Music Monday: Round Up

And we’ve reached the final Music Monday for Cambiante and a chance to wrap up the few pieces that either didn’t need a whole post or where a whole post would have provided way more spoilers than I’d like.

  • The AC: Black Flag theme – Brian Tyler
    I just love this piece of music. It’s a playful waltz. It’s a prelude. It’s a sea shanty without actually being a sea shanty. It’s swashbuckling fun and it’s definitely The Ghost’s theme.
  • Waving At Stars – Fish
    This is an odd little track from the Raingods with Zippos album. It’s got a trance backing track that wouldn’t have been out of place in Ayia Napa or Ibiza when the album was originally released, but the lyrics are more of Fish’s sharp observation. It builds into Raingods Dancing (see the first Music Monday post for Cambiante for details on that) and, as such, I listened to it almost as much as that track and it was almost as important for ironing out the details as that track became!
  • Sonic Boom Boy – Westworld
    A quirky track that I’ve loved since I was a wee small thing and a new addition to my walking playlist.

The Elsehere Soundtrack on Spotify has been updated to add this in.

So that’s the Cambiante part of the Elsehere soundtrack complete. By comparison to Valkyrie and Sekhmet it’s quite a short section, but that’s mainly because I actually listened to way more things than for either of the first too books, but far fewer tracks became important to the writing. (I had a lot of fun listening to some of the music from Cuba – there’s a lot of really awesome dance and jazz music that’s either originated or developed out of Cuba – but none of it really ‘stuck’, as such, partly because there was so much I don’t think I heard any of it twice!)

Music Monday now goes on hiatus until August, when I’m going to do a special summer fun selection. Five weeks to share my five favourite ‘summer’ music and, like my Christmas selection, I’m aiming for roads less travelled – though more on that in August!

The Elsehere soundtrack will return in the autumn (all things being well) with part 4, which is going to be very, VERY different. Until then, happy reading and listening 🙂

Music Monday: The British Empire

This is the penultimate Music Monday for Cambiante and it’s another piece of music from the AC: Black Flag soundtrack by Brian Tyler.

This is one of my absolute favourite tracks on the Black Flag soundtrack. It’s a sparce composition with an absolutely haunting melody that’s played, first, on the violin and then echoed with percussion, and I just love the sense of feeling it brings me, of being lost and alone.

That’s an emotional beat that crops up in all of the Elsehere books, but nowhere moreso than in Cambiante. This track helped enormously to keep me in the right mood to write some of the more emotionally charged sequences without tipping over into melodrama. It was also a fabulous piece of music to listen to while I was thinking through some of the issues and plot holes.

The Elsehere Soundtrack on Spotify has been updated to add this in.

That’s all for now. Happy reading and listening!

Music Monday: United

This week’s Music Monday is a little different with Olivier Derivière’s United.

Olivier Derivière is a French composer whose works have mainly been video game sountracks. I will confess I don’t know his work terribly well – that’s something I plan on rectifying in the very near future! United comes from the AC: Black Flag expansion/extension Freedom Cry.

So what’s so different? It represents a road not taken.

As I mentioned in the first post for part 3, I did most of the plotting for Cambiante on one single 3.7km walk, but one thing I didn’t nail down at that point was exactly where I was going to base Emilio. I was leaning towards Cuba and Havana, but I didn’t have any particularly strong reasons for that location and there were plenty of other options open to me. I knew a (very rough) timeline of what happened between 1500 and the present through that region, but I dug into it a bit more, putting a bit more detail onto that timeline.

Some locations were definitely out as a home base – Jamaica and Barbados were both too obvious and also too British, given the background I was giving Emilio. Others I thought about a bit harder – having him remain on the mainland (Mexico or further south in to Belize) was a strong candidate – but ultimately discarded as not quite fitting right. In the end, it came down to two locations. Cuba and Haiti. Haiti’s major plus point is its history as having been home to a successful slave rebellion and, though Emilio’s background is Spanish and the Haitian colony was French, Hispaniola is where Columbus landed so it did tie together quite nicely.

On the other hand, I was wary about setting a story in Haiti. It’s not a country I know and I didn’t want to end up either exagerating the social and political situation or underplaying it. Which is not to say Cuba was particularly easy to use as a location – again, the politics and social situation are an interesting proposition. Either one was going to need a lot of research. What finally tipped me to use Cuba was the underwater geology off the western end of the island which directly led me to the major subplot in Cambiante.

So Haiti is the road not taken and United, a song sung in Haitian Creole, is added to the soundtrack as a reminder that for every point that ends up in a book, there’s usually ten or fifteen points been considered and discarded!

