Songs That Lift My Mood

My son and I both suffer from clinical depression. After years of dealing with strange misconceptions about the illness, I’ve begun to fancy myself a mental health advocate. Logan and I have agreed–if sharing our stories with the world help people, we’re happy to share them. This openness with our mental health has caused problems in the past. People do not understand. When you say you struggle with your mental health, people either think you’re dangerous, or your credibility becomes shot through with holes. It’s extremely frustrating. So, every now and then, I use this little platform I’ve developed to simultaneously attempt to dispel a misconception, while also providing help. 

Now, firstly, there are levels of depression. There are depths of depression that nothing can dispel short of medication, therapy, and time. But sometimes, we feel ourselves dipping low and can pull the reins before we get that far. Sometimes we can’t, but when we can shift the trajectory before we get too deep, it’s good to try. I tend to use music to try to lift my spirits when I’m in this headspace. This obviously won’t work for everybody, and if I’m honest, it doesn’t always work with my son, so this is hit and miss. But if music helps keep you from spiraling, or if you just want a mood pick-me-up, here are the songs that turn my mood around. 

Life In Color by One Republic

A song about feeling dejected but finding a light at the end of the tunnel? Well, it certainly couldn’t get more on message than that, could it? With lyrics like “Well this is life in motion/And just when I could run this race no more/The sun bursts, clouds break/This is life in color” how could you not feel uplifted?

High Hopes by Panic! At the Disco

We play this song every morning to get Logan in the right brain space to take on the world. “Had to have high, high hopes for a living/Shooting  for the stars when I couldn’t make a killing/Didn’t have a dime but I always had a vision/Always had high, high hopes/Had to have high, high hopes for a living/Didn’t know how but I always had a feeling/I was gonna be that one in a million/Always had high, high hopes.”

Battle Symphony by Linkin Park

Sometimes you just need a reminder that sometimes things are bad, but you can get back up and keep on moving. I sing this one to my baby when he feels overwhelmed by bullies. “I’ve been searching for the courage/To face my enemies/When they turn down the lights/I hear my battle symphony/All the world in front of me/If my armor breaks/I’ll fuse it back together.” A little reminder to keep fighting never hurt anyone.

Best Day Of My Life by American Authors

This one is basically a self-fulfilling prophecy rolled up in a song. How bad can your day be, if you start it singing that it will be a good day? Well…probably worse than the BEST day…but, you can lift your spirits with HOPE! “But all the possibilities/No limits just epiphanies.” And don’t forget the Woah-oh-ohs. This song is just fun times.

Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars

Whatever, this song is just fun. No uplifting message, just a fun beat. Don’t @ me.

Sharp Edges by Linkin Park

Yeah, another Linkin Park song. And we’re not even gonna discuss the fact that their more uplifting songs were on their final album with Chester Bennington. We’re just not. Either way, you can’t deny the hopeful nature of lyrics like “We all fall down/We live somehow/We learn what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Motivation to keep moving, provided by someone who knows damn well what a struggle it can be.

The Climb by Miley Cyrus

Another one that motivates you. “There’s always gonna be another mountain/I’m always gonna wanna make it move/Always gonna be an uphill battle/Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose/Ain’t about how fast I get there/Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side/It’s the climb.” Now, sure, it sounds just like my eighth grade valedictorian speech (I’m not joking), but half the joy of listening to this song is hearing how country Miley gets when she says “get there.” Trust me, it’s adorable.

I Love Myself Today by Bif Naked

Because you should. Always. “I’ll stand right up/Spit shine my soul/I’m gonna be proud and loud and outta control.” Hell yes. Sometimes, you just have to lose control. And the scream after the chorus makes that line even better.

Shake it Off by Taylor Swift

Yes. I, too, am ashamed of myself. There went my whole effortlessly cool vibe.

Good Life by One Republic

This one is fun, but it’s less about the lyrics and more about the fun background music that brings a smile to my face.

Second Wind by Kelly Clarkson

Another great reminder that even when people have something to say about you, even when you can’t get things right the first time, there’s always another chance to get it right. “You can’t forget about me/While you weren’t looking I was gettin’ even higher/ Say what you want about me/Your words are gasoline on my fire/You can hate me, underestimate me/Do what you do ’cause what you do don’t phase me/Just when you think I’m at the end/Any second I’mma catch my second wind.”

It’s Time by Imagine Dragons

A song about rising above your past and growing, while always remembering where you came from? It doesn’t get more in tune with my personal inspiration buttons than that. And with lines like, “The path to heaven runs through miles of clouded hell right to the top/Don’t look back,” you could bet on this one being on my list. A poetic retelling of my life story? I’ll take it.

Crazy by Meredith Brooks

Most people remember Brooks as the person who sang all about being “a bitch,” but this is my favorite song of hers. It’s so much fun, and all about encouraging you to be exactly who you are, and how everyone tells you to do that, but only on their terms. “You say don’t change a single thing/but your list is longer than my day/I can’t help wondering/When all is said/And all is done/Am I the crazy one?”

Machine by Imagine Dragons

This one serves as a reminder that I’m not trapped. Sometimes, when the world is raining down on you, or life keeps throwing you one responsibility after another, or the establishment is just getting you down, you need a reminder that you’re not just a cog in the machine. You are the machine–just as capable as running things and causing trouble as anyone and anything else. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, between its deep meaning and its rollicking beat, this is a new favorite. “Cause I’ve been wondering/When you gonna see I’m not for sale/I’ve been questioning/When you gonna see I’m not a part of your machine/Not a part of your machine/I am the machine.”

Rough Draft by Sarah Solovay

It could be that this is writer or artist specific, but this particular song tickles that part of me while also making me generally happy. A reminder that every person is a work in progress, this song plays with that idea with references to common issues with early drafts, and how changes can create masterpieces. It’s just so cleverly written and has a wonderful message. “So if you want me you got me/Granted I’m scattered and sloppy/But you can’t send me back/I’m just a rough draft/So cut me and crop me/And when I’m ready make copies/And one day/The real thing might blow you away.”


What are your favorite pick me up songs? Post them below. Maybe you’ll lead me to some new favorites. 🙂

Book Review: Monsters of Verity by Victoria Schwab

It’s a funny cycle and it goes like this: I write a book. When marketing said book for potential agents, having comparison titles can be very helpful. I go looking for comp titles from comp title extraordinaire, Megan Manzano. She does it for me for free because she’s my husband’s little sister, and I spent hours when she was a kid playing pet shop with her stuffed animals, so she owes me. She does charge for the service as well, so you should check it out. The next step in the cycle is to read the books she recommends and make sure I agree and know what I’m talking about when an agent says, “what in particular did you think was similar to the book?” That would be a really bad moment to gape like a fish. Anyway, I read, I love, I gush to her in annoying ways via FB Messenger, and then I write one of these. The Monsters of Verity series by Victoria Schwab was recommended to me mostly based on tone, family politics, and monster battles, but I stayed for so much more.

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Book Summary: Below is the jacket copy for the first book of the duology, This Savage Song. I will not include a summary for Our Dark Duet, because that would be spoilery as all get out.


Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.

August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided.

Their city is crumbling.

Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.

But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?

Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.
Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all.

What I enjoyed: I have to really stop and think about this, because on a knee jerk, I want to think I enjoyed everything, but I want to be more specific. This was definitely a novel that swept me up and through me through the dryer in the best possible way, so I’m still a little dizzy over it. Okay, deep breaths.

For starters, the characters–generally my favorite part of the book, I loved these characters. Kate was difficult to love, and at first you kind of loved to hate her, but by the end of her arc, I was blown away by her. She was a complex and truly wonderful character. August was a character I loved from the beginning, but his journey was a gripping ride, as he came to terms with who he was, what his role could be and what it should be. The villains ran the gamut between disturbing (the monsters) and oddly understandable and still disturbing (the human villains).

The mythology of this world was surprising and inventive. The monsters here are born of violent acts, meaning each act of brutal violence creates a monster. Dealing with your own demons is a big theme in this book. I was intrigued by the breakdown of differences between the monsters, and the creation of the war-divided city of Verity. I applauded her use of music as a way to draw forth a soul for devouring in the Sunai. This was a completely unique monster concept to me, and I loved the way this played out, especially in the end. The writing in itself is downright poetic. Like the music from August’s violin, it drags you in and holds you in its comforting lull or pulls you into pieces, depending on the moment.

The tone of the story was another lovely point. It was gritty and real and lived in. No punches pulled.

