Complicated Melodies

I really don’t know how interested anyone will be in this, but I really am trying very hard to blog, even when I don’t have anything to say, so here goes.

Working on The Land of the Beautiful Dead is not a happy experience. I don’t mean I hate the book or anything, but it’s the zombie apocalypse. The world I have to live in when I write is a deeply unpleasant one and it is necessary that I feel those emotions in order to project them onto the page. Unfortunately, the more I allow myself to sink into the bleakness of the landscape, the more my emotions tend to bleed out into the characters. It kind of becomes this vicious cycle after a while–the book affects my mood affects the writing affects the book affects my mood, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam.

I cope with this in a lot of ways. I listen to music while I write, for example. All of my books have a ‘soundtrack’ that is distinctly their own, and even though LoBD’s ‘album’ is still pretty dark, just being able to sing along, even with the sad songs, keeps me at least halfway grounded in the real world. If it’s a really bad scene, I may turn on a well-loved movie I’ve watched a bazillion times to act as white noise in the background and subconsciously lift my spirits. In emergencies, I may go get my hedgehog. It’s impossible to be depressed when there’s a hedgehog licking your thumb as you’re trying to type.

Seriously. Look at that face.

Seriously. Look at that face.


Having said all that, I have to admit even Posey Q. Pricklepants is not always able to combat the malaise that comes along with working on a book in which I scrag the entire human race. In fact, there are days when the only way I’ve found to deal with the book is to put it entirely aside and work on another one.

Yes, Land of the Beautiful Dead. I’ve been cheating on you. With fanfiction.

I find fanfiction to be extremely soothing to my soul. It’s just so comfortable and easy, writing a story where all the hard work is already done for you. The characters are there. The setting is there. The world is already built and peopled. All you need to do is provide a plotline and watch the story tell itself.

This is probably where I should stop and rant a little while on how wildly out of control fanfiction has gotten these days. In my day, when we wrote fanfiction, we used the characters and the setting of the actual original source and just made up new stories. If there was a new character–and let’s face it, there was always a new character–he or she was a plot device, like any you might see in a new episode, there to engage and be engaged by the canon characters. This business where so-called fans take…I’m going to use Star Trek as an example, because it’s one most people are going to recognize…take the crew of the Enterprise and make them teenagers who all go to the same high school, and also some of them are vampires and the biggest plotline is who vampire-Spock is going to ask to the dance (hint, it’s either Kirk or Picard) is NOT FANFICTION.

I’ve been writing fanfiction more than half my life. The first story I ever wrote was fanfiction–Disney fanfiction, no less. The day I knew I’d arrived as an author was the day someone sent me fanfiction of one of my own books. Fanfiction is great, but if you’re going to write it, for the love of God, write it for real. If you’re going to change every single goddamn element that made the story in the first place, go ahead and change the names of the characters too. You might be doing yourself a favor.

Obvious correlation is obvious.

Obvious correlation is obvious.


So I’ve been writing a fanfic in-between editing chapters of The Land of the Beautiful Dead. No one will ever read it. Like all GOOD fanfiction, it simply cannot work outside the parameters of someone else’s copywritten work. I won’t even tell you the name of the source material. It exists for my pleasure and for my pleasure alone. However, since it’s what I was working on today, and today is the day I set aside for blogging, you, the reader, get a snippet.

One of my characters is a musician. He is in the source material and so he is in my book (and THAT, kids, is how you write fanfiction!) He’s not obnoxious about it, but it is an important aspect of his character, so I’ve done what I can to keep it, and one of the things I found I had to do as the story progressed is have him write a song. So I woke up this morning and wrote a song he could write for the girl he is never going to get. Disclaimer: There is a reason I am not a professional songwriter.



Baby girl, when you talk, I hear such complicated melodies

But it’s a song and I could sing it if you let me.

All I need’s a little time to hear the tune and make it mine

I’d play it for you and maybe then you’d see

How beautiful your music is to me

Won’t you listen?

For a little while…just one night is all I need.

Oh me and this guitar are both as broken as they come

But even we can make some music if only I

Replace these broken strings and play it right

Put a lead guitar and a bass beside me and I’ll prove to you

There’s still some harmony.

It’s not too late

For you to learn the words….and sing along with me.

Girl, I’d need an orchestra to play the story of your life

But if only I could play piano, I would try.

Any song can be written down once you have the key

And if I could find the note to build upon, I know you’d sing along with me.

And if I could play the drums, maybe then I could set the time

That brings the shattered rhythm of your heart into beat with mine.

And I’d get horns to be your courage and violins to be your tears

And one by one, I would find instruments to take all your hopes and fears

Until there’s nothing left but you and me and one simple melody

That’s been there, baby girl, all along.

And I’ll teach it to you…and it can be our song.

Girl, when you talk, I hear such complicated melodies

And it’s a song I know that I can’t make you hear.

Because I’m not the man you want tonight but before you go, I’ve got to try

To make you understand that if you can’t

Play the tune

Or sing the words…still, we can dance.

So let me put this old guitar aside…and we can dance.


