jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Woo, vacation coming in less than a week!! We'll be flying out of SFO on Saturday and across the briny blue to the UK for Worldcon and much sightseeing, and I'm totally looking forward to it. A and I both have a list of places to visit--the many museums, the usual tourist traps, and of course a few Beatles-related points of interest. And I'd be kicking myself if I didn't spend two weeks in London and not visit the famed Abbey Road, right? We even picked up a few tickets to see a play at one of their many theaters there. I'm really looking forward to this trip, gonna be a lot of fun!

Looking forward to Worldcon as well...it's going to be one where I know quite a few people who are also going to be there, so it'll be a lot of fun to stop and say hi to everyone! Interestingly enough I haven't yet read through the entire con schedule yet (partly due to the fact that I completely forgot to do so until a few days ago), but I've come to the conclusion that cons work even better for me if I don't overplan it. There are always a few definites as far as panels are concerned, but keeping my plans relatively fluid means I'm less concerned about possibly missing things and more open-minded about panels I stumble in on at the last minute. I've discovered new books and writers that way too!

So yes...this weekend has basically been all about the planning. Getting a shuttle to the airport, getting London transit cards, buying travel books, mapping out a schedule, working out a to-do list, stopping mail delivery for a bit, and so on. All the usual steps one takes pre-vacation. And now I'm at the point where I'm making a mental list of what I'll be bringing on board the plane. This is one of those rare moments where we can bring a carry-on with us but not an additional bag to be put overhead. Not complaining about that too much...I'm sure I can figure out a way to arrange the necessities in my satchel--you know, the tablet, the mp3 player, book to read, notebook for writing, possible change of clothes (you know how it is), camera, and all within the confines of the space they're giving us. It'll be tricky, but I think I can pull it off.


In other news...what have I been up to the last few weeks? Aside from a three-day cold that annoyed the hell out of me, I've been keeping busy. I'm not as far along with Walk in Silence as I'd like to be, and I think it's because I've hit a slow muddy segment that will most likely need to be heavily rewritten. I'm at the point of why the hell am I writing this anyway, and is it really worth the work? second-guessing, which is annoying. The words don't exactly suck, but I'm perhaps at a point where I'm getting bored with the project. Or that I'm at a point I don't want to write for some reason and would rather not deal with it. In other words, I've got the writer's typical mid-project don't wanna's.

If anything, I'm going to utilize this vacation for two things: a brief break from the writing to get my thoughts back on track, and a distraction to plan what fiction project I'm going to work on next.


So yes...going to be a busy week of last minute plans, packing, and everything else under the sun. I may even post something here or at WordPress before I leave, if time permits. We'll see.
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
It's been one hell of a fourth quarter workwise, not to mention a busy personal schedule, so I haven't updated here in quite some time. I will try to update more this weekend, as I will actually have the time to do so! :)

Quick Facts and Figures in JoncWorld:

--On Chapter 34 of The Persistence of Memories revision, a little over halfway through the novel proper, and about the halfway point of the trilogy proper. Things are looking good.

--Due to frequent technical incompetence and end-of-rope frustration, we no longer have Dish Network. On the positive side, we have Netflix and a large collection of DVDs (not to mention my ridiculous mp3 collection) to keep us entertained visually and aurally. We may get some other cable or satellite at a later time, but for now we're just going to let it go for now.

--Why yes, I do plan on submitting the trilogy (well, A Division of Souls for starters) to Angry Robot's Open Door submission window, why do you ask? This weekend's writing project is to work on the Query Letter/Synopsis and first few chapters prepared, and the submission will hopefully come soon after.

--Over halfway done with Mark Lewisohn's Beatles tome Tune In...and recently bought the twice-as-long Extended Version as well. He's done quite the great job...it's well worth checking out. And from a writer's perspective, I find he's written the book in the exact style I would want to write in for Walk In Silence, once I get to it.


Okay, back to revision! :)
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
A short time ago I tweeted something that came to me about the writing and revising processes, and partly how I was finally able to understand what I needed to improve my writing, and also made me understand just how to write and record a song correctly. This came to me while I was doing my Blogging the Beatles posts a few weekends ago, and I'd like to expand on it a bit here.

