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Editing, Life & Spy Stuff

27 Nov

A lot has been happening in my life over the past couple of weeks, and not much of it has included editing. I flew to Chicago for a week to see my long-distance boyfriend, whom I hadn’t seen in 5 months (we weren’t always long distance); he was a complete gentleman and romantic during my entire stay. Also, one of my cats has not been feeling well and has lost over 6 pounds from his original weight of 16. Then tomorrow, I’ll be flying to Summerlin, Nevada to help open a new furniture store with Living Spaces, where I work as a visual merchandiser. (This will be my 3rd store opening since I started about 6 months ago.)

In other words, I haven’t had much downtime—and I won’t, for some time.

Store openings are a whirlwind and can be a lot of fun, but they’re also stressful at times.  Last time I did one we only had 9 days to set up everything from scratch (10 for the rest of the team, since I left a day before grand opening), which was a record time for the company. This next one I’m doing will be similar. Like the last, this will be another large store, clocking in at 140,ooo square feet. (These store showrooms are comparable to IKEA’s in size, by the way; IKEA just tends to advertise the sizes of their entire building with the warehouses included.)

In other words, it’s pretty big.

Luckily, I’ll get to see the boyfriend again as soon as January rolls around, which will be nice. In between my return from Summerlin on December 8th and the boyfriend’s arrival 4 weeks thereafter, I should be able to get some more “read-out-loud” editing done.

I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to finish before the end of the year now, unfortunately. Too much has been going on, and my attention has been spread as a result. I’ll have more of a chance to focus on the novel in the upcoming weeks and later in January after the boyfriend has returned to Chicago.

In Other News…

Meanwhile, I’ve been getting some ideas for the next book and keep thinking about a few scenes in particular that have been inspired by some moody, spacey songs I’ve been listening to by a song artist named Koda. (You can find more of his music here.) I also spent a little time tweaking my two ending chapters, as they didn’t quite feel “right” to me—not that they were “wrong,” per se; just not quite “hitting the mark” for me.


What happens when a drunk air elementalist with claustrophobia tangos with a brooding clairvoyant wrestler at 3AM in a hotel room? Writing about it in a chapter of my fantasy novel, The Elementalist: Rise of Hara, entitled, “Two Tumblers, a Red Dress & a Bottle of Whiskey.” | Image credit: unknown.

Anyway, the second story will be set in new locations inspired by early 20th-century China, Japan, and Saharan regions especially as opposed to the more European-like settings I’m currently writing in.  It will likely be even more espionage-y than the first novel, I’m gathering—mostly because the main characters will be veering off their usual paths and doing a lot more things their governments may/may not approve of (intrigue!), as possibly hinted at by the novel title I have planned: The Elementalist: Revolutionary.

As such, I’ve been gathering inspiration on life in/near the Sahara as well as spies during WWII.


I started reading an espionage thriller called The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett, which I’m enjoying so far. It mainly follows a German spy who’s been sent to Cairo, Egypt during WWII, as well as his British intelligence counterpart in an intriguing cat-and-mouse game. I’ve also been watching the miniseries version of a book I once read called The Time In Between, also set around the WWII era. I wrote a blog post about this book a while ago; it was one I really enjoyed.


The TV series is very well done. Sira Quiroga, a Spanish seamstress turned renowned dressmaker turned spy against the Nazis, is a clever and compelling heroine–with an impeccable sense of style, to boot! If my protagonist Voi Román read her story, I think she would like Sira very much and might even consider her a role model, of sorts.

Anyways, that’s what I’ve been up to. I still need to pack and get ready for my trip to Summerlin, though hopefully, I can get a little editing done before I go. (Once I’m there, it’s 10+ hour work days, and after moving furniture and bending and crouching all day, I know I won’t have the energy to edit then!)

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers, both old and new!


Music & Stuff

15 Aug


Howdy, folks.  Kinda didn’t blog last time! :/

I have no thoughts on anything writing-related at the moment.  However, I have been creative this week.

Some of you may know that I play piano by ear and also that I’m a big Mass Effect fan. 😀 As such, I decided to put my YouTube account to use and post a video of my interpretation of a song from that video game series.

Here’s a link to the original song, and here’s my video:

I recorded this on my phone, so it isn’t the best quality video… I should probably use my Kodak camera next time, heh.

Anyway, hope you enjoy!


Heads Up!

