Tuesday Creativity 4

A musical prompt for today. This piece is an old favorite of mine that I’ve recently started re-learning (slow process!): Frederic Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp Minor, Op. 27 no. 1, performed by Artur Rubinstein.

I first learned this piece when I was thirteen. The name “nocturne,” “night music,” gives us a sense of the atmosphere Chopin had in mind when he wrote it. Chopin often delves into storytelling in his solo piano pieces, especially the nocturnes and his four Ballades. Each of them takes the listener on a journey, exploring emotional contrasts and conjuring up all kinds of images and ideas.

I love this particular nocturne because of its excitement and drive, and the arc of tension that gradually builds to a catharsis. When I first learned it, I created my own stories to go with it, imagining that the music was the soundtrack to a movie and thinking about what the action would be.

As you listen to this piece, what does it conjure up for you?

As always, thank you for visiting the blog. See you next time!


Bonus post: Fourteen Stones Suite

We’re coming up on the end of the Fourteen Stones crowdfunder: two days and about six hours to go! We’ve made it three-quarters of the way to our target. Thank you so much to everyone who has pledged and preordered! If you haven’t yet, and would like your own copy or e-copy of this rich, unique, character-driven fantasy novel, you can order it (plus some excellent rewards) here.

Today’s bonus post is a partner for Friday’s character portraits. My husband, jazz musician and composer Paul Faatz, wrote a wonderful suite to capture some of the places and people in my novel. He’s a clarinetist and saxophonist, and I’m a pianist, so the two of us were able to perform his music together. We don’t get to do that often; it was a treat!

Please have a listen. The suite has three movements:

  1. Vatiri’s Dream
  2. Sostavi: A Foggy Morning
  3. The Lasska

A few notes with each video (for more, you’ll need to read the novel 😉 ):

Mvt. 1 – Vatiri’s Dream – At the beginning of Fourteen Stones, a tribal people called the Pala Vaia are placed under grave threat by the ruler of Lassar, the country they live in. Vatiri, a Vaia woman, is a Lamp-Carrier whose dreams can show the future and provide guidance for her people.

Mvt. 2 – Sostavi: A Foggy Morning – Sostavi is the capital city of Namora, one of the two countries featured in Fourteen Stones (and my favorite fictional place ever). It’s a coastal city modeled on the real town of Cudillero, in Asturias, on the northwestern coast of Spain. Houses and buildings cluster on a long slope that comes down to the city’s harbor. In Sostavi, in the early morning, sea fog swirls through the streets in drifts of cloud-white.

Mvt. 3 – The Lasska – The Pala Vaia live in the country Lassar, across the Senai Mountains from Namora. Lassar’s resident people are the Lasska. Centuries of dictatorial rulers have made them an insular, proud, and warlike people, but change may be coming to their country, sooner than they know and from a quarter they would never expect.

Thanks so much for listening, and for visiting the blog! If you’d like to find out more about the story that inspired this music, check out our crowdfunder and order your copy of Fourteen Stones today!

Bonus post: Book Talk and Mood Music

We’re in the homestretch of the crowdfunder for the launch of my novel Fourteen Stones: only five more days! My publisher has put some cool new rewards up in the PledgeMe campaign, and I’d like to offer a little “bonus” too.

Last night, my publisher and I did a live interview, which was so much fun. We talked about the story, and what makes it a different kind of fantasy; and the characters, and worldbuilding, and favorite scenes and most difficult scenes to write. We also got some wonderful questions from the audience. Check out our talk here!

One of the questions we got was about whether/how I used music in the story. While music isn’t mentioned a lot in Fourteen Stones, it definitely supported and inspired the writing process. Yesterday it struck me that some of my favorite piano pieces also work really well as “snapshots” of my four main characters, so I thought I’d share them, for fun. I won’t say too much about the characters (for that, you’ll need to check out the book! 😉 ), but the moods of these pieces fit them well.

My youngest character, a sixteen-year-old girl named Khari, whose unusual skill in reading dreams is both a gift and a great burden.

Valdena Filtraikas, a woman who finds herself in a position of power that she didn’t choose or want, and must choose how she will meet the challenge.

Bereg Orlon, a career soldier on the point of retirement, who is issued orders he knows are wrong; but disobeying them would make him a traitor and would cost him everything he cares about.

My favorite character, Ribas Silvaikas: a priest with an extraordinary skill, great strength and compassion, a chronic illness that presents a constant threat, and a core stubbornness that shapes everything he does.

If you’ve enjoyed these pieces and would like to know more about the story, please do check out the Fourteen Stones crowdfunder. We’ll need all pledges and preorders by Wednesday August 31 at 8 pm EST, so if you’d like to get your book, e-book, or other rewards, please place your order today!

