Saturday, July 30, 2016

Two Words or Phrases That Make Me Laugh: Thirty Day Writing Challenge Day 12

I am quite fond of laughing. I laugh a lot. Actually, I'm more of a giggler. I don't know if that's a good thing - the giggling part - but I do know that it's pretty easy to elicit a happy response from me.

When I saw this topic, I knew it was going to be hard to pick just two things. Like I said, I really like to laugh. I came up with several things that I consistently find funny ... but that would have been hard to write in the proper context.

I don't cuss a lot, but I do cuss. I am definitely not offended by it, and often times I find it incredibly funny. I have been reading a soon to be released novel by an author I greatly admire. (Both novel and author will remain unnamed here - you know who you are.) Every time one of his characters uses a certain curse word, it makes me laugh. I don't know why. It just does. 

The word 'asshat' makes me laugh. Don't try to figure out the reasons behind this ... not even I can explain it. The first time I saw it in print was in an H.P. Mallory novel. When I read it, I found it absolutely hysterical. I'd heard it before, but seeing it on my Kindle screen made me giggle ... so much so that whenever I think about, it still cracks me up. Yes, by the way, I guess I am still a twelve-year-old child. Life is serious. You need to get your entertainment where you can.

I, like a lot of other people, love the show Friends. If you hang out in my house, you'll hear a lot of Friends references around here. One of my favorites is moo point. It's a cow's opinion. It doesn't matter. We say that all the time, and it always makes me laugh. If you haven't seen it, or want a fun reminder, check out the video below. Go ahead. Click on it. It's short and sweet and it'll make you laugh.

I'm laughing more often than I'm not. If I'm not laughing, (or at least smiling) people who know me wonder what's wrong. Annoying? Maybe. Especially if you're not a fan of giggling. I can't stop, but if you ask me nicely I'll try to be quiet about it.

Friday, July 29, 2016

My Current Relationship: Thirty Day Writing Challenge Day 11

I am a happily married woman. :)

Ready for some relationship math? Okay, here goes ...

I met Steven when I was sixteen, so I've known him for twenty-nine years.

Our wedding day was March 11, 1995, which means we've been married for a little over twenty-one years. I'm not sure how he's put up with me for so long - but I'm glad he has. 

The first time we met was a sad day for me. My aunt had just given birth to her first child - and lost him the same day. I was (and still am) very close to my aunt. I'd lived with her for some time during the previous summer trying to help her out because she was on bed rest. I was at my locker, teary-eyed and distracted, and Steven came up to me and asked me if I was okay. We went to a small high school, but I didn't start attending until that year. Everyone knew everyone else, but I had been the new girl that year, and I didn't know Steven. I was not okay, and his asking meant the world to me.

He always thought I was too young to date. He's two years older than me, and was a senior that year. We did go out many times, but it was always with our good, mutual friend, Shawn. Steven lived in Idaho Springs (where our high school was) and Shawn and I lived in Evergreen. The three of us would go and watch movies in a theater off of 6th Avenue, and hang out afterwards at the Pizza Hut. I had a huge crush on Steven, but if he knew it, he didn't let on.

It was more than just group dates. I was a competitive ice skater back then, and Steven came to see me perform in an ice show at my rink near Denver. He also came and watched me skate in the opening ceremony for the 1988 Nationals. 

After his graduation, I saw him every so often at school. He came back and played in the pit orchestra for one of the plays I was in, and he helped his younger brother D.J. a few dances. I hadn't heard from him for a while when my high school career came to an end, so I was very surprised to see him in the stands on my graduation day. He'd come to see me and a couple other friends graduate - and he'd brought me a card and a rose.

Our first official date - just him and me - took place just a few weeks later. It involved another movie and more pizza. There was more to it, though. His parents were thinking about buying a van, so Steven and I drove up and down Broadway and ran through car lots in the rain. 

I didn't see Steven again for a while after that. Life got a little crazy for me for the next four years or so, and he went off to college - CU in Boulder. We lost touch until I was sitting at work one day in January. It was the fourth, and I had a very strange feeling that there was something significant about that particular day. I spent hours trying to figure it out. Later that afternoon, I pulled my address book out - I don't remember now why - and came across Steven's old contact info there in the pages. Next to his name I'd written his birth date down. It was January 4th.

I figured that was too coincidental to ignore, so I sat down at work - I was an authorizations clerk for Visa/MC at the time and hooked up to a computer with a headset stuck to me - and I wrote Steven a letter. I just said hello and wished him a happy birthday. Then I put his parents' address on it, because I had no idea where he was at the time, and hoped it would reach him. 

I didn't think much about the letter after I dropped it into the mail box, and was surprised when I received a response. Turns out that Steven was at home in Idaho Springs when my letter arrived. He hadn't yet gone back to school after his winter break. He included his parents' phone number along with his reply - a number I still had memorized from my time as a sophomore in high school - and I called him. We set up a date for February 9th ... and we've been together ever since.

The first photo ever taken of us as a couple. This was a few days before my 21st birthday in March, 1992.
This was taken a couple months later - May, I think - up at Echo Lake. We'd just been in a wedding for one of Steven's oldest friends.
On October 29, 1994, Steven proposed to me. Of course I said yes, and we got married the following March.

Our reception at Boettcher Mansion on Lookout Mountain.
Four years later, we had our first child, a daughter, and our son came in late 2002.

November, 2003
Steven and I have moved nine times, lived in seven cities, one village, two states and two countries. We haven't experienced many dull moments.

At Westminster Abbey in London, May 2013
At the Colorado Springs Hot Air Balloon Festival in late August, 2014

We've had a lot of adventures together, Steven and I. I'm looking forward to what lies in store for us. Whatever happens, we're stuck with one another. I, for one, am very happy about that.

July, 2015

In Five Years I'd Like ...

Well, in five years I'll be the big 5 - 0. Give me a second to ponder that if you will.

Okay, I'm back. 

In five years, my daughter will be twenty-two, and my son will be graduating from high school. I will have successfully homeschooled both kids from Kindergarten through their senior years, and I will be beginning a life without teaching. In five years I have no doubt that I will be missing homeschooling very much indeed. 

It would come as a surprise to me if I am still living here in Colorado Springs five years from now. I am a Colorado native, but the Springs has been my least favorite place to live in the state. I do love my house, but I won't stay here for very long. My dream is to live by the ocean. It has been for a very long time. Perhaps in that time you will find me on the coast writing my next novel.

Speaking of novels - in five years I will have completed the Gannon Family Series, and the Goddess of Tornado Alley books as well. I've been averaging about a book a year - although in 2017, I have two scheduled releases - so in 2021, I should have at least eleven books published. I might even know what all of those books will be even as I type this. Oh, yes. I have a lot of fun writing ahead of me.

