How does music and/or noise affect my writing?
Honestly? Not all that much. I’m not one who creates a playlist for every book, and I don’t require music/noise while writing. With the exception of two scenes in a single book, I don’t recall music playing a big part in any of my stories thus far. The most I’m likely to do is seek out music that fits the story after-the-fact if I want to point to a “playlist.”
That said, music/background noise can help me set the mood for a scene. I might listen to something that fits the feeling for for a scene I’m working out in my head before I start typing. Likewise, the sound of a crackling fire or a soft/hard/thunderous rain can also create the perfect backdrop while my muse is churning.
That main exception I mentioned? This version of “Adagio for Strings” (London Philharmonic Orchestra) is on my favorites playlist. I listened to this over and over while working out the scene in When Are You? where Leo and Vinnie are scrambling in a blind panic to get themselves and their young son, Oscar, back through an anomaly they’d accidentally run through.
Why the blind panic? A small group of loincloth-wearing men brandishing spears is running toward them, protecting their territory, which Leo/Vinnie/Oscar just unwittingly “invaded.”
I so strongly pictured that scene playing out in slow motion with this song as the backdrop that I even wrote that into the story:
The song “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams (pretty much the polar opposite of “Adagio with Strings”) also gets a few mentions in the same book, and of course, I listened to it numerous times while musing over the final scene where it gets some on-page time. When I say to people, Don’t worry, it might look grim, but I promise the story has a “Happy” ending, I’m literally referring to them dancing to this song.
That’s probably about the most any music has impacted any of my scenes/stories, so to keep this from being a super short webring blogpost, I’ll leave you with that “Adagio with Strings” scene that also references “Happy” before everything goes south. For context, Leo and Vinnie are pushing Oscar in a stroller down a path in the local park, and Oscar wants them to run (from Leo’s 3rd-person POV):
“Go?” Oscar peered up at Leo with wide, hopeful eyes. Oscar wanted them to run. Leo raised an eyebrow at Vinnie.
Vinnie lifted a single shoulder and returned the grin. He tightened his grip on the stroller’s handlebar. “Sure.”
“Go! Go! Go!” Oscar bounced in his seat and raised a fist in the air to punctuate his words. He squealed in delight as Vinnie picked up speed.
Leo let loose a whoop and trotted along beside them. The unrepentantly chirpy, and fittingly named “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, one of Oscar’s favorite songs to listen to—or rather to dance to—became an earworm in Leo’s head. As earworms went, he’d had worse, because this one was accompanied by a vision of Oscar, Vinnie, and himself laughing and bouncing around their living room to the beat of the song. His mind flashed to his military buddies and how they’d rib him about it, and his smile widened.
Leo edged ahead and glanced back at Oscar. To Oscar, it was a race, and he pounded his little fists on the tray in front of him and yelled, “Go! Go! Go!”
Vinnie laughed and picked up speed to Oscar’s squealing delight.
One of the many seemingly inane parenting decisions that Leo and Vinnie had discussed at one time was whether or not to “let” Oscar win, or should he also experience the disappointment of losing. They’d decided that both winning and losing would always be a part of his life, so he should learn early how to handle each with grace. Today, Leo decided, he wanted Oscar to win.
So he backed off just a touch and let Oscar edge past.
He and Vinnie were virtually even as they approached the bench. The older couple sitting there, watching children—their grandchildren?—play in the field opposite, looked up and smiled at them. Leo returned a cheery grin.
Just past the bench, the air in the path immediately ahead of them wavered. Shimmered. Vacillated much like an effect Leo’d noticed during his military days while stationed in hot climates. He didn’t think much of it, other than to idly note that it had been a while since he’d seen anything like that. But he wasn’t a meteorologist, and the specifics of how humidity and temperature interacted with air were not his forte.
Or maybe he just needed to blink some excess moisture from his eyes. Regardless, it certainly didn’t seem like anything worth coming to a screeching halt to avoid.
Not without 20/20 hindsight.
Apparently, Vinnie didn’t notice or didn’t think anything about it either, because he didn’t miss a beat as they ran right through the wavy air.
