Scott M. Sandridge

A Work in Progress

SpecMusicMuse Review: Monsters of Legend – Midnight Syndicate

mid_syn_mol_290x460_2013aSpooky music is one thing. Spooky music combined with equally scary sounds in the background is quite another. But a CD full of such music arranged in a manner that sounds like it could be the soundtrack to any Hammer horror film, and you have Monsters of Legend by Midnight Syndicate.

“Building the Monster” is an obvious tribute to Frankenstein. And other songs sound like they could be straight out of Dracula, among other films. By far the creepiest was “Cloistered Cemetery.” Every song creates the proper macabre atmosphere for its purpose, especially “Dark Tower.” And while “Ancient Portal” is all sound effects and no music, it fits right in as a bridge to the next song.

Midnight Syndicate has made a lot of excellent albums over the years, but this one is by far one of the best. Every fan of the old Horror films, or anyone who likes scary music, should add this CD to their collection.

Best to listen to while reading: any of the classics, like Dracula, Frankenstein, or Poe’s short stories.

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September 3, 2013 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse Review: Midnight Syndicate – Carnival Arcane

Midnight Syndicate outdo themselves with Carnical Arcane – one of, if not the best music CD they’ve yet produced. A concept CD centered around a carnival where the magic is real and bad things tend to happen, it even comes complete with sound effects and voices to increase the forboding atmosphere as the music plays.

Not every song, however, is macabre and spine-tingling. “Dr. Atmore’s Elixirs of Good Humor and Fortification,” for example, sounded like it would fit well in a Final Fantasy VI remake, possibly involving something to do with Kefka or maybe the Mage Tower. Also, of the 25 songs on the CD, many are very short (there’s even one that’s only 36 seconds). But overall, the CD is a nice variety of “wonders both fantastic and macabre” and will keep you listening from start to finish.

Once again, Midnight Syndicate delivers.

Best to listen to while reading: anything in the Horror or Dark Fantasy genres–specifically something involving carnivals or clowns….

October 1, 2011 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

SpecMusicMuse: Interview w/Lawrence C. Connolly

Lawrence C. ConnollyI once had the pleasure of sharing a panel with Lawrence C. Connolly at MARcon in 2010. He is definitely someone who knows writing, and later having this chance to interview him was an honor.

1.  What is the Veins cycle about?

It’s about making bad choices . . . and then struggling to make them right. It’s about the scars that industry has left upon the land and the sacrifices that our species may need to make in order to heal those wounds. It’s about a young man named Axle who one night finds himself running for his life through an abandoned surface mine. It’s about the spirits of the earth deciding to take back what is theirs.

The cycle is composed of three books, each taking place within a span of eight hours. Veins (2008) opens about 10:00 on a Sunday night in August. Vipers (2010) opens around 6:00 the following morning. Vores (scheduled for 2012) runs from 2:00 that afternoon to 10:00 that night. Thus, together, the books chronicle a single 24 hour day – a period of time that loops back on itself like a tail-eating snake.


2. I noticed you did a bit of research on the Iroquois for these books.

Actually, the research centered on an Iroquoian language that was once wide spread in western Pennsylvania. Part of Veins is told from the point of view of a woman who heard the language as a child. Now, as an old woman, pieces of that language are coming back to her, first in her dreams, then in waking reveries that may be manifestations of a failing mind or visions from the spirit realm. She tries explaining what she sees using that ancient language, but we soon sense that the visions are from a place beyond language . . . beyond legend. This impression is compounded in Vipers, when similar visions elicit completely different interpretations. It’s all part of a central mystery that will come to a head in the final book.

3. How did you come up with the idea of doing a soundtrack?

I knew that FE Books was interested in branching into other media, and, when they picked up Veins, I asked them if they’d be interested in having my band put together a CD of music inspired by the book. I sent them a demo – a five-minute track called “Axle Rising” – and they must have liked what they heard, because a short time later I had a contract to produce the CD, which I did over the summer of 2008.

