writing music, the spring 2012 playlist.

I’ve mentioned before that I often put on movie soundtracks when I write. Soundtracks usually have no lyrics to distract me, and they’re designed to invoke moods without tearing the audience away from the story, which makes them well suited for scrivener white noise.

I thought I’d recommend a few of the albums whose sections are starting to wear thin on my hard drive from excessive “Repeat All” play:

Music for the Body in the Bathtub – Kerry Muzzey

I like pretty much everything that Kerry Muzzey puts out, but this one is my favorite of his albums. It’s a bunch of dark, emotional tracks whose titles form a narrative arc. Great for writing noir.

Medal of Honor (EA Game Soundtrack) – Ramin Djawadi

Ramin Djawadi’s soundtrack for the EA game of the same name is loaded with Middle Eastern-themed dynamic and dramatic action tracks. Great for writing action scenes.

True Grit – Carter Burwell

The soundtrack to True Grit is basically the church hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” interpreted in a  dozen different ways, but it works. I don’t write Western, but if I did, this would be perfect background noise for it.

How To Train Your Dragon – John Powell

I love this soundtrack. It’s a really well done blend of Gaelic and Norse influences—pipes and woodwinds and percussion and whatnot. It’s very dynamic and vital, with some very soaring and majestic tracks. Great for “good mood” kind of writing.

Hole In The Paper Sky – Kerry Muzzey

This is my second-favorite Kerry Muzzey album. It’s the soundtrack from a short film of the same name. The tracks are all very low-key and tender, the kind of stuff you’d find over an introspective montage in a movie. Lovely, lovely work.

L.A. Noire – Andrew & Simon Hale

Pretty much the perfect noire writing music, as the title suggests. This is the second game soundtrack on this list—game OSTs have advanced in quality to the point where the best ones can give the very best movie soundtracks a run for the money.

Game of Thrones – Ramin Djawadi

This is the soundtrack for the first season of the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones. PERFECT for writing grimy, moody fantasy where everyone dies horribly. And it was composed by the same guy who did the Medal of Honor soundtrack. Write his name down—he’s going to be a big name in movie scores.

And there you have some recommendations for writing music, in case you suffer from Playlist Fatigue and need some new material in the queue. I linked to the Amazon MP3 versions, where you can preview all the tracks on each album, but most of them are available on iTunes and all the other online music stores too.

free fiction for IPSTPD: “scent work.”

Thanks to my first pro fiction sale, I’m an associate SFWA member now. As such, I feel like I ought to participate in the International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day. In that spirit, here’s an Urban Fantasy short story I wrote a while ago. It has werewolves and mobsters in it, and also candy bars. Click past the split to read if those things are your bag, baby.

Continue reading

all growed up, that one.

On her blog, Jessica sums up the essence of golf in one perfect paragraph:

This week in the state where I live, there is a large golfing tournament of some kind. Beers are $2. You can also get egg salad sandwiches. The winner gets a jacket.

Jessica is one of my oldest Intertubes pals. We’ve known each other since the days of MSN on Windows 95, which to you young whippersnappers is the Internet Dark Ages. We had to pay by the hour, our computers had to dial phone numbers to get onto the Infodata Superfreeway, Apple was perennially a week or two from bankruptcy, and porn was slow.

Anyway, I’ve never actually met Jessica in person, which is a weird thing to be able to say about someone you’ve on-again, off-again talked to for seventeen years or so. (I ‘ve been owing her a lobster dinner for a decade and a half now.) I started blogging in 2002 after reading her blog, and my little affectation of typing my blog post titles in all lowercase letters with trailing period comes directly from her old blog. She stopped blogging at some point, but got back in the saddle recently, and there’s a noticeable qualitative difference between the old and the new. She has turned into a fabulous writer.  And even though I’ve heard her voice on the radio, and I know she sounds nothing like Daria Morgendorffer, I read her blog post today with Daria’s voice in my head.

What a weird and fabulous thing, this Internets. You meet the most interesting people. (For varying values of “meet”.)

is american typewriter. is built like tractor.

Today I felt like pounding away on some glass-top keys, so I dragged out the Royal KHM to bang out Chapter the Latest.

