Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Time for a rousing game of Tug of Fun!

I was listening to the radio this morning, and a person wrote in about some of the PC actions being taken in her kids' elementary school gym classes:

--"tug of war" has been renamed to "tug of fun." Having war in the name is too negative of a connotation.

--dodge ball now constitutes throwing the ball at cones instead of at other kids.

--no more playing tag, because being chosen as "it" may damage the kids' self-esteem and needlessly single them out.

Okay, I am officially declaring that this PC movement has gone too far. Tug of fun--REALLY?!?! That's lame. LAAAAAME. Come on--having "war" in the game's name isn't going to make the kids pick up a grenade and start hurling them at each other.

And throwing the dodge ball at cones. Oooooooh now that's a hearty fun time! No wonder kids hate school. I'd be forced to start punching people if I had to do that kind of stupid stuff for gym class.

Oh, and tag is apparently too damaging for a child's self-esteem. Because being called "it" must make them need years of therapy.

Guess what? I played dodge ball and had the crap hit out of me. I came out with bruises all the time because I wasn't smart enough to dodge. I also gave it like I got it and flung the ball at kids. I loved tug of war. "Tug of Fun" sounds absolutely heinous, and I'd rather chew my arm off than play that. And I never minded being "it" in tag, because being "it" rotates between people, not just making it me all the time.

I believe we are doing our kids a SERIOUS disadvantage by sterilizing their environment in school and starting this crap so early. What's next--no failing grades for anyone now? Everyone gets an "E" for trying and passes, even if they never get it (oh, wait--hello, "no child left behind" could I forget about you)? What's going to happen when that child is in a competitive environment as an adult and can't cut it? Is he/she going to run to mommy or a therapist and whine about how unfair life is and how his/her self-esteem is crushed?

Don't get me wrong--in sports, I was never the first one chosen. That sucked and embarrassed me. LOL. But it also taught me I needed to work harder to be better. This whole notion of removing the competitive edge from sports and gym is flat-out WRONG. Because the real world IS competitive. You aren't going to get a job just by applying. In the real world, you don't get a raise just because everyone else gets one. In the real world, you have to do more than show up to work and breathe through your nose every once in a while to hold on to a job.

As you can tell, this is a topic I'm VERY passionate about. But now that I've ranted on and on, I'd love to hear what you you feel the same way I do? Or do you think it's about time they started looking at how gym classes are for kids? Lay it on me!

Monday, March 29, 2010

why I don't like Duke...(but I still love Amanda)

I played basketball in high school. I wasn't great, but I was on a great team and I developed a huge love for the game. It was the one sport my mom would watch with me on TV (I was on my own with football. Nobody in my house watched but me and my bro...) March Madness was/is always a favorite time of the year...not only because it happens during THE MONTH OF MEL but because it was a bonding time for my me and my momma.

The year was 1992 and Christian Laettner was playing for Duke in the finals against Kentucky. It was a heated game. A close game. A very physical game...

I watched Duke a lot during the season. I never liked Laettner, I had seen some very poor sportsman-like behavior over the year--and I thought Coach K (who I'd always admired) should've been doing more to unswell Laettner's head and his attitude. But (as is with a lot of programs) if the player is great, then he can often get by with being an ugly sport.

Anyway, back to the finals. Laettner stomps on a Kentucky player that fell. It wasn't a rib-breaking was more of a tap, BUT it was an intentional move that showed Laettner's true colors. Initially, Laettner denied it was an intentional move, but later he admitted he was getting Timberlake back for pushing him earlier in the game.

Now, I could've lived with the childish behavior if he had been dealt with properly. (he got a Technical foul in the game, as he should have, but honestly, Coach K should have punished him for being such a tool. He didn't.) And that's when I lost respect for Coach K and in the end, the entire Duke athletic program.

You wanna know why I think Laettner was never punished for his actions? Because in the last seconds of the game, he scored the winning shot. And we all know that nothing is more important than winning, right?

So yeah, I hate Duke. (but I still love all my friends who love them...)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Where's My Hovercraft?

When I was a kid we would speculate about "the future" and wonder how far technology might take us. My memory of grade school predictions generally involved everyone having a hovercraft in stead of a car. That would be cool. It would be like THE JETSONS. And for some reason everyone thought we'd stop eating food and start taking supplements. I'm going on record as saying that's never going to happen. Frankly, humans like food way too much to go for the pill-only thing.

They have, in fact, invented hovercrafts but most of us can neither afford one nor could we manage with that as our primary mode of transportation. But in another 20 years, who knows? That might be the green solution currently evading us.

I do get a little nuts every time I hear people running down technology. Know what? We have some pretty amazing crap. Like, last week I was reading an article about scientists in Berlin who have-- hold onto your wands, Hogwarts students-- invented an invisibility cloak. I'm not making it up-- click here. They found a way to bend light around a tiny object using a special cloak... and under infrared it vanishes. How freaking COOL is that????

