The Next Big Thing

This is a day late, I’m afraid, because I’ve caught a really bad cold and was flat on my back yesterday.  Sigh.  So here it is, a day late, but enthusiastic.  Christine Ashworth tagged me for The Next Big Thing, so here are my answers to the questions.  My tagees are at the end of the post.  Enjoy.

What is the name of the book?
World Enough and Time, a quote from the Andrew Marvell poem “To His Coy Mistress.”  The reference is to famous people being transported through time, and having enough time to finish their work.  Mozart, for instance, left his Requiem unfinished, and Jane Austen left partial drafts of several books.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’d like to go the traditional route, but I think an e-book would actually be appropriate since I could then include links to music, poems and pictures which would be relevant to the plot.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I’m a classical singer, and years ago I had the idea that it would be fun to bring a group of famous composers into the present.  But I was never able to craft an actual story around the concept.  Then one afternoon I began brainstorming with my best friend, Gail Upp (really her name), who is also a writer.  Presto!  We had a story, a mystery, a romance…and a book.  She’s my co-author on this project.

What genre does your book fall under?
The book is a mystery (first of a series, I hope) with strong romantic elements.  A bit of sci-fi because of the time travel.  Since cross-genre books are becoming more popular, I’m hoping that this particular mix will work.

How long does it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Alas, I’m not a fast writer.  Like Dorothy Parker, I write five words and delete six.  In addition, this book required a lot of research because of the historical figures involved.  Under normal circumstances, I’d expect a draft of this sort to take about a year, but so far it’s been two.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Any mystery concerning the creative arts, like Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen series (which has romantic elements), the Charles Paris series by Simon Brett (for acting), and definitely James Gollin’s Antiqua Players series.  I’ve never come across anything really like this, however.  I’d love to be a groundbreaker.  By the way, the Gollin books are out of print, but DEFINITELY worth looking for on Amazon or Abe Books.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’d LOVE to get Adrian Brody to play the hero/detective, composer-conductor Felix Mendelssohn.  The only problem would be that Mendelssohn was 5’6″ and Mr. Brody is over six feet tall.  Movie magic might solve this problem.  Jude Law would make an awesome Kit Marlowe.  A girl can dream.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
The wish that I could actually meet my idols (Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Jane Austen, Raphael).

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Along with solving a murder mystery, Felix learns that love can come twice, even across the centuries.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
In the year 2081 a transnational corporation brings famous artists, musicians and writers forward in time as a cover for its illegal and dangerous plan to change history for profit.

This post will go to both the LARA yahoo group, and Sisters in Crime/LA, so the below tags are for authors in both groups.  Please check them out, and wish me luck.  I’m now in the insane re-writing/editing phase.  Oy.

Sue Ann Jaffarian
Darrell James
D.J. Adams
Linda O. Johnston (mysteries AND romances)




Writing Spirituality

My last blogs have been about my experience singing Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, the “Symphony of a Thousand,” with the LA Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel.  But looking back at the blogs, I was struck how inadequate were my descriptions of what it felt like to learn, rehearse and perform this incredible piece with the full forces desired by Gustav Mahler (there were over 1,000 people on stage).  I realized that writing about a spiritual experience is not just difficult, but almost impossible.

Gustav Mahler

How do you describe a profound, moving, even life-altering spiritual experience?  “It was swell” doesn’t seem, somehow, to fill the bill.  Even turning to authors, like Thomas Merton, who was a talented writer, practiced and experienced in introspection, doesn’t always help.  He may have accurately described his own experiences, but even in his most moving passages, is he describing yours?

Poetry has been held up as more of a road to the sublime than prose.  Repetition and rhyming or alliteration can, done correctly, create a trance state.  See, for instance, Robert McDowell.  Irish bards in pre-Christian Europe were not just honored but feared for their mastery over the language, which enabled them to write and improvise poetry.  Their words could curse, bless and defeat armies.  Much of the liturgy of the world’s religions is in poetry, rhymed or free.  In Classical Greece the Muses of Poetry and Music were the same:  Polyhymnia for sacred poetry/music, Calliope for epic poetry/music, Euterpe for lyric poetry/music, Erato for erotic poetry/music, and Thalia for comedic poetry/music.  For the Greeks the two were intertwined.

But what if you’re not a poet, as I’m not (English as she is spoke)?  Well then, how about the musical side of the Muses?

Felix Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn wrote:  “These [words] seem to me so ambiguous, so vague, so easily misunderstood in comparison to genuine music, which fills the soul with a thousand things better than words.”  And this may be so:  think of the last time you heard a piece of music that made you want to fly, or explode, or weep.  Could you attach words to it?  And yet, you want to tell your friends about it.  Can you accurately describe the first flush of a new love?  Or of discovering the vocation you were created to follow?  What if your experience was religious in nature?  The waters really run deep where spiritual revelations are concerned.

But I’m not a composer.  I can listen to or perform Beethoven’s Ninth, or Mahler’s Eighth, but are my descriptions adequate.  If I walk the tightrope between the banal (“It was swell”) and purple prose (“the profundity of my sensibilities cannot be fathomed…”) I still run the risk of not connecting with you.  Or of accurately conveying my experience.  I could burst into tears, but that’s hard to do in a blog.

So, what passages or writers have moved you, or described something you felt, or at least accurately and adequately (to you) described their own experiences?  Let us know.

Gustav, Gustavo and Me

I took a few days off because of my singing schedule, and you wouldn’t BELIEVE how good it feels to say that!  Well, upward and onward in the Mahler 8th journal.  (You’ll notice I changed the title slightly.  Alliteration’s artful aid.)

Our second rehearsal was also with Grant Gershon (see previous post), but included both adult choirs and the children’s choir.  We met at Lake Avenue Congregational Church, in Pasadena.  It’s a lovely church, with a truly beautiful organ (minds out of the gutter, please) and, more to the point, it’s huge.  We began to get an idea of what the distance-from-the conductor problem would be.  You have to watch like a hawk searching for lunch not only to see the conductor, but to slightly anticipate him because light travels faster than sound.  I remember that from high school, and finally, a practical application.  The pictures attached show three views from the sanctuary, and one from the balcony.

Rehearsal Lake Ave. Church - Sanctuary

Lake Ave. Church Rehearsal from the Balcony

Rehearsal Lake Ave. Church Sanctuary

We also began to get a sense of the logistics of seating.  Kathie Freeman is Grant’s assistant, and it’s one of her jobs to create the seating chart.  Kathie should be up for sainthood because any usable seating chart is going to constitute at least two—and possibly all three—necessary miracles.  She’s also in charge of giving announcements (“Remember, even if we meet in the Dorothy Chandler, we park at Disney Hall”), warnings (“Please don’t wear scent of any kind…”), and time checks (“Ten minutes…five minutes…places please”).  All this has to be done through a microphone.

There is also the matter of distributing parking passes, travel instructions, maps (this is Los Angeles, remember) and other bits of arcana.  I’m collecting them for a scrapbook.  It includes a sign designating where the Choir I, Sopranos II should sit.  I did say arcana…

Despite all the difficulties the rehearsal was, once again, amazing.  You’re going to get tired of that sentiment, but I’m not sure how else to describe a mind-blowing, sensory-overload, just plain luscious musical experience.  And it’s only the second rehearsal.  We have five more, plus the dress.

And of course, the performance.  More in a day or so.

Procedural note:  I’m trying to keep up with the rehearsals so I can write about the performance as soon as possible after it takes place.  I’m way behind of course.  But after this I’ll be blogging about once a week, unless something huge happens.