An Invitation to the RRBC Writers’ Conference & Book Expo

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After a bit of a hiatus on my blog due to writing projects — and to life itself — I’m happy to report that this week I’ll be a participant in the inaugural RRBC Writer’s Conference and Book Expo — a virtual book fair Dec. 1-3, sponsored by the ever-innovative Rave Reviews Book Club (for more info on RRBC click here).

The live link will not be unveiled until late on Nov. 30, but come back to this post then to access the various “Author Booths” of fiction and nonfiction writers from around the world. Right before the holidays – a perfect time to find new “reads”! The conference will also feature “Vendor Booths” for those seeking professional services. There will be so many resources for writers, readers and more, all on virtual display from Dec. 1-3.

My Author Booth will feature more on my novel, Bravura, part one of The Music We Made novel series about three generations of the Driscoll family of musicians. My Vendor Booth will highlight my professional writing and editing services that are the culmiation of 25 years of high-end experience.

Hope to see you there soon. Onward!

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An Interview with RRBC’s “Rave Waves Buy the Book”

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Yesterday I was honored to be interviewed by author Beem Weeks for one of the weekly online radio shows of the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC). Entitled “Rave Waves Buy The Book,” the show features a different author for a half-hour each week, highlighting their latest work and taking questions from Twitter.

It’s one of the many resources for authors that comes as part of membership in the Rave Reviews Book Club. For more information on how to join RRBC, click here.

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The “Raves Waves Buy the Book” show yesterday centered on my novel, “Bravura,” which I’ve shared about on this blog previously. The book follows a group of young classical musicians in 1960’s London and beyond.

But the show gives some insights into the book and my writing process which I hadn’t shared on the blog before. So I thought it would be great to have the interview speak for itself as my post this week.

Enjoy! And onward.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ravereviewsbookclub/2016/04/16/rrbc-rave-waves-blogtalkradio-buy-the-book-with-lisa-kirazian

 

 

 

Do You Hear the People Sing?

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It’s hard not to think of the heroic music and theme of Les Miserables when mourning the Paris attacks this weekend. And those in Beirut. And all the other places around the world where terrorism has hit in recent months.

In the Victor Hugo book and the musical Les Miserables, we see that France’s democratic revolutionaries in 1789 and 1832 had to endure ‘reigns of terror’ as well. They fought against awful odds for their freedom, fighting for democracy and a new way of life. Factions and divisions, political power struggles and regime changes everywhere. Young people caught in the crossfire. The same ideals as those which were attacked this past Friday, and on 9/11, and at so many other points. Some things never change, some battles seem to never end. In Les Miserables, we see this constant struggle in the checkered but redeemed life of Jean Valjean, set against the backdrop of a Paris in post-Napoleonic rebellion. On Friday, we saw it in the robbery of innocent lives taken at the Bataclan, the Stade de France, and along the unsuspecting streets of the City of Light.

Do You Hear the People Sing? Sadly, many of them have been silenced on earth. But we hear their song from the heavens, even as we saw so powerfully at the conclusion of Les Miserables, when Jean Valjean dies among loved ones ‘past and present,’ and joins the chorus of the beloved martyrs who gave their lives for France’s freedom (see the film version in the link below).

Truth can never be silenced. Truth is eternal. Good will win, evil will lose, eventually — though many consider that a naïve approach, with so much suffering in the interim, yes — but it is long stated in the oldest of texts and scriptures in one way or another. Victory will come. “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

But in the meantime, we toil. People hurt each other. Misrepresent each other. Kill each other in body or spirit or mind or heart. Our imperfect efforts to counteract such evil and mean-spiritedness never seem enough. We can only hold fast to what we know to be true, holy, integrous. We can only ask God for another chance each morning, and try our best to keep the faith and live out our values, one day at a time, until tomorrow, if we’re blessed to have it come; we can only pray and serve, seek forgiveness, and love and take care of each other best we can.

Because…“To love another person is to see the face of God…”

Onward.

“Do You Hear The People Sing?” (Reprise Finale)

Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light.

For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.

They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord.
We will walk behind the ploughshare;
We will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward.

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

What I Learned as a #RRBC Book of the Month

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I had the distinct honor and pleasure of my novel Bravura being selected as a Book of the Month by the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC) in October.

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It was a tremendous month. I saw sales of the book increase. More reviews of the book came in on Amazon and other sites. Increased attention on Twitter came in the form of new followers, retweets, and so on.

But more than gaining numbers, I also learned a great deal from the Book of the Month process. The lessons will stay with me far beyond the month of October 2015:

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More on BRAVURA – RRBC Book of the Month

We love who we can, while we can.” – Maggie Crawford, BRAVURA.

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Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m so grateful that my novel BRAVURA was selected as an October Book of the Month by the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC). It feels like a big (early) birthday present!

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UPDATE: I’m so pleased to say that as a result of being selected as a RRBC Book of the Month, more people are reading, reviewing and providing valuable feedback to me than ever before. I’m extremely grateful for this learning experience. AND I’m thrilled to be getting to know many more authors and readers out there — many of whom I perhaps would not have ‘met’ if it weren’t for this special month.

NEW: BRAVURA, and The Music We Made book series, are now on Pinterest! To visit, click here! And to visit the book’s Facebook page, click here.

This is the first time a work of mine has been selected as a Book of the Month anywhere, and recently I enjoyed having the novel selected for an east coast woman’s book club, another first, which was a joy as well.

I’m grateful for this opportunity — and thrilled that fellow readers and authors are getting to know my work better, just as I am so glad to be getting to know theirs.

Click here for more info on the three books selected as RRBC October Books of the Month, including works by authors Jason Zandri and Rea Nolan Martin.

My fellow Book of the Month-ers and I enjoyed a great online chat with the RRBC Book Club Discussion this past Thursday. Thanks to all of those who stopped by and participated!

Again, if you are a reader or author, please consider joining RRBC, as it is a tremendous resource for writers and writing, and a fantastic source of new works.

ABOUT BRAVURA

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The first book in The Music We Made series, BRAVURA, is inspired by my experiences as a violinist. It follows a group of young classical musicians from 1960’s London to the present. We watch siblings Kate Driscoll (an inspired violinist) and Neil Driscoll (a troubled pianist) and their circle of friends and loves go from childhood auditions to conservatoire to the world stage, and the challenges they face onstage and off.

For me, the whole series is a love letter to music, a valentine to musicians.  Its theme quote is TS Eliot’s memorable line: “You are the music while the music lasts.”

The first scene of what became BRAVURA came to me after one of my violin lessons as a teenager and didn’t let me go for the next thirty years. The trajectory of how this book came about is detailed in my blog post, “The Journey of an Idea,” (click here).

You can read the first chapter of BRAVURA here.  It’s been featured on Literary Fiction Book Review here. And you can watch the book trailer to BRAVURA here:

Purchase BRAVURA on Amazon here

The next book in the series, APPASSIONATO, comes out this Winter 2016.

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It follows an artist of the next generation, Jenny Driscoll, a composer and conductor, navigating her personal and professional life in London in the 1990’s. You can watch the trailer here.

I hope you take time this month to check out BRAVURA on Kindle or paperback. Thanks for all of who you already have! Feedback and reviews always welcome. And thanks again to RRBC for selecting the novel as an October Book of the Month!

Onward!

My Website

My Amazon Author Page

Twitter: @kirazian, @TheMusicWeMade.  Instagram: lisakirazian

Behind BRAVURA – RRBC Book of the Month

Bravura_2final

It’s a pleasure to share that my novel BRAVURA was selected as an October Book of the Month by the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC). It feels like a big (early) birthday present!

This is the first time a work of mine has been selected as a Book of the Month anywhere, and recently I enjoyed having the novel selected for an east coast woman’s book club, another first, which was a joy as well.

I’m grateful for this opportunity — and thrilled that fellow readers and authors are getting to know my work better, just as I am so glad to be getting to know theirs.

Click here for more info on the three books selected as RRBC October Books of the Month, including works by authors Jason Zandri and Rea Nolan Martin.

My fellow Book of the Month-ers and I will be chatting online with host author Jan Hawke in RRBC’S Book Club Discussion this Thursday, October 15th at 2pm CST (12 noon PST) at this link.

If you are a reader or author, please consider joining RRBC, as it is a tremendous resource for writers and writing, and a fantastic source of new works.

BEHIND BRAVURA

A longform television script I wrote years ago became the basis for my first novel series, The Music We Made, about three generations of the Driscoll family of musicians in London. From 1960’s London to the present, we follow siblings Kate Driscoll (an inspired violinist) and Neil Driscoll (a troubled pianist) and their circle of friends and loves — from childhood auditions to conservatoire to the world stage, and the challenges they face onstage and off.