Plus, I remember everyone's astonishment at this thing called a "WALKMAN." It was TINY-- the size of a cassette... which is something with yucky brown tape that unravels when least convenient... then later there were discs. Now my MP3 player is the size of a credit card, no thicker than a pinky finger, and it plays videos as well as music. And since we were talking about modes of transportation-- the newer vehicles will copy any CD you pop into the player, save all the songs to the car's internal MP3 player, and you can edit them-- or transfer them to your personal player. Plus I have GPS. I can't get lost.

Frankly-- that's more cool than hovering.

We didn't have the internet when I was a kid, either. Al Gore was busy doing something else, I suppose. But I DO remember, probably around high school, the news announcing that you could get information on something called PRODIGY. Later COMPUSERVE. There were vague references to email and websites soon to follow... and none of us knew the difference between the two for a while. I was among the first nerds to get interested, and before long everyone was on AOL... or Earthlink... and that godawful ping-ping-ping-blaaaaaaaaaaaaarchhhhhhccccghhhhhhaaaaaaaaakkkkkkkk noise was the sound of the future!! We could hear the modem dial back then.

Today I post this from an internet cafe with Wifi... while listening to music on a tiny MP3 player and my connection was automatic, silent, and free. Honestly? I may not be doing it under an invisibility cloak in a hovercraft... but gimme a few years.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Congrats to the RITA and Golden Heart Finalists

Some of our Young Adult writer friends are up for a couple prestigious awards this year. Fictionistas would like to congratulate them and wish them well in at the award ceremony in July.

For the RITA--an award given for excellence in the romance genre--YA Category--the nominees for books published in 2009 are:

Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog
Random House Group, Delacorte Press
ISBN: 978-0-385-738494

Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter
Hyperion Books for Children
Editor: Jennifer Besser
ISBN: 978-1-423-11638-7

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
Walker Books for Young Readers
Editor: Emily Easton
ISBN: 978-0-8027-9823-7

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books, MTV Books
Editor: Jennifer Heddle
ISBN: 978-1-416-57173-5

The ABC's of Kissing Boys by Tina Ferraro
Random House Group, Delacorte Press
Editor: Krista Marino
ISBN: 978-0-385-73582-7

Nothing Like You by Lauren Strasnick
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Editor: Anica Rissi
ISBN: 978-1-416-98264-7

The Golden Heart award is for unpublished manuscripts. This year's nominees in the YA category are:

  • Ghost-Ridden by Vanessa Barneveld
  • Shattered by Shea Berkley
  • bloom by Shelley Coriell
  • Welcome Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell
  • The Halo Chronicles: The Guardian by Carey Corp
  • Squeeze Three Times by Kimberly Eve MacCarron
  • Spelling and Glamour by Jennifer McAndrews
  • Unchosen by Erica Daniel O'Rourke
  • Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Gimme those cheesy love songs!

    I'm listening to cheesy love songs right now. I mean, supa-extra cheesy with a dash of cheese thrown in for good measure. Yanno, those songs you listen to at your office and start tearing up over because deep down you want a guy to hold a radio over his head and play a song like that for you...uhhh, anyway, I thought I'd list my top cheese-tacular songs.

    1--All Out of Love by Air Supply. Really, any Air Supply songs could be on this list. I have a not-so-secret passion for this band. I am fully aware this opens me to ridicule. So be it. I'll stand by my men. Don't judge me!

    2--I Go Crazy by Paul Davis. Oh man, this one always gets me...I mean, how awesome is it for a guy to say he goes crazy when he looks in your eyes? I mean romantic crazy, not I-want-to-murder-you-when-our-eyes-connect crazy.

    3--I Wanna Know What Love Is by Foreigner. This one has to be on my list. I love the chorus part at the end of the always makes me want to stand up and throw my hands in the air. Except last time I did that, my boss caught me.

    4--Ah, Leah by Donnie Iris. I love this song. He's all, "you're sooooo bad for me, but I want you anyway." Yeah, baby! I love that whole element of him not being able to resist her...I'm sure other women out there would also like feeling they were irresistable to a person!

    5--Please Forgive Me by Bryan Adams. Okay, I've listened to this song about a hundred billion times. I can't help it. Because the one thing he's sure of is the way we made love...the one thing he depends on is for us to stay strong. Dude, he's totally singing to me. I can't turn him away when he's most vulnerable.

    6--Next Time I Fall in Love by Peter Cetera and Amy Grant. I don't know why, but this song always gets me. Plus, I have a super-soft spot toward duos. Plus plus, he flat-out says the next time he falls in love, it's gonna be with me. So I should be ready for it, yanno.

    7--Lady in Red by Chris de Burgh. Srsly, I'd stab someone in the face to have a song like this written about me. He just thinks she's beautiful and he's thrilled to be with her and just dancing. How sweet is that? I always get goosebumps, because I'm uber-sappy. That's how I roll.

    8--Faithfully by Journey. Every time I hear this one start up, I totally crank it and let my awkward inner teen get swept away by the lyrics. Awwwwwwwww he totally misses his woman!

    9--How Deep is Your Love by the Bee Gees. I have an extra-special tender spot for the Bee Gees. And this song always gets me, every time. *sniffle* I just love how they say, "we belong to you and me."

    10--Endless Love by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross. Come on...this was a gimme. Totally the ultimate cheese. "Two hearts...two hearts that beat as one..." and yet, I gobble it up every time and ask for more.

    Okay, seriously, I could go on all day, but now I wanna hear from you. What songs are your fav cheesy love songs? Dish it!

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    So here's the thing...

    I felt like today was a good day for a feel good video. And if a baby lamb running through the house playing hide and seek doesn't make you feel good, you're whackadoo.

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    monday already?

    Sorry about last week. I was almost on my death bed. Okay, not really, but I felt like much so that I couldn't muster up the energy to find my laptop, open it, and try to type. So lots of big thanks to Gwenny for posting for me!

    My 41st birthday was last Sunday (March 14). I remember a time when I thought 30 was old, so imagine my surprise to discover that being 41 isn't old at all! (my rotten kids totally disagree. Their problem, not mine)

    Age really is a state of mind. I never believed that until my 40th birthday. I felt better (and looked better) than I had in years. I was happy, healthy, and feeling great. No way was 40 old...and no way would I dread this decade. So I've embraced it. I have fun telling people my age and watching their eyes go wide. I'm doing my best to live this decade (and every decade henceforth) to the fullest.

    I wish I had done that a little earlier... so why don't you get started now. It's never too late (or too early) to embrace life.

    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    Happy Eostara

    Eostara, or Ostara, is one of my favorite holidays. It straddles March 20th and 21st, the Vernal Equinox. I usually begin the celebration with Saint Patrick's Day on the 17th, follow through with the beginning of the month of Alder on the 18th, and follow through til after the Equinox. If Easter falls in that range, too, so much the better!

    Old Irish traditions call this time of year Cutios, or "wind time." The Equinox brings us a wonderful time of balance-- day and night in equal portion and harmony. We get cold and warm days, soft and harsh days, and the bitter blanket of winter is stripped away to reveal a quilt of flowers. Crocuses and snowdrops come first. Birds start kicking up a ruckus. Tides go mental and everyone else seems to follow along.

    For me it's a time to revitalize, renew, and resurrect. I like to air out my heart, give my spirit a serious brushing, and open every window to clean stale air away. I always find myself refreshed and filled with ambition in this season.

    So Happy Eostara, or Joyous Equinox, or Welcome Alder Season! Now gimme some of those mini Cadbury Eggs!!

    Friday, March 19, 2010


    I'm so sorry. Looking at the post now, I see that I was supposed to have announced on Monday. For some reason I thought I was announcing today.

    Iheartmonster please email me at gwen @ gwenhayes dot com so we can exchange deets. And thanks for referencing the bend and snap, too.

    In other news---I'm having my website redone (again) trying to go for an edgy look. I like to pretend I'm edgy. Nobody buys it, but I still put myself out there.

    So,as readers--what are your favorite author sites and why do you like them? What annoys you about author websites. What do wish to see more of?

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    March Madness

    If you've been reading this blog since the start (March 2008), then you know that I'm a diehard duke basketball fan and that March is my favorite month of the year. I live and breathe basketball at this time of year, and for a good reason.

    The Big Dance!

    Bosses, get prepared for a slowdown in the office, because the Men's NCAA Tournament begins today. My work finally wised up and blocked access to the streaming video of the games last year.

    It's traditional to fill out brackets and pick the winners of each of the games, all the way up to the championship game. Even our nation's most famous basketball fan, President Barack Obama (whose brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, is the head coach at Oregon State) has released his bracket. Despite a personal assistant (Reggie Love) who played at Duke, the President has failed to choose my boys as a Final Four team again, even though they're a 1 seed.

    Obama's picks for the Final four are Kentucky, Kansas, Kansas State, and Villanova. But if his education secretary had his way, his pick to win it all -- Kentucky -- wouldn't even be there. (As a Duke fan, that cracks me up.)

    Arne Duncan has made headlines for calling for the the NCAA to ban post-season play for all schools that fail to graduate at least 40% of their student athletes. Under his plan, 12 teams with poor four-year average graduation rates would miss this year’s men’s basketball tournament:

    Baylor University (36 percent)
    Clemson University (37 percent)
    Georgia Institute of Technology (38 percent)
    New Mexico State University (36 percent)
    University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (29 percent)
    University of California at Berkeley (20 percent)
    University of Kentucky (31 percent)
    University of Louisville (38 percent)
    University of Maryland at College Park (8 percent)
    University of Missouri at Columbia (36 percent)
    University of Tennessee at Knoxville (30 percent)
    University of Washington (29 percent)

    As a girl who bleeds Duke Blue, the idea of Kentucky or Maryland not making it because of piss-poor graduation rates makes me chuckle. (We have long-standing rivalries with both those teams...not as long as our rivalry with UNC, but let's just say that I told my baby that she can go wherever she wants for college, as long as it's not UNC, UCONN, Kentucky, or Maryland.)

    I'm proud to point out that Duke's four-year graduation rate is 97%. :) Go Devils!

    Obviously Arne Duncan has no power to force the NCAA to adopt it, but it's clear he wants to put more of an emphasis on the "student" part of "student-athlete."

    So what do you think of this plan? Who are your rooting for in the tourney? Have you finished your bracket yet?

    (I should point out that my 3-month-old has even picked her own bracket. I read the names of the matchups out loud to her and whichever team she smiled or giggled at -- or at least didn't cry at -- was the one she chose to win that game.)

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Chat with me and enter to win an Amazon gift card!

    Hi, guys! I'm being a promo ho today--you know you love it! :D

    Fellow YA author Erin Lynn (author of Demon Envy and Speed Demon) and I will be chatting at Bitten By Books tomorrow, in part to celebrate the release of the second book in my trilogy, Flirting With Disaster. RSVP for a chance to win a $75 Amazon gift certificate (This link is for RSVP'ing, not the actual event link--that will be provided on the day of the event):

    Everybody who comes to the event and RSVP's before the event will get an additional 25 entries into the contest!!

    So please, RSVP and pop by tomorrow. I'll see you there! :D Hooray!

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    What's your personal shark?

    The phrase "jumped the shark" is used to talk about tv shows that have gone past the point of interest and it refers to the episode of Happy Days when Fonzie jumped the shark. At that moment, Happy Days was a shell of it's former self, lost in ridiculous, gimicky plots.

    Having said that, I think House is about to jump my personal shark. I tried to watch it last night, but found that for the most part, I just don't care. House is cranky, Wilson continues to pacify him, Cuddy sighs a lot, patients get cured in the last five minutes thanks to some amazing revelation. It's just a little boring and predictable.

    I stopped watching Grey's Anatomy about the time Katherine Heigl's character was having visions of her dead fiance. I stopped watching Heroes around the end of season two when you couldn't tell who was good, who was bad, or what year you were in. Ugly Betty lost me when the writers seemed to be pulling plotlines from bad '80's soap operas.

    Book series are like that for me too. After a certain point, some series just lose me. I've stopped reading at least three that just got so bloated and convoluted, I couldn't keep from rolling my eyes.

    How about you? How long do you stick with a book or tv series? Any shows you've given up on recently?

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Taylor Swift and Zombies

    Melly isn't feeling well today, so I get to post something to make her happy.

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Expect Great Things

    We really don't treat full figured women very well. I, of course, have lived with the prejudice most of my life. But my heart is aching for Gabourey Sidibe, who should be on top of the world in the wake of her amazing launch into show business as Precious in the independent movie of the same title.

    Yet her own director, Lee Daniels, made an embarrassing gaff about her weight at the NAACP awards. And Howard Stern opined that she would "never work again," as reported in the Huffington Post.

    Sadly, this speculation has NOT been limited to accidental gaffs or crass comments from hacks like Stern. Fox News speculated about the size of her red carpet dress. The E! channel fashion police team tip-toed around her carefully, clearly terrified of saying something socially incorrect. And many Hollywood rags have been defiantly addressing the "secret truth," that she is unlikely to get work again. (Just a few articles that came immediately following her Oscar nom: HERE, HERE, AND HERE)

    Funny... Ms Sidibe has already landed a gig... or two. She will be appearing in a feature for Showtime with Laura Linney and Oliver Platt, The C Word. She will also got a role in Yelling to the Sky, an independent film also featuring Don Cheadle. She is going to be guesting on a few tv series, as well.

    The thing that makes my heart fill with pride and admiration is that this young woman ( she's only 26) rises above it. In an interview with IndiWire she said “I think people look at me and don’t expect much. Even though, I expect a whole lot.”

    I expect magic from you, Ms. Sidibe. And I am quite confident in your ability to deliver.

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Win a free copy of FLIRTING WITH DISASTER

    Rhonda Stapleton's newest release came out this week. Do you have yours? Do you want one? Details below on how to win your own.

    Felicity is a total romantic. That's why she follows her heart—not the rules—in her job as a cupid. But when Felicity turns her matchmaking magic on her best friend, Andy, it's Andy who breaks their golden rule: friends always come first. Andy is so wrapped up in her new guy that she's ditching everyone else. How can Felicity stop her BFF from letting a BF come between them?

    Meanwhile, Felicity decides to get over her crush on Derek by setting him up with someone else—but in her impulsive haste, she accidentally matches him with the whole school, and now everyone is in love with him. The entire student body is headed toward heartbreak, just weeks before prom. Does Felicity have what it takes to make everyone's heart happy...including her own?




    Barnes & Noble




    Tell us your best flirty move in the comments below. You have through Sunday the 14th, winner announced Monday. Good luck!

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Reading at a Young Age

    If you follow this blog, it's a pretty safe bet you love books. i mean, I know we're hilarious and awesome and all, but you probably wouldn't have found us unless you're a YA fan. Unless you're related to us, of course.

    But those of you who aren't our actual family are probably all YA readers. and not just readers, but big readers. And you've probably always had a love of reading.

    I've been reading to my 3-month-old since she was a teeny tiny baby in the NICU. It's really fun to see the change in her during storytime.

    In the NICU, she just slept while I read. Then when she was a few weeks old, she would be awake, but looking at me, not the pictures. At about 1 month, she started attentively staring at the pictures.

    Around a month and a half, she started to seem to recognize the story if it was one we'd read several times before. She particularly loves "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" by Bill Martin and Eric Carle and "Shampoodle" by Joan Holub (shout out to Joan, who follows this blog! She actually giggles when we read this one!!!!). About that same time, she started tracking. When I would read her a story with both words and pictures on both pages of a two-page spread, she would look at the correct page at the right time. I know it's because she could see which page I was looking at, but still, that's kinda cool, you know?

    Then around 2 1/2 months, she started grabbing the pages and trying her best to turn them for mommy. :)

    A couple of weeks ago, we started going to "Babytime" at the library. It's baby storytime for babies under 12 months old. We sing songs, do lap bounces, finger play, and listen to stories. Let me tell you...30 babies, mommies, daddies, and nannies in a room is cuteness overload!

    I love that she's already so interested in books, because that's such a huge part of who I am.

    So what about you? Did you love books at an early age? What age did you learn how to read? What were some of your favorite books when you were little?

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Go Ahead, Ask Me

    Okay, my brain is a pile of mush today. haha. My book FLIRTING WITH DISASTER released yesterday, and I'm still floating on cloud 9. So, I decided to discuss a cool book I read recently, and throw out a few Qs from it for you guys to answer.

    The book is called GO AHEAD, ASK ME. by Nico Medina and Billy Merrell (that's the cover above). Some of you may remember that we had an interview with Nico a couple of years ago about his hilarious book FAT HOOCHIE PROM QUEEN. Anyway, he and his partner wrote this super-funny and often squirm-inducing Q and A book -- it came out in October 2009 with Simon Pulse.

    Basically, the point is to get a group of friends together and ask each other questions. Some of them are very innocent and sweet. Others are really edgy and may make you feel uncomfortable. But there are a bounty of 500 questions to choose from, so you're bound to have hours of fun getting to know your friends better. I definitely recommend this book for older teens and adults--some of the questions are not appropriate for younger kids. LOL trust me.

    Okay, I'm going to ask you guys a few Qs from the book, and I'll answer them in the comments. Looking forward to hearing you dish it!

    1--Hot or not: cigars.

    2--What was the worst book assigned by your English teacher? What was the best?

    3--Who would you most like to punch in the face?

    4--Would you rather give up your cell phone or your computer?

    5--What's worse--too much makeup or too much perfume?

    Anyway, there are a TON more questions in the book, but right now, I'm interested in hearing your answers. So, take it away, and run out to buy this book!

    Tuesday, March 09, 2010

    The cog in the machine

    Unless you've had your iPod cranked and you've been living in a crack in the earth, you've probably heard at least the slightest noise about the rise of the steampunk genre. New books are cropping up every day and even movies seem to be giving it a nod lately.

    What do you think? Are you reading it? Recommending it? Do you love it, hate it or does it leave you indifferent? Would you like to see more of it? If you like it, what do you like about it? If you hate it, why does it evoke that emotion in you?

    Personally, I think it's pretty stinking cool. I love the gritty, shiny, brassy feel of it. The barely restrained technology, the fashion, the manners, the daredevilness. It feels both brand new and deliciously antique at the same time.

    What about you? Talk steamy to me!

    Monday, March 08, 2010

    d00d! Where's my head?

    I blog on Mondays here at Ficitonistas and usually I get up first thing int he morning and hammer it out. I rarely post my blog after 9 a.m.

    Notice the time now? Um 3:19 p.m. CST. Yeah. That's right. I'm a little late.

    Sorry. I blame the weather. Because it's finally gorgeous here and I was so caught up with spring fever that I forgot all about my blogging duties.

    I love spring. The daffodils and crocuses are blooming. Leaf buds are forming on the trees. The sky is that beautiful blue that you only see this time of year. Yes, it's wonderful.

    My favorite part of the spring is waking up and having coffee on my back porch or sipping a glass of wine in the same spot just before I go to bed. It's cool, but not too cold. And the air has that crisp new spring smell in it that makes me happy.

    What's your favorite thing about spring?

    Saturday, March 06, 2010

    Spoiling for a Fight

    I suppose knowing you are in a bad mood is half the battle, so to speak. But I have to say, I have been spoiling for a fight almost all week. I know myself well enough to recognize that it's me, and my circumstances. But I also can't seem to resist the urge to throw down a gauntlet... again and again, in fact.

    See the problem is my man knows me. He's been deliberately, belligerently cheerful all week. He knows I had a hellish end to February, plowed head-first into March with a chip on my shoulder, and would dearly love to bait him into a big blow up. So he has been really nice.

    Big jerk.

    I suppose I could fall back on my old habit of finding a rock at the very end of the Green Harbor jetty, where it's too deep for anyone to be swimming, and break glass. I like the sound it makes when it smashes on the rocks, know it won't be hurting anyone, and kind of like looking for the soft-focus, smooth-edged seaglass it will become later on. Sometimes I see an unusual shade (mauve, lilac) and even recognize it. AH! How pretty! I think that was the wine bottle of our big blow up in May of 2003.

    So I have been scarce on the interwebs because let's face it, there has never been primer real estate for fight picking. And since I know it's ME, not the easy targets of weblandia... well, it's just not healthy to give in.

    But man... I would dearly love to slug somebody right now. Anyone feeling very... victimy? No? K.

    Friday, March 05, 2010

    Interview with Daniel Victor from Neverending White Lights

    A very important part of my writing creative process is finding the right mood music to go along with my book. One Canadian band, Neverending White Lights seems to magically appear on all my playlists--no matter what kind of story I'm writing. There is a universal quality to the music that seems to always fit.

    I recently sat down with Daniel Victor, the man behind the music. And by sat down with, I mean, I'm assuming he was sitting down when he emailed me back the answers to my questions.

    I was, of course, calm, cool, and collected as I always am when I interview rockstars.

    Gwen: Your Wikipedia page, because you are cool enough to have one, states that you started your musical education very early in life and taught yourself many instruments by ear. Did you always know that you were going to pursue music as a career or was there an epiphany at some point that led you there?

    Daniel: Yes, I knew since my furtherest memory back to childhood that I was going to pursue music as a career. My father played an integral role in exposing me to a lot of great music as a child, and I've always had a natural feeling that I would end up doing something music-related. I never doubted it or questioned it. I followed my heart and my vision the whole way, and it felt right to be where I was when I released my first album and began my career.

    G: How do you feel about college/university? Did your experiences there shape your music even though you didn't study music?

    I think every experience in life shapes you someway. We are the sum of all our experiences, one way or another. For me, University was a very fun time. It was actually more about the social aspect for me, and the experience of being somewhere new I'd never been in my life. It represented a coming of age, maturity, and independence. Gone were the days of old friends and the safe haven of high school, and in came new faces, a new type of educations system, and the next chapter of my life. Though I did well in my program, I knew I wasn't going to use much of the actual education I got in my musical career, instead it was more about the exercise of learning how to learn different, and tying in all the new experiences together. I made some great friends those years, and also spent a lot of time performing at the local pubs playing acoustic shows. Those times were some of the best I ever had.

    Towards the later part of my University career, I focused my studies on world views/religions and spirituality, a series of topics I've always felt very compelled to learn more about. These subjects eventually opened my mind up to new concept about life and existence. I continued reading and studying further in the years after and much of what I learned inspired the lyrics to my first album, and set my mind in a more focused direction. Rather than writing albums of love and every day experiences, I was writing more about the bigger picture, more existential, about existence and spirits and death. I still read and study those concept today.

    The first album by Neverending White Lights was quite an undertaking for a debut producer. That it was also your debut album as a writer--and the fact that you did all the mixing and played all the instruments on every track--seems like one of the following: a) you have no fear--at all. Of anything. Ever. b) you are a might bit of a control freak c) you just knew the project was magic d) you actually have a factory full of Oompa Loompas that you're not telling anyone about

    The idea to take on so much on my own certainly speaks of my character. I am a bit of a control freak maybe when I feel the need to have to do things myself. I think initially, I wanted to prove to myself that I didn't need to rely on anyone to make my vision possible. I was under the impression that working with someone else on something that I had mapped out so specifically would actually counter-act the final product. We all have ways that we want to prove things to ourselves, and this was one of mine.

    Was it worth all the stress? Yes and no. People probably don't care or realize that it was a one-man operation, or that when they listen to a song like "The Grace" there's no "band" working with a producer and mixing engineer, that it's just one dude with a singer. It would be nice to know that more people understood that. On my second album, I continued the process even more so, and by the third (current) album I'm still at it. But I've recently grown a bit burnt out by doing too much on my own, and I hope to work with a band, or at least a producer on the next album.

    It just comes down to drive and motivation. You can build a house on your own, but it will take some time and a lot of planning. Is it better to get help? Probably. But, to each his own. That debut album had to be just right, and I wanted to make sure it had the influence of on man's brain only.

    G: What was happening in your mind and soul when you decided that not only were you taking on this challenge, but that failure wasn't an option? Did people take you seriously right away?

    D: Failure has never been an option for me. And I always envisioned great accomplishments, much like the ones I achieved. People did in fact take me seriously off the bat. I had contacted a lot of the singers and guests without having ever released a single piece of music, so no one knew who I was. The music and project had to speak for itself, and it spoke volumes to get these fantastic performers on board. It just got bigger from there.

    G: I write paranormal fiction and your spiritually charged music taps something inside that helps me get to "that place" in my head. How do you get to "that place" in your head? Where does your inspiration come from?

    D: I'm always in that place in my head. Sometimes I wish I could get out. It's the default position for me. I'm always inspired and always carrying ideas around. When I live my everyday life, I always feel detached from society and "inside my head". It makes me seem off or quiet to people at times, and means that a good solid drink will certainly help me to try to be more like those around me. I always felt like that, and my music and writing is the channel to get it out of my brain.

    G: You've been pretty open on your own blog about the struggles of producing the third NWL album. What is different about Act III from the first two? Is the pressure you're feeling more internal or external? Do you feel that sharing the ups and downs through social media has enhanced a symbiotic relationship with your fans and is that a good thing for your music--do their reactions feed your creativity to or take away from it?

    D: This record is different because of the point I'm at in my career. I've had success, but the music industry is changing and as an artist there's a lot of pressure to maintain a certain status. Of course that comes from external sources, but it's always very important for me to succeed out there in order to make a living. However, on the other side, I put pressure on myself to evolve musically, and to make something better than my last album.

    I think I became too obsessed with trying to outdo myself that most of the music actually ended up collapsing on itself. Sharing the ups and downs with my fans is a part of therapy for me. The way I see it it, is that it feels good to share these moments in time with people who want to know. As a fan of music and bands myself, I love learning about the process of my favourite groups, it makes those albums mean so much more. I want to allow people who love my music to have the same opportunity. There reactions usually keep me going. Knowing that people still care about me when I've been out of the spotlight for awhile and struggling gives me hope.

    G: Do you prefer live performing or recording--or do you get different things from both?

    D: I prefer being in a recording studio and watching creations come to life. It's very rewarding, and if you don't get too stressed out about it, it's a lot of fun. When a song turns into this amazing piece of art from such a small beginning because I took all the right little steps along the way, it's like completing a puzzle. It just feels good to look at it. But I love performing live because of the energy I get to share with my audience. It's fun to perform songs live and deliver them in new places to new people. The experience of travelling is fun too, and I've had some great times across this country. I'm not big on having to sing song that other vocalists have become known for, since I'm not a singer. I'm a producer. That is the one thing that bothers me. But otherwise, it's great to make an album and then try to bring it to life in front of an audience.

    G: One of my characters rocks the Victorian/Goth clothes you favor in your videos and shows. Why do you think the aesthetics of that era call to you? And do you like the Steampunk movement?

    I've always liked fashion and the idea of presenting yourself well. I believe that what you wear dictates your behaviour. Put someone in a baggy jogging suit and they're attitude shifts one way. Put them in a tuxedo and they'd probably stand a bit straighter. For me, I wanted to find something that would work well with my music and give me and my live band something different than the usual rock groups. I've always loved Victorian fashion, and movies set in 18th and 19th century times. I always romanticized about how wonderful it was that people dressed up everyday all the time, not just on a special occasion. I think people were just more dignified then. My music has obvious classical influences, and also theatrical influences. It's not cheap and disposable, but classic and timeless. Victorian/Goth is a great vehicle to carry the musical aesthetics into fashion for me. It's a modern twist on a something that has charm.

    I love the Steampunk movement and would love to fill my closet with many of those designs. It's difficult to find new pieces around here that suit me, so I mostly stick to the same type of uniform/outfit when I perform live and do photo shoots. I love black and white. White shirts with scarves, a vest, and black pants. Any variation on this works for me. But I delve into straight Goth sometimes in my collection, and straight vintage also. But Steampunk seems very intriguing. It reminds me of the Tim Burton type themes that I give some of my visuals.

    What does Daniel Victor read?

