Fan Girl Friday – The Soundtrack of My Life by Anna Campbell

Anna Campbell 43970006Hi Paula! Thank you for inviting me to your Fan Girl Friday! I think this is such a fantastic idea for a series of blogs. It’s always fascinating to see what gets people excited, isn’t it? And I don’t mean in a romance novel sense – or not completely!

I’m a music maven from way back. Pretty much any sort of music. I’m not fussy. I started playing the piano when I was five and even had mild delusions that I might make a career in music at one stage in my young life. I still find great joy in thumping out a show tune or two on the piano (the neighbours don’t find quite so much joy but, hey, they can always move!).

Today I thought I’d rave about some of my favourite music – soundtracks!

I write to music. There’s something about music that places me right in the world of the story. However, because I’m an auditory writer (I hear VOICES, call for psychiatric aid!), I can’t handle words to go with the music. As a result, I listen to a lot of classical music – thank goodness for ABC Classic FM in Australia, 24 hours a day, ad free, and you can stream it on your computer – and a lot of movie soundtracks.

Epics 4There’s some great music out there in the movies. Where would Lawrence of Arabia be without that haunting theme? Would Dr. Zhivago’s miserable love life be half so miserable if he hadn’t stared longingly into space to Lara’s Theme? Would Judah Ben-Hur move right over into the realm of Judah Ben-Really-Girly if that lush, dramatic music by Miklós Rózsa hadn’t scared the horses?

You’ll probably gather from the above list that I have a soft spot for music from epics. Somehow those BIG stories seem to bring out the best in composers. All the conflict, adventure, tragedy, romance and excitement. All those HUGE emotions and scenes.

epicsPlaying pretty constantly on my CD player these days is a fabulous compilation called Epics: The History of the World According to Hollywood. It’s got pretty much everything, including a lot of music I’ve tried to buy but failed to find like Taras Bulba and The Robe. For less than $40, this is more music than your average film buff can handle! Here’s the Amazon link.

Epics 3Other favourite soundtracks include Gladiator, Braveheart, The Big Country, and The Magnificent Seven. Not to mention my all-time favourite, The Last of the Mohicans. I’ve often screamed out “I will find you,” when I’m looking for that one!

Epics 2There’s one more soundtrack I’d like to talk about because it relates directly to my latest release, an e-novella called These Haunted Hearts: A Regency Ghost Romance. One of my favourite movies is an old-timer called The Ghost and Mrs. Muir with Gene Tierney and a very sexy Rex Harrison as the ghost. It has a heartbreakingly romantic score by Bernard Hermann who wrote the music for many of Hitchcock’s films.

Here’s a YouTube video with stills from the film and some of the gorgeous music full of the sound of the sea and the deep, unfulfilled longing that invests this lovely story.

I tried to invest These Haunted Hearts with something of that same mystical yearning – although my story has a MUCH happier ending!

So do you like soundtracks? Any favourites? I’ve got a download of These Haunted Hearts: A Regency Ghost Novella up for grabs today for someone who comments!

THH low resQueenslander ANNA CAMPBELL’s sweeping, emotional historical romances have been published internationally and have won numerous awards including Romantic Times Reviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill (three times), the Heart of Excellence (twice), the Aspen Gold (twice) and the Australian Romance Readers Association’s most popular historical romance (five times). She has twice been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA Award and three times for Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year. The Australian Romance Readers Association voted Anna their favorite Australian romance author of 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Book 2 in the “Sons of Sin” series, A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT KISS, is out in September 2013. Visit her via her website (where you can also read an excerpt for These Haunted Hearts), Facebook and Twitter.

Fan Girl Friday – when you get unstuck

Hi everyone!  I hope you’re all enjoying my guests on Fan Girl Friday!  They’ve all been wonderful so far and there’s more fabulous authors coming up in the weeks ahead.

So, on to today’s post.  Because I’m at the tail-end of my current book (due Monday) I didn’t have to look far for today’s inspiration: the wonderful joy of getting unstuck when you hit a wall.  Okay, so it’s not a place or a product or a shiny thing you can stroke but it is something I am a HUGE fan of.  Let me explain…

this wall... I hit it

this wall… I hit it

I’ve been writing my current book since October and I was steaming along quite nicely up until Christmas.  I had around 5K to go and had spent a few nights writing around 2K. I was enthused, I loved my characters, the story was good, I was on a roll.

