Wednesday, December 20, 2017

My MOST Favorite Christmas Songs

It was in the mid-50s here in St. Louis today, so it's hard to get into the Christmas spirit with it being so warm. Normal for this time of year is around 40 degrees. Tomorrow will be near 60! Regardless, Christmas music is still going strong on a couple local radio stations, and here's three of my favorites:

"Mary Did You Know?" -- Voctave with Mark Lowry. I LOVE Voctave. They are all incredible vocalists, and together, they pack a punch. Mark Lowry is the original songwriter of this gorgeous piece, so it's great hearing him sing his own song. Pentatonix's version is a very close second to this one.

"Christmas Time is Here" -- Vince Guaraldi Trio. I grew up with the Peanuts Gang, and my kids love it too. Watching Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus specials is one of my favorite things to do during the holiday season. This song has a dreamlike quality. My daughter and her choir sang this at a retirement center just last week, so I'm biased!

"Grown-Up Christmas List" -- Amy Grant. Written by David Foster, Natalie Cole sang it first back in 1990. But this song became a big hit for Amy Grant in 1993. I also like Kelly Clarkson and Michael Buble's versions, but the lyrics get me every time. It's always this time of year when we reflect on what we've been through the last twelve months, and we always hope for the best.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and I hope you get to spend time with friends and family this time of the year.

Monday, December 11, 2017

My LEAST Favorite Christmas Songs

With the holidays in full swing, two of my local radio stations have converted to Christmas music 24/7, 7 days a week. I do listen to holiday music this time of year, but it seems I change stations when the same dreadful songs come on...every single time.

I know many of you will disagree with me on at least some of these, but for one reason or another, the following songs make me cringe:

"All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth"
I totally get the cuteness of the lyrics in this song. What creeps me out is the fact that the "child" is actually an adult trying to sound like a kid. I hate that kind of stuff. All that annoying whistling is like fingernails across a chalkboard.

"Christmas Shoes"
Did you know this song is based on a stupid email chain letter from the 90s? The song is melodramatic, depressing, and tries too hard to evoke an emotional response. Also, the singer/narrator of the song is self-centered and makes the entire story all about HIM. God must have sent this poor kid to HIM to teach HIM a lesson. Whatever.

"Wonderful Christmastime"
Paul McCartney's musical equivalent of a loud, stinky fart is perhaps the worst song of any kind EVER. The farting synthesizer sound. The lyrics (ding dong ding dong ding dong ding). The last 2 minutes of the song where all you get is more farting synthesizer and ding dong dinging. When I do try to listen to this song, I have to wonder just how much LSD was Paul McCartney dropping when he wrote this?

Do you have any Christmas songs that you just cannot stand? I'll give you some of my most favorite holiday tunes next week to make up for these three.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Monday After A Holiday

I don't know about you, but I am dragging today. I've never been good at Mondays, but a Monday after a long break has always been a struggle. I was only off from Wednesday through Friday, plus the weekend, yet I'm completely out of it. I have no idea what I'm doing!

Science has tried to explain why Mondays are difficult for so many of us. Here's what psychologists found:

1) Sleep Patterns are out of whack. Many of us take advantage of the weekend to catch up on sleep. Even an extra couple of hours throws us off. Even though you are more well rested on Mondays, our internal clocks are messed up.

2) Self Esteem Sinks. A lot of people did a lot of eating and drinking over the weekend, particularly if it was a big eating-fest, like Thanksgiving. So come Monday morning, many of us feel that guilt. That's why diets start on Mondays.

3) Less Healthy. Scientists have found that people are more likely to get sick or suffer from cardiovascular events on Mondays. Blood pressure seems to be highest on Mondays too. Even people who are healthy suffer from the natural weekly cycle.

4) Job Dissatisfaction. For those who hate their jobs, Mondays are the worst. You've been away from "prison" for a few days, and now it's back into the "pokey." I will assume job searches surge on Mondays too.

Hopefully, you get through this Monday a-OK. If it's a Manic Monday for you, just know you're not alone.

* If you'll take a quick glance at my sidebar, you'll see that I surpassed the 50,000 mark for NaNoWriMo. It's the first time I've won since 2013, and it feels great. What makes it extra-special is the fact that the almost-66,000 words makes up an entire rough draft of my YA paranormal novel, Gateway Mothman.

Next up, hardcore editing before sending it to my publisher's editor

Happy Monday!!!

Monday, November 13, 2017

My Brain is on Hyperdrive

So much is going on, it's difficult to pinpoint what I'm thinking about long enough to write a coherent post. I suffer from adult ADD, but I'm usually pretty great at managing it. Today, however, I'm having a tough time focusing.

Here's a stream of consciousness post for you:

1) NaNoWriMo is going really well for me. My first WriMo since 2013 has been a volcano of creative energy. Maybe all this pent up imagination over the last two years has been dying to get out. You can check out my progress in my sidebar. I cracked 30,000 words on Sunday night. I'm way ahead, so now I'm running downhill from here.

2) My body hurts. Last weekend, I painted a bathroom. Have you ever done that? I was finding myself in all kinds of crazy yoga poses. I can paint three regular rooms in the time in takes me to paint a bathroom. This past weekend, I completely reorganized my horrible garage. I went from a three car to a two car garage. I know, First World problems.

3) No, I didn't see Thor. I hope to, but I'm just so busy. Justice League is coming, and I'm excited about it. I've been reading about some kind of Justice League project since 2007.

4) The time change has really screwed me up. It takes me over a month to adjust. Dark at 4:30 just isn't very nice.

5) Two of my neighbors put up their Christmas lights, which is fine. But they turned them on. I'm downright militant when it comes to celebrating Christmas too early. Yeah, the itch is there, but let's have Thanksgiving first!

6) Speaking of neighbors, this guy down the street told my youngest and his friends to get the f---k off his sidewalk. This idiot is always wearing a blue robe, and he punched out a construction worker for using his outdoor spigot during construction of his neighbor's house. I did go down there and explain to him that he doesn't own the sidewalk. He wasn't too happy about me standing on it, but he was too chicken to do anything about it.

7) Anybody else excited about The Last Jedi? I'm not too sure about yet another trilogy in Disney's future plans. They are just sucking the Star Wars franchise dry. At some point, there has to be some kind of diminishing returns on this thing.

8) We say this every year, but how the heck did it become almost mid-November? As we age, time seems to speed up.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Mike The Headless Chicken

Thanksgiving = Turkey. But since one of my favorite holidays is just around the corner, let's talk chicken. I'm not sure why, but I get about 50 hits per day from people searching for "headless chicken." I posted about Mike, the Headless Chicken back in 2006, and it seems to be a favorite among those googling for more information on this spectacle. 

For those who don't know, Mike was a chicken that lived for 18 months without a head.

That's right, his owner chopped off his head...and the chicken survived. Here's how it all began:

On September 10, 1945, Lloyd Olsen picked out a younger but plump rooster out of his chicken coup in Fruita, Colorado. His wife, Clara was going to prepare a wonderful feast - as Lloyd's mother in law was going to be visiting. Lloyd brought his ax down on the chicken's neck, and the poor thing struggled and did all the normal things a chicken would do after having it's head chopped off.

The bird would not die.

With his head laying on the ground, the rest of Mike walked around quite normally. He flapped his little wings, and probably walked right into the side of the barn. But the darn chicken had survived. I can only imagine the shock Lloyd and Clara experienced. Lloyd decided to leave the chicken alone.

The next morning, Mike was quite alive. This was a special chicken indeed, and Lloyd devised a method of feeding this headless chicken. He used an eye dropper to feed it water and ground up grain. Lloyd dropped the 'food' right down Mike's esophagus. Sounds strange, but the method worked. Mike continued to thrive.

Mike was able to balance himself on perches without falling. If you can imagine, he was even able to crow - creating a gurgling sound made in his throat. Mike even tried to preen his feathers with his nonexistent head. 

Lloyd brought Mike to a promoter, and soon "Miracle Mike" toured the West Coast. Mike was even featured in Life magazine. At his pinnacle of fame, the chicken was bringing in $4500 per month. Back in the 40s, this was really a ton of money. Mike was estimated to be worth $10,000 and was actually insured for that amount. The sideshows consisted of bringing Mike out to greet the paying customers, and they got to see his head pickled in a jar. Actually, a cat ate Mike's original head, so Lloyd sacrificed another not-so-lucky chicken in order to show the amazed audience.

Mike did have one major complication. He often choked on his own mucus. Lloyd and Clara had to use a syringe to suck it out. Otherwise, Mike would die. One evening, the Olsens were at a motel in Phoenix. Mike began to choke on his mucus. They searched in vain for the syringe until they realized that they had left it at the sideshow from the previous day. Sadly, Mike died that night.

So how did Mike survive his own beheading?

Scientists examined Mike and determined that Lloyd had in fact chopped Mike's head off 18 months prior. Most of the head was actually removed, but one ear remained intact. Lloyd's ax actually missed the jugular vein and a clot prevented him from bleeding to death. Most of a chicken's reflex actions are located in the brain stem, which was also unharmed.

Shouldn't Mike have been put out of his misery though? Mike was also examined by the officers of several humane societies and was declared to have been free from suffering. When Lloyd chopped the chicken's head off, Mike was only 2 1/2 lbs. When he died, Miracle Mike was a robust 8 lbs. Had the Olsens been able to syphon Mike's mucus that fateful night in March of 1947, who knows how long Mike would've survived without his head. His 18 months is still a world record.

But don't worry, Mike's legacy lives on. In his hometown of Fruita, Colorado, they hold a "Mike the Headless Chicken Festival" every spring. The festival also features the infamous 5K "Run Like a Headless Chicken" race.

When you have time, you can go to Mike's offical website HERE.

Mike, the Headless Chicken statue in Fruita, Colorado

Monday, October 30, 2017

Accidental Politics

Earlier this month, the IWSG topic was about how many writers often inject some of their real life into their writing. Up until my latest WIP, I believed that I, in no way, included any real-life details about myself in any of my writing.

But then I was editing Death Returns (dropping on November 6th), and I recognized how my personal politics is not only subconsciously infused into this novel, but it's also apparent in the first book in the series, Death Knocks.

Allow me to get political on here for the first time in, oh, 12 years. I'm like many Americans. I consider myself Independent. I have many beliefs that are Conservative, and I have many beliefs that are Liberal. And my beliefs do change. For fun, I've taken a few political quizzes, and it seems that I do have a Libertarian streak in me too.

I've been called a "conspiracy theorist," and I suppose I've earned that moniker. History has made me suspicious of my own government. I believe it's wrong to be enamored with ANY politician. They should all be held on short leashes. Here in St. Louis, we've had two HUGE government conspiracies come to light:

1) From the 1950s-60s, our government tested the effects of zinc cadmium sulfide on its own citizens. They sprayed this radioactive material from the tops of buildings here in St. Louis, allowing men, women, and children to inhale this radioactive material. 

2) St. Louis is home to Mallinckrodt Chemical, the first uranium producer/purifier in all the world.
The company supplied all the uranium for the Manhattan Project, and the waste was stored at a facility near the airport. Several areas all around the St. Louis Area is still contaminated, including Cold Water Creek where there's been a crazy amount of rare cancers diagnosed. And the biggest heap of radioactive waste is at West Lake Landfill where there's an underground fire raging, and it's inching closer and closer to the deadly stuff. Yet, the EPA keeps telling us that all is just fine.

If you've been watching Stranger Things 1 & 2, the writers have pulled directly from all kinds of Black Projects including MK Ultra, the Philadelphia Experiment, and the Montauk Project. Many of these secret projects including trying to perfect mind control and utilize "remote viewing" to create a small army of gifted people to use their ESP to spy on our enemies. Now if you stop to think about it, is that really so farfetched when you look at all the crap our own government has done?

Earlier this year, the CIA did release almost 1 million pages of declassified reports on UFOs going back to the 1940s. But this barely made the news. Why? Because only crazy people care about this stuff, right?

