Monday, October 29, 2012

Calm before the storm?

Is it poor form to make storm-related double entendres yet? Maybe. Possibly.
Whatever. I'm sticking with it.

(All jokes aside though, to all my east coast people--PLEASE, be safe. I'm totally land-locked and find myself continually refreshing CNN, fascinated by how powerful Mother Nature can be.)

On to my post...

It's that time of the year, my friends. That time when everyone's Twitter feed is besieged with random numbers and people are talking about "nano" and you may or may not know what the hell they're talking about.

Who am I kidding? I know you guys who read my blog. You all know NaNo. Heck, you're probably doing it too this year.

National Novel Writing Month starts on Thursday.
My new big pimpin' job* starts on Wednesday.

What's that? A new job, you ask? Exciting, right? I got a new job as an analyst (cue gigglesnorts at such a technical sounding job) and start on Wednesday. So much for all that free time during my work day that got me through the past three NaNo years...

So, this 30-day insanity is right around the corner. I've decided to do a full re-write of my 2010 NaNo. I made this decision about a week ago. I'm really good at last minute stuff.

Since deciding on my story, I created a much more manageable outline and have cut some plot lines that were simply too confusing. I feel like I'm possibly copping out by doing that, but sometimes, you just have to make your story the easiest to understand. The K.I.S.S. motif and all that jazz.

But right now, I'm feeling a touch nervous. It's probably 90% due to starting a new job and all the craziness that comes with a big change. I have to admit that I'm nervous about writing this story though.  Have I done enough planning? Is my outline solid? Are my characters legit? I'm second guessing everything, but I think I do this every year.

So, I'm going on faith. I know how to hit 50K. Heck, I know how to hit 50K before Thanksgiving. I'll be okay. I know this story SO well. I can do this.

Tonight I will read over my outline and make any last minute additions/changes. And then I'm going to start my new job on Halloween. And the day after that?

That day, I shall write.

(*With my first fancy paycheck, I'm buying Jay-Z's greatest hits. You heard it here first, folks.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Decisions, decisions

Hi, world. A wild and crazy idea is going through my head right now and I'd love to hear your thoughts (if you have time).

I enjoy writing, but I never really knew which genre to call "home". My 2009 NaNo was fantasy YA (though one reader thought it was MG), 2010 was MG, and 2011 was futuristic YA.

Now, plotting for 2012, I'm looking at a thriller YA. I even have 30+ pages of hand written notes, outlines, setting research, and an overall plan in place.

So, it sounds like I'm more of a YA writer, no?

But there's this Middle Grade story from 2010 (I talked about it here last week) that won't let go. I look at it and feel 66% "Man, I love this story so much!" and 33% "Holy literary nightmare, this needs SO much work. Impossible!"

I think I'm experiencing a writerly personality conflict. I don't know where I belong. I enjoy the innocence of MG but still like the ability to make my MC a touch older, bringing with them slightly older experiences. I don't mean sex, drugs, and rock n' roll, but more like the believability of my MC running around a city on their own. It's more plausible in YA than in MG.

I read an agent blog the other day who was essentially BEGGING for MG books. It lit a fire to return to my MG story and give it an honest shot.

I have approximately two weeks to decide which book to write for this year's NaNo: the YA thriller I've been outlining, or dramatically shifting gears and re-writing my 2010 MG, fixing the holes/issues. On the other hand, I don't want to re-write the story just because some "dream agent" said they wanted MG.

I guess I need to do some soul-searching. I don't know how to fix all that needs fixing in my MG and that fear is holding me back.

Anyone? Bueller? How have you handled a re-write, especially if you weren't 100% sure of what needed to be fixed and/or re-written?

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Next Big Thing: Week 16

My lovely friend Adrianne Russell tagged me in The Next Big Thing blog series. I regretted the decision the moment I agreed to participate. I thought first of all, I'm not the "next big thing", and sharing my story info with "real" writers would somehow cheapen their "real" status.

Then I removed my self doubt hat and took a second look at the questions. Okay, it doesn't look too bad. I could give it a shot... Warning: one-sentence synopses are EVIL.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?
Oh crap. Really? We're starting with a title question? Let me preface this by saying I LOATHE titles, so this has been referred to as "My 2010 NaNo" since, well, 2010. I'd like to think the title somehow reflects the idea of David Fitzgerald (my MC), the Guardian, Fragments, and Year 1. If you have any ideas, let me know.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I knew I wanted to write a book set in Ireland. For MG boys. Without magic. That incorporated multiple continents. And a puzzle or riddle. I also wanted to try and break the Curse of the Missing Parents you see so often in MG stories. That has been the hardest part so far, creating a story with an independent MC, but who also has a good relationship with his parents. Much easier said than done.

What genre does your book fall under?
Middle grade. Boom. Easiest question I've answered all day.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My MC is 12 and I'm not familiar with any 12yo actors, so I really can't answer this. But I would LOVE to see Tim Curry as the gardener.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
12 year old David Fitzgerald is trying to survive boarding school in another country, but when he learns he is the next Guardian, responsible for collecting Fragments scattered across the globe, he realizes there is more at stake than school--like navigating overgrown mazes, fighting Mudruks, and saving his dad.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This is hypothetically speaking, right? Repped by an agency.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took about 4-5 months to really round out the first draft, but the ending was garbage. I was okay with it at the time because I knew I had to redo plot lines earlier in the story that would change the ending.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I really enjoyed Rick Riordan's PERCY JACKSON books. Not only were they set in "real time", but he also crafted a real relationship between Percy and his mom. THE 39 CLUES books did a great job of introducing a large cast of characters and weaving in riddles and puzzles.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Two things. One, my nephews. I wanted to write a fun adventure story for them. Whenever I get stuck or question if the reactions are real, I think about what they'd do. They are two total opposite personalities, so if one would cry in danger, the other would probably run toward it. I try to balance both of those.

Second, if you ever saw the 2nd Pirates of the Caribbean movie, at the end, you see Jack Sparrow looking at a circular map with opposite moving panels. I saw that and knew I needed to work something similar into my story. I'm not sure if it's going to stay (Kill your darlings and all that nonsense), but it lit the creative spark.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I've heard feedback from readers/friends that the idea of having to solve riddles and puzzles is great. I stumped my writing group, and they're a pretty savvy bunch of readers! Also, while the book stands alone, I have the outline for 2 other books. Since the plot deals with different continents and there are 7 to choose from, I have an abundance of source material to create stories with amazing, rich settings!

Paying it forward:
This is the part where my hard work pays off. I chose to tag two writers who have some serious writing chops AND who have super interesting stories. I'm nosey like that. I want to know their answers!

Sarah Ahiers at Falen Formulates Fiction
Sommer Leigh at Tell Great Stories

How about you? Have you been tagged in The Next Big Thing? Do you hate one-sentence synopses as much as me?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

IWSG: As The World Turns

Happy first Wednesday of the month, world! That means it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group, a fabu resource that I've been remiss in joining, lately. Sorry. :(

News alert, guys: The world goes on.

Shocking, I know.

But I spend far too much time worrying about what everyone else is doing, and not focusing on myself. [And I just had a Holy Crap Moment because that is EXACTLY what my teachers used to put on my report cards when I was in elementary school. Apparently, I haven't grown up...]

This started earlier in the week when a friend who has never expressed an interest in writing informed me that she had an idea for a 3-book children's self-help series. When we got off the phone on Monday, her plan was to finish writing the first book, outline the other two, and get her query letter done... all by the weekend. If an agent isn't interested, that's okay. She'll print her own copies and distribute to major opinion leaders she thinks will be interested. Have I mentioned that she's never written anything before in her life?

I wasted SO MUCH MENTAL ENERGY thinking about the audacity of the entire situation. Who is this person to think they can just bang out a story and a query letter in 7 days?

Then it hit me: instead of stewing, I should be writing. Instead of being mad at her for feeling like she isn't respecting the process, I should acknowledge it for what it is--her dream and not mine. My path is different, and is paved with years of experience, research, reading, and the loveliest part of it all, the writing. I've put in my own work to reach my own dream and I'm grateful it's taken more than a week.

So I am trying to accept things that are out of my control. I am focusing on my own dreams. I am accepting that the world goes on. Authors sign with agents every day. Books are sold to publishers every day. Sitting around, fretting, stewing, and feeling the ugly fingers of bitterness and jealousy tugging at my soul is NOT the solution.

The world goes on.
Sorry if I don't notice it, though. I'm busy writing.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How do we feel about the Bait n' Switch?

Hi, friends! Quick, informal poll/discussion today.

In one of my story ideas, the Main Character (MC) and the Bad Guy (BG) are both trying to get the One Thing (OT). The stakes are high, the tension is high, the setting is prime, everything is moving along nicely.

Okay, so what if a 3rd party comes in and pulls a "Bait n' Switch" on both the MC and BG, replacing the OT with a decoy? MC and BG still work to achieve their goals and all seems lost when BG "wins." But in the end, the BG realizes they've been duped and the MC realizes it was all a really long con this whole time, and they can still get the OT. MC isn't necessarily happy with this turn of events, but at least BG doesn't win.

There's more to this idea than the few sentences above, but you get the point. Is this "Bait n' Switch" idea too Oceans Elevens-y? Is it too easy for the reader to pick up on?

Overdone? Or can be used, if done right?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Where's Your Head At?

Please excuse the preposition at the end of the title. I'm from the midwest--we do that around here.

And yes, it's also a song. I've linked to the video at the bottom of this post. Turn it up and start chair dancing!

My head isn't in the game this week. I'm incredibly distracted by things going on in the real world and they are preventing me from focusing on my story worlds. I have a friendship in trouble, a budding relationship that feels like it's about to fade out, an ex who wants to be back in the picture, a diet that is just not working, and oh yeah...


Sound the alarm... (side note: Say what you will about Nikki Minaj. I'm a BIG fan of her new single...)

I have too many "real" things to sort out that I can't seem to muster the energy to look at my story stuff. In an effort to not totally fall off the writerly wagon, I've been writing out my interview notes by hand and I'm reading a new book that is somewhat in the same vein as my proposed NaNo story. So my creative side is still churning, just a bit slower these days.

I know some people who can literally "turn off" their brain and just write. They can push aside any stressors and focus on their creative pursuits. I'm not one of them. I try to run or do a strenuous workout when my mental hamster is really running in her wheel (ahem, like yesterday), but I can't bang out 3 miles every day.

How about you? Do you need to have everything 'just so' in your world before you can sit down and start creating?

As promised, your video, compliments of YouTube:

Monday, September 17, 2012

MMGM: The Cabinet of Wonders

(Disclaimer: I love the MMGM series, but trying to build "platform" came at the cost of writing, of which I should be doing more. So I'm going to try and get a MMGM post every other week, or even once a month and not feel regret about not doing more. Thanks for understanding!)

Book image from Goodreads
Title: THE CABINET OF WONDERS, The Kronos Chronicles: Book 1

Author: Marie Rutkoski
Date published: 2008, FSG

From Goodreads:
"Petra Kronos has a simple, happy life. But it’s never been ordinary. She has a pet tin spider named Astrophil who likes to hide in her snarled hair and give her advice. Her best friend can trap lightning inside a glass sphere. Petra also has a father in faraway Prague who is able to move metal with his mind. He has been commissioned by the prince of Bohemia to build the world’s finest astronomical clock.

Petra’s life is forever changed when, one day, her father returns home—blind. The prince has stolen his eyes, enchanted them, and now wears them. But why? Petra doesn’t know, but she knows this: she will go to Prague, sneak into Salamander Castle, and steal her father’s eyes back.

Joining forces with Neel, whose fingers extend into invisible ghosts that pick locks and pockets, Petra finds that many people in the castle are not what they seem, and that her father’s clock has powers capable of destroying their world."

Part steampunk, part magical realism, part history, THE CABINET OF WONDERS is a wonderful adventure set in the Czech Republic. Petra is a determined heroine who sets off to reclaim something the Prince took from her Father. In order to succeed, Petra has to navigate the depths of Salamander Castle and determine who she can or cannot trust.

Rutkoski's debut novel is a great adventure, complete with animated metal animals, a woman who can create color, and an astronomical clock.

THE CABINET OF WONDERS feels like it straddles the line between YA and MG. The protagonist is younger and the content is younger as well. But on the other hand, the first half of the book spends a lot of time explaining various mystical elements of the world, and I wonder if the extra information would keep a MG reader's attention. On the other hand, maybe this has nothing to do with MG or YA, and is due to the fact the story is fantasy.

I enjoyed this book, but I feel it would be better received by a upper level MG reader who is willing to take the necessary time to immerse themselves in the world. If a MG reader were looking for a quick paced story, I don't think this book would work.

I thought the astronomical clock was a wonderful premise, but it seemed "off screen" through the book. I wanted to know more about it! I'm interested to read the second book in the series, but I hope there are more steampunk elements than the Father who can move metal with his mind, and the pet companion, Astrophil.

Friday, September 14, 2012

NaNo 2012--who's in?

Hey gang, I hate to be the bearer of slightly panic-inducing news, but National Novel Writing Month 2012 begins in exactly seven weeks from yesterday. Are you ready to rock? Or are you still on the fence?

Last year, I featured two weeks of guest bloggers who participated in NaNoWriMo. I asked them to share their stories and experiences in a series I named "Write What You NaNo." You can find each entry here. Personally, I think it should be required reading for all NaNoers, but maybe I'm biased.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, yeah. NaNo 2012. Coming soon to an internet near you... (cue movie announcer voice)

Last year's image. Expect a lot of the same,
but with a different year, for this years image
I'm ready. Ish. Ready-ish. I think. I mean, my story's going to be a massive pile of poo come Dec 1, but I'm okay with that. My goals for this year are simple:

1. Win.
2. Finish the story.

See, I've won every year, even last year when I went to Ireland for 10 days in the middle of the month and didn't write a single word. Winning I can do. Finishing the story, though? That's where I struggle. I usually quit the minute I hit the elusive 50K mark, leaving my characters and my story in limbo until I dare re-open the file after the New Year.

