Friday, 12 July 2013

It's Official - Songs DO Affect Your Heart!

On 9th July 2013, I heard of a news story that sent a shiver down my spine. It turned out to be one of those uncanny coincidences that have cropped up regularly while I have been involved in the writing of my Artesans of Albia fantasy series.
To set the scene, I had turned in the self-edited manuscript of King’s Artesan, the final book in my first Artesans trilogy, to Rhemalda Publishing’s brilliant editor, Diane. She had cast her eagle eye over it and recommended some changes to the way the book ends. Once I read all her suggestions and realized how perfect they were, I could also see that it was going to involve a complete rewrite – not something you really want to do with a publishing deadline looming. However, I was quite excited about the prospect because I was being asked to put back in some of the stuff I’d originally taken out after some long-ago beta readers suggested there was too much “product placement.” Trouble was, I hadn’t saved any of the deleted passages and anyway, the book had moved on since then and they wouldn’t have been up to scratch.
There was no getting away from it - I would just have to put everything else on hold and concentrate on the rewrite.

That proved difficult when I remembered the week’s vacation in Italy we had booked. Yes, slap in the middle of the time when I ought to be writing! Oh well – maybe the break would help stop my brain from overloading. I began making a list, sorting out what passages I really needed to keep, which I could safely delete, and what order the new passages needed to be in. This turned into more of a nightmare than I anticipated, and once or twice I got completely confused and had to write it all out again. My only respite came when I began writing the new scenes themselves, because they were scenes of foreboding – my favourite kind! My writing Muse came winging back and sat comfortably on my shoulder. But it seemed she didn’t like the confusion of reordering either, because once I stopped writing fresh stuff and went back to cutting-and-pasting, she threw a tantrum and locked herself in the cupboard. Oh well.

The vacation to Lake Garda in northeast Italy was a wonderful break, despite the 30 degree heat. We left Heathrow in 16 degrees and walked out of the plane in Verona airport to the searing Italian summer. It was like being slapped in the face. Picking up the rental car went fine, but the directions we had been given to the converted mill where we would be staying were rubbish. Fortunately, not only does Dave carry a map and a compass in his head (how DOES he always know what direction he’s facing??) we had also brought our Italian roadmap, courtesy of when we used to live there. After a few false turns, we arrived.

The week went very well, but thoughts of the rewrite were never far from my mind. Once we returned, I got straight back to work.

One of the scenes I needed to refresh concerned my main character, Sullyan. I’m not going to give any plot points away, so this explanation will be generic. Sullyan’s parents are dead and she never knew them, but she has one thing connecting her very strongly to them. It’s an ancient song, a melody, to which her father set a love poem he wrote to her mother. This song appears numerous times throughout my series, and it serves various functions. Being a folk singer and songwriter, I have written and recorded songs to accompany my first two books, but this one, Morgan’s Song, never actually existed in word form. I wanted to record it as the song to accompany King’s Artesan, so I had to write the words. Now, with the rewrite, I had a fabulous opportunity to include the actual words in the book they are meant to accompany!
Once I realized where and how the song could be used, the ideas just kept flowing. The song became an integral part of the passage I was writing and in fact, the scene wouldn’t have worked so well without it. I love how the song entwined itself into the plot. It seems a damned close coincidence that I was asked to do the rewrite, otherwise I could never have included the song. But that’s not the uncanniest coincidence, nor the one that connects to the news story.

This coincidence concerns what scientists have documented (I won’t say “discovered” because I have noticed this myself, and I’m sure other singers and choirs have too) about the effect of choral singing on the heartbeat. If you’d like to read the story, here is the link:

What got me so excited when I heard about it was the close correlation between what the scientists found and what I had written. I finished those scenes days before the story broke, so it wasn’t something I heard subliminally. It was simply another of those slightly spooky things that used to keep me going with submitting my work when all I was getting were rejections. I am now more firmly convinced than ever that my books and Rhemalda Publishing were fated to be a partnership. And I just couldn’t be happier!