As always, thank you for visiting the blog. See you next time!

Maker’s Day 12

Each Wednesday on the blog, I’ll share a small prompt as food for reflection. Maybe you’ll also find it inspires you to make some art.

Today’s prompt is a musical one: my (slightly rough, with apologies 😉 ) recording of “Asturias,” by Isaac Albeniz.

“Asturias” is a movement from the Spanish Suite by Albeniz, who wanted to capture different areas of his homeland in music. Asturias is a region in northwest Spain. When my husband and I visited there seven years ago, the setting inspired my book Fourteen Stones.

What does this music evoke for you? If you’d like, please feel free to share thoughts and responses to the prompt in the comments. On Facebook, I’ve also started a “Maker’s Day Sharing Group” where we can talk about the prompts and support each other’s creativity. New members are always welcome!

You can find all the Maker’s Day prompts together here. If you’d like to receive the prompts weekly, please consider subscribing to the blog. Thanks for visiting!

Maker’s Day 6

Each Wednesday on the blog, I’ll share a small prompt as food for reflection. Maybe you’ll also find it inspires you to make some art.

Today’s prompt segues out of last week’s “color green.” This is a short piece of music, “All in a Garden Green,” by English Renaissance composer William Byrd (1540-1623). Apologies for my less-than-perfect recording; this piece is a recent study for me. 🙂

What does the music inspire or evoke for you? If you’d like, please feel free to share thoughts and responses in the comments. On Facebook, I’ve also started a “Maker’s Day Sharing Group” where we can talk about the prompts and support each other’s creativity. New members are always welcome!

You can find all the Maker’s Day prompts together here. If you’d like to receive the prompts weekly, please consider subscribing to the blog. Thanks for visiting!

Music for Meditation

Today is a bit of a down day. There’s a lot going on in the world (right now, especially here in the US) that’s dark and nerve-racking. I’m definitely having one of those days where I wonder about making art, what it’s good for, and what I’m hoping to accomplish with it.

I’m trying to hold onto the idea that how I feel is always temporary. I might feel down, but that doesn’t mean I am down; that would imply that the feelings don’t change. I’m also holding onto the fact that there are still, always, lovely things out there to admire. We have a nest of wrens in the backyard. Our bee balm is in bloom this morning (I didn’t even know it had flowers!). The goldfinches are back for the summer and making themselves at home.

Bee balm flowers. Who knew?

In the spirit of looking for and sharing beauty, I thought I’d share a little more music this week. These are two recordings I made a couple of years ago. The composer, William Byrd (1540-1623), is one of my favorites, though you don’t hear his keyboard music played much. Byrd was one of the greats of the English Renaissance and is mainly known for his vocal music, especially liturgical pieces.

These two pieces are both Byrd’s arrangements of folk songs that were popular in his time: “Will You Walk the Woods so Wild” and “The Maiden’s Song.” Each piece is a theme and variations. You’ll hear the main tune presented first, simply, and then changed up and ornamented in a series of variations.

Both pieces are meditative and lovely. I really enjoy playing them, and hope you’ll enjoy listening.

William Byrd, “Will You Walk the Woods so Wild”
William Byrd, “The Maiden’s Song”

Tomorrow is Wednesday, which means a new Maker’s Day prompt. Please stop by and check it out, and meanwhile, if you like what you see here on the blog, please consider subscribing. As always, thank you for visiting!

Music for reflection

I had a different post planned for today, but in light of what happened in Texas two days ago, it feels more appropriate to share this music. We’ve seen far too many of these acts of terrible violence. I don’t know how change is brought about, how we break free of the stranglehold of business-as-usual in this country and start placing greater value on the safety and well-being of our children, the safety of our public spaces, and compassion and empathy for one another. It can’t be impossible.

These are rough recordings I made, that I’d like to share as a space for contemplation. Thank you for listening.

Etude-Tableau in G minor, by Sergei Rachmaninoff

The Maiden’s Song, by William Byrd

Piano Thoughts

I’m no expert at blogging (as folks who’ve been following this blog know!). Getting back into the swing of it, I’m following random thoughts that might turn into a post…

Tomorrow I have a performance with the piano trio I joined right before Covid started. In the winter of 2019 (feels like a very long time ago, doesn’t it?), I was dealing with some personal challenges and had decided the best way to keep moving forward was to stay busy. Two friends of mine, a violinist and a cellist, wanted to form a group and perform together. In “saying yes to all the things” mode, I jumped in.

