Thursday, 28 February 2013

Interview: YA Author Elizabeth Eulberg

Interview with Elizabeth Eulberg
YA Author

Elizabeth Eulberg is a sweet and FUN (I've had the honor of hanging with her a couple times) YA Contemporary author. I first contacted her when her first novel came out and we soon discovered we shared a mutual love of music! (*cough* More specifically Snow Patrol/Gary Lightbody.) I highly recommend Elizabeth's smart and funny novels. 

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality, 
Elizabeth's 4th novel, releases Friday March 1st 
and I can't wait to get my hands on it!

Read on to see how music influences Elizabeth's life and writing.

1. For those who don't know, what category and genre do you write? What are the titles of your published novels?

I write contemporary fiction for teens: The Lonely Hearts Club, Prom & Prejudice, Take a Bow, and my latest book is Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality.

2. Do you listen to music *while* you write or do you need it silent? What musicians/bands/tracks inspired your novels? Do you have playlists for your individual books? Will you share some tunes or part of your playlists?

I have to listen to music while I write. I generally listen to more quieter and familiar music so it doesn't distract me too much: Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Ed Sheeran, Snow Patrol, Ingrid Michaelson, Death Cab for Cutie, Of Monsters and Men, Blind Pilot, etc. If I need to write a really aggressive or silly scene, I'll pump up with Matt & Kim, Kelly Clarkson, or some good 80s tunes.

The only books that I have a playlist for is my first novel, The Lonely Hearts Club. That book was heavily inspired by the Beatles so I only listened to the Beatles while writing that (and won't listen to them if I'm writing anything else as I connect them so much to that main character's voice). These songs really mirror the book a lot:
Get Back
Two of Us
We Can Work It Out
Come Together
Getting Better
Do You Want to Know a Secret?
If I Fell
Don't Bother Me
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away
I'm So Tired
You Can't Do That
I'll Be Back
With a Little Help From My Friends
Things We Said Today
From Me to You
Here Comes the Sun

3. When do you listen to music? Does your taste in music change depending on the activity?

I listen to music all the time. Even if I'm walking two blocks, i need to have my headphones on. I generally listen to more indie rock bands, but if I'm working out I'm all about pop: Kelly Clarkson, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Pink...I go to sleep to the radio, I have music on during my work day. The only time I don't listen to music is when I'm reading it distract me too much.

4. Do you have a musical background? Are you currently involved with something musical? Do you attend concerts or other musical events?

I started playing the piano when I was five, clarinet when I was ten, drums in high school, and guitar a few years ago. I love music. I wish I was in a band, but instead I go to a ton of concerts (40 last year alone). I'm really lucky I live in NYC and have so many bands come near me.

5. We may be able to tell all ready, but who are some your favorite musicians/bands? Have you met any musicians/bands?

Snow Patrol, fun., Kelly Clarkson, Phoenix, Death Cab for Cutie, The Swell Season, Ingrid Michaelson, Mumfort and Sons, Of Monsters and Mend, Ed Sheeran, and so many more! I've been really lucky and got to meet Snow Patrol a few times, Kelly Clarkson, New Kids on the Block, and am friends with Market Irglova of The Swell Season. I have so much respect for musicians, it's not an easy job and takes a lot of work and dedication (just like writing).

6. What tracks/bands own your iPod right now?

I've been listening to Of Monsters and Men and fun.'s albums on repeat constantly. Also when I'm walking around I've been into Taylor Swift's Red album. I usually am listening to whatever band I'm seeing next in concert which is Tegan and Sara.

7. Can you tell us about your newest novel?

Yes! Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality is coming out March 1st and is about a girl whose younger sister is in the beauty pageant world. So Lexi is seen as the "smart" and "clever" sister while Mackenzie is the "pretty" one - so Lexi decides to take matters into her own hands. I wrote the majority of this book in 2011 so I listened to a lot of Death Cab, Blind Pilot, Boxer Rebellion, Adele, The Decemberists, etc. This was my first book that didn't have a music focus so I don't remember specific songs or artists that hugely inspired the story. 

Elizabeth Eulberg was born and raised in Wisconsin before heading off to college at Syracuse University and making a career in the New York City book biz. Now a full-time writer, she is the author of The Lonely Hearts Club, Prom & Prejudice, Take aBow, and Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality. She loves outside of Manhattan with her three guitars, two keyboards, and one drumstick. 

A HUGE thank you to Elizabeth for making time for this interview! xoxo
           PS I'm beyond jealous that Elizabeth's met Gary Lightbody - more than once!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Interview: Jennifer A. Nielsen

With author Jennifer A. Nielsen's second book in The Ascendance Trilogy, "The Runaway King",  hitting the shelves this Friday, I thought it would be a perfect time to chat with her about the role of music in her life, and how it has impacted her writing.

1. What is your favorite band/artist and why?
That’s so hard to answer! I’m listening to a lot of Mumford and Sons right now. I’m not super loyal to any one group though. I might like one song and play it nearly on a loop, but not connect to any of the band’s other songs.