What I’d avoid:

There were a couple of things I didn’t love about the story, although they definitely weren’t as prevalent as the things I did. Schwab delivered a new and inventive world, and I understood that she wanted to leave some room for speculation, but there were a couple of threads I felt were left hanging. Things like “what happened to the US to create a city like Verity?” or “What happened to certain characters Kate and August weren’t able to maintain contact with?” just kind of never get answered, even though they felt like they would be. They aren’t integral to the plot, but it nagged me a little bit. Bigger questions, like “why are the Sunai SO DIFFERENT from other monsters, and from each other?” could have been purposely left open as something for the reader to suss out and theorize about, but I felt a few more clues would have been very much appreciated.

Would I recommend it:

I actually just did. I hope my husband is enjoying his audiobook of it right now! And I will continue to. I really enjoyed this story.

What can I learn from it:

I’ve been struggling with the bittersweet ending of one of my novels, wondering if I’d gone the right way with it. The Monsters of Verity series, along with its popularity, made me feel much better about this choice in my work. It also helped me trudge forward without fear in my latest work, which does have a gritty backdrop and a slightly selfish heroine. This story is a class in “Write what the story wants, the rest will fall in place” and I love that.

Despite my few tiny gripes, this series had me from the very first line and held me. And, it helpfully works as an addition to my list of comp titles. One of my favorite things about looking for comp titles is discovering new authors and new stories. Have any of you ready This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet? Any recommendations of similar books?

 

Losing Our Heroes

The idea for this blog started the day that General/Princess Carrie Fisher Leia passed away (and yes, I wrote it that way for a reason), but it has been festering, the idea gaining more momentum through the loss of Chester Bennington, and culminating now, after the loss of Dolores O’Riordan.

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When Carrie Fisher passed, I wrote a few posts on social media about my sadness at losing her, and I got an odd bit of feedback. Also, 2016, otherwise known as the year we all lost some artists we loved, got similar feedback. What I was hearing was people questioning the sadness and grieving of others. I’d see responses like, “sure, it’s sad. But how can you mourn someone you never met?” or “You know how they portray themselves, not who they really are.”

To a certain extent, that’s true. But it’s also true for everybody. We know people, but only as much as they let us know them. People put up walls, they have defenses, they show us the sides of themselves they wish to present. Unless we’re in a person’s inner circle, we probably don’t know what keeps them up at night. But if they were gone, would we still miss them?

With artists, it’s similar, but also so very different. While artists often present themselves in a certain way, we manage to get a window into their deeper emotions through their work. So yes, I do feel like I knew Carrie Fisher. I never met her, but her memoirs and the way she spoke out about her battles with mental health made her feel real and personal to me.

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Chester Bennington, lead singer and songwriter for Linkin Park, all but poured his guts into every song he wrote. When Chester committed suicide in July 2017, I was saddened, but ultimately not shocked. The words of his songs had often felt like pleas for help, an acknowledgement that he was struggling, despite often winning that struggle. I identified with every word, having been struggling with anxiety and depression since I was a teenager. I fell in love with Linkin Park around my 20th birthday, and still listen to that first album as well as the many others, 15 years later.

That album was the soundtrack of my battle with depression. Though I never met Chester, his words spoke to a place deep in my heart that knew his pain.

6007a2f9bf4104b6e6f9d0297738e456And now Dolores O’Riordan. The Cranberries were an essential piece of my formative years. I loved their rebellious message. I loved their melodious music. I loved Dolores’ distinct voice. Hearing the opening to Zombie still sends chills up my spine.

Do I miss the people in my life? Well, not technically. I can watch Star Wars on DVD any time. I can read Carrie’s memoirs whenever I want. Linkin Park and The Cranberries are still all over my iTunes playlists. I can revisit these lost idols, in exactly the same format through which I initially fell in love with them.

But there was a person behind that art. And when I think of the loss of the life behind the art, the empathy is stronger than it would ever be with a stranger. Because I can imagine the emotions that brought them to create what they did. That emotion gives them a life in my mind that is much more vivid than a nameless stranger. Their art has become a part of my life, and in turn, they live in a part of my brain. They aren’t gone. They are never gone. But they can no longer create more. They can no longer feel the things they felt when they were reaching out and touching my soul, and the souls of so many others.

It is the truly inspiring person, who resonates with so many others, and it is that which we lose. It is that which we mourn.