Balancing writing and music can be tricky. When I’m working on a big writing project, like a novel, I often don’t want to do anything but stay at my computer for as long as the words keep coming. Then, when the project ends, I can go for stretches without writing anything. Music needs a much more consistent approach. If I don’t play for a while, my fingers don’t cooperate and I have to build up strength and precision all over again. (Middle age is also a factor there…)

Our trio was ready to start performing in the spring of 2020. We had concerts lined up, and then Covid hit, and it all went away. Suddenly there was no music anywhere.

Like so many of us, I did some professional pivoting. The piano lessons I’d taught pre-Covid had stopped too, but I started teaching writing online, and found out that as much as I love my classroom, Zoom was kind of cool. In the spring of 2020, I gave Fourteen Stones a big overhaul, a joyful process that helped me stay sane. Through the next two years, I swung pretty much 100% over to my writer side.

When things started to open up again last summer, and the trio wanted to get back together, I hesitated a LOT. I didn’t feel “like a pianist” anymore, and I wasn’t sure I could give enough, mentally or physically, to make the music what it deserved to be. But we started playing again, and pretty soon we’d booked a few concerts. Our first one was at the end of March. The concert tomorrow will be our third.

It’s been a challenge. Going into the first concert, I didn’t remember how to get my brain into “performance mode.” For me, a good performance has always involved getting into a specific zone, mentally and physically, where I can get past chronic anxiety and focus on what the music needs and how to bring it to life. That first performance, I fell way short. From the first note to the last, it was a fight just to keep going. I came out of it feeling like I wasn’t a pianist anymore and shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

The second concert was a week later (good thing – if it hadn’t been so soon afterward, I might have faked a sprained wrist to get out of it). Luckily, it went a little more smoothly. I started to think maybe, possibly, the old skills were still there, pretty dusty but waiting to swing into action with the right push.

Yesterday the trio met to rehearse, and a cool thing happened: playing was actually fun. The pieces we’re doing, Beethoven’s “Ghost” Trio (Op. 70) and Mendelssohn’s Trio in D Minor (Op. 49), are tough. The Mendelssohn, especially, has far too many notes, in this struggling musician’s opinion. Yesterday, though, I remembered why it can be fun to have a big, juicy, demanding piano part you can sink into, where you make the instrument sing and roar, and you share the ride and energy with your musical partners. I don’t know if it’ll feel the same tomorrow, but as I told my husband this morning, it would be so great if one performance could also be really, really fun. It can happen. Fingers crossed.

After the past two years, I think we’re all still figuring out how to deal with everything we went through. It doesn’t help that Covid is still such a presence, and we get a taste of normalcy and then take a step or two backwards again. I’m not sure what my new professional balance looks like, how much of a focus music will be now, whether I’m “still a pianist” just for these concerts or for some kind of longer run. For right now, the music is pretty amazing, and I’d like to enjoy the ride of playing it.

To give you a taste of Mendelssohn’s Trio in D Minor, which my friends and I will be playing tomorrow, here’s a video of the brilliant Zukerman Trio performing the first movement of it. This pianist gets far more of the notes than I do, but sometime I might post a video of our trio playing it too, just because. It’s an amazing piece.

Hope you enjoyed the listen! If you can spare some good energy for me and my friends tomorrow, it would be much appreciated. 🙂 Thanks for visiting the blog!

The Templeton Trio: me on the left, with violinist Robert Sorel and cellist Terry Shirley-Quirk.

The Templeton Trio’s namesake. He’s a softie.

New in 2022!

Relaunching the blog after a very long time. Hope everyone is hanging in and staying safe and well!

My second novel, Fourteen Stones, is forthcoming this fall from The Patchwork Raven, a brilliant indie press in New Zealand. I’m thrilled that this book will be out in the world; it was a project of love that got started in the summer of 2015, when my husband and I went to Spain, and our adventures inspired me to write fantasy for the first time. Here on the blog, I’ll share a little about the story and my process writing it, my inspirations for it, and the characters and the world they live in. It’s still pretty surreal to me that this beloved project is going to be a real thing, alive in the world. I can’t wait to share it with you.

Also on the blog, I’ll share other writerly/readerly stuff, and some musical stuff, and – crucially – cat pictures. Some of you know I’m mom (staff?) to three cats, who pretty much run the house, and of whom I take far too many pictures:

This is Fergus. He sits…even if he doesn’t exactly fits.
Philosopher pose.

I’ll close today’s “preview of coming attractions” with a short musical selection for your Tuesday afternoon. This is a recording I made of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Bagatelle in G Major, Op. 126. Beethoven is one of my favorite composers, for many reasons I’m likely to write about in future posts, and this miniature piece (about two minutes long) is a delight to play.

If you’ve enjoyed today’s post and would like more cats, music, and writing, please consider subscribing. Thanks for your visit!