INTERVIEW WITH HEROINE OF UNBOUND, SARAH PERRY

Hello, Readers!  I apologize for my long absence, but I’ve been busy working to get the novel version of UNBOUND ready for publication.  I’m really excited about it!  It’s a historical fiction that tells the story of Sarah Perry, an anthropologist whose suicide attempt triggers her ability to go back in time and experience the witch persecutions during the time of King James in Scotland.

Luckily, Public Radio Network (PRN) got wind of the story and wanted to interview Unbound’s heroine, Sarah Perry.  This is the interview in its entirety: 

spooky dollPRN: Suicide is such an extreme act.  What drove you to attempt it?

Sarah Perry:  We live in a world full of suffering and sorrow.  It seems like every time we see the news or read the paper, there’s been another school shooting, or someone has been lost to some other random act of violence.  There’s so much hatred, so much division.  I haven’t been very successful at living in this kind of world.  It gets to be so that that’s all you can see.  What’s that called– myopia?  I became very negative and lashed out at others– which is ultimately, the last thing I want to do.  At the time, all I really wanted was to escape it all. 

PRN: So your breakup with Jake had nothing to do with it?

Sarah Perry:  No.  Our relationship had always been tumultuous.  He was someone I never should have been with in the first place.  I knew that all along, I just didn’t want to admit it to myself.  Sometimes we use people as a form of escape, you know?  Alcohol, cigarettes, any temporary fix will do to numb the pain for a while.  Or they did for me, anyway.

PRN: What was your first thought when you learned you were pregnant?

Sarah Perry:  Shock.  I was floored.  I mean– what if I had died?  I would have been responsible for taking an innocent life and that’s something I would never, ever do intentionally.  When I found out I was pregnant, I felt like I had a duty.  I unwillingly or unwittingly– I don’t know which, maybe both– became the vessel to bring a new life into the world.  I had to see it through even though I had no intention of keeping the baby and bringing it up myself.  I couldn’t see myself doing that.  I was too unstable– not even sure I wanted to stay on the planet.

PRN: When did you realize you wanted to keep your baby?

Sarah Perry:  That’s a good question.  I don’t know if I could even pinpoint the exact moment I realized it myself.  It snuck up on me– those happy little moments with Matt; seeing my friend Colleen with her son, Will– I started to think that maybe everything would be okay and we could skate through life unscathed.  That I could bring a child into the world and raise it to have a happy life and keep it safe.  Later, my faith in the world was rattled again and made me want to give up once more.

PRN: How did you feel the first time you left your body and experienced life through Deirdre’s eyes?

Sarah Perry:  Oh, boy!  That was insane!  I thought I was insane!  Can you imagine?  I never would have dreamed something like that was even possible.  At first I really thought I was losing my mind, but after getting my head checked– literally– (laughs) I found out that there was nothing wrong with me.  And then when it happened again, I saw the value in the experiences.  I was living an anthropologist’s dream!  I was able to observe history firsthand!  To be able to explore a moment in history through the context of its own reality and then come back to my own time and have the means and wherewithal to present the actual truth as an interpretation…  It still blows my mind when I think about it.

PRN: Do you still have the experiences? 

Sarah Perry:  Are you asking if I still go back in time and jump into Deirdre’s life?  No.  (shakes head in the negative)  I’m pretty sure that part of my life is over. 

PRN: Why do you think it happened?

Sarah Perry:  I honestly don’t know.  I ask that question all the time.  “Why me?”  I still haven’t discovered the perfect answer.  I do know that it has changed my life and who I am as a person.  It gave me a reason to live.  It made me understand that even though life is fraught with danger and pain, it’s worth it to be here.  It makes the good things sweeter.  I think that in the end, that’s why we’re all here.

PRN:  So what now?  What’s in the future for Sarah Perry?

Sarah Perry:  The future?  (laughs)  Only God knows!  I’m just gonna go with the flow.

