Friday, December 27, 2013

5 on Friday -- Set 203

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

How was your Christmas? Hope it was beautiful like mine was.

That's Brad and me, enjoying our Christmas morning breakfast. (My mom was the photographer.)

Next up on the holiday calendar: New Year's Eve!

2013 has been the Year of the Black Snake according to the Chinese zodiac. Snake years always bring a great deal of transformation, as snakes shed their skin and force change upon us, whether we're ready for it or not.

For this final 5 on Friday for 2013, here are five songs about snakes.

1 - Here Comes the Snake -- Cherry Poppin Daddies

2 - Cotton Mouth -- The Doobie Brothers

3 - Crawling King Snake -- The Doors 

4 - The Voice & The Snake -- Enigma

This one takes awhile to get going. The actual music part gets rolling at the 1:30 mark.

5 - The Union of the Snake -- Duran Duran

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas

Join me at The Popculturedivas for 2013 -- The Transforming Year of the Black Snake.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

5 on Friday -- Set 202

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

At the moment, Mike and I are carrying on a tradition started four years ago by our friend Travis. Over the years we've had up to ten bloggers creating wonderful musical sets to share with one another on Fridays.

If you'd like to join in, please do! It's a lot of fun. I've discovered a ton of great new-to-me music doing this weekly feature.

This is the last set before Christmas rolls around next Wednesday. Here are five lively seasonal tunes to get your toes tapping while you get your last-minute Christmas stuff done.

1 - Riu Riu Chiu -- Kalenda Maya

2 - The Seven Joys of Mary -- Great Big Sea

3 - Christmas Jig and Mouth of the Tobique Reel -- Natalie MacMaster and Yo-Yo Ma  

4 - The King -- Loreena Mckennitt and Cedric Smith

5 - Panxolina -- Cristina Pato and Yo-Yo Ma

Monday, December 16, 2013

Behind the Sugar Plum Fairy -- Virtual Advent Blog Tour -- 6th year

Welcome, Virtual Advent Tourists!

This is my sixth year participating, and I'm so glad that Marg and Kelly have launched such a wonderful holiday tradition into the blogosphere. It continues to be a highlight of my season.

I blogged previously during the 2009 Virtual Advent Tour about my love of ballet and The Nutcracker in particular. I can never get enough of it!

Is The Nutcracker a Christmas tradition for you, as it is for me?

Are you lucky enough to live in a large city with a professional dance company? Is a live performance of this ballet classic one of the things your soul can't live without every year, as it is for me?

I have a large collection of Nutcracker-themed Christmas ornaments, including a Clara, the Mouse King, a Sugarplum Fairy, some Snowflakes, some Waltz of the Flowers figures and a Harlequin doll. I'm always looking to add more.

Aside from writing and film, ballet is my truest passion. I studied ballet when I was a younger, uninjured version of me. When dancing myself was no longer an option, I was lucky enough to get a job as an usher at the theatre that was at that time the home of the National Ballet of Canada in Toronto.

For eight years, my Christmas season revolved around the performances of The Nutcracker, and I got to see so many wonderful behind-the-scenes aspects of what it means to be the Sugarplum Fairy in a production such as this.

For those of you who may already have your tickets for this year's performance, who may hum many of the pieces from the score by Tchaikovsky -- here is a backstage peek at one of the women who dons the famous tutu and tiara of the Sugarplum Fairy. 

"When I'm onstage, I'm not really thinking about the steps anymore," says principal dancer Heather Ogden"I want to be hearing the music and letting my body remember the steps by itself and move with the music, and enjoy the story and bring a character to life."

"The Nutcracker in many companies is the staple at Christmastime, and it's rare to come back to a role every year. So it's really nice to do the Sugarplum Fairy, because you get to revisit it so often. I've found a level of comfort where I feel like I can really enjoy telling the story."

Ruth Bartel, resident cutter in the National Ballet of Canada's wardrobe department, gives an in-depth look at how a tutu is built: "We build our costumes to last for twenty-five to thirty years...A tutu something like this, the Sugarplum, could be as much as thirty-five hundred dollars."

Heather Ogden is the featured Sugarplum Fairy in this piece.


Did you always wonder what it would feel like to be the Sugarplum Fairy?

Friday, December 13, 2013

5 on Friday -- Set 201

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the sets posted by the other 5 on Friday bloggers -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

This week marks my final post in this year's Birthday Boy/Birthday Girl project, which ran throughout 2013. I had a lot of fun with it.

I found it fascinating to see the sorts of music created by people born in different months, for the most part displaying the characteristics of their astrological signs.

Here's a wee recap of the Birthday Boy/Birthday Girl sets:

January birthday boys -- Rod Stewart, Robert Palmer, David Bowie, Michael Hutchence (INXS) and Steve Perry (Journey)

February birthday girls -- Stockard Channing (Grease soundtrack,) Roberta Flack (with Donny Hathaway,) Natalie Cole, Leontyne Price and Patty Andrews (the Andrews Sisters)

March birthday boys -- Harry Belafonte, Adam Levine (Maroon 5,) Chris Martin (Coldplay,) Charlie Reid and Craig Reid (The Proclaimers) and Eric Idle 

April birthday girls -- Kelly Clarkson, Sheena Easton, Carnie Wilson (Wilson Phillips,) Victoria Beckham (Spice Girls) and Hayley Westenra

May birthday boys -- Steve Winwood, Lou Gramm (Foreigner,) Bono (U2,) Paul Weller (The Style Council) and Georg Wadenius (Saturday Night Live band)

June birthday girls -- Nancy Sinatra, Anne Murray, Laurie Anderson (with Peter Gabriel,) Alanis Morissette and Nicole Scherzinger (Pussycat Dolls) 

July birthday boys -- Geddy Lee (Rush,) Stewart Copeland (The Police,) Robbie Robertson, Vince Guaraldi (Vince Guaraldi Trio) and Carlos Santana

August birthday girls -- Shirley Manson (Garbage,) Shania Twain, Geri Halliwell (Spice Girls,) Florence Welch (Florence + The Machine) and Madonna

September birthday boys -- Harry Connick Jr, Michael Buble, Freddie Mercury (Queen,) Bruce Springsteen and Moby

October birthday girls -- Julie Andrews, Susan Sarandon (Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack,) Katy Perry, Gwen Stefani (No Doubt) and Mavis Swan Poole 

November birthday boys -- Denny Doherty (The Mamas and The Papas,) Leslie McKeown (Bay City Rollers,) Adam Ant, Billy Idol and Jimi Hendrix

And now lets say Happy Birthday to these December birthday girls.

1 - I Feel Love -- Donna Summer

2 - Sex Crime from the 1984 soundtrack -- Annie Lennox from Eurythmics

3 - Lady Marmalade -- Birthday girl Christina Aguilera with Mya, Pink, Lil' Kim and Missy Elliott  

4 - Toxic -- Britney Spears

5 - Give it To Me -- Birthday girl Nelly Furtado with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake

Friday, December 6, 2013

5 on Friday -- Set 200!

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the sets posted by the other 5 on Friday bloggers -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

200 musical sets! If my February-of-2010 self could see me now...

Let's head into the Christmas swing of things, shall we? My sister and I will be having our annual Sisters Outside Lights Christmas Party tomorrow, so here are five tunes to set the mood.

1 - Rockin Around the Christmas Tree -- Brenda Lee

2 - Wonderful Christmastime -- Paul McCartney

3 - Joy -- Apollo 100

4 - It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year -- Andy Williams

5 - Wizards in Winter -- Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Friday, November 29, 2013

5 on Friday -- Set 199

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the sets posted by the other 5 on Friday bloggers -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

I'm in the last two days of the November writing marathon known as NaNoWriMo, wherein crazy people write a 50,000-word first draft novel in 30 days.

This is my fifth year slogging through the ordeal. At this point everyone participating seriously questions their sanity.

However, from past experience I also know that pushing this far past my normal creative process always gives me amazing material to work with later.

So, as I head for the 50,000-word finish line, here are five tunes about writing.

