Music is Maggie Blackbird’s biggest inspiration

A guest feature by Maggie Blackbird.

When it comes to writing, music is my biggest inspiration. I am a die-hard music fan right from the tender age of four when my father bought my siblings and I our very first record. I even remember the name of it. Juke Box Jive. LOL. Sure, it wasn’t hip, but who’s hip when they are four? I even brought the record to kindergarten for show and tell.

Each time I start a novel, I always have a playlist for the couple. I find the playlist keeps me in the zone while I’m doing dishes or exercising. But for some strange reason, I never created a playlist for Séamus and Shannon, the main couple for His Proposition. And I’m not sure why.

At least one of my main characters is always a die-hard music fan like me in each book I write. This time the person in question is Shannon Nadjiwon. I wanted to choose something a young woman wouldn’t normally listen to. For Shannon, she was all about Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Diamond, and Barry Manilow.

Music for the main character always leads me into researching the music. In a now defunct romance series that I started in the 90s, I had one female lead adore music from the sixties. So I naturally had to purchase tons of sixties music. I find listening to the same music that my main character enjoys introduces me to artists I wouldn’t have explored on my own. Take the Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow thing. I wouldn’t have purchased their songs freely, but once I did, I savoured every note and lyric like a box of Belgium chocolates.

Even listening to a song can inspire me to write a novel centred around it. My dad was not only a die-hard music fan, but also a musician, so music must be in my blood why I am so in love with it. And I don’t stick to my main genre of heavy metal and hard rock. I explore it all from 1950s doo-wap to country and western. Like right now, I am hooked on Waylon Jennings.

Imagine Séamus’ shock when he unearths Shannon passes on contemporary pop and hip-hop that most young women enjoy in this day and age, and prefers Gordon Lightfoot. I have my husband to thank for introducing me to this Canadian artist. He’s introduced me to a lot of music, even country.

So yes, it was strange Shannon and Séamus never got a playlist, let alone their own romance song LOL. I guess I’ll have to chalk it up to being super-busy and playing catch-up after a very crazy 2021 that left me unable to sit at the keyboard for a good six months since so much was going on within my extended family.

But for my next novel I have submitted to my publisher, they had a playlist and their own “song.” Yay!

His Proposition by Maggie Blackbird

An Ojibway woman and White man on the cover of His Proposition by Maggie Blackbird

Her biggest dream’s offered on a platter, but the clincher is, she has to marry a perfect stranger.

When her employer offers the no-nonsense Shannon Nadjiwon the position of chauffeuring Séamus Daugherty, she jumps at the chance. To work for one of Toronto’s most powerful families means she can make her biggest dream of owning a fleet of limos come true, something her female relations tooling away at her Ojibway community want badly for her, and she won’t let them down.

His reckless need for speed cost Séamus Daugherty his license. If he doesn’t marry, as demanded by his overbearing father, he will not only lose his lucrative job with the family business —the only positive aspect in Séamus’ gilded cage life—but everything Daugherty.

The unpretentious and gorgeous Shannon will make the perfect bride, and Séamus is ready to strike a deal with her. One that will ensure he keeps everything he holds dear if she puts a wedding ring on her finger. However, they face three big obstacles: His family, her family, and a marriage neither truly wants, leaving both wondering if the sizzling sexual chemistry and cozy rapport they share is enough to grasp a happily ever after.

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Genre: Interracial Contemporary Romance
Length: 263 pages/75,756 words
Publication Date: August 12, 2022
Publisher: eXtasy Books

Excerpt

Shannon hit the turning signal and guided the Audi into the parking lot of the coffee shop. Speaking on a personal level was forbidden, one thing she’d learned from her boss the very morning when she’d started working for Elite Limousines. Although sociable clients existed, to engage in more than idle chitchat was a no-no.

Anything could upset a client, even favoring the wrong basketball team. Speaking about the area’s history, something she’d studied up on, was a safe conversation. “I understand your community was named for equestrian bridle paths in the early planning stages.”

“Yes, so I’ve heard. I must admit I haven’t really bothered to dig any deeper. I s’pose I should.”

Asking Séamus why was out of the question. Yet, it was rather strange he wouldn’t take an interest in the history of his neighborhood. She stopped at the drive-thru board so he could order.

“What would you like?” he asked.

Even a simple question coming from his mouth was a nibble to the lobe of Shannon’s ear and carried a hint of m’dear. Such sophistication. She flexed her thigh muscles, an automatic response to tense or uncomfortable situations. “Excuse me, sir?”

“Ah, ah, ah.” She glimpsed him waggling his index finger. His wide mouth formed into a teasing grin. His emerald-green eyes, what the grass of Ireland probably looked like, crinkled at the corners. “What did I say about formality?”

“Once again, what is your order, please?” The drive-thru attendant’s query came through the intercom.

“One moment. I’m in the middle of speaking to my driver.” Séamus’ tone was dismissive, as if used to making someone wait. He settled his delicious gaze back on her.

His discourtesy to the attendant rolled off Shannon. She’d heard the same dismissing tone from past clients. The annoyed hiss coming from the intercom didn’t escape her notice, though.

“You don’t need to keep repeating my name. Now, I asked you what you’d like.” Séamus reached into the breast pocket of his navy-blue designer suit that hugged his athletic body.

Which sport gave him such an attractive physique? When Shannon had arrived for work at eight this morning, she’d spied a swimming pool and tennis court on the grounds. “A medium double-double is fine. And thank you.”

“Not a problem.” Séamus waved his hand in a casual manner. He leaned on the console and spoke at the lowered window. Once he’d ordered, he settled his delicious gaze naughtier than a schoolboy back on her.

Teeth clacking, Shannon pulled up past the drive-thru window so Séamus could pay for their coffees. Her phone was off, but wait until she got home after work and told her friends she’d be moving into the guest house for the duration of her job. For sure she’d receive a more than raving reference from Padraig Harrington the fourth. Her biggest dream was at her fingertips. Mom and Kokum would squeal.

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About the author

An Ojibway from Northwestern Ontario, Maggie resides in the country with her husband and their fur babies, two beautiful Alaskan Malamutes.  When she’s not writing, she can be found pulling weeds in the flower beds, mowing the huge lawn, walking the Mals deep in the bush, teeing up a ball at the golf course, fishing in the boat for walleye, or sitting on the deck at her sister’s house, making more wonderful memories with the people she loves most.

My Aug 2022 in lists

What I’m working on lately

What I’ve read/watched/played lately

  • The Dare by Harley Laroux
  • The Suicide Squad
  • Kingdom: Two Crowns
  • The Orville
  • Minecraft

What I’ve eaten lately

  • Wonton noodle soup
  • Donut holes filled with hazelnut chocolate
  • Ham, cheese and tomato baguette
  • Lamb stew with okra
  • Plain roasted almonds

What I’ve pondered lately

  • How do almond slicers work?
  • Is historical accuracy in fiction worth it if it means your text perpetuates undesirable behaviour?
  • Do humans possess the intellectual and empathic capacity to recognise machine sentience/sapience if it happens for real?
  • From purely a self-knowledge standpoint, how much of a certain race must be in your heritage before you can identify as a person of that race?
  • Could fiction writers make water pipe maintenance sound so interesting that it helps foster a culture of sustainability? (Municipal utilities romance — how’s that for a subgenre.)

What I need to research for upcoming work

  • Effects of radiation exposure
  • Maladaptive coping modes
  • AI doing creative work
  • Famous rebellions throughout history
  • Regional British accents

WIP report — 26 July 2022 plus excerpt!

Currently: 43,200 / 50,000

My WIP is not where I needed it to be by now, but with just under 7,000 words to go, there’s no time to stop and worry about it. I thought the falling action and denouement would be easy, a free-flowing tumble of resolution that would see me writing at breakneck speeds until The End.

Alas, it’s not like that at all. Everyone gets their emotional resolution in these final scenes and there’s a lot of darning and weaving to do. Who could have predicted that six perspective characters would make for a complicated convergence of story threads? WHO COULD HAVE POSSIBLY PREDICTED THIS?

My partner and I have instituted a new thing in our home to help me get this manuscript done in time to give beta readers a reasonable deadline. We call it our “hour of power”, where we both sit in the study room and work alone together. Him on his projects, me on this beastie. It’s a lovely sharing of suffering, and I’m so touched by his enthusiasm and support. On my moodiest, most sluggish and unmotivated days, this seems to help me keep writing.