In short, it occurred to me that revision, for the most part, is very much like how many rock bands record their music. The listener--and with books, the reader--are only given the finished piece: the end result of a long process of composing, noodling, demoing, recording, overdubbing, and final mixing. What the public often does not hear/see is all that work as it unfolds. You don't hear/see the alternate words, the alternate melodies/plots, the mistakes and the other bits and bobs. And if all this is done correctly, you hardly notice all the tiny flourishes as separate entities of the whole, because you're not supposed to; they're supposed to be part of the entire, much larger experience.

For the longest time--probably up until the last two years or so--my writing process has been extremely slipshod and make-it-up-as-I-go-along, and giving myself subconscious reminders for things that would need revising later. I'm lucky in that I've been able to remember the story arcs and the random plot twists that I would need to expand on later on in the story, and I've made copious notes on the esoterica of my created world. I may have crowed about outlines in the past, but I've used them, or at least planned out the plot a few chapters ahead of where I was at that time. Still, after all these years, I've come to the realization that while this process may work, it's time consuming and unorganized.

In the last few years, I've been working primarily on the revision of the Bridgetown Trilogy, rarely writing anything completely new. That's not to say I'm not writing anything at all; there are several passages in this revision project that are either total rewrites of older scenes, or are brand new scenes that replace old ones that don't work. I've been writing a few other things here and there, outtakes for Walk in Silence, posts for Blogging the Beatles, and making notes for both new and old ideas. It may look like I'm getting nothing done, but trust me--I'm doing all the background work right now.

Again--it's like recording a song.

Over the course of the Blogging the Beatles posts, I've done a lot of reading of Mark Lewisohn's book The Beatles Recording Sessions, which goes into fascinating detail as to when, how, and where their songs were recorded. I've read this book countless times in the past, but in the context of my blog series I've begun appreciating the crafting of the music, listening to the songs and trying to understand exactly what they did to make it sound that way. In the end it's also made me think more about my own creative processes, both in writing and music.

The beginning always starts with an idea. It might be something obtuse: John Lennon came up with the vocal melody for "I Am the Walrus" from the up-down tones of police sirens as they passed by his home. It might be something coming from out of nowhere: Paul McCartney was convinced he'd copped the melody to "Yesterday" from somewhere, but it was his own creation. It might be inspired by life: George Harrison wrote "Savoy Truffle" about Eric Clapton's addiction to sweets. The point being: this is where the idea takes hold. I've mentioned in the past that my trilogy came from watching the Gall Force animes.

The next step is the rough draft, the demo. Here's where a band gets together at someone's house and hashes out a few ideas that have been brewing over the last few weeks. The Beatles did this in early 1968 when they came back from India, gathering at George's house for a few days and hammering out a few rough drafts of songs that would eventually show up on The Beatles (aka The White Album), as well as Abbey Road. In writing, this is where you're writing longhand, maybe doing a bit of outlining and/or plotting, drawing maps, putting up that wall of Post-Its. In essence: here's where you sit down and riff it, build on that one idea (or multiple ideas) and see what unfolds.

Next is the first draft, Take 1. It's going to be rough, there are going to be dozens of mistakes and wrong notes and flubbed lyrics. If the demo contains enough ideas that you can continue fleshing out, this is where you start adding a few things here and there, perhaps fleshing out a melody or two that you found captivating. You may even find that a bit that worked in the demo sounds horribly out of place here, and you drop that. Now, unless you've been practicing and rehearsing that one demo for quite a long time, you have to remember that this first take is going to sound like crap, no matter what you may think. Rarely does one get a complete finished song at this point. In writing? Same exact points. You've got the idea, now it's time to start molding and shaping it into something better.

Next is the following drafts, the continuous takes. However long it takes to get that one passage right, to fix that lyric or bum note that's been bugging you all this time. You may even resort to outside influence--your bandmates/your writing group--and ask them to take a listen/read and see if they find something you've overlooked. This is the longest and the most frustrating part, because you're focusing mostly on building the song/plot. You may even drop it for a time and work on something else so you can return to it later, listen/read it with a clear mind.

