Thursday, November 05, 2015

My Take on the 49th Annual CMAs

CARRIE AND BRAD’S HOSTING: It felt like they needed more rehearsing. I thought they got off to a mildly (but not terribly) rocky start. I didn’t care for the whole ‘we’re canceling the Star Wars’ bit. I think it would have been funnier if they had just DONE the Star Wars bit instead of positioning it as if they were canceling. And I agree with the media that their jokes all night seemed to fall flat. Also, it looked like their was a glitch when Kasey Musgraves was getting ready to sing, and Carrie and Brad had to ad lib for a minute. No one would have known except that when they ran out of things to say, Carrie said, ‘Are they ready? Okay.’ She should have kept that to herself and no one would have been the wiser.

BIGGEST MOMENT FOR ME: When Luke Bryan won entertainer of the year. He totally deserved it. He’s had hit after hit this year; they just keep coming. And I love how he thanked his wife for letting him go on the road. That was so sweet and respectful.

BEST PERFORMANCE: Justin Timberlake with Chris Stapleton. They were so completely in sync, it was liked they practiced together for weeks. Also, it felt to me like they were really feeling each other. Their music blended completely naturally and rhythmically; it was THE event of the evening.

BEST WARDROBE: Kelsey Ballarini’s multicolored shorts set with the long back tail. The colors just really grabbed me. The outfit was very springy, and with winter approaching, those mixed floral colors were a welcome sight. And of course, she had the body for the outfit. It was perfectly tailored to her thin good looks.

BIGGEST FLUB: Jason Aldean’s microphone wasn’t turned up enough and he was being way overpowered by the instruments. It was really unfortunate, but once he started to sing, he couldn’t stop and say, ‘hey guys, could you higher my mike up a touch?’ He had to sing through it, and I felt like he was trying to shout as loud as he could. But he gave all in the performance so mega points given for effort.

MOST SURPRISING MOMENT: Brian Kelley of FGL looked like he had just gotten out of bed. I do like him in distressed jeans but I think that he and Tyler Hubbard should coordinate better. Tyler was always the one who looked casual and Brian always looked GQ, but last night it was the other way around. Tyler, who got married over the summer, looked like his wife is now dressing him; he had on the best outfit (navy blue leather shirt/jacket thingy and nice pants) I have EVER seen him in on stage. So I just thought they should have coordinated their look better. I didn’t personally care for Tyler’s man bun, but I will say that pulling his hair back away from his face really showed how beautiful his face was and these last couple of years I don’t think you could really see his handsomeness with his hair down, so that was a nice surprise. I would recommend sticking with a pony tail though rather than the man bun. I just didn’t think it was manly. But I like the shaved sides.

SECOND MOST SURPRISING MOMENT: Who in the heck is Chris Stapleton? One of the problems I have with radio today is that when a song comes on that I don’t know, they don’t tell me who the artist is so I don’t have the opportunity to internalize that information and recognize it the next time. Maybe Chris isn’t played on country radio. Maybe he’s played on blues stations. I don’t know. But while his music was very nice, I found myself saying, ‘who the heck is this guy?’ every time he won and ‘what rock have I been under all year?’

BEST SET DESIGN: Kacey Muscgraves’ was really imaginative. I think hers was the best. But Brad Paisley gave me a good laugh when the mascot of Brad Paisley came out. I thought he was really cute.

HANDSOMEST PERFORMER: Dierks Bentley is just full on good looking. He could probably roll out of bed and not shower for a few days and still look sexy. He GQ but also rugged.

BEST LEGS: Okay, this is not a real category, but you’ve got to give it to Reba. She just never gains an ounce and she has the best legs in the business. I would almost sell my soul to have her legs. Now Miranda on the other hand, you could tell she put on 5-10 pounds, but she didn’t look bad. In fact, if you hadn’t seen her at her absolute skinniest over the last couple of years, you wouldn’t even know she put a couple back on. And truly, she’s looked fantastic. I’m just saying.

WHO WAS MISSING: Kelly Clarkson and her husband, Hunter Hayes, Clint Black … and me. I would have liked to have been in the audience. Clint Black is working on a new CD so it would have been good exposure for him to be hobnobbing around the CMAs. And if the planners had planned it right, they should have had Clint Black as a presenter. People who are making a comeback, like Clint and Garth, should have been presenters.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Country Music Industry: It’s Time to Drop a Few Lyrics

Anyone who knows me knows I love my country music. But lately, I’ve been hearing too much repetition of the same lyrics; they’re being over-used,  and they ought to be faded out.