RIP to all of my heroes, lost in the past and in the future. May your legacy continue in those that have always understood, in those who have appreciated.

What’s In My Bag?

img_8014Every now and then, when the brain machine is not turning out blog ideas, and I’m stuck in one of the inevitable holding patterns that is the writer’s life, I find myself looking for ideas for blog posts. Of the lists of blog writing prompts I have read through, I rarely find ones I actually want to pursue–after all, the problem with prompts is that they often force a story or a message where there is none. That’s not always a bad thing, but sometimes it can be hell on natural inspiration.

Still, this was one of the fun ones. Here’s a list of what you can find in my bag, my essentials for a day out of the house, and why.

  1. My headphones. I’d like to share a truth with you that is somewhat personal. I don’t like to be alone in my own head. When I’m spinning out threads of a story, or thinking about a pointed topic, the space in my head isn’t all that bad. However, when my thoughts are roaming without direction, and anything can come to the forefront, it often turns out to be something I do not want there. Because of this, I like to keep music around at all times–because, if my brain is focused on music, at least it’s focused on something. Plus, music has the bonus of helping me brainstorm. So it all comes back around.
  2. A cleansing towelette, hand sanitizer, band aids. I have a hyperactive eight-year-old son. I think that more than explains that, although those things would be good to possess for just me, as well. But I can’t claim to have been that responsible pre-Logan.
  3. My migraine pills. I’ve been suffering from migraines for as long as I can remember. At their worst, I would get three crushing headaches a week. Though preventative medication, taken daily, has mostly kept this issue under control and brought the average number of migraines I have down from 3/week to 3/month, I still keep my breakthrough/rescue medication with me daily. As a matter of fact, I just took one now, since today’s rain has my head misbehaving. Taking one of these as soon as I start feeling pain is the difference between an hour of discomfort, and a full day under the covers avoiding the light. They are a necessity.
  4. My phone. I grew up in an age where payphones were on every other block, and if you needed to reach someone who wasn’t home, you either called and left a message, or you beeped them. Even so, I have definitely become that person who is hyper-attached to my phone, and I’m on it all day. I rarely, if ever, use it for its actual phone function. Mostly I text and email. My handy little gadget provides me with a way to reach others and to be reachable, so I can always be working, since a person who divides her time the way I do needs that. It also provides me with games so I can relax and be silly, and access to social media so I can market and connect. All necessary gadgets for any working woman these days, but especially for a writer.
  5. My iPad. While the iPad serves somewhat as a backup to my phone functions, it also has one thing my phone doesn’t–ample screen space for reading. So, that’s what I mostly use it for, which means I need it at all times, because I’m always reading. Also, in times of long car rides or long restaurant waits, it’s nice to have a few games to fall back on.
  6. A Magazine. In case of long stretches without a recharging station for my electronics, I always try to have something manual with me to read.
  7. A snack. I always have something with me, in case I get super hungry. Sometimes all that’s around are unhealthy options. Sometimes there’s nowhere to buy anything. It’s good to have a quick, easy, neat, and healthy snack with you, so I’ll usual pack a granola bar.
  8. Pepper Spray. Because I live in Bronx, NY and nobody better f*&$% with me.
  9. 3 different pens. You never know when you’ll need to write something down…and you never know when your pen will run out of ink.
  10. A small notebook. Same.
  11. Wallet and Keys. Because duh.
  12. Work ID on its awesome retractable belt clip.
  13. My special necklace. This year, on the first day of summer camp, Logan made me a beaded necklace. Our previous school year was spectacularly explosive, and we discovered that our son’s questionable behavior did not involve a need for discipline, but was actually because he was suffering from a combination of ADHD, anxiety, and depression. A large trigger for his anxiety involved any situation where either me or Ismael weren’t around. After a year like that, when your son makes you a necklace and says it’s a way to communicate with you and to know you are always connected, you keep it with you. Everywhere you go. I like to think it helps out some.img_8015-1


It’s funny. When I started this challenge, I thought it was a fun, silly little exercise, but it’s amazing how much you can tell about me from the contents of my purse. Almost all of the pieces of the puzzle are represented here in one form or another.

Now it’s your turn. Come on, play along with me. What do you carry along with you that tells us the most about you? Let me know in the comments.

