the music library job? Because it was a temporarily funded project, or else I would have. No, I'm not going to be a fulltime student now. I'm hoping to find a part-time library job, and I'll probably be taking on a freelance database project.  Oh, and I also write fiction."

Postcript: in keeping with the spirit of randomness, is anyone else having issues with LJ's new text editor for posts? This entry got rid of all the spaces between paragraphs when I first posted, and then only the space between the first and second paragraphs on subsequent edit attempts. And with the last entry I posted, every time I selected text to put behind a cut, it moved the text before the cut text to after the cut. Damn it, LJ, I shouldn't have to keep tweaking the HTML in order to get simple entries to look normal.

babarnett: (farscape aeryn hell no)
Opera is among the musical genres I enjoy, both as an audience member and as a singer. Opera is not to everyone's taste, of course, but that can be said of any musical genre. Rap is not to everyone's taste. Nor is country. Nor polka. The list is quite long. 

There's an unfortunately common perception that all opera fans are elitist snobs, but really, we're not. Some are, true--no one musical genre has a monopoly on dickish fans. But most of us don't look down at our noses at all other musical genres. In fact, a good many of us listen to other types of music as well. Here, to keep a running list of what's been playing on my computer as I write this entry: Vienna Teng. Loreena McKennitt. Lisa Gerrard. Garbage. U2. Amy Winehouse. Elvis Costello. Dar Williams. All not opera.

(That said, I do think some people write off opera without giving it a fair chance. For those who think it's nothing but fat people singing, I suggest you look at this little clip of operatic beefcake. Even if you don't find the music impressive, the abs on those guys most certainly are.)

Now, the rant: yesterday I came across an opera-related blog post, and one of the comments on the post accused folks in the opera world of purposely keeping the art form dependent on private donors and grants in order to keep uneducated lowbrow undesirables from listening.

Cue me falling out of my chair in a fit of hysterical laughter.

[sarcasm font on] 

Yes, as an opera lover and someone who has spent most of the last decade working in fundraising for performing arts organizations--four of those years at an opera company--I can assure you that it is true: we love begging for money and remaining dependent on the whims of people with deep pockets. Especially the cranky eccentric ones who might stop donating if we take an artistic risk or do a production they dislike. We certainly don't want to increase revenue from ticket sales; that would bring in the riffraff.

And the grants. As a grant writer, my job description has always specifically stated that I am responsible for securing grants so that we can keep the undesirables out of the seats. I've certainly never spent time writing proposals asking for money to fund the education department's efforts to provide curriculum-based arts enrichment programming to inner-city students whose cash-strapped schools have cut all of their arts teachers and activities. We certainly wouldn't ask for funding to help bring those kids to see a performance. They might enjoy it and want to come back. We can't have that.

I've also never had to write proposals for marketing initiatives specifically aimed at attracting new and diverse audiences. No partnering with other non-profits for community outreach activities that will be free and open to the public. No radio or television broadcasts. No movie theater simulcasts. No ticket discounts of any kind. In fact, we should probably cut the advertising budget next fiscal year. The elitist insiders know where to go.

And it's especially fun depending on government grants. Because it's not like government arts funding sources are ever in danger of being cut.

[sarcasm font off]

On that note, I leave you with an example of how the Opera Company of Philadelphia is trying to keep away the rabble:

babarnett: (kermit needs coffee)
1) After another once over and some fine-tuning on Saturday, I was able to declare "Demon Dreams" ready for other people to actually look at. It even slimmed down to a mere 6,500 words.

2) Next up on the short story writing front is a story inspired by this article: Why dying is forbidden in the Arctic

3) On the non-writing front, it was a fun concert-going weekend. For both Christmas and his birthday, I got AsYouKnowBob tickets for concerts that happened to fall right on top of one another.  Saturday night we saw Vienna Teng and Alex Wong at World Cafe Live in Philly. The concert was awesome. Not so awesome was me turning into a dorktastic fangirl when getting them to sign a songbook afterwards. And Sunday night we saw Randy Newman, which was a lot of fun, though I could have done without the guy behind me wanting to sing along (badly) with everything. I paid to hear the guy on the stage, dude, not you.

4) I need more coffee. Stat.
babarnett: (farscape aeryn genius)
Since I babbled a little about this in a previous entry, I thought I'd babble about it some more in an entry of its own.

I'm not someone who has to have music on when I write.  I've written in silence, and I've written in noisy places without benefit of music--or sometimes in places playing music I didn't care for, which meant I tuned the music out.  But I prefer to have music (that I like) on when I write.

