First off, let me share a secret: the Blue Notes Series is a bit of a personal fantasy of mine. A classical music universe (a bit of jazz and rock, too), beautiful men, romance, and happily-ever-afters. Then again, I grew up with lots of romantic fantasies. No surprise, then, that when I finally decided to try writing a novel, it was a romance.
I grew up with music. My mother, sister and I all had careers as professional musicians. I started out as a violinist and, in college, discovered opera. I sang opera professionally for more than ten years. So when I was trying to figure out what to write about for my second MM novel, I thought about what I knew and what I loved. From there, it was an easy decision.
Writing the books, however, was more of a challenge, because each of them deals with issues I myself have had some experience with as a musician: stage fright, long-distance relationships, and letting go so that you can allow your musical soul to shine through, among other things. Difficult issues for me to face, even more difficult to write about. And while I’m not a gay man, most of the men I met while I was singing were gay men. Wonderful men, some of whom I still count as my closest friends.
Each Blue Notes Series novel is a freestanding story and the books can be read in any order, although the main characters in one book may appear as secondary characters in another. The first book in the series, “Blue Notes,” is the story of former pianist Jason Greene, who escapes the pain of a failed relationship by running to Paris. There, he meets a jazz violinist, Jules Bardon, and learns about himself: what makes him happy and how to let go of the pain he’s been harboring for decades.
The second Blue Notes novel, “The Melody Thief,” is the story of cellist Cary Redding, a former child prodigy, sought after by conductors the world over. Underneath the veneer of success, however, Cary hides a world of pain. He escapes his past by drinking too much and seeking out anonymous sexual encounters in seedy bars. But Cary’s dual life comes crashing down around him when he’s rescued by lawyer Antonio Bianchi on a deserted Milan street. With Antonio’s help, Cary is able to overcome his past and become the man he wants to be.
The third novel in the series, “Aria,” to be published in December of 2012, is the story of Sam Ryan, a lawyer, and opera singer Aiden Lind. Sam and Aiden are instantly attracted to each other when they first meet in New York City. But Sam is still grieving the sudden death of his partner of seven years, and Aiden gets an offer to sing in Europe. They go their separate ways, only to meet again, five years later. But managing a relationship in the face of a career where you are nearly always on the road is a challenge for both men. And Sam hasn’t quite gotten over the pain of his loss, either. Together, they must find a way to work with Aiden’s jet-setting lifestyle and for Sam to move on from his grief.
The one recurring theme of the Blue Notes Series novels, other than music, is the importance of relationships to character growth. Although there certainly are more fanciful plot twists in the novels, at their heart, they are stories of real human relationships and feelings. Real men. Real relationships. Real emotions. Many of the books are traditional romances, with a happily ever after (HEA) at the end. Others, however, have the HEA earlier on, and focus on the growth of love and overcoming obstacles to love after the HEA.
Each story in the series celebrates romance and love between men, and each story embraces the creative spirit in all of us. –Shira
In her last incarnation, Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.
Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 30’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.
The Melody Thief
HE SCREWED up his face, trying to ignore the bright lights at the edge of the stage, which burned his eyes and left multicolored imprints on his retinas. Cary Redding was barely fifteen years old, but he sat straight-backed, schooling his expression to reveal only calm resolve. Unlike some of the well-known performers he had watched on video, he did not move his body in time to the music, nor did he bend and sway. The cello became a physical extension of his body, and he had no need to move anything more than his fingers on the fingerboard and his bow over the strings.
When he played, he was transported to a place where it didn’t matter that his face had begun to break out or that he seemed to grow out of his shoes every other month. When he played, he forgot his fear that he was different—that he was far more interested in Jerry Gabriel than in Jerry’s sister Martha. When he played, he felt the kind of warmth he had horsing around with his brother in the backyard, chasing after a football.
For the past three years, he had studied the Elgar Cello Concerto, a soulful, intensely passionate composition, and one he adored. His cello teacher had explained that it had been composed at the end of World War I, and the music reflected the composer’s grief and disillusionment. At the time, Cary hadn’t been really sure what that meant, but he felt the music deep within his soul, in a place he hid from everyone. In that music, he could express what he could not express any other way, and somehow nobody ever seemed to understand that although the music was Elgar’s, the sadness and the melancholy were his own.
At times he was terrified the audience would discover his secret: that he was unworthy of the music. But then his fingers would follow their well-worn path across the fingerboard, and his bow would move of its own accord. The music would rise and fall and engulf him entirely, and the audience would be on their feet to acknowledge the gangly, awkward teenager who had just moved them to tears.
Tonight was no exception. The Tulsa Performing Arts Center was packed with pillars of the community come to hear the young soloist the Chicago Sun-Times had proclaimed “one of the brightest new talents in classical music.” Cries of “bravo” punctuated the applause, and a shy little girl in a white dress with white tights and white shoes climbed the steps to the stage with her mother’s encouragement and handed him a single red rose.
He stood with his cello at his side and bowed as he had been taught not long after he learned to walk. The accompanist bowed as well, smiling at him with the same awed expression he had seen from pianists and conductors alike.
In that moment, he felt like a thief. A liar. The worst kind of cheat.
“Young man,” the woman in the red cocktail dress with the double strand of pearls said as she laid her hand on his shoulder, “you are truly a wonder. You must come back soon and play for us again.”
He knew how to respond; he’d been taught this, as well. “Thank you, ma’am.” His voice cracked, as it had on and off for the past six months. His face burned. He was embarrassed he could not control this as well as he could his performance.
“He’s booked through the next year,” his mother told the woman, “but if there’s an opening, we’ll be sure to let you know.” She would find an opening, no doubt, even if it meant sacrificing his one free weekend at home. His mother never passed up a chance to promote his career.
Back in the green room, his mother looked on as he wiped down the fingerboard of his instrument and gently replaced it in its fiberglass case, then carefully secured his bow in the lid. He’d barely looked at his mother since they’d left the small crowd of well-wishers who had gathered in the wings. He didn’t need to see her face to know she was displeased. He didn’t really want to know what he’d done wrong this time, so he started to hum a melody from a Mozart sonata he’d been studying. Humming helped take his mind off his guilt at letting her down again.
“You rushed through the pizzicato in the last movement,” she said. “We’ve been over that section so many times, Cary Taylor Redding. You let your mind wander again.”
He tried not to cringe; she only used his full name when she was very disappointed in him. “I’m sorry.” His voice cracked again, and he inwardly winced. He didn’t have to fight back the tears anymore. He’d stopped crying years ago.
“We’ll just have to practice it some more.”
He’d also long since stopped asking her why she always said “we” would practice something when he was the one doing the practicing. The one and only time he had pressed the issue, she had responded with a look of long-suffering patience. For days after, the guilt had pierced his gut and roiled around inside until he had apologized for several days running.
“Hurry up now,” she told him. “We have a long drive back home.”
“Did Justin call?” he asked with a hopeful expression.
“Why would your brother call?”
“He said he’d let me know if his team won tonight.” He pulled on his thick winter jacket, grabbed the handle of the cello case, and dragged it across the floor on its roller-skate wheels.
“He can tell you all about it tomorrow.”
He fell asleep in the front seat of the minivan as they headed back to Missouri. He did not dream, or at least, he didn’t remember what he had dreamed about. He never did.