40 Reasons Why I Write

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Relatively recently, Bryan Hutchinson issued a challenge on his blog, Positive Writer – list 40 reasons why you write. You can see his answers here. When it came about, I was in the throws of Camp NaNoWriMo. As that is now complete, and I’m taking a small break from the novel so I can attack it again in July’s edition of Nano, I needed this challenge. It’s been difficult to stay motivated, because the hits just keep coming in both my personal and professional life. So, I’m going to take some time to remind myself why I write. I hope you find my answers either interesting or inspirational. Also, I am so incredibly late to this challenge.

  1. Writing keeps my brain busy. With my ADHD, my brain is always spinning anyway, so this gives it something to work on in the background.
  2. Stories haunt me, and I have to get them out.
  3. I have had a lot of trauma and strange events in my life, and I need an outlet.
  4. Sometimes, I like to live vicariously through my characters.
  5. Sometimes, I like to bury myself in my characters so I can forget life.
  6. My son looks up to me for creating whole stories all by myself, and there’s no beating that.
  7. Writing is a strong bond I share with my husband, as he is also an author.
  8. Writing is a strong bond I share with my sister-in-law. She is also an author.
  9. Writing has helped me make amazing friendships, some that are sure to be lifelong.
  10. I like how writing makes me feel, like I am weaving worlds from my imagination.
  11. The sense of accomplishment I feel when I finally get something right is amazing.
  12. Rewriting has taught me all about perseverance. Frustration, but perseverance.
  13. I like to read things I love over and over again, so this was probably a fitting career choice.
  14. I love to paint with words.
  15. I love to listen to music, and music always inspires me to paint with my words.
  16. Clever dialogue is all around me. What would I do if I didn’t jot some of it down and use it for my own benefit?
  17. My best friend has yoga. I have writing.
  18. The creative people on my journey with me are the best people.
  19. My characters tend to be stronger than I am. Or at least, than I was. These days, I seem to be taking a page from my own book. Writing has encouraged me to be stronger.
  20. I’ve had a lot of people tell me I won’t get anywhere in this business, or something is wrong with the core of a particular story, etc. I intend to prove them very wrong.
  21. When my anxiety disorder, my depression, my PTSD rears up, writing helps me cope.
  22. Because, as a woman, and as a woman with physical and mental health issues, my voice and my individual experiences deserve to be heard.
  23. I love reading so much, and I know how it feels to really connect with a character. I would love to be able to provide that for someone else.
  24. I’ve always loved playing with voice and word choice, seeing how different an outcome I can create just by finding a more exact bit of syntax.
  25. Writing often helps me to put feelings I’m dealing with into words, to tell truths through my characters that I can’t articulate properly in reality.
  26. I honestly don’t know what I would do with all the spare time I’d get if I didn’t write or plan to write.
  27. When I’m writing I can temporarily put off other, more important chores. But not the most important ones, of course. 😉
  28. I still believe in magic, and sometimes, writing feels like magic. Like when something inexplicably comes together, and it feels like destiny, that feels like magic. That is the rare moment where I become a believer.
  29. How else can I justify talking to the people who live in my brain?
  30. I’m stubborn and I’ve said I’m going to do it, so damn it, I’m going to do it.
  31. Some of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met write, so I hope some of that rubs off on me.
  32. Sometimes, I’m not all that adventurous, so I need an excuse to try new and interesting things. Research gives me that excuse.
  33. I was already a fact hoarder. This gives me a reason to hoard facts.
  34. I hate waste, and I feel like I have a lot of knowledge and random experiences that just kind of sit around in my brain and go to waste. I want to give them some use. Like my two years working at an ice cream shop. I’m using that in my latest book.
  35. There are tons of stories that I want to read, that I don’t find out there. I’ve always been a bit of a control freak. They say, if you want something done, do it yourself, right?
  36. I’m getting to a point where rejections mean almost nothing to me. I’m numb to rejection.
  37. Unless, they come with constructive criticism, at which point I am disappointed, but I have learned to love constructive criticism and view it as encouragement and help, rather than an insult. I think writing has helped to improve my personality in that way.
  38. I have also become able to tell the difference between constructive knowledgeable criticism and insults, being led astray, and jealous attacks designed to keep a person below them. That lesson has helped me in all areas of my life.
  39. I have a side gig as an editor, and I’ve always believed that, if you are going to manage people, you should be willing to get your hands dirty. If I won’t get my hands dirty with words, why should I tell other people to do so?
  40. I love to geek out. It’s my life’s mission to make other people geek out as much as I do.

