A little music with your reading?

In the run-up to Christmas last year, I created a Spotify playlist of books inspired by my two Christmas books, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café. I enjoyed it so much, I created a Spotify playlist for all my other books!

So, if you fancy a little music to accompany your reading, here’s the links. Some of the lyrics fit perfectly, some carry the theme, some are specifically mentioned in the stories and one is even the title. Bet you can guess which one that is!

There are some very well-known tracks but there are a few from albums that I love.

You shouldn’t get any spoilers from listening to these although you will pick up on some themes if you haven’t already read the books. The tracks are presented in the order of relevance to plot points in the books and, where they link to a series, they’re in the order of the books in that series too..

Welcome to Whitsborough Bay Series: 24 songs, 1 hr 41 mins, found on Spotify here.

All You Need Is Love: 15 songs, 59 mins, found on Spotify here.

The Secret to Happiness: 20 songs, 1 hr 19 mins, found on Spotify here.

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café (non-Christmas): 21 songs, 1 hr 28 mins, found on Spotify here.

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes & Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café (Christmassy): 25 songs, 1 hr 28 mins, found on Spotify here.

The Hedgehog Hollow Series (covers books 1-3): 32 songs, 2 hr 16 mins, found on Spotify here.

I’d also previously created a playlist of ‘Thirty Songs to Make You Smile’ which is full of uplifting songs for when things feel a little rough. You can find it on Spotify here.

A huge thank you to my fabulous editor, Nia, for creating these in Spotify on my behalf.

Happy listening!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

A pick-me-up playlist as part of Boldwood’s #BoldDailyThoughts

As we’re in the third lockdown in the UK and it’s all a bit scary and meh right now, Boldwood wanted to share some positivity through their #BoldDailyThoughts. Authors were asked if they’d be happy to contribute something positive to share with our readers. This could be anything such as a picture, a quote, a blog post, a video. When I’m feeling down, music is my ultimate pick-me-up so I’ve come up with a playlist of thirty songs that make me (and hopefully you) smile.

Over on Boldwood’s blog, I’ve talked about what music means to me and why I went for a playlist. You can find that post here.

Here’s a link to my playlist over on Spotify. If you’re not a subscriber, you can still register and access this playlist for free but there’ll be an advert every few songs. Subscribers can listen without adverts.

The reason I have this special extension post is that, when I pulled together the playlist, I found I wanted to explain what memories each song evoked in me and why each makes me happy. For thirty songs, that’s a pretty long explanation and too big for the usual length of our blog posts on Boldwood. But it might be of interest to some so here you go. Happy reading/listening!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Why have I chosen this playlist?

‘Reach’ by S Club 7

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t love this song from 2000. It’s so happy! Nuff said! Get on your feet and reach for those stars!

‘C’est La Vie’ by B*witched

Ah, the double-denim class Irish pop princesses. This was their debut single in 1998 and it’s full of crazy lyrics and melodic delights. If you’re of a certain age, I can pretty much guarantee you’ve attempted some Riverdance moves to the instrumental break in this track! I know I have

‘Waterloo’ by Abba

Anything by Abba transports me immediately to my childhood and it was a tough choice as there are so many uplifting songs I could have chosen. They’re the first band I loved and I’ve remained true to them ever since. I’m sure you’re already aware that ‘Waterloo’ was the winning song for Sweden in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest. In the fabulous film Muriel’s Wedding, Muriel is desperately unhappy and escapes her troubled life by listening to Abba songs. When she leaves home and finally finds herself, she stops listening to Abba because her own life is “as good as an Abba song”. That speaks volumes to me. 

Abba also remind me of so many other fabulous points in my life with friends. Before heading off on our separate ways to university, my good friends Susan and Graham spent an evening at my house dancing to Abba songs. Cider may also have been consumed. Many years later, I took several holidays with another great friend, Catryn. In Turkey one year, we stumbled across a club at the hotel where an Abba tribute were playing. Nobody was dancing but how can you not dance to Abba and specifically how can you not enact the Knowing Me Knowing You video where Agnetha and Anni-Frid face in different directions? The tribute band absolutely loved it! Good times.

