Scott M. Sandridge

A Work in Progress

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:

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:/

Where can people find your music CDs and books?

DW: I believe the music is on 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:
Goodbye Note:
The books are available from many places, both bookstores and online.  The most recent SF books from Baen are here:
Fantasy is here:
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 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

SMM Classic: Review of The Plot to Save Socrates + Interview w/Paul Levinson

(April 1, 2007)

The Plot to Save Socrates by Paul Levinson

An ancient manuscript is found that hints at a time traveler from the future going back in time to save the great philosopher, Socrates, from his death at the hands of the democratic Athenian government. When Thomas O’Leary shows his student, Sierra Waters, the manuscript, she finds herself in a time-traveling adventure in search of Socrates’s mysterious savior – who could be anyone from any time, even her. Of course, when historical figures like the warrior-philosopher, Alcibiades and the inventor, Heron of Alexandria, get involved, the threat of a time paradox becomes more and more dire.
Paul Levinson handles a complicated plot and a multitude of characters in a manner that can only be described as masterful. Certainly not something the average writer would even wish to attempt. And to top it off, he leaves you with a great tale both entertaining and meaningful. It also comes complete with discussion group questions for the philosopher in every reader.
I highly recommend this book, and I won’t be surprised if it wins several awards.

Best to read while listening to: anything from Classical to Gaelic to Electronica/Industrial.

Publisher: TOR
Price: $14.95
Trade Paperback
ISBN-13: 978-0-765-31197-9
ISBN-10: 0-765-31197-6
Genre: Science Fiction

(April 8, 2007)

Interview With Paul Levinson

I had the honor of interviewing Paul Levinson, author of The Plot to Save Socrates, President of theScience Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)from 1998-2001, and who was a guest on my favorite show, The O’Reilly Factor. So yeah. Stoked? Psyched? Words can’t even describe it.

How did you come up with a time-travelling tale about Socrates?

I’ve been bothered about why Socrates didn’t take Crito up on his escape offer since I first read the Crito in a freshman philosophy class at the City College of New York in 1963. As soon as I began writing and publishing science fiction in the early 1990s, I knew I wanted to write a time travel story in which someone went back in time to try and save Socrates. (Incidentally, I had this idea well before Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure – in fact, I’ve yet to see the movie. I really should.) Since time travel provokes profound philosophic paradoxes (more on this below), it seemed natural to me write a time travel story about a philosopher.

What struck me most about the novel was the whole Free Will vs. Fate conflict that seemed to be going on in it. Was that idea intentional?

Yes. One of the prime paradoxes about travel to the future is that, if you see someone wearing a red shirt tomorrow, for example, does that mean the person has no choice but to wear that shirt? The truth is, if time travel existed, none of us would have any real control over our lives, because we’d be locked into everything the time traveler sees.

So in The Plot to Save Socrates, the problem the characters have to solve is: how can they know if what they are doing is the result of their free will, or of a pre-ordained fate. And, of course, it’s very hard to know this, certainly hard to prove what’s really going on … and that, to me, was a big part of the fun of writing this novel.

Sierra Waters is a very interesting character. She seems to be in conflict against her own interests at times.

Yes, because Sierra is torn in many ways (like the piece of paper she tears up in the very first paragraph of the novel). First, affection for and then guilt over Max. Love of some kind for Thomas. Passionate, romantic love for Alcibiades. Love of history, and getting things right. So she is in deep conflict, because she knows she can’t have all of these things. About the most clear-cut thrill for her, historically, is Plato’s life. And, of course, we find out at the end that her guilt about Thomas when she was with Alcibiades was … ironic, to say the least.

What type of music do you think is best to listen to while reading and/or writing time-travel stories?

I don’t listen to music while reading or writing – I love music too much, so it’s way too distracting for me. But to see what music I love, and listen to all the time, whenever I can (except when I’m reading or writing), just look at the Music part of my Profile page here on MySpace.

How much of an advantage can podcasts give writers?

Podcasts are wonderful if you have the voice and technical savvy to do them. I love them. They’ve really helped my book sales. You’re talking to your readers – what more can you ask for? So I really recommend doing them to any writer who can.

What other things is your billiant madness cooking up in the near future?

Well, thanks – I’m definitely mad, that’s for sure…I’m writing the sequel to The Plot to Save Socrates right now. When that’s done, I’ll be writing another Phil D’Amato novel (he appeared in my previous novels, The Silk Code, The Consciousness Plague, and The Pixel Eye). And then maybe a sequel to Borrowed Tides.

I now have four podcasts – I may add one or two more. I’ve also greatly expanded my blogging from just MySpace to now and – and I’ll be doing more of that.

I’ve been writing 2-3 television reviews per week – of 24, Rome, andLost – and I’ll be reviewing The Sopranos when it resumes (and concludes) next month.

August 16, 2010 Posted by | SpecMusicMuse | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment