Music to write to:
soundtracks that chill out

“Sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time that it takes you forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time.”
-Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

09_28_2013As a part of my creative process, I find an organized iTunes playlist as valuable as a comfortable chair. To give you a peek, I’ve listed my “music to write to”– Enjoy!

# Song Artist Album
1) Time Hans Zimmer Inception (Music from the Motion Picture)
2) Astor’s Birthday Party Daniel Licht Dexter (Soundtrack from the TV Series)
3) My Number is 47 Geoff Zanelli Hitman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
4) That New Car Smell Michael Giacchino Star Trek (Music from the Motion Picture)
5) Earth Jesper Kyd Assassin’s Creed 2 (Original Game Soundtrack)
6) Su-Chou Prison – Original Motion Picture Harry Gregson-Williams Spy Game (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
7) Prologue Alexandre Desplat Birth (Original Score)
8) Capa’s Last Transmission Home Underworld Sunshine (Music from the Motion Picture)
9) Vide Cor Meum –
Patrick Cassidy
Hans Zimmer Hannibal
10) The Prestige David Julyan The Prestige (Original Score)
11) Chevaliers de Sangreal Hans Zimmer The Da Vinci Code (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
12) Adaptation (Fat Boy Slim Remix) Carter Burwell Adaption (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
13) Birth Watlz Alexandre Desplat Birth (Original Score)
14) May It Be and Themes from Lord of the Rings Cincinnati Pops Orchestra & Erich Kunzel The Ultimate Movie Music Collection
15) Music for a Found Harmonium Penguin Café Orchestra Preludes Airs & Yodels
16) The Son of Flynn Daft Punk TRON: Legacy
17) 503 Joshua Bell Angels & Demons (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
18) Vespertilio Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard Batman Begins (Music from the Motion Picture)
19) The Madam Jesper Kyd Assassin’s Creed 2 (Original Game Soundtrack)
20) Music from the Right Stuff Cincinnati Pops Orchestra & Erich Kunzel The Ultimate Movie Music Collection
21) The Kiss Trevor Jones & Randy Edelman Last of the Mohicans
22) Recognizer Daft Punk TRON: Legacy
23) On the Similarity of Human and Orchid Forms (Instrumental) Carter Burwell Adaption (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
24) Epilogue / Bloodroom Daniel Licht Dexter (Soundtrack from the TV Series)
25) The Chase Philip Glass The Illusionist (Music from film)
26) Main Titles (From “Blade Runner”) Vangelis Blade Runner Trilogy (Music from the Motion Picture)
27) Long, Long Time Ago Javier Navarrete Pan’s Labyrinth (Original Soundtrack)
28) Perpetuum Mobile Penguin Café Orchestra Preludes Airs & Yodels
29) Veridis Quo Daft Punk Discovery
30) A Kaleidoscope Of Mathematics James Horner Beautiful Mind Soundtrack, A
31) Scrooged – Main Titles / Show Time At Ibc / Elliot Gives Blood / Danny Elfman Music for a Darkened Theatre – Film and Television Music, Vol. 1
32) Main Title from Shakespeare In Love Cincinnati Pops Orchestra & Erich Kunzel The Ultimate Movie Music Collection
33) The Illusionist Philip Glass The Illusionist (Music from the Film)
34) Lasiurus Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard Batman Begins (Music from the Motion Picture)
35) Love Theme (From “Blade Runner”) Vangelis Blade Runner Trilogy (Music from the Motion Picture) [25th Anniversary Edition]
36) Discombobulate Hans Zimmer Sherlock Holmes (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
37) The Orgy Basil Poledouris Conan the Barbarian (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
38) A Small Measure of Peace Hans Zimmer The Last Samurai
39) Batman Theme from Batman Cincinnati Pops Orchestra & Erich Kunzel The Ultimate Movie Music Collection
40) End Titles- Tron London Philharmonic Orchestra & Wendy Carlos Tron (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
41) Classical Gas Mason Williams Rhino Hi-Five: Mason Williams – EP
42) Adaptation Versus Immutability Carter Burwell Adaptation (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
43) Adagio for Strings Leonard Bernstein & New York Philharmonic Barber’s Adagio and Romantic Favorites for Strings
44) Modigliani Guy Farley Modigliani: Music from the Original Picture
45) Spotkanie Z Matka Vangelis Blade Runner Trilogy (Music from the Motion Picture) [25th Anniversary Edition]
46) Operation Dinner Out-  Original Motion Picture Harry Gregson-Williams Spy Game (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
47) Rosasolis Penguin Cafe Orchestra Preludes Airs & Yodels
48) The Last Man Clint Mansell The Fountain (Music from the Motion Picture)
49) No Expectation Boulevard Vangelis Blade Runner Trilogy (Music from the Motion Picture) [25th Anniversary Edition]
50) Elysium Klaus Badelt & Lisa Gerrard Gladiator
51) The Floating Bed Elliot Goldenthal Frida
52) Ave Maria Geoff Zanelli Hitman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
53) Main Title from the Last of the Mohicans Cincinnati Pops Orchestra & Erich Kunzel The Ultimate Movie Music Collection
54) Blade Runner Blues Vangelis Blade Runner Trilogy (Music from the Motion Picture) [25th Anniversary Edition]
55) Rescue Mission Tyler Bates Watchmen (Original Motion Picture Score)
56) Burning Bed Elliot Goldenthal Frida
57) LV-426 James Horner Aliens (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [The Deluxe Edition]
58) Beetlejuice: Main Titles / End Titles Danny Elfman Music for a Darkened Theatre – Film and Television Music, Vol. 1
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Choosing the tools for writing