‘Be With You’ by Atomic Kitten

Sampling ‘Last Train to London’ by the fabulous ELO, this is such a feel-good track. Out in 2003, this is the year I moved back to the north where my family were based and opened my teddy bear shop. I remember having a night at my younger brother’s with my older brother and the three of us were listening to this and trying desperately to work out where the sample came from. That’s the last night I ever had with just my two brothers (Mike and Chris) and, as I haven’t seen them for over a year now, it feels right to have something that reminds me of them. Although my little brother Chris would probably want pointing out that he likes ELO but not so much Atomic Kitten; not quite his taste

‘Tragedy’ by Steps

I really agonised over which Steps track to pick before settling on this one from 1999. I know the words aren’t exactly uplifting but the dance moves are. The raising of the hands to the head? The shoulder wiggle? You’re doing it now, aren’t you? I couldn’t have been happier when Steps re-formed. One of my all-time favourite bands ever and a gig booked for later this year which might be about my fifth time seeing Steps live

‘The One and Only’ by Chesney Hawkes

This one-hit-wonder is one of my all-time favourite songs. It’s so uplifting. Does anyone else think of it as an 80s classic? It was actually released in March 1991 but I think the 80s vibe might be something to do with being penned by 80s legend Nik Kershaw (bit of pop trivia for you there). So many memories of being on the dance floor to this one at university and beyond. What a floor-filler!

‘Relight My Fire’ by Take That

With so many huge hits in the early 1990s, Take That were the soundtrack to my university days (1990-1994) and I was spoilt for choice but this 1993 collaboration with Lulu is simply fabulous and steps up to a new level when Lulu’s husky vocals kick in

‘Believe’ by Cher

It was the best-selling UK single of 1998 and I know it might have been absolutely played to death that year but I never got bored of this come-back single from Cher. Single and having recently bought my first house in Birmingham, it reminds me of a happy time in my life where I really believed (see what I did there?) that I could have it all in the future. As it happens, I had a few duff years before life finally came together

‘Can’t Stop This Thing We Started’ by Bryan Adams

Ooh, I love Bryan Adams. I’ve seen him in concert four times and am seeing him again this summer (I hope!) So many amazing up-beat songs to choose from and ‘Summer of ‘69’ might be the most obvious but this one from 1991 has such a rousing chorus that I made a controversial choice. Plus, ‘Summer of ‘69’ is about looking back and regrets. This one isn’t

‘New Beginning (Mamba Seyra)’ by Bucks Fizz

Unless you’re a fan of Bucks Fizz – or The Fizz as Mike, Jay and Cheryl are collectively known now – you might not necessarily remember this one but it was a big hit back in the day (1986). It is such a rousing song. Listen to those drums and harmonies. Gorgeous. Best enjoyed really loud! Bucks Fizz were the very first band I ever saw in concert at Middlesbrough Town Hall for my thirteenth birthday. I’ve seen them a couple of times since and still love them. And, let’s face it, we’re all waiting for our new beginning right now!

‘Mustang Sally’ by The Commitments

You’re singing ‘Ride Sally ride’ aren’t you? You can’t not. I was just into my second year in at university when this film came out in late 1991. I’d never really heard soul music before. Absolutely loved the music and it’s a great film too

‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ by The Communards

For the evening do on my wedding day, I wanted 80s music. The DJ was really young and, bless him, he didn’t have any and wasn’t even familiar with the 80s! Eek! So I had to take my CD collection in with a playlist. He absolutely loved it and the dance floor was crowded all night. He said it was the best wedding he’d ever done so I think it’s safe to say I’d converted him. I can picture everyone bouncing up and down to the chorus on this 1986 classic. Did you try to hit the long high note near the end? 

