Amazing Sprawl

I believe that one telling characteristic of a person is the music they enjoy. So how could I not feel the same way about my characters? I think about how Ariel likes popular indie music, usually by female artists, just like I think about how she likes sushi and yoga and the color blue.  For me, this is part of the process of getting to know her.

With the help of a young woman with musical tastes similar to Ariel’s, I was able to put together my character’s own distinctive list of favorite songs, many of which are woven into her story. When my books appear on Kindle, I  link the song title in my text to the chance to purchase it on Amazon.

My other electronic versions are distributed through Smashwords where no such link is allowed. I’ve tried various other approaches with my other books, but with d4 I’ve finally found the approach I like best. For every song, I’ve found a live performance that I think shows a little of a the personality of the singer and the band. I’ll admit that I’ve had a lot of fun seeking these out. Often the quality of the video isn’t as good as the more glossy clips, but I’ve picked each one for a reason.

In the case of Arcade Fire, I had the great good fortune to see them perform at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion outside of Houston in April 2014. The entire concert was amazing, but the performance of Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), with so many talented musicians on stage all singing in harmony and playing more varied instruments than I had ever seen used for one song, well, it was was one of my most incredible concert experiences.

I knew then that this song would find its way into d4, and that I would find a clip from the show I had seen, or a performance very close to it.  Well, I never found the video from the Woodlands concert, but this one from their performance at the 2014 Glastonbury Festival two months later could have been it. Enjoy!

Here’s a short excerpt from Chapter 15 of d4, where Sprawl II is mentioned.

Ariel both reasoned and premembered that the less time she spent in Iceland the better. It was a real shame, because the country itself was gorgeous and the people outside of Baldur’s boardroom were friendly and welcoming. She’d turned on her music so she wouldn’t have to make conversation, and she had to smile when one of her favorite songs began to play. Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II” was a melodic worry about endless strip malls covering the earth, and the beauty of the scenery she was driving past could not have been a better antidote to those concerns. Ariel turned up the volume, put her phone away and simply enjoyed the views for the rest of the trip.

Once they arrived, they were met by their assigned host and taken to an ultramodern lounge where they could shower privately and change into swimwear. Ariel studied the famous murky turquoise water as they walked, and the combination of all the shades of blue and green in the mist created a feeling of wonder unlike anywhere she had ever been. She marveled at the many small geysers that shot into the air and at the sheer size of the stunning lagoon.

She’d already been told that there would be a catered lunch, time to relax in the healing waters, individual massages and skin treatments, and more spa time before the group headed to what was certain to be a lavish dinner. Under other circumstances, this could have easily been the best day at work ever.

You can buy Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II” at amazon.com. You can also buy all of d4 for Kindle for only ninety-nine cents.

Paradise in Frankfurt

I believe that one telling characteristic of a person is the music they enjoy. So how could I not feel the same way about my characters? I think about what songs they like (and their favorite foods and favorite sorts of entertainment) as I am getting to know them early in the process of creating my novels.

Each main character from my five books has a distinctive list of favorite songs, many of which are woven into the story. I don’t want to infringe on the intellectual property of others, so I am careful not to quote lyrics but only to give the song title and the musician’s name. When my books appear on Kindle, I  link the song title to the chance to purchase it on Amazon.

My other electronic versions are distributed through Smashwords where no such link is allowed. I’ve tried various other approaches with each book, but with d4 I’ve finally found the approach I like best. For every song, I’ve found a live performance that I think shows a little of a the personality of the singer and the band. I’ll admit that I’ve had a lot of fun seeking these out. Often the quality of the video isn’t as good as the more glossy clips, but I’ve picked each one for a reason.

For Lana Del Rey’s haunting Summertime Sadness I found this wonderful clip from her Paradise Tour in 2013.  She’s performing in Frankfurt and her mike goes out near the start of the song. It is amazing to watch her recover her composure, stop the band, and then ask the audience to help her out by singing along with her loudly as she starts up again.  Of course they oblige, making for an interesting variation on this wonderful song.

Enjoy it here.

Here’s a short excerpt from Chapter 14 of d4, where Summertime Sadness is mentioned.

Over the next week a disgruntled Ariel spent a fair amount of time rereading the documents that Toby had given her while she tried to figure out the best way to send information back. She’d just walked away from a man with whom she had a special—no, make that a truly a unique relationship—and she’d done it based not only on how personally distasteful she found Baldur, but also because of Toby’s assurances that Baldur was hell-bent on taking over the world’s economy.

She had heard nothing from Siarnaq since she had bade him a cold goodbye a week ago, and she missed his ongoing funny, warm communications with her. One of her favorite musicians, Lana Del Ray, released a new album on the first day of summer. Ariel played its best single, “Summertime Sadness” over and over as she tried to learn more about the situation that had caused her rift with Siarnaq. In spite of her irritation with him, she had to admit that she was worried about him. She was pretty sure that any kind of collaboration with Baldur only ended well for Baldur.

Simply Following Rivers

Likke Li 2I’m still replaying and enjoying the YouTube live performances I linked to in the new Smashwords edition of my new novel d4. I sought and found a clip of each my main character Ariel’s nine favorite songs that I believed captured some of the personality of the artist as well as their wonderful music.  Eight of the nine videos were from concert performances from around the globe.

