Music: My Forgotten Ticket to Another World

As I write this, Mailboat IV is in our wake and Mailboat V is on the horizon. (It should be out summer of 2022!)

And here is where I make a wee confession. I didn’t work on Mailboat V at all during this last month of September. In fact, I worked on something as vastly unlike the Mailboat Suspense Series as possible. (It’s a secret for now. I’ll probably tell you about it later.)

But why would I do such a thing? Why would I work on a different project when I know all of you are clamoring for the next book in the Mailboat Suspense Series? When it’s my bread and butter? When it’s still so important to me to finish telling this story?

There were so many reasons to break away: To get my brain out of the well-worn rut that I’ve been working, writing, and walking in for the past ten-ish years. To remember things I’ve forgotten. But most importantly, to come back even better and stronger for Mailboat V.

And it worked. I re-discovered something I’d completely forgotten. Something that is going to help tremendously as I begin writing the second half of the Mailboat Suspense Series.

I’d forgotten about music.

Music has always been important to me. My favorite stuff is anything of Celtic origin, particularly if it was written before the 20th century (or at least sounds like it was). Folk and acoustic music in general is also amazing. And a cappella.

As a girl, I actively collected recordings of Scottish and Irish music. I listened to it constantly–while doing my chores, while stitching something with needle and thread, or while doing nothing at all.

And while I listened, story ideas would come to me. My body became my characters’ bodies. What they saw became what I saw. My lips would move as I spoke the words they said. I left my own world and entered theirs and I learned their personalities and their stories scene by scene–all facilitated by music.

Somewhere down the line, I quit collecting music so actively. And shortly afterwards–though I didn’t notice it happening–the story ideas quit arriving as organically as they used to. I had to fight for them. Beg for them. The work was harder and significantly less fun. I had no idea what had gone wrong.

And then I devoted this last September to writing something that was decidedly NOT Mailboat. (Like, not even the same genre.) I had no idea what I might discover. All I knew was that I wanted to actively destroy the parts of my rut that had become too repetitive and thus encumbering.

Entirely by accident, I re-discovered music. One day, YouTube offered me a musical duo I might like. (The Hound + The Fox.) I listened. It reminded me of what I was writing in my side project. I created a new playlist. I found similar artists, similar songs. The playlist grew.

The best music sparked moments when I was no longer ME. I was Kieran. I was Holly. I was Jack. I was Klaus. (Characters from the side project. You have been officially teased.) Adventures unfurled before my eyes. I saw moments out of the story I’d never known about before, but now they were suddenly and firmly canon. I rushed to write it all down.

One day, YouTube suggested a song by one of the groups I’d followed (Voiceplay). I loved the song, but it didn’t really fit the tone of my side project. Actually, it was bizarrely perfect for…

Mailboat.

(The specific song was True Colors.)

As I listened, the same magic happened. I was suddenly Ryan. I was Bailey. I was Tommy. A scene began to play out before my eyes. Something I’d never seen before–and never expected. (It was a little stunning, actually.) But I could see how it fit into the story. How it pushed the conflict toward the climax. It might even become canon.

(If you listen to the song, I want you to picture Ryan speaking the words to Bailey, and you’ll start to get a hint of what I saw.)

And that’s when I remembered that music is the bridge that transports me to my fictional worlds. This phenomenon wasn’t some strange, one-off thing that was happening for the side-project. This was just how I explore my own stories.

It’s October now. My month of working on the side project is over. (But is it? I can still write the side project on the weekends! LOL. Only an author would take a break from working by… working, but on something else.)

I’m glad I took the time off. I’m so grateful for what I learned along the way. Mailboat V gets to move to the front burner again. And that’s going to start with building a new playlist–one that will carry me away to Lake Geneva; one that will help the characters live and breathe before my eyes; one that will help to reveal the details of what happens next.

So, all aboard! This ship is setting sail again! Mailboat V is expected to come ashore in Summer 2022.


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