Getting in the mood — and a shackling bill update

    Reach, girl, reach!

    I hope everyone is doing well. It was a crazy-busy week here on Colorado’s Front Range. We’re heading toward the biggest special edition of the year at the paper, and that requires a lot of preparation. On top of that, of course, there’s the anti-shackling bill.

    But before I update you on all of that, I wanted to talk about music again. This week, I thought I’d share the songs I typically listen to when I’m gearing up to write love scenes, and also my preliminary playlist for Zach and Natalie.

    Some of the songs on Zach and Natalie’s list are completely new to me — “Beautiful” by 10 Years; “Santa Monica” by Theory of a Deadman; “Call Me” by Shinedown; “Bother” by Stone Sour; “Break Me Shake Me” by Savage Garden, which one of you suggested.

    Of those, “Call Me” resonates for Zach at the moment — at least the first several lines — because he’s certain he’s going to be dead in the next couple of days. I like “Santa Monica,” too, though it has no application to the story itself. Again, a lot of the music I listen to is just to help set the mood.

    “Champion in Me” by 3 Doors Down is a great song for a Navy SEAL, as is “Shine.” And “Landing in London” is just one of my favorites songs over the course of the past two years.

    As for the sexy love songs, they range from Madaonna’s “Justify My Love” to Brian Adams’ “Everything I do (I Do It For You),” which together have more plays than any other sexy-ish, romantic song. If I find a song that hits the mood of the story, I’ll play it over and over for hours.

    Also on that list: “Kiss from a Rose,” by Seal; “Chasing Cars,” by Snow Patrol; “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” by Savage Garden; “Unchained Melody” by U2; “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye; “Feelin’ Love,” by Paula Cole; “Nights are Forever Without You,” by England Dan and John Ford Coley; “Freak Me,” by Silk; “Could I Have This Kiss Forever,” by Enrique Iglesias; and “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, as well as many others.

    I have another list that’s just romantic songs, and one that’s more down and dirty sexy songs, like “Closer,” because sex isn’t always about romance. Sometimes it’s about sweat and pheromones and coming hard and fast.

    I am always, always open to new music. Suggestions are welcome! When I get a chance, I'll publish these as iMixes on iTunes so you can browse through them that way.

    Now for an update on Senate Bill 193:

    Wednesday, as you probably know, was its first hearing. That gave us a taste of who might be opposing the bill and why. No one showed up to oppose the bill at all. Because politics are so partisan these days, I expected the senators who weren’t in Sen. Hudak’s party to oppose it just for fun, as both sides do. However, though they asked the most questions, the questions they asked were thoughtful — a good thing because they’re all male.

    One of them seemed not to believe that any women in Colorado was ever shackled. He asked, “Do we even know that this happens in the state?” sounding very doubtful. Ironically, he’s from the district where our state prison department is headquartered, and being on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he’s supposed to be an expert. I got a silent laugh out of that.

    I was, indeed, nervous, but not as much as I expected to be. As soon as the senators started asking questions that other witnesses couldn’t answer, I felt like the know-it-all kid in the classroom — the proverbial Harmione Granger who just has to raise her hand and answer. Of course, in legislative committee hearings, you don’t raise your hand; you wait your turn. And that was hard!

    I thought I did a decent job of testifying. I had to stop a couple of times to make sure my mouth was keeping up with my brain. I made the male senators grimace when I talked about the guards strip-searching women with stitches. So that was fun.

    My mother went to see what it was all about and ended up passing a note to one of the lobbyists who handed it to the senator carrying the bill explaining that the immediate postpartum recovery period is about 42 hours for a vaginal birth and 72 for a c-section. She used to work as a labor and delivery nurse, so she was able to make her contribution, too.

    The midwives who work with incarcerated moms-to-be sent a representative to speak on their behalf, and when I saw her my jaw dropped. She was the certified nurse midwife who caught Benjy when he was born. I said, “You were my midwife when my second son was born!” And she said, “I thought you looked familiar.” That was wild!

    As people were testifying on behalf of the bill one by one, I had a surreal moment where I realized none of them would be there if not for me. That felt good — and very strange. And then I almost got choked up because here was a room full of people talking about the humanity and the needs of women in prison. How often does that happen? Rarely.

    The committee couldn’t vote because the bill has moved so fast that we don’t yet have a fiscal note — an analysis of how much the bill will cost the state. Typically in Colorado if a bill has a fiscal note, it’s dead. However, the fiscal note in this case is attached to a provision of the bill that I created to guarantee public accountability by requiring a report to be filed any time a woman is shackled. Why did they do it? For how long? What kind of shackles did they use? It’s an attempt to make sure they’re following the law. And it guarantees nosy reporters access to a font of public records.

    Remember how the I-Team heroines are always filing open-records requests? That’s what investigative reporters do. So I’m trying to set it up so that there will be public records to request.

    However, I won’t kill my own bill to accomplish that. So if the fiscal note means death, then we’ll cut that provision.

    I got a firm sense that if this bill were about nothing other than not shackling women during labor and birth, it would sail through. So that left me feeling very optimistic. If we pass through Senate Judiciary and the appropriations committee (for the fiscal note), then the bill will be off to the Senate for debate. If it clears the Senate after three readings, then we start over in the House. I do have a House sponsor now.

    Afterward the hearing, I spoke with one of the witnesses. She’s a legal expert on birth-related issues. She asked if I’d like to participate in setting up an online database so that other women in other states can download the info and use it to get shackling banned in their states. And, of course, I would love to do that. We’ll wait till this bill passes. I’ll do some writing for that project, and hopefully women across the country will get ready for next year’s legislative session and change the lives of women in prison.

    We’ll take the bill up again next Wednesday for a vote.

    In the meantime, I’ve got a few more historical novel sketches to prep for my agent, as well as Chapter 2 of Zach and Natalie’s story to write. I want to get through Chapter 3 this weekend. I need to make some writing goals and see what kind of ridiculous schedule I need to keep to finish the book by August, which is my plan.

    I won’t be online much, because I really, really don’t want you all to have to wait forever for this book.

    Have a great weekend!

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