Music To Make My Brain Work

Music To Make My Brain Work

I’m often asked if I listen to music when I write. And the answer is a definitive YES! But what kind of music I listen to varies by the task I have in front of me.

Editing, for example, can ben done while I listen to music with words. I have several stations programmed on Pandora like Maroon 5, or the Imagine Dragons. Even the Doobie Brothers. I don’t mind the familiar music while I’m tweaking and perfecting.

If I’m creating, I need something that’s purely instrumental. Again, Pandora has several options for me. Cello Concertos, Piano Sonatas, or my current favorite, a station named Requiem for a Dream (I found the last extremely helpful when writing a battle scene).

But for those days when I really have to crunch the the words, I log into my Brain.fm account, opt for the Focus section and really go to town. The Binaural tones truly blocks all other noise out and lets me write up a storm (today’s word count in about 2.5 hours was 3200. It really works). Check it out when you have a chance. I’ve even used the sleep option on those nights when I can’t seem to shut my brain off.

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Auralgasm

Auralgasm

by Xio Axelrod

Hey again! The last time we spoke, I was at the tail end of a period filled with travel. Yep, I saw more airports bathrooms in 2016 than I ever want to see again. *ahem*

T’is the season for hanging out with good friends, eating good food, and listening to good music. Okay, so, not all holiday songs are kind to the ears, but there are a few gems out there.

carolers

One of my favourites is O Holy Night. I’ve heard, literally, dozens of versions of the classic hymn, but none have struck me as deeply as this haunting rendition by Nils Bech. The string arrangemet is gorgeous on its own. Add Nils’ ethereal falsetto on top, and it produces and auralgasm. Check it out!

No, your ears aren’t deceiving you. It wasn’t in English, but you already know the words. Right? At least the chorus, lol. Amazing, isn’t it? I hope you enjoyed it.

Wishing you and yours a lovely holiday season!

xio sig1

Confessions of a Creep

I like music, really I do, but it’s not something I need around me all the time. In fact, being a little noise intolerant it can get on my nerves if it plays constantly in the background. Which doesn’t mean I don’t have a have a perfectly curated playlist that inspires me, motivates me and informs my writing style and character development. I wouldn’t envy anyone trying to figure me out on the basis of this soundtrack, it’s eclectic to say the least, from Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” to to the Sugar Babes “Too Lost in You”,  rubbing shoulders with Depeche Mode to JJ Cale. My oldest daughter calls my playlist “lyrical angst”, she may be onto something.

One song on my playlist is an upbeat little number you may be familiar with – Creep, by Radiohead. I am not particularly Radiohead fan, but I appreciate the sentiment of that era. (Lyrical angst at its finest). Grunge rock was all about not fitting in, not falling in line, floating in some kind of undefined space where you were unreachable to many others, but at the same time, being pretty much OK with that. It’s a fascinating perspective on life because it’s an impossible one to fake. In the 60’s you could become a flower child by growing out your hair and acquiring a suede vest, in the 80’s the right clothes and car could get you most places where you wanted to be – but disenchantment and alienation are hard to feign. A song like Creep is a prime example of that. While in decades past recording artists may have been singing about their unrequited love for a boy or girl or laying out their seduction plans, or how to carry out a particular dance move, these songs are about the tense relationship we have with ourselves. Creep shows you a way to meet up with your insecurities and fears, albeit in a dimly lit, shabby room, and shake hands with them, maybe hang out if everyone’s schedule is open for a bit.

If you aren’t familiar with the song, here’s the YouTube clip. Really listen to the lyrics and then tell me some little part of you doesn’t relate to this.

 

 

 

These words reflect a common misconception many of us labor under, that other people have things figured out and their life is pleasant, fun, effortless. Meanwhile, we view ourselves as inherently lacking in the ability to tap into that life, as if we are inhabitants of an entirely different world. The lyric “what the hell am I doing here” always strikes me as extremely poignant. Where else would he be? In what scenario would he feel like he “belonged’? If we ask these questions either in the context of the song, or to ourselves, we would get some very thought-provoking answers.

But truthfully, we’ve all felt this way at some point in our lives. We look at something from the outside and determine it’s somehow better, superior to, above us. We’ve all felt like that creep who feels utterly out of place among those he admires. What’s amazing is that the listener is made to feel special by that song, by being understood and accepted. I want my readers to have that same experience, to recognize themselves in my book and to make that emotional connection. The real, raw nature of grunge let a generation of young people truly be themselves, warts and all. The legacy of that genre, and a song like Creep, is that we are all a little more interested in meeting those warty parts of ourselves, and seeing them in others. I am a very big advocate of that, and I hope that readers relate to my characters, see themselves in the pages of my books, and they all enjoy hanging out together for a little while.

 

sarahsig

Duran Duran, I Love You

Duran Duran, I Love You

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 07.21.41Yesterday was Duran Duran Appreciation Day and somehow I missed it. I am not sure how this happened. I was a teenager way back in the 1980s. Yes, I am showing my age and that’s okay. I still remember the first time I heard a Duran Duran song–it was “Hungry Like the Wolf” and we’d only just got MTV at my parents’ house in West Philly, but I hadn’t seen the video yet. My dad was the keeper of the remote control and he wasn’t interested in music videos. No, I *heard* “Hungry Like the Wolf” on the radio. I can’t remember the name of the station–maybe it was Hot Hits WCAU FM? I just remember experiencing insta-love with the song and trying to figure out when I could buy the album even though I’d only heard that one song.

Well, once I actually saw the video I was hooked. I know I wasn’t alone. I think every girl in school was gung-ho for Duran Duran, and we all had our favourite band member. I was partial to both Simon Le Bon and John Taylor. 🙂 How many of my teenage dreams were fuelled by “Hungry Like the Wolf”? Probably too many.

At some point I remember going to Plastic Fantastic, the record store that used to be located on 40th Street in University City, and buying my coveted copies of Rio and Duran Duran. I was such a Durannie that I bought them on vinyl *and* cassette (which was perfect since I could listen to them on my Walkman). Later that summer, I bought the Duran Duran video album. I think it probably corrupted me. 😉

My parents shipped me to Virginia for the summer and Duran Duran came with me. I converted a couple of my cousins to Durannies, listened to “Save a Prayer”, “Hold Back the Rain” and “New Religion” non-stop, screamed along to “Planet Earth” while in the shower and generally drove my grandparents insane. In between reading books I probably shouldn’t have been reading at the time (it’s what happens when you find your aunt’s copy of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying), I was trying to write my own short stories and singing along to Duran Duran. It was the soundtrack of my summer.

Of course, I wasn’t *just* listening to Duran Duran. Around the same time, I ‘d discovered WKDU, Drexel University’s radio station and they’d introduced me to the Psychedelic Furs, Black Flag, the Sex Pistols, Kraftwerk, Joy Division, the Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen. Somehow, I managed to get my friends on Spring Garden Street to listen to some of the same music I was only just finding out about. In between listening to LL Cool J, Run DMC and Schoolly D, we were also digging Duran Duran and the other new bands from Europe that college radio was introducing me to.

Fast forward to the mid-1990s. I was in Richmond, Virginia working on my master’s degree and suddenly, after a few years of somehow not listening to Duran Duran, I heard Simon Le Bon’s voice singing “Ordinary World”. It was the first song from the new period of Duran Duran that I loved since “Land” and “I Don’t Want Your Love” from Big Thing.

I was working on my thesis and babysitting, trying to earn a few extra bucks since my assistantship was definitely not helping me make ends meet. I loved “Ordinary World” from the moment I first heard it. It ended up being the soundtrack for my thesis. I am pretty certain that at least two of the short stories in my thesis were inspired by the video, if not the song.

Now fast forward again and Duran Duran are still making music that creeps into my life and gets stuck in my head–and yes, I love it. “Come Undone” inevitably ends up on playlists for my new writing projects, as does “Pressure Off”. Their music is still inspiring me as I write and I still adore them.

How do they do it? They keep reinventing themselves and staying relevant. They never do the cheesy “80s Night” tours or cruises that some other bands have had to do. Whatever magical elixir they’ve found, I am willing to drink it down as long as they keep making music that ignites within me and keeps me feeling inspired, carefree and bedazzled.

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My Signature for the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Affair With Fall Out Boy

Last fall, I was taking a walk through the neighborhood. I had my Imagine Dragons station on Pandora, the weather was a cool 68 degrees. Pretty much a perfect day. I’d even chosen a alternate route for the day; I turned right out of my drive, instead of left. Maybe that’s what made the difference. Usually, when I walk with music, I don’t pay as much attention to the words as I do to the cadence. But that day. I heard the words of “Centuries” by Fall Out Boy.

Video Credit: Vevo

“Some legends are told

Some turn to dust or to gold

But you will remember me,

Remember me for centuries”

I remember getting chills as the idea for a new series gripped me and wouldn’t let go. I increased my pace to a jog, my mind racing more quickly (I’m not a fast runner. Well, really I’m not a runner at all). I had to get home and put the thoughts on paper. Because this series, about finding inspiration, was going to be great. I also spent an hour or so on You Tube listening to all their music, looking for whatever other inspiration FOB could lend.

And all because of one song I have four books written in this new series. That’s all it takes really, to find inspiration. Simple words, or pictures (We won’t discuss my idea based on an album cover from the late 70s). And now, any time I hear anything by FOB the volume goes up and I dance with a wide smile on my face. And I always listen to words now when I’m walking or driving, or just sitting on my deck enjoying sunshine.

What song inspires you?

Cover Lover

Cover Lover

There are songs we love, there are songs we don’t discover until another band performs a cover version of it, and then there are the songs that have cover versions so good, I dare say they are better than the originals. That’s what I’m talking about today.
 

First up:

 
“Sound of Silence” – The Simon & Garfunkel original is iconic. BUT metal band Disturbed recently released their version of it, and I absolutely love the orchestration and the way lead singer David Draiman seems to growl some of the lyrics.

 

 
One of my favorite hard rock bands, Halestorm, absolutely rocks their cover of hard rock/heavy metal icon Dio’s “Straight Through the Heart”.

 
And, one of my favorite Dio songs, “Rainbow in the Dark”, also has a great cover version, courtesy of Corey Taylor (of Slipknot and Stone Sour).

 
For my Philly peeps, I give you “No Easy Way Out.” Robert Tepper’s song is on the soundtrack to Rocky IV, but heavy metal band Bullet for My Valentine’s version is a head-banging good time. 

 
And, you guys! I’ve saved THE BEST for last! Our very own Xio Axelrod is an amazing singer. And her take on Coldplay’s “Yellow” will leave you feeling all shades of happy. I love her voice! Check her out: 

 
I could go on and on… but I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts, and if there are any cover versions you love, feel free to add them in the comments!
 
Heading back into my playlist,
Susan-Sig
Inspirational Songs

Inspirational Songs

beautiful girl with flying blond hair, listening to music on headphones in the sky

I’m a huge fan of lyrics. When I was a kid, here in the UK we used to have a magazine that would print the words of all the popular tunes, so that when they came on the radio you could sing along. Of course this was pre-internet days, when we used to have to make your own fun. Nowadays, there are a huge number of websites devoted purely to lyrics. It’s almost impossible to get away with not knowing the words (although according to my children I try really hard!!)

The thing about lyrics is that they can be like poetry. They stir up emotions, memories, the feelings of first love and first heartbreak. That’s why I’m often inspired by them as a writer. And why my first book was called Fix You.

A lot of people have a love-hate relationship with Coldplay. I, however, have a love-love one. I don’t think there’s a single song of theirs that I’ve hated, and if Chris Martin wants to sing it, then I’m more than happy to listen.

Of all their songs, though, Fix You is my favorite. I’ve read somewhere that he wrote it for Gwyneth after her father died, promising to help her heal. Even that makes me want to cry (and yeah, so they didn’t make it, but we really wanted them to!) It’s the story of someone going through pain, through heartbreak, and of someone promising to be there for them. Every time I hear it, I feel goosebumps breaking out across my skin.

So here’s the song that inspired my book. Now over to you; what songs inspire you, what songs move you? Let me know in the comments!

Go-to Tunes

Go-to Tunes

Go-to Tunes

We all have playlists — for working out, primping for a night out, relaxation, driving, etc. But do any of your songs cross over? 
Here’s a song that pulls double duty for me: “Eye of the Tiger”.
I’ve seen the Rocky movies countless times over the years. Maybe there’s an extra affinity because he’s from Philly and he’s Italian…I don’t know…but I like them.
This song works not only for working out (it’s on my running and kickboxing playlists), but it’s also background music when I’m writing or editing against a deadline. If Rocky can run through South Philly and up the Art Museum steps (if you come to Philly, you HAVE to run up those steps!), and can train like crazy in all sorts of weather, then I certainly can bust through whatever task is at hand and pound it into submission. 😀
 
For your viewing pleasure, here’s Jensen Ackles from Supernatural lip-syncing the lyrics. Enjoy 😉

And one full of Rocky highlights:

What are some of your go-to tunes?
Susan-Sig
Why Music and Books Rock!

Why Music and Books Rock!

girl lying on grass and relaxing with book and music

Credit: Depositphotos

by Carrie Elks

For me music and books go together like… Fred and Ginger, Gin and Tonic, um songs and words? Anyway, whatever the best comparison is, that’s what turning on the stereo and settling back into the sofa with my Kindle in my hand means to me.

When I was a kid this involved the mix tape (remember those?) For those of you under the age of *ahem* 35 or so, this curious thing was the forerunner of the iPod (remember those hehe?), and involved hours of trying to cue your record player up with the tape recorder, pressing pause whilst simultaneously trying to put the needle on the vinyl, then swearing profusely when you only realized halfway through the record that you’d forgotten to hit the record button.

Thankfully, nowadays things are so much easier. In our house we’re fully connected, able to operate the stereo from an app on our phones (it’s a Sonos system, for those of you that are interested) and play either something from our extensive music collection – all digital of course – or use Spotify.

I have to admit I’m a late convert to the Spotify app. At first I thought it was just a way to access music, but I’ve found it offers so much more. Click on the ‘moods’ offering any day and I can find the right playlist to fit how I’m feeling right then, or even better, I can match my music to the emotions of the book I’m reading. They also have playlists that change daily, from Monday Motivation to Feel Good Friday (which I’m listening to right now as I type this blog – go Bryan Adams!), and these usually contain a mixture of oldies but goodies, plus a few more modern tunes to mix things up.

Of course, it also gives me a chance to catch up with the latest releases, in order to impress my teenage children. I have to admit feeling a certain sort of smugness when I can sing along with their favorite hits, making me the coolest mom in the town. Okay, I’m lying completely here. They’re nothing but embarrassed when I start to sing, but hey, this is my blog and my fantasy. Give me a couple more seconds and I promise not to shame them any more.

One of the best playlists I’ve found for when I’m reading a heartbreakingly emotional romance book is the Most Beautiful Songs in the World playlist. I’ve put a link to it below. The next time you pick up a book, switch on the stereo and decide to shut out the world, I recommend this one!

 

Healing Eden’s Playlist

Healing Eden’s Playlist

When I was writing the first book in The Eden Series, Unexpected Eden, I never really thought about developing any kind of music playlist. Pinterest boards? Sure. I mean, there’s loads of inspiration on Pinterest, but a playlist? Nope. Never even crossed my mind. Which is kind of odd considering fifty percent of my plotting is done in the car driving to and from the day job with the music cranked WAY high. (The other fifty percent is done in The Plotting Chamber–AKA the shower.)

Then one day I was chatting with the lady who coordinates my blog tours and she suggested I do one. I never got around to building one for Unexpected Eden, but you can bet I kept track of all the tunes I used on book two, Healing Eden, plus every other book after it. Since Healing Eden just released, I figured I’d make that my Dinner Music share for today. Obviously, I’m a rock gal to the core, but hopefully you’ll enjoy it.

Oh, and if you haven’t started The Eden Series yet, now’s a good time. Unexpected Eden is on sale for .99 cents! Woot!

I’ve listed blurbs and buy links for you below, but today is all about music, so let’s get to it! Rock on!

Love,

Rhenna Morgan

Unexpected Eden

Paradise, love, power…and a prophecy with a price.
Most people believe Eden no longer exists. Lexi Merrill’s about to learn they’re wrong. A hard-working bartender with a self-sufficient backbone and a wary nature, she knows pickup lines like a second language. So, when Eryx Shantos barges into her world with too-smooth words and a body to back it up, she locks up her libido and vows to keep her distance.
Eryx has other ideas. As king of the Myren race, Eryx is duty-bound to enforce the laws preventing exposure of their existence to humans. Yet The Fates have led him through his dreams to Lexi, a temptation he doesn’t want to resist. The question—is she Myren, or human, which makes her forbidden fruit?
When Eryx’s nemesis tags Lexi as his next target, Eryx insists on taking her home where he can keep her safe. Lexi had no idea “home” would mean the one-and-only land of creation…or that she’d trigger a prophecy that could doom her newfound race.
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Healing Eden

In a world divided by war, falling in love is the ultimate betrayal.

Galena Shantos has never questioned her loyalty to Eden. As sister to the Myren king, she serves as a healer, one of the best in the army fighting to suppress the brutal Lomos Rebellion. She’s never doubted the importance of stopping the rebels bent on enslaving humans, until she spots a warrior across enemy lines—and knows instinctively that their destinies are entwined. . .
Rebellion warrior Reese Theron has nothing left to lose. He’s been forced to fight on the wrong side of a war he abhors in order to protect his family secret. His honor lost, as well as the trust of his own people, Reese has thrown himself into a battle he cannot possibly hope to survive. But after being rescued by a beautiful woman whose exquisite eyes seem to see him for more than the traitor he’s become—he may have just found a new reason to live. . .
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