How about you--are you participating? What's your goal?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How do you write?

(Remember my previous post where I said I was going to clear my Google Reader feed and start over? Yeah, it didn't happen. My guilt got the best of me and I've skimmed it down to 9. NINE UNREAD POSTS, people. I just high-fived myself...)

I'm working on an outline for a story that I hope will be my 2012 NaNoWriMo. If I can figure out the point, I'll be in business. See, I have all the other stuff. The location, the plot, the turning points, character development, etc. But what I'm missing is the Big Why. As in, why does all of the stuff leading up to this point matter?

Working on this outline got me thinking about where I start and end chapters. In my previous WIPs, I would follow the outline, but my notes weren't so detailed that I knew exactly where one chapter ended and another began.

When it came time to work on edits, I was in trouble. I usually added a new chapter (or four) in the beginning, which left me screwed with my chapters throughout the rest of the document.

So how do you write? Do you write in actual numbered chapters? Or do you use hard returns and come back to it later? Or are you one of those fancy writers who have some formatting thing fired up where it automatically numbers the chapters? If you have that, please let me know what program you're using!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Welcome back!

I figure if the local coffee shop chains have unveiled their pumpkin flavored deliciousness, then it's high time I get back to into the swing of things.

But first, a confession...

I'm sorry. I didn't ever want it to get to this, but I don't know any other way out.

I'm going to hit the dreaded "Mark All as Read" button on my Google Reader. I know, I know. You all wrote BRILLIANT blogs in August. I'm sure of it. But at last check, it was over 1000 unread blog posts. It got to the point where I had so many to read and I was feeling like SUCH a fraud for not reading, that I stopped blogging as a result. Cuz that makes sense--just sticking your head in the sand in hopes that it all goes away...

So, I'm confessing my sin and coming clean. And I'm bringing my new, down-to-zero Google Reader with me.

Have you ever felt so behind in something that you didn't know how to get out? Have you ever cleared your Google Reader and started over?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

OMG, I've been MIA...

Okay, so I haven't really been missing, just living away from my computer.

"But Trish!" you exclaim. "That sounds so great!" Um, no. Not quite. You see, time away from computer has a direct correlation to both an increase in dollars spent and a decrease in words composed.

I've been traveling like a crazy lady and have read some excellent books. But I've also been spending money, not working out, and worst of all, not really writing. So much for that "Get my query ready by WriteOnCon" goal I had for this year. I'm so bummed about this. I totally failed myself.

But all that is behind me now. It's August. My July "Month of Insanity" is behind me, and I'm looking ahead. I might not be back to a 2-3 post/week schedule, but I'm close.

What I've been doing on my summer vacation? Here you go:
and most importantly,

See you all soon.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Have you ever noticed how much work you can get done on your book simply by thinking about it? I can go through the motions here at Ye Ole Day Job, but approximately 95% of the time, I'm living in my book. Trying to unravel new plot threads. Spicing up characters with quirks. Finding ways to make my setting more "real." I'm always thinking about my story.

And I love it.

Anyway. What's going on this weekend? Any big plans? (You realize I ask because it's a polite way for me to tell you about my upcoming weekend, right?)

My writing group is getting together Sunday morning and heading north to a quiet retreat center for the day/night. We each have high hopes of putting a lot of necessary work into our books. I have new scenes to write and old ones to move around. I have more to do than is possible to accomplish in 24 hours.

I'm excited--SUPER excited--about this quick retreat. But part of me is nervous. Two people in our group are social. They're lovely people, but if one starts to talk, then the other one does, and the next thing you know, an hour is gone and I haven't been able to write a thing.

So this means I'm going to have to protect my time. The retreat center is HUGE. I will have my own room. And headphones. If I'm not getting stuff done because of the chatter, I will simply walk away. No harm, no foul. I won't ask them to stop, I will simply relocate. I'm paying for this time with my own money and my own vacation day on Monday. I do not want to get home and feel like it wasn't worth either one.

No, really: What's going on this weekend? Anyone writing? Anyone want to pull my weeds? Wait, no, that's not right. Big plans?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What can you do in 3 weeks?

Three weeks. 21 days.

What could you get done in 3 weeks if you set your mind to it?

Just about anything, right? I hope so, because that's exactly what I'm up against.

In order to use my 2011 NaNo CreateSpace code for 5 free proof copies, I have exactly three weeks to polish my book and send it in. Truth be told? 21 days is generous. My self-imposed deadline is Tuesday, June 26th, so three weeks minus one day.

But what if I can't do it? Do I draw the line in the sand and say, "Self, if you're not at Point X by Date Y, hang it up"?

In order to give myself the best possible chance of success, I am allowing myself some luxuries this month. In the month of June, it is okay to:

  • Run the dishwasher more than once a week. If lil' ol me fills it up, this means I've been bringing my lunches and making my dinners = more money left over. Win-win.
  • Skip trips to the gym. Something has to give.
  • A 2-mile walk with the dog is enough exercise. There's a book to polish!
  • Go 10-12 days between mowing the lawn. Yes, the neighbors do theirs every 7-8, but that's fine. I'm writing.
  • Laundry. Meh. Not sure why I do it so often anyway.
  • Say no to friends. Thankfully, they all know this deadline is upon me, so they're cool.

Okay, so I have it all laid out and you're likely thinking, "There's no WAY you'll fail!" Alas, I haven't told you the bad parts. 

I rewrote my story outline last night. It's tighter and cleaner and has less "fluff" than before, but it means I have a lot to do. And I'm determined to figure out how to use Photoshop or InDesign to make my cover (I'm proficient enough to screw things up--should be NO problem!) instead of using the CreateSpace cover generator. Finally, in a fit of insanity, I decided to fly out to see a friend in two weeks. He's helped with one of my settings and has offered to play tour guide so I can see it first hand. While I feel this is amazing timing and really quite fortunate, I just HAD to go schedule a 4-day trip in the middle of these sacred three weeks, didn't I...

What was I thinking?! 

Dear Insecure Writers Support Group: I'm worried that I'm going to put all this time and effort, and now money and vacation time, into a project that A) won't come together by the deadline, or B) will sit on my shelf for the rest of eternity because the book isn't "sellable." As a result, I won't be a writer, but instead, a pretender. In debt.

Commence insecurity-induced freak out. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

MMGM: Breaking Stalin's Nose

I spent some time over the weekend reading about Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. I'm a proud American and all that jazz, but sometimes the British have all the fun. Maybe it's because I'm a history major at heart, but I love all the pomp and circumstance. I'll never see another Diamond Jubilee, so this was pretty amazing.

Speaking of history, let's talk Communism...

Photo from Goodreads
Author: Eugene Velchin
Date published: September, 2011 from Harry Holt and Co.
Newberry Honor (2012)

From Goodreads:

Sasha Zaichik has known the laws of the Soviet Young Pioneers since the age of six:

The Young Pioneer is devoted to Comrade Stalin, the Communist Party, and Communism.
A Young Pioneer is a reliable comrade and always acts according to conscience.

A Young Pioneer has a right to criticize shortcomings.

But now that it is finally time to join the Young Pioneers, the day Sasha has awaited for so long, everything seems to go awry. He breaks a classmate's glasses with a snowball. He accidentally damages a bust of Stalin in the school hallway.  And worst of all, his father, the best Communist he knows, was arrested just last night.

This moving story of a ten-year-old boy's world shattering is masterful in its simplicity, powerful in its message, and heartbreaking in its plausibility.

Here's a little secret about me: One of the reasons I like reading MG books is because they're short. This allows me to read more of them in the time that it takes to read something like, oh say, Game of Thrones (*cough4monthscough*). 

BREAKING STALIN'S NOSE is 160 pages and filled with author illustrations. In terms of this adult reading it, I did it in two days. I imagine a MG reader could do it in a few.

I enjoyed this book because the very first chapter pulled me in to Sasha's world, which as an outsider, we know is subtly uncomfortable. I love it when authors evoke emotional responses from me like this because we can see so clearly how this situation isn't right. I know Communism isn't right, but reading it from Sasha's perspective made me even more uncomfortable.

The whole book covers only two days in the life of Sasha, which helps keep the tension level high. I felt sympathy for the antagonists, who had their own stories and motivations.

I'm not sure if children today will be able to grasp just how real Sasha's life was. More important, I wonder if young readers will understand the setting wasn't really that long ago. If you don't have an understanding of world history or Communism, this would almost read like another MG dystopian, which is a creepy concept for me to wrap my head around. This book depicted at way of life that happened less than 100 years ago. Blows my mind.

BREAKING STALIN'S NOSE weaves morals and lessons through the chapters and does a nice job of portraying a society where you can't trust anyone, not even your neighbors. At the end, Sasha has a choice to make and he quickly realizes how, in only two days, his world has irrevocably changed.

Would my nephews read this book? I think so. But I don't think they would willingly reach for it. As a historical novel, it's not up their alley. However, I think it's a quick enough read of an important enough topic, that maybe they should read it. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Too hot to handle...

"Too cold to hold..." C'mon, guys: Finish that lyric!

This is very long post that has NOTHING to do with writing. Feel free to move along if you don't have time/care to read about running. I promise it won't hurt my feelings.

Instead, here's the race recap from the Green Bay Cellcom Half Marathon, which I ran on Sunday, May 20th. The race was called mid-run due to excessive heat. I, and the 50-75 runners around me, never got the message. 

Starting line area
Starting around Wednesday prior to the race, I received a number of emails from the race director talking about the projected warm temps, the need to hydrate, and how no one should use this race for a PR (personal record). Me, in my infinite arrogance, laughed. How hot can it be? It's Green Bay, Wisconsin. Home of the Frozen Tundra and all that jazz. I figured I'd be just fine, but brought 3 extra 48 oz water bottles for the road trip on Saturday to hydrate anyway. I'm glad I did.

I woke up around 5:30 on Sunday morning. I planned to meet my friends at 6am and hop on the school bus shuttle from the hotel to Lambeau Field at 6:15. I toasted my bagel thin, forced down my breakfast, and tried to drink my water. My nervous stomach didn't want food, but I knew I had to eat. I ran the same half marathon the year before (my first ever half marathon) and had a sneaky itch to try and PR this race. I knew I was in better shape than last year and really--I just wanted to beat myself.

We hopped on the bus and were naturally surrounded by the "good" runners. You know, the ones who were talking about the weather and how they were going to "force themselves" to slow down and run at a 9:30-10 min/mile pace. HA! I figured if I could average 11:30, I'd be in good shape.

Lots of standing around, stretching, bathroom lines, nervous sips of water, double checking gear, retying laces, and overall just trying to get my head in the game. It was hot and sticky at 6:55am. I didn't want to even THINK what it would be like two and a half hours later.

My two friends lined up with me. One had decided the night before that she was going to try this race (she was signed up, but hadn't trained since Jan due to knee injury) and the other one had serious medical issues and also decided the night before that she was going to give this race a shot. I was worried about both of them, but we all had phones.
HM course. Green arrow is the start, blue dots are water stops, red dots
are medical stops. It went counter clockwise.

The gun went off and we shuffled our way to the start. I hit "Start" on my iPhone's GPS program and started running. I crossed mile marker 1 (MM 1) and the woman's voice came on to tell me I was averaging a 9:45/mi pace. Whoa, adrenaline! I had to slow down! Unfortunately, I had roughly the same pace for MM 2, so I simply forced myself to stop and walk for a minute.

MM2-MM4 were really hard for me. I was incredibly hot and sweating like mad. I was also quickly figuring out that my GPS was ahead of the miles, so when it told me I was at MM4, I still couldn't see the banner on the course. I ended up turning it off later in the race.

Just before MM5, my friend April texted me (the one with medical issues). She was going to drop out. I knew there was a church party right after MM6 and I texted back that I was going to make a decision at that point. I wasn't feeling good about the race and knew I was spending a lot of time walking. I had also watched the first ambulance come up from behind and stop a few blocks ahead on the course. By time I reached the vehicle, they were lifting a female up on a stretcher. She looked to be in excellent shape and was about my age and she was out cold, complete with mask on and everything. It was pretty scary. I said a little prayer and kept going.

The church party was actually a few blocks past the official MM6 banner. At that point, I started grabbing two cups of water. I'd drink one and dump the other on my head. I love the church party. They have a full gospel-type choir complete with a band and microphones. I turned off my music, high-fived the kids along the street, grabbed the waters, and enjoyed the moment. I was essentially half way there.

MM6-MM9 I was having an absolute BLAST even though I saw an alarming number of runners down due to the heat. I don't know how, but I was running with a smile on my face and thanking the homeowners who put their sprinklers on the course for runners to go through. My runner's high was happening mid-race. I loved it. LOVED it. Here's a great pic of a sign I saw. HA!
If you can't read it, it says
"You trained longer than
Kim Kardashian's marriage!"

I was Tweeting with Sarah Ahiers (because, who doesn't update Facebook and Twitter while running a half?) just before MM9 when I suddenly snapped out of my runner's high and looked around. At that exact moment, I saw three runners lying down in the shaded lawns of the course. Something clicked in my head and I realized that I needed to pay better attention. For lack of a worse cliche, "It was gettin' real out here." As in, real dangerous.

I passed MM10 at 1:51, or almost 6 minutes better than my time last year. I was still feeling FABULOUS. I knew if I kept my easy pace for the next 3.1 miles that I would easily PR this race. I found some runners ahead of me to pace and tried to get into a groove. At the same time, I was nervous that I felt so good. What was I doing that other runners weren't? Or was this the early signs of dehydration and I was about to pass out any minute? It seemed like every time I looked up, I saw more runners down on the ground.

Shortly after MM10, a state trooper who was directing traffic was yelling something to the runners. We pulled out ear buds to hear the news. Up ahead at MM12, where the HM runners turn left to finish and the full marathoners turn right to go another 14 miles, the race director had closed the split. The full marathon had been cancelled due to heat. It was a half marathon only. At my next walk break I texted my friends to let them know what was going on. They were approx 2 miles behind me and from what I understood, they were seeing more and more runners down as well.

After MM11, the remaining 2 miles were in a zero-shade industrial park area. I knew it was going to take everything I had to PR. I could feel chafe burns on my back from my sports bra and on my hips from my capris from the sweat and waters over my head. I got to MM12 and saw that yes, the turn off to the right was in fact closed. A race official with a megaphone kept repeating, "All runners must turn left. The full marathon has been closed due to excessive heat. Left turn ONLY!"

Thankfully, the organizers mobilized a water station at MM12.5 and I passed a number of bike medics on this part of the course. I remember feeling incredibly grateful to the guy who worked at the sheet metal business. He pulled out his office's 10-gal Culligan water dispenser and was apologizing to runners for running out of cups! No one cared. We took scooped handfuls, splashed our faces, gave grateful smiles, and kept running. Major high-fives to that guy. He was just being nice. Man, I love nice people.

I remember the volunteers at MM12.5 yelling encouragement. "Keep going, half a mile and you're done! There's plenty of water at the finish line. You've got this!"

Suddenly, my phone rang. Who the hell is calling me? And more important--why am I answering the phone while on the literal home stretch of my HM? It was April. She was almost to MM11 when the race director decided to shut down the entire race. All runners were being diverted back to Lambeau field. She found our other friend and together, the two of them walked the 3 blocks back. I told her I was a few minutes out and would meet her at the finish.

I put my head phones away and put my phone back on my arm. From here on out, I needed to pay attention. I was with a group of exhausted, sweaty, and jubilant runners. We were looking around at each other like, "I can't believe we just did that!"

We crossed Oneida St and turned to enter the Lambeau Field parking lot, no more than 100 yards from the finish line. Unfortunately, race officials had pulled a gate across the course, preventing anyone from finishing. When the race director decided to call the race, that went for anyone still on the course. I thought it meant for any runner on the course before a specific cut off mark, like MM11 or MM12 where my friends were--not for runners who were on the home stretch!

That's right, I'm throwing deuces at the camera lady
because I'm THAT happy. And yes, I'm buying one.
Man, we were FURIOUS! We busted our butts to finish in horrible conditions, just to find 100 yds from the end that we weren't allowed to finish? Group mentality kicked in. We all stormed forward, ran around the guy, climbed over the fence, and ran like hell. Somehow, somewhere, I found the remaining energy to put every last bit into that stretch and cross the finish line with a smile on my face.

I grabbed my medal, took 2 free waters, posed for a pic, then stumbled around in a post-race fog. It was TOTAL chaos. A woman in the medical tent was screaming "I DON'T WANT TO DIE!" and I saw a number of runners simply collapse in exhaustion. It didn't help that the post-race area was too small, fenced in, and in direct sunlight. We had to get out of there and find shade. ASAP.

That was about it. The busses to the hotels were busy out on the course picking up runners, so we had to wait another hour and a half before we could even get back to our hotel. The shower should've felt wonderful, but I had too many random rub sores all along my waist and back that the water stung.

That night my friends all left for their own homes. I ordered a pizza from Old Chicago and ate every last bite of the mushroom pineapple deliciousness. And I didn't even feel guilty. I earned that grease. :)

Like I said, this is super long. My apologies. However, I know there are a few writer-runners out there. If you have any questions about being a non-runner in a runner's world, please don't be shy--ask away! I'm more than happy to help anyone realize that you can run a half marathon. True story. Even this drinker-sometimes-smoker. If you can write a book, you can run a HM. Actually, I'd argue running is easier and has quicker payoffs, but we can discuss that another day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Back in business

Okay, my computer's back (with all files in tact!) and I am back in business.

The past week and a half has been a difficult one on a number of levels. My computer needed repairs and I hadn't backed anything up. My dog was sick all over my living room rug and every three hours after for the next day.

To top it off, my hot water heater went berserk on Sunday. I came home at midnight to find my basement flooded. I used the shop vac to get all I could, but I couldn't figure out how to turn off the water line. This meant whatever I vacuumed would just be refilled and the cycle continued. I couldn't even turn off the main water line to the house, so after almost three hours of crying, becoming irrationally angry, vacuuming, and having an overall massive pity party, I figured it couldn't get any worse. So I went to bed.

So yeah, these were some definite curveballs. But you know what got me through them?


Some writer friends sent care packages after hearing about my computer. Their cards made me laugh. The chocolate made me feel better. And the gesture absolutely brought me to tears. I don't know if you can see it in the picture, but just LOOK at all the chocolate! And a steampunk MG novel! And the glittery nail polish--I can't wait to do my toes! Eep! Girlie glitterness abounds!

And what about that water heater, you ask? I asked my neighbor for help. He helped me turn off the water line, mop up the mini-flood, pull out the old heater, then buy and install a new one. All on his holiday. It took about 7 hours and saved me a serious amount of money. And he did it because he's a kind neighbor.

I've seen some amazing gestures of kindness this weekend and it warms my heart. I can't repay these people for their acts. All I can hope to do is pay it forward one day. Thank you friends, for your kindness.

And c'mon, June. I've had just about enough of May!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Unscheduled time out

I had great plans to write about my half marathon experience from last weekend. Alas, the logic board died on my computer and it has been sent out for repairs.

This presents an array of problems, most concerning to me is the fact that I'm an idiot and I don't have anything backed up. Saved? Yup--I save my stuff all the time. But that's not the same as backing up. In a separate, safe, accessible location. Lesson learned, but hopefully not the hard way.

So while my computer is at the Apple Doctor's office, I'm using a very old machine for work that doesn't like gmail, blogger, or just about any other site I frequent. I'm trying to stop by some blogs, but bear with me.

I hope to be up and running soon. And I'll have ALL of my files. (*Power of positive thinking.*)

[Seriously, folks: find a way to save your work someplace other than your hard drive. Dropbox, jump drives, gmail accounts, clouds, whatever. Do it. Do not put yourself in the position I am in right now where I am facing a worst case scenario that all of my books are gone. Yes, all of them. If you need me, I'll be over here in the corner with my dummy hat on.]

You tell me: How do you back up your work? Email? Jump drives? Any sites you like? Please share in the comments as this will be my #1 priority when I get my computer back!

Thank you for all the positive vibes and back up/storage suggestions. I'm so happy to report that I picked up my computer the other day and EVERYTHING IS HERE. Commence happy dance, right there in the middle of the Apple Store. Yup, I'm that girl.

Everything is now safe and secure in both a DropBox account and a jump drive.

Monday, May 21, 2012

MMGM: A Monster Calls

My Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post is going to skirt around the meat of the book for one simple reason: I'm not sure if I'm ready to talk about it yet.

As some of you read in my post last week, my cancer took my father when I was 10. And I had this great idea to read Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls last week, during the time when my father was most on my mind.

News flash, people. That was a bad idea.

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness (from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd) with illustrations by Jim Kay
Date published: September, 2011 from Candlewick Press

From Goodreads:

"At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting — he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. 

The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd — whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself — Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined."

If you've read this book, you can understand why I'm at a loss for where to start.If you haven't read this book, you're probably wondering what the big deal is about it.

To be honest, this book has been on my radar for a while. First, Phoebe North reviewed it here. And soon I saw Sommer Leigh talk about it here. Then, Kiersten White talked about it here and Suzie F wrote about it here. And finally, Matt MacNish talked about it here at Project Mayhem.

By this time, I knew A Monster Calls was on my TBR pile but I was scared. I had just read a number of blogs written by respectable people who all acknowledged that this book was devastating, but also on many people's Best of the Best lists. I knew I wanted to read it, but I checked it out twice from my library before actually sitting down to open it up. I was afraid to read it.

I remember buying the last Harry Potter book the day it came out. I read each page slowly and forced myself to put it down after 50-60 pages so I wouldn't read it all in one sitting. I wasn't ready to get to the end.

I had the same experience with A Monster Calls, but for a different reason. I wasn't ready to get to the monster's end game where he forces Conor to tell the truth. I knew what the truth was because I felt it myself. But when the time comes, it is written with such power and emotional force that when I finished the story, I had to just sit and breathe.

This book is a tough read, not because the language is challenge, but because the topic is. In sticking with my regular MMGM question, "Do I think my nephews would read it?", I will say yes. It's scary, but if you have a MG reader who is dealing with a parent stricken by cancer and all the fear and anger that comes along with that diagnosis, chances are this book isn't any more difficult that that reader's life. Kids can handle this book. It reminds kids that they are not alone and validates their emotions.

It's tough to always be "fine" when you're really scared and confused. A Monster Calls isn't fine. It's real.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Killing my darlings

Confession: There's a 'darling' in my story and it needs to go. 

I had this idea on my way into work this morning but I'm torn. I mean, yes, I'm happy that I have a new idea to explore. But on the other hand, I thought this section was solid. I was happy with it and now here I am, tinkering.

Part of me says, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

But the louder part of me says, "It wasn't a waste of time. You needed that first idea to get to this even shinier one." Or something like that. 

I have loved the first line of my story ever since it popped into my head. I remember that proud smile and the inner voice assuring me even though OTHER authors are encouraged to avoid this tactic, that it would be okay for me to try it because I'm "special". 

I would like to introduce you all to the first line of my darling. I shall name it Original Opening Line.
"At precisely 6:38 in the morning, before the lingering night officially gave way to the eager day, David Fitzwilliam Fitzgerald awoke with a start and knew he and his mom were in danger."
I know, I know. Try not to steal my awesome run-on sentence prose. Or my catchy opening line that starts with my MC waking up. It's all so original, I know you want it. Who wouldn't? That there is literary gold!

Okay, all jokes aside, I'm killing it. Now. Today. I'm making this public announcement so I will have no option but to actually follow through.

And by killing it, I'm dropping the needle on this record in a different place. I have to start somewhere else, someplace where I can quickly show the relationship between my MC and his quirky mom.

I just can't help but feel bad. Like I've wasted time: my time redoing the section, my friends' time reading the section, time time time... Alas, I have a new scene to write and that is much more exciting than sitting around quasi-idle.

Off to the writing cave I go!

How about you: Have you killed your darlings? Did you make something better as a result?

Monday, May 14, 2012

MMGM: Bridge to Terabithia

A-Z is behind me and I can finally start posting again on MMGM books. Hooray!

A few weeks ago, I read two books in one weekend. I love it when that happens. It feels so decadent. However, I read two "coming of age" stories, which we all know is code for: Don't Get Attached, Someone's Going to Die. *Charlotte'sWebcough* So, I guess this is the part where I say **SPOILER ALERT** I will spoil the ending for you. Consider yourself warned.

Photo and description from Goodreads
Title: Bridget to Terabithia
Autor: Katherine Paterson
Date published: 1977, Harper Collins Publishers
Won the Newberry Medal in 1978

From Goodreads: 

Jess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone.
That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits.

Okay, I confess--I don't remember having to read this book when I was in elementary school and I had never seen the movie. I got the general gist of the story from the back cover and had heard more than one person tell me it was one of those "You HAVE to read it" books, so I picked it up. I'm glad I did!

There were many elements of this story that really pulled me in. First, the main character, Jess, is a very relatable main character. He is filled with insecurities and in a family of sisters, is almost invisible to his dad. The relationship between Jess and his father touched me as much as the friendship between Jess and Leslie. 

After Leslie's death, as Jess is trying to understand what this means, grapple with his guilt, and deal with the sadness, he acts out, angry with this turn of events. The anger is real. It's palpable. He's upset and confused.

Leslie's death didn't necessarily make me cry, but the way in which Jess dealt with his emotions truly hit me. Earlier in the book, Leslie gave Jess a gift. Knowing he liked to draw, she gave him nice paints and paper, clearly a very nice present for Jess, whose family couldn't necessarily afford such luxuries. Angry at Leslie for dying, Jess acted out in a scene that I thought was incredibly powerful: (excerpt from page 173)
He screamed something without words and flung the papers and paints into the dirty brown water. The paints floated on top, riding the current like a boat, but the papers swirled about, soaking in the muddy water, being sucked down, around, and down...
"That was a damn fool thing to do." His father sat down on the dirt beside him.
"I don't care. I don't care." He was crying now, crying so hard he could barely breathe.
His father pulled Jess over on his lap as though he were Joyce Ann. "There. There," he said, patting his head. "Shhh. Shhh." 
The reason this scene hit me so much was because Jess's dad finally treated his son like a boy. Until this point, Jess had an enormous amount of responsibility and a number of chores. Throughout the story, his father didn't see Jess as the young boy he was. That final acknowledgement and the bond between the heart broken boy and his emotionally unavailable father pulled the entire story home for me. 

There is much more to stay about the story. The land of Terabithia, the classmates, the family dynamics, or Jess and Leslie's friendship. But this is long enough. 

Bottom line: I ask myself if the Middle Grade books I read would be appropriate for my nephews. I absolutely believe Bridge to Terabithia would be appropriate for my nephews in terms of content and reading level. I'm just not sure I'm willing to show them how much books can make us ache. Not yet.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In Remembrance

24 years ago yesterday, a terrible spring storm rolled through Wisconsin, complete with ominous claps of thunder, bolts of lightning, and strong winds.

That morning, my mom, my grandma who was visiting from Virginia, brother, and I went to church. It was Mother's Day, 1988. We had bought mom flowers and drew homemade cards with smiling suns and big hearts in pink crayon. Anything to make her smile.

Later that afternoon, the clouds darkened and the winds grew intense. I was sitting downstairs in the ever-darkening play room when my grandma yelled, "Trish, your mom wants you to go outside and grab the hanging basket off the mailbox!"

I begrudgingly put on my shoes and did as I was told. I dawdled down the driveway as only a 10 year old could do, dodging worms and hopping over cracks, not really paying attention to the world around me. I was wrapped up in one singular, powerful emotion. Fear.

I knew it then. I just didn't know how I knew it.

The day went on. I brought the basket in. My mom got home late--I imagine my brother and I were already in bed. One more day over, just like all the others.