‘Real Gone Kid’ by Deacon Blue

Sticking with the 1980s here (1989) and another band who I absolutely adore who are amazing in concert. A Deacon Blue gig was the very first one I went to without my parents at Whitley Bay Ice-rink in Co Durham. They’re even better live than on their albums. You just have to jump up and down to the piano break in this and sing along to this chorus, arms in the air

‘Mr Blue Sky’ by ELO

Back to the 1970s now. I mentioned ELO earlier being samples on the Atomic Kitten track and now they have their own happy entry. This 1977 song has featured on loads of movie soundtracks and quite right too as it’s simply fabulous. How can you not feel uplifted when listening to this? I remember my dad playing this a lot when we were younger and, when I was on my year out from university, I bought myself ELO’s Greatest Hits and it really reminded me of home. I love Baby Groot dancing to it at the start of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Brilliant!

‘Up’ by Olly Murs feat Demi Lovato

Jumping forward a whopping thirty-six years to 2013 here for my next choice. Another fabulously uplifting tune. I’ve seen Olly Murs twice at Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre and will (hopefully) be seeing him again this summer. It goes without saying that we’ve missed friends and family this past year but who has missed live music and theatre too? Can’t wait to make up for lost time

‘Roar’ by Katy Perry

Sticking with 2013 here although this could easily have been ‘Firework’ as I think both these Katy Perry tracks about believing in yourself are so uplifting. I’ve settled for this one as I remember it being in my bootcamp era. I used to rise at 5.15am and go to a bootcamp on the Yorkshire coast with my sisters-in-law and this was out at that time. For about a year, it was a very special time in my life. Let’s hear you roar!

‘Love Machine’ by Girls Aloud

There’s a fabulous 60s-sounding vibe here with this fun 2004 release from the Pop Stars: The Rivals winners Girls Aloud. I’m no dancer but I cannot help doing a little shimmy to this one. I had my teddy bear shop between 2003-2005 and I often used to listen to this track. If the shop was empty, I *might* have been known to dance to it while dusting the shelves!

‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ by Tiffany

Another of my all-time favourites and back to the 1980s for this absolute corker from Tiffany. She was only fifteen when this was released in 1987. Did you know that 1987 was also the year Scott and Charlene (Kylie and Jason) married on Neighbours. What a cracking year! Doing the ‘Tiffany-dance’ used to be one of my party-tricks

‘Love Revolution’ by Will Young

Since I first saw him on Pop Idol, I’ve been a massive Will Young fan. I have all his albums and have seen him a couple of times in concert. This 2015 60s-vibe song just makes me want to clap along. Love it

‘Beautiful Stranger’ by Madonna

Oh behave! From the 1999 Austin Powers film, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, this takes me back to my single days in my late-twenties living in Birmingham. I had such a busy social life then and a big circle of friends and have very fond memories of those times. I saw the Austin Powers films with my great friend, Catryn and we met another friend, Jackie, on a diving holiday in the late-90s and frequently quoted Austin Powers to each other (and still do on social media) 

‘Friday I’m In Love’ by The Cure

Another one from my university days, this is such a lovely song. In fact, so many of The Cure’s songs are gorgeously uplifting which might perhaps be surprising given the appearance of the band. Just shows that you should never judge on appearances. I don’t think it’s possible to listen to this 1992 song without your heart soaring with happiness

‘Stop Me From Falling’ by Kylie

So many Kylie songs I could have picked but I’ve gone for this lovely one from 2018 which describes one of my favourite romantic tropes in books/films: friends to lovers. This song makes me want to pop my cowboy boots on and do a bit of line-dancing

‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen

Queen are amazing. They have songs from such a variety of genres yet a completely distinctive sound. I don’t remember this back in the day (1979) but, over the years, this has become one of my favourite uplifting tracks. And can I just pause to mention how amazing Brian May is for all the work he does rescuing hedgehogs?

‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ by Starship

Sticking with the theme of nothing stopping us, the beat slows a bit here but the message remains just as uplifting. This 1987 track features on the soundtrack of the Kim Cattrall/Andrew McCarthy film Mannequin which was an absolute must-watch when I was at college

‘Somewhere in my Heart’ by Aztec Camera

More 80s music here and another of my all-time favourite tracks. I was at college when this was released in 1987 but it reminds me more of recent years out and about with my family on day trips. There’s a standing joke that I think I can sing all the words. I can’t. I also make a few up! Looking forward to days out again

‘ME!’ by Taylor Swift feat Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco

The most recent choice on my list, this 2019 song just makes me smile and even more if watched with the visually stunning video. Those outfits! Those colours! I love Taylor Swift and have been listening a lot to her fabulous more chilled Folklore and Evermore albums recently which are simply gorgeous but, for feeling alive, you can’t beat this one

‘Groove Is In The Heart’ by Deee-Lite

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this song. From the summer of 1990, it reminds me of finishing college and preparing to start university – friendships pausing and new friendships starting. I instantly think of my friends Susan and Graham whenever I hear this song and love that we may not live close but the positive side of social media has meant we’ve been able to keep our friendships going over the decades. This one’s for you two!

‘Cotton Eye Joe’ by Rednex

Possibly a bizarre choice but, oh my word, I LOVE this 1995 song! I’d graduated from university and was on a graduate trainee programme when this came out. I was in a house-share with another graduate with whom I’ve sadly lost touch but it brings back good memories of a great friendship

‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba

A couple of years after Cotton Eye Joe, this came out in the summer of 1997. It evokes a very specific memory of spontaneously going on a gorge-walking adventure weekend in Wales with a work colleague of mine. We ended up joining two stag dos and had such a laugh with them that we were invited to join them raft-building the following day. This song was constantly played on the radio that weekend and, every time I hear it, I’m instantly transported to Wales

‘The Logical Song’ by Scooter (radio edit)

Yes, I know, things are getting a bit weird now with a bit of early noughties electronica sampling Supertramp on helium which is why I’ve put this last on the list. Scooter makes me think of my big brother, Mike, who loves him. This 2002 song was a huge hit and just makes me smile, especially when Scooter spouts his random musings! I could just have easily selected ‘Posse’ which I also love. Hands in the air like you just don’t care!

Silence is golden when you’re a writer … or is it?

Wednesday evenings in my house are very quiet. Once my 7-year-old daughter has settled to bed and the cats have been fed, it’s just me and my writing because hubby goes out on Wednesday to do some shooting. Not guns. Arrows. He took up archery last summer and loves it. I usually really enjoy Wednesday evenings because I can just get on with my current WIP with absolutely no distractions and no feelings of guilt that I’m lost in my little world of imaginary friends while other members of the household may actually appreciate a bit of company.

But last night felt strange. Last night seemed overly quiet. Last night, writing was a struggle. And I realised that, for me, silence isn’t always golden. Silence doesn’t always help me write. Silence isn’t always my friend. I knew only one person could help me … Delta Goodrem. “Who?” I hear you ask. Long blond hair. Australian. Plays the piano. Started out in Neighbours in 2002. Used to be engaged to Brian McFadden (formerly of Westlife) and did a duet with him called “Almost Here”. Debut single was “Born to Try”. Know who I mean now? I confess that “Born to Try” isn’t one of my favourite tracks but I absolutely love everything else she’s done. I don’t know if it’s the piano or her particular vocals or the fact that I’ve listened to her albums so many times that I don’t need to concentrate anymore but Delta is the perfect soundtrack to my writing. Plus she writes about love and loss and emotional angst which is exactly what a romance writer needs. (Find Delta on https://www.facebook.com/DeltaGoodremMusic)

I’ve tried to write and listen to other albums and I’ve discovered that any old music won’t do. I can’t write to anything brand new or anything I’ve only heard a few times because I sit and listen to it instead of concentrating on my writing. I can’t write to anything too up-beat. And I can’t have any music on loud. I also can’t have the TV on because, even if it’s something I absolutely hate and would normally rather gouge my eyeballs out than watch (e.g. football or Newsnight), I’ll be drawn to the TV and completely unable to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

Going back to last night, I will admit that, once Delta got going, so did my writing. Not particularly fast, mind, but it was better than it had been before I switched the music on.