And then I hit that wall.  I got distracted by Christmas, by a brand-new Doctor Who DVD, by my son’s obsession with watching back-to-back Horrible Histories episodes.  I suddenly lost all enthusiasm for my story.  Every other project on my computer held more attraction, including rearranging my iTunes playlists (what the hell?) and cutting out old recipes from Super Food Ideas.  I honestly had no idea why I’d lost the love, but with the deadline penciled in angry red on my calendar, I had to do something.

sorry, Eric - you'll have to wait for another story...

sorry, Eric – you’ll have to wait for another story…

The first thing I looked at was my characters.  I loved everything about AJ, my heroine – she was feisty, straight forward, determined. She had a purpose, she had a goal and she was actively going for it.  I also loved my hero – he was driven, smart, attractive. He was a doctor, for heavens’ sakes, and I’d already picked out some gorgeous photos of Eric Dane (Dr Mark Sloan in Gray’s Anatomy) as my inspiration.  His name, however, turned out to be a problem.   I still really like ‘Mitch’ as a hero’s name, but it had always reminded me of a particularly awful boy at my son’s school.  Bad mistake.  So Mitch had to go.  But who to replace him with?  Well, thanks to my son’s holiday viewing habits, I’d been watching A LOT of television and I’d decided to base my hero’s looks on one of the show’s actors.  And give him his name.  And basically make him my poster boy.

And by changing those things, it meant all sorts of other add-on considerations.  I had to change his hair and eye color, hair length and texture, eye shape.  Face and nose shape.  Physique.  Even the way he dressed.  He had to dress like a Matthew, not a Mitch.  He had to walk and talk and command himself as this new person, not the old one, and with a background that fitted him.  Thankfully, those changes were relatively minor and easily fixed.  Mitch (the awful boy) had morphed into Matt (the gorgeous, dreamy-eyed doctor) and I was thrilled.

And because my hero had changed, I had to look at my choice of  writing music.

Some writers like total silence when they write.  Some listen to classical.  Some make playlists to suit the tone of their story. Now, as I write during the day at a public library, I don’t have the luxury of silence 🙂 so I got myself a good set of noise-cancelling headphones and some music to write by.  I have a standard ‘writing’ playlist on my iPod that I’ve used for the last three books, but this one was obviously not going to get written using my standard list.

This book had a slightly angsty feel to it, a bit alternative, acoustic and romantic.  So I went through my entire iTunes library (5000 of them!) and checked out some recommendations and came up with… a hours’ worth of writing music.  Yep, one whole hour.  I couldn’t use any from a prior playlist, and I had to match songs that complemented each other, that flowed well and were in keeping with my brand new hero.  Here’s what I ended up with (okay, you may not have heard of most of these bands.  That’s okay.  You should check them out anyway!):

  • penny flanaganDog Ears – The Howling
  • Dog Ears – Like Rain
  • Dog Ears – Mrs Winchester
  • Dog Ears – Onwards Onwards
  • Penny Flanagan – When You Were Mine
  • Penny Flanagan – Inseparable
  • Penny Flanagan – Common Heart
  • Penny Flanagan – Swallow Me
  • Penny Flanagan – Lap It Up
  • Penny Flanagan – Dig
  • Bic Runga – Drive
  • dog earsThe Unwinding Hours – Solstice
  • My Latest Novel – I Declare a Ceasefire
  • Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars
  • Owl City – Meteor Shower
  • Snow Patrol – Just Say Yes
  • Grovesnor – Dan

I can’t tell you how much I LOVE these songs.  I get little chills every time I hear them, even after a hundred-plus repeats!

The last thing I did was talk out my story with a writer.  Thanks to the wonderful Keziah Hill who offered up some great suggestions for a new scene I needed (but was clueless about)!

So, with those three things – hero, music, scene issues – I got finally unstuck and powered through the last 4K.  I AM SO HAPPY!!  And after I do just one more proofread, my hot doctor story is away!

Have you ever come unstuck?  And what do you do to fix it?  Would love to hear your suggestions and advice!

Indecent Obsession!