12:30am: Monday May 9, 1988.
The phone rang, pulling me out of my sleep. I figured it was a wrong number, but then my mom screamed. Not a scream of fear, but more like a loud, guttural moaning that drove the fear right back into my heart.

Over and over. I knew. Again, I knew.

I somehow went to bed and woke up on time for school the next day. Mom and grandma said I didn't have to go, but I didn't know what else to do. On my way to the bus stop, I re-hung basket on the mailbox. I looked up and saw a beautiful rainbow fighting against the clouds, gathering strength from the sun's rays. The rainbow gave me hope. I figured God put it there for my dad.

I tried to keep it together on the bus ride. My brother didn't go to school--in hindsight, I can't figure out why I felt like I would be the tough one. I walked into 5th grade terrified someone would know my secret. That my classmates would see me as "different."

The school counselor soon came for me and asked where I wanted to go.

"The library," I said. It was the safest place I could think of, surrounded by characters who would never know my truth but who could understand my fear. How does a 10-year old girl wrap her head around cancer? Around death? Around the truth that she would never see her father again?

The doctors told my mom they believed my dad fought throughout the evening so he wouldn't pass on Mother's Day. I agree. Unfortunately, every Mother's Day since then has been different. It's like Mother's Day* in my house, where the * is the awful reminder of what happened in 1988. It's getting better though. My mom rebounds faster from her blues and I can do things like type this story out without crumbling into a sobbing mess.

So Dad, this one's for you. I have faith that I'm not walking alone.

I remember you.
I could never forget you.
I just wish you were still here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A-Z Challenge recap

26 letters in the alphabet.
26 blog posts in the 2012 A-Z Challenge.
60+ videos.
And countless comments and opinions!

Okay, so trying to keep this quick.

What worked for me:

  • As usual, I enjoyed the HUGE range of topics.
  • I was amazed--on a daily basis--by the number of commenters who I *knew* were making the rounds on as many blogs as possible. Tip of the cap to them.
  • The super Challenge leaders. Thanks, leader gang, for putting on another wonderful challenge.
  • In terms of my own challenge, it was a huge help to have my theme (music) ready in advance. I made the first 9 posts in advance, and then spent the rest of the month catching up. It helped that I had the template of what music I'd highlight ready to go, all I had to do was dump in the videos and add some commentary.
  • Commenters gave their own music recommendations, which has given me new music to check out. Perfect!
Lessons learned:
  • This was my 2nd A-Z Challenge. Last year, it was my debut into the blogging world so I paid close attention to my follower count. This year, I was happy to just focus on something other than writing blogs. I wasn't as concerned about improving my follower count.
  • I signed up late for the challenge, placing me somewhere down in the 1600s. It was my fault for waiting so long to sign up. If I do it next year, I will sign up earlier. I think the fact that I was so far down on the list effected traffic to the site.
  • It was nice to see some non-writing blogs. But I came across a number of blogs that seemed to be thinly-veiled sales sites. (Real estate sites, really?!)  I didn't check back at the end of the month, but I understood the Challenge leaders were working to clean up the list throughout the month.
  • I think the size of the Challenge is both a challenge and an advantage. It will be interesting to see next year how many people register.
I enjoyed the challenge. I founds some great theme ideas for next year. Let's just hope I remember them! 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

IWSG: I'm a follower, not a leader

Dear Insecure Writer's Support Group,

I'm not really a risk taker, early adopter, or leader of movements. Instead, I'm more of a follower. For example, I waited at least a year before buying my very first iPod because I wanted to wait and see if this "mp3" craze was actually going to stick.

Then I figured, if everyone else is doing it, why don't I join in, too? So I bought an iPod (years ago), and now I'm joining the ranks of the IWSG (today).

Well, it wasn't that simple for me. You see, I've been following the IWSG for a few months now, but never felt ready enough to actually join in.

But then isn't that the point of the IWSG? If I don't think I'm good enough or ready enough to join an online support group of likeminded people who battle their own insecurities, well, then where do I turn?

So yes, after months of watching, it's official. I'm joining the movement. I'm not sure what I have to offer, but by default, I think my insecurities makes this a logical decision.

This week's Insecurities Du Jour include: queries, synopses, plot twists, and endings. Really, all in the life of a writer, no?

More coherent IWSG posts to come. I have another month to put something together. It should get better.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Music of Z: ZZ Top, Zac Brown Band

As I stumble my way across the blogging challenge finish line, I happily present to you the final letter Z.

1. ZZ Top
I'm not ashamed to admit that I have this song in my collection via the soundtrack to Armageddon. Yes, it was cheesy. Yes, it was actually quite ridiculous. But yes, it made me cry. I have a soft spot for natural disasters and other imminent threats to mankind in my books and movies, so this one was right up my alley. The accompanying soundtrack was full of great rock n' roll tunes, like this one:

2. Zac Brown Band
I have one ZBB track in my collection, compliments of the Starbuck's "Pick of the Week" cards that they give out. I had heard of this new country group, but that was it. Since then, I've grown fond of their song "Free", which segues nicely into lyrics from Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic." It's kind of neat. And like most country music, it reminds me of summer, which, on a cloudy, rainy day like this, I need. (Wow, over-comma alert!)

 If you've made it this far, then you have a very sincere THANK YOU. Thanks for playing along with the A-Z Challenge, and commenting along even if you were sick of the challenge but felt like you just had to suggest a song or a band. I've been introduced to some great music already.

I'm not sure what comes next. I might take a few days off and regroup, but I'll be back soon. I have some writing posts percolating in my head and some book reviews I can't wait to share.

See you soon!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Music of Y: You'll Never Walk Alone and Yo-Yo- Ma

Final two entries! Are you excited to get back to "normal" in the blogging world, or are you getting a hang of this A-Z thing?

My music of Y will be very simple, only two songs. One holds a very important place in my heart and the other is some of my favorite writing music.

1. "You'll Never Walk Alone"
When you look for a video of this song, you get quite a variety ranging from its original form as a show tune, to modern era football stadiums in Europe. In my mind, however, this song takes me right to my father's funeral. Initially in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, the clip below is the movie's end where the dad comes back to see his daughter's graduation, and then saw his wife. He made sure they were both okay, and then walked off to the afterlife.

Another fun fact! As soon as I find a font I like, I will get a tattoo around my left wrist that reads: "When you walk through a storm / Hold your head up high". There's more to it than song lyrics, but you get the idea.

2. Yo-Yo Ma
On a whim at my local Half Priced Bookstore, I picked up the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon soundtrack. I was looking for some Yo-Yo Ma music and wasn't sure where to look. I saw his name on the case and figured for $4, why not? It was such a wonderful investment. I'm a convert. My next classical music purchase will be Bach's Cello Suites as performed by Yo-Yo Ma. Take a listen.

Two pieces of truly beautiful music for your Y enjoyment. Any classics (classical or show tunes) hold a special place in your heart?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Music of X: Muppets and more Muppets.

I've already talked about Coldplay's new album X&Y, so I thought it was time for something different.