2. If we were to peek at your iPod, what bands/artists would we see the most of?
I actually just did peek at it and decided my tastes are pretty diverse. I have four main playlists: soundtracks, musicals, writing music, and listening music. Of the latter, I’m all over the map for music choices. My top ten listens include Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, Eddie Vedder, U2, Snow Patrol, Simon and Garfunkel, and Linkin Park.

3.  Do you own any vinyl?
No, but I have great memories of huddling around a record player as a child and listening to my mom’s albums. As clean as the sound can be for music these days, nothing replaces the memories I associate with the needle on vinyl.

4.  Do you listen to music when you write?
I mentioned having a playlist just for writing. It’s pretty inconspicuous music, no lyrics, so it can just meld into the scenes as I work on them. T.J. Morgan is my current favorite artist to write to, but I also write to the soundtracks for Last of the Mohicans and Chronicles of Narnia. In my mind, when the new king is crowned in the end scene of The False Prince, music is playing from The Chronicles of Narnia.

5. What is your special connection to Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam? 
My husband actually introduced me to Eddie Vedder’s solo album for Into the Wild. I was immediately hooked on the music, but one song on that album became life changing. Guaranteed has a line in it that says, “I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me, guaranteed.” At the time, I was working on a story idea but couldn’t quite pull it together. I felt the attitude of the song’s narrator was exactly the type of character my story needed. That story became THE FALSE PRINCE. Another song on that same album, Rise, had a big impact on the book’s sequel, THE RUNAWAY KING. Those who read the book and listen to the lyrics of that song should have no problem seeing the connection. Rise is actually my ringtone right now.

6.  Do your musical interests have a direct impact on your writing?
Very much so, I think. There are certain songs that hit me so strong I know they’re going to form a story one day (Run by Snow Patrol, for example), or that almost turn into movie trailers for me where I can close my eyes as I listen and see certain scenes from the book play out visually (Clocks by Coldplay). Music, in fact, probably has a stronger external influence on what enters my writing than anything else I might be exposed to.

7.  What did you listen to while you wrote the sequel to The False Prince, The Runaway King? 
The strongest musical influences for THE RUNAWAY KING probably came from Eddie Vedder’s Rise, What I’ve Done by Linkin Park, Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol, and Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford and Sons. For the latter, there is one verse in particular that stuck with me throughout the writing:
It seems that all my bridges have been burnt,
But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works.
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart.

8. Is there a concert you will never forget?
This is my horrifying confession – I have actually never been to a concert. (Long pause while your readers pick themselves up off the floor.) I have no excuse for it – it’s just something I’ve never done.

9.  Is there a band/artist you wish you could have seen?
Which makes this a perfect follow-up question. Someone recently told me about having been at an Eddie Vedder concert where he played some of his Into the Wild songs and they said it was an unreal experience. Maybe if he does another tour, I think his would be the place where I would love to repent for Question #8.

10. Have you ever found a song you just couldn’t stop listening to?
All the time! And if I love a song, I won’t quit listening until I’ve memorized the lyrics because then I can replay it in my head even when I can’t hear the music. That current most obsessive song for me is Carry On by Fun.

11. Do you like listening to mixes of various artists, or full albums?
For rock music, I rarely listen to a full album, and if I do, that is true love. But I almost always do full albums for soundtracks and new age stuff. But there are a few albums I really enjoy – for example, even though it’s been around for a while, I don’t think there’s a single song on U2’s Joshua Tree album that I don’t like, and several that are all-time favorite songs.

12. Is there a songwriter you wish you could write with?
Ooh, what a cool question! Yeah, in a perfect world, I would love to write something with Muse. Their stuff is so different from most of what’s out there, and there’s so much depth in their lyrics, I think even if they only let me sit in a corner and watch their process, it would be a fascinating experience.

13.  Are there any bands/artists that you would like to recommend to everyone? 
I think Grouplove has put out some interesting and unique songs recently. Their Colours is so different, it’s worth hearing just to see how it’s put together. I’ve also just discovered Agnes Obel and she’s quickly rising as a favorite singer when I want something more ethereal to listen to.

14.  Is there a band/artist today you think Sage, your MC in The Ascendance Trilogy, would enjoy? 
Hmmm. I think a modern day Sage would be a music guy. I don’t know about specific groups, but he likes to dance and I think he’d prefer music he can move to. Also, having created him, I’m going to endow him with an innate love for REM. Just because I can.

15. Do you have a favorite album cover?
I love the self-titled album cover from The Airborne Toxic Event (2009). It’s spare, beautiful, and tells a story in itself.

This week, Jennifer has graciously offered all of our readers a chance to win a SIGNED, I repeat, SIGNED hardcover copy of "The Runaway King", the sequel to one of my favorite reads of 2012 "The False Prince". If you aren't the lucky one to win, or just can't wait, "The Runaway King" hits store shelves this Friday and can be purchased at any local indie-book store, or through Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. If you want to connect with Jennifer about the Trilogy or her previous books, you can visit her on her websiteTwitter, or on Facebook . 

Jay Spencer is a MG/YA writer, Visual Art teacher, music blogger, an extremely tall husband, and father to two amazing kids. If not at the rink or on the court with his young kids, he would gladly talk to you about any genre or decade of music, and anything Marvel or Star Wars.