(Though nothing’s ever forgotten: as much as I haven’t used Haiti as the main location for Cambiante, there’s bits of history there that I’ve logged away for use in future short stories, so it’s probably safe to say, you haven’t heard the last of the Saint-Domingue slave rebellion…)

The Elsehere Soundtrack on Spotify has been updated to add this in.

That’s all for now. Happy reading and listening!

Music Monday: Saba Island

Welcome to another Music Monday and another piece by Joe Henson and Alexis Smith, Saba Island.

This is another track from the extended AC: Black Flag soundtrack and it’s possibly my favourite out of all of the ‘extra’ bits. It’s reminiscent of a track from part one of the Elsehere Soundtrack, Lorne Balfe’s Fightclub, through the use of fiddle music as the central refrain, but there’s still a Spanish flavour to the melody and a hint of the jungle too. It fits with the general aesthetic of Cambiante without being specifically attached to any one part.

It’s not a complex piece with lots of layers, but it is still a piece of music I can listen to it on repeat and not get bored. At the same time there’s enough repetition to the music that it helps my brain to focus which made it an excellent thinking track if not necessarily so good for the actual writing process!

The Elsehere Soundtrack on Spotify has been updated to add this in.

That’s all for now. Happy reading and listening!

Music Monday: Mission Statement

It’s another Music Monday and another track by Fish, also taken from Raingods Dancing.

On the one hand, this song is a bit of old fashioned rock’n’roll. It’s got the same tempo and style as things like Summertime Blues and Rock Around the Clock and it is so dancible that I have half a Zumba routine choreographed to it (one day, I’ll finish that off!). It’s guitar, organ and snare drum to provide rythme with all the melody being supplied by Fish’s vocals.

On the other, it’s another piece of Fish social commentary. The lyrics talk about economics, the grind of working life, climate change and how the only way we fix any of it is to pull together. Did I mention this was written more than twenty years ago?!


With its rapid tempo, this was an incredibly useful walking (okay; jiving – I admit it; as they say, dance like no-one’s watching!) track. As I mentioned in part one of this soundtrack section, a lot of Cambiante was plotted while out on one particular walk and this track was one that definitely kept my feet moving while I chewed on plot details.

It also catches the frantic vibe of the early chapters of the book. A lot of stuff gets thrown at Emilio and he has to decide how to deal with it all in a very short space of time. Equally, one of the central threads of the book is about Emilio learning to work with people instead of as a lone operator, so the idea of pulling together fits as well.

The Elsehere Soundtrack on Spotify has been updated to add this in.

That’s all for now. Happy reading and listening!

Music Monday: Kings Cross

Time for another Music Monday post and this week, something different: Kings Cross by the Petshop Boys.

The Petshop Boys are a British electronica/synthpop duo who’ve been working together since the very early 80s, who’ve had several periods of fame/success in that time. Kings Cross comes from the 1987 album Actually.

Actually was one of young Grace’s very first albums, although it is fair to say that my nine-year-old self didn’t entirely ‘get’ most of the songs, she just loved the music! Kings Cross is perhaps the one exception to that. I didn’t pick up on the call outs of the government and the social problems it highlighted (I was nine!) but I did get the sense of the hopelessness and the bleakness. It always made me think in apocalyptic terms (it was still the cold war; nuclear annihilation was still very much a possibility!) and that is what makes it fit in with the Cambiante section of the Elsehere Soundtrack.

This wasn’t a piece of music that I did much writing to, but it was a great piece of walking music that let my thoughts sync up to the state of mind Emilio is in. I think I solved at least one plot hole listening and sewed the seeds for filling in a couple more, too.

The Elsehere Soundtrack on Spotify has been updated to add this in.

That’s all for now. Happy reading and listening!

Music Monday: Mayan Ruins

It’s another Music Monday, and the third piece of mood music for Cambiante. This week, Winifred Phillips’ Mayan Ruins from Assassin’s Creed: Liberation.

Winifred Phillips is a composer and writer who’s worked on various soundtrack projects, starting out in radio dramas before moving into video games. AC: Liberation is an obscureish game in the series, having been originally done for the PSP (the Sony handheld gaming device). It was remastered and rereleased as bonus content with the remaster of AC:III and is well worth a look, as is the soundtrack!

This is a completely different sort of piece to the previous two tracks. The melody is a kind of call-and-response, played on woodwind, and is reminiscent of bird calls. Played beneath it is a selection of percussion and the whole thing (to me, at least!) evokes the jungle around the edges of the great Mayan sites.

It’s very simple and ethereal, and it became my go-to piece to listen to when I was writing Quetzalcoatl and when I was using my other main setting, the city/ruins of Dzibilchaltun…which I didn’t expect to feature quite as much as it ultimately ended up doing!