To read Sarah’s story, get your copy of UNBOUND here: 

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THREE CHAIRS

In a dream

In a dream

This is what happens when you’re in the mood to write before falling asleep.  Dreams you are yet to have become your muse…

The young woman pulled the curtains aside, hoping that the moon would be at such an angle in the sky that it would be visible from her position on the bed, but alas, it was on the other side of the firmament, merely casting its reflection upon the glossy windowsill.  She let her hand drop to her side.  It required too much effort, too much energy to hold it up for long anyway, and it was already aching from the brief moment it had been suspended.  In fact, the energy required to remain awake was too much for her, and she succumbed at last to slumber.

What was it that pulled her down the hallway?  Was it the soft candlelight that flickered from the sconces, seeming to illuminate the direction in which she was to proceed?  She thought it more likely that her compulsion was mostly encouraged by the music that had suddenly become part of her awareness.  It was if it had always been playing, voices rising and crashing like waves, beckoning to her, guiding her to this place, as if she had always been searching for it.  But she didn’t remember looking for it.  She didn’t remember being outside, or entering, just as she didn’t remember when the song began.  One moment she wasn’t aware of this experience, and the next it seemed as if the experience was inherently eternal to her.  She let herself be tugged by the music’s gravitational pull, as she realized that she could see the sound as much as she could hear it.  It was like smoke, scented with some exotic spice that she was unable to name…

At last she came to the end of the hallway.  There was a door.  It was arched at the top and made of thick slabs of dark wood.  A large metal ring hung from the middle of it and as she reached for the ring, it seemed as if she had always been reaching, as if she had been in the act of reaching her whole life and beyond,  while time expanded.  When at last she grasped the ring, time suddenly collapsed, and she pulled the door open and was momentarily blinded by a brilliant white light that gathered her in its embrace and folded her inside.

She was in a white room, with a long white table, surrounded by three chairs.  She could not sense or perceive any walls or ceiling at all, as the colorless whiteness of everything perhaps swallowed boundaries that might have– or might not have– existed.  She took all of this in, and as she did so, she became aware that there was someone already sitting in one of the chairs.

“When did you get here?” she asked the man.

“I have always been here,” he replied, and she heard the words he never spoke.

“Why?” she asked.

“I have been waiting for you,” he said, and he swept his hand in the direction of the chair opposite himself, although he never moved.

She found herself sitting across from the stranger and she became aware of her knowledge of him, that she had known him not only her whole lifetime, but for many, many lifetimes, and many, many non-lifetimes.  There was no beginning and no end to her knowledge of him and she knew that she already had loved him always, nor was there an end and or beginning to this love.  He reached out without moving and placed his hand on her cheek, cupping it, her skin the texture of rose petals beneath his touch as he whispered without speaking, “You are beloved…”

And she felt her ribcage shatter as her chest burst open and her heart seemed to expand, filling her body and growing beyond it, filling the white room and growing beyond it, expanding out into space, sweeping past the stars and planets, and taking it all in and taking it all in, again and again.  Each universe fell into her heart and spun like a wheel and she knew that they already belonged there, that they had already merged and were already one before they were born, before the existence of time.  The planets and the stars breathed with life inside of her, and she fed them with her blood and her life.

“Why am I here?” she gasped at the man.

“To learn,” he said in complete silence.

“Oh, but it hurts so much!” she cried.

And he nodded without moving.

A tear rolled from the corner of his eye and landed on her hand.  She cupped it gently in her palm and watched as it swelled and grew until inside it, she saw herself in her room again, lying in bed near the window, sobbing at the pain that wracked her body.  How her flesh felt burned and her organs pulsated and groaned as they worked so hard to keep her alive!  She held a mirror to her face and told the image there how much she hated it, how it was ugly, and mean, and alone, and so sad, and how she wished she could escape her life and live another, better one.  The body on the bed sobbed and wept, and the girl in the white room felt all the pain just the same.

