Getting all holly and jolly

Getting all holly and jolly

Sorry I am a day late posting–I was so busy writing the end of Near Enough to Hold, I lost track of days. 🙂

When I was in college, I worked at the Gallery II in Center City. To be more precise, I worked in B. Dalton’s in the Gallery II in Center City. I loved working in a bookstore, I hated the crappy pay. The benefit? My employee discount on all the books I could ever want. I also worked one year as an elf at a local department store at Christmas to earn a little extra money. Being an elf wasn’t always fun. Small children can be very naughty and their parents can make you wish you’d learned the Vulcan Death Grip when their self-centredness knew no bounds. The upside? The pay was good. The downside? Dealing with screaming kids, an itchy uniform and the constant rotation of Christmas carols. It was nonstop Christmas carols from November 1 until December 31. I was convinced I’d go postal if I heard Wham’s “Last Christmas” one more time. Now add to this the hysteria of stressed beyond belief people buying gifts they don’t really want or need and you can imagine how decidedly unfestive I was that year.

 

It took a while to get over my anti-Christmas carol sentiment. Nowadays, I can’t wait until I can begin listening to Christmas carols. I even have a favourite Christmas carol. Well, I actually have two. 🙂  One is “Carol of the Bells”; the other is “Up On the House Top”.  Both remind me of growing up in Philadelphia.

 

All I have to do is hear these two songs and I am transported back to being a kid out Christmas shopping with my dad, sitting on the floor by the eagle in John Wanamaker’s and watching the Christmas Light Show, and dreaming of what presents would be waiting under the tree for me. It’s been years since I spent Christmas in my hometown of Philadelphia, but hearing those two songs gets me all holly and jolly and brings the wonder of Christmas in Philly back to me in an instant. Hmm…now I am hungry for an open-faced turkey sandwich from the Amish deli counter in Reading Terminal…

What about you? Which Christmas carols are your faves?

Writing to the Beat

Writing to the Beat

Whenever I start a new writing project, I select a new playlist. After spending months with my hockey and baseball players, I was returning to my rock stars.

But when it came to the music, I was coming up empty. I didn’t have a playlist.

Aaahhh! (Cue the panic button.)

Usually, selecting music for my playlists is easy. (Often, it’s a single song on continual repeat.) But I couldn’t find the right mood. I know a lot of that had to do with other events in my life that were draining my energy and pulling at my attention. And writing under those conditions is super hard. I needed some inspiration–FAST.

And so, I turned to Youtube.

In this book, my rock stars are going on tour, so I searched out some live concert inspiration. And here is a sample of what I found:

Have you heard Babymetal singing with Rob Halford (of Judas Priest) at the 2016 APMAs? Dude, it’s awesome. I love everything about it.

I am enjoying the Foo Fighters’ new Concrete and Gold album. And I so loved this clip, from the 2017 Summer Sonic festival, where they brought Rick Astley on stage:

And then there’s Guns N Roses from their Not In This Lifetime tour, singing with Pink:

And one more. This one’s a little older, but I love it. A duet with Amy Lee from Evanescence and Lzzy Hale from Halestorm:

I’m happy to report that these, along with countless other live performances, helped a lot.  This book’s playlist is pretty eclectic, but it’s rejuvenated me along the way. Music has the power to inspire and to heal, and I’m grateful it did both.

I’d love to hear your suggestions on other bands I should check out.

 

Every Little Thing He Did Was Magic

Every Little Thing He Did Was Magic

From Sting.com

I’ve had a lifelong crush on Sting…first when he was with the Police and later when he launched himself as a solo artist. His harmonics and lyrics have always fascinated and surprised me. He isn’t afraid to experiment with sound and rhythms. Some of his boldest work has been his least acclaimed, but they’ve been CD I listen to over and over and over again.

Here are two of my favorites.

Songs From The Labyrinth was performed on a lute. Songs that told a story of life and love in the 16th Century. Tales of courtly love, and allegiance and intrigue.

An album dedicated to Sting’s favorite season, according to his website. “If On a Winter’s Night… presents an arc of songs that conjures the season of spirits, resulting in a haunting, spiritual and reflective musical journey.” Soul Cake on this album is maybe my favorite.

I still remember when the Police hit it big. Their music was revolutionary (Who can forget Roxanne or Message In A Bottle), at least to my way of thinking. And I know it made for hours and hours of great listening. Even still today.

I know I listened to If On A Winter Night on repeat while writing Hate, the 5th book in my Goddesses of Delphi series. Even though it wasn’t Christmas time. The haunting, soulful melodies helped set the tone for me on several crucial scenes. BTW – Hate releases today. I probably should have dedicated the book to Sting. LOL

That song…you know the one I mean

That song…you know the one I mean

I keep getting songs stuck in my head. When it happens, I can become a bit obsessive with said song and need to hear it multiple times per day. It happens to all of us, right? I am reminded of an episode of Married with Children when Al Bundy is trying to remember a song but he can’t recall any of the lyrics or the song title…just the melody, which he tunelessly shares with anyone he thinks will listen. No one knows what he’s talking about, not even the guy at the record store who knows everything. At times, that’s how it is for me. I tell the hubster about a song, he doesn’t recognise it, I insist he must surely recognise it, hum it for him, he smiles and shrugs.

Yesterday, there were a couple of songs stuck in my head. It took me all day to remember the title of one of them, but I didn’t bore anyone with the usual game of “What’s That Song Called?” So what’s stuck in my head this week…?

 

 

 

 

So what about you? Which songs are stuck in your head?

SaveSave

SaveSave

Battle Music

Battle Music

I am in the process of editing the next book in my Paranormal Romance series, and there is a riot scene in the heart of the book. I enjoyed the research, actually found the videos I watched informative. But when it was time to write the actual scene, I struggled to find the correct way to string the words together. The words wouldn’t come, because the last place you’d ever find me is in the heart of a demonstration or riot. In this case, I’m just not a joiner.

After a couple of false starts, I turned on my Games Of Thrones Pandora station and it was smooth sailing from there. The song selection helped channel the emotion and sense of threat I wanted to convey. Here are a couple of examples:

Here’s another amazing offering I discovered on the station. This really helped focus the emotion I wanted in the scene. It builds to a great crescendo.

And there’s this – did you know if you search YouTube for ‘angry music’ you get and incredible assortment of powerful and threatening options?

I don’t write angry things very often, so it was nice to find some options to help me through. But for the record, I’m an 80s woman. Give me the Doobie Brothers or The Eagles any day of the week.

 

Let’s Get it On

 

 

A lot of writers use music to set the scene. Especially when it comes to those scenes. A little musical accompaniment as you try and get your freak onto paper.

True confessions! I don’t write to music. I need absolute silence or I start singing lyrics into my hairbrush. Then the fantasy starts in my head and I’m rocking the power ballad to over 20,00 people at Madison Square Gardens. The book lies forgotten and unloved as I am suddenly adored by thousands of slathering fans as they stand enraptured by the power of my thrilling vocals.

All in all, best to turn off the Spotify and let me do this in silence. But fear not. I asked my good friend and fellow Wordy Woman, Cynthia St. Aubin for her top 10 songs to write sex by.

In no particular order she came up with this.

 

 

 

 

Make it Rain by Ed Sheehan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnhaKUBgJSE

Cry to Me by Solomon Burke https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPWCbthc9tw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And what musical list would be complete without:

 

There you have it. Cynthia’s top ten grooves to get her in the mood.

 

What would be on your list?

 

Acapella Elvis

Acapella Elvis

 

All hail the king!

Okay, I’ve been a huge fan of Elvis Presley since childhood. And while I love so many of his songs, my all time favorite has to be Can’t Help Falling In Love.

One of my favorite new music groups is Pentatonics.

And when the two came together about a week ago…♥

So tell me, what classic song would you like to have redone by what new musician or group? Let me know in the comments down below.

My Inner Deborah Harry

My Inner Deborah Harry

Every now and then, a song will get stuck in my head and I just can’t shake it. Sometimes, it’s a song I hate–or perhaps that’s too strong. Let’s say it’s a song I don’t really connect with.More often than not, it will be music that ends up on my writing soundtracks. Yes, I make Spotify playlists that I refer to as the soundtracks of my novels.

Lately two songs keep popping up in my mind: “Heart of Glass”  and “Dreaming” by Blondie. Both songs keep popping up on my writing playlists and I find myself singing them in the shower at least 3-4 times a week. I’m sure my neighbours are sick of hearing me caterwauling these tunes. 🙂

When I was younger, I loved Deborah Harry. She was everything I knew I was not: cool, sexy, quirky and thoroughly her own person. Though I looked nothing like her, I tried to channel some of her “I don’t care” vibe whenever I was feeling particularly nerdy in a bad way.  I guess it was only natural–I had pretty strict parents who were always trying to make me look “presentable”. We were like the Cosby kids in my neighborhood in Philly. We always had to put on our best faces and pretend we were perfect. And we did a good job of it because everyone thought we were the perfect kids: always so polite, always so well-spoken and well-dressed (meaning boringly dressed). It’s why I always took an extra set of clothes with me to school to change in so I could be the real me, or at least the me I wanted to be. And that was when I channeled my inner Deborah Harry. I may not have been as cool as she was, but I could tell myself I was.

I think a lot of us who grew up in the late 70s and 1980s wanted to be her or at least have a little of her aloofness, coolness. Even when she was at her worst, she was still iconic. And when she made a comeback a few years ago, it just made me love her even more.

I am forty-something and I still love Deborah Harry Blondie. I think a bit of her ends up in all the characters I write.

In the novella I am working on, “Heart of Glass” is pretty much the theme for at least part of the story. I think Håkan and Jessica both have hearts of glass, though he’s probably a little more vulnerable than she is. He’s the one wearing his heart on his sleeve. And yeah, “Dreaming” is a pretty big part of the story too. So, even if the story is set in Stockholm and Sardinia, there’s a little nostalgia creeping in and Deborah Harry is there somewhere. 🙂

What about you? What song’s stuck in your head now?

 

Accentuating the Postive

Accentuating the Postive

What is it about early popular music that has such an effect on us to this day? There’s a simplicity there, yet it’s matched with so much musicality. Lyrics are to the point, melody is often jaunty and lively. They are meant to make us smile, shuffle our feet and snap our fingers. Jazz, big band and American standards are about celebrating life and “the little things”. That’s why we still dream of a white Christmas in the winter months, dance in the streets in the summer and croon “At Last” when we find true love.

 

 

The sense of wonderment that is so strong in those songs is much harder to find in popular music today. There’s a sense of hope and a feeling of brightness in the music of yesterday that we turn to over and over again. That’s precisely why Pippa, the heroine of my upcoming new release, as someone whose career is in fashion, takes her cue from the line, and song title, “Accentuate the Positive.”

When Accentuate the Positive was first released in 1944, things were a little different. A song inspired by a religious sermon, its lyrics convey the message that a bit of good cheer goes a long way in improving quality of life. It became a hit because it was such an inspiring message with a catchy sound. It was a time in American history when we needed to hear it and we were looking for a path to a sunnier outlook. The opening verse asserts:

 

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between”

 

The straightforward message, delivered with charming directness and exactitude, is that there is no need to let life drag you down when there’s a lot of good out there to take hold of. Furthermore, it suggests that complexity is gratuitous and unnecessary and muddling about in gray areas is not beneficial in uplifting the mood. It definitely sounds a little reductive by today’s standards. Its upbeat theme works much better in modern time when applied specifically. Which brings me to Pippa!

 

 

 

Pippa’s career has been built around the idea that, when it comes to clothing, fashion and outward appearance, women always can, and should, Accentuate the Positive. Unlike the broad concept that drives the song, Pippa’s motto connotes an understanding that contemporary style should cultivate positivity, when there are a lot of ways the realities of modern life can be a little harsh. In the first part of the 20th century, Americans relied on music and some aspects of popular culture to brighten their darker days. In 2017, we may be slightly more able to accept the ambiguities of life “Messing with Mister In-Between” as it were, but we also have more opportunities to look on the bright side as well. How we dress is one of those ways.

 

While the simple times of yesteryear were more of a one size fits all, in terms of what we wore, but on a larger scale as well, Pippa rejects that idea in her work: self-expression and self-confidence are her dictums. Accentuate the Positive in today’s world means knowing yourself. Knowing what makes you feel good and what brings you the most joy as your unique self, celebrating your individuality and distinctiveness. One line in particular we find in the song has a very direct tone:


“Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene”

 

The idea is that staying optimistic brings about a sense that we have the ability to take charge in our lives. While still certainly applicable, we are more likely to forgive ourselves the odd mood swing or rough day, not because we’ve entirely lost that sense of hope, but because we know that it’s all a part of “being who you are.” And really, a well-fitting skirt or fabulous pair of shoes can be a very useful reminder of that.

 

Which Love Song do you LOVE?

Which Love Song do you LOVE?

In the interest of Valentine’s Day, we’re talking love songs. Do you have a favorite?

I was thinking about it, and there are so many love songs that I, well, love, but I can’t think of one that I love most.

But here are a few that are on my playlist today:

Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”

 

Josh Groban’s version of “Falling Slowly”

 

Adele’s version of “Make You Feel My Love”

 

Foo Fighters “Everlong”

 

Train “Marry Me” (since my book of the same name is out today!)

 

And, for people who really aren’t feeling the love today, or who hate this holiday, I have one for you too:

J. Geils Band “Love Stinks”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

xoxo,