The Elsehere Soundtrack on Spotify has been updated to add this in.

That’s all for now. Happy reading and listening!

Music Monday: The Spanish Empire

For this week’s Music Monday, another piece of mood music, this time by Brian Tyler: The Spanish Empire.

Brian Tyler is one of my absolute favourite composers. In his case, it’s actually a bit of a toss up as to whether I came across him first via the AC: Black Flag soundtrack or whether it was the official Formula 1 theme. Either way, he has an absolutely brilliant back catalogue that spans so many genres and with work from film, TV and video games, that if you look him up, you’re pretty much bound to find something you’ll enjoy.

This track is from the AC: Black Flag soundtrack, though, and, as the name suggests, it’s another with a very Spanish feel: the main melody is once more played on the accoustic guitar, but this time there’s more percussion and woodwind, with a little bit of other string instrumentation layered in. It’s less of a dance and more of a slow and steady creep through the jungle. It’s very atmospheric and more than a touch sinister: perfect music for the prologue and laying out the basic mystery of Cambiante.

The Elsehere Soundtrack on Spotify has been updated to add this in.

That’s all for now. Happy reading and listening!

Music Monday: La Havana

Welcome to this week’s Music Monday and a piece of fabulous mood music by Alexis Smith and Joe Henson (aka The Flight), La Havana.

The duo of Alexis Smith and Joe Henson are soundtrack specialists. They have released some music that isn’t television or video game soundtracks, but most of their back catalogue is media tie-in and they are very good at what they do. This particular track is taken from the extended/complete edition of the Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag soundtrack and it’s simply a really nice flamenco-esque piece of guitar music.

Given Emilio’s history, having come from the countryside around Madrid and then having lived in what would become Mexico and now living in Cuba, this was very much a character piece. It set the mood and helped me find both his voice and his story.

It also sets the flavour of one of the two main locations in the book: Havana. I vaguely had it in my mind that a lot more of the story would take place in the main areas of Havana, so it was useful to have a piece of music that helped me picture the streets and the people and the colours and while I changed my mind about exactly how much action should take place there versus other locations, it still helped when I did dip into the real city.

The Elsehere Soundtrack on Spotify has been updated to add this in.

That’s all for now. Happy reading and listening!

Music Monday: Raingods Dancing

With Cambiante due to land tomorrow (err, sort of – more on that tomorrow), it’s time to start the Music Monday posts for part 3 of the Elsehere soundtrack.

And first up is the reason that Cambiante exists at all: Raingods Dancing by Fish.

Fish is the former lead singer with Marillion, who left them and went solo in the late 80s. Raingods Dancing is taken from his sixth studio album, Raingods with Zippos, released in 1999.

My favourite two (complete) Marillion albums are Misplaced Childhood and Clutching at Straws, and a large part of what attracted me to them was Fish’s vocals and lyrics. They’re albums I can put on repeat and not get bored with. So when I was looking to branch out a bit, it seemed only natural to look into Fish’s solo career, and that led me to this song which is probably my favourite solo Fish song.

The lyrics are incredibly evocative (often the case with Fish). I love the imagery of the deserted places and the sound of falling rain and someone so haunted by their pain just quietly falling apart. Paired with the music (the piano as raindrops, the strings, the expanse of guitar…) the whole piece is beautiful.

So how does this song inspire a story like Cambiante? Well, it goes something like this: I’d written the climax of Valkyrie and hated it. I knew there was something wrong with it, but I couldn’t see what, or how to fix it. Allied to that was a bit of background writing I’d been toying with, trying to make some of the underlying plot make sense, and it wasn’t working out so well, either. So on went the hiking boots, in went the earbuds and I set off for a walk, with my music library set to shuffle, and just let my brain ping-pong ideas around to see what stuck together and what broke up on impact.

The first couple of songs didn’t make an impression, but then this track came on and fireworks kicked off. A victim of a plague of ghosts, a haunted empty space and someone falling apart – that was where my story was, though at that point I didn’t really know exactly how the story fitted together. It took the rest of the walk (about 3k!) for that! At the same time, it also helped me figure out how it all impacted Valkyrie and about six weeks later I had most of the first draft written and those initial bare bones rather specifically informed Cambiante’s prologue. (Of course, it then took me four months to complete the draft and another three and a half months of editing before I had a finished book, but…!) They also massively informed what went into Of Bonds and Binding.

So there you have it. An insight into the, er, quirky mental process behind a book that wasn’t supposed to exist and the awesome piece of music that went with them.

The Elsehere Soundtrack on Spotify has been updated to add this in.

That’s all for now. Happy reading and listening!