Well, call me crazy.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Big Finish Before I Begin

Release date: November 6
With NaNoWriMo just a few days away, my huge goal of finishing Death Returns loomed ahead of me. My writing partner and I worked tirelessly every day, especially last weekend, to get it done. We had a hard deadline, and in order for our timeline to stay intact, our editor had to get our manuscript on Sunday.

It was a flourish of writing, but we got it done! Death Returns, our long-awaited sequel to Death Knocks will be available on November 6th.

So with that out of the way, I've been working on outlining and plotting for my big WriMo project.

I've been so crazy busy lately, I didn't stop to really look at the calendar and realize, wow. November is really just around the corner. This time of year is always exciting and fun, yet a little nuts.

Yes, I have a one-handed backhad
Once Halloween comes and goes, it seems the rest of the year just goes into hyperdrive, and then we're into the holiday season. After that, we'll be counting down the year and looking forward to 2018.

Even my oldest son has noticed that time seems to accelerate much faster now.

With many of us standing on the precipice of all this craziness, I think it's always good to try to carve out a little time to ourselves and slow things down a bit. I can't remember the last time I just sat down to read or even watch a movie on Netflix.

Many of us deal with stress, depression, and all kinds of end of the year challenges that threatens to keep us from stopping to simply breathe and just BE. I have to pledge to make the time to just chill out. I'm also a tennis player, so going out and hitting the courts is a great stress reliever.

How do you deal with stress this time of year? Any strategies you could share with me?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Return to Productivity

These last two months have felt like a nice comeback for me. Blogging is like anything else you do on a regular basis. Once you stop, it's difficult to come back to making it a part of your routine. Same goes for writing in general.

Here's a quick list of stuff I've done in the last few weeks that I'm very proud of:

1) My writing partner Miranda Hardy and I have been working hard on our sequel to Death Knocks. We did six chapters alone just this weekend. Death Returns will be out before the end of the year, and I look forward to sharing more about this project with you.

2) I gathered all my notes and free-writing for The Gateway Mothman, a manuscript I started before my writing drought started. It's three years in the making, and I look forward to cranking it out very
soon. Which leads me to...

3) Lord of lords, I have committed to NaNoWriMo this year. I last participated in 2013, so I'm pretty nervous about it. It's the perfect kick in the ass I think will help solidify my writing comeback and immerse myself back into the writing world. If you're doing NaNo, look me up and let's be buddies. I'm "Jay Noel" on there.

4) Joining the Blogosphere. I've really missed being here and visiting all of your blogs. I'm sad about one thing, though, and my blogroll has been annihilated. So many bloggers also disappeared since I've been gone. I hope some of them will return, but it looks like many probably won't. If there's any blogs you recommend I add, please let me know in the comments.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Spooky Stories: The Mothman Revisited.

Going back to 2005 (phew), I always dedicated the month of October to telling "Spooky Stories." I've had so much fun with these, and despite not having blogged steadily for two years, I still get tons of hits every day on these scary posts.

I've posted about the Mothman four times in the last 12 years, so I decided to reboot the urban legend on my blog to include new information. For those of you who don't know much (or anything) about the Mothman, let me give you a quick summary:

Starting on November 16, 1966 in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, locals started reporting sightings of a giant winged creature. They said it was very tall, with large wings, and it flew all over the area, particularly near an abandoned TNT plant. Despite all the differences between eye witnesses' descriptions, one thing remained consistent: the creature had bright red eyes.

Witnesses weren't town drunks or people looking for attention. What was strange about these incidents was that most of the reports came from normal people who were reluctant to even come forward in the first place. Sightings of the Mothman was the least of the locals' problems. They also reported having weird and vivid dreams of death and destruction.

The craziness went on for more than a year. Finally, on December 15th, the Silver Bridge that linked West Virginia to Ohio collapsed, killing 46 people. The Mothman sightings completely and suddenly stopped.

