Musical Influences Part II - A Guest Post by Amelia Gormley
Please welcome Amelia Gormley back this week with part two of Musical Influences, expounding on the music that shaped her writing.
Musical Influences — Dan Fogelberg and Bluegrass
I’ve written elsewhere about Jim Croce and in particular, the song “I Got A Name” and why I chose to use it in Acceleration. But one question that is probably outstanding is why, of all instruments, did I choose to have Derrick know how to play the banjo.
The short answer is: the banjo is a brilliant instrument.
And a deeply under-appreciated one. I grew up exposed to bluegrass, being from a southern family originally from the Ozarks. We lived in Flint, Michigan in a community comprised of many other southern transplants who had come north to find jobs in the auto factories. I attended a Southern Baptist Church as a child where bluegrass gospel was the standard musical offering.
Of course, as I got older, I rebelled against that and rejected it as being hokey and outdated. Which is not an uncommon opinion. Bluegrass music doesn’t get much appreciation. But occasionally there are artists who try to give it its due recognition.
Dan Fogelberg, who passed away in 2007, wasn’t the only celebrity to attempt to elevate this under-recognized art form into the mainstream. The incredibly brilliant actor/comedian/writer Steve Martin plays banjo and has tried give public acknowledgment to a new generation of talented bluegrass and banjo players, offering an Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass award.
Before that, back in 1985, however, Dan Fogelberg made an album called High Country Snows in which he brought together some of the world’s best bluegrass musicians to try to give bluegrass music a modern touch that would catapult it into popularity. I don’t remember how successful it was, or if it got much Top 40 play. What I do remember, however, is being in the car as a teenager with my aunt, who was a huge Dan Fogelberg fan, and having her exhort me to listen to the lyrics of “John Sutter’s Mill.”
(I’m leery about quoting lyrics because I believe, like in books themselves, one must purchase the rights to quote lyrics in blog posts. So I’ll just let you listen.)
I was hooked.
Admittedly, a lot of this is because I’m drawn to music that tells a story. This is why I gravitate toward musical theatre and pieces like “Driving the Last Spike” by Genesis. But as I got older, I began to listen to what was happening musically behind the lyrics and the banjo just blew me away. The skill it took, skill I didn’t recognize in church as a child or listening to the haunting story of John Sutter’s Mill as a teenager. It was absolutely amazing.
So, when I decided that Derrick would hail from the mountains of eastern Tennessee, I knew I had an opportunity to give him a trait that would be both a little quirky to the casual observer, and also one that said a great deal about him as a character. Bluegrass might not be terribly popular, but it’s an art form with depth and history, and an old soul like Derrick who feels so deeply tied to his roots would be drawn to it.
The piece I chose to highlight in Acceleration is “Mountain Pass” because of the marvelous banjo and fiddle featured in it. I appreciate that Mr. Fogelberg made a point of giving the instrumentals on his album moments to really shine, and as the opening piece, “Mountain Pass” exemplifies that.
Gavin Hayes is everything
Derrick could ask for in a lover. Gorgeous. Passionate. Great in bed. Derrick
finds it very easy to just let himself go, to let Gavin guide him and teach him
all the things he missed during a decade of celibacy. In the course of a single
weekend, Derrick’s routine is transformed, his mornings and evenings filled
with sex. Sweet, seductive, wild, or raunchy, Gavin offers Derrick all the
pleasure he’s denied himself for so long.
But learning how
to be a lover in bed is one thing. Learning to be one out of bed is another.
For Derrick, being alone has become habit. Sharing his confidences doesn’t come
nearly as readily as sharing his bed. And after so many losses, the last thing
Derrick wants is to become dependent upon another person who might not always
And Gavin always
being there is far from certain. With an ex-lover lurking in the background,
and the question of Gavin’s future health still outstanding, neither Gavin nor
Derrick feel capable of asking for anything more than right now. But Gavin
won’t be kept on the fringes of Derrick’s life. Can Derrick let someone in
before the opportunity passes him by?