“How can I make it stop?” she cried again.

“You must go through it,” he said without speaking.

And she pressed her hand against the giant tear, then leaned forward and fell into her body and fell into her body on the bed, on the bed, in her room, next to the window.  And she gathered her big heart and pulled it close and tight, and knew that the only way out was through.  Her tears dried, and she drifted into a deep, gentle, slumber as she wondered who the third chair was for…

GHOST TOWNS PART I: MODERN URBAN BLIGHT

Not so long ago.

Not so long ago.

My original intention was to write this post about ghost towns and how they might influence a writer to tell a good story, however, that intention has evolved into writing something that is more suitable for inspiring writers of a non-fiction bent.  Through my research for the post, I uncovered some things that make me believe that the concept of ghost towns themselves should be expanded to fit some modern phenomena.  I came across one of those things in a youtube video, and after speaking with the man who created and uploaded it, I have decided to dedicate the majority of this post to what I learned from him.  Further discussion of ghost towns for use in a fictional capacity will be explored in a future post.

A lot of communities in America have been experiencing urban blight  (also known as urban decay), and have done so for a long time– especially in older cities like Detroit or Pittsburgh.   Buildings crumble, facades crack, doors and windows are boarded up, garbage and other refuse soil the streets, property values drop, and often, crime moves in.  Why does this happen?  There are a lot of reasons– apathy, poverty, lack of employment opportunities… these are but a few.  

Normally, when we think of things like this, we think of them as being an inner city problem.  However, I was enlightened by a nine minute and fifty-seven second  video of a problem in a large Phoenix suburb twenty miles from the city, called Mesa.  The gentleman who created the video, Mike Pizzo, is a former residential real estate broker and he noticed a trend in his community.  A lot of big box stores and restaurants– (think of places like Circuit City, Costco, Bennigan’s Restaurant– not independently owned companies) were shutting their doors and abandoning their buildings, leaving behind ugly empty shells and sprawling parched parking lots, haunting reminders of what was once there.  

In one case, even a whole mall that housed a lot of big-named businesses closed down.  To make matters worse, if a large store went out of business in a strip mall, it often took down the smaller mom-and-pop businesses with it, as the anchor store brought a lot of traffic and without it, the smaller shops couldn’t survive.   Mr. Pizzo chalks much of this decline up to human nature.  Once entropy strikes a building, business, or community– i.e., the glossy new sheen wears off– people lose interest and move on to the next new thing.  (The mall mentioned above was at least twenty years old).  Businessmen and developers then swoop in and build the next big deal in another location, shifting boundaries and borders further and further away, until there’s no place left to build.   

Sometimes, new structures were built that either never had any tenants at all, or only reached a fraction of their projected capacity.  Some of these buildings were very nice, and what Mr. Pizzo refers to as “the Beverly Hills” of his community.   In this sense, the issue is reminiscent of the modern “ghost cities” of China.  The Chinese government continuously indulges in building new modern cities in order to support economic strength and growth, often at the expense of the poor who were the residents of old villages and cities that were torn down to make way for the gleaming new ones.  These former residents are unable to afford the new housing at their exorbitant prices, and most of the time, the properties remain empty– whether commercial or residential.  

I would like to think that the businessmen and developers who create properties that remain empty do so merely because of poor city planning– especially in the case of American businessmen/developers– but something tells me that isn’t always the case.  I am reminded of an old Twilight Zone episode entitled Stopover in a Quiet Town, where a couple had been out drinking and partying the night before and found themselves lost in a strange, unpopulated community the next day.  At first, everything seemed normal, but it wasn’t long before they realized the trees were props and the grass was paper mache.  