The first term we need to stop using is ‘wrecking ball’. I’m not suggesting that anyone reword their existing songs. When Eric Church says ‘I want to love you like a wrecking ball,’ I know exactly what he means. And when Blake Shelton says ‘wrecking ball dancing down the hallway’, I can see the girl knocking pictures off the wall and bouncing from one side to the other.

But the term has become a fad and I think country singers writing new songs should step away from fad terms like this one going forward.

The second term that needs to hit the road is ‘blowing up my phone.’ Every time someone wants to convey that their cell phone is ringing off the hook, they say someone is ‘blowing up their phone.’ Okay, we’ve got it. It sounded good the first couple of times, but now it is getting monotonous. Can we please move on?

And finally, the term boombox seems a little outdated. Why isn’t the younger generation singing about ‘turning up their iPods’, ‘blasting their iPods through the corner speaker’ or ‘singing along to their iPod’?

Then again, so many people have their songs right on their phones today, how do you work that visual into a song lyric?

In addition, I think we are full up on lyrics that convey the following:
-Guys picking up girls in trucks
-Girls in trucks turning up the radio
-Girls dancing on the back of trucks
-Guys saying to a girl ‘do you want to get out of here’

As a life-long listener of country music, here’s what I think stands the test of time:

Songs/stories that sound personal (“I drive your truck” by Lee Brice, “The Boys of Fall” by Kenny Chesney, “Southern Comfort Zone” by Brad Paisley, “I Wonder” by Kelly Pickler, “In Color” by Jamie Johnson, “Smoke Break” by Carrie Underwood). Of all country singers, I would have to say that Brad Paisley is, in my opinion, the best storyteller.

Songs that describe things in a way I have never heard before also interest me. Florida Georgia line is really good at that. I love, for example, “you melt me like ice in whiskey, those blue flame looks that you give me,” and “stars shining out through the indigo” … I’ve never thought of darkness as indigo before. Great visual.

So keep the great songs coming, everyone … but if we could just retire a few overused words I would be eternally grateful and would be more likely to download your music.

Thank you!

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The 'Pillars of the Earth' Absolutely Amazed Me

Ken Follett (@KMFollett) has always been one of my favorite authors. But recently, I developed an amazing new respect for his writing abilities, so much so that I'm afraid I could never even come close to being as good a writer as he is.

Of course, if I was able to quit my job and write novels full time, which is what I really want to do, I would have an office full of admins, fact checkers and historians to call on as well. And maybe some day I will.

Meanwhile, I picked up Pillars of the Earth at a tag sale and was absolutely floored that the man who wrote The Third Twin and The Man From St. Petersburg wrote this!!!

The historic facts are exceptional. I loved this book so much -- all 983 pages of it -- that today I went to the Norwalk Library and checked out World Without End -- the sequel to PotE -- which actually takes place 200 years later.

Pillars of the Earth takes place in the 1100s. The stories are heartwrenching. Agnes dies during childbirth and because the family is homeless and penniless, the father, knowing they can't feed the child, leaves the newborn on top on his mother's grave where it will either die of starvation or animals will kill it.

If you don't own a horse, you walk. You walk for days and days. The poor are served meals at the priories, which are like monastaries. Then they are allowed to sleep indoors on the floor of a large room. No one drinks water. Everyone, even small children -- drink watered down ale. Grownups with money drink more robust ale and wine.

Throughout this entire book, a cathedral is being made. The cathedral is so huge, and the labor is so manual, that it takes about 30 years to finish. Thomas the builder starts it, but when he is killed in a raid, his stepson Jack grows up to finish the job. The details of each brick and wall and arch were a little monotonous, but I just kept reminding myself about the knowledge in Ken Follett's brain and how amazed I was at the extent of it.

And I, of course, learned things about the 1100s I didn't know. Such as, there's no separation of church and state back then. The church practically runs the state. They own land and collect rent and won't hesitate to evict you it you fall behind on your payments. And soldiers don't get paid by the government like they do today. Back then, a knight had to put together his own team, and he was responsible for buying his own war horse, his own armor (of course), and supplying the same for his men, while paying them a weekly wage. How did a knight get paid? He pillaged! Then he sold what ever he took. If he didn't pillage, he made no money. I always thought they pillaged because they were mean and horrid creatures.

I would have thought that that book would have taken Follett 10 years at least to write. It's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of book -- the kind you say whew, I did it. I can die and go to heaven now. But it actually only took him three years. And he turned around and wrote a 1,000 page sequel!!! And he's still writing 1,000-page books today. He just finished a trilogy of them.

In any case, if you're a reader who loves fiction but also loves history, and isn't afraid of 1,000 pages, this is a good book for you. Enjoy the read and the ride!

