All hail the Internet.

There’s a lot of horrible stuff happening on the internet. It enables a lot of terrible behaviour. In the developed world most of us have come to rely on it as a distraction in ways that can’t possibly be good for us. The Internet also connects us to each other. We don’t always use those connections sensibly but they can be very powerful. So let me tell you a story about connections.

The other day a friend of mine posted a link to a music video on Facebook. He’d found the band online and been so taken with their name, The Church of the Cosmic Skull, that he’d checked out their music on youtube. He said that their music wasn’t really his thing apart from one song that had really got under his skin. I was intrigued (and it is a really cool band name) so I watched the video.

This video.

It has a gloriously understated note of all pervading doom. It’s like the soundtrack to the Scarfolk website.

Afterward I turned to my spouse (who I met via the Internet on the message board of the Fortean Times magazine back when meeting via the Internet was still weird) and I suggested that we listen to more of The Church of the Cosmic Skull. As we listened to the music I gave myself a gel manicure, using materials ordered on the internet and shipped all the way from China, and skills that I learned watching youtube tutorials.

We loved both their albums instantly and as my spouse was posting a link to the video for Black Slug to a Tumblr blog I returned to Facebook to thank my friend for his link.

Seriously though you should check this one out. It sounds like a lost Hawkwind track from back when Lemmy was still playing the base and the video looks like it they sneaked onto the set of ‘The Devil Rides Out’ and shot it when everyone else was asleep.

He replied “This is why the Internet is more often than not, the best thing ever,” and reminded me that if it weren’t for the Internet we would never have followed each other on Twitter and never have become real life friends. If there was no internet then there would be no NaNoWriMo and no Aberdeen NaNoWriMo group having meetings. I wouldn’t have been able to persuade him to come out to one and he would never have met the woman who is now the love of his life.

The internet allowed me to meet my spouse and most of my friends. The internet lets me stay in touch with friends I would long ago have drifted away from.The internet keeps me connected to my family. The internet lets me do detailed research for my novels. I don’t even have to stop writing to do the research. I can do a google search then read all the relevant stuff while I’m taking a five minute break to drink my coffee. The internet allows me to learn new skills.

Without the internet I might not be a writer and you certainly wouldn’t be reading this. So thanks to Tim Berners Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) and all hail the conquering internet.


If you don’t like Fall Out Boy you’re wrong

I am not your typical Fall Out Boy fan (if there is such a thing). I’m too old. I do not belong to the generation they speak for. I first got into the band because I saw a video animating the many mondegreens (misheard lyrics) in the song Sugar, We’re Going Down. I was convinced that it couldn’t be that hard to work out what he was actually saying. So I set out to prove it.

Listening to one song over a dozen times on headphones and going back and forth over the same lines repeatedly till you work out that the weird strangulated sound is actually the word ‘mausoleum’ will either make you love it or lead to hunting the singer down and stringing them up by their own vocal chords. In my case it gave me an appreciation for how clever the lyrics were and what a great voice Patrick Stump has.

That video did have a point though. So did the many other hilarious videos. Patrick’s diction did need work. Something that he recognised and did something about. It’s much easier to hear what he’s saying on the later albums. Which is important because those lyrics are so fucking clever.

When you watch the same music video over a dozen times it will give YouTube the idea that you really like the band and it will start showing their other music videos. That’s how I learned that Sugar wasn’t a fluke. All their songs have great lyrics and glorious music and Patrick’s voice just keeps getting better.

I understand that they’re considered ‘Emo’. I think that’s a bad name for the genre. All music is emotional. Fall Out Boy are Nerd Rock. They’re clever and they won’t hide it. They are unironically enthusiastic about stuff. They have zero time for the traditional macho posturing usually associated with rock bands. Their lyrics and videos are full of pop culture references and social critiques. They seem kind of weirded out by the whole fame thing and they keep bringing that up in both the lyrics and the videos.

They’re also Tumblr Rock. They feel stuff and they have opinions and they won’t just assume your gender or sexuality. Their music videos are simultaneously glossy and professional and also a little bit home-made and deliberately shitty. They turned an album called Save Rock And Roll into a feature length film . They released it for free on YouTube as a series of interlinked music videos with cameos by Elton John, Courtney Love, Tommy Lee, Foxes and Big Sean. That’s exactly the kind of thing a Tumblr blogger would think is a good idea. And even though it is clearly not a good idea they made it work.