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Now we know Jennifer chose Muse as someone she would love to collaborate with, what about you? Leave a comment below, we'd love to know. 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Influences: Let's Be Honest

What is the deal with people and influences anyway?  None of us are very honest about who and what has influenced us.  I mean, come on, think about the last time someone asked you who your influences are.  What did you come up with?  Let me guess, you didn't include your addiction to celebrity gossip magazines?  Did you mention that you read that blog about kittens?  No, of course you didn't.  You went on and on and on about how moved you were the first time you read Tolstoy.  You've read "As I Lay Dying" by Faulkner too many times to count and are still blown away by his experimentation with point-of-view.  Baloney.  Okay, a few of you might actually pass the test and do count every single important work of fiction as the backbone of your own writing process.  Great.  I commend you for your efforts.  The rest of us are lying.  Wait, I don't want to cause a fight.  You aren't liars.  Basically, when I say that all the most significant themes in my writing can be traced back to Keats, I'm lying.

We do the same thing with music.  If someone were to sit down and ask me about my influences you can bet the farm that I'm not going to say Hanna-Barbera's live-action costume show "The Banana Splits".  Still, if I think back on how UNBELIEVABLY AWESOME I used to think the musical performances on that show were when I was but a wee lad, they have to be considered an influence.  It also must be considered that I spent much of my youth apparently on acid or sugar-stoned on Cap'n Crunch:

So, do I ever tell anyone (other than you...because you're just that special) that The Banana Splits were a huge musical influence in my life?  No.  Instead, I will, of course, protect my pride and say that I was influenced by the Sex Pistols, The Smiths, Prince, REM, The Doors, Radiohead, the Arcade Fire, etc.  Don't get me wrong.  I love those bands and they have all shaped who I am.  They can certainly claim to be my musical influences.  But where then do I put Slade or the Butthole Surfers?  On the book front, I can do the same.  I love Faulkner to death.  I am, actually, quite blown away by his experimentation with point-of-view in As I Lay Dying even if I mocked people for doing so...oh...about two paragraphs ago.  It's groundbreaking.  But, if I'm going to be honest, my greatest influences came from the dog-eared pages of comic books and Mad Magazine.  So, I thought that I might travel back through time and match up my influences based on what I can remember from different time periods in my life.  This is not to be an exercise in cool though.  I certainly wasn't listening to the Sex Pistols when they formed back in 1975.  I was four-years-old and I had no way of minding or neverminding the bollocks even if I wanted to.  So, I think that I'll narrow it down to the decades of my life.  I'll try to be truthful even when my music-ego starts to get a little uneasy.  It's about honesty.  Right?  Let's go.

The 1970s

My first real musical influences, beyond that of the musical guests on the Muppet Show, were the result of my father's purchase of a new car.  It was an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme and it had, of all things, a cassette tape player.  Our family's first car was a little Honda hatchback and it only had an AM radio and I grew up listening to what rural AM radio had to offer.  I, for example, did not know at the time what an "Afternoon Delight" was and the Captain and Tennille were regular favorites of mine (I said I was going to be honest.  Yes?).  Once my dad made the car upgrade, he also started purchasing tapes on a regular basis.  He had a little brown faux-leather tape case and it was filled with cassettes.  He had the Doobie Brothers in there.  Chuck Mangione.  He had some Donna Summer.  But, one duo stands out:  Hall and Oates.  I have grown to love Hall and Oates.  Their songs remind me of what my life was like before my parents got divorced.  I sometimes wish it had stayed that way.  Oh, mom and dad, say it isn't so (it isn't

As to books from the 70s, I'm going to have to go with the first book I ever remember picking out at a bookstore, paying for with my own money, and bringing home to read.  I'm sure I bought other books.  I remember my room being nearly filled to over-flowing with books.  But, this one stands out for some reason.  I give you:

The 1980s

So, before I get started on the 80s, you have to understand that this is a pretty massive developmental time-period for me.  I began the 80s as a wide-eyed nine-year-old.  I ended it as a a young-man about to head off to college.  Still, on the book front, my strongest influence was an easy one.  There has, nor may there ever be, a book that has had a greater influence on my life than this one:

Honestly, this book made me write my first serious short-stories in fifth grade.  I became a Dungeons and Dragons nut because of this book.  I drew dragons and elves and dwarves and goblins within the margins of my notebooks from middle-school, up through high-school, into college, and, if I'm honest, into staff meetings here in the present.  Let me sum things up with a confession:  I cried during the movie-version of Return of the King when the Riders of Rohan came up over the crest and charged down into the Orc army's flank.  I literally wept during that scene.  That's an influence.

As to music, I guess it is time for some honesty.  It'd be cooler to say The Clash or Jane's Addiction or The Smiths or The Pogues or some other suitably acceptable band for the serious music fan.  Hell, I could earn some serious street-cred by telling you that I was an early-adopter of rap music (which I was). I'd be lying though if I claimed any of them as my most significant influence.  I never would have discovered those bands above if I hadn't discovered someone else first.  I can remember the moment quite clearly.  It was the early 80s and my local cable provider expanded their channel offering from ten channels to twenty.  One of those channels was MTV and it made my mind blow up in a way that can only happen when a small-town boy is exposed in a single moment to the rest of the world.  It was because of MTV that this happened:

Sadly (and so very un-metal), you can't watch one of their videos here on our blog.  You can, however, run off to YouTube and watch it there.  Just promise that you'll come back.