I usually can't write to music with lyrics, though.  I'll get distracted and start singing along (I'm a singer, after all).  But there are exceptions.  If the lyrics are in a language I don't speak, then I can usually listen to the song while writing.  (Usually.  If it's a song I've performed myself, then I'm probably familiar enough with the lyrics that they'll become distracting, regardless of whether I can speak the language.)  Or, sometimes a song is just so perfect thematically or atmospherically for what I'm working on that the lyrics become more inspiring and focusing than distracting.

As for what music I do listen to while writing: I'm a big film and TV score nerd, and those are generally what I put on while writing.  Of course, scores were written to accompany/help tell a story, so it probably makes sense that I'd find them good for writing.

(Side note: this all goes out the window when writing something other than fiction. Lyrics generally aren't a problem for me when I'm writing things like blog entries and stuff for my day job.  Actually, scores can be distracting when I'm doing non-fiction writing, probably because they make me want to go work on my fiction instead.)

While I mostly listen to film/TV scores while writing fiction, sometimes other music sets the right mood.  For the short story I'm working on now, Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble have been the perfect accompaniment.  Some other non-film score music on my writing playlist includes Lisa Gerrard, Emma Shapplin (despite being familiar with Italian, I can usually tune out her lyrics when necessary), and a fair amount of classical music from various periods, from medieval music to modern composers like Philip Glass.  Of course, Lisa Gerrard and Philip Glass both do film music themselves, and some of the Emma Shapplin tracks I have are from the soundtrack for Red Planet, but that's not all I have from them in my collection.

I'll occasionally make a specialized playlist for a story or chapter. For a novel scene in which there was some dancing going on, for example, I made a playlist with dance music appropriate to the setting.  I have a playlist specifically for battle and fight scenes.  But I usually stick to two playlists, cleverly named Writing Music 1 and Writing Music 2.  Just for fun, here are the first 10 albums to come up when I put Writing Music 1 on shuffle:
  1. Doctor Who (Murray Gold)
  2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Harry Gregson-Williams)
  3. Torchwood (Ben Foster)
  4. Merlin (Trevor Jones)
  5. Battlestar Galactica (Bear McCreary)
  6. The Last Unicorn (Jimmy Webb)
  7. Schindler's List (John Williams)
  8. The Last Starfighter (Craig Safan)
  9. Red Planet (Graeme Revell)
  10. Romances for Saxophone (Branford Marsalis)

So how about you fine folk?  Do you prefer silence while you write? Music? White noise in the background?  And if you do listen to music, what type?  Are you someone who creates specialized playlists for projects?  Do you listen to specific albums for specific stories?  Or do you just put iTunes on shuffle and see what happens?
babarnett: (santa yoda)
Don't know how I missed this one when sharing my favorite music for this season yesterday:

babarnett: (santa yoda)
Tis the season when I fall off the face of the blogosphere and fail to keep up with you lovely people for days at a time because I'm trying to squeeze entirely too many things in to entirely too few hours (I'm sure many of you can relate).  Recent conversations in my house have frequently included variations on the following:
 
AsYouKnowBob: Let's rehearse.  What are you going to say next year when someone asks you to volunteer for something?

Me:
I can't, I'm in grad school.

AsYouKnowBob:
Good, now again.

Me:
I can't, I'm in grad school.
 
Anyway, on to the reason for much of the crazy busy: Solsticemas.  Or at least that's what I decided to start calling it last year.  Being a former-Catholic-turned-agnostic-Unitarian-Universalist, I think Solsticemas more accurately sums up what I celebrate this time of year.

And because I'm a musician, Solsticemas of course needs a proper soundtrack.  I'm easily bored by a lot of traditional holiday music; years and years of practicing for holiday concerts and Christmas services every week from September through December will do that to you.  AsYouKnowBob and I therefore look for seasonal music that either isn't the same-old-same-old or that offers a different and/or quirky take on the traditional stuff.  I shared a couple of these last year, but I thought I'd share even more of my favorites this time around:

Musical geekery under the cut... )


I could go on, but that's all I have the time and brain power for right now, so I'll spare you all from further musical geekery.
babarnett: (yoda santa)
I've been trying to come up with a coherent post for the last several days, but my brain is rebelling. So I'm gonna give up and leave it at wishing everyone merriness in whatever form they prefer. For me, I think I need to rename what I celebrate this time of year Solsticemas, because it is sort of a hodgepodge.

Wait, I do have one more coherent thought in the form of another Musical Christmas Wackiness recommendation: Barenaked for the Holidays by Barenaked Ladies. These guys managed to make me not hate "Jingle Bells," which is quite an accomplishment (the only others to accomplish this were the Tuvan throat singers on the Bela Fleck album I mentioned in my last entry).  It helps that Barenaked Ladies embrace the song's inherent obnoxiousness and include the "Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg" verse.

