My favourite musical creepsters

Blue Oyster Cult! As promised, here are some creepy classics from the oyster boys. First up, a great favourite in our household, a song we play every Halloween, “Harvester of Eyes.”

Second, as anticipated by Lisa in the comments yesterday, “Joan Crawford.” This is a fan video made from real clips of Joan Crawford, which I like much better than the official music video (even though that featured zombie schoolgirls; that sounds cooler than it turned out to be in execution).

And last, but far from least: “Godzilla.”

Happy Halloween, everybody!


A little light Halloween music

We just came across this song recently, and I feel compelled to share it with you all.

The scariest part is the way it is now STUCK IN YOUR HEAD. FOREVER.

Tomorrow I’ll play you some of my favourite Halloweeny Blue Oyster Cult. And no, it’s not “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. They sing much creepier songs than that.


Another navel-gazing music post

Because you miss these when I’m not writing them, right? You stand around mewling plaintively, “What obscure musical nonsense is Rachel obsessing over now? I must know!”

One of the songs we’re singing in choir right now is a round, written by our director, Earle Peach. It’s super fun to sing, as rounds often are, but it’s a bit tricky as an alto because the melody goes up a bit out of range for most of us. I can do it, because I am technically a mezzo-soprano, but for those of us who can’t, Earle has given us the option of singing down an octave for a couple bars.

I was trying to do that, so there could be unity in the alto section, but I found it very difficult, in no small part because the lyrics at that point are “you’ll rise up in the air, O children.” The melodic line just feels like it needs to go up at that point as a reflection of the lyrics.

And that’s an interesting train of thought, to me: how do lyrics and melody play off each other? I’m sure they don’t always, but is it better when they do? Is that something to aspire to, in a song? I could see the opposite sometimes being desired, where a melody is so divergent from the lyrics that it lends the words an entirely different layer of meaning. I’m sure this is something songwriters are keenly aware of and play with all the time, that it’s a tool to be used deliberately, but that process isn’t necessarily apparent in the finished song.

Which brings me to a couple interesting anecdotes about words and music, and how they strike people differently. My sister once had to memorize a poem, John Masefield’s “Sea-Fever“. Thing is, she’d forgotten until the morning of the day it was due. She had to memorize this thing quick, and was in despair over it. I believe it was our mother who came up with the idea of setting it to music. The poem fits (somewhat imperfectly) the Chrismas carol, “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear.” They put the thing to music, and all of a sudden it was ten times easier. My sister memorized it at the bus stop, and was able to write it out for her test.

Now let’s turn the tables. Another true story: that same sister wrote a round (oh look, we’re back at rounds! Everything comes round again in the end). She was trying to teach it to me so we could sing it together, and I just wasn’t getting it. It was minor or modal or counterintuitive somehow. She was about to give up, frustrated with my denseness, when it occurred to me to ask what the words were. She’d been trying to drill the tune into my thick skull without the words, because that was the way that made the most sense to her (or possibly because the words weren’t as transcendent as the melody, and she didn’t like them as much).

The words: “Busy bees buzzing in the fields / Never stopping until sundown.” Hey, don’t laugh. Once I had the words, I had the melody in short order, and it really is such a beautiful little song that we didn’t want to stop singing until sundown either. The words are, in that way, absolutely apropos.

What’s the moral of the story? Two sisters, two learning styles? Melody as memory palace? Nothing, we’re both weirdos? I don’t even know. I just think it’s interesting, and anything that raises more questions than it answers is always good fun to me.


Interview at LibraryThing

For your delectation and general edification, here ’tis.


Sunday Shindig, 10/28

Mark your calendars now! The inestimable Christopher Paolini, peerless Stefan Bachmann, and I will be participating in an online Circus of Awesomeness, Cavalcade of Pie, Book Chat at Shindig. Here’s the information. I urge you to look at the main Shindig page to learn more about how this book chat will look from your end. I think it looks pretty nifty.

Anyway, please do spread the word! I’d love to see you there!

(Just to note, they’ve put our pictures in a different order than our names, but you probably figured that out. While I’m sure it would be lovely to be as young as Stefan Bachmann again, I’m not sure I would wish my prehensile hair on anyone.)


A couple nice things

I wrote a guest blog post for Indigo about my thoughts on being nominated for the Governor General’s award.

Here’s a nice review at Talespinning.

So there you go: book love and Canada love. That’s a lot of love for a Monday.