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Night I Slept on the Ground in New York City

Last night, I was with a group of friends enjoying an evening out. When the conversation turned to interesting memories of times in New York city, this one of mine came to mind.

I was 17 years old and on my way to a Led Zeppelin concert at Madison Square Garden with 5 of my friends. The year was 1975. The group came on 45 minutes late so they announced that they would play 45 late to make up for it.

The concert was phenomenal, of course, but I knew right away it would put us dangerously close to missing the last train at Grand Central Station that would take us back to Connecticut, but we figured we would just walk fast. Well, apparently we didn’t walk fast enough. We arrived right at 1:30 a.m., and the doors were already locked.

We didn’t know what to do, but someone told us we could get a train from Penn Station at 3:05 a.m., so we all trudged the eight blocks back to 34th Street and waited. Unfortunately, the conductors wouldn’t take our Metro North tickets and wanted us to pay for new tickets. Well, we didn’t have the money for new tickets so we turned around and trudged back to Grand Central Station again.

Fortunately, it was July, and a dry day, so we plopped down on the sidewalk in front of the 42nd and Lexington Street entrance to Grand Central, where the brown doors – six of them – were angled out facing the street.

We could see we weren’t the only ones who had missed the last train. Underneath the Park Avenue overpass, there were about 10 or 15 more teens on both sides of the street. One in particular that I remember across from us was a girl with long blonde hair in white denim overalls. She stood out because of the brightness of her hair and outfit. Seven years later I would be telling this story at work and a gal that I worked with whose name also happens to be Lynn said that she was the girl in the white overalls!! Such a small world.

So we slept for a couple of hours, and at 5:30, were starting to wake up to take the first train home when a large, plump police officer came by and said, “All right everybody up and empty your pockets.”

Apparently, he could smell pot. It was coming from two boys that were near us but not with us. He made all of us get up just the same. One of my friends had 2 joints in a baggie. He crushed them with his feet. Another had a small pipe and he confiscated it. He threatened to arrest us all but didn’t. Then he said, “I may not be able to stop you from smoking pot, but you’ll never smoke in this town again.”

It was all we could do not to laugh. It sounded like he was trying to act tough but he wasn’t succeeding. Was he imitating Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry? Or some other famous movie star? It was such a bad attempt, it was hard to tell.

Between the amazing concert, sleeping on the street and our run-in with the police, it was a night none of us will ever forget.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I Have Mad Respect for the Old TV Show The Waltons

I never watched The Waltons when it was on the air from 1971 to 1981. But now that the reruns are on the Hallmark Channel, which I love watching, I can’t wait to get home at night to watch more episodes.I was surprised to see that the show touches on many serious issues and brings history to life.

At first, the large wholesome family was a nice departure from the horrors in the daily news and on other shows like Law and Order, Criminal Minds and CSI. I love all those crime shows, but I just got so tired of the blood and the gore of it all. The Waltons became my escape.

I started watching The Waltons and it was refreshing, with their yes sirs and yes ma’ams and brothers and sisters who are kind to each other. And the fresh air and countryside are a nice departure from the city I’m used to.

Created by Earl Hamner, Jr., the story and the location – Walton’s Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia – are completely fictional, but the show is based on a book he wrote called Spencer’s Mountain about a family in rural Virginia. There’s one General Store, a couple of spinster sisters who make daddy’s moonshine recipe behind closed doors.

The time period covers the Great Depression and World War II. I never expected the subject matter to be so important or progressive. All four Walton sons join the Army or Navy. 

Maryellen’s husband is killed in Pearl Harbor. John-Boy Walton is shot down over Germany but recovers. Jason helps liberate France. And Ben Walton is captured by the Japanese and becomes a prisoner of war. Meanwhile, a black neighbor is turned away at a restaurant. The issues they cover on the show are amazingly progressive and painful.

As I’m writing this, Ben has made an American flag out of clothing stolen from the Japanese’ laundry, which the POWs have to wash daily. He hangs it on the flagpole where the Japanese flag belongs, and ends up in solitary confinement as punishment. “I don’t care, it was worth it!” he says stubbornly as he’s thrown in the brig.

You see women going to work as Rosy Riveters in the factories. And the food and gas are bought with rationing stamps. It really brings to life the things that our grandparents went through and that we can only imagine. I think it’s better than history books in teaching kids about the past and I think they ought to have to watch it in school.

