Writing update and a Song I Wrote. (of sorts)

I’m at one of those moments when you’re in the middle of a writing project where you write yourself into corners, write yourself out, pat yourself on the back for your own ingenuity, then promptly write yourself back into a corner. KHAAAAAAAAAN.

Work progresses apace on After. I’m becoming really pleased with how it’s turning out.  My next Kickstarter update to my backers will be a first glimpse of the cover design and an explanation of it.

But what I’m learning most as I start to stretch as a writer is the need to roll other projects around as a break.  I feel guilty doing that while being funded by a Kickstarter but the reality is you can only write so much in one place without letting your brain jump to other places. I have two other projects in play and I’ve become smarter in how I develop an idea and involve other awesome creative people to be a part of it, so that it changes in creative and wonderful ways. Then I don’t have to write every word myself having formed a “band” of writers, and later a spouse or a girlfriend will change the entire creative direction for one of us and it will devolve into a level of acrimony that still results in multigenerational reverence.

That’s going to be my next Kickstarter.

Anyways, I wanted to briefly address another topic, and that’s a sort of writing task I’ve been assigning myself where I come up with an idea but force myself to do it in a completely different writing medium than where my head was at when I came up with the way the idea would take form.

Bear with me while I tell you a brief story.

I thought of Europa. I’ve been fascinated with that moon since Arthur C. Clarke’s 2010. I spend a lot of time thinking about that moon.  It holds probably one of the best chances in our solar system for highly developed life.  The core of the moon is twisted constantly by Jupiter’s gravity, which creates friction and heat.  This means that Europa (and we know this to be true now) is harboring a liquid ocean underneath a crust ice.  We certainly don’t know all the particulars (like just how thick the ice is, or what type of ocean (salt water, etc)) but we do know it’s water.  And it’s been there a while. Which usually leads me down the path of what that life would look like or behave like in that environment. What is that life doing right now, so far away.

So I created a whale like species, that has evolved a rudimentary sentience. They exist much closer to the warm molten core of the floor of the ocean.  They breed in litters, and use sonar as their primary sensory and communication mechanism, but they also have primitive sight as well.  The breeding cycle is slightly predatory, in that the females are somewhat larger as to support the litter, the male is strong but somewhat smaller.  After a mating ritual involving song, the male latches himself to the female and they ascend far beyond the warmth of the lower levels, all the way up to near the ice crust where the temperature is much lower but the light is much brighter (from the reflection of Jupiter).  The male inserts his genetic information to fertilize the male, and casts away from her. 

She remains in the cold layer above the natural predator zone of their species in order to give birth. The ascension requires all the energy reserves of the male, only the strongest and youngest ever make it back down, and no male survives a second trip.  The vast majority die after mating once.

And this species, through natural selection, is going extinct. So there are so few of them, males and females swim their whole lives sometimes never finding a mate to make the journey before they die. So I thought of a story about a male nearing the end of his life without finding someone, and then he suddenly does. But he cant stay with her long or court her or really bond with her, he has to mate quickly, knowing that in that act he’ll die.

I know, cheerful right?  Bright, airy, suitable for spring?  So instead of writing a short story about it, which was where I wanted to go with it, I forced myself to do something infinitely more hard.

I turned it into a song.

Well, lyrics.  I mean I have a tune in mind. My musical training is that from age 5 to 16 I played Piano and Violin. I could read sheet music, determine time by ear, tune my Violin without a pitch pipe. I don’t know enough nearing age forty to look back and say I was good or talented, I just know the basic facts of what I could do at the time.

Sadly the actual playing of music and all of that skill drifted out of my life like responsible awesome things are discarded by 16 year olds. So recently when I recorded the audio version of my book A Microsoft Life, I decided to see if I had it in me to create music by writing an original song.

I did, at best, ok.  And it was stunningly difficult.  Not that I thought it would be easy, but more so that at least with some musical training I could rediscover it.  Yeah, no.  Add to the fact I *wanted* it to sound a tad awkward and “podcasty.”  So even when I hit what I thought was objectively good in pitch or tone, I had to re-record to up the awkward.*

In fact were it not for the help of my friend John Drake I’d still be coming up with the music to go with the lyrics. Again, I had a tune, and a meter/rhyme scheme. And I knew how I wanted the song to sound for the joke that it served on the audiobook. But that didn’t mean I had a song.  It meant I had bad high school poetry.

So why not do it again!

I’m presenting the following “song” under the same Creative Commons license for this site.  I know I’m not a music writer so I’m casting this one out to the Internet.  I know enough musical folk that if it’s something they feel is good, someone will adapt it.

Feel free to take this and make your own music to the lyrics you perform, but you can’t sell it or include it on a commercial album or other avenue without my permission under a new license. I know I don’t know music like I would like (hell I’m not sure I know words like I would like) but this was a super challenging exercise and even if you read it and go “wow that’s bad high school poetry” I feel like at least I hit above the bar I set for myself.  So feel free to take this and make it into a song, my only credit is “Lyrics: Stephen Toulouse” if you do it for free.

If you want to know what tune I have in my head for it,  email me and I will consider sending along a sample. Oh also there’s undoubtedly meter and rhyme fuck ups below so if you would prefer to tweak a word or two fine.  That’s a derivative work, you just can’t sell it.

Oh one last thing: I have no idea if this is good or not, I’m not presenting it as a “good song.”  I’m saying I wrote something in a genre not in my wheelhouse. Hrmm I should call that “Bad High School Poetry.”



In my mind, the red glow lasts forever
and in my dream you’re searching through it too
the lesser life don’t know what we’ve forgotten,
I fear that we’re the last ones, me and you.

I was told the sky ends in a ceiling
but without you I’ll never see its light
I know it takes your strength and mine to reach it
my one way trip with you through end of night

I need to find you soon
so we can reach,
the ceiling of the sky

It’s been so long since I have heard another 
ages past the chorus of us all
Where did they go, all of our wondrous singers
My voice no longer echoes when I call

Then in the distance I can hear your singing
Relief and love mix in my glad reply
Joined we’ll make anew another choir
And we will see the ceiling of the sky

We must leave here soon
so we can reach,
the ceiling of the sky

You form out of the dim warm light and hear me.
You ask me if I understand the price.
I’ve spent my life afraid of lonely silence.
Our choir’s voice is worth my sacrifice.

Couldn’t we simply remain together,
The question in your song is what I fear.
We’d only ever hear our lonely voices,
And my life and journey’s end is here.

Now we’re on our way
so we can reach,
the ceiling of the sky

Wrapped together, the journey begins.
my strength and love I add to you.
I know I will not last here
the light and cold grow strong

But the voices we make will be clear…

I can hear them as the light grows near…

And I give you what we all hold dear…

I hear your cry, as weak, I break away.
The deed is done, you climb still further through
I see it now so bright and cold and lifeless
The ceiling of the sky embraces you.

Fading now I gave my life for children.
The chorus will live on a little while.
If one’s a male I hope he won’t be lonely 
I hope like me, he’ll sing with grace and style.

I’ll never hear his voice.
And now I die,
by the ceiling of the sky.

One comment

  1. Scot Mackay says:

    Even without the background story, this song has some incredible emotion to it.  A great song is a song that anyone can listen to and have an emotional reaction to.  I think you have achieved this wonderfully.
    The last verse is wonderful, saddening and poignant.

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