25 Jul

Hey, folks, just letting you know: I will be out-of-town this week, so I probably won’t get around to posting something new on Wednesday.  (Chillin’ out in Florida instead!)  Not sure how much I’ll be present on the Internet, either, checking out everyone’s blogs and whatnot–which means I’ll also likely get little editing done. 😦 (As T. S. Bazelli so kindly pointed out on Twitter, however, this is a time for relaxation.  So I guess I really shouldn’t be all that sad! lol )

Yeah, so if you don’t see me around writing longish responses to everything…that’s why, heh.  (Lucky you.)

What I can leave you with is a link to a neat little mix of old and new school music that’s sure to put anyone in a good mood. 😉

…Yuuuup, so that’s a wrap!  Hope you all have a good week!



Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously (Unless You’re Writing Something Serious)

15 Jun

I promise: this one is going to be short today because I want to get back to working on my story, heh.

So I Went & Saw Super 8.

Big deal, right? 😀

I’ve got mixed feelings about the ending of the movie, but overall I have to say…


You can’t really tell how much fun this movie is just by looking at the trailer, but trust me, it is.  It was also scary at times (I’m telling you, the sound effects had me going), and the kid actors were great to watch.  (Elle Fanning did an especially wonderful job, imo.)  I think I was reading a review on Rotten Tomatoes that said something like, “Super 8 reminds us why we love the movies.”  (Oh no, here it is.)

It’s true!

It was like this legit old school way to tell stories (there was a certain way about the stunts and characters), something I haven’t seen since I first saw The Goonies on TV (which, btw, was maybe six-or-so months ago).  The characters were so Steven Spielberg.  It was great.

And if you have no idea what I’m talking about then you are totally missing out!

What I Took Away From The Film As A Writer

It’s pretty simple, really.

Watching Super 8 reminded me of why I started writing this monster-of-a book: I wanted to write an adventure story that was fun to read and even more fun to write.  (I can only imagine how much fun J.J. Abrams had making that film with Spielberg producing.)  But when you’re kind of a perfectionist…sometimes “fun” can go out the window in pursuit of, well, perfection.

I have a bad habit of slipping into this mode when I’m not watching, when I’m working on the novel or anything else requiring serious effort, though it usually only happens when I spend less time writing the thing than I do thinking about it.  Once I turn on the conscious critic, it’s over.  Now, usually some really great ideas come out of these morose periods, and in many ways I find it absolutely necessary to go there every now and then, but the danger is that one can stay in this place for way too long.

Don’t let that be you.

You know what I do now when I’m feeling depressed about how far along I still have to bring my story so that it’s at that shiny place I want it to be?  I watch a really good movie–not read a good book (because I’ve come to realize that I’m too likely to get depressed, to be honest) but a movie.  I also listen to really great music, the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard.  I am a highly visual-auditory learner, so when I see and hear the best being played out before me it always reminds me of why I want to tell my own story, and by the end I simply cannot wait to get back to what I’ve been wanting to do all along: tell the best story I can.

I’m inspired by the best to produce my best.  I wanna can that bit of awesomeness, take it home, crack it back open, mix in some original ingredients and serve up my own greatness, thank you very much.

Of course, you can fall into the trap of always watching movies or listening to music and then never get anything done, but that’s true with just about anything.  In moderation, though, these things can inspire.

So Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

…or else you may lose your joy of writing!

Oh, and here’s the movie trailer for Super 8 if you haven’t seen it yet (ha!):

What do you do when you find yourself taking writing too seriously?

Music: Creating a Legend

13 Apr

When I first started doing so reasearch for my novel some years back, I looked into specific eras that I wanted to be inspired by.  At first I thought I was going for something more 1920s because of how young planes were at this stage, but then later realized that I also wanted more of the lifestyles and technologies adopted in the 30s (roughly speaking).  Still, I was really interested in how planes performed and were used during WWI as opposed to WWII.

That’s when I happened to stumble across  They’ve got all sorts of information on the war, ranging from first-hand accounts in the forms of hand-written letters to music and video footage.

Inspired by Music

I hadn’t expected to find music there, so I was especially interested in listening to the kind that was played and listened to around that timeframe.  Here’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve sampled from their collection (using YouTube since I can’t upload MP3s without paying extra monies!):

That one is dated 1911, though the one on says it was written in 1911 and recorded in 1912.  In any case, it predates the war, so it doesn’t make reference to it.  I suppose like it because it’s fun and light-hearted and hasn’t been influenced by war.  You get a glimpse of life in America before the coming storm.

Realizing that maybe this was a little earlier style of music than I was looking for, I found, which features music from around the WWII era.  Lots of good selections there.

There’s a big gap between the two (from the early 1910s to the mid-1940s), and the range of musical influences I was looking for lies somewhere in the middle.  Still, it was a fun research of sorts.  I think listening to the music from different times gives you a certain kind of insight into what people were all about back then.  What people care about is typically what they’ll sing about.

