Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy: "Happy" by Pharrell Williams

Yes, it's that time of year where most of us pause to focus on friends, family, and our unique place in the world. If you are like me, you are very thankful and (dare I say it)....happy.

It seems like complaining has replaced giving thanks. Rude behavior has all but ousted civility and gentility. Sadness, loneliness, covetousness, and marveling at crisis after crisis (some tragic and unavoidable - some completely fabricated and absolutely avoidable) has taken over like a plague.

I believe with every fiber of my being that happiness is a choice. And, quite honestly, it can be the tougher road to follow - especially when you are surrounded by negativity. I choose to be happy. Instead of seeking out crisis, I choose to bask in the warm hug from a friend, sip fine wine, eat chocolate, and laugh til my sides hurts. Call me crazy all you want, but I refuse to be swept away by a tide of negative energy.

So, as we head into 2014, I challenge you (dear reader) to choose happiness, focus on your personal goals, and embrace life with an open heart and a dash of whimsy!

"Happy" by Pharrell Williams

I dare you to listen to this song and NOT smile! Even if you don't have rhythm, you can't help trying to keep time in some way while listening to this song. This song is featured on the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, so 'The Minions' make a grand appearance in the video link above.

I hope that you enjoy this little bit of happiness and I hope that you and your families have a wonderful and safe holiday season. See you in the New Year!

"Clap along if you feel like HAPPINESS is the TRUTH..."

Christmas Tag Albums for Friends: I made some of my gifts this year!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

See Jane Publish: "We Are Young" by Fun featuring Janelle Monae

Ok, so I'm a little slow off the mark on this one....

In October, yes - October, I joined a rag-tag bunch of heroines embarking on a mission to take over the world...well...ok...we are actually embarking on a mission to get published AND be successful authors. (Way too many headaches to take over & run the world, just ask President Obama. Ha!)

Our new-ish blog is: See Jane Publish! Here you will find posts on our thoughts, processes, goals, and dreams written around a monthly theme. We post twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. Each day's  message is composed by a different Jane.

See Jane Publish was founded by Nancy Brophy, Susan Lute, and Cassiel Knight. This fall, they handed the reigns over to eight new Janes:

  1. Gina Fluharty
  2. Asa Marie Bradley
  3. Jessa Slade
  4. Jamie Brazil
  5. EJ Russell
  6. Mary Oldham
  7. Jessie Smith
  8. Me (C. Morgan Kennedy) :D

In December, we are giving the gift of story to our readers. We organized a 'Round Robin' where each Jane's post is a stand alone short story that somehow incorporates a moo-cow creamer. (Trust me when I say that some of everything happens to that poor thing.) At the conclusion of my post scheduled for Monday, 02 December, I included instructions on how to enter a drawing to win the silver necklace  mentioned in my story.

Check out our shared blog and let me know what you think....Please visit us often!

"We Are Young" by Fun featuring Janelle Monae (Acoustic Version)

I love this song. And if you follow this blog, you also know that I LOVE Janelle Monae!

I'm not sure if us Janes are going to 'set this world on fire,' but I am positive that we'll make an awesome bonfire on the beach. I, personally, plan on running gleefully around the flames while eating toasted marshmallows - but, that's just me, doing my usual thang!

"So let's set this world on fire!...."

Friday, September 27, 2013

Celebrations: "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang

I am officially a published author. Yup - you can buy my first nonfiction work here and here and here.My partner in crime & business, Therese Patrick, and I are on cloud nine. <sigh>

Trust me when I say that our work has only begun. You see, most people think that authors write books and then they are done. Not true. In fact, once your book is available for sale, every author needs to do two things:

  1. Tell your audience that your new book is available for sale.
  2. Write another book.

More often than not, authors tend to focus on #1 and ignore #2.I am going against the grain and working hard on both. I am hammering away on my YA Steampunk novel, while working on presentations for AM101 training classes....we have four training classes booked between now and March 2014. There is so much to do! Oh, and did I mention I have an international growth strategy to formulate, design, and present for my day job!

Despite the flurry of activities, it is important to take a moment to pause, reflect, and celebrate the accomplishment of a life long dream. Therese and I will celebrate some this weekend, I promise. Stay tuned for pictures from our first book signing!

"Celebration" by Kool & The Gang

Growing up in Cleveland, OH in the 70's, 80's, and 90's was a magical time. Our river (the mighty Cuyahoga) and our mayor caught on fire in the same year. {Yup, the river was so polluted, we were able to set water on fire and our mayor got a little too close to a blow torch while cutting a metal ribbon at the opening of a new plant.}

WZAK 93.1 FM was (and still is) Cleveland's R&B radio station. Back in the day, if you heard Celebration by Kool & The Gang, you ran to your phone in the hopes of being the lucky caller to win some money. I never won the money, of course, but to this day every time I hear Celebration my hand itches to reach for the phone. And for this reason, the Celebration song will always have a special place in my heart.

"Celebrate good times, come on!..."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Time: "Time (Clock of the Heart)" by Culture Club

Time is truly a precious thing.  Yes, time is money, as well as any number of time related cliches, but most importantly time is finite....once it's passed, it's gone. The sci-fi nerd in me wants to launch into a discussion about parallel dimensions, time tracks, time travel, and worm holes.  But for the sake of this blog post, let's stick to one timeline and one plane of existence.  :D

Last week, I was offered a job at a different company than my current day job. To say that this new job included a boat load of money and perks, when compared to my current job, would be an understatement.  I found myself torn over the possibilities of starting fresh at a new company, what I would do with all that money, and how my daily life would change....dramatically. It's that last point that tied my stomach in knots and kept me up at night for days.

You see, this new job was with the company I worked for several years ago. I left that company for VERY specific reasons. Yes, they pay well, but in return they are overly demanding of your time. I remember one manager fretting over the fact that part of his family vacation included a few days on a cruise ship without wi-fi. "I'll just have to pay for some sort of satellite modem," he said.  Now I know I'm dating myself, but the main point is that this guy was genuinely worried about missing an important email - and yes, dear reader, this was the norm among all the workers!

So I paused and asked myself, "Do I really want to buy a one-way ticket on that Looney Tunes train to Crazy Town?" My evenings would be spent sending emails and catching up on work that I didn't have time to finish during normal working hours. Mornings, my usual writing time, would be spent talking with east coast contacts to expedite orders and get answers to technical questions. During the interview, my potential coworker stated that he wakes up to at least  fifty-two emails each morning that he tries to answer before her goes into the office - are you kidding me?

Which all brought me to the questions: "Who would I become, if I took this job?" and "Do I really want to be that person?"

After hemming and hawing for a week, a dear friend gave me some good advice. Over beers and burgers he simply said, "Don't take the job. It's not worth it. It's not worth sacrificing your writing."

I finished my pint, tore up my ticket to Crazy Town, and for the first night in days I slept like the dead. My time and my writing are more important to me.  Who would I become, if I took that job? Certainly NOT the person I truly want to be.

"Time (Clock of the Heart)" by Culture Club

Aaaahhh, Culture Club! Boy George in all his 80's, eyeshadowed glory. My best friend, Noel, dressed up as Boy George for Halloween in the fourth grade.

Culture Club was on the front line of yet another British music invasion. This time, they were armed with fresh videos that seemed to stream constantly on MTV. Aaaaaahhhh, MTV - remember when all they used to play were music videos and live concert recordings???

Anyhow, check out this video and let me know what you think. I have to admit that when I watched it for this post I started laughing. Today was the first time that I noticed the fact that their backup singers are wearing clock faces around their necks. I'm from Ohio, so all this time I assumed they were wearing some wacky Amish-Quaker-Puritan costume. How that all related to time, I'll never know - and it doesn't matter, cause I was just as wrong as two left shoes!  LOL!

"Time, won't give me time..."

Gag gift - Homicide Murder Board, complete with red string, I made for a friend's birthday.
Nope, I wouldn't have time for such projects if I'd taken that job.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Living Life: "Golden" by Jill Scott

You're never too old to dream. And most importantly, you are never too old to pursue your dreams. Unlike a wish or a hope, a dream is meant to be pursued.  Sometimes you run it down with dogged determination. Other times, you chip away gradually with each strike of your chisel bringing you one inch closer to your prize.  As you know, I am plugging away making a few of my dreams materialize.  Soon I will be a published author.....

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: Therese and I have signed a contract with a publisher for our Author Marketing 101 Guide & Journal. We've been blogging for a year and presenting on marketing for almost three years and talking about marketing for almost four years.  So to say that our publishing contract was a quick turn of events is a little misleading.  The AWESOME thing is that because of all this talking, presenting, and blogging, we were more than prepared with material when the contract came our way.  In fact, we were able to produce our first draft in less than two weeks.

Why so fast?  Well, we wanted to clear our minds and our plates for the Summer In Words Writing Conference produced by our dear friend Jessica Morrell. It was held at the Hallmark Inn Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast.  During this FABULOUS writer's retreat I:

  • Learned new ways to see simple objects and pack more punch into my sentences from Monica Drake
  • Gained new insights on titles, high concept writing, and how to flesh out my secondary characters from Jessica Morrell.
  • Laughed at the adventures, antics, and stories of Jonathan Evison. <BTW, it is VERY appropriate for him to depict his book covers as beer bottle labels on his website! LOL!>
  • Was inspired to learn new things about others and about myself by Kelly Williams Brown, who just returned to Oregon from New York after a Today Show interview.

With regards to making dreams come true....We met the ever wonderful Kari Luna who is busy telling everyone about her debut novel: The Theory of Everything.  Ms. Luna is such a plucky duck, she convinced MTV (yes that MTV) to plug her book trailer!!  (I mean really, how cool is that??)  It was a long, hard battle for Ms. Luna to get this book published and out the door.  It was particularly tough, because her YA story features a hallucinating heroine with a panda shaman named Walt.  I was able to buy an advanced copy and had the honor of being the recipient of Ms. Luna's first autograph!

The past few weeks have been completely and utterly AMAZING, but somehow I know that the best is yet to come....  :D

"Golden" by Jill Scott

I love Jill Scott and there has been many a time when this song has helped me through a rough patch or celebrate an accomplishment.  "Golden" speaks to the joy of celebrating your freedom to be and do whatever fulfills you as a person.  Smiling faces, warm sunshine, calming ocean waves, and the simple joy of waving to friends and family of all ages are all images Ms. Scott uses.  The soulful backup vocals herald the refrain, literally 'taking us to church' on how beautiful life can be if we believe in the possibilities and pursue our dreams.  Jill Scott is beautiful and "Golden" has become one of a handful of theme songs for me.

"I'm living my life like it's golden, Living my life like it's golden..."

Me with Kari Luna.  Strips are clearly the new hotness!  Buy her book , The Theory of Everything here or here or here,  available July 11th!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Writing: "Tighten Up" by Archie Bell and The Drells

I can tell that I'm in a major transitional phase of my life.  As with all things in life, in general, there is a natural ebb and flow.  But lately I feel that my usual gentle ripple is merely the start of a roaring tide.  How do I know this fact?  Well - I've been receiving more and more interest in my WIP (work-in-progress) manuscript.  And this interest is not just from any 'ole body, it's from some pretty heavy hitters in publishing.  To say that I feel GREAT about all of this attention would be the understatement of the year.

Note: I do have a finished manuscript that is slowly (SLOWLY) making the rounds.  But what folks seem to REALLY want is the book that isn't written.  I have large account sales in my day job CV, so I can say with authority that customers always want the product you don't have.  To paraphrase my old boss, "there is infinite demand for the nonexistent or unattainable." So true....

I am making progress on my WIP, though.  And I received some AMAZING feedback on the first five pages from a well known agent.  This person is uber-busy, so the fact that they gave me line edits was a shockingly pleasant surprise.  In short, their advice was "Tighten Up."  Which led me to this week's entry for my mix tape.