This got me wondering whether I’m the only one who prefers a soundtrack to writing in silence and a specific one at that. So I asked my fellow Write Romantics. Aspiring writer Helen R lives in Australia (must ask her if she knows Delta!) in the suburbs and says she’s often distracted by the noise of hedge trimmers and leaf blowers so likes to put on music to drown that out although it varies as to whether it annoys her or revs her up. Lynne is similar – sometimes music, sometimes not although she’s found it can be helpful to listen to specific music to get her into a specific mood e.g. 1970s tunes if her novel is set in that time. Alex echoes this in that she does enjoy quiet but did delve into a bit of Scottish folk singing (listening to it; not doing it) when she was trying to perfect a Scottish accent in her debut novel.

Soon-to-be-published Rachael likes to listen to music when she writes, although usually something without lyrics to avoid them getting into her head. She finds that switching the music on helps her switch her mind into ‘writer mode’. Interesting. A bit like some writers making a drink in a certain mug, wearing a particular piece of jewellery or using a specific pen.

Successful novelist Helen P (2nd book “The Secrets of the Shadows” is out next month – can’t wait!) differs from us all. She tells me her writing space is in the corner of the room next to a huge TV so silence is not in ready supply. She needs to put her iPod on and drift away into her own world. What’s on her iPod? “I tend to have a playlist for each book. The last one had Frank Sinatra, Elbow, Barry White, U2, Nat King Cole, Kelly Rowland, Lady GaGa to name a few”. Eclectic mix or what?! Not sure I’d manage to write to all of those!

On the other side of the coin, Jaxx and Deirdre do believe that silence is golden. Jaxx even goes so far as to wear ear defenders to keep out the noise (I so have to see photographic evidence of that) and Deirdre needs “complete quiet” but admits that a busy main road and “a certain someone talking to the cat, singing, having TV up loud etc” pretty much scuppers her quest for peace.

It seems we’re a bit of a mixed bag although it seems we’re all united in avoiding the TV. That said, Helen R said that one of my favourite authors, Jill Mansell, writes with the TV on and it apparently gives her lots of ideas. I know that Jill writes long-hand rather than straight into a PC so I’m wondering if she can maybe find TV helpful in the ideas formation stage or whether she can switch off enough to do this at all stages in her writing. If you’re reading this, Jill, we’d love to know!

One more thing I’ll say about Delta Goodrem is that, not only does her music help my writing flow but she writes some amazing lyrics and some great song titles which would make great titles for a book. I find this quite a lot with music; I’ll hear a line or a title of a song and think “great title” and then, suddenly, there are all sorts of ideas about what the book could be about. I have a word document called “Potential Book Titles” and it’s full of ideas – many of them from songs – and a sentence or two about the book theme.

So, thank you Delta Goodrem for being the background singer as I work and thank you to the wonderful Write Romantics for helping me with this post. 

Over to you … is silence golden?

Becoming a writer is like 80s music. Really it is! Don’t believe me? …

I love dressing up. No! Stop it! I don’t mean in a saucy “ooh matron” fifty shades kind of way! I mean 70s gear, murder mysteries, theme party kind of way. And on Saturday night, I got to dig out my huge bag of outfits and go back to the 80s. The 80s for me were age 7 to 17 so meant my childhood, my first broken heart, friendships made and lost, my school years, discovering music and attempting to discover fashion. To be fair, I was briefly very trendy. I owned not one, not two, but three ra-ra skirts. I had a big perm. I had fluorescent socks (worn one pink, one yellow of course; bang on trend) and I had roller boots and a Sony Walkman. How cool was I?

So Saturday night took me back to those days. My hair is short these days so I attempted big and back-combed which wasn’t so easy but the neon was easier. Leg-warmers, net skirt, bangles, beads … absolutely gorgeous. And here’s the proof …

Image

Yep, pretty scary isn’t it. And also a reminder that I must get back on that diet. I’d been doing so well until I discovered the chocolate machine downstairs at work.