For me, the series is a love letter to music, a valentine to musicians.  Its theme quote is TS Eliot’s memorable line: “You are the music while the music lasts.”

BRAVURA is the first book in the series, inspired by my experiences as a violinist. The first scene came to me coming out of one of my violin lessons as a teenager and didn’t let me go for the next thirty years. The trajectory of how this book came about is detailed in my blog post, “The Journey of an Idea,” (click here).

You can read the first chapter of BRAVURA here.  It’s been featured on Literary Fiction Book Review here. And you can watch the book trailer to BRAVURA here:

Purchase BRAVURA on Amazon here

The next book in the series, APPASSIONATO, comes out this Winter 2016. It follows an artist of the next generation, Jenny Driscoll, a composer and conductor, navigating her personal and professional life in London in the 1990’s.

I hope you take time this month to check out BRAVURA on Kindle or paperback. Feedback and reviews always welcome. And thanks again to RRBC for selecting the novel as an October Book of the Month!

Onward!

My Website

My Amazon Author Page

Twitter: @kirazian, @TheMusicWeMade.  Instagram: lisakirazian

Reflecting on a July 4th Favorite: Yankee Doodle Dandy

Yankee Doodle Dandy, 1942 (Through 2:46)

Anyone who knows movies knows that the brass section of the Warner Bros. Studio Orchestra was like no other. Whether scoring a Bugs Bunny cartoon, Bogart film or Errol Flynn swashbuckler, their trumpets are instantly recognizable, and warming to the soul.

Like in Yankee Doodle Dandy, the 1942 James Cagney film that won him an Oscar for Best Actor portraying the song and dance man and Broadway actor/composer/producer, George M. Cohan — who crafted the famous songs Grand Old Flag, Over There, Give My Regards to Broadway, and of course the title song. The above scene is one of the greatest musical dance numbers ever put on film.

Here on this July 4th weekend, hearing those heralding trumpets again, and through all my years, I was reminded how special this film has been to our family in so many ways.

My mother always says that when I was just a toddler, I’d get up on the piano bench during the famous scene above, and I would start dancing with glee on my face.

As a bigger kid, I’d practice and practice this dance routine in the living room or garage and imitate it best I could — as well as the final scene when the elder George dances down the stairs of the White House after receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor from FDR:

Then as a pre-teen, I was struck by what a bratty stage kid young George was, and how his arrogance hurt his family’s opportunities on the vaudeville circuit. And yet I loved how wonderfully kind and humble he became later in life, with the right discipline, guidance and wisdom from his family and friends. Strong yet gentle. It made me think of my own parents raising us while juggling so many demands — their example, and Cohan’s, made me want to be a better writer for the stage myself, and a better person.

Later, the film shaped my view of our country, of how art can touch people in times of crisis, and how our personal integrity and loyalty to family are far more important than our success.

And finally, now more than ever, watching it with our daughters, this film reminds me that I’m so grateful for the freedom to live each day that comes our way, to worship God, to celebrate together as family and friends on weekends like this, and to share the truths that matter most with our precious children.

My mother thanks you…

My father thanks you…

My sister thanks you…

And I thank you…

Onward!

First Chapter: Appassionato

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Appassionato, the next novel in my series, “The Music We Made,” continues the story of three generations of the Driscoll family of musicians — from London and beyond.

After the first novel, Bravura, brought siblings Kate and Neil Driscoll and their circle of friends and loves, from the 1960s to the early 1990s, Appassionato begins as Neil’s daughter, composer/conductor Jenny Driscoll, begins her own professional career. The book will follow her from the 1990s to the present day, from young adulthood into middle age.

The Appassionato trailer can be seen here, with the first chapter following:

Chapter One

Jenny waited in the wings, her baton in hand. The orchestra tuned. Her Aunt Kate had always told her that in these few moments before stepping onstage, she would hear voices, sometimes even see an image flutter before her. So many things pulse through a performer before they step into the light. Jenny sometimes sensed these things too. Tonight, however, she saw and felt nothing. She only saw the conductor’s podium ahead, empty, surrounded by grey metal railing, ready to receive her without fanfare; the full symphonic orchestra, complete with all woodwinds, percussion, string basses, even piano.