So, there are my 40 reasons! Do you need to remind yourself why you love something? Share your reasons in the comments, and thank you for being one of the people I’ve encountered on this journey, the people I write for. Thank you for being one of my reasons. ❤

iTunes Shuffle Challenge, Part 2

Back in October, I did one version of the iTunes shuffle challenge, in which I listened to iTunes on shuffle and wrote a short blurb about what each song meant to me. This time around, I’m tackling the challenge differently. I’m going to shuffle the songs, and then, I’m going to write whatever it inspires in me, and only write for the length of the song.

I ended up using thirty songs. Ten of them triggered absolutely nothing. Ten of them came up with almost nothing, with a last minute nugget of an interesting line of dialogue. I haven’t included those. But ten of these, hopefully, have some substance to them. So, onto the challenge!


1) Place for My Head by Linkin Park, Album: Hybrid Theory

 

“I didn’t help you because I wanted to add another favor to my belt. Unlike you, I’ve never been keeping score,” I said.

“That’s only because you could never repay what you owe me.” He spoke through gritted teeth. “Besides, I don’t count forgiveness in bullets shot. You use your weapons carelessly. You’re bound to get everyone killed.”

2) Hollywood by the Cranberries, Album: To The Faithful Departed

I stared into the mirror and willed my reflection to change, my green eyes narrowing, accenting the recently developed indentations that would soon become crow’s feet. I huffed my frustration at the inanimate object, struggling to brush my wild auburn curls into submission and gather them with a coated rubber band that would probably survive one or two uses before it popped under the pressure of the battle. I smoothed makeup over my pale and freckled skin, tried to hide all redness. I accented my eyes and lips, my good features, my only ones. I tugged my clothes around my widened form, struggling to make them sit right, like they used to, but it was no use. I sucked in lumps, smoothed, yanked, and stretched fabric, but my body wasn’t what it used to be. My glory days were gone, or at least that was what every public image would like me to believe.

3) What I’ve Done by Linkin Park, Album: Minutes to Midnight

My eyes struggled to open, but I could hear things through the fog of my brain. A page turning. A bit of shuffling. I couldn’t understand it. I was asleep and there was someone there with me. I lived alone, but I couldn’t seem to peel my eyes open to see who it was. I was too weak. I drifted away again…

Finally, my eyes opened. I was looking around the room before I even realized I was awake. Sterile white surrounded me. I was covered in layers of stiff sheets, and I stared out at a white board with a smiley face and a few names written across it in red ink. And a sharps disposal container. A hospital room.

“Hey, you’re awake!”

I rolled over to see who had spoken and groaned in pain. My entire body ached.

4) Swallowed in the Sea by Coldplay, Album: X&Y

My heart stopped as she shimmered into existence, an ethereal presence from another world. Her face was so familiar, my heart hurt.

5) Mary Jane by Alanis Morissette, Album: Jagged Little Pill

I stared out at the street below my window, my eyes heavy-lidded from the hours of crying the night before. My eyes couldn’t seem to find the tears anymore, but my head felt heavy with them, and I could barely hold it up without resting it on my chin.

Out on the street, I saw our neighbors walking their dogs like they did every morning. The few children that lived on the city street headed off to school, shuffled along by harried professional parents with somewhere else they had to be after this, checking their watches and their cell phones as if they were ticking time bombs counting down to the end. As if being late to work were so important that they didn’t even notice the children in front of them.

I would have noticed.

I ran a hand over my stomach, already flattening, as my eyes found the tears they had been searching for.

6) Every Night by Imagine Dragons, Album: Night Visions

I trudged into the house, my bones aching from a night of battle and my soul drained from using my abilities so indiscriminately.

It was shockingly quiet. Quieter than I was expecting, with a new baby that was used to having her Mommy home with her. I made my way up the stairs and over to our room. The door was wide open, the light was on, and I found my brother standing in front of the door, a fond smile on his face.

“Did she give you guys any trouble?” I asked.

He didn’t say a word, just nodded toward the door.

7) I Will Buy You a New Life by Everclear, Album: So Much For The Afterglow

I stuffed the bills into my mother’s hand, roughly. “Pay the bills.” I pushed past her and made my way to where Marty lay, staring out the window into the sun, his eyes squinting slightly, as though they barely felt the burn.