So, a little news…

Project CLAY now has an official title and launch date. Yet We Sleep, We Dream is a steamy SF paranormal romcom landing across bookstores on 23 September 2023.

It’s an Aussies in space story, and I can confirm it contains sex, drugs and casual swearing. Blurb and cover are on the way, but for now please enjoy this excerpt featured earlier this month in Dot Club.

To my subscribers who read this in the newsletter, thank you for keeping our little secret. Another sneak peek excerpt will be coming soon!

Excerpt from Yet We Sleep, We Dream:

“Engineering’s more of a concern. You know, in case the sensors and monitoring are wrong and it’s not just the lights that are out. But that’s why we need to make sure gravity’s all good around the ship, in case someone needs to go down there and check things out. I, uh…”

Is it really necessary to explain this in such basic terms to a figment of his imagination?

And did he really have to explain it out loud?

Am I even speaking out loud?

He huffs a smile to himself and eyes the half-smoked joint again. Funny business, all of this.

But the redhead walks over. Nick is mesmerised by her bare feet across the cold floor. Her footfall somehow seems too thick and loud and physical. Especially physical. He never knew his imagination could be so vivid.

“No, you don’t need to explain it. Although I adore the sound of your voice, young one.” She runs a cool hand across the back of his neck. “I knew someone like you. He saw me bathing in a river beneath a twin moonrise and fell in love, the poor soul. He visited the river every moonrise for seven years, hoping to win me over. And then he gave up. And now that he’s gone, I find myself thinking of him, of what-ifs we never gave a voice. Now that I’m near you, I wonder all the more. I lament that even gods can be naïve.”

“Is that what you are? A god?”

She stands so close he can feel the heat radiating from her body. Her long hair smells like honey and wine. She touches him on the face, thumb brushing the ghost of a kiss across his cheek. Vibrations gather on the tip of his tongue.

Titania.

He knows her name like he knows his own heartbeat. She is here. She is real. Of course she’s real.

“Come.” She holds out a hand.

“Where?”

“Over by the window.”

Nick drops the tablet and obeys.

Published
Categorised as Diary

Craft and business

Something that’s becoming clear to me is that authoring is just as much a business as it is a craft. And to avoid the extremes of being a shonky sales sleaze or a suffering starving artist, one must walk a very fine and zigzagging line.

Frustratingly, there seems to be a stigma attached to making money from your art, as if creative people are automatons that don’t need to eat food or sleep in a safe, warm bed. Was it always this way or did internet-enabled easy access to media diminish the value of stories and entertainment in our minds?

It’s interesting how money-making norms are different in certain types of creative industries—and how they differ even within a single industry. For example, no one bats an eyelid when a corporate web designer charges premium rates for a clean and modern design, yet Etsy and Themeforest abound with bargain hunters looking for templates in similar styles.

So, what of books and publishing? I know of readers who only acquire free books and almost never buy titles from an author despite having the means to do so. And I know of other readers who don’t make much but will spend on books because they love them and want to support writers and artists dedicated to their work.

The latter are the readers who motivate me to hone my craft and write in a way that hopefully makes it worth their while, though it makes me sad to think they’d have to sacrifice so much while others get away with just taking and taking. One would hope they give back to the world in other ways so at least something balances out in the end.

As an indie author and apparent business owner, this kind of thing is always on my mind.

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

Every time I’ve been to a launch event, I get an odd mix of feelings that have only intensified since creating things for the purpose of launching them.

It doesn’t matter if it’s for a book, a magazine, a piece of art, or a website. It doesn’t matter if it’s for my own work or someone else’s. Those feelings hit, drain all my energy, and I’m left to brood over a hot tisane and wonder what it’s all about.

My parents reckon I don’t handle excitement very well. Maybe they’re right and my neurology/biochemistry/psychological conditioning isn’t wired up right to handle it. But I still need to live my life, y’know? I gotta figure out my own way of handling this very real thing that comes up every now and then.

So what are these feelings? Well, in the first place, I’m so happy for and proud of the person whose launch it is. They worked hard, they were dedicated, they honed their skills and committed them in the face of uncertainty. The launch gives everyone an opportunity to appreciate those efforts as well as the final product.

But underneath it all is the pressing notion that I don’t belong. Not at the bookstore, the art gallery, the Discord channel, the upstairs loft, or the drab office break room with the delicious cake in the corner.

