#NaNoWriMo2018 Day 5: “Dominoes Fall” by Dario Marianelli

Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder, treason and plot.

The first time I heard that little poem was in the film V for Vendetta (I read the graphic novel later, don’t worry). That’s why today felt like a good time to share this piece of the film’s score by Dario Marianelli:

To borrow from Stephon on Saturday Night Live, this track has everything: plenty of build up, a locomotive tempo, a sense of urgency. That’s probably why I use it often when writing confession scenes that turn into action sequences.

Also, in the spirit of tomorrow’s U.S. elections, let me leave you with this V for Vendetta reminder:

“People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Government should be afraid of their people.”

Remember, remember, to vote in November.


#NaNoWriMo2018 Day 4: “The Haunting of Hill House” and a fear of sequels

Followers of this blog know my writing kink is telling tired stories from fresh perspectives. That’s probably why I loved Netflix’s Haunting of Hill House, which looks at the lives of five adult siblings who spent a summer surrounded by ghosts and evil spirits. Each character gets an episode to show their experiences how it affected their adulthood, and the way their perspectives link together in the end is a triumph in miniseries screenwriting.

Which is why I hope they never make a second season, though unlike “limited series Maniac,” they haven’t confirmed HoHH is a one-and-done show. I recently read the fourth Millennium series book, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, and wish the author had never picked up a pen on continuing Stieg Larsson’s trilogy. I love Lisbeth Salander as much as the next closet goth-punk badass who doesn’t know how to code let alone hack, but deciding to continue her story in the way this new author did cheapened her.

Maybe that’s why I’m so averse to writing books that require a sequel — or reading books like that, even. It’s like going to a menu tasting and loving the first thing you eat: I’m in the camp of people who look at the chef and say “what else do you have?” rather than “more of that exact same thing, please.”

#NaNoWriMo2018 Day 2: “No Choir” by Florence + The Machine

Florence Welch and her band (+ the Machine) have always been part of my life soundtrack, from using “What Kind of Man” to get through a breakup — OK, a couple of breakups — to listening to “Drumming Song” and “Kiss from a Fist” on repeat the whole way from Columbia, Mo., to Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

Her newest album, High as Hope, is no different. Although “Hunger” is currently the radio track of choice, the final song, “No Choir,” is the one that stood out to me most because of its opening. She immediately starts off by bluntly singing:

“And it’s hard to write about being happy / because the older I get / I find that happiness is an extremely uneventful subject…”

It’s an interesting statement and reflects another piece of writing advice I’ve always taken to heart. Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for creative writing in the preface to Bagombo Snuffbox include “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” There’s very little room for placid happiness if terrible things keep happening.

Something to keep in mind while continuing on to Day 2 of this year’s NaNoWriMo.

Writespiration: “Oh Mama” by Run the Jewels

I’ve fallen head-over-high-heels for Pru, my newest protagonist with complicated identity issues. Is she a public relations agent? A superhero, now that she’s had to take over for her deceased boss? Really, she just wants to figure out who she is, rather than continue to try to be who everyone around her has always told her she is, but that could be difficult with an overbearing mother intent on seeing her daughter grow up to be her.

That’s why hearing Run the Jewels’ “Oh Mama” — albeit behind a montage of “Rick and Morty” clips — inspired a new scene of Pru slapping on her late client’s vigilante gear while still fuming over an argument she’s just had with her mother.

Writespiration: The 1950s Hostess Coat

When I was a kid, my aunt sent me a collection of 1920s and 1950s fashion paper dolls. Instead of cutting them out and playing with them, I kept the books in tact so I could look through the fashions and fantasize about one day getting to bring back some of the styles. I hadn’t quite reached my current moto-leggings-and-heeled-combat-boots phase of my adult style sense yet, so a taffeta evening gown seemed perfectly on-brand for 9-year-old me.