Today, I present the Music of X. AKA: songs that are cracking me up today but don't start with the letter X.

1. The Muppets.
I love the Muppets. The Muppet Show, The Muppet movies, everything. I can't get enough of them. I cried like a little girl when Kermit sang "Rainbow Connection" during last year's movie. It was so perfect and transported me straight back to my living room where a 5 year old me watched the show to see what the grumpy old men would say next. This clip is only 52 seconds. I DARE you to watch without smiling...

2. Neil Diamond
True story time! Raise your hand if your dad let you load bullets when you were little. Anyone? No? I guess that was just us. There was a HUGE machine where my dad would load all the gunpowder and my brother and I were responsible for pushing/pulling this incredibly heavy lever down to seal the bullets shut. I miss my dad's old work room. But I remember seeing my very first 8-track and asking who Neil Diamond was. Fast forward almost 30 years, and at yet another funeral, we picked this song. You know what's hilarious? Hearing "We're coming to America... TODAY!" ring out at a funeral service. She would've loved it. :)

 (Seriously--how many funerals am I going to reference? You must all think I'm incredibly jinxed.)

3. Tiesto
Apparently, I'm becoming quite the fan of electronic/trance music. And I may or may not have a little crush on Tiesto. I have this overwhelming desire to go to a European festival to catch a live Tiesto show. I think standing around for hours and jumping up and down sounds like a BLAST, provided I'm wearing the right shoes. Just a hot, sweaty dance floor where all you can do is move with the beat. Alas, the ONE DAY blocked on my calendar this year is the ONE DAY Tiesto will be in Milwaukee for the party of all parties, SummerFest. Son of a...

Tell me your extra credit songs. What were you hoping to see this month? Do you love The Muppets, Neil Diamond, or Tiesto like I do?

Sorry--two more. I'm LOVING these Muppet videos! "See da moofin..."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Music of W: Romeo+Juliet Smiling at Pirates

1. "Whatever" by the Butthole Surfers
First, the band name always makes me laugh. Second, the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack (1996) is amazing. More than a decade later, I still pull that album out during NaNo. What an obscure collection of music! I'm not sure what it is about the soundtrack, but whatever it is, it works for me.

2. "When You're Smiling" by Louis Armstrong
This is probably my favorite Louis Armstrong song. C'mon--you know you want to dance. You know what Minnesota is missing? A good ol' supper club. Someone should open one and have Friday night fish frys (also missing in MN) and Saturday night jazz/big band nights. I'd be all over that.

3. Wheel of Fortune by Hans Zimmer
This song has a very sweet place in my heart. A few years ago, when one of my awesome nephews was just a little kid (maybe 6?), he was obsessed with this tune and the Main Theme from Star Wars. Except for in that beautiful way that only little kids can do, he seamlessly transitioned from one into the other, like they were one mashup of epic movie proportions. I wish I had taped him doing it. Eating, brushing his teeth, reading, anytime. The same tune. Over and over. Man, I love my nephews.

What's your favorite movie soundtrack earworm? What "W"s did I miss?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Music of V: Vega 4, Stevie Ray Vaughn

Man, we're really down here in the lesser-used letters of the alphabet, aren't we? Alas, here we are with the music of V. Before anyone points it out in the comments, no, I do not have any Van Halen on this list. Sorry! I just don't have any in my collection!

1. "Life is Beautiful" by Vega4
I really wish I could remember where I first heard this song. I know it was in the movie My Sister's Keeper, but I'm POSITIVE I heard it before then. Maybe a TV show? Hmm... this might drive me crazy. Anyway, in the meantime, it's on my "feel good music" playlist. Take a listen.

2. "Life by the Drop" by Stevie Ray Vaughn
This just screams a lazy Saturday afternoon on the pontoon boat with a cooler of beers and a bag of chips in the middle of July. Apply sunscreen, soak up the rays, jump in the lake to cool off, repeat, repeat, repeat. Until it's time to bbq for dinner. Turn it up...

And, just because I'm in a summertime frame of mind, here's the next song that came on when I was listening to "Life by the Drop." Consider this a bonus track, not at all associated with the letter V. If you're not groovin' by this point, well, I don't know. I guess we shouldn't road trip together, that's all. I'm just sayin'...

Gimme all your V's, please. What'd I miss? What song screams summertime to you?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Music of U: Uninvited, Underappreciated

Short post today. Lucky U! (Ha! See what I did there...)

1. "Uninvited" by Alanis Morissette
An angsty female singer-songwriter from the mid-90s, Alanis burst onto the US music scene with her phenomenal debut album, Jagged Little Pill, though many of us remember her from the Nickelodeon show, "You Can't Do That on Television." Alanis recorded this track for the City of Angels soundtrack and I think the piano and strings really add depth. But holy smokes, her voice. Man, watching this reminds me how powerful she is. Brava, Alanis.

2. "Underappreciated" by Christina Aguilera
I know, I know. This is my second Christina tune. What can I say? Back in her early days (read: pre-Marilyn Monroe wanna be makeover/plastic surgery), she was great! This song will always remind me of driving home from my waitressing job. Talk about feeling under appreciated....

Okay, gotta run. Have a beaUtiful TUesday!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Music of T: Talk, Think, Till, Turn. In that order.

Okay, there are a lot of songs here for the letter T. I'll make it up to you (and to myself) by having a shorter day for U tomorrow. Okay? Okay.

1. "Talk Tonight" by Oasis
When the brothers stop fighting and focus instead on lyrics and music, they make some truly beautiful songs. This is one of them. It takes me back a few years ago (my 10 year HS reunion, to be exact), which was the last time I really remember pulling an all-nighter. Party, then down to the bars, then the ride home and a bon fire until the sun came up, then off to Denny's for some greasy morning food. We walked in smelling like campfire, wearing the same clothes as the night before, sitting right next to people dressed all nice for church. It was an exhausting night, but one I'll never soon forget.

2. "Think" by none other than the amazing Ms. Aretha Franklin
I first really remember this song from the movie Blues Brothers. What a classic! I need to watch that again. ASAP. The clip is from the movie but the dubbing isn't lined up with the audio and it cuts off kind of abruptly. That's okay, it's still a total classic.

Elwood: "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses." 
Jake: "Hit it."

Anyone else want dry white toast? 

3. "Till Kingdom Come" by Coldplay 
I'm not a huge Coldplay fan, but I wouldn't say I'm not a fan, either. I really liked the album X&Y, so it's tough to imagine their latest album could top that. This track is off the X&Y album and along with "Fix You", they're probably two of my all-time favorite Coldplay tunes. Something about waiting for someone else really speaks to my inner romantic. Then again, I try not to listen to her. She's nuts.

4. "Turn the Page" by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
For me, this is the ultimate road trip song. And there's something about it that reminds me of the country tunes I grew up listening to, compliments of my parents. I know Metallica covered this song and some would say it's better than the original, but I can't. Something about the Seger version sounds like it's sung from the heart.

Okay, did you make it to the end of the T's? I'm sure I missed some biggies. Geesh, you all had to point out that I forgot Queen and Nirvana! Share your thoughts!
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