Eventually, you'll hit that last draft, that last take of the song. There will be a point, if you're paying attention, where everything will just click. The song might not be the most perfect one in existence, but it's exactly how you want it to sound. You've fixed those bum notes, you've cleaned up the lyrics. You're at a point where you're happy with it, maybe even a bit proud of it. In writing, this is where you've pretty much tied up all the loose ends of the plots, fixed the grammar and spelling mistakes, gotten it to the point where it looks clean.


This, of course, is not the final result. Not yet. And this is where, for years, I'd stop. I thought I'd be done with the book and send it out to agents and publishers, thinking I had a good shot at getting accepted. This is where I'd also get rejected, of course. There are many and countless reasons for that, which I won't go into at this time. The point is, it's not quite finished yet.


This is where the overdubs, the final mixing, and the running order come in. There's that one point in the middle-eight that sounds just a bit too sparse, so you decide to throw a bit of horns or a solo in there. The vocals are weak here, so you overdub yourself to punch up the strength of the sound. This song sounds quite out of place as the third track on the album, but would sound so much better as the second-to-last track. Translated: this is the final read-through, the point where you pick up the novel as a whole, read it as you would a potential reader instead of its author. This is where you pay attention to how you react to the story. This is where you notice that one character needs more description or action. Where you notice that this subplot leads nowhere. Where you feel that Chapter 5 would make so much more sense chronologically as Chapter 8 instead. Where you threw a deus ex machina or something in there out of laziness (or as an "I'll fix it later" and promptly forgot about it).

THIS is the final draft: this is where you make the song sound seamless, like you and the band recorded it in one go, without a single blemish. This is where your audience will not see the work you put into it, but only the end result. Once you hit that point, then it's time to send it out to the agent and/or publisher.
jon_chaisson: (Mooch writing)
Eesh. I'd planned on writing a follow-up post to my previous one, but I keep running out of time! I guess that's what happens when you're too busy juggling a day job as well as churning out my morning 750 words, doing some heavy duty revision, catching up on reading, and writing a 5000+-word post on one of the most defining rock albums of the sixties. Oh, and watching some extremely silly anime. ;)

Anyhoo! Lots of different writerly things milling around my head.

--Still hammering away on the revision of The Persistence of Memories. No major revision here, not like ADoS, but I have run into a few passages here and there that need a bit of work. Most of the work on this one is on redeveloping some of the characters--not that they're flat, but now that I've reread the entire trilogy in one go (and am re-rereading, and will probably do so again another time or so until all three are completely revised), I'm seeing a few bland spots here and there, and I'm also taking the opportunity to throw in a bit of development that ends up completely unveiling itself later on.

--I've also been thinking (again) about the possibility of self-pubbing the series instead of going through the majors (so to speak). I'm still really up in the air about this, to be honest. On the one hand I would really love to see it released by a professional publisher, and I'm still going to submit it out into the wild until I get a bite. But in this day and age when there's a lot of good self-publishing going on, and I can honestly see myself going that route if it comes to it. Sure, I won't get the super-shiny art cover or wide recognition...but at the same time, the books aren't going to be seen by anyone if they're going to remain sitting on my computer, either. And who's to say the book wouldn't just sit there gathering dust on the bookstore shelf until it gets remaindered? The publishing field isn't what it used to be, that's for sure (and yes, I've read Judith Tarr's recent posts about it...it's a sobering but quite interesting read). I've been doing a bit of homework on this end as well: possible cover pictures (and possible people to contact to take said pictures if it comes to it), possible editing services, and even which self-pubbing companies I can reach out to (I'm on the mailing list for a few of them already). If I'm gonna go that route, I'm gonna do it right.

--That said: A Division of Souls is currently in "please beta read me" phase, so if anyone is at all interested, let me know and I can float it your way. I have it in .doc and .mobi format and can probably change it to most other formats if need be. Thanks!