20 responses to “Complicated Melodies

  1. Love the song lyrics! I can so see someone like Jack Johnson, some folksy guy like good ole’ Gordon Lightfoot , or maybe a reincarnated Roy Orbison/ Johnny Cash stealing it.

  2. I had a discussion with friend few days ago about this: she told me she just can’t read AU fics because concept of AU fanfic is contradiction in terms. 😀
    I have weird relationship with fanfic myself since I realized I have more fun reading fan take on things I am not particularly passionate about. When it’s something I am a huge fan of, I just compare it to much to characters from original work, even though I am very much aware I am comparing it to my own interpretation of it. I suck at fanfic. :\
    Thanks for snippet, that was fun. 🙂

    • I hear you. I especially have a hard time with crossover fanfic, even though I have read several that actually work VERY well. However, the 99% Rule definitely applies. (That being that 99% of anything is objectively crap. 99% of all movies you will watch will be forgettable, 99% of all UFO sightings will be hoaxes/explainable phenomenon, 99% of all the people you will ever meet will simply blow in and out of your life and leave nothing behind, etc) But like you, I’m never quite able to shake the fact that, for example, Mulder and Scully would never meet the Winchester brothers, regardless of how well the story arc braids between them. So what should be a thoroughly enjoyable standalone story if it were only entirely original characters is forever stained. At the same time, that story arc ONLY braids so well BECAUSE it’s those specific two franchises. If it were all original characters, it would just be your run of the mill paranormal romp.

      But that 1%, o man. I love reading the good fanfic that’s out there, especially after a series I love ends and there are no new ‘canon’ episodes. Nobody knows love of a good franchise like a true fan. (And nobody can ruin it faster than a bad one)

    • You’re not a bad fanfic reader, you’re just discerning. 🙂 I can go for a really well thought out AU, but it HAS to be in-character. Almost no exceptions.

      With that said, I will never understand why coffee shop AUs are a thing.

  3. Oh don’t get me started on crossover fanfic. I’ve been writing fanfic for years but I just can’t read crossover. It doesn’t make sense to me. But to each his own is what I say. Still I’ll always have a huge soft spot in my heart for fanfic. It’s my reviewers that gave me the courage to start writing my own stuff.

    I get what you mean about the heavy mood in your books. I’ve read three of your books so far but I’m currently gathering my courage to read the others. (Oh what I coward I am) Something happens to me after I complete one of your books. I always need to follow up with an extremely fluffy, light read. Anything to shake the cloud of emotion hanging over me. I’m not sure how to explain it but it’s like I need to recharge.

    Maybe it’s something that happens to people who spend a lot of time in their heads (introverts and such). Hope that makes sense.

  4. I would love to know what music was playing in your head – or playing – while you were writing The Last Hour of Gann – I would also love to read all the stuff you left out!!! Would that ever be possible?

    • Anything’s possible. I wouldn’t mind posting the playlist for Gann some day (I’d have to dig through my CDs to find it. Yes, I still use CDs. I wasn’t kidding when I called myself a Luddite in the first post of this blog), although most of the deleted scenes are deleted for a reason.

  5. You have a hedgehog?!? How fun!! I always wanted one until I read they eat mealworms. Ugh. *shudder* Posey is such a sweet name.

    • Actually, 80% of Posey’s diet is high-protein dry cat food. I do give her waxworms as a special treat sometimes. She loves digging through her bedding to hunt them, so much so that she sometimes has trouble believing there aren’t any more, and she’ll scratch and scratch and scratch at the bottom of her cage until it drives me right up the wall. And she is adorable and unbelievably snuggly, once she is reminded that mine is the hand that brings food. She always balls up at first, but as soon as I pick her up and she can smell me, she uncurls. She loves to have her quills stroked and especially to have her belly rubbed. Sadly, my camera came down with a bad case of brother-in-law and is no longer functional, or I’d post some pics.

    • I shouldn’t have looked….

      “Without Fifty Shades of Grey, books like The Last Hour of Gann by Lee Smith would never have seen the light of day…”

      Like, holy shit, REALLY????? It’s not enough to lump me in with that crap, but to make me out to be riding her coat-tails AND you get my damn name wrong?

      *sigh* No publicity is bad publicity, no publicity is bad publicity, no publicity…

      • Just to pre-face by saying I dislike/feel anger towards the Fifty Shades books (and rip-offs) but it looks like that article is saying that the success of books branded ‘erotica’ like Fifty Shades made it easier for publishers (and readers) to take a chance on the genre where before the mainstream of Fifty Shades there was still disinclination.

      • *grumble grumble* I still don’t like the insinuation. But yeah, I recognize that they thought they were paying this “Lee Smith” person a compliment.

    • A very good chance. I’m literally on the last chapter of my first round of edits as we speak, although I have been slowed down considerably by a dislocated shoulder because Life happens when you least expect it.

  6. I’ve been having trouble finding truly intriguing, deep, complex, moving, amazing stories. So I re-read the Last Hour of Gann to remind myself of what a truly intriguing, deep, complex, moving, amazing can be. You’re awesome R. Lee Smith!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s