"Tighten Up" by Archie Bell and The Drells

Ok, so I know that The Black Keys recently released a song named "Tighten Up", but I had to go back to this 1960's track!  First, it is more fitting for my post message.  And second, when given a choice, I prefer the lesser known (more obscure) song.  I will be honest and say that I haven't done my research on Mr. Bell and The Drells to know if they were more than a one hit wonder, but I can say that I dig on their overall vibe.  They were an integrated band, in Texas, in the 1960's - how interesting and FANTASTIC is that??

Overall the song is meant to be danced to....mostly, because it is in the tradition of songs intended to launch a new dance craze.  (Think Chubby Checker's "The Twist" or Digital Underground's "Humpty Dance" or any other number of examples.)  For this reason, the song is catchy.  Specifically, I love the bass and drums, but it is the lead guitar and horns that really make the tune stick with you.  In fact, I will randomly find myself humming this song or repeating Mr. Bell's humble words at the start of the song:

"We don't hardly sing, but we dance just as good as we walk...."

Looking good, girl...but I gotta get to writing!!  :D

Friday, May 17, 2013

My Peeps : "Girls" by Santigold

I am back and recovered from my vacation in Kansas City.  I know you all just paused..."Kansas City??"  Yes, KC!  Two wonderful things unfurled in KC, MO: 1) I visited my cousin Clara and we are embarking on a new project, 2) I hung out with my CRAZY writing friends and readers at the 2013 RT Booklover's Convention.

My Family Peeps: Cousin Clara

My dear cousin Clara is a retired RN.  She is also our family historian.  Like so many families, so much of our history is relayed via stories passed down from generation to generation.  My sister and I came to the sad conclusion that we don't remember half of the stories told to us over the years.  As we watched my three year old niece run around the room, I vowed to make an effort to put all of our stories on paper and combine them with the many shoeboxes of pictures stored in homes across the country.  Forutunately, my family is concentrated in six cities: Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Cleveland, Dallas, and Kansas City. Each city has a key matriarch or patriarch that is the keeper of key bits of history. 

Clara and I set a target of having our book launched to the family by 2020.  It's going to be a long road to finish this project, but it is important work.  I really want to give this gift to future generations.  Thank God I have a job that requires travel.  I'll be able to take some side trips to meet with folks face-to-face.  I'll keep you posted on our progress. 

My Writing Peeps: RT 2013

The RT Booklovers Convention has become my annual trek and one of the highlights of my year.  This was my third time attending and each year I make new friends and reconnect with old ones. 

My dear friend, Lacey Falcon, flew in from Germany.  We had a lovely 'getting caught up' brunch.  Megan Mulry co-hosted a Lime Party where Dark and Stormies were free flowing for all to consume.  I FINALLY got to meet a ton of my Twitter Peeps like Victoria Dahl, Eric Ruben, and Sabrina York just to name a few.  I roomed with Gina Fluharty, Maire Claremont, and Delilah Marvelle.  And I gave big hugs to Karina Cooper, Gina Lamm, Terry Won, the lovely ladies of St. Martin's Press - Monique Patterson and Holly Blanck, and one of my submittal agents - Alexandra Machinist.

Ok - enough of the name dropping.... Like Gina, I feel like I found my peeps and for the first time in a really loooonnnnggg time, I felt utterly in my element. A few days of learning more about writing craft and hanging with group of fun women and men was exactly what I needed.  Needless to say, it took me three days to fully re-hydrate - but it was soooo worth it!

"Girls" by Santigold

My bestfriend, Gerry, turned me on to Santigold.  Though Shove It is perhaps my favorite Santigold song (followed closely by Lights Out and it's funky 80's vibe), Girls is worming its way into my heart.

Why? I love the message of empowerment and FUN! With lyrics like "So legit, I don't quit when I fall", "I'm a fighter so I know that I won't retreat", and "I'm a winner though I am not afraid of defeat", the girl power message is made clear in rapid fire verse.

With regards to the video, I LOVE the diversity depicted!  Girls and woman of all colors, ages, and nationalities are featured at work and at play.  If you follow my blog, you will know that I have a soft spot for video shoots where the participants are clearly having fun with both the artist and their peers.  But what I adore most is that all the 'girls' are just being themselves and acting silly for the camera.  Loads of positive energy here.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Who be the queen of the ball....