Mr. Pizzo believes that the new urban decay in his community is indicative of a looming total economic crash and I’m not convinced that he’s wrong.  I also agree with his belief that if such a crash occurs, it will be the worst we’ve ever seen, and all (or most of)  hell will break loose.  However, there is also hope in his prophecy.  He feels that it will take a huge collapse for our economy to rebuild in a healthier manner– where small businesses are valued as much or more than big corporate ones, gardens are planted where parking lots used to be, and everyone has fair affordable housing… 

One last thing.  Mr. Pizzo mentioned that a new housing development called Eastmark had its grand opening in Mesa two weeks ago.  A Scottsdale company called DMB paid $265 million to General Motors for its old proving ground, where cars like the Impala, Corvette, and GTO were tested when they were new.  Eastmark boasts several parks, including a “Great Park”, community center, and even some mansions.  According to AZCentral, DMB developed Eastmark, which will have 15,000 “dwelling units”, and promises “tens of thousands of high-paying jobs”, which as of yet, do not exist, as even a planned nearby factory sits vacant.  But DMB dismisses this concern, banking on the fact that Eastmark is so special, that people will flock to the community anyway, bringing new job opportunities with them.  

Maybe they’re right.  Maybe it will be a thriving, heavily populated housing development.  

And maybe not.

THE FLY WHO FLEW TOO MUCH

Is it still a fly if it's walking?

Is it still a fly if it’s walking?

Today I was inspired by a fly.  The cat danced on her toes as she tried to catch it, but of course the fly flew faster than she could track it.  I thought to myself, “Well, that’s what bugs do.  Flies fly.”  Seeing the humor in this thought, it expanded to, “Bugs bug.”  And then it expanded further into this little poem for children…

“Bugs bug.  Flies fly.  Not all bugs are critters that fly in the sky.
Some of them are in the ground and have to be dug.  Creepy crawlies
are critters you don’t want to hug.

Mosquitos buzz and then they bite.  Beetles crawl around and give you a fright.  Ants like sugar and want to eat it all.  Spiders spin webs that climb up the wall.  Grasshoppers leap like rockets from the ground.  Earthworms dig holes and live underground.  Termites eat trees and buildings, too.  Aren’t you glad they don’t eat you?  Some bugs live in your hair.  It’s not very nice.  Those bugs are rude.  Those bugs are lice.

But not all bugs are pesky, yucky, or frightful.  Some of them are nice.  Some are delightful. Take the ladybug with her spotted red wings, who lands so delicately on so many things.  Crickets are the symphony of the night.  They love to sing.   Butterflies fly above the grass with tiny windows on wings of colored glass.  And look at the dragonfly with wings iridescent. He hovers so briefly, he flutters, he flits– he’s almost candescent!  Fireflies have tiny lanterns that light up the night.  They twinkle like stars. They brighten our life.

And while we’re at it, I’ll tell you one thing.  It’s not gonna bite.  It’s not gonna sting.  It’s a secret, so keep it between you and me… Bees be.  How can that be?  I don’t know, but bees they be indeed.

So the next time you see a creature, no matter how small, consider its value.  Consider it all.”

I plan to create a little storybook based on this poem.  It would have one or two lines of text per page and illustration.   I’ll try to illustrate it myself, but failing that, I’ll recruit one of my more artistic friends.

Incidentally, my brother was a “bug guy” as a child.  I remember seeing him squatting on the ground as he carefully studied whatever insect that was crawling in front of him.  This little poem is dedicated to children like him.  They are the ones who wonder at all the beauty in the world.

 

HANCOCK PARK: INSPIRATION FOR OLD HOLLYWOOD STORIES

El Royale, 450 Rossmore, Hancock Park

El Royale, 450 Rossmore, Hancock Park

There are many wealthy communities in the Los Angeles area, but the one that inspires me most as a writer isn’t Beverly Hills, but Hancock Park.  In many ways, the two communities are as different as night and day.  Where Beverly Hills is a stretch Humvee limo full of Kardashians; Hancock Park is a polished vintage Rolls Royce bearing the likes of John Barrymore (grandfather of Drew) and Mary Pickford (a founding member of United Artists).  Beverly Hills is the trophy wife who has had a lot of cosmetic surgery; Hancock Park is the Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly, icon of elegance and class.  Beverly Hills is pop music; Hancock Park is an orchestral symphony.

