What Does Music Have to do with Writing a Best Seller?

I recently read Anna Celeste Burke’s newest book, Love Notes in the Key of Sea, and thought once again, she’s written another fabulous book. I’ve read everything she’s written and she’s definitely one of my favorite authors. If you’ve not read her books, you’re in for a treat!


I’ve noticed that music tends to be a recurring theme and I asked her if she’d write a guest post regarding it and her books. Here it is and enjoy!

Thanks, Dianne, for another chance to visit your wonderful blog! It’s great to be able to talk about another of my favorite topics: music!

I hear a waltz…

I’ve written about the role that setting, characters, and food play in the three cozy mystery series I write. I didn’t realize until recently, though, how important music is as well. I was doing a blog talk radio spot when the host, Karen Vaughan, asked if I have a particular theme song for my character, Jessica Huntington. That’s when it dawned on me that I have soundtracks in my head for each series.

For Jessica Huntington, spoiled rich girl done wrong by her man, it’s the blues. At first, it’s the down and out, dirty-shame kind of blues that have her on an extended pity-party binge abusing her black AMEX card. It doesn’t take her long though to switch it up to rhythm and blues, ready to kick a hole in the clouds that hover above her. Can you say R-E-S-P-E-C-T? In adversity, this pampered diva discovers she’s made of tougher stuff—a bit of soul and a whole lot of sass.

Cue the surf music for newlyweds, Kim and Brien, in my Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery Series. Not a cloud in the sky for these two lovebirds, even when a guy falls into the swanky hotel pool from six floors above them. Nothing can stop “good, good, good vibrations” from inspiring these two as they set off together on a series of “most excellent adventures.” Surf’s up—always—as they take the plunge into the murky waters of murder and mayhem. Their fearlessness and impulsiveness give the local homicide detective the jitters. I imagine Detective Mitchum twitching like Inspector Clouseau’s boss in the Pink Panther movies. Kim and Brien aren’t to blame for “Twitchin’ Mitchum’s” antsy ways, but they don’t help.

What I discovered as I answered questions on that radio show was that there’s more than one soundtrack running in my head for the Georgie Shaw Cozy Mystery series. One of the first things we learn about Georgie in Murder at Catmmando Mountain is how much she loves Jazz. Her Siamese cat yowls with a booming voice and she gives him the name Miles—as in Miles Davis—one of the coolest cats in jazz circles, for sure. Georgie and the handsome detective, Jack Wheeler, listen to other jazz greats like John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk as they get to know each other and explore their relationship.

The title of Love Notes in the Key of Sea, Georgie Shaw’s second mystery, takes its name from a song. Not a jazz tune, but a song written for her by a lost love. The melody in my head is reminiscent of the theme from an old 1944 detective movie, Laura, where the cop falls for a murder victim after seeing her photo. Here’s the link to the theme song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-QtnIaG0xE just in case you’ve never heard it. The movie’s great, too, with some surprising twists.

The song I hear in my head isn’t quite so dramatic. It’s a sweet, wistful song written with more innocence by a young man in love. Love Notes in the Key of Sea is a haunting tune, literally and figuratively. It becomes more than an old memory when Georgie revisits the place where she lost him under mysterious circumstances. Someone is playing that song Danny Farrell wrote for her. Who? Why?

There’s still more music in this series. Georgie has also spent nearly three decades working for the cat at the Cat Factory. She’s Director of the Food and Beverage Division at Marvelous Marley World Enterprises, an entertainment conglomerate built on the success of Catmmando Tom, a cartoon cat. Marvelous Marley World has a soundtrack all its own. Just like Disney, an empire named for its founder and creator of a little animated mouse he called Mickey. From the very beginning music mattered—Steamboat Willie, Mickey’s debut, featured the first fully synchronized sound cartoon.

Almost as soon as I began writing the first book in the Georgie Shaw Cozy Mystery series, a tune popped into my head. Like a jingle. One you might hear on radio or TV encouraging you visit and believe the magic.

“It’s a marvelous world. A Marvelous Marley World!”

That was only the beginning. A rush of Marley World inspired tunes engulfs me now when I work on that series. In this excerpt from Georgie’s 3rd mystery, All Hallows’ Eve Heist, she’s carried away for a moment by Catmmando Tom’s Anthem.


“I didn’t have to hear much of it for the rhythm and the rhyme to latch onto my brain.

You’re out tonight to have some fun, be on your guard to harm no one.