--In non-trilogy news, I was typing out my morning words yesterday (thanks to 750words.com), and at the same time I was listening to my latest music obsession, KSCU (Santa Clara University's radio station--you've heard me going on about it in the past, and its playlist is VERY similar to the college radio back in the late 80s heyday...check it out here if you're interested). And with college radio comes thoughts of autumn...and with thoughts of autumn come my old trunked novel Dream Weaver. Trust me--the old version is pretty bad and not worth revisiting. However, just for the fun of it, and to get my morning words out, I thought I'd do a bit of brainstorming to see if I can create something new out of the old setting. In the process I came up with a lighthearted and fun storyline of alternate realities bumping up against each other. Equal parts Adam Christopher's Empire State universe, Studio Ghibli's character studies, anthropomorphic comics, growing up in woodsy New England, and my college rock obsession, I came up with what might promise to be either a YA or at least an interesting fantasy story. I'm not going into too much detail at the moment, but I may expand on this idea in my spare time as a possible future project. We'll see where this goes!

--The Blogging the Beatles posts seem to be going over well! That last one was pretty long and detailed, but I'd wanted to do that on purpose. The Beatles of 1962-66 are definitely different from the Beatles of 1967-70, not just with the Red and Blue Album compilations, and I wanted to focus a little on why and how they changed at that time. The next half of the discography is going to be pretty interesting work--the releases get stretched out a bit more, but in the process I also have to work my way through the White Album, which is going to be quite interesting in and of itself. And yes, I will be commenting on "Revolution 9"--there's a lot of fascinating stuff on that track if you have the tolerance and patience!


Okay, more about writing later...back to work and the other twelve things I'm doing! :p
jon_chaisson: (Hard Day's Night--George)
What is the longest thing you know by heart (for example, a prayer, speech, commercial jingle, etc.)? Why did you learn it?

I know pretty much every officially released songs by the Beatles by heart. I'm still learning how to play a lot of them, something I'm doing while I'm writing my Blogging the Beatles posts, but I've listened to the albums for so long that I know all the lyrics and much of the instrumentation and can hear them clearly in my head if I thought about them (I'm thinking of the guitar and bass saxophone back-and-forth in "Savoy Truffle" as I type this). And yes, I even know "Revolution 9" pretty well.

I can also quote nearly all of Yellow Submarine if given a prompt, since I've watched that movie countless times since I was probably eight or nine.

The best payoff, though, was when A. and I went to see a version of Shakespeare's King Lear. Come Act 4 Scene 6 in which Edgar and Edmund duel to the death, I started quoting the play verbatim under my breath, much to A.'s complete surprise. And why did I know this one bit, when I can only quote small bits and pieces of other Shakespeare plays? Because of the last minute of "I Am the Walrus". ;)
jon_chaisson: (Hard Day's Night--Ringo)
...which I will add to all my other halfbaked ideas and multiple projects I have going at the moment, but anyway.

So there I was, walking on the treadmill at the local YMCA, listening to The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (the 2009 remaster) and thinking: "hmm...I can very well imagine the initial reaction of those Beatle fans hearing the album for the first time back in June of 1967."

And then it got me thinking about the Twitter feed I follow, which pseudo-livetweets the events of WWII as they unfold over the next few years.

Which brought me to the idea of liveblogging the Beatles. Now, that could be anything from just the album releases (UK-only or US-only, or both, depending on the POV), to the various events/concerts/movies/etc. they had. It could be insanely detailed, or it could just be trying to imagine a fan's initial reaction to the releases in chronological order.

It's an idea worth thinking about, considering the number of reference books out there, and it would also be a fun writing idea, to get into the head of a fictional character (the fan) and imagine how he/she/they would react.



Of course, I also had this crazy idea (on the same day, actually) of eventually recording my own version of all 251 original Beatles tracks over the course of a few years and posting them online, but that may take awhile.
jon_chaisson: (Hard Day's Night--George)
...was the very first album I ever owned, framed for hanging. Not a copy of it--the worn and scuffed up original my mom bought for me for Christmas in 1978. My sister Kat sent me this as a present, and I have to say I'm just tickled pink by it. :)

It's hanging up above me in Spare Oom at the moment:




The frame also holds the ticket to the Paul McCartney show I went to in Boston in 2002, and there was an envelope containing a copy of the Worcester Telegram story about George Harrison being spotted at Solomon Pond Mall . Here's a closer shot of it:



This means that I've received this album three times for Christmas--the first one in 1978, the CD issue in 1993, and the original again today!

