Quick-Tip Tuesday: Lessons From a Concert

A little over a week ago, I saw Edgar Meyer in concert. Edgar Meyer, for those of you who don’t know, plays double bass, the HUGE acoustic bass that you see in jazz bands and classical symphonies. And saying that Meyer “plays bass” is bit like saying that Willie Mays “played baseball.” Meyer is a virtuoso, the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, and someone who has excelled in classical, folk, bluegrass, and jazz circles. You might know him from the Appalachian Waltz and Appalachian Journey recordings he did with Yo-Yo Ma and Mark O’Connor.

This was a solo concert. He opened with the Bach Suite for Solo Cello no. 1, which he adapted for double bass. Brilliant. Then he played a work in progress — a concerto he’s composing. He had the first and third movements just about complete, but he was still working on the middle of the […]

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Release Day Fun!!

Release day for the hardcover of Thieves’ Quarry and the paperback edition of Thieftaker is tomorrow, July 2. This will be my fourteenth release day of an original title (I’ve had somewhere in the mid-twenties if you include all the paperback editions), and I have to admit to being every bit as nervous and excited about this one as I have been about all the others. The excitement never really gets old, and the fear never ever goes away.

As part of my ongoing Thieves’ Quarry Blog Tour, I have two posts up today in addition to this one. I am at Aidan Moher’s “A Dribble of Ink” with a post about ideology and writing, which expands on a post I wrote here several weeks back. I am also interviewed at the blog of friend-of-MW, Alethea Kontis. I hope you will check out both posts.

I am too frazzled/psyched/terrified to […]

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Basics of Writing, part X: Pacing Your Novel Musically

How many of you have ever seen the movie The Fugitive? My wife and I first saw it in the theater many years back, and it quickly became one of our favorites. The opening sequence is particularly stunning — the way the screenwriters (Jeb Stuart and David Twohy) and director (Andrew Davis) managed to fill in the back story and set a breakneck pace for the movie in the span of just minutes. I remember watching the scene with the train wreck — breathless, my pulse pounding — and commenting to my wife “They’re not even done with the credits yet!” If you’ve never seen it, you should — amazing stuff. The movie never flags; the pace is unrelenting, and the result is exhilarating.

That said, I would argue that while this storytelling approach works terrifically well for a movie, it is less effective in a novel. Pacing a movie […]

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Holiday Monday Fun!

Writing this in the middle of a three-day weekend, and on the day after I went to a terrific concert in Atlanta. (James Taylor at Chastain Park. I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I got my first James Taylor album when I was seven years old. His music has, in a way, been the soundtrack of my life.) Traffic is usually a little slow at the Magical Words site on holiday Mondays, so I thought I would do something a little fun and different (not to mention a little shorter than usual) for this week.

Listening to Taylor’s music last night, I got to thinking about songs that not only tell a story (many do) but that actually stir story ideas inside me, and/or make me think of fantasy or science fiction plot lines. And so I thought I would create a list to that effect and […]

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Finding Real Magic in Writing

The magic system in my first series — the LonTobyn Chronicle — had three elements: the mage, his or her familiar (usually a bird of prey), and a crystal or ceryll, as I called it, that focused the power sourced in the psychic connection between bird and mage. Each person’s crystal, and by extension, each person’s magic, had a different color. Blue, red, yellow, green, purple, silver, gold, orange; there was a ceremony each year in which all the mages of the land processed through the capital city, and I pictured it as this winding, glowing rainbow of light and birds and people in cloaks. As I wrote the three books and introduced new characters, I had to assign each one a magic color, and I have to admit that I did this pretty randomly. “Hmmmm. I’ve used shades of blue and red a lot. Better make this one pale […]

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A Luddite Looks at the Future of Books

Back in the early 1980s, when I first heard about compact discs, I swore that I would never give up my beloved vinyl records. (–sigh– Kids, ask your parents if you don’t understand what I’m talking about.) I had a good-sized collection of LPs that included what were called “audiophile” pressings — Original Master Recordings and records pressed in Japan. I LOVED my records. Then, in 1985, I got to play with a friend’s CD player. The discs were small and shiny and you could do just about anything to them and they didn’t get tics or pops or anything else that ruined the play quality. I bought a player that December. I held on to my turntable for a while (Yeah, kids, ask your parents about that, too) and I still listened to those records I hadn’t yet replaced on CD. But I don’t think I’ve listened to a […]

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Since All The Cool Kids Are Doing It…

When I was a kid, slam books were all the rage. They were spiral-bound notebooks or three-ring binders. The first page was always a registration page, on which you signed your name next to the number you would use as your identifier throughout the book. On the subsequent pages, you’d find highly personal questions you were required to answer (What is your favorite ice cream? Would you rather marry David Cassidy or Bobby Sherman? What boy at this school do you want to kiss?) This is like that, except not on paper, and I won’t get in trouble in class for writing in the book instead of listening to the teacher.

I write best when the earbuds are in my ears. I can spill words like a broken dam spills water when I listen to Andres Segovia playing Bach. Beethoven is my other go-to guy. Not to say that I […]

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