The tracks are mostly instrumentals, with a couple of spoken word performances featuring stories from my collection Visions (also from FE Books).

I play all the guitars on the CD, and each track features at least one riff played with a sonic pick – a device that creates long, sustained notes. The result is a variety of sounds that are not instantly recognizable as those of a guitar. Take the CD’s first cut, for example. That flute that kicks in about half way through isn’t a flute. It’s a guitar. Or listen to “Downhill Run.” That Theremin in the coda is a guitar as well.

The only other instruments  on the CD are bass-and-drums, with a few vocal chants and keyboard thrown in on “Axle Rising.”

Overall, we were going for a basic, handmade rock sound, as opposed to something that gave the impression it was keyed in using a digital program.

Likewise, the sound-design elements – footsteps on pavement, revving engines, squealing tires – were all recorded live. Nothing was computer generated or taken from stock.

On the track titled “68 Fastback,” we were going to overlay the music with roars from a Mustang engine until we found a Dodge Viper that revved in the key of A.  So we used those sounds instead, took that Viper out to an abandoned construction site and recorded the revs and burnouts there.  It was a blast.

I’m hoping the disk sells well enough for FE to green light a follow up disk. We’ll see. In the meantime, any readers interested in supporting such endeavors might give a listen at iTunes or pick up the CD directly from FE Books (see the links below).

4. Has music ever helped with your writing or in coming up with ideas, and have storylines ever inspired songs?

My writing mix consists mainly of new-age jazz, techno, and club music – with heavy emphasis on the German band Tangerine Dream.

Other than the tracks on Veins: the Soundtrack (which are instrumentals, not songs), I  can’t say that I’ve ever had a storyline inspire a song. Nevertheless, I do have a new story out in the anthology Darkness On The Edge (PS Publishing), which features fiction inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen. My story was inspired by “Murder Incorporated.”

5. What else is coming down the pipeline that you want your readers to know about?

Earlier this year, Ash-Tree Press released my horror collection This Way To Egress at World Horror in Brighton. Next year, FE Books plans to release another collection titled Voices, which will contain some of my favorite stories from the last 30 years, a half dozen new stories, and about 10,000 words of memoir about living and working in the horror genre.

After that comes Vores, the final book in the VEINS CYCLE.

I also have a new “Daughters of Prime” novelette that I’m working on for F&SF . . . and a full-length novel version of that series that I really hope to have finished soon.

6. Where online can people find you at and, just as important, where can they buy your stuff?

They can find me at:
http://www.lawrencecconnolly.com

They can buy my stuff wherever good books are sold, but it’s always nice to order direct from the publishers or from small independent booksellers. To that end, I recommend shopping at the following:

VEINS, VIPERS, VISIONS
http://books.fantasistent.com/VEINS: the SOUNDTRACK (CD)
http://books.fantasistent.com/
http://ax.itunes.apple.com/us/artist/lawrence-c-connolly/id353094854

THIS WAY TO EGRESS:
http://store.realmsoffantasybooks.com/thwaytoeglac.html
http://www.ash-tree.bc.ca/atp146Egress.htm

March 25, 2011 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse Review: Veins Soundtrack

Not only does Lawrence C. Connolly prove he’s a great writer, but the soundtrack to Veins also proves he’s a capable creator of music as well. Every song on the soundtrack provides the perfect atmosphere for the story. It is mostly all instrumental (“Aberrations” and “Echoes” have spoken word lyrics with the songs) and merges various genres and styles to provide the right sound for the right scene. It is definitely worth picking up along with the book.

Best to listen to while reading: Veins of course. Duh. But other than that, any dark fantasy story that takes place outside of an urban environment.

February 12, 2011 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse: Interview w/ Catherine Asaro & Donald Wolcott

I had the honor of interviewing the duo who gave you the Diamond Star novel and soundtrack: Catherine Asaro and Donald Wolcott.

And without further ado, on with the interview (Hey! I can rhyme!):

A music CD based on an SF novel. How did that come about, and which came first?