I didn’t blame him anymore. At some point between my teenage years and now, I had grown to accept that something in my brother had snapped. He was not well. His brain had made him believe I was something I wasn’t, and he had acted out in violence against me.

Now, I blamed my mother. For not believing me, for blaming me, for refusing to get him help, for believing it would all just get better, like schizophrenia just disappears, like suddenly the world would get set right, and my little brother would wake up one morning with no voices, no paranoia, no hallucinations, no fear.

That day never came.

“Blink, Farty Marty. Your corneas will thank you.”

He looked away from the window and smiled.

8) In Between by Linkin Park, Album: Minutes to Midnight

The rain started slowly, but by the time she’d gotten out far enough into the woods, it pelted her, soaking into her jeans, beading on her jacket and filling her boots. Her feet slid in the mud as she moved, purposefully towards the only place she could go. Their spot.

When she got there, she almost couldn’t see through the deluge, her soaked hair hanging in her eyes, blocking her view. She squinted past raindrops to make sure she was truly seeing what was there.

He had destroyed it. It was gone.

“I wanted to tell you the other day,” he said, his voice suddenly over her shoulder, and she started.

Damn her for not paying attention. Damn him for following her out here so he could watch her find this.

9) Your Star by Evanescence, Album: The Open Door

His hands clenched and unclenched as he stood, facing the open land before him. I could practically hear his mind racing. I stepped forward, wrapping an arm around him and resting my chin on his shoulder. He leaned into the embrace, his head bumping mine.

“What if the world ends?” he asked. “What if my choices ruin everything? What if we can’t fix it?”

I tried for a smile. I was scared too, but I didn’t have the luxury of that right now. “Well, that would be unacceptable, my love. We’ll just have to rebuild it.”

10) Mr. Brightside by The Killers, Album:

“This is what I’ve been meant to do,” he explained to me, his eyes wide, his nervous energy practically leaping from him. “My purpose. I finally understand why I can do these things, what makes me special, and you want me to give that away?”

BONUS: Single by Natasha Bedingfield, Album: Unwritten

“What is the big deal about all of this anyway?” I asked, fed up with Val and all of her gushy love talk. Based on what I’d just been through, it was a struggle not to punch her in her smiling, glowing face. “You only get to be this happy for a limited time.”

Okay folks, that’s it. Leave feedback on these. What did you like? What didn’t you? Would you like to try this challenge? Definitely chat with me in the comments!

iTunes Shuffle Challenge, Part 1

Hi all,

Recently, I ran into two different iTunes Shuffle challenges that intrigued me. One was this one, in which you pick the first ten songs off your shuffle and write your first thoughts upon hearing it, but only for as long as it plays. Once it moves to the next song, so do you. I jumped into it full force, and I wanted to share the results with you, as I feel like it might give you a peek into my crazy mind. The second one will be the one I work on in my next blog post. We’ll talk more about that then.

Without further ado, here are the results of my iTunes Shuffle Challenge, Part 1.

Renegades by X Ambassadors, Album: VHS
Cover for X Ambassadors Album VHS

When I hear this song it makes me think of the artists in my life, of how odd we are, of how rare. When you’re young, it can be hard to see how happy your life can be, because odd means bad when you’re in school. You’re never allowed to explore that, unless you have a very special teacher, but even then, your peers are apt to shut you down. It isn’t until you get older that you can finally free yourself up to be comfortable in your own skin and to start being who you are. It took me until I was thirty to truly figure myself out, to openly embrace my geekiness, my artsiness, my open heart and different way of thinking from others, and just accept that as one of the things that make me who I am.

 

Slow me Down by Emmy Rossum, Album: Inside Out

Cover of Emmy Rossum's Album Inside OutThis song is so about me. My little sister, Megan, introduced me to it and I clung to it. “Sometimes I feel that I might disappear/in the blur of fast forward I falter again.” it never fails to remind me that sometimes I need to take a breath and stop racing through my life, trying to do more than I can handle.