Now I’ve said a lot about how clever their lyrics are but I haven’t shown you any proof. So here are a few that have stuck with me.

From Sugar, We’re going down

I’m just a notch in your bedpost, but you’re just a line in a song


I’ll be your number one with a bullet. A loaded God complex, cock it and pull it

From Centuries

You’re a cherry blossom, you’re about to bloom. You look so pretty, but you’re gone so soon

From Where did the party go

I’m here to collect your hearts, it’s the only reason that I sing. I don’t believe a word you say but I can’t stop listening


I know I expect too much, and not enough all at once. You know I only wanted fun then you got me all fucked up on love

From Wilson (Expensive mistakes)

I was gonna say something that would solve all our problems but then I got drunk and I forgot what I was talking about

From Irristisble

All of your flaws are aligned with this mood of mine, cutting me to the bone, nothing left to leave behind


You ought to keep me concealed just like I was a weapon. I didn’t come for a fight but I will fight till the end

From The Mighty Fall

Your crooked love is just a pyramid scheme and I’m dizzy on dreams. But if you ask me two’s a whole lot lonelier than one. Baby we should have left our love in the gutter where we found it. ‘Cause you think your only crime is that you got caught

From Just One Yesterday

Anything you say can and will be held against you. So only say my name, it will be held against you


I want to teach you a lesson in the worst kind of way. Still, I’d trade all my tomorrows for just one yesterday

From Save Rock and Roll

You are what you love, not who loves you

I could keep adding lyrics all day but at some point I have to stop and post this. Just go and listen to some Fall Out Boy.

Playlist Track 9 and 10

Track 9 is another song that makes me think about co-dependency but now with a heavy side order of loss and regret. If you’ve never seen the video then I recommend stopping what you’re doing and watching. It’s beautiful and poignant.


Track 10 is more about loss and regret and about how sometimes a brief happiness can make seem like a cruel lie when the misery returns.


These two songs take me into the state of mind of my little group of amature detectives. They’ve all felt a terrible loss they’re each one striving to be strong for the others. They’re each living with a gaping hole where someone they cared about used to be.

Why not tell me in the comments about the sort of music that helps you when you’re writing? Does it help you to concentrate, or help you visualise a scene, or does it create a mood. And if you don’t like music what do you like? Silence? Ambient noise? Podcasts?

All the Playlist posts.

Playlist Track 8

This song is for my group of ‘detectives’. They’re good people but they’re all a bit damaged.

Tragic backstories all round.

But the thing about damaged people is that they can be hard to scare. How do you intimidate someone when you can’t say anything that’s worse than they say to themselves? How do you threaten someone when they’re already in more pain than you will ever know?

And if you’re a killer who has so far gone undetected you can forget about them missing any evidence you’ve left behind. The OCD won’t let them miss things that are out of place. The Autism won’t let them stop looking. The PTSD and the depression mean that they don’t care enough about their own safety to  even think about letting things lie.

For further information

Playlist track 7

This one inspires more character development every time I listen to it. In part it’s a song about disability and co-dependance which are major themes in the story.

Like most songs by the Correspondents the lyrics seem both personal and specific. Their songs tend to get stuck in my head and send my imagination in all kinds of directions.

If you’re writing and you’re devoid of inspiration just look at a bunch of their videos on YouTube and if the music and the lyrics don’t get you going the visuals will.

For more of this go to the Playlist Page

Playlist: Track 5 and 6

Brace yourselves. Lots of video links in this one.

These two tracks go together, not just because the title combination and the swerve from folk rock to trashy pop pleases me but because these are both squad songs. In the real world no crime is ever solved by a single person, though it sometimes seems like that. That’s even more true in my story where each character has only small pieces of a puzzle that they have to assemble together.

Track 5

This is the darker of the two. My characters are in bad places mentally. They’re dealing with the loss of a friend but also with their own problems of physical and mental disability.

Track 6

No I’m not going to defend this choice. It’s my playlist. Fuck you. Fight me.

But seriously. This song is on here because it’s defiant and fun and because it reminds me of this song.

Bonus Track

This is a Tumblr track. I only know it exists because of my Tumblr friends (the RL friends who introduced me to Tumblr and the people I only know through Tumblr). My characters all have Tumblr blogs. Some of the novel is going to be taken directly from their blogs. We’ll get to see events through their eyes and in their own words.

