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Music

My Summer. And Fall. And Winter …

Hi, everyone, and Happy New Year! A very belated Happy New year. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Music

I mentioned that I had taken up the violin again. It’s been a good twenty-five years, but I two years of very good lessons (in the early 90s) to draw upon, and YouTube has turned out to be a fantastic resource.

It is helpful to have a commitment when doing something like music. My daughter is singing with the church choir, and I promised her that I would be playing with the choir by Christmas. I was able to keep my promise. I am not very good, but I seem to be good enough. Catholic music seems very well suited for violin because so much of it is a slow tempo in a minor key.

Playing music is a bit more of a challenge than it was when I was twenty-five. I’ve had to overcome a bit of arthritis and regain my finger flexibility. It is still not quite back yet. I have trouble with some of the reaches, as well crowding my fingers together in order to play half-steps in tune, such as from F# to G on the E string–very difficult for me. It was once trivial. I also now have vision problems, and the music stand needs to be a good three feet away in order to avoid hitting it with my instrument. It helps that I have a pair of reading glasses that are a few years old, so they are actually pretty good for reading at a bit of a distance.

On the bright side, the skill has come back quickly, and I continue to hear improvement every week.

Writing

I finished a major revision on one of my completed novels and I dove right into finishing up an in-process revision of another. I know I should just start submitting and/or self-publishing the first one, but I can’t seem to stop myself–the writing is just going too well. My sister wants me to start releasing my time travel novel a chapter a week on this blog. She has heard of other writers who have had success with that, but before I commit to such a thing, I would need to research exactly what those other authors did (I have names) and try to guess how successful I might be.

Work

Work has been crazy. I often end up drained by the end of the day, to the extent of which I may have some decisions to make. So that’s all I have to say about that. I have been thinking about doing some business analysis blog posts, and posting/linking them on LinkedIn, under my professional account (not my writer account). I even have some articles ready to go, many of which I wrote years ago for the benefit (and amusement) of my teammates. If I decide to do that, I’ll build another WordPress site for the blog and an online resume, similar to what a lot of user interface developers do. It will definitely have to be something easy.

Goofing Off

Yes, I do get time to goof off. My daughter and I also took up beading, but until she gets better at crimping, we only do that sporadically. My eyes just are not up to it. I can come up with some pretty patterns, and if I lay it out for her, she’ll bead it up. If I don’t lay it out for her, she seems at a loss as to how to imagine a pattern. But that should come in time. We’ re going to do rearranging on our spare room, and part of it (the sunny spot) will be a beading station.

One thing I haven’t been doing a lot, is reading. I think, this year, I have read fewer books than in my entire reading life. Something had to give, I guess.

~*~

What have you been up to? Do you have any good rousing adventure stories to recommend, to get me out of my reading rut? I’m in the mood for a rousing adventure epic. Genre is flexible–either a space epic, a fantasy, or even something historical (if it’s adventurous).

Where Have I Been?

Sorry about the long silence. I’ve been like a lady obsessed.

First, some news. I have 2 stories ready for submission. Yay! I’ll get those suckers sent off by the end of the weekend. Here are the queries I’m working on; this is for The Face in the Magic Mirror, a novella:

Prince Richard is trapped by a spell on a magic mirror, through which he must answer truthfully the vain questions of a very beautiful and ambitious queen. As long as Richard finds the queen the fairest of all, she is content. However, one day, Richard falls in love with the queen’s young stepdaughter, Angelika.

He urges Angelika to flee the queen’s jealous wrath, so she runs to her friends in the woods, a farm worked entirely by dwarfs. There, she meets Gretchen, who came to the farm looking for a husband. She has made her choice, but her heart does not yet agree with her head.

To free Richard, Angelika, and a land in the grip of the evil queen, Gretchen and her betrothed decide to become heroes.

Yeah, so it needs work. My WordPress theme made it italic; I’ll have to find that setting and turn it off. One day.

Here’s the other, for A Little Night Magic, my Regency urban fantasy. Some of you have seen other versions of it before:

Tory is a spy. She’s also a starcaster–able to manipulate starlight. The Intelligence Ministry director, Mr. Bradburn, thinks her specialty should be using her feminine wiles to seduce state secrets out of unsuspecting enemy operatives. And while Tory appreciates the implied compliment, she would like nothing more than to find a way to respectfully decline.