As I wait until tomorrow to find out whether Ben gets out of the Japanese concentration camp alive I know what’s coming – the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I can’t wait until this war is over and The Waltons can all be together again.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Friday, July 24, 2015

I Bleed Country Music

I've loved country music since I was at least 12. That's when John Denver was very popular. His songs Take Me Home Country Roads and Rocky Mountain High were on the radio, and my mother had an 8-track of of one of his albums. I remember when I turned 16 I loved buying albums and I bought two of his, including his Greatest Hits. And we used to sing Sunshine on My Shoulders at church, during the folk mass.

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy
Sunshine on my shoulders makes me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

That was the same time that Glen Campbell was making guest appearances on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on television. After a year, he got his own show, the Glen Campbell show. At school, we had the Scholastic Book of the Month club, and in 8th grade, I remember I bought Glen Campbell's biography. Oh how I cried when he hit rock bottom in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and sold his guitar for $25.

Around the same time, we had this neighbor Frank who was a truck driver, and he had about 30 or 40 country albums, what he called "truck-driving music," guys like Red Sovine, and I used to love to listen to it. Sometimes, I would go over there when his daughters, my friends Ronnie and Eva, weren't home. I would say, "Frank, can I listen to your records?" and he'd let me in. I'd sit on the floor of his living room and play record after record, while he was downstairs in the basement with his tools and his workbench.

I don't remember any of the songs or the singers now, except for ol' Red, but I remember they really captured my heart.

As I got older, I continued to enjoy country music. In the 90s I was very into the women of country -- Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Leann Womack, Jo Dee Messina, Leanne Rhimes, the Dixie Chicks.

The first time I ever got up and sang in public was at my Aunt Maymee's nursing home -- I sang Crazy by Patsy Cline. A few years later when I started going around the karaoke circuit, Crazy was part of my repertoire.

Today, I'm privileged to enjoy country radio over the Internet. I can listen to our local Nash FM, 94.7, out of Newark, or I can listen to the Big 98, WSIX, out of Nashville, or even Camel Country 108 out of Phoenix. I fell in love with Camel Country 108 when my mom was sick. One day I was driving her car to the hospital when I turned on the radio and was surprised to hear that my mother had the dial tuned to a country station. I listened for several months after I got home before I discovered WSIX in Nashville, the heart of country music, with Bobby Bones and Amy Page. I hope to meet them one day!

And of course, I can't forget CMT, and YouTube, with all the videos I could ever want.

It's amazing how country music has changed. Some of the songs on the radio, like Dan and Shea's Nothing Like You and (hottie) Michael Ray's Kiss You in the Morning don't sound like country to me at all. But then I hear people like Darius Rucker, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Carrie Underwood and Florida Georgia Line, and I feel good about where country music is going.

You'd think that someone who bleeds country music has been to Nashville six times over. Ironically. I've never been any farther than waiting at the airport for a connection flight. But visiting Nashville is definitely my dream and I hope to get their soon.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Congratulations to Country Singer Brantley Gilbert and His New Bride

Brantley Gilbert probably woke up on his wedding day last week and immediately thought, "bring it on!" In case you are a reader who is not 'countrified', those three words are pivotal to Gilbert's current smash hit, 'One Hell of an Amen.'

Gilbert, who has a voice I like to call Southern Whisper, married Amy Cochran, his long-time girlfriend at his Georgia home, according to E! online. Cochran inspired many of Gilbert's songs, including "More Than Miles" and "You Don't Know Her Like I Do."

The relationship hasn't always been upbeat, Gilbert recalled. In a previous interview with E, Gilbert said he met Cochran 10 years ago in church, but the relationship was on and off for five years. "I made some poor decisions which led to break up," he told E. They broke up for five years, but then they got back together.

"She's been in my soul since the day I met her...she has and will continue to inspire song after song in my life," Gilbert according to E.

Gilbert's newest album, Halfway to Heaven, has launched three hits so far: Bottom's Up, Small Town Throwdown and his latest single, One Hell of an Amen.

The latter song, a very catchy tune, is a story about 'fighting the good fight', Gilbert said in a video on his website. "Any time you go out fighting for your life or fighting for your country, that's one hell of an amen."

Gilbert will be touring throughout the U.S. during summer, then steps down in Canada in September and October.

Connect with Gilbert on Facebook and Twitter.

My congratulations go out to the happy couple.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Bloodstream: Whoa… Where Did This Come From?

Was anyone else as overcome by Ed Sheeran’s Billboard Music Awards performance as I was?

I mean, where did all that raw emotion and aggression come from? I liked it, but I was shocked by the complete departure from the softer stuff he has been putting out.

First of all, Bloodstream, written by Ed and the British bass and drum band Rudimental, sounded like it stepped right out of the LSD era of the 1960s. As I watched Ed play, all I could think of was Jimmy Hendrix at Woodstock.