Some of my Peeps: Linda Mercury, Lily Santana, and Mahalia Levey at the RT Ellora's Cave sponsored Disco Ball

Monday, March 11, 2013

Travel Light: "London Calling" by The Clash

This past week, I headed to London for a business trip.  Reflecting on my life as a road warrior, I've come to realize that preparing for my trips has practically become a ritual if not a science.  I can pack for a week long trip in less than 30 minutes.  Here's how I do it:

Packing Tips from a Road Warrior:

  • I keep two cosmetic bags packed and on my bathroom shelf.  1) small plastic bag full of travel size toiletries, liquid eyeliner, and small perfume - for short trips (a few days) where I can carry on my bag. 2) large zip pouch full of medium sized toiletry containers, a separate liquid eyeliner, a small perfume, and few extra bits - for trips that are one week (or more) where I plan on checking my bag.  These bags are replenished at the end of each trip and are ready to grab and go without fuss when packing.
  • I own a really great (Briggs & Riley) suitcase that is expandable.  Mine has traveled with me all over the world for almost ten years.  Yup - it's time for a new one!  Briggs & Riley make a very well organized bag that can hold a ton of stuff.  And I can fit more than a week's worth of clothes in this one suitcase.  How?  <see next bullet>
  • I only buy clothes that are easy to pack.  What I mean by 'easy' is that they are thin, light weight, and don't require ironing.  I even buy Lycra blended jeans, because they fold flatter and are less bulky than 100% cotton denim.  I also pack items that can be layered and worn multiple times.  I like Chico's Traveler's Line for pieces, but I also like Columbia Sport and structured pieces (blazers, dress slacks - again blended no iron fabric) from Macy's.  And I have built an entire wardrobe around the color black so almost everything mixes and matches.
  • I keep up with my laundry.  I am a terrible house keeper, but I stay on top of keeping my clothes clean, hung, and ready to go.
  • I pack while I'm getting ready for the day.  After I shower, I throw my toiletry bag in my suitcase.  As I'm getting dressed, I pack each item in the appropriate numbers for my trip.  This way, I won't forget a shirt or under garments or socks!  Oh, and pack at least one extra shirt and few extra under happens, trips get extended, and bags get lost..... <see next bullet> :D
  • Pack at least one change of undergarments and a t-shirt in your carry-on bag, if you check your luggage.  My bags were lost for three days when United and Continental merged. They caught up with me on the day I flew home....and, yes, United charged me $25 to recheck my bag!  (Grrrrrr.....)  This zip pouch stays packed and permanently resides in my computer backpack.
Packing for travel can be easy if you plan ahead.

"London Calling" by The Clash

Okay, so this song and Fergie's 'London Bridge' were on a repeat loop, in my mind, the entire time I was in London. The Clash won out, because.....well....they are THE CLASH!!!  Simply a brilliant piece of music with a great guitar and drum series.  I'm always a sucker for that gritty sound often heard in bars and rarely heard on recordings.  And the energy that drives the lyrics.....fantastic.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

"I live by the river...."

Touristy fun: Me in a red telephone booth with Big Ben in the background. (Embankment stop on the Thames water ferry system.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

True Self: "This Head I Hold" by Electric Guest

The past few weeks have been quite stressful...quite...stressful.  It's that time of the year where my day job requires tons of planning, reporting, and explanations for the downward trends that gripped our economy last year.  I had two big presentations to give to our senior leadership team.  The icing on the cake was receiving my first rejection for my current novel manuscript.  Yup - it was a week of many firsts.

Well - at least it's over - it truly is like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  Now is the time to roll up my sleeves and dive into new adventures both personally and professionally.  I feel great.  I head to London in a few weeks.  And I've even managed to dust off my paint brushes and pulled out my art supplies.  In short, my newly discovered freedom has put me an extremely liberating creative space.