Both  communities have beautiful homes, but Beverly Hills welcomes the ostentatious and the attention seekers, and thrills at being identified with luxury and opulence.  It doesn’t shrink from shameless self-promotion, whereas Hancock Park, is understated, quiet, and under the radar.  If you’re heading north on Larchmont Boulevard, the Hollywood sign is visible, appearing only a mile or so away, in direct alignment with the street.  Within arm’s length of Paramount Studios, Hancock Park was one of the first neighborhoods for early Hollywood to place some roots.   Clark Gable and Mae West were residents at El Royale, Howard Hughes lived on Muirfield Road, and apparently, even Charlie Chaplin was Hancock Park- adjacent for a time at the Cochran Apartments near Wilshire– close to his studio.

Walking around or driving through Hancock Park, one gets a feel for what Hollywood must have really been like in the 20′s and 30′s.  Besides the spectacular Art Deco homes, there are sweet little gingerbread cottages, “castles” with turrets,  sweeping Gone With The Wind mansions, and charming Spanish and Italian villas.   It’s the kind of place that F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda belonged in, where even Gatsby himself would have felt welcome.

A young Joan Crawford

A young Joan Crawford

This community stirs up other ghosts of Hollywood-past for me.  Imagine being a guest at the Ambassador Hotel and running into It Girl, Clara Bow.   A visit to the hotel’s nightclub, The Cocoanut Grove, might have found you watching silent-film actress, Joan Crawford (pre-eyebrows and pre-Mommie Dearest), as she danced in front of the house band, reminiscent of the days before she became a celebrity, winning a Charleston contest in Kansas City.

Or picture yourself waking up in your sunny Hollywood bungalow on September 11th, 1921, to read the headline that stated that Roscoe “Fatty”Arbuckle had been arrested– for murder!  How could this be?  Other than Chaplin, Fatty was the biggest star in the world!  And he certainly didn’t look like someone who was capable of murder.

Or imagine what you were doing when you learned that Rudolph Valentino died.  Maybe you were typing scripts for Paramount when you heard the news, or waking up from an all-night party at the *Garden of Allah drinking bootleg whiskey.

Anyone wanting to write stories set during the silent film era of Hollywood could find numerous characters, places, and events for inspiration.  For me, the greatest spark of all is Hancock Park.

*(My bank is now located where the Garden of Allah used to be.  Very sad.  I’d rather have the property back to it’s original state and my bank located elsewhere.)

 

ON VACATION!

Will be back soon with another post. Taking this week off to relax and work on a new book. See you in the ethers!

EXCERPT FROM MY BOOK OF JAMES

Innocence

Innocence

Following is an excerpt from the book I’m working on about my great-great grandfather, James G. Crutcher.  The details I’ve learned about his life growing up in Frankfort Kentucky, as a Confederate soldier in the Civil War, and as a husband and father who walked away from his family have been a tremendous muse in helping me chisel away at the soul of his story.  Whenever possible, I use the real names of people who were members of his family, as well as members of the community at the time.  Here is an experience I imagine he may have had as a boy…

One night, Mr. Blanton came over to visit with Daddy.  They liked to talk about horses and whiskey.  Mr. Blanton especially liked to come after he’d finished creating his latest batch of bourbon.  Daddy said it was because he liked to compete.  Daddy and Mr. Blanton were always in the business of one-upmanship.  Every chance they got, they swapped whiskey and tall tales.  Since we knew they could sit up all night talking and drinking, they never noticed when John and I snuck out to Pop’s still to sample Daddy’s latest batch for ourselves.  I figured if they had known, they shoulda felt honored, seeing as how they inspired us so much.