006

That machine was made in 1935, when my grandfather was eighteen, and nine years before my father was born. And the damn thing still works. Sure, the rubber on the platen is hard as a rock after seventy-seven years, but that’s about the only thing wrong with it. And it still feeds and holds paper, so it’s not a fatal defect. I suppose I should have the platen re-covered with new rubber, because this thing is so solid that it will probably last another 77 years with a minimum of care and maintenance.

On occasion, people will ask me why I bother writing on typewriters, or longhand for that matter. Writing on the computer is faster and easier, you can’t take the typewriter to a coffee shop, you have to type everything up again when you plug it into the computer, etc. etc.

I don’t claim that my writing is any better when I use retro tech. In the last few years, I’ve written stuff directly on the PC or Mac, on the typewriter, and longhand with a fountain pen, and I can’t tell a qualitative difference between any of the end products. I suspect it wouldn’t read any different if I punched my next short story into the iPhone, or wrote it on linen paper with a dip pen. But I like the older, tactile methods more than I do the tippy-typing on the computer keyboard. I use those things because I enjoy using them. If the end product doesn’t suffer in quality, I prefer to create it in the way that gives me the most pleasure. (Incidentally, my first pro sale short story was written with a fountain pen.)

Having to retype the output of the typewriter or the pen is a feature, not a bug. It forces a word-for-word revision, so what ends up on the PC is actually the second draft already. Also, it’s kind of neat to have a tangible, verifiable hardcopy of the first draft.

Final bonus of retro tech: no distractions. No Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, or Angry Birds to steer you away from your work. And it works just fine in a power outage. I’ve written quite a few pages by oil lamp light that way.

p-p-p-powerbook.

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This past weekend, I engaged in some mutually beneficial voluntary exchange of property with friends. They wanted to set up a home theater PC for their big-screen TV in the basement den, and they had a nice PowerBook G4 they no longer needed. So I traded them my Zotac HTPC, which had been hooked up to our TV but rarely used because we stream Netflix through the Wii.

Looking at the PowerBook, you wouldn’t be able to tell it’s a 5-year-old machine. They look deceptively like the current MacBook Pro models. It’s clad in aluminum, and the keyboard is backlit, which is a nice feature for someone who often writes in low-light conditions—say, early in the morning before the kids get up, or late in the evening when everyone’s in bed. The very last PowerBook model made before Apple went to Intel chips and renamed the line “MacBook”, it still has capable hardware under the hood. It has 2GB of RAM and a 120GB hard drive, and a really nice high-res display. The G4, being retired technology, is not suitable for HD video streaming or gaming these days, but it’s perfectly capable when it comes to running Scrivener or Word, and it browses the Intertubes as fast as anything else out there.

A good exchange of value is when both parties walk away from the transaction happy, and they did. My friends have a sweet HTPC and can stream Netflix to their TV, and I have a nice portable writing rig that runs all the software I need to chip the prose from the walls of the word mines.

that zombie squirrel story.

Because today is Halloween and all, I thought I’d repost the little Zombie Squirrel short story I wrote in March for one of Herr Doktor Wendig’s writing challenges.

(Yes, I’m recycling my own content today. Shameful! The nerve!)

Anyway, here it is, for those of you who may have missed it back in March. For Christmas, I’ll write an all-new, seasonally appropriate short story. Maybe zombie reindeer?

 

Seeds

by Marko Kloos

 

 

 

 

I killed that damn squirrel for the first time right after breakfast.

I knew it was a killing shot the moment I pulled the trigger. I’ve shot a thousand of the little bastards, and when you shoot one in the head with a .22, it’s usually dead on the spot.

I say “usually”, because this one was a statistical aberration. I saw him fall off the bird feeder in that uncoordinated head-over-tail manner of a squirrel that’s already dead before it hits the ground. I put the rifle back into its corner by the kitchen window, got on my working gloves, and went out to retrieve the carcass for a trash can burial. But when I got out to the bird feeder, the squirrel was gone. All I found in the snow was a tiny spot of blood and a little crater where the body had landed.

Sometimes I miss a shot, even though it’s only twenty yards from the kitchen window to the bird feeder, and Dad’s old .22 has a scope that lets you track wildlife in the next area code. I was pretty sure I had hit that little seed thief’s head right below his tufted ear, but I chalked it up to a bad shot. I had probably just nicked his skull and stunned him briefly. I shrugged and walked back to the warm house.

#

An hour later, he was back.