Reading: Secret Ones by Nicole Murphy
Watching: Terra Nova
Listening to:  Kiss Me by Indecent Obsession

A casual remark on Facebook had me charging down memory lane with one of my favorite topics – 80s bands.

Ahhh, yes. Synthesizers, girly hair, denim, drum machines… shoulder pads!  And one of the first Aussie boy bands ever, Indecent Obsession.  Who, I hear you say?  Signed up in 1987, their first single, Say Goodbye was a massive hit.  It also heralded the move from the full-on Brit retro music we know and love (Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran) to more pop-y, choreographed dance beats:

Here’s another one – Kiss Me (yeah, I really, really WANTED TO, David Dixon – I had a serious crush on you!!) complete with wind machines, girls dressed in denim and bras, a sexy singer peeling his jacket half-off his shoulders and the obligatory dancing-in-the-rain:

And where are these young spunks now?  Wikipedia tells me that after David left the band 😥 he did a bit of stage, acted in Home & Away, and is now a helicopter pilot, married with kids.  Drummer Daryl Sims played with a bunch of alternative Sydney bands and .. wow! penned Bardot’s debut single Poison.  Guitarist Andrew Coyne did something obscure in a play, Richard Hennassey (who replaced David Dixon) appeared on the first series of “Come Dine With Me Australia” and keyboardist Michael Szumowski has worked as a producer for heaps of Aussie bands, including Guy Sabastian and Disco Montego (go, you!)

Not a bad bunch of achievements, I’d say.

in memory of Michael Jackson

MichaelJacksonFor me, like any kid of the 80s – and indeed, for the many millions around the world – I grew up on Michael Jackson.  Just slightly too young for Off The Wall, I was smack-bang in the middle of the tsunami ride that was Thriller.   Many say the 70s was a time of great freedom and excitement, but I have to say to 80s were way better… and without the sex and drugs 🙂

It was a time of fun, of discovering great and new tastes in music, fashion and culture.  And Thriller topped the lot.  I wore the single glove.  I owned the black fedora.  I had the posters and cut out articles in magazines and newspapers – many of which I still have!  I longed for the red jacket and the cool dance moves but money (and talent) only stretched so far.  I remember the Countdown debut of the Thriller clip, a 15 minute mind-blowing extravaganza that was nothing like we’d seen before.  It was amazing, it was stunning, it was huge.  It was Michael Jackson.

Whatever you think of the man (and I’ve wavered between ‘crazy’ and ‘genius’ a thousand times), his achievements in music, fashion and culture are unrivaled.  His self-taught dance moves, his God-like command over the industry.  And the music… the music!  Bestselling album in the history of the world.  Ever.  Most singles from one album.  And now, in his death, the ONLY artist to have three albums in the charts at one time.

He was a brilliant performer.  Here’s just of my favorite clips from YouTube – the Jacksons performing at Motown’s 25th anniversary bash:

He was an enigma, a musical talent who was thrust too early into the spotlight – and stayed there when I’m sure there were times he’d much rather be just one of the crowd.  But he was also a troubled soul, who’s fame was on such a global scale that there was no way ‘one of the crowd’ would ever apply.

MJHe was part of my youth and for that, he will forever remain a joyful part.

The Joys of Music

So okay, I know I’m a little bit behind everyone, but I’ve just discovered the joys of iTunes.  It actually started when accursed Microsoft Media Player wouldn’t work, so I opened iTunes and migrated all my music across.  Then of course, I HAD to find all the corresponding artwork for the songs, which lead me to the iTunes store (more on that later).  Then I started playing some tracks and OMG I completely forgot how awesome music is!  And how much of it I actually have… and how much I missed it.  Now, I always listen to CDs in the car, but it’s always the new stuff and never the oldies that have been gathering dust on my shelf.  It’s been a long time since I just sat there, playing music and singing along (I’m sure my neighbours can agree on that, poor things).

So then I got to thinking – “I wonder if the iTunes store has those favourite long-lost tracks I’ve still got on my old cassettes but never play because I don’t have a tape deck and anyway, they’ve probably disintegrated by now?”  So I clicked on the store and lo and behold, Paradise Unbound!!!   I NEVER knew you could buy just one song instead of the whole album that, let’s face it, you hardly ever listen to anyway (unless it’s Sister Hazel or Rascal Flatts 😀 )  So I didn’t stroll, I RAN down memory lane and within 20 minutes I’d carted Midnight Blue (Lou Gramm), Breakthru (Queen), You Win Again (Bee Gees , Turn Me Loose (Loverboy) and the most awesome song ever made, Throw Your Arms Around Me (Hunters & Collectors).