I might weigh less. I certainly won't talk or write any less. The puppies will no longer be puppies, (and will have, hopefully, found a bit of calm in their maturity.) Mouse will, undoubtedly, be a cranky, but lovable cat. (He will still be harboring resentment over the cross country move he endured five years previously. You know felines are famous for holding grudges.)

Maybe in five years I can go on that trip to Greece I've always wanted to take. Or perhaps it will be Scotland. I need to cross the Skye Bridge and visit Portree - maybe dip my toes in the fairy pools and have a shot of Talisker whisky.

I hope I will have gotten a chance to meet some of the incredible authors and readers I am long distance friends with today. If any of you are up for an adventure, give me a shout. I plan to have a sailboat by then, too. You can climb aboard and we'll adventure a bit together.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Fruit I Dislike - and Why: Thirty Day Writing Challenge Day 10

Technically, a tomato is a fruit, right? So, I really should be writing about my dislike for tomatoes. 


It's a texture thing. It's the grainy, and then the seedy-sliminess of the whole thing - and all of it mixed in together. (Shudders) Oof. Nope, raw tomatoes are definitely not my thing. Cooked? Great! In sauces? Give me another helping. Raw? Fuggedaboudit. I've spent a lifetime picking tomatoes out of things. It's just kind of a part of who I am.

I don't really think about tomatoes as being fruits, though, so it wasn't the first thing that came to mind when I sat down to write this post. First, let me tell you just how much I love fruit.

That's one of the best parts of summer for me, the juicy, ripe, wonderful fruit. Watermelon ... plums ... peaches ... Oh, yes, definitely the peaches! I might be hungry.

I grew up on fruit, but I can't remember ever eating a kiwi as a child. I'm not sure why ... I would assume that my parents bought them. They are a little strange looking. Perhaps I didn't choose a kiwi because it was a bit odd. Honestly, I have no recollection of this little fruit from my childhood. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I bought one and gave it a try.

It might have tasted okay ... I guess I'm not quite sure because I couldn't get around the bothersome sensation of my tongue and lips tingling and burning when I put it in my mouth. I tried it again. Very strange. Nope, tried it, not my favorite. I just thought I had an aversion to it. So many people like kiwi - a lot like those dreaded raw tomatoes - I figured it was just me.

Until I looked it up. That's when I found out that I'm actually allergic to kiwis. The handful of articles I read say that there are a lot of people who are. I'm not allergic to much. There's a type of antibiotics I can't take called cephalosporins. (I remember that only because it makes me think of "cephalopod". I know, squids and antibiotics are nothing alike, but it's word association. When I have to fill out all that tedious paperwork at the doctor's office, I automatically think: squid = sick. Or something like that.)

But I digress.

Raw tomatoes are horrible, awful, vile ... just gross. As disgusting as they are, though, at least they've never tried to kill me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My Thoughts on Ageism: Thirty Day Writing Challenge Day 9

Ageism: prejudice or discrimination on the basis of a person's age.

When I saw that ageism was the topic for today's post, it took me a little by surprise. I'm not sure why ... I guess I had it in my head that it seemed random. It didn't seem like something that came into my thoughts all that much. But then I gave it some consideration and I realized that it is something I think about. Actually, I think about it quite a lot.

It hasn't been until recently that I've applied the idea of ageism to my own life. I've heard my mom and my aunts talk about it for several years - how once a woman gets to be a certain age she becomes almost invisible - and I'm not quite there yet, but I see it.

You hear it all the time - Men get distinguished with age, but women just get old. Women are constantly coloring the gray out of their hair and getting Botox and collagen injections while men turn into silver foxes and grow more handsome and rugged as the years roll by. Does that part of it bother me? Yeah, okay ... it does a little. Is it unfair? Sure, but even I can't deny how incredibly handsome some older men are. (Tom Selleck and Harrison Ford, I'm lookin' at you.) There is a long list of beautiful women out there who are no longer considered to be 'in their prime' ... whenever that specific time is supposed to be. A few that really stand out for me are Helen Mirren, Mary Steenburgen and Alfre Woodard. Look like any of them at sixty-five and older? Um, yes, please.

The people I mentioned above are all celebrities - but I have many 'real life' folks all around me to illustrate the above point. My parents are prime examples. My mom is over sixty, while my step-dad is over seventy. I hear from them all the time about how they're getting old ... but I haven't seen them slow down a whole lot. They've always been incredible active and ready to take on the world. They ride roller coasters with their grandkids, they hike and snowshoe, they travel all over the country. Hell, my mom was water skiing just a few weeks ago. "Old" is not a word I think of when I go to describe either one of them. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever see them as anything but who they are now.

My great grandfather was ninety-seven when he passed away. He used to babysit me even at an advanced age. Why was he so good at it? Probably because he still remembered what it was like to be a child. It never took any effort at all for him to slip into playmate mode, and I remember the 'play dates' I had with him were some of the most enjoyable.

Ageism exists. I wish it, like so many other things, didn't, but it's a part of our society. For me, I stick to the belief that you are as old as you feel, and that anyone can accomplish anything, regardless of how many years they've spent on this earth.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Book I Love - and One I Didn't: Thirty Day Writing Challenge Day 8

I struggled with this topic. I wasn't sure which two books I was going to write about ... but then it came to me. How about two books written by the same author, dealing with the same story line? The topic then became a lot less difficult, and I was eager to write this post. As with everything, writing is all about perspective, isn't it?

I read. I read a lot. The genre I seem to be most drawn to is southern lit, or southern fiction, but, in all honesty, I really like a lot of genres. Mystery, young adult, even horror when the mood suits. Back before kids, back before I was serious writer, back before I owned my own editing business - you know, back when I had spare time - I used to go to Barnes & Noble and peruse the shelves and shelves of books. I'd decide on a section and I'd just pick a book. I'd base my choice on the title, and then - even though you're taught at a very young age not to do this - I'd look at the cover. I'd find something that intrigued me by an author I'd never read and I'd buy the book. That's how I found Elizabeth George

The book I picked up was one of her Inspector Lynley novels. Out of the twenty she's published, I've read fifteen. These are crime/mystery novels. Inspector Lynley works for New Scotland Yard. He and the rest of the cast of characters are gritty and colorful, and the setting is always intriguing. To keep with the topic of this post, however, I have chosen two books in which I want to write about.
The Book I Love - With No One As Witness
This is the thirteenth book in the series, and George has spent a great deal of time introducing her characters and getting her readers acquainted with them. We've learned about these people, have seen their good and bad sides, and have decided whether or not we like them. I don't really want to throw any spoilers out there - I really hate spoilers - but someone dies. Rather, this someone is murdered, and it's a huge shock to someone like me, someone who has read all the previous books in the series. It, like the rest of George's books, is so well written, and I felt anguish, and anger ... and shared the heartbreak for the other characters. This is good story telling. I mean, yes, it sucks that a beloved character has been killed off ... but it's a mystery/suspense novel. That's what's supposed to happen! The death of this character continued to propel this series forward, and I was incredibly eager to get my hands on the next novel.
The One I Didn't - What Came Before He Shot Her

The title is a spoiler all on it's own ... but I will continue to save for you the 'her' and the 'he' that shot her. 