So on that note, 5 and a half hours of work tomorrow, and then I'm off until January.  Woo hoo!
babarnett: (yoda santa)
I was going to try slogging through the rest of that short story I had started, but during my trainride writing time these past two days, what started out as me jotting down one quick note about my next novel chapter turned into me jotting down revision notes for the next 20 minutes until I was at my stop.  I was so deep into brainstorming mode today that I almost missed my stop. 

I get the hint, Brain. You want to work on the novel.  We can do that. No one's tossing any short story deadlines in my direction, so we might as well go where the inspiration is.

On a completely different note...

Musical Christmas Wackiness

Years of choral singing has meant that, by this point in December, I'm usually pretty damn sick of most Christmas music because I've been working on it since September. So out of a need to find appropriate tree trimming accompaniment that isn't yet another boring rendition of the same old song, AsYouKnowBob and I look for Christmas albums of the offbeat-enough-that-you-probably-won't-hear-it-on-those-radio-stations-that-start-playing-Christmas-music-nonstop-in-November variety.  Listening to one of those albums has put me in the mood to spread the love.  So I bring you the first of my Musical Christmas Wackiness offerings: Bela Fleck and the Flecktones' Jingle All the Way.  It's Christmas music. With Tuvan throat singing.  And banjo. It is made of awesome.
babarnett: (ash boomstick)
Reading
Got through chapters 11 and 12 in Bitterwood this week.  I've also been listening to more of The Road in the car, and that--well, "enjoying" doesn't seem like the right word for this kind of book.  But I'm hooked.

Exercise
Except for yesterday, I kept on top of the routine.  But I think slacking yesterday was probably a good thing.  My left leg was sore and stiff from overdoing it earlier in the week, and taking a day off seems to have helped.

Music
Slightly crazy week.  On top of church choir and piano lessons, the chorus I'm in has our first of two Carmina Burana concerts tonight.  So in addition to the regular Monday night rehearsal, we had the dress rehearsal last night.  There's a large contingent of clueless people in this group who have serious problems with that whole filing on and off the risers thing, so coordinating that always takes ten times longer than it should and makes me want to smack my head against hard surfaces.

Submission Land
More rejections, more stories back out the door. I have two stories I'd like to try at Sword & Sorceress, and I thought the markets they're currently at would have bounced them back by now, but amazingly, no.  Knowing my luck, they'll both reject the stories the day after the Sword & Sorceress submission window closes.

Writing
I was tinkering with novel revisions last weekend, but the zombie story kept calling to me, so I finally answered and began my next round of revisions on that. I'm rather excited as I think it's going to be a much tighter story now, and I think some of the changes I've made are helping me better develop what's going on with the protagonist.  I also realized that I had an entire scene that could go away, so the story's already about 1,000 words shorter.
babarnett: (angel wesley crazy fu)
This week has been strong with the bat-shit crazy side of the Force, making that whole productivity thing a challenge. Some of the things keeping me busy were good things (Easter with the in-laws, seeing a production of Edward Albee's At Home at the Zoo, a reception where my dad got a firefighter-of-the-year award from the local VFW).  But other things...well, I think my brain exploded a few times.

Now onto what I actually managed to accomplish amid the crazy:

Reading: I'm partway through chapter 10 in Bitterwood.  As for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, I gave up. I reached my library renewal limit on it and was just going to copy the remaining discs onto my computer last night, but then I realized that I still had 12 discs left. It's an entertaining book, but it's not that entertaining. So I took that long-winded puppy back to the library today and checked out the audio version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road.  Only six discs total.  Ah, blessed brevity.

Exercise: Fell off the wagon Tuesday and Wednesday thanks to the crazy, but stuck to it the rest of the week.

Music:
The usual rehearsal schedule, but fitting in practice time on the piano proved tough. I was all stressed out at my Wednesday lesson as a result, which didn't help.

Writing Business: Bored with the rejections-a-plenty/several-months-long-dry-spell-when-it-comes-to-sales combo now. I'm feeling particularly disheartened with one story. It's a flash story I wrote a while back, and while not brilliant, I think it's a good little piece. When I first wrote it, a fellow writerly type thought very highly of it and said, "If Strange Horizons doesn't take this, I don't know what they'll take."  Well, they didn't take it, and neither have the 27 other markets I've sent it to. I've never had a story get shot down that many times, and it's depressing, especially since it came close at a few places, which gives me confidence that the story doesn't suck. Unfortunately, I'm almost out of decent markets for it.