1 - Every Day I Write the Book -- Elvis Costello

2 - Lady Writer -- Dire Straits

3 - Dancing in the Dark -- Bruce Springsteen

4 - Paperback Writer -- The Beatles

5 - If You Could Read My Mind -- Gordon Lightfoot

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas

Join me at The Popculturedivas for 13 of My Favorite Costumes From Hal-Con 2013.

My next Thursday Thirteen will be my 300th listing of thirteen things. A big milestone for A Piece of My Mind!

Because I won't be able to get ready for that by next week--I'll need to recover somewhat from NaNoWriMo and my choir concert this Friday--my retrospective of Thursday Thirteens from 200 to 300 will be posted sometime in January. See you then! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

5 on Friday -- Set 198

This week launches a refit of the 5 on Friday musical feature.

The blogger who began our musical journey in early 2010 has put his meme to bed, but the other 5 on Friday participants are still spinning the tunes. Thanks, Travis for all of the fun you've inspired! See what happens when you start something that takes on a life of its own?

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the sets posted by the other 5 on Friday bloggers -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

This month is my own birthday month, as well as bringing birthdays for my husband, my mom, my brother-in-law, my cousin-in-law and two of my uncles, as well as several of my very close friends. So I think it's high time we celebrated November birthday boys here at A Piece of My Mind.

1 - I Saw Her Again -- Denny Doherty from The Mamas and The Papas

2 - Give a Little Love -- Leslie McKeown from the Bay City Rollers

My favorite musical November birthday boy! My teen heart throb, lead singer Les McKeown.

3 - Goody Two Shoes -- Adam Ant

4 - White Wedding -- Billy Idol

5 - Foxy Lady -- Jimi Hendrix

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday Thirteen -- 298 -- 13 Cadence Creek Christmas Menu Items With Donna Alward

This week I'm hosting fellow Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada author Donna Alward here at A Piece of My Mind.

Let's see what she's got cooking for her Thursday Thirteen. Over to you, Donna!


I thought I’d do a Cadence Creek Christmas themed Thursday Thirteen!  Since food almost always plays a big part in my books, I figured coming up with thirteen different foods would be easy – especially since this is a Christmas book! Ready?

13: Pot Roast – page 20.  The food at The Wagon Wheel Diner is pretty good – and we’ve heard about it before in the other Cadence Creek books. Martha Bullock makes the best pie in Cadence Creek and her recipes are a trade secret.

12: Nacho Dip – page 41. What’s a wedding shower without some snacks? I love nacho dip and it’s so easy. Equal amounts of Miracle Whip and Cream cheese blended together makes the bottom. Spread on taco sauce and salsa, top with tomatoes, grated cheddar and some green onion and you’re good to go.

11: Chocolate Fudge Cake – page 64. Pressed into alternate arrangements for the rehearsal dinner, it’s off to the Wagon Wheel for lasagna and garlic bread. But the bakery sent over a cake to help with dessert. Isn’t it nice how the community just chips in when it’s needed?

10: Hot Cider – page 97. It’s winter. There’s more than just fruit punch at the wedding cocktail hour. I love hot spiced cider – yum!

9: Beef Wellington – page 105. Main course at the reception. After all, they’re feeding a room full of ranchers. What else would they have but beef? I love Beef Wellington, but it’s a special dish I don’t eat very often!

8: Pastry baskets filled with chocolate mousse and topped with berries and cream – page 107. Wedding dessert. Pastry. Chocolate. Whipped Cream. Berries. Did I miss anything?

7: Lavender Chocolate Cake – page 112. Come on, you didn’t expect an ordinary wedding cake, did you? The bride is a baker and her best friend and ex-boss made the cake as a gift. I knew it had to be something original and very special!

6: Coffee and Eggnog – page 132. One thing I love to do at Christmas? Add egg nog to my coffee instead of my usual light cream. The only thing better is Bailey’s…

5: Cannelloni – page 147. Enough with the meat and potatoes. Bring on the pasta. Tomato, basil, cheese… Cannelloni and Manicotti are 2 of my kids’ favourite meals.

4. Stollen, Christmas Pudding, Strudel, and Carrot Cake! Page 167. A trip to the bakery yields food for now and food for later. Taylor and Angela have strudel and cake, and Taylor buys the pud and stollen for a great traditional family Christmas she’s planning.