I had such high hopes for this novel, and when I began reading, I was even more excited to find that it basically took the whole timeline from the book before it and told the story again - but in the perspective of the killer. Genius! What an excellent idea! 

Only when I found out who the killer was - and then the story behind the shooting - my excitement was greatly diminished. Perhaps I wanted her death to mean something. Perhaps I wanted more of a mystery, more of an unveiling ... an intriguing tale to explain the reason for such a horrible act. What I got instead was a story that made me feel a bit deflated. There wasn't any intrigue in it ... the events that brought the killer to his crime, and what happens in his life both before and afterward, just made me feel sad. Sad and disappointed. I had grown accustomed to the way George tells a story, and I was relying on the twists, turns and revelations I'd encountered in her previous books. I knew from past experience that when I cracked open What Came Before He Shot Her that I was going to be rewarded with a 'why' that would make the previous book even better. While her writing was every bit as good in this book as it was in the others, I didn't get that 'why'. I didn't get what I was hoping for. 

I'm a writer, so I know from experience just how hard it is to keep readers happy. I don't have nearly the following that George has, and I have never written a mystery/suspense novel. I imagine the intensity in which one has to work to keep that tension, that surprise intact is incredibly taxing. George is very good at it. Just because I was looking for something different than she delivered doesn't make What Came Before He Shot Her a bad book. I don't know what other readers thought of it. For all I know, the fault lies with me and unreasonable expectations. I'd be more than willing to shoulder the blame for this one, especially considering George's impeccable track record for writing a boat load of bestselling novels.

I would (and often do) recommend Elizabeth George to anyone looking for a great mystery. She's a spectacular writer. She's written a young adult series, and has several other works published as well. If you're interested in a list of her books, this one is from her official website. 

If you read these two novels, I'd love to get your take on them. I'd actually be quite happy to hear that the disappointment I felt was self-inflicted, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the incredible writer who penned them.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Personal Tattoos and Their Meaning: Thirty Day Writing Challenge Day 7

So, the question is, do I have any tattoos?

I do, actually.

How many?

Just one.

One very special one.

Do you get to see it?

Nope. I don't even get to see it ... at least not all that often. I have a cute, if not a bit sassy, little fairy who stands on the back of my left shoulder. She's been there for twenty-six years now, and she's a bit faded I'm afraid. When I do check on her in the mirror once in a while, I feel sad that she's lost some of her vibrancy. Maybe someday I'll go and have her re-colored. She's a spunky little thing ... she should get some of her pizazz back.

This is what my tattoo looks like for those of you who are curious about her.

I wrote something  not long ago about Tink. If you're interested in reading it, you can find that post here. This is what I said about the little pixie, and may explain a bit why I chose her when I decided to go and get inked.

"I don't remember exactly when I began to be intrigued by the tale of Peter Pan. I know it had everything to do with reading the book - or a version of it - when I was a child. I think I was about seven or eight at the time ... and I loved Peter and Wendy, but the character that really struck a chord with me was Tinker Bell. Oh  my, was she feisty! She was nothing like me. I was a very shy little girl. I was afraid ... well, of everything, really if I'm honest. I was friendly and so wanted to please everyone ... but I was so very, very timid. In Barrie's book, the extremes in Tink's personality are explained by the fact that a fairy's size prevents her from holding more than one feeling at a time. I'm totally different. I've always felt so many things all at once ... and I feel them in a big way. I was (and still am in many ways) Tink's polar opposite, and this little fairy intrigued me so very much."

When I was nineteen, my boyfriend and I decided to go and get tattoos. It had been something I'd thought about, and knew exactly what I wanted should I ever actually do it. He was from Virginia, and decided he wanted a Confederate flag inked on his bulging bicep. I always thought he was pretty tough ... that is until the needle came out. He backpedaled a bit and claimed he wouldn't go through with it unless I went first, so I did. I wanted Tink on my ankle, but the guy who donned the rubber gloves told me it would hurt a lot there. I should have sucked it up, but I didn't. It took about fifteen minutes, and then I had a pixie on my shoulder. My boyfriend's flag turned out nice ... but it wasn't exactly centered. It waved a bit of the mark. Serves him right for being such a candy ass.

Okay ... so maybe I'm more like Tink than I give myself credit for.

I've thought about getting another tattoo over the years, but I have never been very committed to the idea. I'm glad I got Tink, but I think she's fine flying solo.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Person Who Fascinates Me ... and Why: Thirty Day Writing Challenge Day 6

I thought about this topic for some time. Truth is, there are many people who fascinate me, and it would have been fun to write about any of them. I decided to go with an author for this particular post - you know, since it's part of a writing challenge and all, I thought that was appropriate. 

There are a bunch of authors who fascinate me. Let's face it, it's kind of their job, right? An author who isn't fascinating is, well, boring. The list of fascinating authors whom I enjoy to read is lengthy, but because I'm feeling a bit introspective this weekend ... because I've felt just the tiniest bit off for the last couple of days, I chose to write about Sarah Addison Allen

Sarah's first book was published in 2007, but I didn't discover her until several years later. When we lived in North Carolina, a librarian friend introduced Allen to me. They were promoting local (or at least in state) authors, and Sarah hails from Asheville. My most favorite genre has long been southern fiction. I'm pretty sure that started with Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird back in ninth grade. Something about the feel of that book struck a chord that resonated strongly in me, and I've been drawn to it ever since. 

According to Sarah's website, she describes her books as "Southern-fried magic realism." Other people have said her fiction is "a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town sensibility."  It's feel good fiction. It's sweet and surprising. It's magical and uplifting. I don't know where her stories will take me when I first open a book ... but I know without a doubt that I will enjoy the journey, and that I will feel better about life in general once I've read the last sentence. Reading one of her books is like getting a big hug from a friend who really gets me. It's therapy in a way. That's kind of gooey and squishy ... sentimental and touch-feely, I know. I told you earlier, it's been that kind of weekend.

Sarah Addison Allen published four bestsellers in five years. When she took a hiatus, I wondered why. I later found out that she had been diagnosed with late stage breast cancer, and quit writing throughout her treatment.  She is now in remission, and has published two novels since her return to the book world in 2014. 

I've had some back and forth with Sarah via Facebook. She writes these wonderful short stories and posts them every Sunday. She uses #SAAShortShortStorySunday and I frequently share them on my author page. I also share many other things from her page, and she's commented many times. Just recently she had a giveaway. She'd come across a box of 2016 calendars and wanted to send them out. I received her gift in the mail a couple of weeks ago.