I'm excited to see the works I'll me, I'll let you sneak a peek.  :D

"This Head I Hold" by Electric Guest

OK, this is the second song I've added to my mix tape that some could associate with depression and / or addiction.  (See Friendship: "No Rain" by Blind Melon.)  For the record, I am suffering from neither the later nor the former condition.  Now before you roll your eyes and think, "She's obviously in denial," I really am doing FANTASTIC.  In fact, I am perhaps in the best place I have ever been both mentally and physically.

Anyhow, I've heard this song playing on the radio, on television, and in a number of stores.  Each time this song plays, I pause listen and start dancing.  (Yes, I am THAT girl...the one dancing in the aisle at the grocery store while she ponders the merits of oatmeal versus kasha.)  It's rare that a song grabs me this way.  So I had to sit down and research the track.

I was glad to learn that I'm not completely behind the times...Electric Guest's Mondo is their debut album released in April 2012 and This Head I Hold was the first single.

For me, this song conjures up some classic Motown rhythms - especially the drums and vocals.  And the lyrics reflect a deep wisdom that comes from an old soul.  To be honest, I would have bet money that this song was a new release from Raphael Saadiq. (Check out Love That Girl and tell me what you think.)  I was pleasantly surprised to discover it's the work of a new band!

The lyrics can be taken literally to mean escape your troubles by listening to that dark voice that says 'Get high, Take drink.'  Or you can interpret it the way I do.... encouragement to do the introspective work needed to rise above life's challenges (and societal norms) and live life as your TRUE self.

"If I wanna be free, I gotta stop playin' round and runnin' from me..."

One of my many pairs of dancing shoes!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy New Year: "Cheers (Drink to That) by Rihanna

Let me just say, for the record, that I have some of the most amazing and coolest friends on the planet.  No, really, I do.  The best part is that we simply crack each other up!  As a mechanical engineer, I've spent most of my adult life surrounded by men.  (No offense, guys, but the testosterone can get kinda thick in corporate enclaves.  The competition is intense and you guys can be rather disgusting - pass the Lysol wipes, please! - I still loves ya, tho!)

So, when I moved to Portland and joined The Rose City Romance Writers (the local Romance Writers of America chapter), I found myself in an unusual spot - surrounded by women.  And not just any group of women.... an incredibly smart, gleefully raucous, somewhat naughty, empowered, business savvy group of women (with a handful of guys, too.) <Yes - men write romance!>  And, most importantly, we are all going after our dream of being successful authors.

Aaaaahhhh, the estrogen!

Now I know some of you are thinking, "There has to be some cattiness."  Well, not as much as you might think.  Good energy has a way of dispelling bad.  They have all been very generous with their time and expertise.  I feel like I have really found my clique.

Our next meeting is this weekend and I'm excited to see my chapter mates.  Some of us 'wrote in' the new year together at a local cafe.  This celebration through writing was the second year we've done it.  (Thanks Jessie for coordinating it!)  It sets a nice tone for the year ahead.  Sadly, no alcohol was involved.

As a writer, it is so easy to just sit in a corner and create your own worlds on a page.  I am blessed to have such great folks in my life.  One of my goals for this year is to spend more time with my friends.  You have to live life to write about it.

"Cheers (Drink to That)" by Rihanna

Though I have featured two of Rihanna's songs on my mix tape, I don't necessarily consider myself to be a Rihanna fan.  I think she is talented and beautiful, but violence against women....well - let me stop myself from commenting any further.

Anyhow - I love the spirit of the song.  Especially the line: "Don't let the bastards get you down..."  Given my background, that phrase should be emblazoned on a banner and hung in my office.  Ha!  I also enjoy the expression of warm friendships, the trials of life on the road, and a need to unwind / cut loose so adequately depicted in the video.  (If you haven't seen it, click on the video link above.  I'm sure you'll enjoy it.)

Once again, Ms. Rihanna is sporting some heels that I would break my neck in, if I even attempted to wear them!

"Cheers to the freakin' weekend, I drink to that...."

My crazy, dear, sweet friends: Delilah Marvelle 'helping' Jessa Slade with her latest manuscript.