And what exactly is he singing about? Shooting heroin? Having your heart broken? Both? Or something more?

To find the answer, I first went to to review the lyrics:

I've been spinning now for time
Couple women by my side
I got sinning on my mind
Sipping on red wine
I've been sitting here for ages
Ripping out the pages
How'd I get so faded?
How'd I get so faded?

Hard to say for sure, but it sounds like the character in the song is getting drunk and may be planning or have already had a threesome. That’s vague, but what is very clear is that the character feels guilty. The first line, to me, says he’s been thinking, trying to sort things out.

Same thing with ‘I’ve been sitting here for ages, Ripping out the pages.’ He sounds regretful, like he’s trying to turn the clock back and take back something he’s done.

Also, both lines refer to the passing of time. Is he (the character) tired of the constant all-night parties that musicians get caught up in? It sounds like he’s at the bottom of a very bad place, a place that he wants to get out of, but may not feel strong enough to do it himself.

Next, it sounds like he’s hurt one of the women, but then I start to think that he’s taken some kind of poison to commit suicide with these lines:

This is how it ends, I feel the chemicals burn in my bloodstream
Fading out again, I feel the chemicals burn in my bloodstream
So tell me when it kicks in
So tell me when it kicks in

As the song crescendos in the end, it sounds like the guy is dying. What ever it is that he’s done – whether he killed one of the women in the room or perhaps he just can’t find a way out of the dark place he’s in, he feels there is no other way out, no way he can escape what he’s done or obtain forgiveness. This is what I see when I read the words.

And the song is so intense, I feel like Ed should be completely wiped when he’s done playing it. Like he should collapse on the stage. Probably the only thing from preventing him from collapsing is his viral young age and constant touring schedule that keeps him fit.

This is my interpretation. Next, I will search the Internet to see if Ed has explained the song to any of the media and we’ll see how close I was to the real meaning behind the song.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Destiny: As Good a Book as Thornbirds or Evergreen
I love a good novel. And I’ve read dozens of them. But every once in a while, a book comes along that really moves me, that gets to my soul and I know that I will never forget it.

Recently, I read such a book. It’s title is Destiny, and it was written by Sally Beauman, a British woman. As a fellow writer, I have such respect for the depth of her characters, the way their lives wove together and their paths crossed.

Even more than that, I’m impressed by the history. The book was written in 1987 but much of the book takes places during World War II. Also, a great deal of it takes place in France in addition to England with supporting story lines in both California and Alabama.

Destiny was ever bit as good as Thornbirds and Evergreen and I recommend that any woman who loves to read get themselves to their local library or on to Amazon and read this book.

The first third of the book primarily centers around two brothers, Jean-Paul and Edward. There is a lot of sex, prostitution, lying, cheating, drinking, loneliness and pain and suffering. The usual stuff.
The middle third of this 838-page tome is like a coming of age for the boys. They graduate, go out into the world and find their way in life, with both good and bad at every turn.

In the final third of the book, there is a settling down, but that doesn’t prevent the characters from suffering pain. If anything, they suffer more.

I really enjoyed being able to visualize the beauty of both France and England. The details make it easy for the story to come to life.

In the end, I didn’t want this book to end. The characters, especially Edward and Helene, are unforgettable. I highly recommend it to all.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

"Lake News" Is a Story of Love and Justice

I finished my first Barbara Delinsky novel today and it was fantastic. When you read a 500-page book in four days while holding down a full-time job, taking a night class and handling a series of other responsibilities, you know it was good.

Lake News is the story of Lily Blake, a singer and pianist who lives in Boston. Her life is going well when out of nowhere, she is blindsided by a media scandal that not only is not true, but ruins here life and her reputation.

With her tail between her legs and feeling completely helpless, she moves back to the small village of Lake Henry, New Hampshire, where she is from.

Over a period of two weeks, she works tirelessly to build a new life for herself again, all the while trying to clear her name and here reputation.

Thanks to the help of a friend who runs the local weekly newspaper, she finds both justice and love simultaneously. Justice and revenge are one of my favorite themes for both books and movies, so anything that ends that way definitely captures my attention (think: Diary of a Mad Black Woman, one of my favorite movies.).

Barbara Delinsky has a talent for details. You not only can feel Lily's frustration, pain and humilation from being blamed for something she didn't do and then being harassed by paparazzi for it, but the scenes in and around Lake Henry just make you want to take a deep breath, like you can feel the fresh air in your bones.

Having written more than 60 novels, I'm surprised that I haven't heard of Delinsky before, but I definitely look forward to reading more of her work. You can find out more about Barbara Delinsky, who lives in Massachusetts, at

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.