A Novel in 13 Stories
Mexican tax lawyer Luis Villalobos is lured to the tiny island of Curaçao anticipating a fast track to the cusp of an already stellar career. But the paradise we expect is so rarely the paradise we find.
The author, Guilie Castillo Oriard, is a Mexican export herself; she transferred to Curaçao “for six months” — and, twelve years later, has yet to find a reason to leave. Her work has been published online and in print anthologies, such as Pure Slush’s 2014 A Year In Stories and gorge. THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS is her first book.
THE GIFT OF MUSIC
by Author Guilie Castillo Oriard
When I worked in the corporate world, I kept a sleek set of iPod speakers on my desk. During office hours, music was mellow: ballads, soft jazz, easy pop. Volume appropriately low. But come 6 (or 7, or 8… we put in long days), the decibels got free rein, and the genres shifted to the Dark Side. (Yes, Pink Floyd. Smashing Pumpkins. Lenny Kravitz. Pearl Jam. AC/DC. The Brandenburg concertos, maybe the Four Seasons. Rock it, Antonio.)
In those last, solitary two or three hours, I got through double the work than I did in the previous ten. Less interruptions. Less calls. Less colleagues wanting to chat or bounce off ideas. But my money, for Most Influential Cause, is on the music.
Because music makes me happy, and it does so in a way that has nothing to do with what the world insists is happiness-inducing: money, relationships, possessions, achievements. Music puts me in the right here, in the now, and the happiness I get—from the beat, the harmony, the poetry in the lyrics—comes from nothing else than the miracle of being alive.
That happiness—that bliss—does wonders for my concentration. It puts me in the zone.
But that’s not the only gift music brings. Though I only discovered that when I’d been writing fiction full-time for a couple of years.
This happened: I couldn’t get a scene right. A man at a moment of melancholy. Of that weird kind of nostalgia for what never happened. And… it sounded teenage-sulky.
This man doesn’t sulk. He’s a kick-ass, superstar tax attorney. Someone in love with the adrenaline of board rooms, the thrill of working under maximum pressure, of discovering a legal loophole at the eleventh hour to save a client (and their millionaire bank accounts).
I was ready to throw the whole thing out. But my iPod, in all its wisdom, chose that moment to bring Leonard Cohen to the surface of its shuffle ocean.
He wants to write a love song
An anthem of forgiving
A manual for living with defeat…
This man was, to paraphrase Roberta, singing my scene with his emotionless words. The whole gravelly, pseudo-upbeat mood of the song nailed the atmosphere I wanted.
I put the song on repeat, and rewrote the scene from scratch. And there it was: the nostalgia without the sulkiness, the sense of defeat without the self-pity.
Since then, I make Writing Playlists: scene-, mood-, even character-specific.
In the same way we read poetry to get in touch with our edgiest, most succinct, cut-to-the-marrow syntax and lexicon, I believe through music we’re able to delve ever deeper (and more accurately) into ourselves. Music brings out magic in us, whether through memory or emotion, or both—and through imagination.
How does music influence your own creativity?
If you’re a writer, have you ever used music in a similar way?
How do you get in the zone? Any tips you’d like to share?
Really Slow Motion – ELEVATION – Until The End – Jesse Clinton
Pélagie’s coming down the walk with Al. They both smile when they see Luis, but only Pélagie speaks. “So this is your secret lair, Mr. Hotshot Tax Attorney?”
Luis wants to lob back the banter, but his glibness has gone the way of the wooly mammoth. Emotion is building at the base of his throat, and he realizes that what he wants, more than his bed or the snugness of his duvet, more even than to feel well again, what he needs, actually, is this woman’s arms around him. Which is mad, beyond unhinged, and not just because he’s never felt those arms, has no idea how they’d feel, and how can he need something he’s never had; no, all of that is true, and valid, but the reason it’s certifiably insane to feel this way is because Pélagie isn’t just out of his league: she’s a different sport altogether.
He takes hold of Al’s collar. “Thanks for bringing him back.”
Pélagie squints at him. “You look—not well. Bad cold?”
“Dengue.” There’s a certain pride in not being vulnerable to just any common virus. He kind of wishes it was malaria now.
The square of skin between her eyebrows furrows. “How’s the fever?”
“Under control.” He shrugs.
She comes closer, lifts her hand. Before he can back away or say anything, she’s touching his forehead. Cupping his cheek. Small and cool, that hand quiets the tomahawk army that’s taken up residence in his skull. He leans into it, closes his eyes.
© Guilie Castillo Oriard 2015
Guilie Castillo Oriard is a Mexican writer and dog rescuer living in Curaçao. She misses Mexican food and Mexican amabilidad, but the laissez-faire attitude (and the beaches) are fair exchange. And the island’s diversity provides great fodder for her obsession with culture clashes.
Her work has appeared online and, in print, as part of several anthologies. Her first book, The Miracle of Small Things (Truth Serum Press) was published in August 2015. She’s currently working on a full-length novel.
She blogs about life and writing at http://guilie-castillo-oriard.blogspot.com and about life and dogs at http://lifeindogs.blogspot.com/.
Swing by Dec. 1st to enter our music-inspired writing challenge for a chance to WIN a digital copy of RSM’s ELEVATION album and signed copy of guest judge, Guilie Castillo Oriard’s The Miracle of Small Things!