Tag Archives: music

Guest Post: Lea Darragh – the Music Muse

Today, Lea Darragh writes about writing and music:

The Music Muse

lea darraghRelax your shoulders and stretch your neck. Settle in and feel the smoothness of an angel’s voice, romancing you into believing that the ballad is about you. It’s easily done. Just close your eyes for a moment and transport yourself into your perfect world. It is about you, every single beautiful word. Only you. Now open your eyes. Poise your fingers over the keyboard. You’re ready to blow your mind.

I begin writing this piece as Ed Sheeren’s latest album beats like a heart in the background. Pressing play on my iPod is the very first step in my writing process. Next comes the opening of the laptop. Nothing seems to flow, nothing seems to spill from my thoughts and onto the page as well or as heartfelt as when I have a beat, a strum, a melodic ballad coaxing what I feel into words.

Does this make me feel less of a writer, not being able to summon my own inspiration? Immediately I think, yes, of course it does, it must, right?

But then I rethink. I have to, because my next thought after that, after the self-doubt falls away and my first words of the session easily flow, I know that they are mine and no one else’s. An interpretation of how I feel about love, betrayal, friendship, hope, whatever it is that the scene I’m working on entails. They may have been coaxed out of me by another, but they are still mine, and they are beautiful…

‘I’m used, Romeo. I’m not a gift, or a queen or something to treasure. I’m a used up old pair of gumboots. I once had a purpose, but the purpose has ruined me. I’m not remarkable. I’m not worthy of goodness. I’ve nothing remotely beautiful to give you.’

He kissed above my heart. ‘Except this. I want every beat to be for me.’

‘I’m afraid.’

He lifted his face to mine and smiled then, unperturbed by my self-loathing. An uplifting, adorable smile. ‘All of that warning, and yet I’m still deeply love with you, Willow.’

…and no one is as surprised by this as I am.

Do you want to know my honest opinion about what it takes for me to write a book?

I’ve read that a real writer does not need inspiration, and that they just have the intense want to write, no matter what. But I don’t entirely agree.

What a phenomenon it would be to be able to create an entire world without having the need to look outside of ourselves to find it. Instead of hitting my head against a brick wall when the words refuse to flow, I don’t drop my head in my hands because I have failed miserably. I seek help like a sensible person.

In a perfect world, writer’s block would never exist, but it does, and I refuse to sit and force words that I will delete anyway. I’m a use-my-time-wisely kind of a writer. Inspiration factors highly, for me. Pinterest is a bottomless abyss of motivation. I probably spend as much time researching as I do writing! Advice from other authors is priceless. They keep a wayward writer honest and centred. Reader reviews, even the shockingly harsh ones that sting like a mother, push awriter. They should never deter. They should never encourage complaisance. Perhaps we shouldn’t even read them.

For me, to be a writer – and it’s taken years to even have the guts label myself one – means that I can create an entire world for people who did not exist up until the very moment I outlined their story, named them, gave them family, friends, found them a lover and encouraged them to fall helplessly in love. I have the power to make and break people. Experience a violent slap or a heart-stopping kiss. I can make them say words or admit things that I never would. The right song helps me to tweak a scene, a quote, or even a tiny movement like a wink or a shrug that is monumental to the entire feel and flow of the story.

So for me to write a story to the very end, I guess, just like reading a book, it requires me to escape into it. Like a movie with a brilliant soundtrack, I can immerse myself into fiction.

Like listening to music, writing gives me the freedom to simply create without boundaries. My mind open and my heart light, ready to connect with my characters. Music has an effortless way of making me forget where I am for a while.

I wish I could say that I’m one of those phenomenons that write because it comes one hundred percent from my own imagery, my own impression of the world, and my own motivation, and some does, but mostly I’m just not. I’d rather tell people if they want to write: don’t think little of your ability because you listened to a conversation on the bus then decided to adapt it into your book, or if you smelt something delicious that sparked an intimate dinner scene.Or for me, hearing that perfect line or deep drum beat.

Just feel it, let the world in, and then you can let your world out.

Excerpt from More of You

‘It’s all a sham, you know?’ I told him as I dug my bare feet into the soft sand.


‘Well look at this.’ I nodded toward the stunning, grand ocean at our feet. ‘It tricks into believing that the world is notcapable of creating ugliness. But there needs to be an equal reaction to life, to happiness, to the future. Something needs to be lost in order to give.’

‘Do you honestly believe that?’ he said. His tone was level. Neither challenging nor dismissive. Just genuinely intrigued.

I shrugged. ‘It’s the truth.’

‘By that reasoning, surely when something is taken, something needs to be given back,’ he said.

‘You don’t agree with me,’ I said when I’d detected a hint of dubious inflection in his tone.

He smiled apologetically. ‘I don’t. Ethan died because someone ran a red light. Not for any other reason. My parents died because no one has found a cure for cancer or heart disease. The problem is that we try to rationalise death, when really there are no answers. It’s a reality that people make mistakes. Our bodies a not built to last.’

I let that sit with me as I watched the ocean. I knew this.

‘The thing is, I really do want to move on, but I don’t ever want to forget Ethan.’

‘I know. It does get easier.’

My hangover was taking its toll. My broken heart was heavy in my chest. Tears slipped down my face. ‘I’m just so exhausted.’

‘It’s difficult to stop that ache, that burn of anger in your diaphragm. The sleepless nights as we agonise over everything that we could have done differently.’

I wiped my cheeks, watching him for a moment. ‘Was it sudden, when your parents died?’

‘Cancer took mum in a matter of months. Less than a year later, my dad turned the kettle on to make a cuppa and just collapsed, dead. No warning. Here one minute, gone the next.’

‘As a doctor that must have been very difficult.’

He laughed once without humour. ‘Guilt is one of the most debilitating emotions that a person can suffer from.’


We watched the surf roll along the sand, like watery fingertips reaching for the earth, grasping to be at one with it but hopelessly letting go. Didn’t stop it from throwing itself forward again.

More about Lea Darragh

Almost MineI am a married mother of three who has lived in the Gippsland area my entire life, blessed with family and friends who, during a cold and stormy night, introduced me to the breathtaking world of fiction. I began to write…and I haven’t looked back.

Would you like to write a guest post for Adventurous Hearts about writing and romance? Email me at nmharrisheart@gmail.com!


Introducing: Kitty and Cadaver – saving the world with rock 'n' roll!

Kitty banner smallAnyone who has spoken to me lately has seen me, bright-eyed and over-excited, going on (and on and on and on) about my multimedia online story project. And I really am VERY ALLCAPS EXCITED about it. The project is called Kitty and Cadaver, and this post is so I can squee all about it to the world – and then invite you to join me!

Kitty and Cadaver outline

Kitty and Cadaver is a book about a rock band that uses music as magic to save the world from monsters. As the story opens, the three surviving members of the band (who played as Rome Burning until the very recent and violent death of their lead singer) and their roadie have come to Melbourne, Australia, to lick their wounds and try to regroup, as it were.

Enter Kitty Carrasco, a 21 year old with a strange past, who works as a beautician in a mortuary. Brought up by her grandparents, Kitty doesn’t know what happened to her parents, and she doesn’t know why her grandparents forbade music in their household.

Of course, things start going pear-shaped pretty quickly, and the dead start getting restless. Some of them start to literally sit up and take notice. It’s as well Kitty has a cool head on her shoulders and, despite her grandparents’ best attempts, knows how to sing to the dead anyway.

Soon Kitty meets up with Steve (Texan, bass player), Salvadore (guitarist from Goa, India), Yuka (Japanese, drummer) and Laszlo (the Hungarian roadie who knows a lot more about the violin than he’s letting on). With them is another guitarist, Stephen, whom Steve is trying to recruit as his replacement. (Steve would rather like to be one of the few band members to retire rather than being killed on the job.)

The trouble is, each and every one of those people has a secret. Some of them don’t even know they’re keeping one.

So all they have to do is try not to get eaten, sing the dead back to sleep, find out who’s raising them and save the world. Again. As soon as they can stop fighting among themselves, in traditional rock band fashion.

Not just a book – a whole song and dance! And also a comic book.