Catmmando Tom depends on you, to fight for good and all things true.

Defenders of the peace. Protectors of the weak.

A force unleashed to right the wrong. We raise our voices loud and strong.

Fighters against crime. We strike in the nick of time.


It continued in my head even though the strains of that song passed us by as we drove on. Before I knew it, I was thumping my knee in time with the familiar beat—ta-da-ta-da, ta-da-ta-da. It reminded me a lot of a childhood favorite—Teddy Bears’ Picnic—but more strident as sung by Catmmando Tom to rally his troops. A Wagnerian take on a kid’s tune.”


I find it a bit odd that I hear music when I write stories. It makes sense to me, too, though, especially for the Georgie Shaw series. Disney tunes played a big part as the soundtrack to my childhood. At eighteen, I went to work for Disney and those tunes were back in my life on a daily basis.

Musicals were still in vogue then, too. The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and Mary Poppins. Stories told against a backdrop of music. I sang in a choir and a small ensemble. My music director suggested I pursue a career in musical theater or opera.

Not too long after the Beatles turned up on Ed Sullivan, the soundtrack for my romantic life took a turn. At 15 I met a rock and roll guitar player in San Diego. At 17, I married him in Tijuana—not that police considered our wedding legit. It took me a couple of months to get out of the mess I was in after getting picked up as a runaway, but the music has never stopped. I still get serenaded, at times, when my husband picks up the guitar again. My favorite? His renditions of blues like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, or Joe Bonamassa, and fusion like John McLaughlin.

I suppose it’s not that odd, is it, that all those different musical influences find their way into my stories? They do pop up at unexpected moments. Oh, wait! I hear a waltz, don’t you? Max Marley has decided to make a live action movie version featuring one of Marvelous Marley World’s beloved characters, the Lonely Swan Prince. The Prince has taken on the identity of a commoner. Dejected and alone, he’s befriended by a lovely shop girl who puts him to work in her father’s toy shop. Before you know it, she’s besotted by the sad, sweet man! Of course, at that point, she bursts into song. What self-respecting lead in a Disneyesque feature film wouldn’t?

“I hear a waltz…don’t you?” Kristina sings out. Our prince-in-disguise, not quite so sure, says nothing. Kristina swings into motion as she picks up her song, swirling about the room that’s suddenly transformed into a dance floor.

“I hear a waltz. I do.”

“A waltz that is meant for two.”

“A tune so enchanting it sets your heart dancing,

and your feet follow too.”

“I hear a waltz, don’t you?” The fascinated young man watching her suddenly smiles and replies.

“I do.” He sweeps her up in his arms and joins her in song and dance. And so it goes until the director of the film hollers, “Cut!”

Christmas carols and wedding bells also ring out in Georgie Shaw’s next mystery. With Detective Jack Wheeler at her side, Georgie soon becomes embroiled in a new round of intrigue. Let the three-ring-circus begin as trouble erupts on the movie set, Georgie’s boss “Mad Max” Marley breaks ground on New Arcadia, and insists on giving the bride away—his way! It’s going to be A Merry, Marvelous Marley World Wedding, coming soon!








Thanks again, Dianne, for the invitation! And thanks to all of you who dropped by to read my guest post. I hope you’ll stay in touch!

Join me at http://www.desertcitiesmystery.com and you can read the first book in any of the three series I write for free.

Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annacelesteburke/

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/aburke59?lang=en


Books in the Georgie Shaw Series:

Murder at Catmmando Mountain, Georgie Shaw Cozy Mystery #1 http://smarturl.it/georgie1

Love Notes in the Key of Sea, Georgie Shaw Cozy Mystery #2 http://mybook.to/lovenotes

All Hallows’ Eve Heist, Georgie Shaw Cozy Mystery #3 is included in the Happy Homicides 4: Fall into Crime Collection https://www.amazon.com/Happy-Homicides-Crime-Summertime-Crimes-ebook/dp/B01KYVMJIU


Books in the Corsario Cove Series:

Cowabunga Christmas, Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery #1 http://smarturl.it/cove1

Gnarly New Year, Corsario Cove Cozy Mystery #2 http://smarturl.it/cove2


Books in the Jessica Huntington Desert Cities Mystery Series:

A Dead Husband http://smarturl.it/deadhus

A Dead Sister http://smarturl.it/deadsis

A Dead Daughter http://smarturl.it/deaddau

Love a Foot Above the Ground http://smarturl.it/loveabove


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