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!

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!


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. 

A Deleted Scene from Celia on the Run

By the time Celia on the Run was published, I had rearranged, removed, and reworked almost every scene in the book. The process took a couple of years! So what happened those lines and paragraphs that got cut? They're somewhere buried in my files, but today, for the first time, I'm sharing one of the scenes from the novel that didn't make the final cut.

 This scene was from chapter 6, when Nick and Celia are in the wild and carefree part of their road trip across the US. They have to lie, cheat, and steal to get by because they have no money and are technically runaways, but they're having a great time at this point in the story.

I still love this scene, so why on earth did I take it out? I removed it because there are an awful lot of scenes with Nick and Celia scheming and stealing. They get into a fair amount of trouble during the course of their trip, and I didn't want the reader to get distracted by all the mischief they get into in order to survive on the road, and miss out of the character development. This story is all about the characters, who they are, who they say they are, and who the become during the trip, not about all the laws they break and the people they swindle.  

**Deleted scene from Chapter 6 of Celia on the Run**

           The bells on the convenience store door jingled in chaos, announcing Celia’s arrival. That was her way, abruptly disturbing the peace with every door she opened. With a walk a little perkier than usual, she marched right up to the clerk, while Nick trailed closely behind, her eager-to-please shadow. Following a frustrated smile and a dramatic slap on the counter that was intense enough to rattle the cheap lighters out of their display, Celia said, “There’s something seriously wrong with this map,” and unfolded a road atlas.

           The clerk, who’s crooked nametag read Aaron, adjusted his glasses and managed to get out “Where are you…” before the pretty young girl before him cut him off with a wild hand gesture toward the map. “I mean, these crackpots sold us a map that’s completely ass-backwards. Where the hell’s Albuquerque?”

           Nick swallowed hard, avoiding eye contact with the clerk, the man they were about to swindle or rob or who knew what else. Celia hadn’t exactly shared her plan, she only said, “I’m hungry, we need gas, and we have no money,” before exiting the car just moments earlier. As Celia went on and on about how the map wasn’t to scale, and the clerk kindly tried assisting, Nick felt Celia stuff something into his pocket. He looked down in disbelief as she shoved another candy bar into his jeans, all the while chit-chatting with the clerk, who had given up on explaining the highway connectors at this point and was now eating up all the flirting Celia was throwing his way.  Nick had never shoplifted before, but certainly this would count, though it wasn’t his hands doing the crime, just his pockets.

            “So you’re saying we need to get back on route 40?” Celia asked, twirling her brown hair between her boney fingers. “Are you sure?” she asked in a helpless way that was more than believable.

            “Well, yeah,” Aaron began again. “It’s really the only road between here and Albuquerque. You were going the right way, just a little further than you thought.”

            Celia traced her finger over the road in question, the road she knew darn well was the only road to Albuquerque, and entertained Aaron with some more ridiculous but playful questions while she discretely helped herself to a lighter, a pack of gum, some crackers, and few sticks of beef jerky which she somehow managed to slide under her tight shirt without breaking eye contact or conversation. She was a pro. She even angled herself in such a way the security cameras would only ever see her face, and her back. Nick watched in amazement, truly impressed with this wild child next to him.

            Loaded down with about twenty dollars worth of junk food and whatever else was in reach from the customer side of the counter, Celia folded up the map, satisfied and ready to go. A larger woman in a bright flower print dress entered the store, barely clinking the bells on the door, and smiled at Nick and Celia, waiting to see if they were finished at the counter before approaching. “Go ahead,” Celia said, oh-so-politely, gesturing for the woman to take her turn. Celia continued to smooth out the map, just to have something to keep her hands busy.

            The new customer addressed the clerk, “Good afternoon to you. Forty dollars on pump number four, please.”

            “Certainly,” the clerk replied, accepting the cash. The woman turned and smiled at Nick and Celia again. She was one of those people who must have been raised to be kind to strangers, no matter how suspicious they looked.

            Nick whispered to Celia, “Are we leaving or what?” They were standing by the door with their stolen goods stashed in every pocket, which threatened to rustle in their wrappings, or worse, fall to the ground, and they hadn’t yet paid for the gas they desperately needed. Before Nick could ask any more questions of the always-scheming Celia, she shoved him towards the customer at the counter, causing the woman to spill her soda all over her flowered dress. Horrified, beyond embarrassed, Nick said, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry, ma’am”, which he absolutely meant, and reached for some napkins to help clean up the mess he’d caused. The woman assured him it was okay, just an accident, but he simply couldn’t stop apologizing. Nick's protruding ears were hot red. He turned to where Celia had just been standing by the door, ready to give her a pissed off look for doing this, but saw she was gone, and hadn't disturbed a single bell on the door upon her exit. As Nick helped Aaron and the woman mop up the soda from the already sticky floor, he glanced out to see Celia pulling the hose from pump number four all the way around to the other side, to pump number two, where she was now filling up Nick’s parents' car, most definitely forty dollars worth.