• Blog

    Musical Monday with Harpist and author Diane Michaels


    Musical Monday
    Diane MichaelsI’m really excited to have harpist and author stopping by for Musical Monday this week.

    My career as a harpist informed both of the books I have published. Stories from my gig life became a backdrop against which to set the plot of my novel, Ellen the Harpist, and my experience working with soon-to-be married couples occupies a central place in my wedding ceremony music guide, From Here Comes the Bride to There Go the Grooms. Each of my books comes with its own playlist.

    The marriage between my musical and writing careers melded together harmoniously in Chapter 25 of Ellen the Harpist. I play tea at the St. Regis New York a few days each month. Four years ago, while playing Perfect Day by Lou Reed at the hotel, my mind wandered. I pictured a scene in which Ellen and her bff’s, Chloe and Gwen, spend a day following the activities laid out in the song’s lyrics.
    Traffic jams at the Lincoln Tunnel that afternoon delayed my bus’s departure by half an hour. I scrawled my ideas from teatime into my notebook as I waited in line at Port Authority. Route 3 westbound was equally snarled. I continued scribbling away as we crawled home. After a quick dinner and a glass of wine, I spewed a 2500-word chapter into my laptop. We follow the three friends on their Lou Reed-inspired journey in this excerpt from the chapter:

    And now we were heading into Manhattan. Without the budget of ladies who lunch, we invented games to play whenever we hung out in the City. On an adventure last August, we followed the itinerary laid out in Lou Reed’s Perfect Day. We opted to see a movie first and were stuck watching the only thing playing at 11:30 am at the theater on East 72nd St., The Expendables. After far too much explosive action from Stallone and friends, followed by hot dogs from a cart, we headed over to the Central Park Zoo. We planned our visit to the zoo to coincide with the 2:30 penguin feeding, but they had shut the penguin enclosure for maintenance. Gwen’s backpack harbored a bottle of some pre-fab sangria. We passed the contraband back and forth while we perched on top of Rat Rock in the park and wished we had purchased a more palatable selection. We laughed with the sense of abandon of women getting drunk in public under the August sun. By the time we emptied the bottle, we were ready to go home, even though it was not yet dark.

    The music continues to play in my work-in-progress. In my first novel, Ellen attempts to use her arrangements of Radiohead tunes to seduce Josh when the two of them play their first duet gig together. She takes her love of Radiohead’s music with her into book number two. Here’s a sneak peek of a passage from my WIP:

    A perception of someone scrutinizing me from behind my back sent a wave of shivers across the surface of my skin. I glanced over my shoulder and saw that Sheldon had taken his place at the piano. Squaring my shoulders, I plucked out the next verse, prepared to ignore whatever criticism he planned to hiss at me. It was the piano, not Sheldon, who raised his voice, singing along with the harmonies.

    “What did I just play?” Sheldon asked when we reached the end of the song and my set.

    “Creep.” He lifted himself to his full height and leaned back, his eyes telegraphing his sense of horror at a perceived insult. I stuttered, “I mean, the name of the song is Creep. It’s by the band Radiohead.”

    In order to bring the music to life in my next novel, I plan to embed links within the digital editions connecting the reader to videos of me performing music cited in the book. I have begun my recording project, and I am excited to share with you the video I will embed in this passage of the novel. You can check out my new cover of Creep over on YouTube. Thankfully, I didn’t have a creepy, haranguing pianist hovering over my shoulder as I recorded it!

    Bio: Diane Michaels is a professional author and harpist living in Bloomfield, NJ. Her career has taken her from Carnegie Hall to the wedding hall (she has played at least 1000 weddings). Her articles on establishing and sustaining a career as a musician have appeared in Harp Column and Allegro. When not performing or writing, she and her husband make up songs about and for their miniature poodle, Lola.

    Ellen the Harpist - Cover
    Available on Amazon:​https://www.amazon.com/Ellen-Harpist-Diane-Michaels/dp/0997710713/




















    From Here Comes the Bride to There Goes the Grooms
    You can find more about Diane’s books and music here http://dianemichaelsbooksandharp.com

  • Blog

    Musical Monday with author Amy Rivers


    Musical Monday
    Amy Rivers
    Good Music #MusicalMonday By Amy Rivers

    I’m going to go ahead and disclaim this post by saying that my writing soundtrack is often re-runs of the Golden Girls playing in the background. As long as there is noise around me, I can set about my tasks and get my work done. That being said, I listen to music a lot when I am writing and even more when I am brainstorming / plotting. I listen to music when I need to strike the proper emotion, because, for me, the best music is the kind that makes you feel something deep down in your stomach (and sometimes in other places, but that’s another post).