It was nothing
more than a simple peck of greeting. It had been easy. Effortless. Natural. But
as he sat at the table, Derrick could still feel Gavin’s kiss on his lips.
He wasn’t sure
what to make of it. On only their third night together, he and Gavin were
already developing the sort of comfortable and casual intimacies that came with
relationships deeper than this undefined whatever it was.
Friday night had
been an impulse. Derrick had been filled with wild need when he’d shown up on
Gavin’s doorstep. Sunday had been more deliberate, planning to stay over at
Now it was
Maybe we should
make a habit of this, Derrick had suggested earlier, before they’d each
left for work. Gavin had taken him up on the offer.
Habit was a good word for it.
nights be deemed a habit?
Gavin sniffed as
he entered the dining room and closing his eyes as he sat down. “Ah, smells
gave him a quizzical look.
The Sabbath. My mother used to always make roast beef for dinner before we went
softly. “Oh, right. Sorry. You’d think I’d have put that together given the
number of times my friends have had me over to dinner on a Friday before Devon
and I go to play pool… while his wife goes to service.”
taking a sip of his beer. “I was a little vague.”
“I’ll keep that
in mind for Fridays from here on out, though.” Derrick bit his tongue when he
realized what he’d said.
Right. Like an addiction.
his head and cut his roast, keeping his hands busy and his face from giving
away his embarrassment. Luckily Gavin let the remark slide.
“I hope so. You
know, it’s a good deed, practically a commandment, to have sex on Shabbat?”
Or maybe not.
Derrick felt his
face flush. “Does that, um…apply to gay guys too?”
“It should.” He
gave Derrick a smug smile, which made him fumble his knife. Gavin tilted his
head, regarding Derrick with a slight wrinkle between his brows. “Are you
nervous about something?”
puzzled at the extent of his raw-edged nerves. He’d been feeling short of
breath and antsy even before Gavin arrived, and he couldn’t explain it any more
than he could explain why the kiss hello had shaken him.
“Yeah, I guess I
am,” he admitted.
“I have no
idea.” He said, glancing across the table at Gavin. “I’ve been looking forward
to this all day.”
“Good. So have I.”
“I—I mean, I
guess it’s different, somehow. Here. In this house.”
“Oh? How so?”
The wrinkled of concern turned to one of flat-out confusion.
his head, shrugging helplessly. “I’m not sure. Maybe because I’ve never done it
before? Had anyone over here, I mean. Well, I’ve had company, of course —
people have come to visit. Guests. Friends. That sort of thing.” He begun
babbling, which was a minor miracle in itself, but he didn’t seem to be capable
of shutting up and, dear God, why couldn’t he shut up? “But not like
“You mean you’ve
never slept with someone here.”
And now Derrick
was blushing again. Great. Just great.
clearly delighted by the blush. He seemed to actually think it was cute.
He and LeeAnn had made out up in his room all the time in high school,
naturally, but by the time they’d begun having sex during her vacations from
college, he’d been too immersed in taking care of his grandparents to ever
consider having her over to the house for any length of time. Sex had been
something they’d managed in the short, hurried interludes when Miss Ingrid had
shooed him out the door and taken over the care of his grandparents for a
couple hours here and there.
“Why does it
feel different than at my place?”
“I don’t know.”
Derrick shook his head again. He suspected he did know, but it wasn’t something
he could say. Having Gavin stay overnight, in his home, made everything
all the more real. This thing with Gavin wasn’t something that just happened
elsewhere, outside of his normal existence. He wasn’t just bringing Gavin into
his bed. He was bringing Gavin into his life.
over-thinking it in the process.
his throat quietly. “Are you still okay with this?”
meeting Gavin’s gaze as he reached for his beer. “Yeah, I am. It’s just all
very new. But I meant what I said: I’ve looked forward to this all day.
Just…now I feel like I can’t catch my breath. All I can think about is last
night and this morning.”
“In a good way?”
Gavin asked, an edge of caution in his tone as he tipped back his own beer.
cutting his food nervously again. “It was incredible.”
Gavin shot an assessing look across the table. He ate calmly, as though
whatever had such a profound effect on Derrick barely registered with him.
“I don’t know.
The way you…the way you talked to me, for one.”
over him on the kitchen floor. Gavin’s hand jerking him off. Gavin’s cock
rocking against the cleft of his ass.
Look at me!
No. Don’t hide your face. Let me hear that voice of yours. You sound so sexy
when you beg.
that?” A small smile crept to Gavin’s lips.
trying to eat slowly, to downplay just how hot the memory made him.
said, satisfied. He leaned back in his chair once he finished interrogating
Derrick. “I won’t lie — I do enjoy doing that.”
what, exactly? Derrick wondered. What had Gavin done to make the last
twenty-four hours so amazing that Derrick craved more? He hadn’t said
much, or even talked all that dirty. But what he had said, those simple
commands, had driven Derrick wild.
“I don’t think
I’ll have a problem with that.” He wasn’t sure exactly what he’d agreed to, but
whatever it was, he wanted more of it.
“I’ll keep that
in mind.” They fell silent as they continued eating. When Chelsea finished her
own food, she padded toward the archway from the kitchen to the dining room.
The overhead light shone on her bristly, fawn-sable coat. Gavin shook his head
with an amused smile.
“I can’t get
over it. She has enough loose skin to make another dog.”
“She’s a shar pei.
Comes with the breed,” Derrick chuckled, glad for a distraction from the
pounding of his blood in his ears and the tightness of his jeans. He gave Chelsea
a look as she stepped over the line where the linoleum met the carpet.
“Uh-uh,” he said
firmly, pointing the the kitchen floor. “You know better.”
Chelsea hung her
wrinkled head and lay down on her belly with a heavy sigh, her paws just
touching the threshold.
over at her and smiled. “You’ve got her well-trained.”
up one corner of his mouth in a half-smile, and murmured, “Keep an eye on her,
but don’t make it obvious you’re watching. She likes to test me.”
eating in silence. After a moment, Chelsea inched forward, creeping on her
belly, just over the line. She did it again when no one reprimanded her. Soon
her paws had crossed the threshold up to the joints, while her muzzle still
rested on them, trying to appear as inoffensive as when she’d been laying where
she was supposed to be.
his fingers and her head came up with a start. “Back to your spot.”
slid back, her brown eyes woeful, and Gavin chuckled. “She does this every
with an affectionate smile. “Not all the time, but usually, especially when I’m
cooking something that smells good to her. Or when I’m distracted by company.
She likes to test who’s top dog, see if she can get away with giving herself a
promotion in the pack.”
and dropped his voice to a lower register. “So, you like being top dog?”
went dry and he took a long pull from his beer. Damn. He’d walked right into
“Do you?” It
wasn’t an answer, but it was better than How the hell am I supposed to know?
spread, became a bit predatory. “I would’ve thought it was obvious. Though I
can be versatile.”
his throat, pushing aside his empty plate. “Good to know.”
persisted, his gaze keen. Did he mean to make Derrick squirm? Because it was
As he wrapped up
the leftovers and washed the dishes, Derrick wondered how long it would take
before he stopped reacting that way. When would every moment he spent in
Gavin’s company stop being filled with unnerving expectation, every action just
passing time until the next touch? When would every word no longer be an
opportunity for verbal foreplay?
It felt good.
Fun. Wild. Delirious. But terrifying and out of control, too. He was so used to
standing on stable ground.
Gavin brought in
the last of the dishes from the table, bowls with spongecake crumbs and
remnants of blueberry juice and whipped cream clinging to the sides.
“And what did
you plan for us to do after dinner?” he asked with a smile.
swallowed. Was he the only one who had expected they’d go straight to bed? Had
Gavin planned to be entertained? Would Derrick be demanding — or worse,
pathetic — to want to get right to it?
thought very far ahead. I got to dessert, then my brain just sort of shut
down.” It was about as close as he could come to admitting the only thing he
could think of was sex.
“Well, what do you usually do in the evenings?”
exciting, I promise,” Derrick murmured. “Hang out with Chelsea. Watch some TV.
Play a game, if I’m not working on building something for a client.”
“Well, we could
start there,” Gavin suggested. “I don’t do much different in the evenings
the last of the dishes on the drying rack and drained the sink, wiping it down.
Then, with his head bowed over the sink, he closed his eyes and clenched his
jaw. He gripped the edge of the counter, his knuckles whitening, the insatiable
need to have Gavin growing. Was he the only one feeling it?
“I don’t wanna
watch TV with you, Gav.” His murmur was calm and low, but honest.
close, the fabric of his dress shirt and suit pants brushing against Derrick’s
simple t-shirt and jeans. Slowly, Derrick turned to face him.
“I don’t want to
watch TV with you, either.”
Gavin thrust his
hands roughly into Derrick’s hair and kissed him, hard.
groaned, all the eager expectation that had been thrumming inside him since
they’d parted that morning finally breaking into action. His arms slid around
Gavin’s chest, caressing the fine cotton of his shirt. Derrick’s body relaxed
against Gavin’s with a low, grateful moan.
became its own knee-weakening point of focus. Gavin’s tongue in his mouth.
Gavin’s hands clenching in his hair, then moving down to grip his shirt.
Derrick’s fingers dug into Gavin’s back as Gavin reached to his waist and
tugged his shirt up out of his jeans. Then those long, lean fingers were on
Derrick’s skin, stroking across his stomach.
hands…,” Derrick moaned between kisses.
He let his head
fall back, offering Gavin more liberty to move down to his neck, nipping and
sucking. Gavin’s teeth closed gently over the junction of his shoulder and
neck, gradually increasing the pressure. Derrick sagged against the counter as
Gavin rubbed circles around his nipples with his capable thumbs.
He panted as the
bite on his neck edged closer to pain, drooping with relief and disappointment
when Gavin eased off.
to get…to the bedroom,” he gasped as Gavin dragged his tongue along the
impressions left by his teeth. “Before I can’t walk.”
softly and stepped back, looking satisfied with himself. “Go, then. I’ll be
right behind you.”
once, a brief, jerky movement, before bending to unlace his work boots and kick
them off. He jerked his shirt over his head as he went, trying to walk at a
normal pace down the hall. He wanted to give himself time, to draw back from
the frenetic need welling up inside him, pushing him toward desperation.
Gavin’s hands closed over Derrick’s upper arms. He propelled Derrick
chest-first against the wall, pressing his own body along Derrick’s back. His
voice rasped behind Derrick’s ear, “I’ve been wanting to do this all day.”
A nudge of his
hips against Derrick’s ass clarified just what he meant.
Derrick whispered, his eyes closing as he rested his hot cheek against the cool
against him harder. “Have you been thinking about it, too?” he murmured.
“Thinking about what I did this morning when I came all over your back? Were
you distracted while you were working?”
was hard, physically and mentally. He was caught between the wall and the
pressure of Gavin’s erection. His own dick, trapped inside his jeans, found
nothing yielding to ease the ache.
came only with monumental effort. His pride resisted. His need to control this
headlong plummet into… whatever this was… rallied one last desperate defense
that was quickly defeated. He struggled with giving Gavin the admission he
sought and trying to retain his dignity at the same time.
Truth and need
won over reserve. He pushed his ass back against Gavin, seeking more.
“Yes. God. All
damn day. Couldn’t stop thinking about you.”
slid down Derrick’s ribs, ghosting along the sensitive line of skin above the
waistband of his jeans. “Tell me — what did you think about? Did you imagine
more? When you got home after your morning job, did you jerk off to fantasies
of us?” Gavin’s voice dropped lower, barely a whisper as his lips brushed the
shell of Derrick’s ear. His hot breath blew strands of Derrick’s hair against
his cheek. “Did you call out my name when you came?”
Derrick made was humiliatingly close to a whimper as he moved, urgent need
“I did.” The
confession came in a thoughtless torrent, spilling from his mouth without any
deliberation. “All day. You were all I could see. Couldn’t wait to get home.”
against Derrick’s ass again. His fingers quickly unbuckled Derrick’s belt and
slipped into the snug gap between his jeans and his waist.
“What else did
you think about, then?” he asked, nipping at Derrick’s earlobe. He drew one
hand out of Derrick’s waistband to cup the bulge under his fly; the other slid
up to pinch his nipple. “Tell me. I want to know just what dirty fantasies you
spin up in that gorgeous head of yours.”
please,” Derrick moaned, feeling mindless, delirious with wanting.
locked against the words he wanted to say. He fought against the verbal
paralysis and tried to find a way to admit that he’d stopped by the adult
bookstore today, where he usually bought porn, to make a different sort of
purchase. Not just condoms, but a better brand of lube than the stuff he
grabbed at the pharmacy for jerking off. He’d done it knowing this moment, this
decision, might come. Possibly tonight.
Gavin and the wall, his clothes hanging half-off and Gavin grinding against his
ass, he wondered why the prospect of words made him feel exposed and
What if the
pantomimes of fucking they’d done were as far as Gavin was willing — or
comfortable enough — to go? He didn’t think Gavin would reject him, not
after the way he’d rimmed Derrick to within an inch of his sanity the other
morning. But was it even a good idea? Or was it too soon, too big a risk?
How could he be
willing to trust Gavin with the act, without being willing to trust Gavin with
the confession that he wanted it in the first place?
Gavin’s hands tightened, both on Derrick’s nipple and around the ridge of his
cock beneath his fly. The words, when Derrick forced them from his throat, came
out much more coy than he would have liked. “I wondered what it’d be like…if
wondering what it would’ve been like if I’d fucked you this morning?” Gavin’s
voice was smooth, steady, controlled. And yet it seemed to growl.
his cheek sliding against the wall.
“I admit, I’ve
thought about it. Imagined the noises you’d make. How you’d move.”
as Gavin’s hand slid up and down his bulge with deliberate intent.
his hand from Derrick’s chest to his fly and opened it quickly, pushing his
jeans down his hips before pressing him back against the cool wall. The
pressure of Gavin’s erection against his ass was even hotter without the extra
layer of denim between them.
“Is this what
you want?” Gavin murmured in the same low, insistent tone. “You want me to fuck
you until you can’t see straight?”
swallowed hard, nodding again, trying to pull himself back enough to make it
clear he wasn’t just carried away.
“Yeah,” he said
soberly. “Yeah, I want it.”
“You have what
we need?” Gavin’s voice took on a serious note as well. “I won’t do it,
at the question, surprised for a moment that Gavin wouldn’t have brought his
own supply of condoms and lube, just in case. Or maybe Gavin was testing him,
seeing if this was something Derrick had truly thought through. Especially with
the question of Gavin’s health outstanding.
“Yeah. There’s a
bag in the bedside table.” He glanced over his shoulder, seeking both to
reassure Gavin and his own reassurance.
kissing Derrick. He started at Derrick’s mouth, gently, and moved down his
neck, his teeth scraping. His fingers brushed teasingly over the length of
Derrick’s cock, straining against the navy cotton of his briefs.
“Out of the
pants,” Gavin murmured. His tone was soft, but it wasn’t a request. “Into the
Amelia C. Gormley may seem like anyone else. But the truth
is she sings in the shower, dances doing laundry, and writes blisteringly hot
m/m erotic romance while her five year old is napping. When she’s not writing,
Amelia single-handedly juggles her husband, her son, their home, and the
obstacles of life by turning into a everyday superhero. And that, she supposes,
is just like anyone else. Her first novella from the Impulse Trilogy is
available through Amazon, Smashwords and other retailers.