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The Music of Never Let Go

I write to music. We’ve talked about this before (and here and here) but I don’t know if I’ve ever truly articulated what that means. More on that below. First, let’s tackle the meat of this post: the music of Never Let Go.

It really boils down to three main songs, and then a handful of “soundtrack” songs. The most important of which is the inspiration song. This came on the radio and BAM! Two years of wondering if I’d ever write another Jake and Eve book was over. Yes, I was writing another book and this was what it was going to be about:

“Like I’m Gonna Lose You” by Meghan Trainor, featuring the amazing John Legend was the crux of Jake and Eve’s married life. They spent so many years apart that they are so very keenly aware of how lucky they are to be happy.

The scene hit me like a bolt of lighting (appropriate, I know!) Eve standing at a cold sink staring out the window thinking about how hard she holds onto Jake, loving him like she might lose him. He comes up behind her and whispers in her ear. I wrote the book from there.

But like every other book I’ve ever written, the inspiration song is just that: inspiration. I don’t actually write to the song. This is what I actually listened to while writing:

It’s this verse in particular

I’m a hold my cards close

I’m a wreck what I love most

I’m a first class letdown I’m a “shut up, sit down”

that screams “Jake” to me, but there are so many more lyrics in this song that make it his story through and through.

And what has happened with every single book I’ve ever written? (about halfway through writing) I hear a song that stops me dead in my tracks. THIS SONG is THE SONG!!! It is the story I’m writing and everything I feel when I making words! I fall in love and listen to it like a broken record until I finish writing. For Never Let Go, it was this song:

“This mess was yours, now this mess is mine,” is the heart of Jake and Eve’s story, more so in this book than the other two. “You’re the reason that I feel so strong, the reason that I’m holding on.” *dies* “Mess is Mine” is the song of Never Let Go. Period.

To listen to my entire Never Let Go soundtrack and hear all the music that inspired the book, visit my Spotify Playlist here.

So, at the beginning of this post I mentioned that I don’t just listen to music when I’m writing. I don’t simply find inspiration in songs. I swear I have this out of body experience when it comes to music. I always have. For as far back as I can remember. I see entire stories when I hear a song. The music may only last for three minutes, but in my head it is so much more. A few lines become entire backstories. Entire worlds. I can see hundreds of pages of context from that one song.

Before I could write, I would act out these stories by dressing up. I would force my poor sister to play along. Elaborate sessions of make-believe were all carried out to a soundtrack. Namely Olivia Newton-John, but there were others.

When I got older I realized I didn’t want to act out these stories I saw, I wanted to write them (I just didn’t have that tool when I was younger.) The first time I was taken away and wrote an entire book to a CD was the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack. I would put on my headphones and listen for hours, making up books in my head.

It isn’t any different today, except that I actually do write entire books based on the stories I see in my head after listening to a single song.

These are the songs that transported me to the world of Jake and Eve in Never Let Go. I hope it helps transport you into their world as you get ready to read their final book. Let me know what you think of the songs and the book (out May 24th, 2016!)

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The Kids Are All Right

School is back in session! This means a couple of things. Number one: I have a regular work schedule again (thank the heavens above!). Number two: I know my kiddos are in good hands for the rest of the school year. Yes, I’m happy to report three solid months of worrying who their teachers and classmates would be has resulted in good placements for both of them. (Because it is clearly a 1:1 correlation between my hours spent worrying and the results that had nothing to do with it.)

I’m busy working on TEMPT3 this week! Here is a look at the music, food, drink, and television helping me get this work done!

Music:

Music inspiration for the week comes courtesy of Imagine Dragons covering Taylor Swift’s Blank Space mashed up with Stand By Me. The singing starts around 1:30 and it is so freaking fantastic!

Food:

I’m using one of my staple go-to moves to get through the week: crock pot chicken breasts.

What is this, you ask? The simplest of hacks! I slow cook a sheet of chicken in the crockpot for about 6 hours (along with one cube of chicken bullion and 1 cup of water). When it’s done I shred the chicken and use it for: quesadillas, chicken salad sandwiches, nachos, chicken tacos, Asian chicken salad, and… chicken. I typically get 1-2 dinners and up to 2 lunches out of this (depending on how much chicken I actually cook and how much we stuff into the quesadillas). Which means that I get two days worth of cooking out of one crock pot. Winner!

Side note: this freezes very well. I divide them up into quart-sized freezer bags in the amount I need for another meal and freeze! Voila! Thaw in the microwave for quick use, or pop into the fridge the night before/morning of. Easy peasy.

Drink:

This week is brought to me by Smithwicks! I love this beer, but it’s not something I like to drink all the time. A six pack every few months satisfies my craving!