One of the styles in the 1950s book was one I recognized from movies like “Auntie Mame” and shows like “I Love Lucy” and “Dick van Dyke” — a hostess coat over cigarette pants. It always looked so sophisticated and elegant, and yet in those two shows, it only seemed like women wore them around the house.

Rosalind Russell in "Auntie Mame," 1958

Rosalind Russell in “Auntie Mame,” 1958


Mary Tyler Moore in hostess coat, Dick Van Dyke Show

Mary Tyler Moore in “The Dick van Dyke Show,” 1961-1966

In working on “Nobody’s Hero,” I realized Pru is going to have to go from wearing a ballgown at a gala to sporting her vigilante armor. While the blue evening gown in Wonder Woman allowed for Diana to walk around with a sword sheathed down her back, it’s mostly Hollywood Magic that makes it possible for her to suddenly appear in her sleeveless, short-skirted armor.

Well, Pru’s armor isn’t exactly like that. Think Catwoman meets actual functionality. Again — I’m in a moto-legging phase these days.

And here’s where those paper doll books, old TV and movies, and my writing come together. Instead of the forest green evening gown I originally planned for Pru to don, the long sleeves concealing bruises and cuts she’s gotten from her nights out (I’ve also been watching “Sharp Objects” recently), she’s going to go avant-garde with her armored leggings acting as the base of a long coat-dress.

Oh, I can’t wait to write the scene where she finds her 6-foot-5 techie hunched over her high-tech pants with a bedazzler to make sure she’s up to couture code.

Writespiration: “Escalate” by Tsar B


I’ve seen a woman belly dance while balancing a sword on her head and this song plays over the speakers. I’ve done yoga with this playing overhead in the studio. And I’ve now written a subtle nightclub chase scene while this song no doubt can be heard by my very annoyed neighbors who, by this point, probably have resigned themselves to living next to a creative.

Writespiration: Sleigh Bells at The Metro

Late last year I started a project working-titled Sparklers that crosses post-apocalyptic dystopia with teenage angst. Think Mad Max: Fury Road meets Mean Girls.

I’m still shocked no one has thought of this yet. If you know about something like it out there, let me know in the comments.

Anyway, projects I work on always have a musical element behind them. Most of the time, it’s a set of movie and TV scores — Omaha was written to selections from Westworld, Man of Steel, Penny Dreadful and Interstellar, for example. Currently I’m penning Nobody’s Hero to a mix of A Tribe Called Quest and the Legion series soundtrack (as well as The Heavy’s song, “Nobody’s Hero,” of course).

But Sparklers is the first project I’ve worked on to only one artist: noise-pop powerhouse Sleigh Bells. The attitude and volume of their music fits the demolition diva derby vibe I’m going for with the characters and environment, so they provide perfect audio inspiration.

But then I saw them live.

I’m a concert-going animal, but I usually stay out of the fray. Thanks to getting to Chicago’s Metro early, we had third-row standing spots for the show, which quickly became third- to first-row moshing spots, as the crowd never stood still. (I did capture this video of “Rainmaker.” And this one of “Blue Trash Mattress Fire.”)

Like I said, I usually refrain from getting too up-close-and-personal because I enjoy listening and watching bands more than participating in hand-to-hand combat with those around me. But this show was different, in that the sweat, screams and jumps fit perfectly into the mania of the world that Sleigh Bells’ music has helped me begin to create. You better believe that when the end of the world comes and the majority of survivors are teenage girls, there will be raves like these.

There will be neck-breaking headbanging to “Infinity Guitars.”

There will be group-hug swaying to “Rill Rill.”

And “Rule Number One” will be that pop rocks and coke make your head explode.

Alexis Krauss, lead singer of Sleigh Bells, gets down with the audience at Chicago's Metro on Aug. 17, 2018.

Alexis Krauss, lead singer of Sleigh Bells, gets down with the audience at Chicago’s Metro on Aug. 17, 2018.