 


Take On Me by A-Ha, Album: Hunting High and Low

Cover for A-Ha's Take on Me
This song has such odd memories associated with it. For one, I remember loving the video. Also, the bridal party of my best friend’s wedding did a whole semi-choreographed dance number to this song and it was a frickin’ blast. It didn’t even bother me that I was dancing while six months pregnant. I stand by the fact that the wedding was the best wedding I’d ever been to, even if the marriage didn’t end up working out. It was also one of the very few times I got my husband, Ismael, to dance with me. I think those times are: my wedding, my best friend’s engagement party, and that wedding. There may have been one or two others, but I can’t remember…

Counting Stars by OneRepublic, Album: Native

Album Cover for OneRepublic Native
This is one of the first songs I’ve ever heard where I never heard the song, bought the album because I love the band, and suddenly heard my favorite song from the album on the radio! It’s also one of my son, Logan’s, favorite songs, so we sing it often when we’re in the car.
“Hope is a four letter word,” might not be the best message for him, now that I think about it. But he loves the pace. It did give me the opportunity to explain metaphor to him. He didn’t understand why the singer says “everything that drowns me makes me want to fly”. So I explained that he actually means that everything that pulls him down makes him want to lift himself up. It was fun to discuss the idea that art isn’t literal and can be open to different interpretations. It was much earlier than he would learn it in school, and it was fun to give him that lesson.

The Entertainer by Billy Joel, Album: The Essential Billy Joel

Album Cover for The Essential Billy JoelThis is one of those songs that, for me, takes a minute to remember. I have this because I bought the album, and really barely remember it, which makes sense, since it came out in 1974, eight years before I was born. Still, after a longer listen, I did actually recognize it, and now I really love it, because the lyrics truly encompass what it’s like to work in the arts–any of them. I’ve been an actor and I’ve been an author, and really, it’s all a battle to stay relevant. Plus, it’s Billy Joel, and he’s just awesome.

Firework by Katy Perry, Album: Teenage Dream

Cover Art for Katy Perry's Firework
I love this song. Sure, it’s Katy Perry, and a little more pop than most of what I listen to, but I have a very eclectic taste in music, and pop is a part of that. Still, this song is a great inspirational song.
“After a hurricane, comes a rainbow/maybe the reason why all the doors are closed/so you could open one that leads you to a perfect road.” Man, I have listened to this so many times to remind me that I just need to keep going. Eventually, I’ll find my way, my perfect road.

The Energy Never Dies by The Script, Album: No Sound Without Silence

Album Cover for The Script's No Sound Without SilenceAnother great song. This one means a lot to me because it is an expression of my viewpoint on life. One, that we should live each day to our fullest, and two, that if we live our lives that way, we create lasting impressions on those around us that can serve as inspiration…what we leave behind never dies. Now, on a less serious note, this song starts and ends the same way. One time, I had it playing in the background while I was working and I didn’t realize that the approximately four minute long song had been stuck on repeat for the last fifteen minutes. In the back of my head, I just assumed it was a much longer song than I’d realized. Because I am ridiculous.

Animals by Maroon 5, Album: V

Cover Art for Maroon 5 Album VThis song is proof positive that there are some songs where I’m completely engaged with the lyrics, and others that I listen to without a single thought. It’s also proof positive that you don’t think about how dirty lyrics are until you hear a little child voice singing them. YIKES. He did manage to unwittingly change the lyrics in a way that made it sound like they were about an actual animal eating someone, and that helped a lot. I still avoid this song like the plague when I’m in front of him. Sooooooo disturbing. Still…I’m singing along. These lyrics are SO wrong.

Fighter by Christina Aguilera, Album: Stripped

Cover Art for Christina Aguilera's StrippedOh, you mean my theme song? It definitely gets me in the mood to do battle with my day, and reminds me how I’ve gotten as strong as I am. I have had a number of unfortunate encounters with toxic people who I’ve had to completely remove from my life. People who claimed love or friendship and held on just to pull me down. I love this song for reminding me why I’m smart to put people like that in my past. “After all of the fights and the lies, cause you’re wanting to haunt me, but that won’t work anymore.”

 

The Secret’s In The Telling by Dashboard Confessional, Album: Dusk & Summer

Album Cover for Dashboard Confessional's Dusk and Summer
For one, this song reminds me of my best friend’s Dashboard Confessional phase, which is how I have all of their songs. It’s also on my Keys and Guardians playlist, set for a very specific scene that I can’t really talk much about. But I love when a song channels a specific moment in a story, and everytime I hear it I am transported to the part of my imagination that dreamed that moment up.

 

That’s it for now! See you again next post, when I use songs from my shuffle as mini-writing prompts.