Mel Sterling

Stories

Category: Writing

Announcing a new romantic suspense series, coming this fall!

WORDLESS, the first in my new romantic suspense series, PINK SOFA SECRETS.

Wordless: Book 1 of Pink Sofa Secrets

Wordless: Book 1 of Pink Sofa Secrets

More details soon!

Adventures in snippets and soundtracks

This week, friend and fellow author Grace Draven has been posting a snippet a day from my upcoming fantasy romance, Trueheart, on her Facebook page. Many thanks to Grace for the warm welcome, and to her readership for their kind and fun and supportive comments. I’ll link you here to all those posts, if you’re curious and would like to sample some of my writing.

Snippets:
Day #1 (Link to Facebook snippet day 1)
Day #2 (Link to Facebook snippet day 2)
Day #3 (Link to Facebook snippet day 3)
Day #4 (Link to Facebook snippet day 4)
Day #5 (Link to Facebook snippet day 5)

And now, on to the meat of this post! Most of my books “grow” a soundtrack. True to form, Trueheart grew one. Below I’ve listed the songs and their artists, and a link to a video or sound file where I was able to find one. The soundtracks come from my personal music collection, which is pretty eclectic. Each song is on the soundtrack for a reason, whether that’s only to help me create a mood in myself as I sit down to write that book, or to help me recapture an emotion in the book and cue me to the book visuals in my mind-movie. It’s pretty typical for me to create a CD or playlist that goes with me on walks or drives, so that I can continue to think — whether consciously or subconsciously — about that book. Words come that way!

Here’s that playlist. Enjoy!

The Glory of Love – Peter Cetera. Because every book needs a 1980s power ballad to…uh, power it. (Link to YouTube video)

Ashes and Wine – A Fine Frenzy. A moody song to set a particular tone.
(Link to YouTube video)

The Skin I’m In – Gavin Rossdale A Thomas song, since he’s not always wearing his own skin.
(Link to YouTube video)

I Can’t Make You Love Me – George Michael cover. A Tess song. She wants to be someone special, she simply doesn’t know how.
(Link to YouTube video)

The Shade of Poison Trees – Dashboard Confessional. Because every book needs a choked-up emo boy song about how awful it is to live in fairyland in the enchanted shade of poison trees.
(Link to YouTube video)

The Devil Never Sleeps – Iron and Wine. The frenzy of a goblin market.
(Link to YouTube video)

Only for Love: Theme from “The Banquet” – Tan Dun. So stunningly, swooningly, sweepingly romantic. Melancholy, weeping for lost love, and regret sound the same the world over. If you click no other link in this post, click this one, and listen to this amazing music. The movie is worth watching, too. So gorgeously filmed.
(Link to YouTube video)

Slow Dancing in a Burning Room – John Mayer. A Tess and Thomas song, about the futility of their relationship.
(Link to YouTube video)

Guardian Angel – Juno Reactor. The exciting downtown chase scene after dark.
(Link to YouTube video)

We Might As Well Be Strangers – Keane. Relationship song. Yeah, I don’t even know.
(Link to YouTube video)

Everything – Lifehouse. This song is on the soundtrack for one line of lyric and how the vocalist delivers it: How can I stand here with you, and not be moved by you? So sweetly sad.
(Link to YouTube video)

Heart of Glass – Old School Freight Train. These folks turn Blondie’s disco staple into something bittersweet and dark, simply by slowing it down and introducing a minor key. It’s bluegrass, but not as we know it, Jim. (Link to YouTube video)

Dreaming with a Broken Heart – John Mayer. So sue me, I’m a Mayer fan. Occasionally his catchy hooks really sink deep. (Link to YouTube video)

Only for Love reprise – From “The Banquet” – Tan Dun. Instrumental only. Lush flute and piano. For me, this track is a perfect example of how music communicates a true emotion, even without a human voice and lyrics. (Not that I’ve overthought this or anything!)

Gold Dust – Tori Amos. Because every book needs an orchestra to back its piano solo. And also because this song is about grabbing for something extraordinary with both hands, and finding nothing but dust by morning.
(Link to YouTube video)

Love Pirates – Paula Sinclair & Uncle Tumbleweed. The upswing at the end of the book, with just that edge of darkness that makes the brightness light. And for the Joseph Millar line, “…having stolen a truckload of roses and thrown them into the sea.” Paula’s strictly a local phenomenon and hasn’t got any tracks up on YouTube. The only link I could find requires a sign-up, and I won’t bother myself or you with that.

Sunday with Red Tailed Hawk

I was just musing about how eventful my life seems these days, that I’m moving from one outlandish story to the next. But I suppose that’s how everyone’s life is; it’s just that people who write find story handles on everything. In a long line at the grocery store? There’s comedy in the coupon follies two customers ahead of you, or like the time at Costco, when someone in front of me had the attendant ring up her toddler, who was wearing a pair of pants from the clothing section. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a raconteur, everything looks like a story.

I digress, though. I came here to tell you a story about a red tailed hawk.

Saturday was a blustery day here in SW Washington. Lots of blow-down everywhere; branches, leaves, fir needles, twigs. As I was headed down to The Coop to tend The Coopers Sunday morning, I had in mind opening their pen to let them out to peck and scratch and explore. But something was wrong at The Coop. Nobody was out in the annex, as we call the outdoor pen, and in fact, Eastwood the rooster was making the alarm cluck call, with falsetto backup vocals from Zorro the bantam.

I thought at first there was just a big swatch of old bark or something resting against the annex fence, but as I got closer, it looked a lot like feathers. My heart sank. I thought something bad had happened to one of my hens, so I hurried.

It wasn’t a hen. It was a hawk, tangled in the netting that surrounds the annex fence to a height of about 10 feet, to discourage the local accipiters and raptors from swooping down for a chicken dinner. (I believe firmly that humans have overly domesticated our domestic animals. Since we have bred their survival instincts out of them, it is our responsibility to assure their safety. Hence the netting. Sorry, Mr. Hawk. Our goals are in conflict.)

As I got closer, I saw the bird’s head move.

He was alive, but exhausted and wounded, and soaked through from the heavy rains. I had no way of knowing how long he’d been there. An hour? Overnight? On the ground beneath him was a very wet and very dead and very large rat, who had probably been intended for breakfast. (Yay, and thank you, Mr. Hawk.)

Rather than feed The Coopers right away, since they were rightly and obviously still disturbed by the predator hanging outside their fenced run, I went back up the hill and gathered necessary equipment. Leather gloves. A pair of blunt-tipped scissors. A grocery tote made of dark cloth to put over the bird to help calm him down and eventually carry him up to the house.

I tell you, those grocery totes are great for EVERYTHING. Even temporary hawk portage.

I got a good look at the hawk, who was thoroughly entangled in the netting. He’d been cut by it, too, and one wing stretched out and down as if he were too exhausted even to retract it. I got the scissors and began, slowly, to trim some of the net away. Once I got his feet free, I brought the open bag up beneath him in preparation for cutting enough net to let him slip into the bag. The hawk wasn’t even panting, he was so distressed and exhausted. That had me worried. Was I too late? Would it be kinder to deliver a coup-de-grace, not let him suffer? Nevertheless, I cut the last few strands, bundled the bag up over the bird, and tied the handles shut.

Then up the hill we went. The hawk didn’t move at all. In the house, I slid the bag into a kitty carrier and turned it inside out to leave the hawk free inside the carrier.

He just laid there, breathing shallowly. I snipped a few more bits of netting away, but I was afraid to do much more in case he should suddenly revive, and I didn’t want to hurt him worse. I had a healthy respect for those talons and that beak. I closed the carrier and called my spouse, asking him to cut a lodge breakfast short to come help me get the hawk to a local rescue organization (Portland Audubon Society’s Wildlife Care Center). My own county has a wildlife care center, but only for squirrels.

The people at the WCC were very kind and gentle with the red tailed hawk. The vet carefully clipped away the rest of the netting, then checked the hawk’s wings and legs for breaks and dislocations. He was sound. But clearly he’d been hurt, and he was shocky. They put him in a warm, quiet place to let him recover, and after that, they’ll see what can be done for him. He wasn’t actively bleeding, and the wetness on his feathers was only rain. His left wing did have damaged skin and feathers. He’ll need some recovery time. The staff cautioned us about something called “capture myopathy,” which is a sort of death-by-terror (if you’re a hare or other prey animal), or a death-by-handling if you’re a predator.

After we watched the vet assess the hawk and put him in the warming box, we watched her force-feed a tiny saw-whet owl a few gobbets of bloody something-or-other. One of the volunteers said the hurt owl hadn’t eaten in three days, and the vet had no choice but to poke a little protein down its gullet. In other cages were a grebe, a vulture, a kestrel, and something behind a calming privacy towel with a note that said “Flight Risk” pinned to it.

We are worried for the hawk, even though it seemed his injuries weren’t critical. But overall, Boy Scout and I felt positive about the hawk’s condition–we’d found him in time, and done the right thing in bringing him to the center for care. Let’s hope he recovers and can be returned to the wild.

I’ll keep you posted.

Honest, Officer, it wasn’t me! When fiction and reality collide.

I don’t know how many of you have ever worked retail. Show of hands?

Before we bought our bookstore, the closest I’d come was back in college, when I worked as a clinic aide. I washed a million towels, filled and cleaned hundreds of whirlpool tubs, changed miles of exam bed paper, and learned not to ask patients “So how are you today?” because they’d tell me. In great detail. Clinic work taught me a lot about people, but it didn’t prepare me for the actualities of retail. Things happen in retail that would never happen anywhere else, and let me tell you: the stories from nine years of bookselling would fill a book.

So naturally when it came time to write another romantic suspense (my book Latimer’s Law came out with Harlequin this past May–links and more at the bottom of this post), I turned to my richest source of material: our bookstore.

I skipped over the wild and wooly characters, like the young woman who, late one evening, pocketed one of our business cards and announced, “I’m going to tape a quarter to this and use it in the time-travel machine.” She said it in all seriousness. I passed on the week a squirrel lived in our drop-ceiling and drove the store cat utterly demented, while eating all the peanut butter I’d put in the humane trap and never tripping the trap’s door. Instead, I focused on things that might be suspenseful about the day-to-day of a bookstore.

My spouse, known as Boy Scout in these parts, has a number of pals in law enforcement here in the local area. When our store had some books we’d mailed to the local jail rejected and returned, we talked to our contacts and asked why. Turns out books are easily adulterated–pages saturated with illicit drugs, items slipped inside the books’ boards, the boards themselves sharpened into shivs (a knife made of cardboard. Think about it.). A little research led me to other ideas and the book, my current work-in-progress titled Wordless, was off and running.

What I didn’t expect was how, sometimes, fiction becomes reality.

Last Saturday, it was business as usual, with the added fillip of my writing partner, Lilith Saintcrow stopping by to sign store stock of her books. While Lili was there, the mailman came in with a box. But the mailman pointed out that the box had been sent from our old Main Street address, priority mail to some person in Oregon. It had been returned, and the post office dug up our four-year-old forwarding address.

The mailman said, “Is this your store? The package couldn’t be delivered in Oregon.”

I thought the return address was odd, but it’s not actually unprecedented. On occasion review copies of books sent by a publisher have come with from and to addresses both being our store address. Unusual, to be sure, but since something similar had happened before, I thought, sure, not a problem, I’ll take the box, someone’s probably just confused.

I was curious, anyway. A besetting sin and pretty much constant state of being for any writer. Curiosity is the engine that writes the books. What happens next? We’ve got to know.

Lili and I sat at the coffee table and I started working on the box, which was taped within an inch of its life. I cut it open.

Inside the box was another box, also taped. Every opening or crack, completely sealed by plastic masking tape.

This SHOULD have set off the warning bells, but I swear, I am like a terrier with a package. Besides, some booksellers are a bit over-the-top about packaging their books. Even though it wasn’t my handwriting on the label, and we don’t use that kind of shipping materials. I knew we hadn’t sent the box.

But like I said, terrier. So I got to work on the next box. Cut tape. Pulled. Finally opened the box.

Inside was a heavy mylar bag, with something round, the size of a 40 oz. coffee can inside it.

About this time, Lili said, “Maybe we should call the cops. This seems really strange.”

Now, I’m usually the conservative half in the odd couple made of Lili and me. But hell. Now I’m thinking this is a joke from someone, and I laughed and said, “I’ll bet inside this is another box, and another, and finally there won’t be anything at all. Just boxes.”

The mylar bag was taped, too. Me and my trusty scissors got it open.

Inside that was a silver can, like a paint bucket without a handle, taped once again like someone was trying to keep a demon inside. The top of the can had even been sealed down with some of that foam spray insulation, before the lid was put on.

Lili said, “Stop, Mel.”

I went and got the can opener, rather than trying to pry open the lid, and took off the bottom. Inside, double-bagged in ziplocs, was a not-insignificant amount of a stinky herbal substance, about the size and volume of a folded pair of knee-high tube socks.

At this point Lili said, firmly, “Now you have to call the cops.”

My hands were suddenly cold and shaky. Terrier or not, I’m a pretty straight arrow. Hell. I don’t even know HOW to call the cops! So I dialed 911 and explained to the operator that this was not an emergency, but that I did need the police to come and deal with a suspicious package.

The operator asked me what I meant, so I tried explaining the whole crazy scenario to her, finishing up with “…I think it’s pot in there. I mean, I don’t know what pot smells or looks like, not really, but this is definitely herbal.”

She said, “Does it smell spunky?”

At least, that’s what I heard her say. I said, “Spunky? What does spunky smell like?” and that’s when I think Lili started to lose it. Her eyes got bright and sparkly and she half turned away, covering her mouth. Laughing, the stinker. Naturally, I’m moderately terrified. I have a LARGE BAG OF POT in my store, in a box that makes it look like it was mailed from my old location, which, hey, ME AGAIN. And of course my fingerprints were all over everything.

The operator said, “No, skunky. Like the stinky animal.”

“Oh. SKUNKY. Yes, it does. A very pungent odor.” It occurs to me that 911 calls are recorded. It’s out there for posterity, y’all. I bet she turned to her cubemate and said, “You’ve GOT to hear THIS ONE.”

“We’ll send the police around.”

While I was talking with the operator, Lili went outside and called Boy Scout, who was not far away, doing whatever it is Freemasons do on a Saturday morning. Then she called her daughter, to let her know she’d be here for quite some while longer. Since Lili was my witness, and I kind of needed someone to remind me I was not the criminal here.

Boy Scout arrived not long after, and right behind him came his Mason friend Skip. (All names changed to protect the innocent Masons, haha.) Then behind Skip came Terry, and someone named Sam, and Skip’s son Bob.

I said to Boy Scout, “HOW MANY DAMNED MASONS DID YOU BRING?”

Boy Scout said, “They heard there was a problem at the bookstore. They came to help.”

They came to gawk, frankly. I’m sure Boy Scout hung up from talking with Lili and announced to the lodge room at large, “SOMEONE MAILED MEL A BOX OF WEED. GOTTA GO.” And along they all came, like the Keystone Cops, piling out of a clown car.

Somewhere in there, the nice officer arrived, and I went through the whole rigmarole again, explaining about the address label and how it was from our old location, but WE didn’t mail this box. Explaining that sometimes we got books mailed to that location by publishers who didn’t know we had moved, and the post office is nice enough to try to track us down even after 4 years, which they did in this case.

The cop stood there listening, his thumbs hooked in his Kevlar vest, rocking back on his heels. They must teach cops special body language for dealing with nervous booksellers. I explained I’d opened the box, and the box inside that, and the bag inside the box, and the can inside the bag, but that I hadn’t opened the CLEARLY HERBAL PACKAGE INSIDE THE CAN. And was it pot? I asked at last.

“Can’t you smell it?” the cop asked, like I was a doofus.

“Sure, but…I don’t know what pot smells like.” Seriously, I don’t. I’ve never even inhaled a cigarette, much less pot. Lili often laughs at how sheltered my life has been.

The cop just looked at me and stood there spraddle-legged. I could hear the unspoken, “Uh huh, riiiiiiiiight.”

A little discussion ensued, some back-and-forth between Lili and the cop. They were debating relative quantities of the herb in the box, and Lili said, “Oh yeah. Definitely more than an ounce.”

The cop narrowed his eyes and said, “I see I’ve found the expert here.”

You can’t faze Lili that easily, but I was a whole lot more nervous about this whole situation than she was. She announced, “I have KIDS, I need to KNOW these things.”

I interrupted before Lili could get us all arrested for sarcasming an officer, with “What happens next?”

The cop called back to base and got a case number, made a few notes on a pad. Asked for my identification. Wrote a few things down. Got my business card. Then he put the can inside the bag, and the bag inside the box, and the box inside the other box, and closed it up.

Then the Freemasons started in, seeing how the cheap entertainment was pretty much over with, since I wasn’t apparently going to be led away in cuffs. “So what do they have you guys carrying these days? Glock, Sig?”

“40 caliber?”

“Pretty much whatever we like. I’ve got a Sig. I like Sigs.”

There was about five minutes of gun bullshit amongst Skip, who used to work corrections, Boy Scout, and the cop, with Sam and Terry sitting with their eyes out on sticks. I finally interrupted again and said, “OK, all this gun talk is fun, but NOW what happens?”

The cop said, “Well, now I take this box with me, and we turn this over to the postal inspector, because while they could legally ship pot in-state here in Washington, they can’t send it over state lines. This is a federal matter now.”

And he left.

Then Boy Scout looked at me, grinning like a pest, and I yelled, “YOU KNOW THE BOOK I’M WRITING NOW IS ABOUT MAIL FRAUD AND A BOOKSTORE, RIGHT? WHO’S PRANKING ME???”

Boy Scout said, “Why would someone do THAT? That’s a lot of money just to prank you.”

The rest of the Masons looked confused, so I explained the general plot of Wordless, that it had started as a suspense novel about mailing adulterated books with contraband to a jail. Which got us onto book talk, and one of the Masons has written a children’s book for rude adults called “Mommy Found a Crusty Sock” (I AM NOT KIDDING YOU GUYS IT WAS AWESOME and kind of icky) and wanted Lili to look at it and hook him up with her publisher…

I just…don’t even. I really don’t. If the person who mailed the package paid with a check or credit card, the cops will find him. But it seems unlikely. Cash would be the only way to go in this instance. But the guy whose address the package was originally mailed to? HIM they might find pretty soon. So there are threads for law enforcement to pull.

And that was my Saturday. Honest. I have witnesses. You can’t make this shit up and put it in fiction. No one would believe you. But real life? It’s as fantastic as taping a coin to a business card and using it for time travel.

In case you’re curious…
Latimer's Law thumbnail
Latimer’s Law
Available May 6, 2014 (Stand-alone title, romantic suspense)
Harlequin.com
Barnes & Noble.com
Amazon.com

Suspense or Mystery?

Today is the day I start reading the current work-in-progress from top to bottom, and creating an actual synopsis, as opposed to the fake one I’ve been pretending to follow as I draft.

You see, it turns out that all this time, I’ve been writing a mystery, and not only romantic suspense. You’d think I’d have known that from the start, but you’d be wrong. Each new book teaches you how to write that book. And each new book will surprise you just when you think you have a handle on it.

Mysteries require lots of internal structure, scaffolding, logic, and clues that hang together. Romantic suspense requires action, danger, suspense, and intensely romantic elements. That’s not to say a mystery can’t be romantic, or that it can’t be suspenseful. It’s just that this particular romantic suspense has the bones of a mystery hidden inside it.

Thus, I have managed to break the book as I pantsed it.

I have another 10K words to fix it, and I can do it. But it’s time to look back and see what I’ve really done, not just what sweeping romantic scenes were in my head and might still get written. It’s got to work as an organic whole, not a series of vignettes with an edge of suspense.

I use Scrivener as my primary writing tool for most larger projects (the size of novellas and up), so its tools should facilitate this process. After the synopsis is complete, I’ll walk it through and see what’s missing, misleading, unneeded or broken, and fix that.

Meanwhile, there are those glamorous day to day chores to be done, some geese to be fed, and a couple of cats who need attention, before I head off to the day job.

Saved! …by a tabby cat

One of the side-effects of writing stories is that pretty much every notable event in my life becomes a story. Even anecdotes get framed in narrative. I find plot arcs in the small moments of life.

How else does one find drama in the goings-on in a chicken coop, in whether a gander will successfully hatch a clutch of goslings?

But here at our house, it’s more than just poultry who get character motivations attributed to them. There are also three cats here, and at the moment, nine alpaca geldings roaming the yard.

Leader of the alpacas

That’s right. Camelids, in our yard. They’re…odd.

We first met Da Boyz, as they’re known around here, several years ago, when our tender-hearted neighbor adopted seven alpaca geldings who were destined for wherever alpacas go when someone doesn’t want them anymore. Seven became eight, when someone else learned that the neighbor was running a halfway house for wayward alpacas, and eight became nine. Our neighbor’s young daughter, stars in her eyes, planned her future career as an alpaca herder, shearer, spinner and weaver.

Alas, alpaca wool is a glut on the market here locally, and the neighbors accumulated fleeces year after year, piling up in storage, waiting for someone to come and wash and card it, then spin it into yarn, then knit or weave it. The daughter loved her nine goofy charges, and they loved her.

However, nine alpacas eat a lot. Browsers, they swiftly changed the ecology of the neighbors’ five acre wooded lot. If it was green and in reach, the alpacas nipped it with their wacky teeth.

The neighbors began eyeing the fabulous greenery of our yard with covetous, thrifty eyes.

(Aside: we charitably call the collection of moss, dandelions and weeds at our place “habitat.” It’s certainly not a lawn.)

One rattling pail of oats and a people-barrier stretched across the country lane between our houses later, Da Boyz had been ushered into the land of plenty, where no dandelion, rose, daffodil, blueberry bush, fern or shrub would be safe again. We locked the gate with a carabiner, because alpaca lips are clever.

Then began The Mowing, as it is known at our place. Alpacas “mow” like your toddler might if she’s been given a little Fisher-Price plastic mower: randomly, and not well, in meandering paths about ten inches wide. But over the course of a few weeks, the lawn emerged from the habitat, green and uniform. Any dandelion foolish enough to show its yellow head was clipped off in seconds and vanished down the maws of Da Boyz.

Each day we empty Da Boyz’ water trough and refill it. This is always a well-attended event, because in warm weather, Da Boyz like to be hosed off. When I have the time, I like to indulge them, spraying their fleeces and watching them shiver in delight. They jockey for position, shoving, laying back their ears, threatening each other with moans and cud-spitting.

(All that stuff you just read? We call that “back story.” Or “infodump.” And now we’re moving on to the plot arc.)

This morning, the tabby cat followed me outside. He wandered the dewy grass, looking for tall stems to munch himself. I turned on the hose and headed for the trough. He’s met the alpacas a number of times before, gradually moving from hissing and hiding to strolling nonchalantly past them. But unlike our Siamese, who will touch noses with Da Boyz as long as they’re not too pushy, the tabby prefers they keep their distance. (They spit, you know.)

Da Boyz heard the siren song of water spraying the iron of the trough and came at their fastest pace, the peculiar lurching ship-of-the-desert galumph.

The tabby saw them running toward me and gave a mew of alarm from the edge of the patio. You know, alerting me to the impending menace of fleece and grass-shearing teeth.

Da Boyz kept coming. Cats mean nothing to them, except as curiosities and objects of amusement. They chase crows and rabbits and squirrels, too. On their home property, Da Boyz regard the neighbor’s Great Dane as just one of the flock, and romp with him.

The tabby hurried across the grass to me, keeping an eye on the twin dangers: Da Boyz, and The Hose. He came mewing all the way.

I turned to speak to him, and saw his tail puffed up, ears laid back, eyes wide. He was afraid. And still he kept coming.

The tabby got between me and Da Boyz, and wailed in a passive-aggressive, complaining way that seemed to say, “This is MY human. Don’t MAKE me come over there, at least not while I’m the guard cat on duty.”

Rather than continue upsetting the cat, I put the hose in the trough to continue filling it, and scooped up the tabby to carry him back to the house.

He hissed. At me, at Da Boyz, at the situation. He was tough enough to take it, heck, take them, even, he didn’t need to be carried back to the house like a kitten! But he didn’t object to coming inside for a few kibbles when I offered them. Because, you see, there’s bravery and there’s foolishness, and while he might be a brave cat, he’s no fool.

Have a happy Tuesday, everyone!

Win a free signed copy of Latimer’s Law!

Visit my writer buddy, Grace Draven, on Facebook to enter a contest to win a free signed copy of Latimer’s Law. Contest closes this Sunday, May 4th, but you have plenty of time to dream-cast your favorite couple in your favorite book. Comment for a chance to win. Link: Latimer’s Law contest on Grace Draven’s FB.

If I were casting Cade and Abby from Latimer’s Law, I’d want Callum Keith Rennie as he looked in Battlestar Galactica and Olivia Wilde from her wide-eyed days in House.
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I am lucky enough to be one of Grace’s editors for her amazing romantic fantasy books. If you’re in the mood for luscious, lingering, and lusty fantasy, check out her books Master of Crows and Entreat Me. You can find more info and links on Grace’s website.

I’ll be back next time with the world’s best cornbread recipe (of COURSE it’s my Mom’s!). Get your cast iron wedge pans seasoned!

Music and Writing: The Latimer’s Law Track Listing

Most of the books or longer stories I write “grow a soundtrack” during the early period of story gestation. This soundtrack typically gets fine-tuned during the life of the book. Latimer’s Law was a little atypical in that the soundtrack was finalized early on, as the interior movie of the book bloomed in my head. After a while I burned the soundtrack to a CD and played it in the car. I use iTunes to create the soundtrack from our library of music.

I listened to the soundtrack during my daily commute for weeks and months, watching the story unfold in my head and letting the moods and emotions of the book really take on multiple dimensions. Below is the full track listing, which pretty much does reflect the general mood and path of the story start to finish. The book’s middle has a lot about water in it—a river, torrential rain, a shower, and that’s clear in the soundtrack.

Amanda Marshall: Birmingham
Indigo Girls: Leeds
Counting Crows: Black and Blue
Paula Cole: She Can’t Feel Anything
Damien Rice: Cold Water
Craig Carothers Trio: It’s Only Water
Eastmountainsouth: Rain Come Down
Marc Cohn: Paper Walls
Bruce Cockburn: Bone in My Ear
Nickelback: Never Again
George Michael: The Strangest Thing
Howie Day: Come Lay Down
Coldplay: Fix You
Josh Groban: Let Me Fall
Diana Krall: Narrow Daylight
Nickelback: Just For
Jewel: Enter from the East

A few specific notes about some of the tracks and how they relate to the book.

Amanda Marshall’s song Birmingham is about a woman who’s finally realized there is a straw that will break the camel’s back. She drives away from the nightmare of her life, just like Abby does.

Nickelback’s Never Again and Just For, both very violent songs about abuse and revenge and jealousy and murderous rage.  These are for Cade, but they also inform Abby’s abuse at the hands of Marsh.

Jewel: Enter from the East.  The lines “Stranger, enter from the east, stranger, step inside this place oh and own me” and “my heart has four empty rooms, three wait for lightning and one waits for you” speaks strongly for Abby and how she feels about Cade, the stranger who comes out of nowhere and is the catalyst for an enormous life change.

Diana Krall: Narrow Daylight — another Abby song, as she emerges from the black mess of her life.

Bruce Cockburn: Bone in My Ear — This is a Cade song, since he can’t walk away from Abby and her problems.

Josh Groban: a song from Cirque du Soleil’s bungee swing flyers — Let Me Fall.  Another Abby song, mostly for its mood, and the line “someone I am is waiting for courage.” 

Paula Cole: She Can’t Feel Anything Anymore — a song about abuse. 

And now I’m headed back to the music to listen to the fluctuating soundtrack for my next book, tentatively titled Wordless.

© 2017 Mel Sterling

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