She doesn’t realize that what Bradburn really wants is a patsy. When enemy spies try to steal a new magical prototype, Tory thwarts them and traces the spies back to Bradburn. Before she can gather evidence against him, he frames her for the theft of the prototype. Now, everyone wants the prototype and Tory’s dodging villains like ladies evade louts at a ball.

Disguised as a domestic servant, armed with lockpicks, decoding disks, and a black powder revolver, Tory must evade her fellow operatives, find evidence of Bradburn’s connection to the enemy, avert the plot against the throne, and clear her good name.

So why am I obsessed? Because I’ve been a crazed songwriter lately. I’ve been churning out songs like I’ve never been able to churn out stories. In the last month, I’ve written the music and/or lyrics to four songs (although one needs more polish), and I’ve even set one of them to music. I had already set another song to music last year, so I now have 5 songs. As soon as I write one, another pops into my head. The music generally pops in later.

Here are the titles:

  • So Screwed (with music)
  • Oh, Autism (with music)
  • Worth the Waiting (lyrics only, needs rhymes)
  • How to Write a Country Song (lyrics only, written on Saturday and Sunday)
  • Lady Geek (lyrics only, written yesterday and today)

Most of these are comic songs, except the 2nd and the 3rd. No, I don’t intend to be a singer. No, I don’t have a singer lined up to do demos. No, I don’t have a collaborator lined up to help me with the music. Yes, I’ve been studying how to write songs (hence the 4th song). Yes, I got the appropriate “For Dummies” book. Yes, I am still totally lost. No, I have not given up writing fiction.

So thanks for hanging with me. I’ll try to keep you guys posted.

A YouTube Tour of Classical Music, Part One

In an effort to have a more eclectic blog, I promised to review stuff like music and movies in my Review Policies. I thought I’d start by finding out if there are any classical music lovers here. And if not, I thought I’d try to persuade some of you to give it a try. Hence the title of this post.

When I was a kid, my father listened to classical music, but it didn’t really rub off. It wasn’t exactly cool. Then, sometime in the 80s, a friend of mine brought over Amadeus to watch. I was absolutely spellbound. It lit the fire. I wanted more. But where to begin?

I bought recordings, but you have it easy. You have YouTube. This is an introduction, so I’m going to stick to major composers.

I began with Mozart. And I think you should too. You already know much of his music without even realizing it. That snappy tune that they play in the movie trailers for every romantic comedy ever released? That’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, which means A Little Night Music. The opening theme to Amadeus is his Symphony 25 in C Minor, which you’ve also probably heard. His best-known piano sonata is also known as Rondo Alla Turca, or Turkish March. If you read sheet music, it’s fascinating to listen to this while following along.

Start by following the above links, and then follow the “related” video links. And you’ll get some nice exposure to Mozart. He wrote a lot of stuff, and I do mean a LOT, so you could entertain yourself for quite a while. I could do an entire blog post on Mozart, but I won’t, at least not yet.

Mozart belongs to the Classical era of Classical music. There are several eras. Here are the distinctions between the major eras.

Baroque. This is the early stuff. Bach and Handel both belonged to the Baroque period. It is often heavy organ music (Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor), but also can be string ensembles. There is often a harpsichord. Here is the Hornpipe from Handel’s Water Music, which is one of my favorite pieces from this period. Another huge favorite is Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (here is Summer). And of course, Pachelbel’s Canon, which every musician learns, but which almost every musical snob hates. And I probably did a disservice to Bach here, who composed tons of music, from dance music to church music.

Haydn preceded Mozart in the Classical era, and he sounds much like Mozart, in my opinion. I don’t know a lot of Haydn’s work, but I do have Jacqueline DuPre playing his Cello Concerto. And here is a trumpet concerto.

But what’s a concerto? An orchestra with a soloist.

On to Beethoven. Where to begin? Start with the 5th. Just start up the video, turn out all the lights, and do nothing but listen. Especially listen to the melodies going on in the background. There’s a reason why it’s a classic.

Then, you really must give the Moonlight Sonata a listen. What’s a sonata? One or two instruments. In this case, the piano. Often, a sonata will have a star instrument with a piano as accompaniment. I think of the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata as watching a moonlit lake. The second movement (or part) is very brief and light–a dance by moonlight. And the third movement? It’s like being chased by a werewolf!

Beethoven could also be playful. Try Rage Over a Lost Penny (played by a 10-year-old!).

Wow; this took a lot of time. Since I’ve given you a lot to listen to, I’m going to split this in several parts. Please let me know what you think!