I had no doubt that it was the same squirrel. He had a bullet wound below his left ear, and the fur on the side of his head was black with dried blood. He stood at the bottom of the bird feeder again, swaying like a punch-drunk boxer, and started eating the seeds the birds had dropped.

I felt bad for winging him and leaving the poor guy in that state for an hour. I aimed for the center of his body to give myself the biggest margin for a miss, and resolved to get the scope’s zero checked as soon as possible. Then I pulled the trigger.

This one was a clean hit without question. The bullet bowled him over in a flurry of bushy fur and spilled bird seed. He twitched once and lay still beside the feeder. Pop, smack, good night.

Except when I walked out to get the carcass, he was gone. Again.

This time, the blood spot in the snow was larger. As before, the squirrel was gone. All I found was a small tuft of fur with some clotted blood on it.

“Son of a bitch,” I said, and looked up. The squirrel was dead, no doubt, so I guessed that some opportunistic raven or owl had claimed a quick free meal. But there were no birds flying away, with or without dead squirrels in their grip.

I walked back to the house and put the rifle away again, vaguely feeling like the victim of a prank.

#

I got a lot of squirrels every winter. Once a clan of them had found the feeders, they wouldn’t rest until all the seed was gone. I had to cull two or three every week as long as the feeders were up. When I saw another bushy-tailed silhouette under the feeder shortly after lunch, I got out the .22 and opened the kitchen window, ready to increase the day’s tail count to two. Then I looked through the scope.

Head wound with dried blood: check. Bullet hole in the midsection: check, sort of. I couldn’t see his belly because he had his back turned, but there was no missing the exit wound on his back, or the grey intestines bulging out of the hole in his dirty, blood-matted fur.

I was so freaked out that I missed my shot. The bullet kicked up the snow beside him, but the little bastard didn’t run. Instead, he turned his head, still chewing, and looked at me with an eye that had the milky opaqueness of a piece of quartz.

I worked the bolt, put a new round into the chamber with shaking fingers, and aimed again.

Crack.

This one hit him in the neck. He did the same thing as before: fell over, flopped around for a second, and then lay still. I reloaded and put another bullet into his body, for insurance. This time, I kept watching his furry little carcass through the scope.

He was properly dead for about thirty seconds: limp, motionless, and very much carcass-like. Then he twitched again, got to all fours like a drunk picking himself up out of a gutter after a three-night bender, and staggered off toward the nearby tree line.

“What in the fucking fuck?” I asked nobody in particular.

#

It was dark outside when I sat down at the kitchen table with my dinner. There was something moving out by the bird feeder, so I turned on the exterior lights.

The dead-but-not-dead squirrel was back underneath the feeder. He didn’t look so good. In fact, he looked a lot like a stuffed toy mauled by an energetic Rottweiler. His fur was clumped with blood and sticking out at untidy angles, and it looked like he was wearing most of his intestines draped around his legs and lower body.

At that point, I was wishing I had kept Dad’s shotgun instead of the scoped .22.

I opened the window and took aim. He stopped chewing his seeds and looked at me with milky eyes that were as dead as a pair of pearls. Then he let out a shriek, and I dropped the rifle.

It wasn’t the high-pitched chik-chik-chik I’ve heard from squirrels a thousand times before. It was a shrill, piercing, tortured shriek that was anger, hatred, and exasperation all rolled into one. Stop that shit, or there will be trouble, the shriek said.

I closed the window and put the rifle away. Then I went to the liquor cabinet and had half a highball glass of single malt.

#

Later that evening, I called my brother.

“You still want Dad’s old .22?” I asked him. “The one with the big scope?”

“Yeah, I do,” he said. “Why, are you getting rid of it?”

“I need to clear out some stuff. I’m thinking about moving.”

“Oh, yeah? Where to?”

“Some place without a lot of trees. I’ve had it with the damn squirrels.”

 

-END-

i like currency, i really do.

It’s Saturday morning, there’s breakfast on the stove, and I have to take the Elder Dog to get her inspection sticker in a little while. (I fear she won’t pass the emissions test this year.)

Before I leave, here’s a quick Thank You to all you beautiful people who have tossed money into my tip jar for “Cake Whores of Mars.” I promise to spend it wisely…by which I mean “booze and new toys”, of course, but that should come as no surprise to those who have been reading this Interblogs thingy for a while.

Now I’m off to the dog mechanic. More later…