But what has all of this got to do with writing? I do have a point. Honest. I said I discovered music in the 80s and I still think this is the best era of music. Ever. From cheesy pop to new romantics and even a bit of Ska, I love it all. And my useless knowledge won us the quiz at our 80s night which yielded a prize of 4 main meals at the venue. Very nice. But that’s not my point. My point is that trying to become a writer is like the music of the 1980s. Bear with me …

Imagine (John Lennon): It starts with an idea and you begin to imagine your characters, your world, the dilemmas, the pain and the joy and, because I write romances, the happy ever after

It Started With a Kiss (Hot Chocolate): That’s it. You’ve got your hero and you’ve fallen in love with him. The moment he first kisses your lead, it’s like he’s kissing you too. Awww

I Know Him So Well (Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson): It gets to the point where you know your hero better than you know your own partner. And perhaps even like him better than you like your own partner! Boy is it disappointing when your husband doesn’t behave in the same way as your hero (sorry hubby but you have a lot to live up to!)

Never Gonna Give You Up (Rick Astley): That moment arrives where you’ve written “the end”. You’ve edited then tweaked then edited some more and you realise that, unless it’s going to remain a computer file for the rest of your life, you’re going to have to let someone else read your manuscript. Eek! It’s very, very hard to let go for the first time

Relax! (Frankie Goes to Hollywood): That’s it! You’ve done it. You’ve submitted your MS for the first time, whether this be to a beta-reader or several or even a formal critiquing service. It’s time to relax. Except it isn’t really. Knowing that your ‘baby’ is being read by others for the first time ever is the most nerve-wracking thing ever. What if they hate it? What if they think you can’t write? What if you’ve wasted the last ‘X’ months/years of your life on a pile of grammatically-incorrect poorly-observed pile of twaddle. Relax is not the word

I Just Called To Say I Love You (Stevie Wonder): But then you get the call, text, email or Facebook message from your beta reader or critique service and it turns out you weren’t wasting your time. You can write. You have a great story. They loved it! You’re on your way!

The Land of Make Believe (Bucks Fizz): You do a final edit and you compile a list of agents and/or publishers to approach. You start daring to dream of that make-believe land where you can pack in the day job and write every day … and actually get paid for it. It’s time to send it out into the big bad world

Blue Monday (New Order): Your first rejection arrives. Blue Monday (or Tuesday, or Wednesday …) You expected it but it’s still hard because all you can think is …

Don’t You Want Me? (Human League): … and it appears they don’t. But you keep trying because you so desperately want someone to …

Take On Me (A-ha): Please take me on! Please!!! I’ll be a really good writer and do all the edits you suggest and meet all your deadlines. I promise. Just please take me on!

Then you get THE CALL …

Hello … Is it me you’re looking for (Lionel Richie). “She’s got it! Yeah baby she’s got it” (Venus, Bananarama). You know that Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now (Starship), The Only Way Is Up (Yazz) and Fame (Irene Cara) is just around the corner … except it’s not the fame you do it for. You do it because you can’t not do it. You have stories to tell. You have characters who need to tell them. And you couldn’t imagine a world where you didn’t let them.

So who’s going to Take On Me? I’m still wishing and Waiting for a Star to Fall (Boy Meets Girl). Please Don’t Leave Me This Way (The Communards). Say I’m Your Number One (Princess) and I’ll pack in my 9-5 (Dolly Parton/Sheena Easton). I’m Hungry Like The Wolf (Duran Duran) for this and, no matter how many rejections I get, I will Hold on Tight (ELO) to my dreams, just Wishing I Was Lucky (Wet Wet Wet).

I think I’d better end this post before I shoe-horn in any more 80s songs as even I can see it’s dripping in mozzarella now! Hope you liked my 80s references and they brought back a few classic 80s tunes to mind.

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