Choosing the tools for writingGot a pen that I can borrow?

We all have different ways of composing our thoughts. Some people prefer the tactile pressure they apply to handwritten words on paper, some enjoy the abrupt snap of a typewriter, or others appreciate the rhythmic-soft clicking that computer keyboards deliver to the fingertips.

Today, my methodology is rooted in Apple-based products. I bounce between my Macbook, iPad and iPhone to put my thoughts into words. Those three devices work for me uniquely in different scenarios.

My MacBook with an external monitor is for my scheduled writing sessions that are planned to be quietly desk-bound and focused on the words in front of me. If I’m on a plane or train and I can’t negotiate my laptop, my iPad (with Bluetooth keyboard) can offer a quick and easy way to capture a few in-depth thoughts. With my iPhone, I have an immediate way to capture any ideas or observations on-the-go. How I integrate these tools for writing is key. Here are a few software packages that I appreciate; I use all of these tools for slightly different purposes, described below.

For my MacBook:

Scivener LogoScrivener

by Literature & Latte

This is my primary tool for writing. It has a lot of valuable features focused on manuscript development. My favorite features are:

Corkboard– a card index sorting feature that breaks your story into larger flexible card set that you can organize.

Outlining– an outline organizer that helps you plan and write your story structure.

Collections– an internal folder organizer for multiple file types that we need during our research and refinement process. For example, a folder for your main character and various elements relating to him: a photo of his home, a map of the neighborhood where he lives, a moodboard with a collection of clothes he might wear, a PDF file for a user manual for a specific type of car he drives, etc.).

Full Screen editing– a great feature to hide all of those distractions that may be saved on your desktop, or any bouncing application icons that indicate you have mail or IM.

Scriptwriting– I currently don’t use this feature, but it can help you break your story out into Screen or Stage ready script formats.

Snapshot– If you have moment where you want to try something different and mix a few things up, you can save a snapshot before you do it. You have the ability to save and modify various scenarios and go back and reference sections as you go.

QuickReference Panes– If you have content that you need to constantly refer to, you can load it into a side-panel for easy/quick access.

Synchronise– you can set Scrivener up to back up to an external server, such as Dropbox.

Compile for Export and Print– this is a great feature to compile your submission ready manuscript with supporting footnotes and comments. This not only supports submission, but eBook ready book publishing formats.


MS Word LogoWord 2011

by Microsoft

This is my utilitarian writing tool because it has a lot of valuable features for basic writing, and because it has a vast reach in the current world. If I receive a pre-formatted Word document from someone else, I will open it in Word to preserve all original formatting. A few specific features that I appreciate are:

Basic formatting- it serves the purpose that I need it for (fonts, bold/italics, bullets, etc).

Track changes– by being widely adopted, I can utilize the track changes functionality that’s built into Word.

Office integration– when I need to communicate something in Excel or Powerpoint, the programs inter-connect fairly well.


Pages LogoPages

by Apple Inc.

Pages is Apple’s Word processing tool that is empowered by it’s cloud support across Apple devices (MacBook, iPad, iPhone). My favorite features are:

Price– For $9.99, you get a word processor with a lot of online and offline flexibility.

Capabilities– A robust word processor that supports basic formatting and track changes, similar to (and compatible with) Word.

Device Accessibility– With Pages available on iPhone, iPad and Macintosh computers, you have a word processor that can sync with iCloud and feed your spontaneous need to write. Just beware of font limitations and proper sync backups.

File export- you can export to .doc format or PDF.

Suite of integration tools– Just like Microsoft Office, you can expand your word processor’s capabilities by inter-connecting between Numbers (counterpart to Excel) and Keynote (counterpart to Powerpoint), but for a far cheaper price of $9.99 per tool.


For my iPad and iPhone:

Evernote LogoEvernote

by Evernote Corporation

A great tool built to be utilized on all OS platforms that works well for accumulating notes, pictures, and sounds. You can then organize them with multiple tags for access later. My favorite features are:

Free… (sort of)– it’s free for the basic account. I use it so much though, that I upgraded to the premium account which doesn’t require internet connection and has added security.

-Accessibility– it runs on my MacBook, iPad, and iPhone, and synchronizes all content onto a remote cloud server.

Tagging– When I document and create multiple types of files, I can assign my own form of topical organization to each—Recipes, Songs, Cities, People, Stories, Life moments, etc…

File support– It can retain and organize photos, sounds, single web pages, web links and of course, basic notes…


Dropbox LogoDropbox

by DropboxA free, remote cloud-based file server that’s available on most devices. What I find most attractive:

-Free… (sort of)- it’s free for the first 2 Gigabytes. If you are managing a lot of files, you’ll have to upgrade or refer several friends to reap the benefits of their memberships by expanding your disk size.

Accessibility– you can share and backup files from your MacBook, iPad, and iPhone. It’s an easy way to store and share files across multiple devices and their applications.

-Secure Backup- It’s another safe place to keep backup copies of your work.


Google Drive LogoGoogle Drive

by Google

Originally there was just Google Docs. Now, Google has expanded this service into a cloud-based collaborative service called Google Drive. Google Drive is a great alternative to Microsoft Office and it’s almost free. As an online and offline based tool, you and anyone you want to invite can have access to files that you want to share. What I like:

Free… (sort of)– it’s free for the first 15 GB. Higher storage spaces are available for a price.

Suite of integrated Tools– Just like Microsoft Office, you have the ability to freely access and inter-connect between their counterpart tools: Sheets (Excel) and Slides (Powerpoint).

Secure/sharable/collaborative documents- if you have a friend with a Google account, you can share access to a file immediately for editing and review and if needed, conduct Instant Message sessions over the doc.

Revision History– A backup system to help control versioning.

Cloud service- Similar to Dropbox, Google Drive provides a remote space to save and access your files remotely from multiple devices.

Online and offline access– By using Google Chrome, you can set-up an offline Google Drive.

Graphical Optical Character Recognition Search– Google has taken it’s search from pure text recognition to graphic text recognition.

File access– you can view over 30 file types (DOC, PDF, PSD, AI, etc.)


Stay tuned for more specifics about how several of these tools for writing have helped me during the creation of my book.



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Planning whom you’re writing for

Planning who you’re writing forToday, most people have very little time or patience to deal with sub-par storytelling. I’m constantly reminding my friends and colleagues that web browsers are not the only reading devices with a back button; tablets have them too. The back button has become the new trash can. It’s easy to delete a downloaded digital book that doesn’t connect to you, thus freeing up your time for something more interesting.

So, if you’re planning to write a book, you have to think about who your audience is and how you plan to keep them engaged in your story. For my book, ‘The Heir to the Unexpected’, I wanted to target my story to young professionals in the process of establishing their careers, who are learning to juggle their family and career responsibilities. This relationship dynamic opens up an opportunity to resonate with both young professionals and their older loved ones.

My main character is an art director at a communications agency named Jon. While he lives and works in NYC, the story involves him traveling to Mississippi to deal with a death in the family. I’m portraying his lifestyle in a way that speaks to my target audience– all of their hopes, dreams, insecurities, etc. In this journey, Jon uses social networks to communicate with friends and family. Today, a conversation on Twitter wouldn’t speak to a non-technically savvy individual as effectively as a phone call, so it could alienate a very large group of readers.

How have I addressed this problem? By writing the conversation from a non-tech point of view, I was able to construct a dialogue around an individual not understanding Twitter and the process my character Jon took to explain what he was doing. This created a contextualized experience that was informative and connectable to readers from various backgrounds.

What good is a great story when no one knows it’s out there? That’s where a marketing plan comes into play. As an author, you need to know what kinds of communication channels will be most effective to connect with your readers. I plan to use this blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and traditional book promotional methodologies. Will it work? Some of these venues may be better received than others. But my ultimate goal is to raise awareness of me and my book, The Heir to the Unexpected, and share what’s working and tweak as we go.

Cheers! Back to writing…

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Project: The Heir to the Unexpected

Glasses: The Heir to the UnexpectedFor the last year and a half, I’ve been working on a book tentatively entitled The Heir to the Unexpected. This project has turned out to take a little longer than expected! While working on this project, I met and married my wife, have traveled around home and abroad, and have maintained my day job. During this process, my book began to change with me along the way. Sometimes it was more prominent in my day-to-day activities, and sometimes it was placed in the background as I reflected on life. Recently though, I decided it was time to complete this writing project.

I started this blog to give my readers a narrative glimpse into my creative process, and to document this experience. Over the next few months, I will be sharing snippets of the book with you. While my plots and characters will have distinct arcs and personalities, I think it would be interesting to refine these based on the feedback of my readers. Therefore, I’d like to invite everyone not only to come along for this creative ride, but also to provide me with feedback that will make my ultimate story more rewarding for all to enjoy.

I look forward to sharing my journey with you.

D.C. Sumrall

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