611fqfbi7zl_sl500_aa240_So after my excitement abated somewhat, I went back to sorting my album artwork… as if two-plus stories weren’t already screaming at me to be written. 😉  And that’s when I started to actually listen to my music library, stuff like Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John’s most brilliant album ever (just a millimeter in front of Blue Moves).  I mean, the opening of Funeral For a Friend at full crank just gives me chills  (and hearing it live is even more chill-worthy!) Hard to believe it was recorded in 1973 and it’d still be in my Top Albums Of All Time.

Then there’s Alone and Stranded by Heart, 80s power ballads which have formed the music soundtrack to my latest work-in-progress.   Other significant mentions are Foreigner, Jimmy Barnes and Texas, all best listened to at full volume.  And preferably singing at the top of your voice and prancing around the room, too 😀

The best part about my crazy music day?  I had a fabbo idea for one of my backburner stories (stories that are still shaping themselves in my head, that aren’t contracted or have any significant point, plot or ending).  So all that singing and dancing didn’t come to naught (oh, really?  I can hear my neighbours replying drolly. Thank God for that).

So after some deep thought after going off on a tangent (as you do), I’ve come up with my Top Albums of All Time.  In random order they are:

  • nickelbackAll The Right Reasons by Nickelback – when you just want angry alpha male music, with a dose of political incorrectness.  I love the funny Rockstar film clip!
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Blue Moves by Elton John – both masterpieces of melody that are heavy on the long instrumental introduction… something you don’t hear much of these days.  My dad played these over and over when I was young, and I still love them to this day.
  • fortressFortress, Absolutely, Lift, Bam! and Chasing Daylight by Sister Hazel – the best band in the whole world.  Seriously.  These guys have such a beautiful harmony, a rocking great style and the ability to tell amazing stories through their songs.  Check out the film clip to the awesome Champagne High on YouTube.
  • Sign Of The Times by Prince – lots of live tracks, lots of funky get-up-and-dance music
  • Wide Open Spaces by The Dixie Chicks – I bought this album on the strength of their live performance during a Grammys telecast.  So glad I did because it’s by far the best they’ve ever done!
  • tutte-storieTutte Storie by Eros Ramazzotti – no, it’s not in English but this Italian superstar rock god is sensual and brilliant and can sing to me anytime 😉
  • Twice the Speed of Life by Sugarland – rocking, country pop, heaps of fun
  • Daughtry by Daughtry – kinda like Nickelback but more easy on the ear.  But still hard rocking and angry!
  • stingDream of the Blue Turtles by Sting – because it’s the best he ever did sans The Police.  And because Moon Over Bourbon Street was inspired by Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat which encouraged me to read it.
  • Seven Flights Up by Penny Flanagan – not technically an album (it’s an EP) but these seven accoustic songs by the folksy local Aussie girl are still fab.  Includes the best version ever of Prince’s When You Where Mine (once covered by Cyndi Lauper).
  • arcadiaSo Red The Rose by Arcadia – with three of the Duran Durans you can’t go wrong.  Still awesome twenty years on. You can check out their Election Day and The Promise videos on YouTube (plus others).
  • Star Wars Soundtrack – my dad bought this as a double cassette back in the late 70s for my brother (we were both Star Wars mad).  Now with the beauty of technology, I can listen to one of the most recognisable theme tunes in the world over and over on CD.
  • Blah Blah Blah by Iggy Pop – his big commercially successful album, which includes the mega-hit Real Wild Child.  This and David Bowie’s Let’s Dance were on permanent repeat in the late 80s.
  • Still Feels Good, Melt, Feels Like Today, and Me and My Gang by Rascal Flatts –  Every song is a gorgeous example of beautiful lyrics and great vocals.  You can check out their music and film clips on YouTube here, and exclusive songs and interview at Soundcheck below on YouTube or here.

    So there you have it.  A sneak peak into my diverse music tastes.  I’m always on the lookout for new stuff, so let me know if you’ve got a brilliant album, artist or song I should take a listen to!