Music, muses, and me.
It’s no coincidence that computers and pianos both have keyboards. Keyboards serve as the bridge guiding the artist and/or author along the path of creation that connects their soul to the completed work of art, be it a musical composition or written word.
Which is why, possibly, music is such a major motivator when I sit down to write, compose, create. It feeds my soul and provides the sustenance needed to move along the arduous journey my writing leads me.
My keyboard and a reminder from my son, Anthony.
I used to be able to sing really well when I was younger. I even made it to District Chorus in high school—huge surprise if you’ve ever heard me sing as an adult. But I was labelled the bookworm and writer and brainiac growing up, and my older sister, Janie, was the singer. So anytime I tried to sing I was shut down. It was almost sacrilegious to try to break out of the molds that each of us had been cast into. She sang. I wrote. Her keyboard was a guitar. Mine was a pen and paper.
Janie and her guitar in 8th grade, Selden, NY.
Music has motivated me throughout my life. Janie and I would write poetry and songs together as kids. As we grew up and lived our own lives, she would call me and sing songs over the phone. I would mail her poetry (yes, pre-email!). We were always linked in this way. Growing up, my big sis also proved to be a great influence on my musical choices. She introduced me to all the greats especially Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks.
So, four years ago, when I started working on TEN BUCKS AND A WISH, I tapped into my musical muses. My greatest motivator for my first contemporary romance released by Soul Mate Publishing was Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy album. I still possess this well-worn, memorized album of my youth. I knew it inside out, as did Janie. Someone Saved My Life Tonight was a song we’d belt at the top of our lungs. I still do, when no one is home.
Elton’s collection of songs depicting his early days and the struggles they went through as starving artists must have been played thousands of times via Apple Music as I created the final version of TEN BUCKS AND A WISH. I relived my youth by listening to and singing the lyrics I’d memorized more than four decades ago, while writing the scenes born from my days of growing up in Selden, Long Island, New York (aka Olde Westfield in TEN BUCKS AND A WISH).
For LOVE IN THE FOREST, I played a mix. This was my attempt at a Pagan romance, so I played a lot of Omnia, Damh the Bard, Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac. But good ole Elton crept back in when I hit brick walls and didn’t know where to go with the story. It seems BITTER FINGERS and WRITING off of Captain Fantastic is the key to unlocking my muse. “Will the things we wrote today sound as good tomorrow?” (Elton John and Bernie Taupin) Someone Saved My Life Tonight was playing when I wrote Brooke’s death scene, which came about very unexpectedly and heralded the beginning of four tumultuous years of self discovery and salvation and transformation. Very fitting. But that’s another blog.
I immediately jumped into Book 2 of the Earth and Sky series and this is where things got weird. Which is weird in itself because everyone who knows me kind of categorizes my whole life as weird. So for me to say things get weird, it’s off the charts weird. In LIFE IS FOR LIVING, Barefoot Dan and Jayde TOLD ME what to play. I’d never been a big fan of Coldplay, but apparently these two lovers were diehard fans. So I checked out Coldplay and much to my surprise, the music coincided with the story line. Songs like DADDY, and LIFE IS FOR LIVING, and quite a few others helped me stay in the head of the characters as I struggled with their angst, turmoil, heart break and finally their healing. It was an amazing journey. Crazy thing about this book was that I’d created the title before I even knew who the characters were going to be, way before they even told me about Coldplay. Life is for Living is a mantra I’ve followed since my sister Jane passed in 2007. I even had a column called this with the newspaper I used to work for, Richfield Springs Mercury back then. It was synchronicity, serendipity maybe, that Dan and Jayde brought me together with Coldplay.
As I wrapped up LIFE IS FOR LIVING/Earth and Sky Series Book 2, the concept for LOST IN YOUR RHYTHM came to me. I couldn’t wrap up Book 2 fast enough. The characters for Book 3 were banging on the door, demanding attention. I continued listening to Coldplay as I introduced myself to Liza and Jack, but it turned out they did not really like Coldplay. They were really into Imagine Dragons. In fact, I soon learned Jack had done an internship with them while he was studying music. I’d never really listened to Imagine Dragons before. My husband and Research Assistant (You know David from previous blogs) had tried to turn me on to this band years ago, but I wasn’t into them.
So when I learned that Liza loved them, I had to give them a try. Not gonna lie, it took me a while to adjust to this selection of music, but after a few weeks of playing their songs repeatedly as I grappled with the outline and details of the story, I realized they were a perfect fit for Jack and Liza, and ultimately LOST IN YOUR RHYTHM Book 3 of the Earth and Sky Series.
Dangerous, Dancing in the Dark, Monday, Polaroid, Hopeless Opus, Smoke and Mirrors… these are a few of the songs that provided inspiration. It was difficult since I had not followed Imagine Dragons, to make sure Liza and Jack did not reference songs that did not sync up with the timeline of the story, but they helped me out.
LOST IN YOUR RHYTHM was the most difficult story to write thus far. I was writing totally out of my element, about characters I really did not relate to, who had journeys that were fairly similar to things I’d dealt with but way beyond anything I knew well. In fact, my love of drumming, my own battles with cancer and depression, and loving the idea of love were the foundation of our relationship. I’d vowed to my readers that this was going to be the hottest book of all, and it was. But I had to make sure the sex scenes weren’t gratuitous or forced. In the end, I cut a few scenes out completely because I felt they just didn’t work.
I had the cover picked out the same time I picked out the cover art for LIFE IS FOR LIVING. I knew this was what I wanted, even though previously I agonized over the cover art selections of each release with Soul Mate Publishing.
So here I am, waiting for my publisher to get back to me after her first read. She’s either going to tell me “this one rocks,” or “rewrite the whole damn thing because it sucks.”
I really hope it doesn’t suck.
So, yeah. This is how music serves as my muse.
I’m now focusing on marketing, getting LOST IN YOUR RHYTHM ready to roll out, and figuring out what my next writing project will be. I have a few ideas, but at this point my brain is fried and I have real life telling me to take a break for the holidays. I’ve tried warning everyone (in my real life) that depends on what the next characters want to do.
If they start waking me up in the middle of the night to introduce themselves I have to listen. If they beckon, I go. If they summon, I obey. I will give you a hint though. I’ve been introduced to a man named Ambrose Morgan, a cowboy who comes to Earth and Sky and sweeps E&S counselor Mandy off her feet. (You’ve met Mandy in all three E&S books). Cowboys are NOT Mandy’s type. She goes for the city slickers like Derek or Armand in Books 1 and 3. You’ve been warned. I imagine that sound track will have a lot of music clash – country vs techno maybe? Hm. We will see. I don’t really listen to either, but then again, it’s not about me, is it?
As you can see, once my characters start playing their music for me, I have no choice but to sit down at my keyboard and be their accompaniment as we weave our next composition of music and words, telling a tale of dreams, heartbreak, healing, and happily ever afters.
Speaking of music, if you want to check out the playlists I created for each of the Earth and Sky Series books, click on the links below:
LIFE IS FOR LIVING – Barefoot Dan’s Playlist
LIFE IS FOR LIVING – Jayde’s Playlist
As I finish this blog, Elton John is singing “And just like us, you must have had a once upon a time…”
See? Muse. Always there. Always willing to lend a hand. Always calling me, beckoning, beckoning. And, as Imagine Dragons sang, “there’s nothing left to say now…”