Oh, sweet hair metal, you don't know how much I owe you.  Let me just explain one thing first, I freaking LOVED Motley Crue.  I wrote their name on my backpack.  I drew pentagrams on my school notebooks.  I wanted to be Nikki Sixx.  I wore their t-shirts.  I wanted to go home-sweet-home just like EVERYONE else in the 80s did.  Today, I wouldn't come within ten feet of so much hairspray.  But, why might they then be one of my greatest influences?  Even if they were responsible for lesser hair-metal bands?  (I'm talking to you White Lion!)  Well, let's put it like this:  Motley Crue helped me to discover The Cult who beget Jane's Addiction who beget Nirvana who beget Pearl get the idea.  If I hadn't discovered Motley Crue, I would probably have ended up listening to, excuse me while I throw up a little, Loverboy or Foreigner or Air Supply or even (gulp) Styx for the majority of my middle and high-school years.  Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto indeed!  Oh my, I don't even want to think about it.  I probably would have bought a Richard Marx album, too.  Oh, the humanity.  Also, being that honesty was what I promised, I still love Motley Crue.  Shout at the devil, baby.

The 1990s

Okay, finally, I've made it to the years when I became really, really cool when it came to music.  The 90s also happen to be when I became really serious about reading.  I don't want to give the wrong impression.  I wasn't reading a lot.  Okay.  I was reading a lot but not as much as I should have been.  I was reading serious books and I mean for that to sound just as arrogant as it does.  I was in college studying literature and writing.  I was reading Ulysses and Mrs. Dalloway.  One of my professors got me hooked on the short-stories of Anton Chekov.  I spent my weekends with my nose buried in Isben.  Yeah, I was that guy.  I wasn't really cool with popular fiction at the time.  Looking back, I was a tool.  Okay, I shouldn't be so harsh on myself.  I was only being a tool because my professors were insisting that, if I were going to be a serious writer, that I had to be reading that stuff.  I've come to understand that they were wrong.  I hold them personally responsible for how long it took me to pick up the first Harry Potter book.  I did though have comics to fall back on.  Graphic novels became my thing.  I was all over them.  One series of comics really stood out for me and I still hold the author in ridiculously high-esteem:

Now, so far as music goes, the 1990s were my moment to shine.  I was a deejay at my college radio station and I had access to tons and tons and tons of new music.  It became a matter of pride to discover new bands and expose my peers to them.  I relished it and I still take great joy in doing so today.  I could go on for days about the bands that influenced me during that decade.  Nirvana.  Radiohead. Alice in Chains. Soundgarden. The Screaming Trees. Smashing Pumpkins. Nine Inch Nails.  Rage Against the Machine. Beck.  PJ Harvey. Still, only one band took the throne.  Pearl Jam.  I know that their albums are sometimes hit-or-miss.  The war they waged against Ticketmaster didn't exactly make them easy to see live.  But, from the first moment I saw the grainy video for "Alive" and I watched Eddie Vedder climb up into the balcony and dive down into the waiting arms of an enamored audience, I was theirs.  I've come to grow into the realization that Pearl Jam have become something more than a band for me.  They represent my own movement through time. They grow with me.  They've had children and started families.  I've done that, too.  It's a little fanboy of me but I sincerely feel like we share something together.  We have a relationship together.  Their frontman could put out an album of ukulele songs and I'd be right there with them.  Oh, wait....right.  Anyway, you can forget Phish.  The greatest touring band on Earth are Pearl Jam.  Honestly, does anyone do it better?

The 2000s

The first decade of the new century.  Musically, this one is really, really, really easy.  In trying to think of a band that has really meant something to me, it was very clear.  I considered briefly going with My Morning Jacket.  I love them.  I've seen them live more than any other band including Mr. Vedder and his gang of ruffians.  Still, while MMJ soar and ride around on these massive spectacles of grandiose southern-fried experimentation (I do consider them America's only real challenger to Radiohead), they didn't give me, in the past decade, what I got from Arcade Fire.  Maybe I discovered My Morning Jacket too late.  My first contact with them came from the album "Z".  In the meantime, Arcade Fire had me from the very first moments of The Funeral and they haven't let me go since.  I have never felt more exhilarated by the promise of a live performance than I did the first time I drove up to Montreal to see them live.  I was giddy.  Finally, with Pearl Jam and the Arcade Fire, we've reached the place where who I believe I am musically lines up with who I really am.

When it comes to books, my influences shift their focus.  I've tried to become very deliberate with how I live my life.  I spend my money on the people and products that have proven they stand for the same things I do. I have never had a more direct correlation between a book that I read and the changes I made in my own life than I did after reading Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation.  I remember the night very clearly when I finished that book.  I was lying in bed and I turned to my wife and said "I'm never eating fast food again."  I haven't.  It was over.  I later read Michael Pollan's Ominivore's Dilemma which only solidified the choices I had made.  But it all started with Eric Schlosser and, being that Big Macs used to be one of my most-guilty of pleasures, I have to say that's quite an influence.

