Why I’m Writing Short Stories Instead of Novels

I’ve always considered myself a novelist. I love long involved stories, the more epic the better. As a kid I loved The Chronicles of Narnia, then I read The Lord of the Rings and others (The Silmarillion, etc.) I love a thick novel with a thick plot (like The Historian), and my favorite TV show is the sprawling sci-fi epic Babylon 5.

And so, I began writing what I loved reading. In middle school I had an epic fantasy series that I wrote on for several years (I’d planned to make it a seven book series, and wrote first drafts of about two and a half books). When I first started this blog a few years ago, I was working on an epic fantasy trilogy inspired by the folktales of Finland.

While I have not given up on either fantasy series, both have been temporarily shelved and I’ve started writing short fiction. Because of my love of long epic stories, I never thought of myself as a short story writer. Continue reading

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Music Review: “Revitty Rakkaus,” Kuunkuiskaajat

The Finnish folk-rock duo Kuunkuiskaajat has just released their second album, a crowd-funded project titled Revitty Rakkaus. I first started following the duo of Susan Aho and Johanna Hytti from their time with the band Värttinä.

For any Värttinä fans who haven’t heard Kuunkuiskaajat’s music yet, it’s well worth checking out. With a generally light and folksy sound, Susan and Johanna’s voices interweave like a dance, punctuated by Susan’s masterful accordion playing.

This album has perhaps a bit less of a “traditional” sound than their first album, as most of the tracks feature strong modern percussion. The upbeat tracks, like “Kaupungilla” and “Polttaa,” usually feature Susan as the lead vocal, while the slower, ballad-like tracks such as “Unelmaa” and “Elämä Kantaa” let Johanna’s voice shine.

In listening to this album, I was reminded that while Finland is usually grouped in with the rest of Scandinavia, musically they seem to belong more with Eastern Europe. To my Western-trained ear, tracks like “Salakavala” and the title track “Revitty Rakkaus” held the rhythms and sounds of Eastern lands. The entire album is a beautiful blending of East and West, and traditional and modern.

Whether you’re a fan of Värttinä, Eastern European folk music, or you can’t even find Finland on a map, I encourage you to give Kuunkuiskaajat a listen!

Kuunkuiskaajat’s website (in Finnish)

Kuunkuiskaajat on Facebook

 

Music Review: Vellamo

Welcome a new duo to the world of modern Finnish folk music! The self-titled album by the band Vellamo was released earlier this year. Being a fan of Finnish mythology, I was immediately drawn in by the band’s name—Vellamo was a sea goddess in the old stories.

And it turns out their music is equally enchanting. A singer-songwriter style, with a little rock tossed in here and there, adds flair to the simple yet enticing tracks on this album. The clear, unadorned tones of singer Pia Leinonen are accompanied by the acoustic stylings of guitarist Joni Tiala.

This album may be in the folk genre, but Vellamo offers a lot of variety for your listening pleasure. There’s fast and folksy like “Juokse Frank Juokse,” or slow and melancholy like “Kaipaava.”

There’s a little bit of Finnish—“Oman kullan silmät” or “Ja se mies;” a little bit of English—“Lovebirds” or “Silver Dagger.” And even a little bit of Swedish—“Elin i Hagen.”

Vellamo’s sound—whether toe-tapping or soothing, Finnish or English—gives me that warm feeling of live music night at a local coffeehouse. Or that lazy calm of sitting on a boat out in the lake. I’m excited to see where this music from the mythical sea spirit goes in the future.

Vellamo on Facebook

Music Video – Suljen

Music to Write By – My Current Playlist

Right now I’m more in editing (and rewriting) mode in my work than I am first-draft writing. But no matter what I’m writing, music is my tool for getting me out of daily life mode and into composing and storytelling mode.

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been listening to lately:

AOMusic – Edge Walkers

Nothing like soothing instrumental music when I just want to let my mind relax. To properly brainstorm, I find that I need to be relaxed–or, at least, not all mentally involved in or stressed about something. The music of AO never fails to pull my mind into the music, and, by extension, pull me into the worlds I’m creating.