For for Lykke Li’s  “I follow Rivers”, however, I discovered a wonderful German site called ZeitOnline. Among many other things, they offer these simple performances by the artist in an ordinary setting. I’ve fallen in love with their style. It is extra fun that my main character’s full name is Ariel Zeitman. Weird or what? Check out this totally unpretentious version of “I Follow Rivers” performed with only a lone guitar, a hand held percussion instrument, and a fellow singer who claps along to keep time.  Can  you imagine running into this group performing on the sidewalk? An excerpt from the book d4 is below to show how the song appears in the story.

From d4:

“I wish I understood precollections better,” Ariel said. “When I’m touching you I see lives from the far future, and when I’m near you and touch things that you touch, I get some precollections about you. There’s never been anything about Mikkel, though. The truth is that I know very little about the man and even less about what motivates him. Do you want me to try to find out more?”

“No!” It came out a little harsher than Siarnaq had intended. “I want you to stay as far away from him as possible. Please. Promise me.”

“Hey, you do understand that I have to deal with him for work right?” Ariel’s tone was heavier than she meant it to be, filled with shades of “don’t tell me what to do.” She reminded herself that Siarnaq was only being concerned. “I’ll stay out of the mess between the two of you, though, no problem.”

“Thanks,” Siarnaq said no more.

“Let’s stay in touch about this,” Ariel finally added, working to soften her voice. “Call, text, email, I know that you do all of those. I’ll keep my ears open and if I learn anything about Mikkel that could be useful to you, I promise I’ll let you know.”

Ariel felt sadder than she expected she would when she hugged Siarnaq goodbye, and once she was on the plane she found herself gazing at Greenland’s white coastline as it receded in the distance. Lykke Li’s “I Follow Rivers” came on as she hit the “On” button on her mp3 player, and Ariel wondered idly if she could possibly enjoy life as an Inuit. Was she capable of following Siarnaq? Was she capable of following anyone? As the song ended, Greenland was nothing more than a tiny white dot on her horizon and she had no answers.

With the second song of each book, I pick up on the intensity of the theme a little more. Click on to read about x0’s “We are the World“, y1’s “Party Like it’s 1999“, z2’s “Only the Strong Survive“, and c3’s “Heads Carolina”.

You can get d4 on smashwords here for only ninety-nine cents.

Seeking the Heart of the Song

I’m getting d4 ready for publication at Smashwords.com. This always takes longer than I think it will. The formatting requirements are more rigorous than those at Amazon.com and with my first three books I gave up and had a very nice people at Stunning Books handle the formatting for me. It was money well spent, to be honest, but I’m a stubborn sort and I was determined to learn to do it myself eventually.

Ellie GouldingThe other issue with Smashwords is checking the links, and removing any that Smashwords affiliates will not allow. Usually forbidden links involve direct connections to other booksellers such as Amazon. This is a problem for me because the electronic versions of all of my novels contain references to nine songs, intended to be a sort of soundtrack featuring some of the favorite music of the main character in the novel.  When I publish the books on Kindle, I insert a link to the Amazon.com location where my readers can listen to the music. At Smashwords, this link has to go.

I’ve experimented with other solutions. I want my readers to appreciate and possibly buy music from these artists and I am mentioning the songs in my book because I really like them. For my first novels, I had the Smashwords link take the reader to a webpage or at least a good fan page for that musician. When I ran into problems finding suitable links for some, I tried connecting to a performance of the song on You Tube.

With d4 I’ve taken this a step further. For each of the songs, I’ve tried to find a live performance that I think shows a little of a the personality of the singer and the band. I’ve had a lot of fun seeking these out. Often the quality isn’t as good as the more glossy clips, but I’ve picked each video for a reason. I just love Ellie Goulding’s very human introduction to her song “Lights” at Coachella 2014. Hopefully you will too. An excerpt from the book follows.

The work portion of the trip would all be at the end, so Ariel tried to enjoy the beginning of her little vacation. She packed a few good books and her warmest clothes, and delighted in a window seat as she watched the late afternoon sun set on her way into Iceland. She found a favorite song on her mp3 player and listened to the pretty shimmer of Ellie Goulding’s voice singing “Lights” as the giant Vatnajökull glacier gleamed beneath her when the plane dipped below the clouds. Ariel thought that perhaps she had never seen anything so beautiful as the various shades of blues that glistened off of the ice in the light of a sun moving low in the winter sky while the song played softly in her mind.

She joined her group at the Reykjavik airport for the evening flight on to Nuuk. The small band of mostly Icelandic travelers was quiet, but friendly, and she felt thankful to live in both a time and place where a woman could easily travel alone. Nuuk was just a quick stopover, and the next morning they boarded the pint-sized plane for Ilulissat, the main tourist destination in Greenland.

Ariel stepped off the plane to her first view of the barren rocks mottled with bright colored lichens that make up the tundra. She had never set foot inside of the Arctic Circle before. Tiny flickers and flashes erupted as her boot touched the ground.

My premonitions are stronger here, she noticed with surprise. The cold dry air? The earth’s magnetic field? There had to be a reason. She added it to her list of things to try to figure out later.

The fact is that I started each of my novels off with a special song. Click to read about x0’s “Time After Time“, y1’s “A Whole New World“, z2’s “Fame“, and c3’s “A Texas Kind of Way“.