Thanks, Kat! :)
jon_chaisson: (Hard Day's Night--Ringo)
I have no problems listening to Beatles mashups if they're done well, like these. :)








(CCC does some of the most brilliant Beatles mashups around, and definitely worth looking for.)

...and of course something I just found:
jon_chaisson: (Hard Day's Night--George)
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Heh, like you had to ask:


Or better yet, roofside seats:


(Okay, two of them are still alive and I've seen Paul in concert, but the fact remains...seeing all four? Yeah, probably my top priority. ;) )
jon_chaisson: (Hard Day's Night--Ringo)
So! Started at the beginning with Please Please Me and I'm just about to hit the last song on The Beatles (aka the White Album) soon. So yeah, listening to the new remastered stereo box set in chronological order has been quite interesting!

Some notes:
--LOVE the packaging. Especially the fact that they finally reinstated the comic book insert for Magical Mystery Tour, which they haven't done since the 70s (and was woefully missing in the '87 cd). Not only did it have the original liner notes (the first five albums, I believe, had Tony Barrow (their Press Officer) writing them originally), but they have recording and historical notes as well!

--As said to [livejournal.com profile] alexbot3000, the casual Beatles listener probably won't notice much of a difference, but a frequent listener (like me) or one with a specialized ear for music (like [livejournal.com profile] emmalyon) would pick up on things. For the most part, the recordings don't sound as flat and muddy...there's a clarity that gives it a great sound, as if the bitrate had been pumped up considerably since 1987. I know it sounds silly, but it almost sounds as if the remastering gave the songs a bit of digital 'breathing room' in the soundscape. ;)

--There's also the fact that little things pop up too--I've noticed a few songs where certain sounds were "pushed up" just a little bit more...such as the crash cymbals on "Taxman", the fingerpicking on "Norwegian Wood", the triple-tracked voices (as well as the harpsichord and the guitar) on "Because". They aren't intrusively mixed, just clarified.

--The mini documentaries are quite a lot of fun--sort of like little scenes from the Anthology project and put into neat Flash form. They're pretty short (probably about five or so minutes long), but they add a bit of fun to the whole package.

--Also about the packaging--they come very close to recreating the original back covers as well. Of course there are a few minor changes, but again, nothing bad. That was the one thing I didn't like too much about the 1987 releases--the backs of the cds were rather bland and unexciting with very little to show or say. These come very close to recreating the originals instead.



So yeah...all in all, I'm pretty impressed with the package and the sounds so far! Now all I need to do is find a good cheap copy of the Mono box set which is rare and costs twice as much.
Well, I kinda did find a "cheap" copy, so to speak, but will eventually buy it if it comes down in price and I can find it! :p
jon_chaisson: (Hard Day's Night--Ringo)


I'm not sure if I'm impressed or weirded out by this commercial, but I like it. :p
jon_chaisson: (Hard Day's Night--George)
Yes, I've gone and done it.

I've pre-ordered all the Beatles remastered cds that are coming out in September.

Of course, most of you probably knew that I'd do it anyway, so this is probably of no surprise to you at all.

I've ordered the cds separately instead of waiting for the box set to make an appearance on the US Amazon site (both the stereo and the mono box sets are on the UK Amazon site as of earlier this week), which from what I hear are going to hover somewhere in the $300+ range. Mind you, the packaging will be slightly different (the enhanced part of the cds will be on a dvd instead) and the box itself will probably be all nice and shiny, but I'll go with the separate cds instead. I am very tempted by the mono box set and will most likely order it as well (though I may wait on it if it's too expensive...don't want to spend all this money all in one go!). Just so you know, I'm in it for the music, not the collectibles (although having collectibles is always fun), so this is fine for me. I may order the Beatles Rock Band later on, but for now, I'll just stick with the music.

All in all, ordering all fourteen cds at Amazon's current prices comes to $227.85, if anyone's interested. ;)
jon_chaisson: (Hard Day's Night--George)
The Beatles Rock Band

(you can find more about it here!)

And can I just say I love that shot on the official site? That's a shot of Studio One at Abbey Road, where they did most of their recording. ;)
jon_chaisson: (John Lennon peace sign)

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