Sarah Addison Allen fascinates me because she creates worlds in which I love to fall into. She fascinates me because she has had frightening things happen in her life ... and she has overcome them. She fascinates me because I, too, am an author. Perhaps she fascinates me because she comes from a place I really miss, and reading her books makes me remember why I love it there so much. .

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Place I Would Live Although I've Never Been There: Thirty Day Writing Challenge Day 5

This one is easy. No thought required.

Isle of Skye in Scotland. I'll pack right now. Get me a flight. I'm outta here.

While writing Alabama Skye, I became intrigued with this place. Writing A Skye Full of Stars made me fall in love. 

Portree - where Cheney was born and raised.

Coos! (No. I didn't misspell that.)

Neist Point ~ is a view point on the most westerly part of Isle of Skye, Scotland. The Neist Point Lighthouse has been located here since 1909.

Isle of Skye fairy pool
In Under a Southern Skye, (the third Gannon Family novel) I travel back to Scotland at the beginning and throughout WWII. Not all of it takes place on Skye, but some of it does. I'm looking forward to going back and visiting again ... even if it is all through photographs.

I'll visit the island someday. Will I ever live there? Well, stranger things have been known to happen.

Friday, July 22, 2016

My Publishing Journey

My publishing journey started back in 2012. Actually, if I'm honest, the process of it began more than a year before that when I decided to stop sitting on the unfinished manuscript I had for what was then titled Shades of Gray and asked Xlibris Publishing for their help in making it a published novel. 

I began writing this book long before my daughter, Maya, was born. It came from a small seed of an idea I pulled from a dream I had one night, and it grew and grew until it was a stack of printed sheets more than 900 pages high. I wrote and sent at least a hundred query letters to publishing houses both large and small, and to some literary agents as well. I heard back from a great deal of them ... all in the form of rejection letters.

Just a few of the responses I received.
What I learned was that big publishing houses were not accepting submissions from writers who were not represented by literary agents, and that a great number of literary agents were not accepting new writers as clients if they hadn't already been published. It was a catch-22, and I wasn't sure what to do from there.

One of the responses I got was from Mark Sullivan, a literary agent in NYC. 

June, 1999
I found an incredible amount of encouragement in this, and began the task of paring the book down. Unfortunately, I didn't finish what I started ... at least not back then. Instead, my husband and I focused on our young family and motherhood took over. I knew I wanted to finish writing the book. I knew I wanted to get it published ... but all that became "someday", and my writing got pushed to the back burner.

In 2011, my husband was told he'd need to prepare for a ninety day TDY in Stuttgart, Germany. He isn't military, but does IT for a government contract company. I was busy homeschooling our two children; Maya, who was nearly twelve, and Scott who was eight. They were involved in numerous extra curricular activities. We lived in North Carolina, and I knew my mom would be visiting while Steven was over seas ... I was busy, had a lot of things planned, but I still thought it would be great to have something more to keep me occupied while he was gone. I signed up for an American History class online, and that was great ... but I needed something else. That's when I decided to pull Shades of Gray out again in the hopes of finishing it once and for all.

Steven was all for this plan ... so much so that he decided I needed to know for sure that it would be published. I had no knowledge about how to self-publish. I didn't know about CreateSpace or KDP ... I had no understanding at all about how I might go about doing this on my own ... or that I even could. I jumped into the big vat of vanity presses ... requesting information from a number of them, and started doing a whole lot of comparison shopping. All of it was expensive. It was still a huge unknown, but I finally picked one, (mostly because they were promoting a special they were doing for half off one of their publishing packages) and I jumped in. Now all I had to do was finish the manuscript.

I hadn't looked at it in years. When I re-read it, I realized it didn't even have an ending ... and, while I still absolutely loved the whole idea behind the story, I wasn't connecting with many of the character. I set about editing what was already written. I gave it to Steven who read pages and pages ... until he finally said, "This isn't working." I was not the writer I had been more than twelve years before when I'd started the book. I'd grown, gotten better. He said it was obvious which parts I'd changed and which parts I'd left alone. The solution? Start all over again. Take the same ideas but make it an entirely new book.

This was going to take some time.

The first thing I did to give myself a new start was to change the name. 2011 was the same year that E.L. James published her hugely successful book Fifty Shades of Gray. Not only were her story and mine complete and polar opposites, but I wanted an original title. I chose The Color of Thunder. You really have to read the book to understand why it's significant, but it really is. I'm glad I changed it. I like it even better than the original. 

My father in law, a very talented artist, accepted my request of creating some cover art for me. 

I was very excited about this, but I thought Jacob (aka "Daddy") turned out to be a bit too portly. I really wanted my father-in-law to keep working on it. He told me he would, but life got in the way and the project was dropped.

I focused on the writing. I gave the book an ending and revamped everything from cover to cover. I also made the characters ones I fell in love with. Oh, how I love these characters. I poured every ounce of my heart and soul into this story ... and came up with something I am still incredibly proud of.

Before I was finished and ready to hand it off to Xlibris, though, Steven went off on a second three-month long TDY - this time in Heidelberg, Germany - and then he accepted a job offer at Ramstein Air Force Base before returning home. Before Thanksgiving of that year, we were all packing up and getting ready to move abroad. Suddenly, I had a tremendous amount of things to get done piling up on my plate, and, although I still had some work to do before my manuscript was complete, I had other pressing matters to tend to.

It wasn't until a year later that I was finally ready. Between the time of our departure from North Carolina and the following Christmas, we had suffered through the death of my mother-in-law and the logistics of Steven's flight to the states and back. It also took a lot for us to settle into a foreign way of life, get our homeschooling back on track, and learn the ways of a military base. I also found myself short of a cover.

The Color of Thunder takes place in Jackson, Mississippi. I had it in my head that I wanted a picture of the sky ... but I wanted it to be a southern sky, and I was determined that it would be a photograph that I took myself. (I'm kind of stubborn that way.) I've never actually been to Mississippi, but I remembered a picture I'd snapped of a stormy sky we traveled beneath in South Carolina when we were on our way to Florida the summer before. I played around with it; changing the colors. (The purple is significant, but again, you'll have to read it to figure out why.) It turned out exactly as I'd hoped it would. I was finally ready to jump into the publishing pool.

It was the first week of December when I submitted everything to Xlibris. Everything flowed like a swiftly moving river. I'd approved both the inside and outside layouts and it was live on the Xlibris site, Barnes & Nobel and Amazon by December 18th.

It was real! Finally ... a published novel!
I really liked working with Xlibris. I thought they had done well for me, and I was incredibly pleased with the final result. I got quite a bit of press at first, too, which was wonderful. 

There was this article done on the Xlibris Author Blog on January 30, 2013, and here's the official press release for the book. 

When it came to publishing my second novel, Alabama Skye, I didn't hesitate. I went right back to Xlibris. I was so very disappointed. This second experience put a very bad taste in my mouth for the company ... and there were many, many times I wished I had done things differently. The book was beautifully done; the layout perfect, and the cover one that I absolutely loved ... but it was a torturous, frustrating and many times enraging process.

It was after I published Alabama Skye that I became acquainted with a lot of self-published authors. I began to gather information, began to dug into my options when it came to publishing on my own. I decided I was going to publish my next book completely by myself. No more of this Xlibris craziness. This book was going to be mine. And it was.

With my latest book, Dead Beat Dates & Deities, I ran full steam ahead. There is something amazing to me about self-publishing; the cover design and layout all the way I want them to be. 

I've even started my own imprint ... Black Cat Press. Right now I have one author interested in hopping aboard. I'm not sure I'm quite ready to take that on ... at least not yet, but who knows where that idea might lead?

As for The Color of Thunder ... I own all the rights to both that book and Alabama Skye. I have been busy figuring out the legal process of getting them out from underneath Xlbris and under Black Cat Press. (It's more the loss of reviews I've worked so hard to collect that I fear than anything else at this point.) I have new cover designs for them ... and have decided to take The Color of Thunder through another round of edits. I've learned a lot since that book came out, and that's the beauty of self-publishing; I can do with it any damn thing I please.

I'm not sorry I went with Xlibris. The whole experience taught me a lot about what I want to do in the future ... as well as what I don't want to do. I am happily self-published. Will I be looking for another agent and/or publishing house in the future? That I don't know for sure. No one's knocking down my door as of yet, and I haven't gone fishing. I do know that I have a lot more books to get out there, though, and that my publishing journey has only just begun.

Ten Interesting Facts About J.C. Wing: Thirty Day Writing Challenge Day 4

So, ten interesting facts about me, eh? Let's see here ... hmmmm ... I could tell you I'm a homeschooling mom, but you probably already know that one. I love coffee ... but I love iced chai even more. Boring? Yeah, okay, I see your point. How about the fact that my favorite candy is peanut M & M's? That is definitely a riveting piece of information, don't you think? 

Okay. I think I've come up with ten things you might not know about me. Are they interesting? I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. What I do know is that every single one of them is true ... and that they aren't listed in any specific order.

I collect baseball caps

I own a lot of them. Some of the ones I like the most are from London, Carolina Beach and NYC. I also love my Tarheels cap and the Durham Bulls pictured above.

I was a nanny

Back in 1993, I began working for a family in Englewood as a nanny. Ann was seven months pregnant with twins, and Jenny was a few months shy of three years old. I'd had a lot of experience with childcare at this point, but this was the first and only time I was a nanny. I got to play and hang out with these three beautiful girls for about two and a half years. Being a part of this family was one of the most rewarding things I've ever gotten to do.

I can't whistle

Sad, but true. I've tried, I really have, but I've never just been able to "pucker up and blow". I've got other talents, though, so not being able to whistle isn't all that bad. 

I sang Carmina Burana in a choir ... and loved it

Between 2006 and 2008, my daughter and I both sang with the Golden Community Choirs. The Children's Choir sang a small part with us, so I got to perform with Maya, who was about seven at the time. I took part in a lot of performances while with the choir, but Carmina was by far the most fun. 

I was a competitive ice skater

This was about a hundred years ago. Maybe even a little longer. I skated in the 1988 Nationals, and got to meet and become friends with Brian Boitano, who then went on to the Olympics where he won his gold medal. Coincidentally, it was during my eight year stint on the ice that I broke my wrist for the first time. We all know how that turned out. 

I share a birthday with Barbie

She's thirteen years older than I am, but we were both born on March 9th. I probably don't need to mention that a birthday is the only thing the two of us share.

I was on the Blinky's Fun Club

If you aren't from Denver, this probably means absolutely nothing to you. If you are from Denver, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

This children's television show ran from 1966 until 1998. Blinky sang "Happy Birf-day" a whole lotta times in those thirty-two years.

I spent two years abroad

Heidelberg, Germany
At the end of 2011, my family and I moved to Germany after my husband took a job on Ramstein Air Force Base. He'd already spent three months in Stuttgart, and another three in Heidelberg before the rest of us joined him. We got to travel to places like Paris, Belgium, Luxembourg and London, and I absolutely fell in love with Germany. I was tremendously sad to leave when the time came, but those two years sure were packed with unforgettable adventures.

I own a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird - signed by Harper Lee

Thanks to my dear friend, Holly, whom I met while we were in Germany. She gifted it to me after hearing my son tease me about having so many copies of the book when I picked up another free one from a bin in the Vogelweh library. How did I repay her for her incredible generosity? I took her to Casa Bonita and served her some very questionable Mexican food when she visited this past spring. I'm definitely the kind of friend to have, no doubt about it.

I have super curly hair ... but that wasn't always the case

It's been like this for about twelve or thirteen years. It started right about the same time my son was born. Before then, I had a tiny bit of wave to my hair, but nothing at all like this. I've been told that pregnancy can do some very odd things to a woman's body. Apparently, pregnancy did this to me.
I'll be honest ... this post feels like I've said too much. TMI perhaps? Something tells me you all are going to know me a lot better by the time the middle of August rolls around. For that I apologize in advance. :)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

First Love/First Kiss: Thirty Day Writing Challenge Day 3

Wow. This is awkward.

Okay ... I'm going to switch these around, because the kiss came first. Don't get excited, y'all. We were both twelve years old and had mouths full of braces. It was not passionate. It was more along the lines of painfully uncomfortable, (at least emotionally if not physically) ... but I'm guessing most first kisses are. 


His name was Brian. I'd known him since forever ... or what seemed like forever back then. We'd gone to school together since about the second grade I think, and he had always been a good friend. Both of our mom's were room mother's at school, and I don't really remember a time when he wasn't a part of my everyday life. 

I'll be honest ... I think I had a crush on Brian back in elementary school. If he knew it, he kept quiet about it. His best friend knew, though, and he didn't approve. Me and Brent ... well, we weren't the best of friends. I can't remember now why that was. I don't think we disliked each other, really, I think the bantering back and forth was just the nature of our relationship; neither good, nor bad. It just was.

That first kiss took place near Brian's locker after school sometime in the seventh grade. It was a quick affair, and I think we both wound up laughing about it even as we parted. Like I said ... the kiss itself was nothing to write home about, but I could've done a lot worse with the boy.

My first love. This one is more difficult. There's a lot of feelings wrapped up in this one.

Kelly. We'll just stick to first names here because that's best, I think. I dated Kelly for about two years ... and in high school, that's a very long time. He was a good guy. One of the best.

He was funny,
and sentimental.