The whole thing about writing a story about a band that defeats monsters with music was that, clearly, I had to write music as part of the story. Well, it’s been 30 years since I learned the piano, although I’ve dabbled in songwriting on and off in the intervening decades. Oh, but look – I have an awesomely talented niece, Jess Harris, a guitarist and songwriter! I’m more excited than I can tell you that I’m now co-writing songs with Jess (and Jess is contributing some of her own songs) for this book about a band.

So now my book, which I wanted to post in chapters and parts in a blog, had songs to go with it.

The next thing I realised was that, if I wanted to post this onto a blog, I’d need banner art. I approached Nath Holden, the drummer from Jess’s old band, Vermillion, who is also a pretty cool artist. He came right on board to create the banner you see above. At the same time he said, ‘That’s a neat idea. Have you thought about making it into a comic?’

I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

Nath and I are in the process of creating an 18 page comic, telling the ‘secret origin’ of Yuka – the drummer whose heavy metal band accidentally summoned a demon, and Yuka was the only survivor of the encounter. We hope to bring you the first pages of Demon of the Earth in a few months.

Not to mention the craft project

My brain is having some kind of creative supernova at this point, because my next thought was ‘Yuka wears bracelets and a necklace made out of the smashed up musical instruments of her dead bandmates as memento mori. It would be so cool to have something like that’.

My researches showed that only a very few craftspeople/jewellers made wearable art from recycled instruments, and I couldn’t find any in Australia. So I thought the obvious next step would be to collect suitable materials and then have a workshop. Yay!

I’m in the process of getting donations of bits of instruments that might otherwise be thrown away, and my friend Ali Alexander, a jewellery maker, is going to work with me to determine how best to use such materials and then get the workshop together in a few months’ time. Stay tuned for details!

The Axe Principle

One of the key ideas behind the world of Kitty and Cadaver is that the band has a 700 year history, playing under different names, depending on the make-up of the troupe at the time.

The piper and drummer who began in all in the 13th century died long ago, but the mantle has been handed on and on through the centuries. Like an axe that has had its handle replaced, then the head, then the handle, then the head – hundreds of years later, it may be considered the same axe with an historic persistence-of-vision, although the component parts are no longer the original.

This means that although Kitty and the band she’s meeting now are the latest incarnation, I have a hugely long history of music magic I can play with in this universe. I can write short stories or comics set anywhere in that time period, with whatever the band looked like then. I can write songs that are from the band’s repertoire and then invite musicians to work out how they sounded in the 16th century, or the sixties; as madrigals or pirate metal!

An invitation to play

But wait, there’s more!

Another key idea behind the Kitty and Cadaver universe is that this is a huge world, with room to play in all kinds of time periods and musical styles and even characters. The music and art already coming out of this idea could lead to so much more. Add to this my background as a writer of fanfiction – thirty-odd years ago, it’s where I learned so much about writing, and where I’ve seen many writers and artists make a start before going on to professional work.

The result is that I’ll be posting Kitty and Cadaver under a creative commons licence, and inviting people to come and play in my sandpit. The licence I’m using essentially means that I’ll be thrilled if you have some creative response to the work as long as you credit the source and don’t use it for commercial purposes.

That’s getting a bit ahead of myself, I know. Still, everyone I’ve spoken to about the world of Kitty has been enthused about the creative possibilities, and I’d love for the project to grow!

Blogging at Kitty and Cadaver

I aim to post a new part each Monday, but I’ll also be blogging about related material: song lyrics and soundfiles; other books with music and monsters; music-themed art and craft; music-related folklore; the occasional video or link about the macabre (I have a video up already about being a make-up artist in a mortuary); discussions of music, instruments and music history; and pretty much anything that seems relevant and interesting.

Join us at Kitty and Cadaver

The Kitty and Cadaver project has its main site, www.kittyandcadaver.com – please visit that for the blog posts and the weekly story update.

You can also follow the Kitty and Cadaver project on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. (Some songs are already posted on Facebook and Tumblr, as well as Jess’s Soundcloud site.) When we’ve had the opportunity to develop some more art for a clip, you’ll also find songs and related videos being posted in the Kitty YouTube channel.

If you’re new here, start at Kitty and Cadaver: Not the Zombie Apocalypse, Chapter One, Part One.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.