Leo stumbled on the unexpected, abruptly changed terrain. The park’s smooth, level path was gone, replaced by a slight downward incline covered in long grasses and wildflowers. Oscar squealed—although whether from fear or the excitement of the stroller becoming momentarily airborne, Leo didn’t know. Vinnie tripped and rolled with a squawk of his own, and Leo skidded onto his rear with a grunt.
Frozen in place with his mouth hanging open, the first sentient thought to run through Leo’s mind was “What. The. Fuck.” Followed quickly by assess…plan…execute. That mantra ran through the back of Leo’s mind on repeat.
Assess. Everything had changed. Leo’s head swiveled like a bar stool with a twink on the make atop it.
Trees surrounded the meadow where they’d landed. Steep hills loomed to the right, behind a thicket of red alder trees.
“Go! Go! Go!” Oscar’s words were accompanied by the soft rhythmic slap of his hands coming together. The stroller bounced in place. “Whee! Go! Go! Go!”
Leo’s heart skipped, and precious seconds ticked by as they remained paralyzed by shock, trying to make sense of what was happening.
Vinnie sat where he’d landed. Still, except for tremors coursing through his muscles. Vinnie turned panic-stricken eyes to Leo, and his mouth opened to say something, but noise ahead and to the right grabbed their attention.
Two groupings of men burst out of the grove of trees. Men wearing little more than scraps of material. Leather loincloths? Smudges of color streaked their contorted faces and their lean, well-muscled bodies. Some kind of leather footwear protected their feet. Their long hair was tied back with who-knew-what and was decorated with a smattering of feathers. Small items he couldn’t distinguish bounced at some of their waists.
Panic zipped across Leo’s skin as he looked from the men to Vinnie to the stroller, now several yards ahead and still holding an obliviously cheerful Oscar.
His mind raced. Final assessment: they obviously weren’t in the park anymore. Or Oregon. Or anywhere immediately recognizable.
The men held spears. Spears! They waved their arms and yelled. Leo couldn’t understand the words, but their tone and body language clearly conveyed, “Get the fuck out of our territory!” Thankfully, although he saw the spears were held alongside atlatls—spear launchers—which meant they could possibly be thrown this far, they didn’t have the spears cocked and loaded, ready to throw.
Plan. Get his family the fuck out of there as fast as possible. Back through whatever funky portal that wavy air signified.
The portal. Leo drew in a sharp breath and turned to look. It was still there! An escape route!
A direct about-face would facilitate the most rapid retreat. Without the men’s spears drawn, the added delay to position one of them on the other side of Oscar to—
His body jolted as an image of Vinnie heroically giving his life for Oscar’s flashed through his mind. No. Becoming a human shield was unnecessary and could cause a catastrophic delay. Turning their entire assembly would also waste precious seconds.
Assess. Plan. Execute.
“Hurry!” Leo leapt up and lurched forward to grab the stroller’s handlebar.
With a flinch, Vinnie snapped out of his wide-eyed trance and did the same, apparently coming to the same conclusion. They turned, each gripping the handlebar with one hand, and tore out with an overdue eruption of energy.
Leo pushed off at the same time as Vinnie.
“Wheee! Go! Go! Go!”
Leo’s gut twisted as their progress back up the hill seemed to unfold in slow-motion. Slow-motion accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing “Adagio for Strings” as if it were the film score for a heartbreaking movie scene.
No! Leo’s shoes slid on the damp grasses. Vinnie slipped, dropping to one knee, but didn’t miss a beat as he leapt forward again. Leo’s heart pounded as they neared the still wavering air.
They would make it through. Leo’s grip tightened on the handlebar. This was not going to be a tragic movie scene. But what would prevent the angry hoard of…what?—native men?—from following?
No! Focus! One step at a time. Step one, get through the portal.
After that, they could spin a 180 to put Oscar in front of them and reassess. Vinnie could get Oscar to safety while Leo alerted the nearby people and figured out how to block the portal.
They reached the quivering wall of air and rushed through it to the sound of the old woman on the bench screaming as their shoes found purchase on the park’s pervious rubber pathway, and they surged forward…then tumbled headlong onto the surface as the counterweight they’d been pulling vanished.