When I look back now on the relationship we shared, I can see it with a clarity I couldn't while we were in the middle of it ... and I understand why the two of us never made it past our senior prom. Back then, though? Being together felt like everything. It felt like the world. And at seventeen, it really was.


I have no idea what ever became of Brian. He was a handsome guy, and was always one of those super smart kids in school. I'm sure he's done very well for himself, and I hope that he has a wife he really enjoys kissing. 

Kelly and I have inadvertently bumped into each other once or twice in the long stretch of time since our high school graduation. We both have spouses and families ... although there is very little else I know about him now. I think of him fondly, and I wish him the best. I will always be grateful that he was my first love.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My Earliest Memory: Thirty Day Writing Challenge Day 2

I knew exactly what I was going to write about the second I read today's topic. I don't know if this is my earliest memory ... but I know that it's one of them, and it's a special one. 

I am the oldest of ten grandchildren. When I was about four, my aunt, Nadine, (I've always called her "Deene") gave birth to my cousin, Stephen. I remember my grandmother, Mimi, telling me about how much fun it would be to have a cousin; that he or she would be someone I could play with and spend time with. I'm an only child, so the thought of having another little person around sounded like the best thing in all the world. I was excited for this new cousin's arrival ... and I remember the very first time that I saw him.

Stephen was born on December 7th. I'm not exactly sure when it was that I got to meet him for the first time ... now that I look back on it, I'm sure that it was weeks after his birth. I was staying with Mimi, (something I did a lot) and she announced that Deene was bringing Stephen over for a visit. I had long, blonde ponytails, and was wearing a white undershirt ... like a tank top. I was four, and not a fashion statement, but I remember these details really well. I know there is a picture of this momentous occasion floating around somewhere, but I don't know where to find it.
I remember the front door opening and Mimi rushing to meet my aunt Deene and uncle Gene. What I wasn't expecting was the small bundle Deene held in her arms. The word 'baby' had been used countless times, but so had the word 'playmate'. I think somewhere in my four-year-old brain I was expecting another child to walk through the door ... grown up enough to share toys and color with.

I'll admit ... I was disappointed - but not for long. Stephen became a very special person to me. In many ways I think I felt like he - and then later both his brother, Jeff and his sister, Anna - became almost like siblings to me.  

I was not quite eight when my aunt and uncle decided to move to Texas. I was heartbroken. I remember the day they left ... and all the tears that their departure prompted. It was about a year later that my mom bought a plane ticket for me, and I embarked upon a solo journey to Texas to visit them. There were a couple of summers that I moved in and spent a month, (perhaps more) with them. During those times, I truly did feel like they were my siblings.

My aunt and uncle weren't able to come back and visit every year, but when they did, it was a huge event that was highly anticipated. I was always so excited about their arrival ... and always hated to see their trips back home come to an end.

Steve and I a day or two before his wedding.
Steve still lives in Texas. I haven't seen him in a little more than three years ... and before then, the time between visits stretched out even longer. He's still one of my favorite people, (although I think it embarrasses him when I tell him that) and I absolutely adore his kids. He and his wife, Laura, have five of them. I've often wished that they lived closer, but since we've all hooked up on Facebook and Instagram, we've been able to share things and be a little more in the know about what's going on with each of our families.

Steve and I  have very different lives ... but we do have some things in common. He's been married to the love of his life for more than twenty years. (If you met Laura, you'd love her, too.) I just celebrated twenty-one years of marriage with my sweetie this past March. My husband, (also named Steve) traveled with me and my family back in 1994 and were in attendance at Steve and Laura's wedding. Eight months later, the two of them were celebrating our wedding day with us. Their first two children arrived in this world at nearly the same time as ours did, and we both chose to become homeschoolers. 

My cousin may not have been exactly what I was expecting back when I was four ... but the memory of our first meeting is still one of the earliest ones I have. He's a pretty cool guy. I think things turned out alright in the end.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Five Problems With Social Media: Thirty Day Writing Challenge Day 1

I know that the topic for today has to do with problems with social media ... but that's not what I'm going to go with. For me, the only real problems I have are my inability to stay away from social media - not social media itself. That's a whole other blog post right there. :)

I dipped my toe in the pond of social media with a Google blog I started back in about 2005 or so. I had two small children at the time; my daughter was six, my son three and half years younger. I was a big rubber stamper, (making homemade greeting cards and other gifts) and I loved to scrapbook. With two small children, I found that I didn't have much time to do all the scrapbooking I wanted to, and so I started a family blog. I called it "Wing'in It", and I used it as a journal/scrapbook, inviting all my family and some close friends to come and see all the fun things we were taking place in the lives of the Wings. 

The blog became even more important at the end of 2008 when we were transferred almost 1,700 miles away from home by my husband's job to Cary, North Carolina. It was a way for our families to keep up with what the kids were doing in school, the trips we were taking and to see them as they grew up even while we were so far apart.
In 2011, my husband Steven was sent on two TDY's. The first one took place from March until June. He traveled to Stuttgart, Germany. He left again in August and came back in November after the second assignment in Heidelberg. Our family blog served as a way for him to see continual photos of his kids; to see first hand our daughter, who dressed up as Medusa for a Geography Fair, and to keep up with our son who decided to jump off of a six foot climbing rock and broke his foot while his dad was away.  Steven even set up his own Google blog while he was in Europe, and filled it with photos of the adventures he was having so we could share in some of his travels.

At the end of that year, Steven got a job on Ramstein Air Force Base and all four of us moved from North Carolina to Germany.

The blog then chronicled our two and half years of travel, adventure and homeschooling while we were abroad. When we moved back to Colorado, "Wing'in It" fell by the wayside. We may not see our families all the time, but now we're all within an hour or two of each other. My kids are now in high school, and are less enthusiastic about having their daily lives recorded. Besides, both of them do their own social media thing. I provide guidance (and some guard dogging) but my help with socialization of any kind has not been needed for many years. 

I published my first novel The Color of Thunder in December, 2012. I had no idea what I was doing when it came to publishing ... not a single clue, and I decided to go with Xlibris Publishing to get my book out there. That's when I really started using Facebook and learned the importance of reaching out to bloggers and news outlets via the internet. 

In the last couple of years, I have been so fortunate to 'meet' so many other authors and readers on Facebook. Sure, I get harassed just like everyone else does. I've been proposed to, flirted with, called a bitch when I didn't respond to overtly sexual comments and been added to so many groups I stopped counting them ... but the good far outweighs the bad. Some of my closest and most special friends were introduced to me on Facebook. I wouldn't change that for the world. It's been a wild and entertaining ride for me in Facebook land ... and the support I've gotten from other authors (and been able to give in return) has been one of the coolest things I've ever experienced. I've even got a street team. The best way for me to explain this to those who have no idea what a street team is -  it's kind of a home base for my fans. It's fun. I love it. The support I've gotten from readers on Facebook has been unbelievable as well.