On some level we knew it was wrong, but we justified our whiskey tasting by remembering all those times Mamma and Daddy made us drink it when we had a fever, a toothache, a sore throat, or just to warm us from the cold.  Grandma Crutcher called it her “tonic” and kept a flask of it in the pocket of her apron.  She claimed its effects at reviving her were nothing short of miraculous, but sometimes, after a swig or two, we caught her snoring and she woke up meaner than a hornet stuck in a jar.  That wasn’t really so different from her sober personality though.  She was mean either way.

At first, the fiery liquid burned its way down, making us cough and sputter, tears running down our faces.  John whined, “I don’t wanna drink no more!”  I set the bottle down on a stump and smacked my brother on the back.  “Be a man!  You think Daddy cries when he drinks this stuff?  It’s good for you.  You drink enough, you won’t never get sick again!”

After a few more sniffles and a couple more sips, we were imbibing like a couple of seasoned drunks.  Just to prove my point, I told him the story of Lexington’s William “King” Solomon, the beloved vagrant and town drunk who’d pickled himself so completely, he’d been rendered impervious to the cholera epidemic and stayed behind to dig the graves of the scores of dead when everyone else fled the city.  Because of this, he was honored as a hero and given a special ceremony by the people of Lexington.  Before that, he’d just been known for getting drunk, climbing a tree, falling out, and landing on the constable, who promptly had him arrested and sold as a slave to a free black woman— even though he was a white man.

“That ain’t true,” said John.

I was indignant.  “Yes it is!”

“How do you know?”

“Mr. Blanton told me.  He’s a growed man.  He ain’t gonna lie to a kid.”

“Oh.”  John accepted this.  Apparently, it made perfect sense to a drunk six-year-old.

The house was dark and quiet when we snuck back in.  All the lanterns were out and the only sounds to be heard were crickets and frogs.  We made it to our room and changed into our night clothes, slipping into bed.  I was feeling victorious at our success in remaining undetected.  We closed our eyes and soon drifted off to slumber.

Unfortunately, at some point in the night, John rolled out of bed and landed on the floor, waking Mamma.  She came into the room all alarmed but still disheveled from sleep.  “What happened?  What’s wrong?”  John, who was still lying on the floor, started to cry.  “I’m gonna be sick…”

Mamma lit the lamp.  “What’s wrong, baby?” she cooed to my brother.  Poor traitorous little mite.  I looked on with dread.  His freckles stood out against skin that had gone pale and when he opened his mouth to cry, you could see he was missing one of his front baby teeth.  His blue eyes were watery and red as Mamma ran a hand across his forehead.  “You don’t have a fever, but you sure don’t look good.  Let’s get you back into bed.”

As Mamma bent down to help John from the floor, she wrinkled her nose, saying, “Lord, Johnny, you smell like your daddy.”  Mamma then leaned over me and inhaled deeply, recoiling from the fumes.  I ain’t never seen her so mad— before or since.  “You boys been in the still,” she said, her face turning red with anger.  We froze, drunk as we were at the tender ages of eight and six, guilty looks on our faces.  She plopped John roughly onto the mattress, sitting him upright.  “You wait here.” She gave us the evil eye.  “Both of you.”

John started crying again.  “I don’t feel good.”  I covered his mouth, shushing him.  “Be quiet or they’ll really get mad!”

She came back a moment later with Daddy, who was three sheets to the wind himself.  She stood in the doorway, her arms crossed tightly as she glared at the three of us.  “Well?” she said to my father, clearly expecting him to give us a proper dressing down.  Daddy tottered unsteadily on his feet, looking confused.  “What?” he asked.

She whipped one of her arms in our direction, causing us to shrink back.  “These boys have been up at your still.”

Daddy blinked at us.  He appeared to have some difficulty focusing.  “Huh.” He said.

Mamma was furious.  “That’s it?  Lord!  All I need is three drunks in this house!”

He tried to mollify her.  “Now, now, Sarah Jane.  Me and Mr. Blanton were talkin’ ‘bout the horses and—“

“I don’t care if you were chattin’ with the devil hisself!  I don’t want my boys drinkin’ whiskey!  They’re just babies!”

“It ain’t all that big’a deal.  My daddy gave me my first taste of bourbon whiskey when I was about John’s age.”

Mamma leveled him a withering look and handed him a bucket.  “You can clean them up when they get sick.”  She turned and left the room, slamming the door behind her.

Daddy ran a hand through his hair, sinking next to us on the bed.  “Lord, boys, you getting’ me in a heap’a trouble.  Maybe you should lay off the hooch ‘til you’re a little older.  What do you say?”

We quickly agreed, not willing to risk that kinda wrath from Mamma again.  “Sure, Daddy.”

And we kept our word.  John never touched another drop in his life and the next time I drank anything stronger than water, I was half froze to death somewhere in the fields of Georgia, wishing with all my heart I was back home where my mamma could give me a proper dressing down.

LATEST BOOKMASH AS MUSE

My second attempt at a bookmash

My second attempt at a bookmash

I tried creating another bookmash and I think I’m starting to get better at it.

This one reads:

The Star Rover
The Prince
Gods, Ghosts, & Ancestors
Writing Down The Bones
In The Woods

It seems to be a little more poetic, a little darker, and dare I say– a little more cohesive.   In fact, what kinds of stories does it conjure up for you?  Perhaps a secret cabal that meets in the woods to write magic spells… or a group of powerful entities that try to outdo each other through supernatural means… or even spirits that are busy developing the formula for the creation of life and all mankind in the woods…

What does this collection of titles inspire in you?    Would love to see your bookmash ideas as well!

Guest Post from Author/Screenwriter DERMOT DAVIS

purple flowerThe following is a guest post by the tremendously talented author/screenwriter, Dermot Davis.   I was introduced to him through his outstanding magical book, Stormy Weather, a story about a psychotherapist who is forced to confront himself when his own dreams come to life  .  Here is the author’s take on his writing muse:

 

I call my muse The Elusive Lady.
 
Despite the fact that she’s ever-present, I don’t always see or hear her. 
 
I don’t always see or hear her – not because she is not visible or audible, she is – but rather that most of the time, I’m not actively looking for Her presence or listening out for Her whispers. I have to remind myself and make a conscious effort to see and to hear, which, for me, at least, is not as simple as it sounds.
 
I can get so caught up in projects, in thinking, in planning, in work… in what I call my life, that my muse goes unseen and unheard most of the time.
 
Conversely, sometimes I do consciously seek Her out but for some unknown and inexplicable reason, I fail to make a connection. Even if I call Her name, I so often have become frustratingly perplexed that She seems to have gone AWOL and despite my calling out and fervent beseeching, seems nowhere to be found. 
 
Although She takes many forms and speaks to me through other people, symbols, signs and methaphors, it’s mostly in the stillness and in the silence that I find Her and within which I can I savor Her nurturing support. I have enjoyed many extended visits with Her in this way.
Before I start a new work or if I’m not even sure what new work to start upon, I will sit with Her in the silence and hear what She has to say. She always knows and if I’m patient and open to Her suggestions, the answers always come.
 
When I’m stuck in my work or in any aspect of my life or have any siginificant decision that I need to take, I will sit quietly and wait to hear Her input, which sometimes may seem unusual or not at all the advice I wanted to consider but ultimately, at the end of the day, She is always right.
 
I call my muse The Elusive Lady but to others She is known by many names, some of which include: the Soul, the Higher Self, Master Guide, Guardian Angel, Divine Love, Creativity, God, Godess, All That Is.
 
Whatever name you call Her or know Her by, perhaps it’s time to pay a visit:)

 

To learn more about Dermot Davis and his work, please visit his site:  dermotdavis.com  And be sure to check out his wonderful books!

“MUSE”-IC

Euterpe, muse of lyric song.

Euterpe, muse of lyric song.

A few years ago, I met an A&R guy from London right here in Los Angeles at a place called the Snakepit.  We had a few drinks and talked about a subject both of us were fond of– music.  The band Muse came up in our discussion and he said something I will never forget and totally agree with:  ”Muse creates the kind of music that Beethoven would be making if he were alive and making rock and roll today”.  They are epic in the range and scope of their creativity and imagination, translating this into powerful, moving sound.  Sometimes their music is delicate, sometimes it swells, sometimes it thunders– but it is always dramatic, turbulent, and emotional.  The word “muse” can be defined as “guiding spirit” or “source of inspiration”, and in this case, the band Muse seems to live up to its name, as it seems to be inspired by something transcendent, otherworldly, and even spiritual.

For me, there is possibly no greater muse than music.  I am highly sensitive to music and a song that I enjoy can uplift, inspire me, or move me to a depth of emotion.  A bad song is sheer torture to me.  How do I differentiate between good music and bad music?  Good music makes me feel good, even if it’s sad or angry.  Bad music is bland, vacuous, and leaves me cold.  Bad music lacks heart and soul and the bulk of it just melts together into one big undifferentiated “song”, since after a while most of it sounds alike anyway.  But good music is sometimes great music.  For example, Dancing in the Moonlight, by Thin Lizzy makes me want to believe in magic.  It’s full of joy, the pleasure of being young, and the dizziness of romance.  When I hear it, I think of a big, full, pearly moon, palm trees, a soft breeze, the sound of the ocean, the smell of jasmine, and dancing in the sand under the stars.  What can be better than that?

Bad music, on the other hand, is anything that requires Auto-Tune in order to make it– well— halfway listenable.  (Note:  Time Magazine refers to Auto-Tune as “Photoshop for the human voice”!)  For me, much of the music that’s been played on the radio in the last 10-15 years falls under this category.  It appeals to the masses at the lowest common denominator– it puts people in the party mood, makes them want to dance, or be cool– just to sell records.  It doesn’t inspire people to greatness, make them feel something in their souls, or change their philosophies.  It takes little thought, creativity, energy, work, or talent to create music like this.  Can you imagine if a song like George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord was created using Autotune by one of the slick, shallow music industry producers like the ones today?  It wouldn’t be the same song and I doubt I’d be able to detect the love and devotion Harrison felt for the god he was singing to.  The bitter heartache of Shelby Lynne’s Your Lies would be sanitized and watered down into thin, superficial drivel.  The boyish, playful, sexuality of the Faces’ Stay With Me would be sterilized or worse– offensively sexualized, just to be provocative in order to sell more records.

When I write, I want to hear songs that pack the biggest emotional punch.  When I need to connect with something deep and powerful, I listen to Changing of the Guard by Chris Whitley and Jeff Lang.  To capture a character’s anger or need for vengeance, I turn to Welcome to the Jungle by Guns ‘n Roses, or Vow, by Garbage.  Bye Bye Love, by The Cars makes me feel nostalgic for the 80′s– skinny ties, power suits, and spiky hair.  If my character needs a little vintage-style soul music to find the right mood, he might play Slow Dance, by John Legend or Stone Rollin’ by Raphael Saadiq.  Birdland #3 by Takagi Masakatsu captures the delicate fragility of dreams.  And nobody can transport you to the jazz age like Louis Armstrong or Jellyroll Morton if you’re working on a period piece set in the 20′s and 30′s.

I realize that my opinion might be a little too strong for a lot of people.  I know that music is subjective and not everyone is going to agree with me.  That’s okay.  This is my opinion and I might be the only one who feels this way.  However, I see music as an art and like other types of art, it comes from the spirit and something greater than the ability to make money, or be played by a DJ at a nightclub.  I want more from the music I hear.  I want it to elevate my soul and remind me of what being alive is all about– to inspire me as an artist.  After all, isn’t that why it’s called “music”?

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