Television:

The Anne’s are binge-watching Sons of Anarchy! Yes, we’re a decade late to the game, but we are totally hooked! I was skeptical after the first couple of episodes, but DANG does this show hit its stride after that! Jax’s speech to Tara did me in and I’m so hooked it’s not even funny. The complexity of the characters is what sells this show. I’m excited that there are so many seasons to watch!

All right… I should probably finish writing this book! Thanks for stopping by!

Back in the Saddle: A Look Ahead at Tempt

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I’m back!! After several weeks of juggling a lot of personal life stuff, I’m finally back to writing. It wasn’t that I wasn’t writing, but it was very much secondary to all the other stuff happening. I prefer to write in big chunks of thousands of words, not a few hundred here and there.

That got me thinking about my writing process and my next project, Tempt.

When writing a sexy serial I need three things: music, a plan, and time with a clear head. Music is huge for me to maintain a consistent tone and keep me focused. A plan gives me clear goals for each day of writing and a prize (for lack of a better explanation) that I’m working toward overall. And a clear head is crucial. Adam, Elizabeth, Theo, and Allison are all really strong, emotional, deep characters. Writing first thing in the morning when I can let them run wild before the realities of real life creep in works best.

The first draft of Tease was written about three years ago. It was heavily music driven, had a bazillion story lines that needed weeding down, and a character (and author) that needed some confidence. The minute I finished writing Tease I had an idea for a story featuring the mysterious Allison, Elizabeth’s best friend. She’s an important character in Elizabeth’s life, but she never actually appears in the book. I’ve had a lot of time to stew over this story idea…

I listened to a lot of Alex Clare when writing Tease. There is something haunting and deep about The Lateness of the Hour, but there was one track in particular that never quite fit with Tease. I desperately wanted to write a story for it, though. Three years ago I decided it needed to be Allison’s story.

I’m finally getting ready to write it.

If you want an idea of what to expect out of Tempt, take a look at these lyrics from “Treading Water”:

Can you forgive the things I do, that I can’t amend?
Not the way I yearn for her,
I hope you can’t pretend.
Girl you’re a fire and you’ll find,
That I want to get burned.
No matter what you can teach me,
I’m sure I’ll never learn.
Hmmm treading water, I keep,
Treading water.

The things I loved about Tease I’m hoping to recapture in Tempt. Elizabeth was a hopeless and dark character, and so is Theo. Adam, by contrast, was a hopeful character willing to go to extremes for love. I like exploring the interaction of those two types of characters. Will they destroy themselves or each other? What is love really worth? Is solitude worth the cost of loneliness?

If you want first look access to Tempt as I write, make sure you are signed up for the Teasers Newsletter. I don’t have a firm release date yet, but expect Volume One toward the end of June–in time for hot summer reading!

In the meantime, take a look at my playlist to get a taste of what’s to come!

Treading Water – Alex Clare

Relax My Beloved – Alex Clare

Sail – AWOLNATION

I’m So Sorry – Imagine Dragons

Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene – Hozier

Cherry Wine – Hozier

Do I Wanna Know? – Arctic Monkeys

Paradise – Coldplay

And here’s Treading Water:

Stripped: a new serial from Alexis Anne is now available!

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It’s not about a stripper, if that’s what you’re thinking. Nope. I mean, clothes do come off…it’s an Alexis Anne serial after all… but that isn’t the kind of stripping taking place in this story. This time around it’s all about the music.

I have a long love affair with stripped down songs. A major reason my husband and I like to go to concerts is to hear the different ways bands play their studio songs. Especially when they go acoustic. It highlights the lyrics, it gives the song a new twist, and sometimes it give us new insight into the singer and songwriter.

And because we love music so much, Nate and I are big fans of The Voice. Last season I was in the middle of writing Tease when Christina Grimme came on and sang “Hold On, We’re Going Home”. It instantly became one of my favorite songs. Then Nate turned to me and said I should write a love story about a singer who becomes famous for stripping down songs.

Stripped was born. The only problem was that I was still writing Tease. The good problem was that I was still writing Tease. It meant I had time to watch her sing a bunch more of these songs, including “All of the Stars” which she sang with Ed Sheeran. (I’m still convinced he was totally going gaga over her while they were singing. You’ll have to watch and tell me if you think so, too.) This duet was specifically the inspiration for Travis and Kristen and the way they sing together on stage.

Then she sang with her coach, Adam Levine, and I had all the inspiration I needed for Stripped.

This is another serial. I love serials. What’s a serial? A story told in shorter episodes over several episodes. My episodes are typically fifteen to twenty thousand words. Or, something you can read in about an hour. As a busy mom and writer, I absolutely love serials because they give me the opportunity to sit down and read a story in the short time I have available, while still giving me something to look forward to.