Here's why the Mothman phenomenon was so...weird:

1) Media attention: local newspapers and out of town reporters ran stories about the Mothman sightings

2) The very first sightings of the infamous Men in Black were reported during the sightings

3) A flurry of UFO sightings also coincided with Mothman stories

Chicago traffic sucks! I think I'll just FLY!
Today, the Mothman remains a mystery. Many believe the creature is somehow connected to terrible tragedies that are about to occur. There's photos of a reported Mothman taken just before 9-11, for example. Most recently, there's been sightings in Chicago (North Lake Shore Drive Area) on August 7th of this year:

"Then suddenly, the large winged being slowing descended in front of them, no more than 25 feet away. It hovered about 5 feet above the sidewalk, with it's wing spread open, as it peered at the couple with large bright red eyes that slowly altered back and forth in intensity. Several people on the other side of the street, including a delivery van driver, reacted with screams and frightened yelps. The winged being hovered for 10 seconds, then quickly pulled the wings into its body and shot up quickly into the night sky."

With all the research I've done on this subject, you can bet I'm working on a book about my own spin on the Mothman. I started the manuscript three years ago, and I've recently come back to it. I hope to share more about it in the coming months. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

IWSG for October

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It's a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Ok, it's been over TWO YEARS since I've done an Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Can you believe it? My last IWSG post was published on November of 2015. 

That was a rough time. I was on the verge of going on short term disability to figure out what was wrong with me. My writing was non-existent. And I was in a bad place. 

October 4 question - Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose? 

That's an easy one. NO! I work hard to keep my personal life separate from my writing life, so I haven't slipped any personal info. into my books. HOWEVER, one of my favorite all time YA authors, Robert Cormier, did put his actual phone number in I am the Cheese. Before his death in 2000, young readers would often call his number and he'd answer his home phone while being "in character" and play along.

So, in other news, I'm creatively back on track. I'm not only writing one manuscript, but I'm working on TWO at the same time. I've never done that. I guess I had more than two years of creative energy that was dormant for too long.

I will have one book out by the end of this year, and I hope to have another one done by next Spring. As always, I look forward to catching up with all of you.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sometimes The Lazy Finish First

BIG NEWS: I am now a USA Today Best Selling Author

Recently, there's been a growing trend of writers banding together to form a single book set, and by using the power of numbers, grow sales exponentially and maybe (just maybe) make the best seller's list.

I'm the first to admit, I didn't do a whole lot here.

My publisher did all the work, and I rode the coattails all the way to San Jose. I did some promoting on my own, but it wasn't close to the efforts the other authors put in.

It's still a win-win, though. For us authors, we get more exposure. In this world of noise, standing out in any way helps. For readers, they get a bunch of great books for little money.

I'm finally writing again, and that is a HUGE victory for me. All the stress, changes, and health issues triggered a deep depression that's killed my creative energy. Hitting the best seller's list has been just enough of a push to get me back into the writer's world.

And I've missed it so much.

So here's to staying on track...and allowing the words to flow.

Monday, June 19, 2017

I Forgot How to Blog

It's been nine months since I've last blogged. Wow. That's terrible! I almost forgot how to get back here, and having not blogged much at all the last two years, blogging feels almost alien to me now. I blogged regularly going back to 2005, but these last couple of years have been rough.

So let me give you a quick update on why I've been absent:

1) My health. I got the flu the day after Christmas, and a week after New Year's, I still didn't feel right. Apparently, I had pneumonia. After a round of strong meds, I got better. But in March, I knew something was wrong. After an X-Ray showed I still had fluid in my lungs, and was given more meds to get rid of the fluid. I didn't feel close to 100% until May!

2) New job. I entered a new field within the medical sales world. Pathology is fascinating, but it's been a steep learning curve. My brain can only hold so much information, and after nine months on the job, I'm still trying to figure things out.

3)  I moved in February. While suffering from pneumonia, I moved. The stress probably is what nearly killed me.

4) No creativity. With all that's going on, I have been stuck in a creativity dry spell that dates back to 2015. However, I've dug up a manuscript I started working on two years ago, and I hope that will kickstart things. Also, me and my writing partner Miranda Hardy have a hard deadline to hit this Fall, so I'll have no choice but to get it in gear.

So I'm still here. I'm hoping that reconnecting with the blog-world will help the creative energy flow once again. Nine months is a long time, and I'm pretty sure the blogosphere has changed a lot since I left.

But I'm hoping some of you are still around!