I'm not sure what is coming next.  We never do.  I wonder though if any of the bands that I'm currently in love with will go the distance and be considered an influence in-and-of-themselves.  I currently love the music being put out by Fleet Foxes, The Lumineers, Japandroids, and the Black Keys (to name only a few). When this decade is over, will I look back on them or will they be surpassed by a band that hasn't even cut an album yet?  I don't know.  But it will certainly be fun to find out.

As far as book-related influences go, I feel like my greatest influences come from my amazing CPs and a band of beta readers that I've been lucky enough to join forces with.  Honestly, is there anything more influential than knowing that you aren't in this thing alone?  Is Jonathan Franzen reminding me on Twitter to keep moving forward with my re-write?  No.  Does Suzanne Collins send me emails that push me to be more demanding on my own work?  To move my writing from okay to great?  No.  Did JK Rowling just tell me to keep my chin-up after one more rejection?  Not that I noticed.  How can I call them influences then?

So, don't leave me hanging people.  We're all friends here.  Give it to me straight, who are your influences (especially the ones you don't want to admit...somebody had to buy all those Milli Vanilli albums)?

Paul Adams spends his time in the wilds of Vermont fighting bears to protect his wife and two kids.  He teaches high school English, writes MG/YA stories, embarrasses his family on a regular basis, and lets his geek-flag fly proudly.  He dreams of being a member of the Pixies. 

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Next Big Thing

Readers comb through bookstores...agents scour slush...editors sift through submissions...critics devour debut novels...all searching for The Next Big Thing.

Me? I troll YouTube. Not for new writers, but for new artists. :)

Sure I'm on iTunes weekly *cough* daily *cough* checking out the Single of the Week and surfing through Genius recommendations, which many or may not be anywhere close to genius. But I'm not afraid to jump into the time-sucking YouTube waters either.

And YouTube is where I discovered Hannah Trigwell.* (Or technically, where my husband discovered Hannah Trigwell and I am henceforth taking half-credit. :D) A singer-songwriter from Leeds (I have a crazy fondness for English artists), Hannah is the real deal. We stumbled upon a clip of her singing a cover of Taylor Swift's song We Are Never Getting Back Together--it was a collaboration with Boyce Avenue, who is also now Hannah's label-mate--and Hannah's voice blew us away.

Here's that clip, but wait. Don't listen . . . yet.

Then we listened to her cover of Hallelujah (just-wow), and proceeded to watch heaps of her videos. The girl has her own YouTube channel, which is impressive. Talk about knowing how to reach an audience and being a savvy social-media marketer which is key in today's digital world. Hannah recently inked a deal with 3 Peace Records, which makes me all kinds of happy, because it means I'll get to hear more from her.

But back to Hannah's voice. It's amazing. Rich, textured, emotive. It's got qualities that remind me of Taylor Swift, Natalie Mechant, and Ingrid Michaelson, and yet, Hannah is just Hannah.

Of course, the minute I left YouTube, I went straight to iTunes (yup, no willpower y'all. My Christmas giftcard didn't last long!) and downloaded her original album, Pieces, which has three songs: Headrush, Pieces and Give It Up. Headrush is my favorite track, but all three are fantastic.

Here's a YouTube clip of Headrush. I chose this video because you can see her album cover but this clip is just her voice. So sit back, close your eyes, and listen. 

Amazing right? Now go back up and listen to her cover of TSwift. Totally awesome, I know. :)

Here's another clip of her singing an original song, Give It Up. It's just Hannah, a microphone and a guitar. Check it out...

What kills me is how many people just walk by Hannah . . . and never stop to listen. Many don't even look her way. 

Are we really all that busy? How many books have people missed because they don't recognize the name, or are too busy to stop and read the back jacket of an unknown debut author, one that didn't have all the hype?

I don't know if Hannah is the Next Big Thing or not. I do know that her album rocks, and that if she comes to the States anywhere close to me, I'll go see her. In the meantime, I'll enjoy her U.S. debut. She may not be a big name (yet) but I like her voice and her music, and I'm so glad I stopped to listen. 

So take a chance. On an unknown writer, on a hometown band just starting out or on a singer-songwriter halfway around the world. You just might be surprised.:)

What new artists/bands have you discovered lately? And do you think they just might be the NBT?

*FYI: You can find out more about Hannah Trigwell on her website and on Twitter.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

"Grown-Up" "Love" Songs

When I was in high school, I had a teacher who delighted in showing Predator to his students on Valentine’s Day. His broader meaning was clear: Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday worthy of ridicule. His deeper meaning wasn't clear to me as a teenager, but it's crystal clear to me as an adult: Predator is a metaphor for what "grown-up love" will do to you, if a little over-the-top.

Puppy love gets all the pop songs and all the ennui, but it’s grown-up love that devastates you. One of the things nobody tells you about adulthood, until you find yourself mired in it, is how complicated and insane and ill-timed grown-up love can be. Why? Because the stakes are so much higher. Love has always been a gamble, but now you're standing at the roulette wheel with way too much riding on red.

