Background music for writers

Some of my writing friends listen to music for inspiration, mostly notably Lia Keyes who is working on her steampunk novel and listens to Phantom of the Opera. Seems like the perfect choice for what promises to be a deliciously, dark mystery.

Normally I don’t listen to music while I write, but I’m intrigued by the idea of using my auditory senses to help ‘set the mood’. 

Here’s my dilemma though. What in the world would make good background music for a book with cats as the main characters, an evil professor and his Whisperer, a magical book of power and a host of mythological characters ranging from the dark to the light side, and settings that range from the ancient Library of Iskandriyah to a small public library in the foothills of California.

See what I mean? Suggestions welcome.

In the meantime, I’m going to check out Five great ways to find music that suits your mood,  a Mashable article that reviews several websites that let you pick out music according to your moods and emotions, rather than artist, genre or title.

What do you listen to, if anything, while writing?

Spring kittens

 There’s a barn cat who’s been roaming around our property for several months. She’s black and white with a broken tail permanently bent at a 90 degree angle. We never saw much of her, except to scurry in and out of bushes or grab a bite of food off the porch.

Today she showed up in our pool area with four kittens. I was so surprised, but I don’t know why should I be. Feral cats breed like rabbits. They’re the first kittens of the spring season and so it was a great start to the day and she was so considerate to bring them to where I can see them playing outside my bedroom window.

I love having feral cats around, although I’ve lost count of all that have come and gone over the past twenty years. They wander through our two acre semi-wildlife habitat as though we are part of some feline migration route.

Now at this point in my blog, if I were Cat over at Words from the Woods I would be metaphorically tying yarn around these feral cats to brilliantly illustrate some aspect of writing. Cat is the Metaphor Queen. If you don’t believe me, check out her Plot Bunnies.

How to explain cyberspace to your cat

“What are you writing?” asks my cat, who leads a double life as my muse.

“A blog post,” I answer.

There’s small silence while he considers admitting his ignorance. “O.k. what’s a blog post?”

“Hmmm,” I murmur. How do I explain this to a cat? “Blogging is writing down your thoughts on subjects you are passionate about,” I begin.

“I can understand that,” he says.

“Then you publish it on the internet where, with the click of a mouse, it flies off into cyberspace and you hope someone will catch it and read it and maybe even write back to you.”

This time there’s a longer silence. Whether it’s the clicking mouse reference or just the concept that has him most confused is hard to tell. I wait to see if his curiosity will win out over his need to appear all-knowing.

“What’s cyberspace?”

Now I’m in for it. What can I tell him when I don’t really understand it myself? I give him an evasive answer. “It’s kind of a mystery.”

“I love a good mystery. Go on.”

“All I can do is try to give you an analogy. You are familiar with analogies?”

He gives me that look; the kind that means the question is too ridiculous to answer.

“Cyberspace is a very ethereal place. You can’t see it or feel it, but there is so much going on out there. Millions and billions and gazillions of words and thoughts and feelings that people have typed onto their keyboard to share with others. Friends and strangers. Lost words swirling in a vast unseen world. Words waiting to be found. Words begging to be read by someone who will understand their passion.”

My muse finishes the analogy for me. “So, cyberspace must be something like cosmic space and the words are bits of stardust floating everywhere. No,” he pauses as he collects his thoughts on the subject. “More than stardust. Words and thoughts clustered together like galaxies waiting to be discovered.”

“Oh, that’s perfect! Can I use that in my blog?”

“I think you already have.”

He purrs and I scratch behind his ears. Having a cat for a muse is nice.

A Conversation with my muse

For the life of me I cannot figure out why certain things catch my attention and others float past with barely a mental nod.  Odd little things, like commas. First it was the Oxford comma.  Now it’s the Comma Splice.

“Why commas?” I asked my muse. “Why do I care? It’s a little strange, don’t you think?”

There’s a deep silence, then a barely perceptible shrug .  “Why not?” he purrs.

“But it’s not earthshakingly important. It’s not like commas affect the global template of things like politics, banking or the environment.”

“It’s a power thing,” he says.

“What? Power? Are you crazy?”

“Maybe,” he says, ” but look at it this way. You don’t have any control in the political arena, and it’s hard to save an iceberg when you live in California, unless it’s lettuce in the garden. But commas. You do have power over those. It’s the little kingdom of grammar and punctuation that you can do something about. Ooops.”


“Ended a sentence with a preposition. Hah, you didn’t even notice.” 

“Did too.”

“Right. So, take your pick. Feel helpless at not being able to save the world. Lie awake at night worrying about bailouts,  global warming, or which despot might set off a nuclear bomb….or get control of your commas.”

“I see your point.”

So, what’s the comma issue this time?


“Is that something like wire splicing?”

“How do you know about wire splicing? You’re just a cat.”

“That’s rude. Be nice or I’ll leave.”


“You forget that I pay attention to everything. You should know better. Isn’t the old man an electrician? All these years I’ve been watching. You think I haven’t picked up a few things about the electrical trade? I’m going to leave and find a good napping place.” 

“No, no. Don’t leave. I just didn’t figure you’d be interested in electrical wiring.”

“You know you’ve digressed quite a bit here in this blog. Why don’t you get to the point?”

“Yes, thanks. So…I was reading articles on grammar tonight and the one that caught my attention was about comma splices. It wasn’t a term that was used when I was in school, so I looked it up. It’s really nothing more than a run-on sentence, but the term bothers me for some reason.”

“Please go on. This is fascinating,” he says, no longer purring, but getting heavy lidded.

“You’re being sarcastic, but I have no one else to tell this to, so try to stay awake.”

A deep sigh from my muse, but I plunge forward. “A splice is the joining of two things, like wires and wood. Now I’m all for the joining together of things, but not when it is two independent clauses joined together by a weak little blip of a comma. It’s like two sentences trying to get in on one ticket. It’s not ethical.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Give me an example.”

“I thought you’d never ask, I have one right on the tip of my tongue.”

“Aha! I caught you.”

“You are paying attention, aren’t you? O.k. Here’s another one. 

“Wire connectors are ideal for splicing multiple electrical wires together, they come in a wide variety of sizes and types.”

“You couldn’t resist the electrical plug could you? No pun intended.”

“You’re so funny.”

 “O.k. Grammar Geek. Pray tell, how does one solve this grammatical atrocity?”

“It’s so simple. Usually a period works. Or, when appropriate, a connecting word like ‘and’ or ‘but’.  But it’s the term ‘comma splice’ that still grates on my senses. It doesn’t fit. It draws all the attention to the comma giving it some misplaced validity.”

My muse’s eyes are closed, so I’m on my own. Then it comes like a flash.

“Oh wait! I know why it bothers me. A splice usually refers to the joining of two things that are meant to be together, like rope or wire or film. But in this case, splicing together two complete sentences is a grammatical error. Only in the use of commas is a splice not a good thing. What were they thinking?”

He opens one eye, looking askance at me. “You know, my purpose here is to inspire creative flow, not to be a sounding board for your meditations on these technical anomalies.”

“I’m almost done. I was just thinking that the term ‘run-on sentence’ was what we used when I went to school. That term actually defines and identifies the grammatical problem. ‘Run-on sentence’ was good enough for me and my generation.”

“I think your showing your age.”

“Hmm. You might be right.  Maybe I’ll take a nap with you.”