Writing:
I spent much of last weekend figuring out what I needed to move, add, axe, and rewrite in chapter 4 of My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel, which was fun and exciting and I couldn't wait to start writing.  Then, Sunday night, I sat down to write, and nothing. I spent an insane amount of time rewriting the opening sentence. I didn't get back to the chapter again until Wednesday, when I finally managed to push past that block. But because I had so little time for writing this week, I'm only about 500 words into the chapter. Blah.

On that note, it's onto the weekend for me.  I'm going to get in some more work on the novel tonight.  Tomorrow AsYouKnowBob and I will be driving down to Washington DC--the chorus we're in is singing at the National Gallery, and afterward we'll be making a Maryland pit stop to have dinner with some of my friends from college. Sunday will be singing at church in the morning, writing group in the afternoon. And if I'm not too exhausted, I might squeeze in some more writing before Monday rears its ugly head.
babarnett: (shaun of the dead)
The Productivity Report since Wednesday:

Reading:
Read two more stories in Prime Codex. "The Disenchantment of Kivron Ox-master" by Elaine Isaak was quite a fun one.

Exercise: Still taking it easy on my knee, which is now a lovely shade of yellow tinged with pink and purple.  I've done a little bit of Pilates and a little bit on the elliptical strider, but not much else--unless Wii Sports counts.

Music: I think I've made up for taking it easy with the exercise by putting in more time on music.  Piano lesson and choir rehearsal Wednesday night, followed by lots of time practicing piano and working on solo pieces for two upcoming performances.

Writing Business: Stories have been running in and out the door, making such a fuss that it feels like there have been more of them flitting about than there really are.  Two stories have come since Tuesday night, and they both went right back out the door.  Meanwhile, one of their siblings finally made up his mind about which slush pile he wanted to visit, and another story who had been moping around waiting for an appropriate market to open finally got to grab his stuff and head out the door.

On another writing business note, today I was pleased to find out that Flash Fiction Online has now been approved as a SFWA-qualifying market--not only because it's a great market, but because that means I now have a SFWA-qualifying credit to my name!

Writing: About 1,000 more words done on the zombie story. There unfortunately wasn't much time for writing the past few days, so most of that wordage was from earlier today. This story keeps surprising me, which has been fun.  I didn't have much of a clue where I was going with it when I started, but I certainly didn't expect to have a half-zombified character sitting in the middle of post-apocalyptic Philadelphia singing an aria from Parsifal.

Speaking of music working its way into my writing...

Despite being a musician, for the longest time I found it difficult to write about music--I just didn't know how to put my experience of it into the right words.  But when writing the first draft of my novel, it seemed appropraite to have one of my characters playing a lute in his first scene, and I realized that I finally did have the right words.  Maybe those words had been there all along and I had only just learned how to tap into them.  Whatever the case, it definitely opened up something in my brain, because music has been creeping into my writing more and more since then.  My writing stable now has a story about a lyre player in a city where the arts have been outlawed (recently got a hold notice from ASIM for that one, so fingers crossed), a soldier who keeps his soul in a violin (that'll be getting a major rewrite in the near future), an immortal woman cursed to feed on the songs/spirits of other women (only recently started making the submission rounds), and now a poor opera-loving chap who's been bitten by a zombie.
babarnett: (ash boomstick)
My schedule got thrown off a little today, courtesy of sleeping in a touch later than I should have and working a piano lesson into the routine. Nonetheless, I successfully told the slug where to shove it.

Reading: A short yet interesting chapter of Musicophilia.  Tomorrow, when I have a little more time to read than I did today, I'm hoping to plow through the rest of the book's second section, which will put me at the halfway-through mark.

Exercising: 20 minutes on the elliptical strider again, though at a more vigorous pace than yesterday's leisurely, migraine-induced pace.

Music Stuff: Whole lot of that today.  I started piano lessons with a friend of mine.  My mother teaches piano, and I took a few lessons from her when I was young, but it was one of those shoemaker's daughter situations where that fell by the wayside since the students who actually paid her understandably took priority in scheduling. I'm mostly self-taught as a result, so my technique is kind of crap.  I've been wanting to remedy that and kept talking about lessons, so AsYouKnowBob, in his infinite awesomeness, paid for my first 5 lessons as a Christmas gift.

On the vocal front, I had church choir rehearsal tonight, and I even snuck in some practicing before dinner.  The piano lesson must have put me in a singing mood.

Writing: Finally finished the first scene of chapter 2.  Man, that took way too long.  The next scene, which I started working on today, shouldn't be nearly as painful to get through, though.  The first scene had to be almost entirely rewritten from scratch because of the plot level changes I've made to the novel, but those changes don't affect the second scene to such an extent, so I can recycle most of what's already there.  That, and I absolutely LOVE writing for the POV character in this scene.  I think that love bleeds through onto the page, because his scenes always seem to draw better writing out of me.

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December 2013

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