The Project Cecil Playlist Page.

Playlist: Track 3

This song takes me into the psyche of one of my main characters.

This character has traumatic memories of nearly drowning. This person also often feels like they are metaphorically drowning in their own body and sometimes feels the pull towards non-existence that is not quite being suicidal but also not quite not.

The drowning experience forms a link with another character that I’ll be touching on with the next track.

Playlist Page where this all gets explained.

Playlist: Track 1

This is the sound of my opening scene. The last moment in the story where my characters still think that order still holds sway. This is the music that’s playing when the person who’s going to be the leader of my little group of sleuths finds out that something bad has happened to someone that she cares about.

This is a great song to have on any writing playlist because it’s like musical prozac.

When i’ve been down at my lowest ebb – and that is pretty fucking low – I have found myself self medicating with this song using the 24 hour version. That’s not a typo. That’s a link to a 24 hour long version of the video though the page is a bit buggy at the moment so here’s a link to a YouTube playlist of it.

For more information about what’s happening in here see this post and this page.

Using a Playlist

A while back I wrote a post about how I use playlists to create an appropriate head space for the novel I’m working on. Some people found the post quite useful. With NaNoWriMo approaching and a new novel in the planning phase I thought I’d share the project playlist and how I’m using it.

I don’t have a title for the novel yet so I’m calling it Project Cecil. It’s a nod to one of my favourite writers, Warren Ellis. When he’s working on something that’s under an NDA he gives it a code name so he can talk about it on his blog or his newsletter.

Project Cecil is the straight crime story I was challenged to write. I was having a lot of trouble with it but the process of building the playlist has already been really useful. It’s given me a better handle on my killer and on some of the themes that are probably going to come out. There’s 33 songs on the playlist in it’s current form and I plan to focus on 1-3 songs per post.

That’s the plan but since it might turn out to be as boring as all hell I reserve the right to drop it and post something else instead. The playlist is certainly not the only thing I’m going to be posting over the next couple of months. I have a lot of thoughts about preparation and writing a first draft so expect the blog to be heavy on writing stuff and light on Zeppelins until at least the end of November.

Advice to writers – playlists

This is a departure from my previous posts aimed at young writers. This one is for everyone because this post is something I really needed to know ages ago but instead had to find out the hard way.

Music while writing can be controversial. Some writers, like Ian Rankin, swear by it and some, like Philip Pullman, can get quite salty on the subject. Even the writers that like to write to music tend to say that they can’t listen to music with words.

For years I resisted writing music, even though I love music, even though my husband would make me writing playlists based on the book I was working on, even though I tend to turn to music videos for inspiration when I’m all out of ideas. Gentlepersons, I was wrong. Sort of.

I come to you today not to praise the writing playlist but to suggest a new use for it.

One reason that we use music in films is because it’s great at setting the scene, creating mood, driving emotion. That’s not necessarily great while you’re writing. Unless you’re very careful you can end up with the music you’re listening to driving the scene instead of the characters. But writing doesn’t just happen while you’re sitting at a keyboard or a notebook.

My best writing often happens while I’m standing at a bus stop, or shopping, or looking out of a moving vehicle. It’s not really writing then, of course, at that point it’s still story. It doesn’t become writing until I sit down at the computer and write it. But that purposeful daydreaming of story is a vital part of my creative process and I can’t be the only one.

Here’s how to use a writing playlist to make your purposeful daydreaming more useful.

  1. Create a playlist for each writing project. Name it after the working title.
  2. Give each of your characters their own theme songs, they can have as many as you like.
  3. Pick some songs that reflect the major themes or moods or events of the story.
  4. Every time you add a new element to the story try to add a relevant song.
  5. Listen to this playlist whenever you’re doing something boring, like housework or shopping or walking somewhere.
  6. Only listen to the playlist that’s related to the current project. When you switch projects switch playlists.

This is so useful because the playlist creates a headspace that you come to associate with the project. That means that you can stop working on it for a while, do something else, come back and the music will take you back to where you were when you were working on it. The music pulls your imagination in the right direction. It becomes the soundtrack to the moving pictures in your mind.

Try it out, folks, don’t make the mistake I did and write another four first drafts before giving it a chance.