Writing Changes Taste in Music

When I began writing Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe, I had a hard time finding appropriate background music to listen to while I worked. The story takes place on a run-down farm in the middle of nowhere Nebraska, and the setting has a certain worn-in honest vibe to it, so when I went to choose some quiet heartfelt background music to inspire me while I typed, I came up almost empty handed.

Ever since I was old enough to buy my own tunes, I’ve been dedicated to just about every kind of rock music there is: hard rock, indie rock, alternative, punk rock, metal, classic rock, you name it. The problem was, none of that music really fit with the story I was working on, and that was important to me.

At the time, back in 2010 when I wrote the novel, there were exactly two bands in my entire music library that worked with the story, and they were Iron & Wine and Doug Burr. They were the oddballs in my music library that didn’t quite fit with the rest. I wrote the entire first draft of Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe listening to nothing but Doug Burr, one album after the other, and then back around again all the way through, over and over. His music inspired me so much it even made its way into the story in Chapter two:

Excerpt from Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe:

When she turned to catch him staring at her, Daniel quickly found something to talk about. Picking up the blue plastic gadget that was haphazardly wired to her tape deck, he asked, “What is this thing. Is this like…an iPod or something?”

“It’s my music box,” Jo said with a grin. “Yes, it’s like an iPod, if by that you mean an MP3 player. It’s not the fancy kind you probably have back home.”

Daniel wished he had an iPod. He wished he had a cell phone too, and a newer watch that actually kept time, and maybe a warmer winter coat for those cold days in January up north. There were a lot of material things Daniel wished he had, but he didn’t dwell on that too much, like Dylan was prone to do and even beg for from time to time. “What kind of music do you listen to?” he asked, trying to operate the gadget that was the size and heft of a block of cheese. This music box of hers was ancient in technology years, and it probably belonged in a museum. He could only guess what kind of computer it would hook up too. No flat screens around here, no high speed Internet. In this year, 2007 A.D., it seemed the Larsen’s were not the type to save up their pennies for silly things such as these.

“Little bit of everything,” she replied. “I really like Doug Burr. He has the most soulful voice I’ve ever heard.”

“Don’t know him.”

Jo took the music box and punched a few buttons so Daniel could hear this soulful voice for himself. “This one’s called ‘Always Travel Light’.”

What an appropriate selection. Daniel always traveled light, from foster home to foster home, and now to Josephine’s farm in the Heartland of America. It was so easy to leave his last home, just days ago. There was nothing in that spacious brick Colonial other than a few drawers full of clothes, a couple of overdue books from the library, and an alarm clock on the shared nightstand that his brother could sleep through despite its obnoxious volume. He wouldn’t miss any of it.

Throughout the editing process, and the long & drawn out publishing process, I started picking up new bands that had similarities to Doug Burr and Iron & Wine, and now my entire taste in music has changed. There are still plenty of days when I break out the old favorites (and play them loud), but now I crave the heartfelt words and emotional music of Noah Gunderson, Damien Jurado, Ben Howard, and Josh Ritter. I never would have guessed writing a story could change my whole taste in music.  

 

This is the playlist I put together for Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe. The collection of songs was a few years in the making - I made additions as I discovered new artists, and each song goes with the story in a special way. For those who’ve read the story, you’ll notice they’re in chronological order!

Spotify playlist

Hope you enjoy the book and all the music that goes with it!

When Making & Writing Collide

In May of this year, my second novel was published, titled Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe. It’s a quirky coming-of-age story that takes place on a farm in Nebraska, where a pair of well-meaning but impulsive brothers and their sixteen-foot stowaway spend several weeks falling in love with their newfound freedom, the wide open land, and the book-smart redhead who lives there.

It’s no surprise both sides of my creative mind have influenced each other recently, and that the process of writing & publishing Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe has lead me to create a special collection of work inspired by the story. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the new pieces I’ve been working on lately, all inspired by the book. These are available for purchase in my Etsy Shop.

My favorite series features needle felted paintings, jewelry, and laser etched wood blocks that contrast an aerial view of farmland in Nebraska with the patterned hide of a giraffe. I loved that contrast in the story - an exotic African creature living on a rural farm.

To celebrate these two new things, my book release and new handmade collection, I’m hosting a giveaway on Instagram this week. The winner will receive a signed copy of Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe, a $10 Amazon.com gift card, plus their choice of handmade pendant (shown below).

To enter the contest, simply follow both of my Instagram accounts @sarahmandellauthor & @onceagainsam and comment on the giveaway image (on either account) letting me know which pendant you’d choose if you’re the winner. Contest is open worldwide now through July 10. Good luck to all!

Book Release: Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe

BIG NEWS! Today is an extra special day, one that has been several years in the making. I’m celebrating the release of my new coming-of-age novel, Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe. The ebook is now exclusively available on Amazon.com, and the printed edition is coming soon.  

This quirky little story of mine has been on my mind each and every day, ever since I wrote it in the summer of 2011. I was so overwhelmed with ideas at the time, I had the entire book written in only 9 days. Just for comparison, my debut novel, Celia on the Run (2011, Untreed Reads), took me nearly a year to complete, so 9 days is insane. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or focus on anything else during that time aside from these unforgettable characters and the curious events that unfolded on each page. The whole story was in my head, from opening scene to final dialog, so it was all I could do to type as fast as possible, before any detail or description evaporated. I've never experienced anything like that before! 

