Happy Thursday!! Today we have Meg Benjamin (a fellow Samhain Publishing author) with us and she's talking about music and writing and how they go together in her world. She's also sharing an excerpt of her latest book with us, and YES, THERE IS A CONTEST!

For the contest portion we're going to challenge you a little bit. Whoever makes the best comment in the comment section (as judged by Meg who will be around) will win an ARC of
Wedding Bell Blues. And come on, we all love to get our hands on ARCS so we can read the stories before anyone else. You know you do, so get creative and get to commenting. Make them fun!

And now, with no further chatter from me, here's Meg!! Hello HoR Readers! It's great to be here, I hope you like what I've come up with.

Music and Silence

At the end of Finder, Emma Bull’s author bio has a neat thing: the soundtrack for the book. These are the songs she listened to while she was writing, and it’s pretty extensive (also, from my point of view, sort of obscure). Bull is obviously one of those writers who likes to listen to music while she writes. I had a creative writing teacher who was like that once—he always used the same Mozart concerto, and when it reached a particular passage, it was his cue to begin writing.

I’ve frequently wished I were like that, too. It seems so cool—listen to the music and it jiggles your brain right into the story. Unfortunately, I can’t do it. When I write—and when I read—I need quiet. It’s always been that way for me. I’m one of those annoying people who will tell you to quiet down in the library, or ask you to turn down your music if you’re related to me and you’re in the room next door to my study. I don’t need absolute silence, of course. If I did, I’d never get anything done. Right now, for example, I’ve got some energetic finches cussing each other out just beyond my window. But that’s the kind of music I can always manage to blot out.

I think part of the problem is that when I listen to music, I like to listen to it. I want to hear the words along with the rhythm. That leads to some conflicts with my DH when I turn on my iPod in the car—he likes a soft background mutter, while I like it loud enough to listen to what’s being sung. One of the joys of Texas singer-songwriters is their lyrics, and I want to hear them (for some suggestions of singer-songwriters to listen to, check my Web site at http://www.MegBenjamin.com/music.html).

That doesn’t mean I sit in rapt silence while I listen, as you do in a concert hall. But the things I do while listening usually take a different part of my brain than reading or writing—playing computer solitaire, for example, or chopping onions. When I write, I need to concentrate, and the music seems to be filling the same channel in my brain as the words I’m trying to find.

Music can put me in the right mood for writing, though, even though I turn it off when I actually start work. And those songs sometimes show up in the books, as a sort of thank you to the artists for helping me get going. James McMurtry’s Red Dress shows up in Wedding Bell Blues because I wanted a really sexy song for Janie to dance to, and that song definitely qualifies. Joe Ely’s Cool Rockin’ Loretta is in Venus in Blue Jeans as a dance-around-the-shop-feeling-good song, which it really is. Some writers, like Jennifer Crusie, seem to include songs and singers in their books they want to clue you in on, like Dusty Springfield or Kirsty MacColl. If my references to McMurtry and Ely make people go out and listen to their stuff, I’d be delighted.

But I still can’t listen to music when I’m actually writing. For that, I have to listen to the music playing in my head! So I wish I could give you the soundtrack for my books. I wish there was a soundtrack for my books. But I can’t. My mind just doesn’t work that way. You’ll have to be satisfied with listening to the music my characters listen to. Apparently, they don’t have the same problems that I do!

So—this is what the characters in Wedding Bell Blues (July 21 from Samhain) are hearing. All of them are available on iTunes if you’d like to hear a sample.

Emmylou Harris, “Cattle Call”

James McMurty, “Red Dress”

Lyle Lovett, “If I Needed You”

Patsy Cline, “Faded Love”

Ray Wylie Hubbard, “Without Love (We’re Just Wastin’ Time)” (actually, Cal doesn’t specify a song, but Ray Wylie talks about playing this one at a wedding reception)

Willie Nelson, “Yesterday’s Wine”

And here's an excerpt for the book you're trying to win!!

Wedding Bell Blues

Pete Toleffson and Janie Dupree have to dance at the wedding reception since they’re best man and maid of honor, respectively. Pete’s a non-dancer, but Janie’s going to help him practice.

The music on the radio changed to Lyle Lovett and “If I Needed You”. Janie extended her hands. “Come on, it’s not that bad.”

“Yeah, it is.” Pete sighed, but he moved toward her, taking her hands. “This isn’t a waltz.”

“No, it’s not.” Janie smiled. “It’s just beautiful.” She swayed back and forth lightly, letting the music move into her bones.

After a moment, Pete began to move with her in a sort of tentative way.

Janie shuffled lightly to the left and back again, taking the rhythm from the music and pulling Pete gently in her wake.

He stumbled, half-catching himself, but Janie kept hold of his hands, sliding back and forth easily, humming along with Lyle. The tension began to fade in his arms.

On the radio, Emmylou Harris started singing “Cattle Call”. Pete stopped in his tracks. “What the hell?”

Janie laughed. “C’mon, it’s a waltz. Dance with me.” She extended her arms.

Pete pulled her closer, one hand at her waist, the other holding her hand out rigidly. After a moment, he began leading. Emmylou’s sweet soprano yodeling followed them around the yard. Janie found herself emphasizing each downbeat, enjoying herself immensely as Pete’s arms began to loosen slightly.

The music slowed and shifted to another slow one. Without thinking, Janie moved closer, letting Pete slide his feet alongside hers. She could feel the hard muscles of his shoulders beneath her fingers, flexing slightly as he moved her in careful circles. She let him push her along, keeping her spine straight but moving steadily closer until their bodies finally touched.

She hadn’t meant it to happen, really. Pete came to an abrupt halt, his shoulders stiff again. Janie started to move, but his hand at the small of her back held her in place. Then he began to dance again, more slowly this time. Another waltz began to play. Apparently, the DJ was psychic.

Janie could feel the smooth plane of his body pressing against her breasts. An ache had started low in her body that had nothing to do with exhaustion and everything to do with Pete Toleffson. She closed her eyes and let her cheek rest against his chest for a moment, feeling warm skin and smelling faint hints of sweat and aftershave, letting herself relax against the hard muscles of his chest and thighs.

One muscle was very hard indeed.

What the hell was she doing? Janie’s head popped up abruptly. Pete Toleffson was staring down at her, his eyes obscured in the dim light. “Something wrong, Ms. Dupree?” he murmured.

Janie shook her head, feeling a weird bubble of panic rise in her chest. This was just a dance, after all. She danced all the time.

Pete’s fingers spread against the small of her back, nudging her closer as their bodies moved slowly back and forth. Her hips brushed against him, and she was aware again of the hard shape of his erection.

Okay, she wasn’t imagining it—something was definitely going on beyond a quick turn around the backyard.

The music faded and changed to a muted commercial. Pete stopped moving.

Janie felt as if she were standing on the edge of a precipice, looking down. She could step back. Or she could leap over the edge and fly.

Pete’s hand moved from the small of her back to cup her cheek, and Janie stood very still, looking up at him. His eyes were dark in the dim light of the backyard, but she could see the fire behind them as he moved closer. Then his lips touched hers.

Wedding Bell Blues can be found at http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/wedding-bell-blues.

All right, peeps, get to commenting!

Comments (17)

On July 2, 2009 at 10:14 AM , lastnerve said...

This looks like an amazing book. I write reviews and I swear, I can't write one to save my life when I'm listening to music. One day I WILL be a writer and will have theme music when I enter a room lol ... I will be so famous, I can do that! My entrance into a room song? Shut up by Bowling for Soup. If an editor rejects me? Take this job and shove it! If I get a bad review? Poor Poor Pitiful Me by I can't remember who! For a good review? All Star by Smashmouth! Ahhhh yeah baby, I can see it all now!

Can't wait to read your book, the excerpt had me hooked!

On July 2, 2009 at 10:15 AM , Deb said...

Meg, I love music. When I am reviewing I have it on and my words just flow. My girls can not sleep with out it.

Great songs for the book. I can not wait to read it and blend the songs with the story.

Congrats on your book Wedding Bell Blue, I loved Venus is Bluejeans!

On July 2, 2009 at 11:47 AM , Babyblue22 said...

Hey Meg,
Great Post!! I love the covers!

I'm the other way around Meg, for some wierd reason listening to music usually helps me in whatever I'm doing, be it the dishes, or taking a shower. Yes we have a radio in the bathroom.

Like when I was younger , if I had problems with my homework or got stuck somewhere in my textbooks I'd turn on my radio and problem solved. Once the music was on I could all of a sudden concentrate on what I was doing.
I know it sounds wierd but the only I can describe it is that music keeps me relaxed and centered and even though it's on in the backround I seem to be able to focus better.
I know I'm a strange one ;-D

On July 2, 2009 at 1:15 PM , Leah Braemel said...

Meg! I love the new cover. I'm looking forward to "returning to Texas" and the Toleffson wedding.

On July 2, 2009 at 1:23 PM , mamasand2 said...

Meg, I'm just the opposite. I love having music playing to block out the other noises. That may have started when I was commuting into Detroit. Now, my son and his family with 2 young grandkids living with me, and I really need to block out the noise. LOL

I love Cattle Call, although I prefer the Eddy Arnold version. And Patsy Cline is another favorite. I put her album on quite often.

I love the sound of your Wedding Bell Blues. Janie teaching Pete how to dance brings back some great memories. But I have to wonder why he called her "Ms. Dupree". From the music selectons, I would guess this is set in the fifties and they weren't that formal.

So, why did he call her that? You have me curious along with intrigued.


On July 2, 2009 at 3:26 PM , Meg Benjamin said...

Gee, all you guys make me feel so inadequate--you can multitask while I have to keep my brain clear! I think "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me" is by Linda Ronstadt (she did a version, anyway). Sandie, WBB actually is a contemporary. McMurtry's "Red Dress" is from 2003, and most of the other songs (except for Patsy Cline and Willie) are from the nineties. I've gotta say, I'm not sure why Pete calls her "Ms. Dupree"--he doesn't do it at any other time. It must have just seemed right at the time, I guess!

On July 2, 2009 at 4:03 PM , Nikki Duncan said...

I'm very late. Shame shame on me, but it's been a madhouse around here!

Thanks for joining us Meg! The books look great. :)

On July 2, 2009 at 4:35 PM , Anonymous said...

Is this the area to comment for the arc?

Anyway, hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!

Pat L.

On July 2, 2009 at 4:36 PM , Lynn R. said...

Like some of the others, I can NOT work without music playing. However, I'm a classical musician, so I tend to have that on the radio more than anything else, although my taste is fairly eclectic. And yes, Linda Ronstadt did do a version of Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me. In fact, it's the only version that I know of, but obviously doesn't mean that there aren't other versions.



On July 2, 2009 at 5:40 PM , Nikki Duncan said...

Yes Pat. Comment away.

On July 2, 2009 at 6:54 PM , Jax Cassidy said...

Thanks for stopping in and guest blogging. Love the excerpt, Meg!

On July 2, 2009 at 6:54 PM , Gail said...

First, let me say that excerpt has definitly peaked my interest and I will look for Wedding Bell Blues, I have to know how the dancing plays out. hehe
Anyway, back to the other topic, music. I have always loved music and when I read stories I find that certain songs seem to represent a characters mood or personality. Music has always been an escape for me, I generally can listen to music and do other things, but I agree there are times that it can be distracting when I'm doing something that is frustrating like writing a letter or fixing an out of balance check book;-) Have a great Holiday Weekend and Rock out with your bad self. LOL

On July 2, 2009 at 8:33 PM , L M Gonzalez said...

Hi Meg,

Loved the excerpt and congrats on your upcoming book!

I love music! I took piano lessons for 9 years, yes 9 years! Then, my younger sister took piano lessons for 4 years, won a contest and got to play at Carnegie Hall! Man!

Anyway, I lived in a small house with 4 sisters and two parents. I learned to write with "chaos" going on around me. :) Later on, I had two sons who loved to watch wrestling so that was in the background to my writing. LOL

I love the fact that you interject music into your stories. That's an added bonus.

Again, congrats!

On July 2, 2009 at 8:36 PM , Amy S. said...

Both books sounds great! I do love the title to the second one. One of my fave movies has that title.

On July 2, 2009 at 9:59 PM , Caffey said...

Hi Meg! Happy Thursday too! Finally the week is almost over! Meg, I'm deaf so I don't hear the music. I remember when meeting my hubby who's hard of hearing, he had some favorite music and would put the speakers on the floor and then feel the music with me and show me the lyrics as he did that. I was finding a way to 'hear' the music. I remember one that I loved the lyrics of and the feel, Landslide by Fleetwood Mac. And too one of my dad's favorite and I loved the lyrics of, was Danny's Song by Anne Murray. So I know its older music from the 70's but thats all I could follow then.
When I'm reading, I need the TV on. More so because I need to 'see' something happening around me so I don't feel so alone or startled from people coming in and all. When you have this music with you writing your books, do the lyrics take a big part of that or just the feel of the music?

On July 3, 2009 at 10:12 AM , Meg Benjamin said...

Mercy me, lots more comments. I should never have made this "best" comment because it means I have to choose just one, and they're all terrific. I promise I'll figure out a winner this weekend. Caffey, I can't say whether it's lyrics or feel. With the McMurtry "Red Dress" song it's both, but songs like "If I Needed You" have lyrics I love to listen to and some songs are all rhythm because the lyrics either make no sense to me (I'm talking to you Bob Dylan) or they just don't matter (Joe Ely's "I Keep My Fingernails Long So They Click When I PLay the Piano" comes to mind).

On July 5, 2009 at 12:14 PM , Meg Benjamin said...

Okay, guys, I really enjoyed talking with you, and choosing a winner here was very tough. Lastnerve gets the ARC, although all of you had great things to say. Lastnerve please e-mail me at meg@megbenjamin.com so I can find out how to send you your copy. Hope to talk to you all again sometime!