Gjallarhorn – Suvetar 

Since I’m writing a story that’s loosely inspired by the legends of Finland, it’s almost necessary that I listen to Finnish folk music and/or songs about their mythology. Besides, it’s a cool music video.

Ulla Pirttijärvi – Mattharaku askai

The Sami people of arctic Finland are important players in my story, so I use their music for both research and for inspiration. Ulla’s songs are some of my favorites.

The Two Towers – The Riders of Rohan 

High fantasy, dramatic battles, and the Viking-like people of Rohan – what’s not inspirational about this track from Lord of the Rings? Specifically, though, Howard Shore’s amazing score (all of it – not just this track) plain gets me excited about storytelling.

Eivør – Min Modir (My Mother)

Besides the fact that Eivør makes it onto almost any “music favorites” or “currently playing” list, the tribal arrangement of this song is powerful and empowering. Eivør’s voice is otherworldly, and always puts me in a writing frame of mind.

Valravn – Marsk

More instrumental music, this time with a primitive and folk-ish sound. Perfect for conjuring up images of people and places in my fantasy world.

What’s on your current writing playlist?

Research for a Fantasy Story

Yes, I’m writing a fantasy story and yes, I’m doing research. I believe that research to one degree or another is going to come into most any writing project, unless you’re writing a memoir or something that you’re truly an expert on. Roz Morris wrote a fantastic post about ways to do research for a novel, so I’m not going to try to duplicate what she wrote.

Even if you’re writing a realistic work of fiction, you might still need to a bit of research to add that extra touch of realism to something that you know nothing about. What if your main character owns several Great Danes, but you’ve never been near a dog bigger than a Chihuahua in your life? A little research—hands-on or otherwise—might be in order.

Obviously, historical fiction is the most research-heavy genre. Depending on your story and your intended audience, you don’t have to be a stickler for every detail, but general accuracy is good. For example, a historical fiction tale set in medieval London should not make mention of Queen Victoria. Unless you’re trying to weave in time-travel or some other fantastical element, this would be a glaring mistake.

I wrote a blog post a while back about world-building for fantasy and sci-fi, and the use of research. And so, in keeping with my own advice, I’m doing some research for my current fantasy trilogy. Here are three of the main subjects I’m researching:

Musical instruments—specifically, the traditional folk instruments of Finland and other Scandinavian regions.  I’m not trying to be historically accurate, or even accurate with the details of instrument construction or use, because this is a fantasy world. The world is inspired by the mythology of Finland, however, and so I want the musical instruments—like the jouhikko, the kantele, and the mouth harp—to reflect this. YouTube has been my primary research tool—ancient Finnish folk music is alive and well today, and YouTube lets me both see and hear the instruments in action.

Reindeer—specifically, the reindeer and their herders in Finland. This has required the most research (since two of my main characters are reindeer herders from modern-day Finland). My main source of information has been internet searches, but I’ve read some books, too (both fiction and non-fiction) that involve reindeer and the Sami people.

Even when I deem my research complete and publish my stories, there will probably be inaccuracies. But since my intended audience is the average North American/Western European reader of fantasy adventure books, I’m not too concerned with every detail. I want enough of the setting/culture/details of the animals to be accurate enough to give the reader a flavor of this very real yet very foreign lifestyle.

Northern Lights—specifically, what aurora scientists right now are studying and how they’re doing it. Again, this is a research-intensive topic, and one where I will probably wind up with inaccuracies despite my best efforts. The internet has been my only source of information about this, with my main focus being the websites of universities that have aurora programs. My next step, if I feel I need more detailed information, would be to contact some of the people at these universities to ask specific questions. Again, though, like with the reindeer, I’m writing my stories for readers of fantasy—not aurora experts or astronomers. I want the reader to feel convinced, but if I get one little jot of technobabble wrong, I don’t consider that a big deal.

Any other writers of fantasy or sci-fi out there? What sort of research have you done for your stories?