YouTube has been helpful to me ... allowing me to create my own book trailer videos. It takes me a really long time to make them, but they're so much fun ... and I've gotten a lot of great feedback on them. It's been an enjoyable advertising tool, and I love watching other author's book trailers as much as I like to make my own.

In 2015, I found out about a job opportunity with Booktrope Publishing. I wasn't looking as an author ... by that time I'd decided to take what I'd learned from my previous experience with Xlibris and become a full-blown do-it-yourself indie author. I was interested in becoming an editor and a proofreader. I'd had a lot of experience in both, and thought it would be a good way to bring in a little extra income. In order to apply for a job, I needed a LinkedIn account. Being a stay at home/homeschooling mom didn't give me much reason to have an online resume, so I'd never considered LinkedIn before. I got the job with Booktrope, and now I keep my profile updated. It's been another positive for me where social media is concerned.

I have a Twitter account, but I'll be honest ... I'm not so good at Twitter. Instagram I'm good with, although more with my personal account than with my author account. I keep them separated ... one is private and for a bunch of pictures of my kids, the other is for my books. I absolutely love Pinterest. That I'm addicted to, and I use it for all sorts of things; entertainment, research, advertising and story boarding. 

There's one more thing I need to mention ... Goodreads. The authors I've met and become friends with after taking part in review groups on Goodreads are some of the most cherished people I know. It's also been a way to host some great giveaways, learn about new books and authors, and look up literary quotes and other fun things. I've heard some bad things about Goodreads from other authors. I, fortunately, have not had anything but a positive experience. 

I don't know about all the ways to connect via social media, but, as you can see, I have more than enough accounts active out there. And since this is a post all about social media, I've included ways for you all to connect to me should you choose to. :) In my opinion, social media is like anything else; there are always good parts to it as well as bad. You just need to enjoy yourself ... and be prepared to step around the icky parts.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Music I Love

I grew up a musician's daughter. Any time the subject of music comes up, my father comes attached. All of my very first memories have music in them ... a soundtrack of my life if you will. My father was talented; gifted at not only playing the guitar and singing, but at song writing as well. Perhaps he unknowingly planted the seed of storytelling deep inside me. He was a creative man. Mean as the devil and just as hot tempered, but creative as hell. I won't thank him for sharing his love of the written word. If it was a gift he gave me, let me reassure you, it wasn't given intentionally.

My dad sometime in 1975
As hard as being my father's daughter always was for me, there is something I took away from our tumultuous twenty-one years together that I will always be grateful for. Out of all the memories I have of my dad ... not one of them that has anything at all to do with music is a bad one. Music was the only thing he and I agreed on. Music was the only thing we could easily share. Music was the only good bond the two of us ever had.

I don't know how succinct some of my very first memories are. The details are a little fuzzy with some of them, but I remember going to listen to my dad play in a band when I was very, very young. I had to be younger than five because I was with my mom at the time, and my parents divorced before I began first grade. 

Me and my parents in the house on Bradburn Blvd. in November 1975
I recall with the utmost clarity the house we lived in when I was that age. It was a green house with two enormously tall pine trees at the end and on either side of the front walkway. There was a large, snowball bush to the side of the drive, it's green leaves full of rounded spherical flowers made of tiny mint green petals that fell to the ground like a summertime snow shower. The steps that led up to the wide porch were cement, all except the top one. It was wooden, just like the porch itself, and there was an overhang that I once raked my shin on so badly that tears immediately sprang to my eyes and blood poured from my torn skin down into my sock. I was following my dad into the house when it happened, me running to keep up with him and hitting the step in just the wrong way. When he turned and gruffly asked what was the matter, I remember shaking my head and telling him, "Nothing"  before closing myself behind the bathroom door to nurse my wounds without his scrutiny.

The house was built in 1920, and my parents rented it from a man who had since moved out of state. Years after my parents divorced, my dad bought the property. It sat on half an acre of land; overgrown, wild and wonderful for a small child to play in. There was a tall tree that shaded the back. It dropped tiny, tart green apples from it's boughs, and there were cherry trees we picked fruit from in a fenced off area at the far end of the land. One day I will write a book about that yard.

A lot of bad memories still live in that house on Bradburn Boulevard ... but there are a few boxes of good times tucked away for me there, too. The carpet was gray and thin, and the windows were tall, letting in a lot of buttery tinted sunshine. There was a big square of stained glass in the front window made by a friend of my parents' when I was very young. There was a broken pane; a jagged mistake in an otherwise beautifully choreographed piece of colors and shapes. It was left there when my dad, in one of his countless drunken rages, got angry with my mom and threw his keys. I don't know if they were thrown at her and he missed, or if he was aiming for the window. Nonetheless, I remember the scar his anger left there.

From the front door you could look straight through the house to the back; the living room, then dining room on the left, two bedrooms and a bathroom on the right. The kitchen was a bright, sunny space my mom painted a happy combination of bold orange and yellow with a built in eating nook tucked into one side. 

One of the most memorable places in the house was the corner of the dining room. It didn't hold a table or any chairs. In fact the only pieces of furniture there at all were an elaborate stereo and a set of powerful speakers. There in a semi-circle stacked against the walls were easily a hundred or more albums, all easy to flip through in order to find the one you wanted to listen to. Also in this space were several guitars laying in black cases lined in orange and red felt. This was a happy place. It was really the only happy place my dad and I shared.

My dad named a kitten I had given him Winston after John Winston Lennon.
I remember hearing about John Lennon's death in December, 1980. I was nine years old  and I was with my dad in the passenger's seat of his old Dodge van. We were sitting in his driveway when we heard the news. I'd grown up on the Beatles and knew exactly who John Lennon was. I've listened to and enjoyed them my entire life ... even had posters of them on my wall as an older teen, and I've always been quite fond of Paul McCartney and Wings. I had a good friend in high school who used to sing Beatles songs with me all the time. "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da" was a particular favorite of ours back then. It's still one of my favorite songs today.

My dad was a huge fan of Elvis Presley, too.

He bought me "Elvis Golden Records", a two album set of many of the King's greatest hits. I remember singing "All Shook Up" and "Teddy Bear", dancing around that long stretch of living/dining room on that gray carpet in my stocking feet. I made a reference to Elvis in my first novel, The Color of Thunder. There is a lot about my dad in that book. Elvis is one of the good parts.

There was the Steve Miller Band, Poco, The Who and The Rolling Stones. Steely Dan, Grateful Dead, Cheap Trick, Santana and Supertramp. Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Van Morrison and The Cars. I listened to Blondie, The Bee Gees, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and one particular song, "Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon that my father particularly liked. Kansas, Billy Joel, Dire Straits and Elton John. He introduced me to one of my all time favorite songs; "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynard Skynard, and I remember how he loved listening to "You're the One That I Want" from the Grease soundtrack because he found the piano in that track so appealing. The list of artists and songs we listened to together goes on and on and on. 

One of my favorite dad/music memories was him playing with his band Freeway. He played at the Goodsport Lounge most weekends, and I always looked forward to going. I can't remember exactly how old I was - somewhere between the ages of seven and ten I think - when he played with this group. Weekends were an event for me back then. My parents were divorced and I opted to spend most of my time with my mom. I did enjoy going to the Goodsport, though. I felt right in my element there somehow. My dad was singing, playing his guitar, and I knew all the words to every song he played, (even the ones that weren't appropriate for a younger child to know.) I had a younger stepbrother whom I adored back then. He was four years my junior, and I would take him out on the dance floor and we would jump and dance and run around. We always sat in a circular booth right on the edge of the dance floor. We'd eat enormous cheeseburgers and a ton of fries and drink Coke's with a heap of sugary cherries in them. When one or two o'clock am would roll around, the band would pack up and the crowd would disperse. I was shaken awake and escorted, sleepy-eyed and exhausted, back to the car for our ride home. Was it the best environment for kids our age? I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. All I know was that it was an absolute blast. 

Anyone who knows me at all knows how much I've always loved Duran Duran. Guess who introduced them to me? Yep. My dad. (That might be a new piece of information for most.) D2 released their album Rio in 1982. I was eleven at the time, and I had no idea who they were. My dad was a night owl who played his music loudly at all hours of the night. One early, early morning, I was awoken by a song that he was playing on repeat. It happened to be "Hungry Like the Wolf", and that was my first introduction to Duran Duran. A couple of years later, Duran Duran became my favorite band for all kinds of reasons; most of which are too hard to explain in the context of this blog. (Yes, I found them to be very attractive ... I was twelve at the time ... and I did use every picture of them I could find to wallpaper my walls and ceiling.) It mostly had to do with the lyrics of their songs. I wrote a lot of poetry of my own back then. I used their music as a form of therapy to help me through some rough times during my pre-teen and teenage years. Duran Duran are still my most favorite band today, (although I haven't collected pictures of them for at least the past quarter of a century.) I was so excited to learn that they were playing Red Rocks this past September, (a venue they'd never played together as a group before) and there I was; back in Colorado again and able to go see them. 

My daughter, my bestie and me at Red Rocks for Duran Duran. So. Much. Fun.
I grew up in the 70's and 80's ... and I love so much of the music that came from those decades. Chicago, Pretenders, Boston, Genesis, Eagles, Journey, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Thompson Twins, Howard Jones, INXS, Adam Ant, Laura Brannigan, The Doobie Brothers ... there's no way I can include them all here because there are just too many of them. So much of the music from the 70's gets a serious head shake now, and I have always been embarrassed to admit to one of my most favorite songs because of that. I'll admit to it now. It's "Brandy" by Looking Glass. I'm not sure why I love it so much, or why I get a good feeling every time I hear it. Whatever memory I have attached to it is elusive ... it could be my dad, but I really don't know. It wasn't until recently when a good friend of mine told me he thought it was one of the best love songs ever written that I decided I was going to own up to my fondness for it. Is it cheesy? Quite possibly, but it's still on my short list of top ten songs I absolutely adore.

I love 90's stuff, too, and current music as well. I'm lucky that a lot of my favorite groups from when I was younger are making new albums right now, (that would include Duran Duran and Rick Springfield, whose album Rocket Science, released in early 2016, is one I listen to nearly every day.)

My dad had his famous Farah Fawcett in her red bikini poster, and I had this on my wall, just like so many other adolescent girls did. Okay, so my poster might not be as equally iconic, but I'm certain that it's close.
Rick Springfield, coincidentally, is also my dad's fault. Springfield's album "Living in Oz" was another one both of us loved and listened to together. 

One of my more recent favorites is Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. They started up  in 1989, but I didn't hear them until about 2008. They're called a contemporary swing revival band, and they cover artists such as Cab Calloway and Bennie Goodman. They make me want to dance. I have a really hard time listening to BBVD without moving. They are my happy, feel good music. I welcome happy, feel good music. Everyone needs a hearty helping of that in their lives.

I love Broadway musicals and jazz, I love listening to piano and classical. I even (gasp) enjoy country. I like harder stuff, too, although it's not necessarily my favorite. (I did say I grew up in the 80's, didn't I? Hairbands galore... oh, yes, and AC/DC and all that amazing classic rock.) New music is wonderful, too. I'm introduced to a plethora of current artists via my seventeen-year-old daughter and my almost daily perusal of Spotify. I enjoy so much of it. The only kind of music I can't get real excited about is rap.

I know this post was supposed to be an easy one. When Sophia Valentine chose this topic for #LifeBooksWriting, it was most likely meant to be fun and simple, but music isn't any of those things for me. It never has been. Music, to me, is my dad. It's the very best part of my dad. It's the only part I want to keep hold of. Music, just like the relationship he and I shared, is anything but easy or simple.

My high school graduation and one of the last photos ever taken of my dad and me.
After many, many years of an incredibly difficult and painful relationship, I decided to estrange myself from my dad and that side of my family. I was not quite twenty-one years old when I did that. Eight years later, on August 19, 2000 he died of a heart attack. He was only fifty-two years old. I don't know the details surrounding his demise. I heard that he'd suffered one attack that put him in the hospital, then a second one that killed him, but that's only from second-hand knowledge. That was nearly sixteen years ago, but the time I spent with him, the experiences I had with him and because of him are all still fresh in my head and in my heart. 

This post was supposed to be about the music I love. I didn't write about the details of the incredibly dysfunctional and abusive relationship I had with my father for various reasons ... but I did take advantage of this topic in order to unburden myself of thoughts I've been carrying around of him lately. Even though I haven't spoken to him in twenty-four years, I think of him almost daily ... and I can't write about the subject of music without also writing about him. They are tightly linked, the two of them, and they always will be.

Shortly before our estrangement I learned that my dad was converting his garage into a recording studio. I'd heard a few of the songs he was planning to record. One of them was about having too many chiefs and not enough Indians. I've since looked it up, curious to find out whether or not he'd actually made an album. Seems to me that I heard somewhere that he had, but if that's true, I wasn't able to find it. I did, however, find a couple of other songs about chiefs and Indians; one recorded by Brant Bjork and another by Dean Martin. I remember listening to (and enjoying) the song my dad wrote and know that, while the titles are the same, his was an original. My dad believed himself to be a chief, and those around him were Indians. 

My father was a really difficult human being ... dominant and scary and so many other awful things ... but he did have exceptional taste in music. He knowingly shared his love for it with me, and for that I owe him my thanks..