But if you hate serials, don’t worry! I always write mine in a set arc with a predetermined number of episodes. You can wait until the last episode goes live and then read the entire serial at once. Tease was five volumes, Stripped will be four.

Real quick I want to address a question I get pretty frequently. Will I write more Tease? Yes. Next year I will write another three-five episode arc for them that picks up somewhere along their journey. So if you are looking for more Adam and Elizabeth, it will be out later next year!

In the mean time, Stripped: down (Volume 1) is now available! Here is a look at what to expect:

Travis Brantley, the sexy rock musician from Tease, wants nothing more than to finally get his big break. When he lands a record deal with a major label, Travis is convinced all his dreams are about to come true. His dream turns into a nightmare when he is sent on tour with a pop princess who is more auto-tuned than talent. Kristen Holt may have a beautiful face, but the electronically garbled music and nonexistent clothing are more show than substance.  While her body is sexy as sin, Travis is convinced she’s nothing more than another dead-end on his road to obscurity.

When Kristen sheds the the “Pop Princess” persona designed by the label and goes indie, she captures the attention of the audience, and the sexy rocker who never bothered to give her the time of day. Singing a stripped down acoustic song with him in front an eager crowd, their musical and sexual chemistry explodes, skyrocketing them on a fiery two week publicity tour…and into an intense love affair that takes them both by surprise.

With the label breathing down Travis’s neck, Kristen’s mysterious connections, and an overeager group of paparazzi, their two week tour comes with a lot of strings and a lot of passion—and it will change everything.

 BUY LINKS:

iBooks: Stripped: down – Alexis Anne ♥ Amazon: Stripped: down

Stay tuned for Volume 2! Stripped: away

Stripped 2 away

Imagine Dragons and Old Manuscripts

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This weekend Nate and I went to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. We go every year, stroll around the World Showcase, hand in hand, drinking and eating our way around the world. We try to go at least once without the kids, and once with. Since we were alone, we took the car. My old car (and Nate’s current car).

I say my car because I still love that thing. I bought the car for the engine. It is a fantastic engine. I giggled maniacally when I test drove that baby. And so, to this day, when we leave the house without the kids, we take the car.

And drive fast.

With the music up. Because what I didn’t fully realize back then, was that my car has a badass stereo. The kind that blows the clothes off women (to quote a movie we both love). So here we are, flying down the highway toward Epcot with the music blaring. If you couldn’t guess from the title above, that music was Imagine Dragons. One of our all-time favorite bands.

We yelled at each other over the music, suddenly reminiscing over what each song meant to us, and that reminded me of how we found Imagine Dragons in the first place: I was writing my first manuscript.

I’d given myself a thirty day challenge to actually finish a manuscript. My problem has never, ever been the writing, or even story ideas. If our recent move taught me anything about myself, it’s that when I say I’ve always been a writer, I mean I’ve always been a writer. I now have two shelves in my office dedicated to the seemingly endless stream of notebooks, journals, and printouts of books I’ve written throughout my entire life. I knew I’d always been writing, but until it was stacked in front of me, I don’t think I fully appreciated the concept that I have always had a notebook on my nightstand, and that I’ve always written stories in them.

So anyway, I gave myself this thirty day challenge. And all the while, I was sitting in bed each night (and each morning) with my laptop in my lap and Pandora playing on the television. I was obsessed with Alex Clare and had it tuned to that station every time I was writing. Thanks to Pandora’s super cool algorithms, it started playing me this hot, new up and coming band: Imagine Dragons. I loved Radioactive. I still remember the day Nate came sliding into our bedroom, “This song is the theme song for Butterfly Rebellion.” I smiled, “You bet your sweet ass it is!” I’d already written several chapters to the song.

But it was this other song, Demons, that kept coming on. It haunted me. This song was my song. That first, short manuscript suddenly blossomed into a massive, thoroughly overdone hunk of junk in revisions. Because this song was haunting me. Compelling me to write something deeper, something about that fear we all have about our inner demons, and how we want to love someone without hurting them.

I still put this song on every book soundtrack. In two-ish years I have interpreted the lyrics in a dozen different ways and found meaning in so many different ways. If you ever want to know what’s going on in my head when I write a romance, listen to Demons.

Another song on the album, On Top of the World, is also super meaningful to me. This chorus in particular is what has kept me going through months of zero sales, bad reviews, and doubts:

And I know it’s hard when you’re falling down
And it’s a long way up when you hit the ground
Get up now, get up, get up now.

Needless to say, Imagine Dragons is kind of inextricably linked to my thoughts of my first manuscript and the beginning of my writing career. And so Nate and I are taking this long, lovely walk down memory lane to the music of Imagine Dragons when I realize everything that first, terrible manuscript has done for me. I eventually shoved it in a drawer and started from scratch a story called The Storm Inside. I used the bones of that first terrible manuscript, and everything I learned while writing it, to create the book that became my first novel. But most of the manuscript stayed locked away in that binder (I assumed never to be seen again).