When the concertmaster finished tuning, the audience ceased their murmurs, a moment of silent pervaded Royal Albert Hall.

Most in the seasoned audience did not know this young woman about to complete her graduate studies at the Royal School of Music — only 24 but seasoned beyond her years. Most saw at first only that she was stunning: trim and taller than average, brown, wavy hair long but fastened in part near the top, arms chiseled from now-four years of intense study in conducting, piano and composition.

Composition, the one thing that had eluded her famous musical family. Somehow, the heavens gave Jenny Driscoll this gift. Not her father Neil Driscoll, the seasoned pianist and instructor at Royal; not her late mother Maggie Crawford, the star American soprano gone too soon; not her surrogate mother, Kate Driscoll Andrews, the violinist and near-household-name who still toured the world; nor others in her circle of family and friends.

But Jenny had it. She heard music when she was stuck in traffic. When a lover breathed deeply beside her in the small hours of night and morning. She heard it in the buzz of a television when the Emergency Broadcast System invaded a show; she heard it when her computer and MIDI piano keyboard booted up in the morning. Jenny heard melodies and rhythms in the obvious and not at all obvious places — so much so that people at times wondered if she was listening to them when they opened up to her. Something about her wide brown eyes, her easy smile, made people want to talk to and be with Jenny; something in her face and body relayed the presence of a heart ready to embrace, ready to hear, ready to love, and yes, ready to attack if necessary. Very little drove her to that these days, like in her youth when she railed against a fate that she did not choose. Over the years she worked hard to fight her teenage demons. They were not entirely gone, but they were, for the most part, at bay. For now.

Tonight, Jenny would premiere her symphonic poem, Appassionato, her piece de resistance as she concluded graduate school, her final — composed in a form hearkening back to Liszt, Berlioz, Strauss — a continuous single movement inspired by another piece of art or triumph of nature. It was her tribute to all the influences that came before her — but its style, its pace and array of motifs were entirely of the current, the 1990’s, truly a transitional time in modern classical composition, she had come to learn from her professors. “Anything goes now,” they told her, “but your foundation and direction have to have their proper roots, their full understanding of the range of music.”

Appassionato was not based on a poem or novel, a painting, sculpture. Rather, it focused on the spiritual Passion of Christ, a tip of the hat to Handel and Bach, but in modern terms, as if Jesus walked the streets today and heard the chants of gangs, hung out with the homeless, heard the shots of guns, sat in urine and spit in an under-funded county jail, with inmates ready to have their way with him; endured the noise and chaos of a municipal courtroom, and an unjust execution by vigilantes in the woods fancying themselves righteous, carrying out ungodly acts where no one would see. The percussion section, for the first time they could recall, would have to slash whips and chains, stab truck tires, bang a car door, and slam a gavel repeatedly — alongside strings and winds pouring out passages of pain and love and sacrifice.

A single male voice, The Son, and a single female voice, The Mother, stood upstage center, and would be called on at key moments to vocalise wordless tones — groans of prayer, of agony, and eventually, of praise. A modern retelling, reliving, of his horror, which fascinated her ever since she first had to wrestle with death and God as an eight-year-old. And she had never been the same since.

Her choice had raised a few eyebrows among the agnostic faculty, but Jenny didn’t care. Once a creative idea entered her, it took hold and wouldn’t let go until she gave it everything she had. And even then, even on a night like this, it was still hard for her to let it go or consider it ‘finished.’

In that moment of silence in the wings, where so much raced through her mind, Jenny took a deep breath to push down the knots churning her insides. With no ghosts or murmurs in her ear or eye, she strode onto the stage.

Reaching the conductor’s podium, Jenny grabbed the grey square railing, turned toward the audience and bowed to them all, drinking in the spotlight and cascading applause. She waved her hand acknowledging the orchestra, shook the hand of the concertmaster, whom she knew from school, then resolutely turned around and stepped onto the podium, about eighteen inches from the stage floor and about three feet square. Her black music stand had been placed at the top middle of the square, her printed score atop it, full of handwritten notes she no longer needed to be reminded of.

With her eyes and slightly-elevated chin, she commanded the orchestra’s silence and respect. She raised her baton and began the downbeat, never needing to look at the score. Jenny knew this piece like every sunspot on her forearm, every scar from childhood, every high school diary entry. She knew when the woodwinds needed to breathe, when the violinists would change direction in their bow strokes, when the brass needed to wet their lips and reapply them to their mouthpieces for their solo transitions.