But what really makes grown-up love so different than the very real, very heartbreaking stuff of youth? Laugh all you want, but Nicolas Cage as Ronny Cammareri in Moonstruck gives the best description of the difference that I've ever heard:
Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn't know this either, but love don't make things nice—it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die. The storybooks are bullshit! Now I want you to come upstairs with me and get in my bed! 
Naturally, this speech works splendidly in the movie; Loretta and Ronny wind up together in a hilarious finish. That’s Hollywood, where grown-up love works out for the best. In real life, of course, love gets increasingly complicated the older you get. And nobody tells you that!

On this Valentine's Day, I’d like to explore some songs that deal with the ups and downs of grown-up love; songs that are beyond simple broken hearts and he-said-she-said emo posturing. These are the songs of people who were a little bit destroyed by grown-up love. They may have moved on by now, but the record remains.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Pardon My HeartNeil Young 
They say the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. That seems to be what “Pardon My Heart” is all about. Sometimes, there’s no big breakup. Sometimes, things just change. Sometimes, things get comfortable. You don’t realize the spark is gone until you try to get it back. And many times, it doesn't come back. With grown-up love, you bring it all on yourself.

Ventura—Lucinda Williams 
Grown-up love can leave you aggrieved in ways that young love does not. Sometimes you can’t cry about it. You drive around in your car, listening to music, wishing you could just walk into the ocean. “Ventura” could be about death or the end of a relationship; it’s so far from being on-the-nose that the distinction between the two is blurred, as it often is in real life.

Love Reign O’er MeThe Who
I was friends with someone who told me that Quadrophenia helped him get through his 30s. I never understood what he was on about until I reached my 30s. After all, the album is the story of a mod teenager trying to find his way. But the resilience of youth is strikingly absent. The landscape is so bleak and the prospects are so hazy that “Love Reign O’er Me” fits within an adult’s experience perfectly. Sometimes there’s nothing to do except stand out in the rain and scream and hope it brings you relief somehow.

Somebody That I Used to Know—Gotye
Say what you will about the most ubiquitous song of the past year (second only to “Call Me Maybe” or “Gangnam Style”), but Wally De Backer wrote a refreshingly unique earworm about the boring, humiliating, ridiculous ugliness of a grown-up breakup. There’s no big fight, no dramatic exit, no obsessive pleading; just a collection of personal belongings and the changing of phone numbers. It’s so anti-climactic it hurts.

The Actor—The Moody Blues
Infatuation doesn't end when you grow up, and the desire to escape grows more intense the older you get and the more tied into life you become. “The Actor” describes a woman who becomes besotted with an actor she sees on television. This kind of separation from reality is something that we, as adults, experience more as the years go on and our lives solidify. Things seem more unattainable than ever before, including love, especially if we haven’t found it yet. 

Can You Get to That—Funkadelic
Writing checks for love that your heart can’t cash. This is another grown-up break-up song, but one that acknowledges the price of our indiscretions. As we enter into ever more serious relationships, the increasing (potential) consequences to our actions can become the reason why we shrink from responsibility. Sometimes being honest in a relationship is the toughest thing you can do, but it’s a big way grown-up love is different from puppy love. Grown-up love sometimes requires us to be mature when we don’t want to be, when it doesn't seem fair, and when doesn't feel good. Can you get to that?

Enchanting Ghost—Sufjan Stevens
It’s hard to know if Sufjan is writing with religious or romantic overtones, so I’ll keep with the theme of this post and extrapolate the latter meaning from this song: Sometimes we want to know why someone wanted to be with us in the first place. Grown-ups like to over-think like that. Other times, we can’t bear to disrupt the few fond memories we may have of the person we once gave all our love to. That “enchanting ghost” that keeps us from feeling like we've been fooled, that we've wasted years of our lives—years that are suddenly more precious than we could have ever imagined in our younger days. The end result is that sometimes we stay with the wrong person because who they were, and who we want them to be, mean more to us than who they really are.

Teenagers: You've been warned!

What are your favorite “Grown-Up Love Songs”? Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

ATWN: Free Track of the Day - Ra Ra Riot "Beta Love"

I like getting stuff for free.  A few years back my wife and I packed up our lives in Boston and headed back to my home turf in Vermont.  The transition was easy for me but not so much for my wife.  She'd spent the best part of eleven years in Beantown and, where I am a ridiculous introvert, she is an extrovert and was being asked to leave behind a fairly massive social circle.  It was all very Green Acres.  To help guide her through those first few months of social isolation she picked up the hobby of wasting time on a website that was, basically, a clearing house for sweepstakes.  It was all there.  Good Housekeeping was giving away a year's supply of Clorox to the person who could explain in 500 words or less what "clean" really meant to their daily lives.  Give Nike access to your email address and you could win a trip to the Olympics.  My wife was hooked for a while and, much to my surprise, her efforts were rewarded.  We won trips, concert tickets, t-shirts, and this crazy prize package that included the greatest thing we were ever given for free - a Roomba.

Now, we here at ATWN can't exactly hook you up with a robotic vacuum.  We can however scrounge the internet and find free tunes.  This next one comes from the chamber pop outfit, Ra-Ra-Riot.  Here's a taste of what you can get your filthy little fingers on if you click the link below:

The free-track comes courtesty of NPR's "All Songs Considered" so Clicky-click-click-right-here and head on over there and get your well-deserved free stuff.