Leo grunted as his forearms scraped along the path. He stared uncomprehendingly at the stroller’s handlebar, still clutched in one hand. The handlebar and about six inches of pole on either side ending with a clean cut.
Leo gaped, unblinking and breathing heavily, at the path behind them. The wavering air…it was gone. The air was normal.
The woman hadn’t stopped screaming. Vinnie was panting—hyperventilating?—and snatching at bits of light green fabric that matched the stroller’s canopy.
“Oscar?” Leo’s voice came out in a squeak. Louder, he repeated, “Oscar?” He sat up and scanned the area. An unrelenting hand clutched his heart. Squeezed it. Squelched it. Liquefied it. Oscar was gone. The entire stroller, other than the handlebar, was…gone.
Leo shoved his sunglasses to the top of his head. His breath caught in his throat, and he looked around again. He shouted, “Oscar!”
“No, no, no, no…” Vinnie chanted as he stumbled to his feet and spun around, fruitlessly looking everywhere…anywhere. He snatched another bit of green fabric floating on the air. “No, no, no, no…this isn’t happening.”
“Oscar!” Leo yelled again. His stomach lurched, threatening to heave because their actions were pointless. Wherever they’d been, that’s where Oscar still was. The portal had snapped shut, cutting them off, but every cell in Leo’s body screamed in denial of this reality. “Oscaaaaar!”
The woman stopped shrieking but sucked in rattling breaths behind her hands that now covered her face. Behind them on the path, voices broke through Leo’s focus.
“Oh, my God, did you see that?”
“What the hell just happened?”
“They just disappeared…into…thin air.”
“What happened to the kid?”
“Somebody call 9-1-1!”
In the field, the people who’d been kicking soccer balls had stilled and were staring, wide-eyed.
Vinnie crumpled to the ground, hugged his knees to his chest, bits of green fabric clutched in his hands, and rocked. Leo barely heard Vinnie’s words as they tore his heart in two. “No, no, no, no…”
Leo doubled over and retched. He’d failed Oscar. He’d failed Vinnie. He’d failed. Utterly and completely failed.
He hadn’t cried since middle school, but a garbled sob escaped him now. He dragged a forearm across his mouth and turned back toward where the wavy air had been. “Oscaaaaar!”
“Where did it go?” Vinnie choked on a rattling sob of his own. “Where did it go? We’ve got to go back and get him! Where did it go?”
Leo lifted his face to the sky. “Oscaaaaar!” The faintest of echoes was the only answer to Leo’s agonized plea.
Like I said…don’t panic…I guarantee a “Happy” ending!
They have to find him…but how?
As a former member of an elite military special forces unit, Leo Bailey can handle anything life throws at him, except maybe approaching a certain gorgeous, purple mohawk-wearing, heavily pierced artist. But, one look at the mouthwateringly muscled, military buzzcut-sporting man with the endearing blush, and Vincent Noland is in love. Or at least in lust. Love comes later. Then marriage…and sweet, adorable Oscar.
Leo and Vinnie’s lives are perfect—the stuff of fairytale happily ever afters—except for Arthur Fletcher, whose unsettling reactions to them threaten to upset the happy balance of their lives. But it isn’t Arthur who throws their lives into turmoil.
A freak event causes Oscar to go missing and leaves both men frantic to rescue their son. As they piece together the clues, they discover that Oscar isn’t somewhere. He’s somewhen. And Arthur Fletcher holds the key—or rather the glass beads—to their one chance of finding Oscar.
Will Leo’s training, Vinnie’s determination, and Arthur’s knowledge help them rescue Oscar, or is the little boy doomed to spend the rest of his life at the mercy of a primitive civilization? Could there be a third possibility?
When Are You? in Kindle Unlimited (but not via KDP, so it’s not subject to those exclusivity rules)!
My bonus scenes page includes a prequel scene that can definitely be read before reading the book (in fact, I encourage it):
WEBRING ~ Read Around the Rainbow!
Be sure to flip through the webring to read your favorite authors’ takes on this topic! For your convenience, here are direct links to the other WebRing participants’ posts for this month’s topic: