Tag Archives: The Mussorgsky Riddle

A day long awaited…

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Came home tonight to a beautiful thing: the final version of the cover for The Mussorgsky Riddle. Thanks to Polina Sapershteyn for the fantastic job she did. I cannot, unfortunately, reveal the cover as yet, but I wanted to share my excitement with all of you. One step closer!

Plan to reveal the cover soon, but for now, Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks by Modest Mussorgsky as illustrated by Natasha Turovsky to celebrate this incredible milestone.

All best, Darin

Mussorgsky Mondays – Hear ye, Hear ye


So, it’s been another three weeks. Still catching up and enjoying the summer, but wanted to keep everyone up to speed on all the goings on in my little world.

#1 – We have a date! Well, sort of. Curiosity Quills has named 12 Jan 2015 as a “proposed” release date for The Mussorgsky Riddle. This is a Monday, which seems quite appropriate, don’t you think? All the edits and proof reading are in and the big thing we are waiting on (that I am waiting on, especially, with bated breath, even) is the cover.  This is currently in the very capable hands of Polina Sapershteyn, a graphic designer in New York City who went so far as to read the manuscript to ensure she captured the right flavor of the book. Her design is intriguing and I can’t wait to see a more finished version of her idea. Till we have a cover, however, all dates will remain in the “proposed” category.

#2 – My story, “Midnight Screening,” was officially accepted into Emby Press’s anthology, Reconstructing the Monster tonight. I will have four stories in Emby Anthologies hopefully by the end of the year, if they are all out before January 1st. Pretty exciting time to be a monster hunter.

#3 – I also have a short story coming out in CQ’s annual anthology. “Flight of the Pegasus” is my first foray into steampunk, but hopefully won’t be my last.

#4 – Work continues on my new project, code named “Operation: Ghost Story.” All but the last chapter is done and I am going through the critiques of my alpha readers/critique group finally after being busy with edits on MR for several months. This story is shaping up quite nicely. I had promised it to my agent by my birthday, but that ship has sailed, so now I’m aiming to have it in before Labor Day. Keep me in your thoughts and prayers… 😉

#5 – Lastly, trying to get something together for Dark Hall Press’s Techno Horror Anthology. Just started tonight. It’s got a little bit of a 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe. We’ll see how it turns out…

And now, a little something from my man Modest. Here is Mussorgsky’s, A Tear, for your listening pleasure.

All best, Darin



Mussorgsky Mondays – Another year…

MI0001141288Today is my 43rd birthday. It’s funny. I neither get terribly excited about birthdays anymore, nor do I bemoan them. I simply recognize them for what they are. A signpost. You have travelled this far, and still have (hopefully) far to go. The last year has been filled with many triumphs and joys, some defeats and tears, but overall the year of “Life, the Universe, and Everything” has treated me well.

To celebrate my birthday, which happened to come on a Mussorgsky Monday this year, I decided to put a little something special on today’s blog. The link below will take you to a one hour presentation on Pictures, both the original piano per Mussorgsky and the orchestral arrangement per Ravel, all told through the lens of the Chicago Symphony and their conductor at the time, Sir Georg Solti. What makes this a real treat, however, is that Solti interrupts on the video with vignettes about each of the movements, effectively breaking down this masterwork into its various components and explaining what makes it work and why we are still listening to it over a hundred years after it was written. His insights into the music are quite enlightening and make this video a great companion piece to my upcoming book, The Mussorgsky Riddle.

Please enjoy Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony as they play Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

All best, Darin

Sir Georg Solti plays, conducts, and explains Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition

Mussorgsky Mondays – Update on The Mussorgsky Riddle, and a bit on editing…


Hope everyone is enjoying their Memorial Day today. It is a time of reflection, so reflect on the many men and women in uniform who have sacrificed so that we can live in such a great country, but don’t let the naysayers get you down about enjoying time with your family and friends. Americans work far too hard to start with, so enjoy the day. Me, I’m about to go hike Crowder’s Mountain – only 20% chance of rain, so we’ll see what happens… On to the update. On February 28th, 2014, Curiosity Quills Press, a small (but growing!) publishing house out of Leesburg, VA, expressed interest in publishing The Mussorgsky Riddle and by mid March, my agent and I had negotiated the various aspects of the contract and it was all official. Many of you may be wondering what I’ve been doing since. First, Lisa Gus, the acquisitions editor and co-owner of CQ Press, had about ten plot points that she wanted me to massage out in the story. Some of these were easy and some were a bit more work. All in all, however, even the two changes that seemed the hardest and that seemed to threaten destroying the nice bow I had tied on the end of the story, actually improved the story ending. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when someone points out a problem in your writing, they may not be technically “right” by your estimation of what the story needs, but just the fact that something in the story “tripped” them means that someone else is going to “trip” too. Therefore, that’s the section of story carpet that needs to be tacked down more carefully. Don’t want our readers to fall and hurt themselves, now do we? All of Lisa’s suggestions at the very least clarified the story, and the two big changes at the end actually revealed to me that there was one more layer to the onion I hadn’t considered. My lesson? Even when the suggested change seems like it’s painful, a lot of work, or even wrong, look for a way to use the suggestion to improve your story. I did, and it paid off. Once Lisa had okayed the story, I was transitioned to my actual editor for the project, Sharon Pickrel, who did a fantastic job. She did a story pass in record time and I got those changes back to her. Then she did a grammar pass, again in record time and again I incorporated those changes as well. Then she did a third pass, sort of a pre-proofreading, and I got all those changes back to her last night. Hopefully this is the “final” edit, though it does go before proofreaders now to look for typos. After that I will get one more look at the content to ensure I’m happy with everything. What I learned during this step is that the better self-edited your book is before it goes to the editor, the better off you are. Sharon told me multiple times how “clean” a manuscript I’d sent, and still there were many, many things she found that needed to be fixed. So, to all you writers out there: go find those adverbs and slay them, go make sure your commas have a degree from Oxford (if appropriate), and work on getting rid of filtering, etc. (look it up) Read widely from blogs and websites that teach how to self-edit and GET IT DONE. In the end, this is your project, but your editor’s fresh set of eyes is a resource of which you should take full advantage. What’s next? The manuscript has been sent back to CQ and after the above-mentioned pass by the proofreaders, CQ will start on cover design, interior layout, pricing, and other aspects necessary to bring this book to life. There is no release date as yet (the piece of information I’m the most interested in)  but I’m hoping that we have this one out before Christmas. I’d love for MR to be available for gifts, stocking stuffers, and the like, but mostly, as a great Christmas gift to me. It’s been my dream for a LONG time to hold a book I wrote in my hands, and it looks like that dream is about to come true. More updates as we get closer, but for now I will leave you to your barbecues, your swimming pools, and your remembrances of our fallen heroes. Happy Memorial Day, everyone. Darin

Mussorgsky Mondays – The Art of Natasha Turovsky, Part 2

Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks - Turovsky

Here’s Part 2 of the awesome art and music show from artist Natasha Turovsky. Enjoy!


Art of Natasha Turovsky – Pictures at an Exhibition, Part 2

Mussorgsky Mondays – The Art of Natasha Turovsky, Part 1

Natasha Turovsky

I happened to come upon a contemporary artist who loves Mussorgsky at least as much as I do. Her name is Natasha Turovsky, and this week and next, I will be posting links to two of her YouTube pages where she has put a lot of her paintings (and original Viktor Hartmann pieces) to the music of Pictures at an Exhibition. Her stuff is beautiful, in a surrealist sort of way. Check out her stuff and tell her I said hi. Maybe I’ll run into her some day. I think we’d have a lot to talk about…


Art of Natasha Turovsky – Pictures at an Exhibition, Part 1

Mussorgsky Mondays – The Influence of Viktor Hartmann


Anyone who has done any research into the composition of Pictures at an Exhibition knows that this masterpiece was based on Mussorgsky’s experience of visiting a posthumous art exhibition featuring various paintings and other works created by his good friend, Viktor Hartmann. Many of the original pictures are lost to posterity, but there are many good sources about the various pieces that still exist and good conjecture about the ones that are gone. I found the linked article particularly illuminating as I was writing the story. I didn’t always keep to the facts, for at times the story all but demanded I take some dramatic license, but many of the basics are found here. Take a look. These paintings and others like them were what prompted a master to compose one of the most immortal pieces of music ever crafted. Also, show the writer of the article some love, if you will.

The Influence of Viktor Hartmann.

Mussorgsky Mondays – Scheherazade, played by the Vienna Philharmonic


If Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition provides the setting and plot of my upcoming novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle, then Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade provides the character.

As psychic Mira Tejedor invades young Anthony Faircloth’s mind again and again in an effort to free him from his self-imposed prison, she adopts the guise and abilities of Scheherazade, the storyteller from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. The “Scheherazade theme,” heard first at the one minute mark of the video below, is the melody in the story that comes back again and again, bringing Mira to Anthony’s aide throughout the novel. Whether hummed from the comatose boy’s mouth, or echoing through the grand Exhibition his mind has created to protect him from a far too cruel world, this theme is his saving grace, as is Mira herself.

Listen to the entire piece when you have opportunity. Just as Mussorgsky returns to the “Promenade” theme throughout Pictures at an Exhibition as the unifying melody, so does Rimsky-Korsakov use the storyteller’s solo “violin voice” to provide the musical throughline for Scheherazade. If the whole piece is her telling the Arabian Nights, then the violin moments are her taking a breather between stories and letting the listener hear her own voice. Brilliant, no?

And just as “Promenade” is different throughout Pictures at an Exhibition, so is Scheherazade’s theme different each time it’s heard. Cautious the first time, solemn the second, impetuous the third. Listen as she and the Sultan argue as the 4th movement begins, and more importantly, how they come to an understanding at the end of the piece. I wish I could write with words half as deftly as Rimsky-Korsakov writes with music.

And with that I will leave you to enjoy Scheherazade, as played by the Vienna Philharmonic in 2005. They play this piece a lot faster than I’m used to hearing it, but this is still a kick ass performance.

Oh, and I totally dig the conductor’s hair.

Mussorgsky Mondays – Evgeny Kissin plays Pictures at an Exhibition



So why is this guy playing piano? Pictures at an Exhibition is a full orchestral piece, right?

Mussorgsky originally wrote Pictures as a suite for piano, and what the incomparable Evgeny Kissin is playing here is the original. This guy is pretty phenomenal. Watch his fingers move when he plays the last couple bars of Gnomus. I’m pretty sure I could practice the rest of my life and not play that two seconds of music correctly. And the end of The Marketplace at Limoges? That gets my official OMG for April (I allow myself one per month.) I guess that’s why the man has a full concert hall hanging on his every keystroke, right?

Many composers over the years have set Mussorgsky’s original piano score to a full orchestra, and none more famous than Ravel. Fear not, Ravel’s arrangement will be making appearance on this blog before long. There are a whole lot of Monday’s between now and the big release of The Mussorgsky Riddle and you should all be well versed in the music in question long before one Mira Tejedor hits the city and everything hits the fan.

By the way, if anyone can legitimately ask me why I wrote a book about this particular piece of music after watching this incredible performance, I know a couple of good psychiatrists who can help you.

And without further ado, Evgeny Kissin. (Who, ironically, was apparently born 3 months, 10 days after me…)


Mussorgsky Mondays – All Russian Night with the Charlotte Symphony


A quick aside from the talented Mr. Mussorgsky, as Charlotte Symphony brought us and all-Russian evening this weekend featuring some other greats from our brothers on the other side of the globe.

What an impressive night.

They started with a fantastic performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op. 36 (for those keeping score, Scheherazade is Op. 35 and he wrote these simultaneously as far as I know). This one was actually my favorite of the evening as it was old school RK (no, not R. Kelly) and the moving parts in the middle really, well, move. When classical can make you tap your foot, that’s pretty awesome.

Next up was Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 which showed some impressive violin playing by the night’s soloist. I wasn’t as familiar with this piece, but I enjoyed watching this unique piece being performed.

The soloist for the Prokofiev piece is normally the first violinist of the symphony and in his soloist role of the evening came back out and played a beautiful true violin solo in honor of a member of the orchestra who had recently passed. Beautiful and moving, I’m not sure what this piece was, but it was a fitting musical epitaph.

Lastly, they performed Stravinsky’s ballet, Petrouchka. A bit modern for my tastes, but still quite enjoyable. Though this was first performed in 1911, it’s amazing to me to hear how different the composition is when compared to Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and others of the previous generation. I plan to continue to check out Stravinsky and his various works, but I don’t know if they’ll ever touch my heart the way Pictures at an Exhibition has.

And with that, I bid you all a happy Monday. By the way, in case you haven’t checked out a calendar, this coming weekend is Easter. Check out the Rimsky-Korsakov piece above this week, as it is the season, and let me know what you think.