But the thing is, all that extra stuff I wound up writing after falling in love with Demons, it was good stuff. Wrong, terribly written with a weak heroine, and an overstuffed plot line of too much drama, but good stuff, nonetheless. It kept tickling the back of my mind–I’d left too much behind.

I eventually pulled it out and rewrote that manuscript into Tease. I love the story it became in the end, but I wasn’t ready to write that story two years ago. It was something that needed time in a drawer to stew and remix into something better.

Tomorrow night, First Draught will be talking about old manuscripts. I will be remembering that first manuscript, Imagine Dragons, and everything that has come along because of them. Please join us at 8:30 pm (eastern) or on Youtube anytime afterward.

Also, the food and drink at the Food and Wine Festival was all fantastic and I can’t wait to go back with all my boys to watch Sister Hazel in two weeks!

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First Draught: Music as Muse

Our Music as Muse broadcast was full of laughing, silliness, music, songs, technical difficulties, and writing. In other words, it was incredibly entertaining! You should watch it.

Stay tuned for details on our next show! And if there are any topics you’d like us to tackle, please send us your ideas! Comment here or email me at: alexisannebooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

Writing and Music: First Draught is On TONIGHT!

Music and writing go together like peanut butter and jelly. Two totally different substances with completely different tastes and yet, put them together and what do get? Genius, that’s what.

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I have lots of theories on why this is: from the roots of the written word in storytelling, to the relationship between the mind and creativity. You can hear my babbling tonight (live) at 8:15 pm est. The ladies of First Draught are welcoming back special guests Tracie Puckett and Lashell Collins (because we love them!) to talk about what music inspires us, if we listen to it while we write, and what our favorite tunes are.

Plus we’re just fun to watch. RSVP now! We’ll be monitoring the event page, Twitter, and Facebook while we are on air, so hit us up with your questions and comments. #FirstDraught

So what do you have to look forward to from me (besides my deeply insightful commentary on the history of writing)? The artists and lyrics that make my imaginations run wild. Here are some of my favorites:

Snow Patrol

The Lightning Strike (my all time favorite!):

“What if this storm ends?
And I don’t see you
As you are now
Ever again”

“What if this storm ends?
And leaves us nothing
Except a memory
A distant echo

I want pinned down
I want unsettled
Rattle cage after cage
Until my blood boils

I want to see you
As you are now
Every single day
That I am living”

I listen to this song on repeat when I need to get my creative juices flowing. Check it out here.

Alex Clare

Treading Water:

“If my concentration,
Seems spread too thin.
And when you speak, my eyes glaze over.
I’m sorry girl, it’s not you, it’s her.

And you’re another chance,
To mock myself again.
Maybe you’re another chance,
I’m sure I’ll fuck things up in the same way.
Maybe it’s another chance.”

Love You:

“Though I left you there sleeping
No I dare not say a word
Silently weeping
Knowing what I heard
What can I say
I was never good with words
My tongue always got it wrong
Hoping that you knew all along
I love you, I love you.”

Alex Clare is amazingly talented. Check out this video of him singing Hummingbird!

I’d put Mumford and Sons on this list, but if you guys know me at all, you know that would be is every single song with every single lyric, so I’ll save you the fangirling… for now. (Whoops… how did those pictures get there….)

Gentleman of the Road Tour St. Augustine

Gentleman of the Road Tour
St. Augustine

Gentleman of the Road Tour St. Augustine

Gentleman of the Road Tour
St. Augustine

So anyway, those are just some of the lyrics that get my mind running down plot ideas, character arcs, and scenes. You can visit my YouTube channel and peruse my playlists for more insight (should you care!). We’ll be talking about it all tonight, it is sure to be a blast! Here is the link to our event page on Google! 

 


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First Draught: Music and Inspiration!

So last month First Draught got back in the saddle with Plotters vs Pansters (above). It was an awesome chat and we had a great time talking about the writing process. Our next chat is April 1st! Yes! April Fools Day! Except this isn’t a prank, this is straight up fun. This time around we are discussing music and how we use (or don’t use) it. We’ll be talking inspiration for characters and scenes, playlists, whether we write to music or silence and so much more!

There may even be silly hats digitally superimposed on our heads.

Maybe.

Music as Muse

If you missed our last chat, don’t worry! It is on YouTube along with all our other videos (and posted above). Our new channel has launched and we are in the process of pulling the videos over. Be sure to +1 our page so you can stay up to date on all our chats.

I’ll be posting pictures, songs, and playlists as we lead up to April 1st, feel free to join in on the conversation:

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