Although the giraffe story was finished in just over a week, thanks to the intense inspiration that temporarily hijacked my brain (and life), the following years were pretty painful. I signed the book over to a literary agent, it was placed with a publisher, and then nothing good happened after that. My first publishing experience in 2011 was a good one, but this go-round (with a different publisher) was shaping up to be the exact opposite, but I did my best to be patient. After several years passed, when the publisher finally got around to editing & proofreading the manuscript, there were quite a few red flags (enough flags to rival any parade) that lead me to the decision to terminate my contract and take matters into my own hands. The day I signed the legal documents to release my work, my blood pressure immediately returned to normal, and I instantly regained the excitement about sharing my story, something that was nearly snuffed out altogether. 

I earn a living as an indie artist & entrepreneur, so I’m not sure why I was so resistant to being an indie author. I suppose I felt like working with a publisher was “proof” that I could write a decent book, but I had a major change of heart during those frustrating years. I'm so grateful for my husband's persistent encouragement to self publish (and help doing so), as well as the advice of my friend and fellow indie author Shannon McCrimmon, (who has a new book coming out on June 1!). 

Two Brothers, One Redhead, and a Stolen Giraffe is a contemporary story about the complications of love, loss, and new-found independence that will appeal to anyone who enjoys YA fiction that’s a little offbeat. This bittersweet story of two inseparable siblings, one self-sufficient redhead, and a soap-eating giraffe, is sure to make you laugh, cry, and swoon, though not necessarily in that order. 

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Synopsis:

The McElroy brothers find trouble easily. Dylan plunges headfirst into it, while Daniel cleans up behind him. That’s the way it’s always been, ever since their mother left them to be bounced around the foster system, causing trouble wherever they went. The soon-to-be euthanized giraffe they just stole from the Northside Animal Park may be their biggest predicament yet, in more ways than one, but there's no undoing what's been done.

Lost in Nebraska without a plan, clueless how to care for the ornery old beast in the back of the trailer, the well-meaning brothers stop to rest at an abandoned-looking barn. A pretty redhead with a snappy temperament and a shotgun discovers the boys and their sixteen-foot stowaway. Her name is Josephine, she lives on this farm with her father who is spoken of, but never seen, and her root cellar has more locks than a bank vault. She’s got a way with animals and plenty of secrets, not to mention the interest of two brothers who swore they’d never let some girl come between them.

The ebook is available for purchase at Amazon.com and I look forward to sharing more inspiration, excerpts, and fun facts about the novel in the future. 

GreenCraft Article Published

Writing and crafting: two of my favorite things. I'm excited to announce my second DIY article was recently published in GreenCraft Magazine! I so enjoy reading this magazine, it appeals to my love of up-cycling and repurposing, and I always find inspiration for new eco-friendly projects with every issue. It's a complete honor to be able to contribute my DIY guide to making suede fringe earrings to the Autumn issue of GreenCraft. 

I would say 99% of my writing is fiction, but once in awhile I get the itch to share facts and real life experiences, and I'm lucky enough that GreenCraft has allowed me the opportunity to share this DIY article with them and their readers. I hope you enjoy the magazine, there are so many great projects in the Autumn issue! http://stampington.com/GreenCraft-Magazine-Autumn-2014

 

Suede Fringe Earring: A DIY Guide by Sarah Mandell
Autumn Issue of GreenCraft Magazine

Art & Literature Collide: The Days Lost

Writing can be a lonely sport. It’s rare that I get the chance to talk to others about it in depth, or compare publishing experiences. For the longest time, I only knew other readers, not other writers. When I first met my friend Shannon McCrimmon, she was working on her first novel, just like I was, and I quickly discovered how helpful and inspiring it can be to have a fellow writer to relate to and discuss ideas with.

Since publishing her first novel, The Summer I Learned to Dive, Shannon McCrimmon has published 2 more, The Year I Almost Drowned, and most recently, The Days Lost. She has self-published all 3 on Amazon.com, and I was lucky enough to be a beta reader for The Days Lost. It was an honor to get a sneak peek at her new book before its release, and I enjoyed the fact that I could read along and think about what I might adjust, since it wasn’t set in stone just yet. I really had to dig deep for comments or suggestions - The Days Lost was a great story, even as a work-in-progress! It’s a YA must-read, and it’s completely different from her first two books so be sure to check it out. 

 The Days Lost by Shannon McCrimmon

The Days Lost by Shannon McCrimmon

Even more awesomeness about The Days Lost: Shannon McCrimmon has a love for the arts, especially local. She came up with the idea of having an art show where Greenville artists could contribute work inspired by her new novel. The Art & Literature Collide show opened this past weekend at Art & Light Gallery in conjunction with the book signing, and my husband and I each made a piece for the show. I typically stick to making leather and wood jewelry or needle felted fiber art, but I was inspired to make something completely out of my comfort zone for the show. I sculpted a life size copperhead snake out of clay and cut out hundreds of tiny leather scales for its skin, then mounted the whole thing on an antique wormy chestnut plaque. What part of the book inspired this 3D piece? You’ll have to read the story to find out!

OnceAgainSam1082.jpg
 Shannon made a story, I made a snake. 

Shannon made a story, I made a snake. 

  Work by Tim Speaker, Sheila Lutringer, Teresa Roche, and Annie Koelle

Work by Tim Speaker, Sheila Lutringer, Teresa Roche, and Annie Koelle

  Work by Chris Jones, Teresa Roche, Josh Mandell, and Sarah Mandell

Work by Chris Jones, Teresa Roche, Josh Mandell, and Sarah Mandell

  Work by Kent Ambler, Paul Flint, and Annie Koelle

Work by Kent Ambler, Paul Flint, and Annie Koelle