CA: The novel came first.  It’s about a futuristic rock star, so I wrote his songs as a way to give insight into his character. Each song has its own story. I had trouble at first with the lyrics because I had no music, and for me lyrics are intimately tangled up with the instrumentals. So I wrote some music.  My first two songs, Starlight Child and Rubies, have a bit of a classical feel about them, since my background is in classical piano. But the songs basically are rock.

I was lucky to find the a band interested in doing the book’s soundtrack.  In fact, the front man for the band, Hayim Ani, is the one who coined the term “soundtrack” for this project.  His band, Point Valid, is from Baltimore, though now Hayim lives in Israel, where he’s in the army.  He was the driving force among the musicians to complete the CD, and he and the band wrote a lot of the music. I finished writing the book while we were in the studio cutting the songs.

After Point Valid dispersed, off to college in different parts of the globe, Donald Wolcott joined the project.  He and I cut an EP called Goodbye Note, which is a few covers, a rewrite of one of the Diamond Star songs, and an original by Donald with a fellow named Tomas Clark.

DW: The novel came first. Catherine’s book, Diamond Star is based on a rock star in the future, and as I understand it, it didn’t take long for someone to suggest that a “soundtrack” for the book be created. She began working on this with Point Valid (Baltimore based rock band). The band eventually dissolved, and that’s when I came into the picture. Catherine found me via craigslist. Initially, I was only aware that she was an aspiring vocalist looking for a pianist to help her work on her repertoire. I didn’t find out until later that she was an author or that she had a musical project relating to her book. I agreed to be involved in the project, and over the past year and a half, we have been working together on recording and performing music for the diamond star project.

How inspirational can music be to story writing, and how inspirational can stories be to writing music?

DW: Stories can sometimes be very inspirational to writing music, sometimes not so much. Despite not being much of a fan of country music, I will admit that there seems to be this magical ability among country music writers to really develop a story in the lyrics of a song. This feature is generally absent from the other genres of music I have listened to. I don’t usually write around a specific plot line when I write lyrics for a song. When I write, I tend to target a broader idea, situation, or emotion with the lyrics. I’ve found it’s easier for me to connect with the listener with a broader concept that is relatable among the masses. And honestly, conveying a compelling story in 2 or 3 verses, a chorus, and a bridge, all the while in rhyme and without sounding silly….IS REALLY HARD!

CA: For me, they’ve always been closely related.  When I was a kid, I listened to rock all the time and made up stories in my mind. Those tales eventually became the Skolian books I write now about the Ruby Dynasty.  And composing music for songs inspires me when I’m writing lyrics.

What directions/trends do you think SF in general is going, and music in general?

CA: Science fiction is becoming more multi-media. Nowadays, sales of a “book” are spread across more than the traditional hard-covers or paperbacks; it’s also audio books, on-line books, CDs, computer downloads — many different formats.

In the future, we will probably have holographic books.  They’ll become interactive, letting you choose dialogue or plot lines.  Farther into the future, books might have AIs that let you participate in the story. Eventually we’ll go into full virtual reality simulation of a “book.” We’ll be able to play in worlds that authors created or that we create ourselves.  It’s going to be fun.

DW: From what I’ve noticed, musical trends seem to recycle themselves as time passes. If you thought The Beatles were over, check out Jet. If you like U2’s sound, listen to Muse. Remember the band “Yes”? Crossbreed that with an Ozzy Osbourne and you get one Dream Theater. That’s not to say that musicians or bands don’t have their own sound these days, but they’re all pulling from many of the same influences as they refine their sound. So I often hear a band and think “Hmmm this is like _____, but with a touch of ______ and sprinkled with some _______ on top.” And that can produce some really cool music.

The general exception to this rule is your garden variety bubble-gum pop music. That sound is mostly gonna be whatever the loyal viewers of the Disney Channel decide is cool this week.
Any future collaboration plans? Doing any concerts and stuff?

DW: Yup we’re gigging around…we’ve had some cool ones lately. Over the summer we performed in Houston, Orlando, and Raleigh; and we just recently did a performance in Copenhagen, Denmark.