Last excitement for a while, just as the rain sets in

To the kids at the event today who were wondering about the Estonian bagpipe metal, the band is called Metsatöll. Here’s one of my favourite of their songs, with plenty of bagpipe and a men’s chorus (special for this song), performed in a somewhat more formal venue than usual:

Yes, I really did mention them at my event today. The kids seemed interested, but then who wouldn’t be? Estonian bagpipes, after all. Supah awesome.

My heartfelt thanks to the organizers of Vancouver Writers Fest, who put me together with some really wonderful writers for these events. I got to talk to Susin Nielsen, Susan Juby, and Kenneth Oppel, who were all thoroughly delightful. I met a few more YA authors last night as well, Richard Scrimger, Arthur Slade, and Janet Wilson, and got to see my pal (from last week) Shane Peacock as well. Lots of good writing happening in Canada, friends! I merely mention the fact!

Ah, but I’m ready for things to slow down now. I have had so much fun and met so many people that I can tell it’s time for quiet, work, and (of all things) rain. Vancouver’s providing a lot of the latter right now, right on schedule. It’s perfect working weather, maybe because I don’t feel any real drive to go out in it.

Neither does the dog, who gave me a sarcastic look when I tried to take her out at noon, walked stiff-legged for blocks, and then decided to show her enthusiasm for turning back toward home by pulling my arm off. Ah, yes, back to normal!


Emotion vs. intellect

Here’s a blog post about emotion vs. intellect in fiction. Specifically YA and MG fiction, in this case.

What interested me most, strangely enough, was the classification of genres as Adrenaline, Emotional, Intellectual, and Landscape. I wonder whether these don’t correspond to the predominance of certain elements of fiction, namely (in the same order) plot, character, theme (or ideas), and setting. Novels should have all of these, of course, but I’m sure readers (and writers too) feel consistently drawn to some elements more than others.


Sunday updates

Hello, darlings! I had a wonderful time in Calgary. Thank you so much to the organizers of WordFest for inviting me and for running such a well-organized show! I’ve been on the other side of convention organization before, and I know how many unexpected challenges come up. I thought y’all did a particularly nice job with this.

I met many interesting writers and artists at WordFest, but I want to give a special shout-out to Shane Peacock, who did a program with me at the Calgary Public Library. He writes the Boy Sherlock Holmes series, which I am definitely going to get for my son. I think they sound right up his alley. Shane also gives a really engaging presentation for kids, if you ever get a chance to hear him. Super fun.

I spoke at two schools, Ecole Lawrence Grassi Middle School and Alice Jamieson Girls’ Academy, and I could not have asked for two nicer groups of kids. Y’all were good listeners and you asked great questions. Thanks so much for having me!

This coming week we have two bits of excitement. First: Tuesday is the book birthday of the Italian edition of Seraphina: la Ragazza con il Cuore di Drago. Happy birthday, book!

What an arresting image!

Secondly: I will be appearing in two events as part of Vancouver Writers Fest this week, Words Run Amok with Susan Juby (moderated by fellow GG finalist Susin Nielsen) on Tuesday, and Flights of Fantasy with Kenneth Oppel on Thursday. Come see us, if you have a chance!

Busy days, but fun!


I’m off to Calgary

Goin’ to Alberta soon,
Gonna be a dental floss tycoon!

Ok, maybe not precisely that, but I will be attending Calgary WordFest, giving exciting talks on the 10th and 11th. If you’re in town, come see me!

If you’re nowhere near Calgary, never fear. I will leave you with interesting things to read and think about.

First, at Lady Business, an informative post on Gender Balance and YA Award Winners Since 2000. I notice they did not include the Canadian Governor General’s Literary Award, so I include the stats here (with the caveat that some of the books may be middle grade and at least one looks like nonfiction) — 7 male, 5 female.

Zoe Marriot has some interesting things to say in response: Women Dominate? In What Universe?

Also buzzing through the YA blogosphere yesterday, an article from Read Now, Sleep Later about perceived stigma around the very label “Young Adult” – YA Shame and Stigma.

I come from comics and from SF/F, so I’m not entirely convinced YA has much of a stigma, or at least not universally. Sales don’t reflect that. Rapid expansion of the genre doesn’t reflect that. And honestly, are there books with NO stigma from anyone? Don’t we all turn up our noses at genres we dislike (or haven’t tried)? We are creatures of habit, and we prejudge things readily on little evidence. My personal stigmatized genres include “books where doggies die” and “adult literature that takes itself way too seriously”. I’m almost certainly missing a lot of great books because of these irrational biases, but what to do? I’m also missing a lot of great books by virtue of not having time to read them.

All right, darlings, take care. Be excellent to each other until I return.


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