    Here’s my go-to list of mood music when I need inspiration:

    #1: Leonard Cohen: Ain’t No Cure for Love

    There is literally nothing on earth that gets me in a more romantic mood than Leonard Cohen’s gravelly voice. Don’t get me wrong. I love my husband. I love Mr. Darcy. And I love me a good love story. BUT, there is something about Cohen’s voice that reaches straight down into my heart and makes me all warm and fuzzy.

    #2: Bad Religion: Los Angeles is Burning

    Actually, anything from The Empire Strikes First album is likely to get me all politically indignant. And sometimes, you need a good dose of indignation, especially when you’re writing about women in politics.

    #3: Ani DiFranco: Little Plastic Castle

    Girl power. Enough said.

    #4: Cyndi Lauper: True Colors album

    Because Cyndi Lauper is AMAZING! This album takes me back to my childhood, under the headphones with my Walkman, belting out Boy Blue or The Faraway Nearby in the backseat of the car. Her version of What’s Going On is one of my favorites. Listening to Cyndi Lauper makes me feel nostalgic and sassy.

    #5: Rent: Soundtack (either Broadway or movie)

    When I want to reconnect with humanity, I listen to Rent. It reminds me that people can be kind to one another, can love with their whole hearts, and will stand up for what they believe in.

    And last but not least #6: Tracy Chapman: self-titled album

    I grew up on Tracy Chapman. This album is full of ballads about social injustice and the complexities of human life, relationships and family. I could (and often do) listen to this album on repeat. It’s just that good.

    Whether you’re a big fan of light jazz, you like to rock out to death metal, or anything up, down or in between, my suggestion when building a soundtrack for writing is to pick something that makes you FEEL whatever it is you want to feel at the time. It’s the best medicine for what ails you.
    Best Laid Plans and Other Disasters - Cover
    Best Laid Plans & Other Disasters by Amy Rivers
    ABOUT THE BOOK: A year after she is elected mayor of a prosperous Colorado city, Gwen’s career and life are fully on track, all according to plan. So why is she in such a slump emotionally and physically? New conflicts keep boiling over in city government, and her earlier allies no longer support her. She and her boyfriend have an ideal relationship, which she finds inexplicably dissatisfying. Without telling her, he decides to take a new job that has him traveling out of state every week. Suddenly unexpected developments turn everything topsy-turvy, and Gwen is forced to re-examine her carefully-planned life.

    Available at:
    Visit Amy’s Website here.

  • Blog

    Today’s Musical Monday features Joanne Dannon, Author of Kisses Under The Spotlight


    Musical Monday
    Kisses Under the Spotlight - Cover
    ​Thanks to Monique for inviting me to her Musical Monday blog.

    I love music and I love dancing but my favourite music is jazz and swing. I’ve always had a thing for songs by Gershwin and Berlin. It must be the romantic in me.

    I started writing in 2005 and aspired to write for Mills and Boon, but my books weren’t good enough. First, I was still learning my craft and second, I was trying to fit my “voice” into a line that really didn’t suit me. Just because I loved reading it, didn’t mean I could write for it.

    After years of writing and rejections, I decided to write what I wanted, not what I thought the publishers wanted. And so I created a sexy crooner who sang all the songs I love, and could tap dance. Ta da! Meet Alex Jackson who has millions of fans, is hugely talented, handsome (of course!) but is broken inside.

    All my love for handsome and talented singers/artists – Michael Bublé, Harry Connick Jnr and Michael Feinstein, has been poured in to my hero Alex.

    Most of the books featuring musicians feature bad boy rockers but Alex is clean cut, no tattoos and can tap dance upside down.

    I wrote from the heart and so far, my readers have loved Kisses under the Spotlight with Alex. Hooray! They’ve told me they like the book because it’s different.

    I never intended to write a series, the book was supposed to be a standalone but when I wrote the final scene, I couldn’t let my characters go and wrote more, so now I have a 4-book series.