3: Romaine Salad - page 198. I got this recipe from my “adopted” family in Calgary. Grandma Tena makes it and it’s delicious. Romaine, mandarin orange, red pepper strips and poppyseed dressing. It’s so yummy.

2: Prime Rib and Yorkshire pudding - page 198. You knew it had to be something tasty for Christmas Eve dinner, right? My Yorkshire pudding never turns out, but I love eating someone else’s.

1: Cranberry Bread Pudding with Custard Sauce – page 199 I LOVE Bread Pudding. Almost any kind. But I had this particular one at the Banff Springs Hotel during one of our Christmas brunches and it was marvelous. Just beautiful.

A CADENCE CREEK CHRISTMAS is out now anywhere Harlequin Books are sold!

You can catch up with me at my website too –


Thanks for such a delicious list of thirteen things, Donna! The cranberry bread pudding does sound like I want, now...

For readers wondering about the Hal-Con costume Thursday Thirteen I mentioned last week, please check back next week. Let's see which one is your favorite.

Friday, November 15, 2013

5 on Friday -- Set 197

For a final week, Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

After today, Travis is retiring his four-year-old musical meme which immediately became the highlight of my week and remained so since February of 2010. Putting together my sets each week gives me joy, retaining the sense of play I need in my creative life.

Travis invited the regular 5-on-Friday-ers to carry on without him if we wished, and it appears that Jamie, Mike and I will continue to spin the tunes that we love.

But I just want to let Travis know that in coming up with his Friday musical feature, he has given me hours and hours and hours of happiness. Sending you love and ((hugs)) today as we bid farewell to an amazing run.

Well, we did it. Last Saturday, Shawna Romkey and I gave our first convention panel on Heroes and Villains during Hal-Con 2013.

Thanks to everyone who attended our panel. You asked great questions!

Last week I spun four superhero tunes plus one super villain tune. This week -- since I was giving the villains part of the panel -- here are five tunes that come to us from the villain's point of view.

1 - Devil in Disguise -- Elvis Presley

This song illustrates the sort of villain I mentioned at the panel last Saturday, the sort of character who seems like a 'suitable catch' on the surface -- until you get to know him a little better, and if you're an historical female character, it may very well be too late by then. You may have been married off to what seemed like a strong alpha male character, only to discover he is actually a villain, making all the wrong choices based on fear, self-preservation and self-interest.

This sort of tragic villain character -- someone who sees himself as a thwarted hero -- is shown in the video as Guy of Gisborne from BBC's Robin Hood (played by my fave, Richard Armitage.)

2 - The Sinner in Me -- Depeche Mode

This song perfectly captures the allure of The Gray Character, my favorite. This accounts for the attraction we often feel towards a character who we sense is still redeemable. This sort of villain holds a lot more tension within the story, because we aren't sure whether he'll choose the high road or the low road. A traditional villain will always take the dark choice.

3 - A Criminal Mind -- Lawrence Gowan

I've always loved this song, by Glasgow Scotland-born, Toronto-raised Lawrence Gowan. I love the bald admission given by the narrator: "Ask one who's known me / If I'm really so bad / I am."

This is the sort of internal monologue that would take place inside the traditional villain character. He has no ambitions to change, no desire to reform. He delights in his own horrible rampages.

Strangely, the tone of the song implies a degree of regret -- however, it's clear that the narrator will never make the choices of a heroic character. The greater good, self-sacrifice -- these ambitions won't tempt this villain in the least. 

4 - Animal I Have Become -- Three Days Grace

Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon a Time is a massive fave of mine (played by another of my long-time inspirations for a fictional character in one of my works-in-progress, Robert Carlyle.)

What a tour de force of villainy! As the original village spinner character, his descent into darkness through fearful choice-making is something we can relate to. We even hope that this character is still reachable and redeemable.

As the Dark One / Rumpelstiltskin, he is a cool deal-maker, preying on those who will do anything in a moment of need. He is not without emotion, however -- he has a streak of playful mischief-making, and delights in the sword he holds over people's heads.

As Mr. Gold, the contemporary Storybrooke pawn shop owner, he holds the most tension for the viewer, as we never know how this version of the character will react. Mr. Gold shows the most vulnerability, the most rage and the greatest desire to reach for happiness. 

5 - Bad to the Bone -- George Thorogood and The Destroyers

The supervillain tune from my set list last week belonged to the Joker (played by dearly-missed Heath Ledger) -- and here he is again, in all his traditional villain glory.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday Thirteen -- 297 -- 13 Things About My Hal-Con 2013 Weekend

My second Hal-Con is wrapped and in the can. A fantastic weekend! Thanks to all of the organizers who put on the event, especially since -- as you'll see -- things went a little off-script on Saturday...

1 -  This is my husband Brad and me at our booth on the main retail floor, Day 1. We had an awesome spot, and I did the best ever at this show. Thanks to everyone who dropped by my booth, with very special thanks to all who bought my books. That's a thrill that never gets old.

2 - Upstairs on the second floor, in the official author area, my friend Shawna Romkey, a fellow member of our writers' group Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, had her booth ready for Hal-Con pass holders. Shawna had an especially great con. Go, Shawna!

3 - Across from Shawna was bestselling fantasy author Terry Brooks, who came with his own legions of devoted fans. Witness the Terry Brooks lineup.

4 - When there was a moment between signings, Terry Brooks made his way along the other author tables, chatting with fellow writers.

Here's what happened immediately following the convention, in Shawna's words:

"Ummm...Terry Brooks just contacted me. He read my book on the flight home. He asked for my email to send longer comments than my website form would allow. YIKES!!!!!!!!!"

Then --

"Terry Brooks emailed me!!! He had some really positive things to say and also gave me some great feedback! *faints* "

5 - What book is that, you say?

6 - One of the good news / bad news things about taking part in events like Hal-Con as an author is not being able to see everything that's going on. I did manage to stop for a few minutes on one of my trips upstairs to see Shawna, and watched these historical warrior reenactors demonstrating sword fighting.

7 - Sometimes the best place to see the headliner guests is just by staying put at your booth. That's Robert Maillet at right, from 300, Sherlock Holmes, Immortals and Pacific Rim checking out a jewelry vendor across from my table.

8 - Day 2 started out with a very large line-up stretching around the Metro Centre, with the interior crowds noticeably bigger. This shot of the corridor immediately outside of the room where Shawna and I did a Heroes and Villains panel on Saturday at 12:45 is a good indicator of the Day 1 crowd. Busy but still lots of space to move around.

Halifax is a little city, and Hal-Con is still a young event -- only a few years old. By about 10:30 on Day 2, having been a former Toronto's Fan Expo participant, as well as an eight-year veteran of working front of house for what is now the Sony Centre, I could sense that the building had reached maximum capacity and that people were no doubt being turned away.

I attempted to head upstairs to meet with Shawna before our panel, only to be faced with an unmoving wall of people being held back on the first floor. Using my Toronto Big City skirting-around-the-mob technique, I managed to get to the escalator where I thought I would have to plead my case as to why I had to get to the second floor.

However, the staff waved me along when they saw my vendor pass -- thank God!

9 - Somehow our panel started on time, with a packed audience and even standing-room-only at one point. Shawna talked Heroes and I talked Villains, and we had great questions from the audience.

This was the first-ever panel at an event like this for both of us. Thanks to everyone who attended and took part in the discussion.

10 - Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us at that time, Hal-Con was enduring some rather extreme growing pains. Here's a link to a news report on Hal-Con's Day 2 fiasco:

11 - I salute the 5th Dr. Who, Peter Davison, who waded outside into the cold where all of the incredibly disappointed turned-away convention pass holders were lining up for refunds.

Peter Davison walked up and down the line to chat with those who couldn't get in, showing wonderful generosity and kindness.

Here's a clip from Dr. Who, with the 5th doctor in action.

12 - Shawna got to hang out with him at the Stargazer Soiree later that night. A jolly good fellow, what?

13 - The best part of taking part in cons like Fan Expo and Hal-Con is the incredible costumes that go by my author table. Here's a small taste of some great ones. Join me next week when I turn Thursday Thirteen over to the costumes of Hal-Con 2013.