Although she wouldn’t always be on this pedestal when her works were introduced to the world, this was where she needed to be today, to complete her thesis at the Royal School, or RSM as many called it: onstage at Royal Albert Hall, enticing and entreating the notes out of the veteran musicians, who all had seen everything and perhaps didn’t care so much about the newbie leading them tonight. But the new girl, they had noted during rehearsal breaks the prior weeks, was an old soul; she had decades — centuries, really — of music in her bones, her cells and sinews. Look at the family she came from, they added.  She lived and breathed her composing and could stand her own with any of them, most of them admitted. Except the composer herself – even she, with all the pedigree in the world – found her insides thorny with self-doubt on many, many days.

Thirty minutes later, when she finished leading them through Appassionato with a flourish, Jenny turned back to the crowds, luminous in the hot light and bowing.

‘This is what you wanted for me,’ Jenny thought. ‘All those years of practice and training, harder than I’ve ever done anything. It all led me back here. Oh, Mom! I wanted so much for you to be here tonight! Some nights I still feel I could almost touch you, but then I can barely breathe. You make me fall to pieces, even now. Nothing, no one, will ever heal me of that.’

She bowed, deeply, holding the railing, squeezing her eyes shut, flooding with memory — the last birthday, the last letter, the last embrace.

Only Neil, her father in the audience, noticed and knew she was thinking of Maggie: his Maggie, to whom he still kissed the sky every day. He — and one other — noticed Jenny’s flush face holding it all back as she took her last bow and strode off the stage into the wings to catch her breath.

———————-

Onward. Appassionato will be released in Winter, 2015.

What’s in a Name…

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The kids and I made ornaments this weekend that I have a feeling will be favorites for a long time.

I saw a lovely and creative Christmas tree recently which, in addition to regular ornaments, had the various names for Jesus/God written on colorful, shaped paper. Simple and powerful words. So we did our own version on our tree this year.

Apparently, there are 100 such names in the Bible, all capturing a different quality or essence of God. Some, especially at this time of year, are very familiar: Immanuel, God with Us, King of Kings.

You can almost hear Handel’s Messiah, where the names soar forth in unison: “Wonderful! Counselor! The Mighty God! The Everlasting Father! The Prince of Peace…”

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The words are powerful. Christ’s 100 names, given by God, announced by angels and men alike, are a remarkable and comforting reminder of who he is — each one worth reflecting upon; and yet in his case even 100 names cannot capture all of who he is.

The 100 names also make me think of how we, as writers, often agonize over creating a name for the characters in our stories — something that gets their personality just right and subtly reflects their purpose in the story. Or coming up with the title of a work, which captures its spirit and core. So many possibilities…and we don’t want to mess it up. Do-overs are not really an option.

Similarly, I think of parents, carefully reading through name books or making lists to select their baby’s name — something which will be part of their identity for life. We want it to be empowering but not too limiting, right? Does that one sound too heavy? Is this too easy to mispronounce? Too long?

Or when a scientist discovers a cell or a star, a protein or a process; or when an inventor creates a new gadget or patent. What to name the thing that’s going to be one’s legacy? In textbooks and registries for decades to come?!

It’s not easy to name something. Scripture and literature, from Adam to Romeo and beyond, are full of references to the power and burden of names and naming. Maybe if we could have 100 names it would be easier too!

But one thing that all of these situations have in common is that it is a privilege to be the one who gets to name something. Or to title something. It is a heralding, a cementing-in of meaning.

The next time we name or title something, we can remember what a special opportunity it is. The words we choose are not only a reflection of what we are naming — they are a reflection of us as well.

Like the Virginia Woolf quote I saw mentioned on Twitter recently:
“If your life was a book title, what would it be?”

Onward!

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“Bravura” – Chapter One

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Kathleen adored the meadow outside her house in Somerset. The rustling, the chirping, the sweet smell of earth whispered music to her. Her mother could see this and decided it was time.

That night—no bomb scare on the radio, no blaring overhead—Mrs. Driscoll put five-year-old Kathleen to bed with great anticipation.

“Promise me you’ll listen,” Mrs. Driscoll said.

“All night?” Kathleen asked.

“Until you sleep. Like you do with the sounds of the meadow. Don’t get out of bed.”

“Why?”

“If you do as I ask, I’ll have a surprise for you in the morning.”

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