Soundtrack Monday: Boy With a Coin

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!

Halfway to New

The wind came through hard last night, cold skybreath combing the trees, leaves and needles and cones shaken free. A lot of stuff tapped the roof, but we were all warm and snug in our beds. Especially Boxnoggin, as I spent part of yesterday washing bedding and switching to flannel sheets. Which meant a fresh, dryer-fragrant comforter for him to sleep on, several blankets for warmth and cushioning, and the heated mattress topper, all toasting him from below. He was a happy, happy doge.

I wasn’t so bad myself. It was high time to switch to flannel and more blankets. Most of my trouble sleeping lately has been stress, but some was certainly the change in weather. Now I am roasty-toasted, and feel halfway to a new woman. (Only halfway, the rest is the same old bitter hag.)

Remember the cover reveal for Spring’s Arcana? Well, in a few days we’ll have another for Book 2 of the duology, The Salt-Black Tree. They both release within a few months of each other next year, so you won’t have long to wait between books. It’s very exciting; I haven’t had this kind of trad publisher support before. Maybe it’ll go well?

I can’t think about that or I’ll go mad with worry. Best to just put my head down and continue, one foot in front of the other.

I should’ve been working on different things yesterday. (I won’t list them; on that path lies madness.) Instead, I banged out 3.4k words on the Jolene, Jolene story. It needs a bit of polish and some trimming, then it’ll be off to the agent for her delectation. Depending on what she says it might make the rounds–if it doesn’t, I might just keep it to gloat over, a shiny treasure in my hoard. Don’t fret, though, subscribers will definitely get a taste.

It was pleasant to feel like I could still accomplish something, and to get the dopamine hit from finishing a piece. The crisis of confidence from…certain publishing industry hijinks, let’s say, hit me hard. Fortunately I have lost my patience and as a result become somewhat close to tranquil, and part of that process was apparently writing a short story based on a Dolly Parton song.

What can I say, I’m wired really weird.

Today will be split between the serial and the NaNo book. All the hard work resurrecting a dead series over the weekend is about to pay off. The nausea has gone down, and after I get a run in I’ll probably feel closer to zen than I have in a long time. Of course, before I get out the door I should do some of that trimming and polishing on the short story. It would be nice to send that off by the end of the day. I should collect and re-edit a bunch of my shorts, too, put them in an anthology–in all my COPIOUS spare time, ha. It would be nice to have them in one place.

Last week–and the weekend–were kind of awful. But there’s a silver lining, of course; there always is, even if it’s only a thin thread. I went through a whole-ass process at warp speed instead of letting a certain situation drag out for many more months, and now I can get back to work. That’s one grand thing about my mid-forties. I am no longer prepared to waste much, if any, time. If that makes me a bitch, fine. That’s what they call a woman who won’t let you take advantage of her anyway. Might as well wear it like a badge of honor.

The wind seems to have slackened. There will be plenty of downed stuff and wrack for Boxnoggin to get his nose into, and he’ll enjoy the sunshine. I’d prefer rain, though this is all right–the air doesn’t quite sparkle like champagne, but it does go down smoothly and I’ve the glow of a finished story to keep me warm.

Let us clamber into Tuesday, my beloveds, and see what the day holds.

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…

Imperfect Strategy

A clear chilly Tuesday–not quite cold, but getting there–has dawned. I staggered into the kitchen to make coffee, a George Strait song playing inside my head, and decided I had to use Ronnie Milsap to clear things out. Milsap reliably works if I have a country-themed earworm, and has ever since I was a kid.

I don’t even know. I’m wired weird, but we all suspected as much.

Our state does mail-in ballots, and everyone in the house is of voting age and registered. We all went through the paper voter guide last week, went to our different rooms to fill in little boxes, and I took the sealed envelopes to the local ballot box since I don’t trust USPS with deJoy still in charge. (Why has that man not been booted out? Why?) There were pickup trucks parked nearby, and I watched each one carefully, ready to get the fuck out of there if right-wing goons appeared.

It was a sobering experience.

Now we wait–always my very favorite thing! I hate not being able to do anything while danger creeps nearer. I have little to zero hope, of course. Every time I’ve dared to hope over the past six-seven years, I get kicked right in the teeth. I’m done with that.

So, today will be spent trying to keep myself occupied with work. The new cover for Spring’s Arcana, the page proofs–seventy-five of them knocked off yesterday, only 293 to go–and wordcount for the NaNo novel, correspondence, other things to keep my fingers busy and my heart from hurting. It’s an imperfect strategy, since my heart will ache no matter what I find to keep myself busy with, and working will be like swimming against a riptide. Still, I’ve got to try.

The alternative is even grimmer.

Be gentle with yourselves today, my dears. We’re all reeling after years of historical-grade shocks. The wonder is that we’re all still trying to work, sparking and hissing with static, desperately transmitting and receiving despite All This. I think we all deserve a cuppa and a pat on the back, not to mention a nap. And possibly a whole box of cookies.

Que sera, sera, and all that. At least we’ve got each other, and a few stories to tell around whatever small, wan fire we’re clustering for warmth. It’s my job to tell the tales, no matter what else is going on. And it’s also my job to walk Boxnoggin, who could not care less about human politics. He’s got other concerns, and would very much like me to do something about them.

Needs must, when the devil drives–or when the dog needs a ramble. Off I go, my beloveds.

See you around.

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…

Time and Amusement

Woke up with Joe Cocker playing inside my head again–all weekend it’s been Bye Bye Blackbird, which features rather heavily on The Dead God’s Heart soundtrack. Not only that, but it played while I was driving home t’other day, all the windows down and sixty mph roaring through. It’s a song for end of summer; I think I’ve also had my last Pink Floyd until next spring.

I just can’t listen to the latter when the nights are long or the days are grey.

The morning is quiet, Boxnoggin is very ready for walkies but has prioritized a nap on my bed first. He even got a bath this weekend, poor fellow. He dries very quickly, slick-coated gentleman that he is, but good heavens he haaaaates not being stinky. I could run him through the mud with the hose and he’d be chuffed, but warm water and soap? Get thee behind him. Fortunately he also knows there’s no use in protesting–if Bailey couldn’t weasel her way out of getting bathed he has no chance, and I think she probably informed him haughtily of that at least a million times.

There’s a great deal of work to get done this week. I also have to test the new microphone for streaming/reading. My daughter is absolutely THRILLED that I’ll be reading at least the first chapter of My Immortal. I still don’t know what this thing is, though she’s given me a link; I will, like with Eye of Argon, go in completely cold. The only thing I’ve been told about this is that it’s a piece of fanfic, so…I don’t know quite what I’m bracing for, but it’s sure to be something.

I also found out who sent me Edmund the King Raven–one of my lovely beta readers took credit, so I have thanked her kindly. (You’re a peach, J.P.!) I think he might help me with this reading fanfic-thing. We’ll see.

The new microphone means I might do some other tracks, just reading Victorian erotica in a soothing voice. If all goes well that may be one more side project I offer, but I’m going to have to test to make sure I can keep a straight face through some of it. I know I’m a champion–my kids absolutely trained me to Olympic level on that front–but I suspect some bawdy bits of The Pearl might undo me. Ruining half a dozen perfectly good takes with giggles will put rather a damper on the whole project, since the time investment will become prohibitive even if the amusement factor is high.

But I’m thinking about it, my beloveds. My brain is full of ideas.

The day’s work is pretty much cut out for me–Gemma and Avery have a bit of a walk in Hell’s Acre, and the second Sons of Ymre is heading for the finish line. I need to write the lead-up to the great crisis now, since the couple from the first book have shown up and that will kick off the endgame. If I can get through reasonable wordcount on both I’ll drag out the new microphone and do a few tests. It’ll be nice to stream without my headset on, but first we’ll have to see if this works.

Always a catch.

There’s also walking Boxnoggin to be dealt with, and getting my own corpse run before the heat builds. I’m beginning to think I have a shot at catching up to a couple deadlines, and maybe even as a whole. That would be a welcome change from the first half of the year. I’d love to feel like I’m not all the way behind and desperately scrabbling.

Targets are acquired, Monday is on notice. I suppose I’d best get to toast before the morning gets older.

See you around.