It’s a scene and even if it’s meant to be my scene, it’s impossible for me to connect with it. I wonder if it’s an introvert thing or an anxiety thing. Could it be a facet of a complicated neurodivergent disposition, honed by a lifetime-thus-far of friction-laden socialising?

As 2022 approaches its median, I’m laying down some tidier foundations for my indie publishing career. I’m often told book launch parties are a necessary fixture in this wide, wacky world if you’re doing it properly. You can imagine the trepidation this births in me.

Well, I don’t intend on having a party for my next couple of books, but as a newsletter subscriber or blog follower, you’re included in the quiet celebrations. Thank you for being a part of my low-key journey, even if there’s no cake in the corner.

WIP report — 14 June 2022

Currently: 30,709 / 50,000 words

CLAY is over the halfway hump and on track to get to my editor by our self-imposed deadline. The story is coming along nicely and I’m feeling more confident in every technique the first 25,000 words forced me learn by the seat of my pants.

As silly as it sounds, I must give credit to my sudden and aggressive obsession with fountain pens. One day, while utterly smitten by the flow of ink through a stainless steel nib, I began drafting a scene by hand and found that ideas and words just expressed so nicely.

They’re not the best words, but in the way an artist might block out shapes and structure before drawing in earnest, whatever’s coming out of my pen seems to give me the structure I need to fill in the details when I type up my notes.

In case any other pen islanders stumble upon this, I’m currently switching between a Herbin Transparent medium nib, a glass dip pen, and a couple of calligraphy flex nibs. Inks include Pilot Quink in black, Sheaffer Skip in blue black, and Stuart Houghton calligraphy inks in various colours. Life’s too short for a dried up old ballpoint (sorry, Mum, I know you like them).

20k to go. Onward and wordward!

Reflections on Saving Suzy by Stefanie Simpson

Romance novels aren’t supposed to make us sad. But sometimes they do and Saving Suzy by Stefanie Simpson did so very much. There was a point where I had to put the book down for a couple of days because the emotions got too much and I needed a breather.

That’s not to say this piece of erotic kink literature was particularly heavy, because although it deals with heavy themes, this isn’t a sadface book. It was just genuine. Down-to-earth moments captured by the author’s serious and sensual writing voice, the voice that gives the entire New City Series its quietly brilliant tone.

But back to what made me sad. I thought Victoria Undone was the Simpson romance for me, but Saving Suzy gripped me by the heart and squeezed very tightly.

If I had to sum up why, it would be the utter lack of toxicity between the MCs. There’s uncertainty, there’s curiosity, there’s a definite attraction… but zero toxicity. They handle each other with the utmost respect, even when things get difficult.

It mades me think of real life, and how the world can be a ugly place full of sharp teeth and stone hearts. How so many people IRL can turn nasty on a dime, flee at the first sign of trouble, lie for selfish reasons, and lash out at beautiful things.

The antagonist in this book is the ugliness of the world. And in the relationship that develops between Suzy and Nathan, we find the eye of the storm. Tumultuous in its own way yes—after all, romantic conflict is what makes a good novel—but ultimately the one piece of paradise that restores your soul while everything else takes bites out of you.

Stefanie Simpson has a new book coming out later this month. Lay Me Down in Ivy is currently available for preorder.

Sexy rehabilitation on the moon

The thing I love most about writing sci-fi is the ability to re-frame today according to tomorrow’s standards. This genre DEMANDS elements of the fantastic, so the requirement of interesting world-building creates opportunities to go “what if…” on just about anything you can take from what’s around you.

For example, what if someone decided to apply a rehabilitation model to the prison system? Instead of what amounts to modern slavery, “prisons” aim to undo the psychological damage done by society that eventuated in incarceration. The goal being to allow people to discover and become the best versions of themselves on their own terms.

That was my big “what if” driving The Induction of Satine, but I definitely didn’t start drafting with this in mind. I only wanted to write some short erotica, but doesn’t that just highlight the beauty of sci-fi?

The nature of the genre DEMANDED I wonder about something out of this world. And after hearing about low re-offending rates in rehabilitation-focused Norwegian prisons, it ended up being this pertinent question about alternatives to today’s punishment-based prison systems.