Why This Has Anything to Do with Writing

After listening to all of this vintage music, I thought, “Hmm…what if I came up with a song that was popular in my novel’s storyworld?”

All right, why not?

Well, I have this (dead) character, a traitorous double agent, who’s become a part of the contemporary culture of the people in my story–a legend, even.  She’s a Mata Hari figure, of sorts, who’s inspired others to create several movies, songs and novels about her.  And, as you can imagine, the tales that people tell about her have likely undergone some…change over time and distanced themselves from the actual truth, which is what makes them kind of legend.  It’s just another look at how a tragedy can become a romanticized figure, despite what she did (committed treason) and what happened to her as a result (execution).

So I thought this would be perfect material for a song and a fun way to spin a tale within a tale–one that maintains relevance throughout the story.

The Lyrics

“Dirty Little Spy” is the name I came up with for the song.  It would be sung by a female blues singer (I only meet half this requirement, lol) in the key of A minor and at a fairly slow tempo.  I guess the form would be something like AABABBC, for those who are into music.

I have put parts of the song into the story, but I don’t use all of the lyrics, as that would get clunky and awkward.  Anyhow, it tells the story of this double agent I mentioned, whose last name is Feruupa (she was a Borellian citizen).  Here’s what I came up with:

(Instrumental introduction)

Verse 1

There once was a girl named Feruupa,
She worked the cabaret shows at night.
Then she met a man who was strange and new
And he liked her ways—so sly and cool.
He said,
“You could be a spy.” 

Verse 2

So she thought the deal over and over,
And it just seemed so perfect and right.
She could travel the world and see the sights,
Maybe work by day and spy by night.
She said,
“I wanna be a spy.”


Baby, darling, it’s but a game.
Business, pleasure—it’s all the same.
So I fool you once, a pardon is due;
I fool you twice, the fool is you.
You never woulda guessed I was a spy.

 Verse 3

So she took a job over in Darmoil.
When she came back she just weren’t the same.
Something changed her mind and she did the unkind,
Put one over her lover, kicked her country in the ‘hind.
“You never shoulda known I was a spy.”

Chorus (x2)


For treason she made a date with the electric chair.
“How unfair,” she wailed, but it didn’t care
‘Cause she was just a no-good,
Filthy, rotten,
Little spy.

[The ending would get really, really slow…and then suddenly pick back up again.]

Naturally, I had to make this song something that my heroine would be influenced by.  She’s got some silly notions floating around in her head about how glorious spying would be–notions which are soon challenged after she gets an offer to become one herself!

The Sound

I’ve never tried writing anything with a jazzy blues feel to it before, so it’s something I’d have to experiment with more.  However, I did find this really neat video on YouTube of a couple of guys just experimenting with unusual sound combinations.  They call it “oud blues“.  It sounds exotic yet familiar–exactly the kind of quality I was looking for.  I thought it would be really cool if the song was played in a similar style but slower–something I haven’t exactly figured out how to accomplish yet, heh.  Anyway, here’s the video:

Now, I do play some piano, but since I don’t play the oud or the bass it would be difficult to bring the entire song to life unless I use composition software.  And I’m generally not a singer (too shy!) though I can sing things in-tune and in-key, so long as it’s within my range.  So maybe one day I’ll be able to sit down and finish fleshing out the song into an entire composition.

Does music play a role in any of your stories?

If so, in what way?  Also, how large or small of a role does it play?

Sometimes, I’ve noticed, authors will make passing references or allusions to songs and celebrities, or if there’s television or radio a reference to what’s playing on there–particularly when it’s set in the real world.  Though, I have seen it done some in secondary worlds.  In Jeff VanderMeer’s Finch he sometimes includes rebel radio messages spoken by the Lady in Blue, the leader of an ongoing resistance movement.  I thought this was a nice touch.

Just the mere mention of things like music and even news that’s being talked about in newspapers, radio and other mediums, even word of mouth, can add an extra level of depth and richness to a story.  However, I think it only becomes meaningful to the reader if it has relevance to the story itself.

What do you think?

Story & Music

30 Mar

I played the viola in my schools’ orchestras up until I auditioned and played in my first semester of college, when I came to terms with the fact that I wasn’t cut out for “pro” performance (that is a whole other ball game, folks).  Still, this has influenced me greatly, along with playing piano for fun.  I’m always listening for musical qualities and patterns in things, even in something as simple as a birds chirping or something as abstract as how an object rings when it is struck, or the notes that can be played by blowing across a bottle’s opening.  (I could tell you what note it approximately hums at; my friend used to say it’s perfect pitch, but I don’t like the word “perfect,” heh.)

In any case, I can’t tell you how much I am inspired by music.  I believe it affects my writing.

Music in Movies

When I watch a movie I often judge its quality in part by its soundtrack because that, too, comes with the package.  Sometimes I think the music causes a movie to reach a level of transcendence that it may not have reached were it left to the movie script, actors, effects, or the other elements of a film.  The music is so special that it causes the viewer overlook some of the movie’s flaws, just for the pleasure of getting caught up in the atmosphere that is established by the soundtrack.

I have two examples of where I think this has happened.  The first is in M. Night Shayamalan’s The Village:

Do you recall the score?  It was utterly gorgeous.  And the funny thing was that in spite of its undeniable beauty, it felt incredibly understated in the movie!  Which is fine because I don’t think a soundtrack should ever overpower what is happening in the film; it should complement and augment it, but if it’s the only thing going for a movie…well, you get the idea.

For me, the soundtrack for The Village is like a girl, or a woman, who privately is aware of her beauty but never calls attention to it.  There’s such a modesty about it, despite its grandeurIt’s also very haunting, which contributed to the mystery/thriller element of the movie.

I think the violin in this soundtrack represents the theme of the preciousness of innocence, which is personified by Ivy, played by the lovely Bryce Dallas Howard.  It also represents hope.

Though it is much simpler, I think the soundtrack for The Adjustment Bureau, composed by Thomas Newman, did a similar thing for that movie:

There’s just something very surreal and magical about this particular track around 0:39, but it fits the scene from the movie perfectly.  At this particular spot Matt Damon’s character, David, is watching a woman named Elise, played by Emily Blunt, dance in a performance with her studio.  (The movements in their dance could also be described as surreal.  Very atmospheric.  It was an unusual stage set-up they performed on, as well.  At least for me.)  It’s a very simple scene, but for some reason it struck me as very special.

You have to understand the nature of their relationship for the beauty of this scene to make sense.  At first meet (in the men’s restroom, of all places), it is very clear there is something unique happening between Elise and David.  Elise herself has something very uncanny and fey-like about her.  When she and David are together, it is magic.

I think the one track above captures these qualities beautifully.  There’s another that picks up on the exotic, free-spirited nature of Elise, as well, if you’re interested:


I also think the soundtrack for Lust, Caution is another good example of how music can raise a movie to loftier heights and has some of the same themes of the other two movies I listed, but I won’t bombard you with more of the same stuff.  (I’ve got a whole list in my head!)

That’s great, Tiyana, but what does this have to do with writing?

Hold your horses, people!

Here’s my point: You can learn from music because like writing and film, music can be used to tell a story.  The mediums are quite different, though they can all come together splendidly.  The novel differs in that it is limited to the written word, of course, and perhaps also the cover design of the book if it is published.  Still, just as music can color a movie and add style, atmosphere and drama, so can the words you choose as you write your story.  Every word you use can help contribute a thematic punch to your work, if you let it.

From certain musical elements in The Village I derived the qualities of beauty, modesty, grandeur, innocence, hope and haunting(-ness, heh).  Some belong to the themes in this movie and others serve as motifs.  From The Adjustment Bureau I was left with the qualities of surreal, magical, special, uncanny, fey-like, exotic and free-spirited–all of which united to help create the overall atmosphere and flavor of this film.

Communicating theme, motif and style through music is more abstract a process than it is with writing, I think, but the same idea applies: Take cues from the context of your story–both on a micro (within scenes, sections and sentences) and marco level, and let the ideas and themes of your heart spill and bleed onto your manuscript.  Thread them through every fiber of your story.  Each idea and element in your work can be connected and tied in with the others, coming together in striking artistic resonance until you are no longer writing simply fiction but fiction with a palpable song, one that has a story to tell.  Over time, I think it gets easier to tell when a “wrong note” or chord is played, or when prose becomes flat and one-note.  It also gets easier to fix these things and add variation and complexity.

Sometimes I feel like the story is, at first, trapped within the mind of the author, in the vastness of the aether, and it is the writer’s duty to give them shape and form and set them free.  Words are the writer’s instruments, and they are begging to be played!

What kind of song does your novel/story sing?

If your current work in progress were a song, how would you describe it?  Which words best evoke the pictures and themes you’d like for others to envision as they read it?  What qualities to do wish for them to experience?  You can name them in a list, if you want, such as the following:




Maybe yours is shorter; maybe it’s longer.  Regular sentences work just fine, too!