Soundtrack Monday: Take Me Out

It’s time for another Soundtrack Monday! Today the track is Franz Ferdinand’s Take Me Out, which I listened to obsessively while writing the casino shootout in Hunter, Healer.

Especially the part where the singer croons, “I know I won’t be leaving here…with you.”

I enjoyed writing those books, especially the callbacks to X-Men fanfic–which I started out writing very young, in spiral-bound 5-subject notebooks. One of the last real conversations I ever had with my beloved grandfather was about exactly how to put together a Molotov cocktail, and Delgado uses some of the things I was told that particular summer evening.

Everything goes into the work, my friends. Everything.

I sometimes get asked if I’ll revisit that particular piece of the universe that holds the Watchers series, then the Society series, then Selene and finally, the Danny Valentine books. (Yes, they’re all the same timeline.) I could go back to the Society books, true, but it would mean a couple character deaths I don’t really want to write, so it’s probably best to just leave it be. Del’s happy where he is, Rowan can use the time to heal, and while I know what happens I don’t have to prod either of them towards it.

Anyway, if that particular shootout is ever filmed, I’d want it to be set to this track. You can almost hear the point where Del decides to go nuclear on the whole deal. He’s not a very nice person, but he’s an effective combatant indeed. Play to your strengths, and all that…

Soundtrack Monday: Your Protector

Occasionally a song will end up on not one but two soundtracks. It’s rare, but it does happen; rarer still is the piece with lyrics that does so. Most tend to be instrumental-only, for obvious reasons.

Fleet Foxes’s Your Protector ended up on the Romances of Arquitaine soundtrack partly because of the change between soft, plaintive courtly love and driving danger. It’s very much a song Tristan d’Arcenne might abstractly hum while setting up some bit of intrigue, his mind mostly on how the situation will play out and that corner of him thinking upon Vianne, as it always does. The Queen’s Guard might sing it during their famous ride from Arcenne to keep their spirits up, and while Vianne might know it, it’s probably not one of her favorites.

She’s much fonder of Jesse Cook.

I haven’t put the Romances soundtrack up yet because some of the tracks have been lost while shifting from one music platform to another. I have them written down, of course, but it’s slow work resurrecting when I’ve so much else to do.

The other soundtrack Your Protector appears on is the Gallow & Ragged one, which is up and public. I didn’t even realize that particular track was on both until I was writing Roadside Magic, which has a fair bit of both Robin and Jeremy “running from the devil”, so to speak. It is very much the sort of music the Good Folk love, as is a lot of Fleet Floxes (and Linda Ronstadt, strangely enough). Mostly it’s Jeremy Gallow trying to come to terms with the fact that he loved in Daisy merely the dead-leaf echo of Robin Ragged–as Nabokov would put it, a dead russet echo in a ravine.

Robin is too preoccupied with survival and mistrust to really do more than simply take notice of a line or two, and think for a longing moment how it might be to sing without destroying everything in her voice’s path. So often, an abused child is told they are at once helpless–because the big people keep hurting them without consequence–and inordinately, maliciously powerful, because if they dared to openly tell what they’re suffering the abuser’s entire house of cards will come tumbling down. The mixed messages can really fuck a kid up, and when a talent such as the Ragged’s voice gets added to the mix…well.

I may have wrought better than I knew in that series, but what else can one do when writing of the Folk?

Tristan and Vianne had a somewhat-happy ending; the Ragged and the Gallow not so much, though Crenn would beg to differ on that last account. (Only if his pride would let him, of course.) On the other hand, I know what happens to the Hedgewitch Queen and her Left Hand years afterward, and I know whether or not the Ragged ever goes back to Summer…

…but that’s another story, or two.

Soundtrack Monday: The Hunter

Remember lockdown? I know, how on earth could we ever forget. We all had our ways of coping. Mine was…to write.

Big shocker, I know.

I was occupied with paying projects, sure. But there was a story that just wouldn’t let me go–an image of a blood-red, massive sun hanging in a tired sky over a giant castle, its stone walls fraying as the will keeping it whole faltered. The vision kept returning, and I knew someone was about to go through a door and find themselves near the structure.

And so I started writing Moon’s Knight. The story burned through me hard and fast, every waking moment I wasn’t occupied with survival or other projects eaten by its hungry flood. And while I was writing, Sam Tinnesz’s The Hunter burst into my musical algorithm. It was quite fortunate, because the song fit “the prince in black” perfectly. By the time I first heard it, I knew the basic dimensions of the story, I knew Ginevra Bennet was the woman stumbling through the door, and I even knew who the traitor could be. (It was a choice of three characters, and I was surprised as anyone by the time the zero draft was finished.)

It snowed this past weekend, which made me think of the book’s opening, Gin’s drunken stagger ending at a door in the ivy, and naturally I had to listen to the entire soundtrack again while doing my weekly housecleaning chores. And I also peeked at some of the scenes from the book again, particularly the Whispering.

It’s not a bad little book, I think. My agent–and several beta readers–said it should go out into the world; if it provided me with a little relief from the terrible uncertainty of those days, it could perhaps help someone else. I’m a sucker for that kind of argument, and of course my fabulous cover artist went super pulp with its jacket.

Every time I hear The Hunter now, I think of the prince in black, the terrible cat-creature he rides, and his take-no-prisoners loneliness. He’s rather a pitiable figure, silver fingers and all; astute readers will recognize both the Wild Hunt and more than a tinge of Hades and Persephone in the tale.

I suppose he received the ending he deserved. I think everyone in the story did, and that pleases me. Even if some pearl-clutcher had a problem with Gin’s language.

But that’s (as always) another blog post.

Soundtrack Monday: She Cries Your Name

Welcome back to Soundtrack Monday! This week’s track is Beth Orton’s beautiful, driving She Cries Your Name, which I listened to over and over whenever I needed to get into Robin Ragged’s head. Robin grew up in a trailer park, and Orton’s voice reliably brought her into focus for me. (The soundtrack for the entire trilogy is here.)

The Bannon & Clare books weren’t doing as well as the publisher liked, so my editor (my very favorite editor ever, actually) asked what else I had. As I recall it we were mid-contract, and normally I would have insisted that we stick with the last three books planned in that series (the trilogy where Emma and Archibald go to their world’s versions of China, America, and India, respectively) but…I trusted her.

That trust is one of the most valuable things a writer has. So, I said, “…all right, I’ve got this other thing. It has to do with the fae.”

And my editor said, “Great. Gimme.”

So I began writing about Jeremy Gallow, who hated himself far more than he did anyone else, and Robin Ragged, whose kindness was always used against her. Alastair Crenn showed up later; I only had a faint intimation of his presence while writing the first book. Sometimes characters surprise you like that, and every time I had to write Crenn I had to listen to another song…

…but that’s another Soundtrack Monday post, my beloveds, and this one appears to be done. Enjoy!

Soundtrack Monday: Assassin

Blood Call

I was a John Mayer fan for a hot minute (Why, Georgia still plays in my head some mornings) and around the time I was writing Blood Call, I came across a fan video of his Assassin. It fit very well, and I might have watched it a few (million) times whenever the book got stuck.

That book started out–as some do–with a very vivid image. An old-style flip phone (my goodness, it was a few years ago) sitting in a leather cup on a very clean desk, with a particular fall of wintry afternoon light across it. I would’ve thought it was deja-vu instead of the beginning to an organic study (I’ve talked before about organics vs. what-ifs) except for the feeling in it.

The phone was buzzing, and my mental camera-eye pulled back. I could smell the office–a place cleaned twice a week, furniture polish and fresh carpeting, and the faint but unmistakable scent of despair. There was a window kitty-corner–he didn’t like having his back to the glass–and I saw Josiah standing with his head cocked, looking at the phone.

Of course, I didn’t know his name was Josiah–my writing partner and I had just agreed to write a story each with that name, so he inherited it. I did know his last name was Wolfe, that he had been waiting years for this phone to ring without any real hope that it would, and that he was frozen by the fact that it had.

I also knew who was on the other end of the line. Not her name yet, just that she was desperate and had literally nowhere else to turn. The rest of the story flowered from that one image of the phone rattling in the cup, Wolfe staring at it like he thought the thing might be venomous, and the woman in the phone booth hoping, praying, that the number was still good.

There are other songs on that soundtrack, but every time I hear the opening bars of Assassin I am taken back to that story, to writing in the living room of the old house, cross-legged with my heart in my mouth, finding out what kind of trouble needed a man like that to fix. (Also, Kit is HILARIOUS.) I’m still very fond of this book, even after all this time.

Which is certainly better than the alternative, especially nowadays…

Soundtrack Monday: Breaking Into Cars

Human Tales

I’ve been feeling the urge to do a few more Soundtrack Mondays, so here we are.

This week’s jam is the Raveonettes, Breaking Into Cars. It made its way onto the BLUE soundtrack, which was for Wayfarer–my Cinderella retelling. That entire series is full of callbacks to Kieslowski’s Trois Coleurs trilogy, and the music for each book followed suit. Certain tones have certain colors to me, and this particular track has a blue wash in my head.

Ellie, the titular Cinderella, spends most of the book being backed into a corner. She’s trying to plan, to do the right thing, to simply endure until she’s a grownup. It’s a mood I know well, and this particular song plays whenever she decides to maybe bend the rules a bit.

Even the most obedient child can be pushed into outright defiance, especially when they realize the game is rigged. It was difficult for me to engage with the fairytale, and with certain aspects of Ellie’s story…but that’s why we write, I suppose. Or at least, it’s one reason.

Welcome to the week, my beloveds. I hope a little music will help us get to the other side.

Soundtrack Monday: Manju

It’s been a hot minute since we had a Soundtrack Monday around here, hasn’t it? Let’s fix that.

This week’s soundtrack callback is ES Posthumus’s Manju, which I played obsessively while writing the royal procession near the end of The Bandit King. You can almost see Vianne on her white horse, and the crowds. At 3:10, you can hear the Hedgewitch Queen cry, “Arquitaine! Behold your king!” as she neatly snaps her cousin into the traces and puts him to plow.

And at the end, you can hear the stunned realization that she’s vanished echoing in the cathedral. Poor Tristan, I think that was one of the worst moments for him, in a book packed with bad ones. Of course he deserved every single one, but still.

I still love those books, though they didn’t get the reception I hoped for. I still think about them from time to time; if I went back to that world, though, there would be a few deaths I don’t particularly want to write.

Sometimes it’s just best to leave things be. But we’ll always have Arcenne…