    D: I read mostly non-fiction. I have a large collection of books that are about spirituality, many are skeptics-type books debunking notions of organized religions in truth-seeking/scientific background. I love being well-informed on these subjects. So many people don't bother to question those institutions, but it's rewarding. When I'm not reading about religions topics, the only fiction author I need to always have around me is H.P Lovecraft. His stories I've read over and over, and I have pretty much all his works. He has a very descriptive style of building a story up from the tinniest detail through pages and pages of anticipation only to nail the reader with one line or sentence at the end that leaves you feeling uncomfortable. It's great.

    G: I hear a lot of Canadian music because I live near the border between our countries. Are you planning on reaching out to more US listeners and going mainstream, or do you feel like too much popularity dilutes your craft? Is a deal with a major label even something you want? I imagine it would be hard to keep as much control as you have now, but on the flip side that might be better for your health.

    D: I want to get out to as many listeners all around the world as I can, especially the US and UK. NWL started out fairly mainstream, so I don't really have to "go more mainstream" per se. I could do that if I decided to make music that was more pop oriented, or more commercial, but for now it's a balance between very rich and diverse albums with a song or two that crosses into the charts. I'm fine with that, but I think it's getting near time to try to push NWL further into the light, instead of back into the dark. And with the industry falling apart, there's really no such thing as selling out anymore. I want to find a way to bring my music to a more popular level without compromising too much of my sound.

    G: If you could go back in time and talk to Teenage Dan, what advice would you give him?

    D: Well, since I don't believe in regrets, I wouldn't try to change anything. And I've always kept a pretty open mind and clear head about things so my philosophies now aren't really much different than they used to be. But I would probably tell myself to generally not take anything too seriously. I've learned that more in the past few years, I've mellowed out considerably. I've tried to lose the stress. The only thing that gets to me is my craft, my music, the process, it's impossible for me not to get caught up in it. But, I used to worry all the time about everything. Now I've just learned it's not worth it.

    G: Thanks again for doing this. I'd say "you rock" but that would be horribly, horribly cliche. So, instead, I'll just say I think you're a swell guy.

    D: Thanks Gwen, my pleasure!

    You can find out more about Daniel Victor and Neverending White Light at his website, MySpace, and Twitter.

    Thursday, March 04, 2010

    YA Workshop in DC next week

    Hey there DC area 'Nista readers...come check out the Washington Romance Writers March meeting next Saturday (March 13) at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Service Center.

    In the morning is a special panel discussion on the YA market, moderated by yours truly. The panelists are Elizabeth Scott, Diana Peterfreund, Pam Bachorz, and our very own Rhonda Stapleton.

    In the afternoon, Rhonda takes over, presenting two special workshops. First up is "Writing the YA Romantic Comedy." Then is "The Fiction Wrier's Self-Editing Workshop."

    So come join us!

    Wednesday, March 03, 2010

    I gots the blues

    Right now, I got the low-down, dirty, funky, rotten blues. Ever get like that, where you feel like things just don't seem to go the way you want or need them to? Whether it's reality or not, it's hard to shake the dumps when it hits you hard. And what's extra sucky is it affects everything you're doing--so even the stuff that's going great loses its lustor because of how crappy you feel.

    I hate feeling this way. Therefore, I think some kind of therapeutic solution is called for right about now.

    What do you do to get rid of the blues? I'm open to just about any tip/trick right about now. But I'd prefer suggestions that don't involve eating or spending gratuitous amounts of money. LOL

    Tuesday, March 02, 2010

    Down time

    Down time is something that seems to be in short supply in most people's lives. I'm not just talking about a day off, but rather a day off where you don't have to do homework, clean out the garage, run errands that take all day, give the dog a bath or reorganize your closet.

    I'm talking about a day off where you don't have to do anything but whatever you really, really want to do. Kind of like a day when you stay home from school sick, but about an hour after the first bell would have rung, you feel completely well again.

    What would you spend your time doing on a day like that? And what if, like today's weather where I live, it was icky and rainy outside? For me, it's a combination of things - old movies, good books and Wii.

    What about you? What would you do with some real down time?

    Monday, March 01, 2010

    the Olympics are FINALLY over

    Thank Goodness.

    I accidentally watched the olympics this year once when I was at a bar and they had Curling on TV. Um. Yeah. this SNL skit sums it up perfectly for me:

    I wanna like Curling...but really, it just looks like they're sweeping. And I do enough of that at home, so I'll pass. Thanks.

    I really don't enjoy the winter Olympics at all. I know I'm probably the only person in the world who doesn't and I'm sure y'all are throwing virtual tomatoes as I type this, but I can't help it. They bore the crap outta me...and I'm always cold when I watch.

    I'm never happy when I'm cold.

    So now we can get back to regular TV and I can be happy again.

    Carry on.