    If you like handsome crooners, then Kisses under the Spotlight is for you. Here’s an excerpt –

    In her twenty-eight years, Violet McKenzie had been presented with a few surreal moments. The most recent seeing a naked photo of herself plastered all over the Internet. But nothing, seriously nothing, could compare to meeting Alex Jackson.
    The Alex Jackson.
    The unassuming, jazz singing, jazz dancing, jazz superstar.
    All six foot plus of virile, extraordinarily handsome, muscle-bound him.
    And she was a fan.
    Okay, a big fan. She’d been to his concerts and had all his albums on her iPod and his calendar hanging on the kitchen wall.
    Yeah, she was a big fan.
    He looked up, his aquamarine eyes noticing her standing there. “You’re the physio?” Alex Jackson’s gaze met hers.
    Oh God. Even his voice was divine in real life as she imagined it would be. Its smoothness floated across her skin making the tiny hairs sway like palm trees in a gentle breeze.
    His arm waved in front of her face. “Hello?” His divine voice interrupted visions of her and him sipping fruity cocktails under the shade of coconut trees.
    Her skin warmed or perhaps the heating had been cranked up? The room was as hot as the desert during the day. Wiping her damp palms against the dark cargo pants she favoured for work gave her an excuse to hide any awkwardness. Clearing her throat she said, “Yes.”
    “My physio is…unavailable, so I had the hotel doctor look at my ankle, he thinks it’s fractured. But he seems used to dealing with sniffles, tummy bugs, and other traveller’s misfortunes. Not this.” His teeth gritted as he pointed to his foot. He blew out air from his lungs in exasperation. His usually impeccably straight hair was tussled and a lock of dark hair flopped over his forehead. He pushed it to the side before it fell back again. “You need to look at it.”

    I’ve currently got Kisses under the Spotlight on sale for US $0.99. Amazon, other e-retailers.
    And if you read and love it, let me know. I’d love to hear from you!

  • Blog

    Keeping things moving forward on #MusicalMonday


    Musical MondayTime for a new week and there is a lot happening this week. I was just talking to my daughter about one of my favourite songs (okay I was singing it off-key as I unloaded the dishwasher).

    Good songs like good characters in a book, or a great and intriguing plot stay with us. Sometimes I think we happen on a song or a book or even a painting at just the right time and that’s why it resonates with us and the person next to us couldn’t care less about it.

    I’m writing a new series of books and one of the characters is a lyricist. That means I’ve been writing my own song lyrics that I hope will speak to someone. Of course I hope the whole book does too, but writing lyrics is a different skill. It’s fun to do new things especially as I’ve been writing a long time now.

    When Any Way You Build It releases in April It will be my 12th novel, I’ve had another two pieces in anthologies…that’s a lot of novel writing so song writing that’s a refreshing change.

    Here’s one of my favourite songs for you. It’s not really a classic but it’s a classic at our house. The other week I met my husband in town for lunch and this was playing at the burger joint so I guess it is a classic for someone else as well.

    Quickly before I go I want to let you know that Any Way You Dream It is #free right now so you might want to grab a copy if you haven’t read it yet. And I’ve also set up a Fun, Flirty Fiction group for readers over on Facebook so if you want to join just click here.
    Any Way You Dream It - Promo - Original Covers

  • Blog

    Musical Monday with Renee Conoulty, author of Don’t Mean a Thing


    Don't Mean a Thing Red Shoe Promo
    The return of Musical Monday to the Blog
    I’ve been running this blog for over four years now and for a long time #MusicalMondy was a staple but I let it slide for a while. I missed it. So it’s back as a regular feature and we’re kicking it off with Aussie author Renee Conoulty.

    Renee Conouty – on music and swing dancing this Musical Monday
    Renee ConoultyA book with a couple swing dancing on the cover is bound to be full of music. How can you dance if there’s no music? I wanted to include musical references in

    my story but I had to do it carefully because of copyright issues. As much as I wanted to have my characters sing along to the music or reference the lyrics of the song, I couldn’t quote the songs directly without paying royalties and as a debut author, that was out of my budget. I did manage to mention seven different songs though.

    Song titles aren’t copyright, so I used one for my title “Don’t Mean a Thing” and this song also plays during the final scene.

    The drummer set the tempo for the next song, and the band began to play an instrumental version of It Don’t Mean a Thing If It ‘Ain’t Got That Swing.
    “Jam circle,” Eddie called.
    The dancers spread out around the edge of the dance floor and began clapping, emphasising the even beats of the snare drum.

    I referred to the title of a song in this scene where the hero, Matt, is teaching the heroine, Macie, how to dance.

    Matt started by my side then brought me around in front of him. He led me backwards as he took two steps towards me, thrusting his chin at me twice like an awkward chicken. Then he did it all again.
    “What on earth were you doing with your head? I thought you were about to attack me!”
    “I was pecking. That move’s called the peck.”
    “Well, I’m not doing that ridiculous chin thing.”
    “It’s not ridiculous. That’s one of Frankie’s favourite moves.”
    “Well, Frankie is a dork. I want to show everyone how cool swing is, not give them something else to laugh about.”
    “Frankie is not a dork. That’s practically sacrilegious, you can’t talk about Frankie Manning like that. But yeah, I get your point. Okay. No pecks at the Airman’s Ball, but next time we dance to Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens at the Railway, you gotta peck with me.”
    “Deal.” I crossed my fingers behind my back. There was no way I was ever going to peck.

    Here’s a reference to a swing song called Shiny Stockings.

    Even with the air-con running, my legs glistened with perspiration as if I were wearing those shiny stockings Ella was singing about.
    They weren’t all vintage songs. Here’s a song that played at the Airman’s Ball.
    As my gaze whizzed around the room—I really needed to get better at spotting—I noticed Jeremy over talking to the MC. What he was up to became apparent when Christina Aguilera began singing Candyman.
    I’d never noticed how fast that song was until I was dancing in three-inch heels on a slippery parquetry floor.

    And a more abstract song reference. Beyond the Sea plays during the closing credits of Finding Nemo.

    The music seemed somewhat familiar. I’d heard this song in a movie. But what movie? Images of a little animated orange fish and a deep blue sea popped into my head. The closing credits of Finding Nemo. How could I forget Nemo?
    Another animated movie song reference.
    There was something catchy about swing music. I loved it. Some of the songs on Wednesday night I’d recognised from movie soundtracks. When the band broke out with “The Bear Necessities” from The Jungle Book, I couldn’t hold back my grin.

    They weren’t all swing songs, though. This one’s from my favourite movie.

    My imagination ran away with me, re-enacting the final dance scene from Dirty Dancing with Matt and me in the starring roles.
    “Do you think you could teach me one of those fancy moves where you throw me around?” I imagined Matt lifting me overhead, arms outstretched, like I was flying.
    “We can definitely work towards that, but we have to get the basics down first. And that’s not the sort of thing you can do on a social dance floor. It’s more of a performance thing.”
    I took another sip of my tea, smiling to myself as I’ve had the time of my life continued playing in my mind.

    And to keep your toes tapping here’s the playlist my publisher, Kindred Ink Press, put together for Don’t Mean a Thing.


    2/19/2017 03:09:13 pm

    Thanks for inviting me to your blog. I hope the music gets your toes tapping.

  • Blog

    Moving forward and maintaining momentum on a Musical Monday


    To be a writer you need to write.
    Any Way You Fight It - Upper Crust Series - Monique McDonell - Original CoverI haven’t been much of a blogger lately and my social media engagement had been down as well, I suspect.

    Sometimes I really fret about that stuff – you can’t sell books without an online presence if your books are sold almost exclusively online. You lose visibility and people forget about you, or so everyone says.

    On the other hand you can’t sell books if you don’t write. Without that stage you have nothing to sell. That’s a fact.

    For the last couple of weeks I’ve chosen to focus on the writing and not get quite so distracted by the business and promotion side. Who knows if that’s a good strategy or not but I do feel more energetic, more engaged with my characters and more enthusiastic about writing so those are all positives.

    Any Way You Fight It, Book 3 in The Upper Crust Series is off at the editor now and will have an October release. Any Way You Plan It, Book 4 in the series is with the BETA readers now and Books 5 and 6 are ready for reading too. And I have a Christmas and a Summer/Valentine’s novella ready for readers as well.

    I guess that means I need to take a little break from the writing and get back to the promotion and other aspects of the writing business because that’s what it is, a business. I already run another small business so I guess this makes me a entrepreneur, with two businesses on the go.

    Like any business this one has goals – I want to get those four Upper Crust and two novellas published by January, I want to get better at organising my promos and newsletter, I have sales goals and marketing goals and now all I need to do is maintain momentum. Yeah, that’s the hard part.

    This song came me into my head yesterday for some inexplicable reason…and it reminded me of Marissa and Mike in
    Any Way You Plan It…so here we go an old Australian ’80s classic by Jenny Morris for Musical Monday.

  • Blog

    Muses, musing and Musical Monday


    Any Way You Fight It - Upper Crust Series - Monique McDonell - Original CoverI seem to have been a bit lax in the blogging area of late.

    One of the things about having a #1000wordsaday challenge going is that I spend a lot of time thinking about what to write next in my novels, I think some of that time I used to spend thinking about what to blog next.

    I don’t think we have a finite amount of creativity but I do think we have a finite amount of time to be creative and so we have to pick and choose how we spend it.

    I’m not a huge believer in muses or waiting for the creative impulse to strike. That’s not true either. I happen to think that is a wonderful thing. If I don’t feel like baking a cake or redecorating then I might wait for inspiration. If I was writing purely for pleasure I might do the same.

    However if you have a schedule and deadlines and an agenda just like in any job sometimes you just have to show up and get to work. I had an editing disaster earlier this year. (Actually I had two and neither were my fault and editing is already the least pleasant part of this process for me so frankly, I’m still a little bitter about it.) Anyway, I made a decision when I was an hour away from sending my book to the editor and I lost 10,000 plus words and ten days work. I decided that if this was a job for a PR client I would have sat my bum down in the seat and started again. So that’s exactly what I did. I’m not sure the muse would ever show up and make me feel inspired to do that task. I still feel kind of ill at the memory.

    I guess my point is that sometimes you have to push through even when you feel uninspired but there’s a limit to how many areas in life you can do that in. Apparently, for me blogging has gone by the wayside.

    Still I have managed to complete all six books in the Upper Crust Series so you can expect four more releases from me in 2015. Don’t you love the cover for Any Way You Fight It? (I’m sending the book to the editors in the next few days so expect an August release).

    I’m also working on a Christmas novella and I’ve written a summer/Valentine novella as well so I guess the blogging has been lax for a reason. You can’t do it all.

    For Musical Monday here is one of my all time favourite songs by the Eurythmics – Right By Your Side – I actually saw this tour back in 1987 in Sydney. The song is a perfect fit for Zara and Kyle the characters in my Christmas novella.

  • Blog

    Why new characters are like new friends (and Musical Monday)


    Why I enjoy starting a new project
    Any Way You Slice It - Upper Crust Novel - Monique McDonell - Original CoverI’ve been busy this month working on a #50k30D challenge.(That means I need to write 50,000 words in June).

    That’s a lot of writer’s idea of a nightmare. The pressure is too much and they don’t like that feeling of being under the gun. I guess I’m not like that. I kind of love it actually.

    For me writing a new book meets creating new characters – or as I like to call it – making new friends. I love and miss some of my characters from my stand alone books – Allegra will always be one of my favourite people as will Cassie from Hearts Afire and I really can’t speak highly enough of Matt from A Fair Exchange of Harvey from Alphabet Dating. (I’m not a total nutter I do know they’re not real people.) Still I like meeting new characters too.

    The Upper Crust Series allows me to check up on the characters from other books in the series as I write them so it’s the best of both worlds. I’m writing about Todd and Sarah in Book six just now. Todd was in Book 2 and features heavily in book 4 as well. Marissa from Book 4 and Chloe from Book 5 also appear quite a bit, see old friends with the new.

    One of the reasons I like writing a book in a month (albeit a rough first draft) is because you have to be with those characters every day so you really get to know them. What they like to eat, what clothing they wear, what makes them laugh or cry – I know this because I’m spending so much time with them.

    It’s like being on a summer camp or a European bus trip with them. We bond fast and we share our secrets by the campfire or over some chianti and at the end of the month we walk away wondering if we really should have shared all that. I love it.

    I enjoy the newness and the discovery of it all and of course the sense of achievement when I write a scene I’m happy with or hit a goal. Writing can be lonely and soul-destroying so you need those things to spur you on, well I certainly do. Some of the secrets I’m told by the characters will never make the page and others will be edited out down the track but for right now, I’m enjoying just knowing them.

    And because it is Monday we need some music. This is one of my favourite songs at the moment. I love the retro 80’s style video and the energy of the song. I like dancing to it in my car, and it give me permission to say “shut up” which I usually just don’t do.

    Here’s a funky acapella version. This is how I sound in my imagination – which of course is the beauty of having a good imagination – imaginary friends and talents.

  • Blog

    What I’ve learned writing a series and #MusicalMonday (It’s only the beginning)


    Any Way You Dream It - Upper Crust Series - Monique McDonell - Original CoverBook two of my Upper Crust Series – Any Way You Dream It is now with the editor. Yes, I know, those of you who actually read my blog and read my books know it should have happened a while ago, but it has finally gone.

    “Why the delay?” I hear you cry.
    “Good question.” I reply.

    The truth is apparently I am really bad at writing BOOK TWO in a series. Book one is fine and book three is fine. I’ve written two series now (one under a pen name) and I’ve experienced the same issue with both. The whole series has stalled because of Book 2.

    I don’t exactly know why that is. Well, I do, I think in my effort to make the main character in that book different from the main character in the first book in the series I tie myself in knots.

    Additionally, I think book two brings about fear of success (what if everyone loves it?) and fear of failure (what if everyone hates it?) into play in a strange and disturbing way. By the third book I seem to have pushed through it and the interplay between the characters carries me through. By then I’m one of the gang (I’m probably Thelma not Daphne but I’m in the gang) and there is a gang, a group of characters I know well and enjoy spending time with.

    At least now we know. In the Upper Crust Series the good news Any Way You Fight It, Book 3 is done and will be released quickly after the second. Books four and five are also nearly done.

    I really love Chase, the hero in Any Way You Dream It and Lucy is a girl who deserves a happily ever after (HEA) so I think you’ll love the book like I do. (And Six books in the series will have been released by the end of this year, so I really hope you do).

    Now let’s turn up the music because it is Monday.

    I love this song and have since I heard it back in the olden days…it’s a great love song and it features in my first novel Mr Right and Other Mongrels…my first book baby.


    Laurie Baxter
    4/29/2015 11:06:57 am

    Ooh, yay! Very excited to hear this! I really enjoyed book one. 🙂

    Sandie Docker
    4/30/2015 07:59:13 pm

    The curse of the second book!!! But to have 6 box released by the end of this year – yay you!

  • Blog

    Crossed the 100,000 mark in my #1000wordaday challenge this #MusicalMonday


    100,500 / 365,000 words.
    I do love a challenge

    It is a strange thing because I’m basically not a very competitive person. I compete with myself but not with others.

    So if you want to beat me there’s every chance I’m going to let you. I hate team sports because the competition makes anxious. I don’t even like to watch team sports because I feel like the worst player on the team is beating themself up and feeling embarrassed.

    As the parent of a child who quite enjoys sports I have come to learn that the worst player on the team often believes themselves to be a star. I’ve watched children who can barely catch correct the play of other children on the netball court,

    In fact I would go so far as to say this has been one of my great failings in life. If you say “I’m better at this than you”, I will probably believe you. I will bow out of the race and let you have it. I have some wonderful examples I could share but on the off-chance I offend someone I shall refrain.

    However, if I set myself a challenge, I will usually embrace it.

    It’s why being self-employed works for me. It’s why I enjoy #NaNoWriMo and it’s why the #1000wordsaday challenge I started this year is a good one for me. I’m doing it with others but I’m running my own race.

    So today I did a little happy dance when I crossed that milestone.

    Meanwhile Book 2 in the UpperCrust series came back from the last reader before it goes to the editor this week. She suggested some changes which I’ll be making in the next few days. Which means a mid-May release!

    Book 3 is out with the BETA readers and I’m hoping to start the re-write on it next week.

    And as part of the #1000wordsaday challenge I’m working on Books 4 and 5. Lots to do.

    Monique McDonell Upper Crust Series Banner
    And finally for Musical Monday here is a song by Vance Joy with reminds me of Chloe and Tom on Book 5 (which has no name yet).

    In fact it is these lines that remind me of these two. “I could easily lose my mind, the way you kiss me will work each time”.