We have some upcoming stuff too, I can never keep track of everything though…I think there is a reasonably up to date list here: http://events.myspace.com/435202578/Events/1

CA: Right now, I’m finishing another Ruby Dynasty book called Carnelians. After I turn that in, I’ll be working on a new novel with a soundtrack. Donald and I have started a few songs, but until I finish Carnelians, I can’t do much.

We do a concert or so every month, sometimes locally, sometimes at cons.  A fairly up-to-date schedule is at: http:/www.myspace.com/starflightmusic

Where can people find your music CDs and books?

DW: I believe the music is on CDbaby.com and Itunes, and maybe some other places as well. Catherine can probably tell you better than I can.

CA: Thanks for asking!  They can get our CDs at CD Baby.  Here are links to both:
Diamond Star: https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/pointvalidca
Goodbye Note: https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/AsaroAndWolcott
The books are available from many places, both bookstores and online.  The most recent SF books from Baen are here:
http://www.baen.com/author_catalog.asp?author=casaro
Fantasy is here:
http://www.eharlequin.com/author.html?authorid=1057
The fantasy books are from Luna, which is Harlequin’s fantasy imprint.  People think that when they see the Harlequin name, that means the books are genre romances, but they aren’t.  The Luna line is all fantasy. My Luna books mostly do have romantic subplots, though.

As far as finding the books, I’d like to encourage folks to try the independent bookstores in their area.  It’s a tough environment for the small booksellers, and it’s growing harder each year, especially in this economy.  So any support folks can give them is great.  If they don’t have a book, they can almost always order it for you.

If you can’t find my books anywhere else, my backlist is available from places Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble online.  I think all the science fiction books are still in print, and most of the fantasy.

If there was one piece of advice you could give to musicians and
writers alike, what would it be?

DW: Hmmm it’s so hard to pick just one, I might have to give you a few.

Top 3 pieces of advice for musicians:

3) Yes, practice is very important. But performing is equally, if not MORE, important. DO NOT spend 8 months locked away practicing. Pick out or write some music you can handle for now, and get out there! There is no better way to learn than by doing, and 15 minutes on stage can teach you so much more than hours of meticulous practice.

2) Network and be professional. As a musician, your career can be immensely boosted by who you know. Meet other musicians, and stay in touch with them. Be a people person. If you want to get gigs, you have to be approachable, likeable, and reliable, just like any other job. You want people to remember you, appreciate you, and trust you. Good presentation pays out in the long run with more gigs. And after you do a gig, if at all possible GET A REFERENCE LETTER!!! Again, just like any other job, good references are valuable items that can be used and reused to sell yourself into the next gig.

1) LISTEN TO MUSIC. If you want to be good at playing music, you MUST listen to it. And listen to a lot of it. What professional athlete has ever gone out onto the field having watched only a couple of ballgames before? Listen to different kinds of music and think about what is happening in the music. Notice the similarities and the differences. You can learn new ideas and find useful ways to apply old ideas. There’s no official manual for making good music, so the more music you listen to, the more you are exposed to different ways to do it. And the more you are exposed to different ways of doing it, the easier those ways will be to learn and play. As a working musician, that type of flexibility among genres, styles, and even instruments can be a huge help. There’s the bassist who only plays classical symphonic repertoire. Then there’s the bassist who does classical, jazz, rock, bluegrass, can do acoustic upright bass or electric bass, and can also get by with a few chords on guitar if needed. Who’s going to get more work? So, listen to music, listen to different kinds of music, think about it, and find opportunities to apply it whenever you can.   

CA: Don’t give up.  Rejection is hard to take, but it’s a basic part of both professions.  You have to keep submitting stories to editors, keep auditioning, keep looking for jobs.  If you keep working at it and improving, you will eventually succeed.

November 13, 2010 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

SpecMusicMuse Review: Goodbye Note–Asaro & Wolcott

Catharine Asaro and Donald Wolcott created a CD, Goodby Note, comprised of six soothing and relaxing songs. The majority of the songs are covers, like Norah Jones’s “Don’t Know Why,” but one song is a remix of “No Answers With In Paradisum” from the album, Diamond Star.

Wolcot definitely shows his musical skills, plus his and Asaro’s vocals compliment each other harmoniously. If you like music that is easy and soothing to listen to, then you’ll enjoy Goodbye Note.

Best to listen to while reading:

pretty much anything with a contemporary, modern-day setting.

 

November 7, 2010 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

SpecMusicMuse Review: Point Valid w/Catherine Asaro–Diamond Star

Diamond Star is a music CD based off the novel by the same title written by Catherine Asaro. I usually don’t care for Pop/Rock (I’m a Metalhead through and through), but from time to time I run across songs and even singers/bands in that genre that does appeal to me. Point valid is one of those bands. That their CD is based off an SF book and features the very songs that the main character, Del, sings in the story, is a much added bonus.

My personal favorites are “Carnelians” and “Carnelians Finale” because of the emotional power in the lyrics, and if any two songs on the CD could be redone as Metal songs, those two could. But all the songs have a relevancy to them befitting modern day while they can also be timeless.

But the thing I liked most about the Diamond Star CD is its realness. The songs sound exactly like how you would hear them at a concert without all the technology that’s used today to enhance sounds and voices with. It’s almost raw, and the songs are much better for it. And Asaro’s vocals go perfectly with the Point Valid’s vocals and music.

Definitely a must get, especially with a certain book.

Best to listen to while reading: Diamond Star by Catherine Asaro. Duh.

October 30, 2010 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SpecMusicMuse Review: Diamond Star—Catherine Asaro

Diamond Star is Rock N’ Roll, SF style. Del Valdoria, heir of the Ruby Dynasty, the rulers of the interstellar Skolian Imperialate, is on Earth.

And he wants to be a holo-rock singer. Del has to deal with all the usual struggles of a rock star—sex and drugs, a horde of fans (some of which are insanely obsessive), a hot relationship with his sexy producer, Rikki, and a family that don’t understand his passions. And to top it all off, he’s followed by Earth’s military and still has to deal with the Skolian’s sadist enemies, the Eubian Concord.

Asaro packs a lot of story into this 600+ page novel and keeps your interest from page 1 to the end. She excels at characterization and ain’t too shabby with the dialogue and action, either. It did drag somewhat near the middle but not too much, for the occasional surprises kept me reading. Things are certainly not predictable in this story. Overall, it’s a great read and a worthwhile addition to her series of books about the Skolian Empire.

Also, Asaro giving a few plugs to some of my favorite bands in the novel was an added bonus.

Best to read while listening to: well, we’ll get to that next week. 😉

October 22, 2010 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

SpecMusicMuse: Interview With Elizabeth Massie

I ran into Horror author Elizabeth Massie at Context back in August, and being the polite and genteel Virginian that she is, she agreed to an interview:

 

What made you decide to become a writer?

I don’t know if there was ever a time I didn’t want to be a writer. I always loved stories…telling them, hearing them, watching them. Even as a kid I often wondered what it was like to be another person, to live in his/her skin, in his/her house, and have experiences different from my own. 

 

You also teach writing classes. Has teaching it helped your own
writing in any way?

I think to teach anything you have to not only know what you’re teaching but be willing to keep learning. When people in a class or workshop ask very specific questions, it makes me think through aspects of the craft that I might not have thought about very deeply. Something I might have been doing but hadn’t analyzed, or something that made me think – hmmm, how could that be accomplished in a more creative, effective way?

 

In what direction do you see Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Horror going in the near future?

It’s hard to speculate on the direction of speculative fiction (!) I’ll just have to wait and find out. Honestly, anything I’ve ever predicted in the business has gone off in another direction.

 

Do you find fiction easier to write or nonfiction? And with fiction,
is short fiction easier than longer works, or do they each have their own unique challenges?

I find fiction easier in that it is a story and my imagination can run. Not saying writing fiction is easy; it requires you to use both sides of your brain – the right/creative side, which helps you come up with something fresh and intriguing and interesting and the left/analytical side which helps you put all that creativity into some sort of organized fashion so others can understand it. With nonfiction, while I enjoy the researching, analyzing, and presenting information or opinions, you can’t make much up! 😉

 

Like me, you’re not afraid to let people know your political opinions. How important do you feel it is for artists, musicians, and writers to speak out on issues they’re passionate about, and what would you like to tell those who advise us to keep those opinions to ourselves?

 I think everyone – artists, writers, actors, musicians, waitresses, teachers, doctors, etc. – should speak out on issues on which they feel strongly. Too many people fuss and fume behind closed doors but either think their views aren’t important or think their voices can’t make a difference. Granted, sometimes actors and writers and artists have a larger platform for getting their views to the public, but really, everyone can find a way to share their opinions. Facebook is definitely one venue that has leveled the playing field when it comes to sharing opinions. You got a FB page? You can share your thoughts! However, I do want to go on the record here and say that just spouting angry criticism with little to back it up other than a “YOU SUCK!” or “YOU’RE HITLER!” is wasted time, wasted space, wasted breath. If you are passionate about politics or a particular social issue or injustice, care enough to learn enough about it to speak without the childish jibes or barbs. They get us nowhere. Discussions end when the insults begin.
 

 

And speaking of artists and musicians, has art and music ever provided inspiration to your writing?

I often listen to music while I write. Nothing with words or I end up singing along. However, instrumental music can set a mood, inspire a scene, or even give me an idea for a brand new novel or story altogether. I adore movie scores, in particular those by Goldsmith, Bernstein, Rosa, and Morricone. And I love music by Jim Brickman, Secret Garden, James Galway, and many others. Art has been an inspiration at times, too. There are some classical and more traditional paintings that have really moved me or disturbed me or poked at my brain, causing me to ask “What if…?” (That question is a very common writer’s tool!)
 

What do you have currently out and what’s coming down the proverbial pipeline?

 I have several new stories out now – “Something You Ought to Know” in Specters in Coal Dust and “Someone Came and Took Them Away” in Legends of the Mountain State 4, both published by Woodland Press. I have another new story, “Sink or Swim,” published by the on-line magazine, Horror Drive-In http://tinyurl.com/2b4hgrs My Bram Stoker Award-winning first novel, Sineater, is just now out in e-book and audio book from Crossroad Press. I also have a brand new, never-before-published mainstream novel, Homegrown, which will be released in the next month or so from Crossroad Press. Quite different from my historical and horror novels, but a story I love. I have two new Moon Man comics coming out from Moonstone within the next six months. My wacky and fun super hero short story “Silver Slut: And So It Begins” will be included in the Moonstone anthology Chicks in Capes this December.

And where can people learn more about you and your work?

 My website is www.elizabethmassie.com . I try to keep it updated regularly.

October 15, 2010 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

SpecMusicMuse Review: Embers by Laura Bickle

Embers is a story about Anya Kalinczyk, an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, a rare psychic medium known as a lantern (e.g. she basically can “eat” ghosts), who helps out a paranormal investigating team, and has a salamander familiar named Sparky. She and her friends must track down and stop a supernatural arsonist who is setting fires all over Detroit as part of an ancient ritual (which will be completed by Devil’s Night) to summon Sirrush, an ancient and extremely powerful fire elemental, to leave all of Detroit in ashes.

This book has it all: action, mystery, romance, tragedy—all wrapped up in an urban fantasy package with a meaningful plot twist. Characterization is deep and powerful. But as hot as Anya is (in more ways than one), I have to admit that Sparky’s little antics stole the show. He’s one of the most independent, headstrong, and entertaining sidekicks I’ve ever read.

All-in-all, Embers is a well written tale.

Best to read while listening to: anything from Midnight Syndicate, or underground rap, punk, and metal. Not the popular stuff, the underground stuff.

October 2, 2010 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments