Cool off with In The Midnight Rain

On special this week at Amazon:  IN THE MIDNIGHT RAIN:

Ellie Connor is looking for answers when she arrives in Gideon, Texas to stay in the guest house of Internet pal Blue Reynard.  She’s researching a book about the mysterious disappearance of a woman blues singer in the 1950’s, but she’s also seeking answers to a great mystery in her own life.  When she arrives in Gideon with her dog April, she has no idea she’s about to upturn her life and the lives of many of the residents of the small east Texas town–and none more than Blue himself.

This was my first women’s fiction, a book that haunted me for months, showing up when I opened up the oven, following me around like an  annoying child, nagging me to finish it.  It had been a “Sunday book,” a book I write as an experiment on the weekends around other projects, but it finally became quite insistent that I should finish it and submit it.

It was a life-changer, this one.  I found my current agent with this material, and that was the year I started writing women’s fiction almost exclusively.  I had very powerful feedback on the book, from so many segments of society, that it has long been one of my favorites. Please take a look at this sample chapter–maybe you’ll love it, too.

From IN THE MIDNIGHT RAIN:

Turning off the computer and the lamp, Ellie slipped on a pair of thongs and headed up the hill. The house glowed with lights, and as she started out, Blue turned on an outside light that made it easier, but it was still very dark, a kind of dark she’d forgotten existed. Crickets whirred in the grass, and cicadas answered from the trees, the only sounds for miles and miles, and the air was thick and soft against her face, smelling of earth and river and sky. She inhaled it deeply, pausing to catch the moment close to herself.

Peaceful. Life was so peaceful in the country. Not the actual lives—emotions ruled people no matter where they lived, so there was always some drama or another waiting to make things chaotic—but the details were easier. She could think better without cars racing and roaring and people shouting in the apartment overhead, and even little things like televisions and radios in an unceasing undertone of constant sound. She liked smelling air, not fuel, and loved the sight of the sky overhead.

A shadow startled her, and she made a sound of surprise before Blue caught her hand. “It’s just me,” he said.

For that brief second, she let herself feel his big, strong hand, rough from his work. Impulsively, she curled her fingers around his, and said, “You have one sexy voice, Dr. Reynard.”

“Are you flirting with me, Miz Connor?”

She laughed softly. “Maybe so.”

“Good. I like that.” He walked up the path, hanging on to her. Ellie let it be. At the porch, he let her go, and gestured for her to take a chair. “I’m having bourbon, myself. What’ll be your pleasure? Other than me, of course.”

“I wouldn’t mind a bourbon, if you’ll walk me back down the hill.”

“Careful now. I might take that as an invitation.”

“You are amazingly arrogant, you know that?”

“Yes, I do. ” She heard ice clinking in a glass and the quiet flow of liquid, and he gave her a glass.

“Thank you.”

He settled on the step. “Not too many women drink straight bourbon these days.”

“I don’t very often.”

“But you got a little off balance today, didn’t you?”

She gave him a look. “So did you.”

Quietly, he said, “Yes, ma’am, that I did. Guess we both have our closets full of skeletons.”

“Most people do.”

“You think so? I don’t know. It seems like a lot of folks just get it right out of the gate. I see them in town, you know? Guys who’ve been making the right call since the day they were born, live quiet lives without a lot of turmoil, and just . . . keep it together. Never screw up their credit or forget to mow the lawn or leave a project half-done.”

Ellie sipped cold fire from her glass and listened.

“You ever notice,” he said, “that those people don’t ever seem to have big traumas, either? Like their kids never have wrecks and their houses don’t burn down. It’s like they’re protected with some big cloud of serenity”

“That’s seeing it from the outside, Blue. Nobody gets through life without sorrow and loss. It’s just part of the game.”

He turned his face toward her, and in the darkness, Ellie could see no details, but she sensed his attention. “You really believe that?”

“My grandma always says there are green seasons.” She tucked a foot up under her.

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Playlist for THE SECRET OF EVERYTHING

I’ve had a good number of requests to post the playlist for THE SECRET OF EVERYTHING, and here it is.  I had no idea there was so much music in this book, honestly, but music is always playing in my head (and Tessa’s!), so I suppose it is no big surprise.

I had a soundtrack that kept growing and growing and growing as I worked, and this is most of it. Not all songs showed up on the actual pages, of course.  And not all the folk songs have names I know.

Orphan Girl, Emmy Lou Harris

The Garden, Mirah

Dark on Fire, Turin Brakes

Ballad of an Outlaw Woman, Annie McCUe

Our House, Crosby Stills Nash and Young

Deja Vu, CSNY

Helplessly Hoping, CSN

It’s a Beautiful Day, It’s a Beautiful Day

Bombay Calling, It’s a Beautiful Day

Guinevere, CSN

Long as I Can See the Light, Creedence Clearwater Revival

Hanging on a Star, Nick Drak

Chasing Cars, Snow Patrol

Friend of the Devil, Grateful Dead

Truckin’, Grateful Dead

No Sleep Tonight, Faders

Superman, Three Doors Down

Rescue Me, Aretha Franklin

Mother of God, Patty Griffin

Turtle Blues, Janis Joplin

All You Rolling Minstrels, Fairport Convention

Tessa’s List of Happy Artists

Entire Motown List

Beatles

Sound of Music (also Natalie’s favorite)

Kirstly McColl’s Tropical Brainstorm

Cat Stevens, Teaser and the Firecat

I would love to have made you a playlist so you could download the whole thing at iTunes, but I haven’t a clue how to do it.


Dinner in Suburbia by Make Less Noise
When I was a child,
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HOW TO BAKE A PERFECT LIFE by Barbara O'Neal Available TODAY in trade paperback from
First: we're working behind the scenes on the Barbara O'Neal and Barbara Samuel webpages, which

Your 20 most influential albums (CDs)

This is a note from Facebook, but it seemed like something fun to play with here.  I had SO much fun thinking of these top albums and have been remembering things about them all morning.  Post your favorites in the comments and let’s reminisce together

My sister posted her list, so I have to post mine. Think of 15, I mean 20, albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions.

With the above criteria in mind, and plenty of cheating, here’s my list in no certain order:

I stole a couple from her, right away. And it’s a weird list, I know.   It also makes me seem about a decade older than I am, since all I wanted to do was grow up and be a hippie.  <g>

1. Led Zepplin 4
2. Cosmo’s Factory by Credence Clearwater Revival (still write to this)
3. Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues (grandma’s house, 1970)
4. Beggar’s Banquet, Rolling Stones (which makes me remember a Castle Rock wedding, and a heady first kiss)
5. Tap Root Manuscript, Neil Diamond (“And you shall come to hear a song….”  I don’t care if you think ND is nerdy. This album is incredible.)
6. Are You Experienced, Hendrix
7. Street Corner Symphony, The Persuasions (Sunday breakfast through the 90s)
8. Beatles 1967-1970 (the blue album)
9. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
10. Luck of the Draw, Bonnie Raitt (good divorce music)
11. Sonny & Terry, Sonny Brownie and Terry McGee (The CD I can’t live without)
12. Cheap Thrills, Janis Joplin (see #10)
13. The Corrs, Unplugged
14. No Angel, Dido
15. Come Away With Me, Norah Jones (still in VERY heavy play)
16. Keb Mo, Keb Mo
17. Teaser and The Firecat, Cat Stevens
18. Liege and Lief, Fairport Convention
19. The CD said sister made for me when I had the blues one dark day in May
20. Tropical Brainstorm, Kirsty McColl

And then I remembered I forgot Uh-Huh, Mellencamp, and the CD my kids would mostly like name as my favorite, Paul Simon’s Greatest Hits, which I have played at least 59021 times over the course of their lives.

Let’s hear your favorites, too.  It’s so much fun to remember!

Waiting tonight for the ball to drop in Colorado, I'm availing myself of a pair
I have been fretting that my process is annoyingly different every time, and as this
I walked home from the YMCA this morning, listening through my left ear to my

New Years Eve

Waiting tonight for the ball to drop in Colorado, I’m availing myself of a pair of I-tunes gift cards that came my way on Christmas (have I mentioned that I am IN LOVE with my video Nano?).  Interesting to be choosing things from the past on the eve of the new year. 

Here are some of the things I’ve chosen: 

Beggar’s Banquet, Rollling Stones.  Seriously–could you possibly call yourself a rocker without this CD in your collection?  Timeless, eternally perfect, especially (of course) Sympathy for the Devil.   This particular music has been on my mind because I’ve connected with an old friend and we loved Mick & the gang. We saw them in concert in Boulder….oh a long time ago. A massive highlight of my young life.

Downloading that led to (for no reason I can name)…

Lives in the Balance, Jackson Browne.  One of my favorite albums of all time.  I especially love the title song, partly for the words and the message, but also for the music and the Latin influence.  When I was a young mother, I’d play this song in my kitchen while I did the dishes and never could hear Lawless Avenue or Lives in the Balance without stopping to dance and sing.  I’ve heard this particular CD was his passion but it fared poorly in the market.   Speaking strictly for me, I’m very glad he made it anyway.  And now I’ve purchased it again.   

Thinking about dancing in my kitchen made me remember John Mellencamp’s Pink Houses and another concert.  Uh-huh is a fantastic piece of work, and some of the videos were masterpieces.  Mellencamp gets the working class, and he is a master of telling detail. 

Now it’s nearlySnowhike_200 midnight here and I’m going to watch the fireworks from the top of Pikes Peak, carried there by the AdAMan club, which I think I’d like to someday join on their trek.  Glad it isn’t tonight, though.  It is very, very cold.   (And, considering it’s probably 40 below up there, that’s a silly comment.  But how cool would it be to be on top of Pikes Peak at midnight on New Year’s Eve?  I wonder if they spend the night up there?)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  May 2008 be your best year thus far.

PS The fireworks are fantastic.  The snowy peak is illuminated against the darkness, making it seem like something stolen and magical.

On special this week at Amazon:  IN THE MIDNIGHT RAIN: Ellie Connor is looking for
I've had a good number of requests to post the playlist for THE SECRET OF
This is a note from Facebook, but it seemed like something fun to play with
I have been fretting that my process is annoyingly different every time, and as this
I walked home from the YMCA this morning, listening through my left ear to my

Soundtrack for the new book

I have been fretting that my process is annoyingly different every time, and as this book is brewing, I’ve torn out pictures from magazines, but haven’t felt even the slightest desire to brainstorm with a collage. (Yet.)

Then, yesterday in the mail, I had a package from my ex, who sent me his copy of Sonny & Brownie because I couldn’t find this one, and remembered he had it, so I asked if he’d copy it for me.  He couldn’t get copies made for some reason or another (well, I do know why–a little late to computers, this one, and the process flummoxes him).   

Brownie

Oh, seeing that cover…..! I rushed upstairs and put it into the computer to copy and blasted "God and Man," which is one of the best songs EVER.   I played it five times in a row, swaying and singing along and letting those voices echo in my chest.  Once it was safely copied, I moved a copy into the soundtrack file for the new book, which so far looks like this:

Are You Alright? Lucinda Williams
Still I Long For your Kiss, Lucinda Williams
God and Man, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee
The Wind, Cat Stevens
My Lover’s Gone, Dido
Not Alone, Patty Griffin
What a Dream I Had, Simon and Garfunkel (which is not the name of the song, but I’m lazy and don’t feel like looking it up)
Every Morning, Keb Mo
Let Him Fly, Patty Griffin
Moses, Patty Griffin
Home, Marc Broussard

Now, it might seem an odd list, but often it is as much about the tone of the music and the emotions it stirs up as it is about genre or artist or even tone.  This is a pretty bluesy list, but there are some other things, too, and it is not yet complete, and I’m listening to tons of music, listening and listening as I do other things.  Wash clothes, drive around town.  New things, old things, I don’t care.  I know a song is right when one of the characters starts to move around. 

This is morning, it occurred to me that this is just a different way to collage.  I’m listening to this collage instead of looking at it.  That has often happened in the past, too.  Every book-child has its own requirements.

Looking at that list, is there something you think might add some nice flavor?  Do you do soundtracks or collages?  Just curious.

I am tired this morning. It's  Friday, bright and sunny. I've had a good week--lots
This is an in-progress drawing that's been living on my desk the past week. It
A friend of mine has started a business flipping houses. We live in a lucrative
I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin, whose books on happiness and habits offer a
Lately, I've been reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn to help create

The leaded window opens…..

I walked home from the YMCA this morning, listening through my left ear to my Ipod Shuffle (which is one of the great inventions of all time).   The Jethro Tull CD Heavy Horses arrived in rotation, and I had not heard it for quite some time, so I switched from shuffle to playing in order so I could listen to it all.   

There are albums you love because they mark a period of time, pin down memories, capture some special something you treasure.  I can see myself lying in the middle of my living room floor in one of the first houses I lived in away from my parents, between two gigantic speakers, listening to Jimi Hendrix.  He was long dead by then, but lived in perfect, unmarked beauty in a poster on my bedroom wall (weirdly, my younger son resembles him quite a lot, or maybe I just think so because he’s my child and beautiful and I did so love Jimi for a time).  In the right mood, I can still enjoy Are You Experienced, but it does have to be just the right mood.

There are others that just never wear out. Beggar’s Banquet.  I’m pretty sure I can listen to Let It Be a few hundred thousand more times before I tire of it.  Simon and Garfunkel’s For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her, the poetry set to a melody as delicate as cobwebs:

What a dream I had
Pressed in organdy
Clothed in crinoline

Of smoky burgundy…

Heavy Horses is one of my top ten CDs of all time.  If I tell you that my eldest son is named Ian because of Ian Anderson, you’ll know I mean I love this band.  There are very, very few musicians who can create such a mood of joy, weaving that flute and elegant lyrics and guitar into something that feels celebratory and medieval and earthy, and it is never any better than it is in HH, an ode to the sweet beauties of pastoral life, the pleasures of the natural world and animals and simple living close to the earth. "Weathercock" is an ode to the simple beauties of pastoral life, the simplicity of faith in things beyond us, woven with the famous flute and medieval dance rhythms that can still–after 40 zillion listens–catch my throat:

Give us direction; the best of goodwill,

Put us in touch with fair winds.

Sing to us softly, hum evening’s song.

Tell us what the blacksmith has done for you.

When my boys were small, we had music quizzes.  A song came on the radio and I would say, "Quick, who is this?"  (Often they would not know and answer, "The Beatles." )  But they both knew that "The Mouse Police Never Sleeps" was Jethro Tull, because it is a delicious song for small boys, full of slithers and s-s-s-s and twitching tails, in musical language as well as words:

Muscled, black with steel-green eye

swishing through the rye grass

with thoughts of mouse-and-apple pie.

Tail balancing at half-mast.

…And the mouse police never sleeps

lying in the cherry tree.

Savage bed foot-warmer of purest feline ancestry.

Look out, little furry folk!

He’s the all-night working cat.

Eats but one in every ten

leaves the others on the mat.

Perhaps my favorite is the poignant Moths, which stands alone as poetry, but is a hymn when set to music:

The leaded window opened
to move the dancing candle flame

And the first Moths of summer

suicidal came, suicidal came.

And a new breeze chattered

in its May-bud tenderness….

And:


Chasing shadows slipping
  in a magic lantern slide —
Creatures of the candle
  on a night-light-ride.
Dipping and weaving — flutter
  through the golden needle’s eye
  in our haystack madness.  Butterfly-stroking
  on a Spring-tide high.
Life’s too long (as the Lemming said)
  as the candle burned and the Moths were wed.

And:

And the first moths of summer
  suicidal came
  to join in the worship
  of the light that never dies

I have not heard a band that sounds anything like Jethro Tull, blending that lyrical flute and elegant lyrics and stunning sense of play, but I’m willing to be educated. If you know a band I should check out, let me know. 

In the meantime, if you’ve not heard Heavy Horses, give it a try.


I am tired this morning. It's  Friday, bright and sunny. I've had a good week--lots
This is an in-progress drawing that's been living on my desk the past week. It
A friend of mine has started a business flipping houses. We live in a lucrative
I am a fan of Gretchen Rubin, whose books on happiness and habits offer a
Lately, I've been reading the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn to help create