I’m sure you’ve figured this out already, but real-life rehab prisons aren’t sexy or located on the moon. That part was good ol’ imagination.

Book cover: "The Induction of Satine"

Excerpt from The Induction of Satine

“It’s policy that I watch you disrobe,” he informed me, adding, “With your consent, of course.”

Confusion struck me through the daze. First of all, I was on a moon so many people on my planet had already stopped believing in, confined within a prison I’d only just learned about that day. I was being attended to by a warden, something I decided years ago didn’t exist, not to mention how excessively polite he was. Finally, he hands me an inmate’s uniform and… it’s black?

Aren’t prison clothes meant to be high visibility? What if I tried to escape?

But then, what if they did such a good job of deterring their inmates that no one ever tried to escape? What kind of place was this that they could afford to take the risk? And besides, where could I escape to on this desolate landscape?

Suddenly the room felt unbearably warm. Fear mounted against the drugs and my hands began to shake. But I gripped the uniform tightly as Warden Jet stood over me.

I looked up at him. “I… consent, I guess.”

The Induction of Satine is not a perma-free book, but it is currently available for free through StoryOrigin. The site will ask you to sign up to my newsletter (if you’re not on there already) and deliver a copy of the ebook straight to your email.


This content originally appeared in Dot Club #41 (May 2022).

Email is my social media

I stumbled upon this note by writer Scott Nesbitt. Given my recent migration to email from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I found it quite timely and thought-provoking.

I’m not sure I agree with the sentiment about not wanting food updates and such. I actually love seeing what my good friends are eating, especially if it’s weird food or if they’re on holiday and enjoying the local culture… but I guess that’s the nuance of the circumstances and the relationship you have with the people you really want to hear from.

In any case, I do very much love a good personal email from close personal friends.

So, here’s the note plus a link to the original post below. I’d love to hear what you think either in the comments or, of course, via email.


Email is my social media

Email, to put it bluntly, is my social media.

It’s how I keep in touch with people. I send them a message, not a DM or a post on whatever social media wall they maintain.

Email is how, at least in part, I share ideas with a wider audience. That audience is a small group of people, many of whom I don’t know and who don’t know me.

I get more out of email than I did when I was actively posting on Twitter and Mastodon.

The people with whom correspond don’t bog my email down with the excruciating minutiae of their daily lives — that artisan soda or beer they just drank, photos of a dessert that they’re about to tuck into, what they’re watching at this very moment on their streaming service of choice, cute photos of their pets. Alla that kind of stuff. (OK, I do like the pet photos, but don’t tell them!)

Best of all, my inbox isn’t clogged with misinformation or disinformation. My correspondents only share links to items that they know might pique my interest. Or, sometimes, things which might raise my ire or my gorge — bless ’em! They share important news about themselves or about mutual friends. Our digital correspondence can be light and breezy, but also can be serious and have some depth. We can delve into discussion, debate, and sometimes argument.

When I tell certain people that email is my social media, they’re surprised. Some are even shocked. A few mock me for giving up the potential for the reach and influence that social media can provide. As if I’ve ever been interested in any of that …

Written by Scott Nesbitt (original post) / Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

WIP report — 17 May 2022 with a teeny-weeny excerpt

Currently: 21,600/50,000 words

The first draft of CLAY is almost halfway, which is nice. This WIP is pushing me hard against the limitations of my writing ability and I’m having to learn new storytelling and composition techniques on the fly. It hurts my head a lot, and even just pulling a hundred or so words together leaves me quite spent.

But I’ve had a good couple of days. Every beat makes me feel a little more positive about this story, though I still procrastinate and lug around a rucksack of paranoia in between writing sessions.

Anyway, I’d like to share a wee sample with you. First draft, obviously, so it might not end up exactly like this in the final version, but I hope you like it:

Damian Chandrasekhar leans toward the security camera. He rakes a hand through his thick hair, giving it a zhuzh to the left, and knows exactly what he’s doing—or trying to do. He holds his wristlet to his pouty mouth and raises a manicured eyebrow at the lens.

“Half an hour before the drones arrive, Tan. Tick, tick, tick.”

“I said I’m coming, Damo.”

“Want me to head over there?” He grins suggestively. “Could help you come a little quicker.”

“Ha-ha, don’t be gross, dickhead. Now shut up and let me concentrate.”

Published
Categorised as Diary