Paul Adams spends his time in the wilds of Vermont fighting bears to protect his wife and two kids.  He teaches English at a local high school, writes MG/YA stories, embarrasses his family on a regular basis, and lets his geek-flag fly proudly.  He dreams of being a member of the Pixies. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Tuning Into Writer's Block

I’m the Nashville girl, which I guess makes me the country girl? Well, something like that.
I live in a town that is so fueled by music, we earned ourselves the official title of “Music City.” There is music everywhere–good music too–new, talented artists flock here on a daily basis, looking for a chance to make it.

As a writer, I sort of luck out with that.

I’m not sure what the connection is between music and imagination. I’d like to learn more about it though, because I know it’s a strong one. So strong that the main way I develop story ideas is through listening to music–live, radio, award shows–you name it, I want to daydream to it. 

Writers deal with writer’s block in all sorts of ways, but over the years, I’ve developed a method that seems to be almost foolproof for me: I drive. I get in my car, hit the scan button on the radio and turn the ignition key.

I let the songs on the radio skip and surprise me until a sound, a lyric, or a feeling sets my daydreaming on a determinate path. I daydream about a lyric my character might’ve said or if the sound of the song could be the background music to a particular scene. I drive and drive until I’m daydreaming in three-dimensions. Then, typically, I pull over and make voice memos to myself about it so I won’t forget.

I’m not saying my music daydreaming will work for everyone, but it’s one that has worked in my favor time and again.

For example, I’m working on a story right now that’s a twist on Greek myth. It deals with gods, zodiacs and fate. Over the holidays, I was explaining my idea to my dad. He shook his head and asked me how I came up with such a thing. I laughed and I told him I didn’t know.

But I do.

I was trying to outline the new novel and I was failing. In fact, I had five different outlines saved on my laptop and I hated every single one. But then I'd gone over to a friend's house to watch the AMAs (the American Music Awards) and saw Taylor Swift’s performance of “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Halfway through her set, something in my brain clicked about the character I was trying to create and I thought to myself, “Now she would be TroubleTROUBLEtrouble.”

The outline that followed turned into 330 pages of a manuscript. 

So if you're stuck, my advice is to get in your car and let the radio surprise you or watch some of last night's GRAMMY performances and let your imagination go. 

But if you've got a full proof writer's block method that works for you, let us in on it! I want to know.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Things that make you go hmmm...

As a serious music fan, maybe you've heard of the indie v. mainstream debate. Heck, maybe you've even taken a part in the debate. Maybe you lean strongly toward one type of music and have a heavy distaste for the other. Some people will argue that if you're a true indie fan, you can't possibly also like mainstream music.

I tend to disagree.

In my mind there is no wrong type or lesser quality music. Sure, it gets old to hear the same song over and over and over again on the radio. (That's probably what drives me to switch to my iPod and listen to my favorite lesser known artists in the first place.) But listening to my indie faves doesn't mean I don't enjoy mainstream music. I do. In fact, I find myself drawn to nearly every type of music.

If you took a scroll through my iPod you'd find anything from christian rock, to hard-core rap (the old school stuff you'd be embarrassed to have your mother hear), to country, pop, indie, techno, and just about everything else in between, including instrumentals and musical soundtracks. I turn up the volume every time I hear a Bruno Mars song and sing along. The same goes for Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift, Michael Jackson and Eminem. Imagine Dragons and Awolnation are frequent playlist favorites, too. You name it, and I've listened to it, and probably even loved it.

Books are a lot like music in this "mainstream" way.

When so many people are raving about the same books, it's easy to get turned off to reading it before even picking it up. TWILIGHT is a common example of this. If you have enough people shoving the book down your throat before you've read it, you're almost guaranteed to be disappointed. How could you not be? I've heard the same complaints about many of the more popular bestselling authors like Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, etc. As someone who has read and loved TWILIGHT, THE NOTEBOOK, and THE RAINMAKER, I never did understand why some people are so annoyed by others liking them.

Isn't it a good thing that people are finding something to love in so many different places?

Isn't it great that people are reading at all?

Isn't it wonderful that somewhere, someone is smiling in their car while listening to yet another Rhianna song on the radio?

Maybe mainstream music doesn't always offer the most thoughtful lyrics or showcase the best true singers available, but if it gets me to dance, I say let's hear it. Maybe some books get pushed harder than others. Maybe they aren't "as deserving" - and there are always going to be authors out there that aren't getting quite as much love as they should, but if people are reading, that's what matters.

It always makes me happy when I see someone's nose buried in a book. Always.

So I say, why argue at all? Why not just listen and read and just enjoy the lyrics and beats and words on the page as the entertainment they were meant to be? Maybe if we all enjoy the essence of art a little more, we can all hold hands and dance together without judgement. (Well, unless you try to do the cabbage patch. There's always judgement with the cabbage patch.)

And now, just because I'm suddenly finding myself listening to this song again, I'll let you enjoy a little bit of The Civil Wars. You probably already know this, but the entire Barton Hollow album is fantastic revision music.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

ATWN: Free Track of the Day - Wake Owl "Gold"

We at ATWN realize that we may have taken for granted that our readership were aware of the "freegan" movement.  It was rude and it would seem that the only way to make it up to you is to a) let Carrie and Fred from Portlandia give you a taste of what the freegan movement is all about and b) give you some more free tunes.  Let's get that first part out of the way:

Now, as to that "free" stuff we're always going on about around here.  Today's free track comes from Vancouver's own Wake Owl.  Now, once again, we find ourselves apologizing but this time it might not be our fault.  As we know, international music rights are tricky.  We found this track while checking out what iTunes was offering for free this week.  Now, this song might be free in the United States (which is where I'm currently typing) and you might live in Canada.  Maybe you live in the UK?  Whatever.  It doesn't matter.  You might find that our little nugget of musical goodness isn't actually free in your country.  If that's the case, find a friend in the US and have them grab it for you.  You do have friends, right?  Clicky clicky this link right here and get yourself some love.

Paul Adams spends his time in the wilds of Vermont fighting bears to protect his wife and two kids.  He teaches English at a local high school, writes MG/YA stories, embarrasses his family on a regular basis, and lets his geek-flag fly proudly.  He dreams of being a member of the Pixies. 

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

ATWN: Free Track of the Day - Local Natives "Breakers"

We love free music here at ATWN.  We're just a bunch of dumpster-diving internet freegans at heart.  Lucky for you, we're not interested in serving you a cup of joe with a splash of expired half n' half and a four-day-old donut we found behind some mini-mart.  We're music hounds and we want you to beef up your library with a few free tunes.  Today's free track comes from Los Angeles' Local Natives.  Their first album, Gorilla Manor, introduced listeners to a unique sound that relied heavily on the groups use of vocal harmonies and the wonderful ability to carry a groove.  Imagine the offspring of a one-night-stand between Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend and you've probably got a pretty good understanding of what you're getting yourself into.  The band released their second album, Hummingbird, on January 29th.  Their first single, Breakers, has a beautiful rising build and is driven home by those pre-mentioned harmonies.

If you'd like to get your grubby little hands on this track for the exorbitant price of nothing, swing by the band's website (clicky right here people) and join their mailing list.  Poof.  You've got a new song.

Paul Adams spends his time in the wilds of Vermont fighting bears to protect his wife and two kids.  He teaches English at a local high school, writes MG/YA stories, embarrasses his family on a regular basis, and lets his geek-flag fly proudly.  He dreams of being a member of the Pixies. 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Timing is Everything

Timing is Everything
From One Writer to Another

In the writing/publishing world, like life in general, timing is everything. Unfortunately, in most instances, we don't have much control over the element of time. Let's take a look at a couple of the ways timing is important in the publishing world. 

1. Timing in writing: Pacing is a major factor in any and all writing, whether fiction or nonfiction.In fiction though, the entire plot depends on the concept of time - to keep the reading suspenseful one needs to reveal information at a calculated time, to increase tension a writer needs to create conflict which many times includes issues with time, and the climax has to occur at a precise moment. 

2. Timing in landing an agent/editor: Anyone who's written a novel or roughed it in the query trenches knows the saying, "It only takes one yes." And it does. But think about all those rejections we get. There are many times a writer gets a no not because of poor writing, but because of bad timing. Maybe that agent or editor all ready has something similar on their list, maybe the manuscript isn't marketable at that time, maybe...You get my point. It's timing.

3. Time you spend on craft: As writers we spend countless hours thinking, preparing (researching, making outlines, making playlists, whatever), writing, editing, revisions, learning, reading. And we all know, the more time we spend doing these things, the better writer we'll become.

4. Time you spend making connections: If you're a writer, you've heard of building a platform, making sure you have a web presence. So we put time into blogs, facebook pages, tweeting, going to writing conferences and time connecting to readers, in an effort to build relationships, to get our name out there. This is not just time consuming.

5. The time you spend dreaming: I really hope you all do this, whatever your goals are. Dreams can motivate you, propel you forward, give you hope. Dreams inspire. This is time well spent.

As writers (or anything we dedicate ourselves to), we often work against the clock. We cram writing in whenever we can, working it in between day jobs and life. We rush here and bust ass to get there, all in a race against time to accomplish EVERYTHING. And let's not forget about looming deadlines. There's never enough time.

Time, or the lack there of, can send us all in tailspin. It's get a pretty bad rap. So, today...let's turn it around. Let's celebrate time and how important it is to us on so many levels. Here's a fun playlist of tracks that have to do with time in some way or another. And some great music videos, too.

Time is On My Side - The Rolling Stones
Times Like These - Foo Fighters 
Time to Pretend - MGMT
Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) - Green Day
Time - Hootie and The Blowfish
Good Time - Owl City & Carly Rae Jepson (Don't judge, my kids like it.)

Check out this acoustic version of It's Time by Imagine Dragons

And, as the lyrics by Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol say, 
"This is your life, this is your TIME."
These are words to remember. 
Go do something you've always wanted to do. 
Cast fear aside, seize the day,and make your dreams come true. 
This is your life. This is your time!
Cheerleader out, yo!  

If you haven't watched this video before, you really should indulge. It's funny. 
(Why yes. I do have a not so secret obsession crush on Gary Lightbody.)

Have any tracks you recommend that involve the element of time?
Why do they rock your world?