Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cafe Chaos--Music

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Welcome to Café Chaos. Grab a cup of coffee or tea (we prefer coffee) and join us for a chat. Every Tuesday we’ll offer recommendations for music lovers. Feel free to comment on our picks or to throw in a few of your own. We’re listening!

SIS Barb says…

I like to sing. Loudly. Therefore, I like songs that are in a comfortable range for me. I don’t mind the occasional vocal stretch but singers like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Celine Dion, while they are some of my favorites, make their songs difficult for someone with an average range to have fun and belt out. In my opinion, there are other, equally talented singers that don’t sing in the stratosphere.

My pick of the Week: Miranda Lambert

She is one kick butt, high energy, rockin’ country star. She’s an extremely talented singer and songwriter that can hang with the best of them. Her range…average. Her heart…huge. Her talent…top notch. Ever seen her perform live? Trust me, it is a show that will have you on your feet jumpin’ and stompin’ right along with everyone else.

Recommended Album: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

My Favorite Songs: Famous In A Small Town and More Like Her

SIS Bren says...
Sometimes you hear a song and it whisks you back in time to a very particular place. You can remember what you were wearing, who you were with, how the air felt. It is so real that it can stir up emotions and feelings that have long since been buried and forgotten.

My pick of the week: The Climb
My pick isn't an artist or even an album. It's simply this one song. The first time I heard it, I liked it. The second time I thought, what a great song. But now it holds a very special meaning for me. I know that years from now I will hear this song and it will take me right back to this time. Though I am not a fan of the artist (I'm a little old I think), I am a huge fan of this song. I absolutely love the lyrics.

Artist: Miley Cyrus

SIS Beth says…
I enjoy several styles of music. Seriously, my collection is all over the place. This week I’m focusing on my love of country music and one singer in particular. Why him? Because he makes me smile and this week . . . I need all the cheer I can get.

My pick of the week: Dwight Yoakam
He’s a gifted guitarist, songwriter, and singer and the man can move like . . . well, let’s just say he gives Elvis a run for his money. Yoakam’s voice is deep and sensual. He does this subtle yodel thing that drives me wild. His gyrating hips and sexy leg maneuvers drive me wild, too. That man is pure charisma. I’ve seen him perform live several times, and though I wasn’t one of the women who rushed him on stage, I did get tingly all over, and okay, maybe I sighed.

Recommended Album: This Time

My Favorite Song: I have two! Fast as You and Thousand Miles from Nowhere

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

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Honesty. We all know the value of being honest with others. A small lie almost always has a snowball effect until you are buried under the avalanche trying to dig yourself out. But how can you? Chances are you can’t remember the reason you even lied in the first place, let alone how many more you had to tell just to cover up for the first one.

No matter how hard it is to tell the truth, in the end it would have saved you a lot of stress, angst and heartache.

But what if you tell a lie to try and spare someone’s feelings? Does that make it okay? Depends on who you talk to. But what if you told that person the truth and they were strong enough to learn something from it and become a better person, a stronger person? Wouldn’t that make honesty worth it? Their feelings were probably hurt, their ego maybe a little bruised, their heart a little broken, but in the end—hopefully—they understand that you only meant the best for them and in turn value your relationship even more.

There are those, mind you that will flip it and flip out. Those who can’t handle the truth—so to speak. Those that would rather blame the world than take ownership in their own. But those people still need and deserve to hear the truth, even if the relationship is damaged beyond repair.

But now I ask, can you be honest with yourself? This is sometimes the hardest thing to do. It’s hard to face the music. It’s hard to step up to the plate and not make excuses for why we can’t. Because we can. If we choose to. When we want to. When we have to.

When it comes to stepping up to the plate with my writing, sometimes I strike out and those are the times when the excuses (the lies) come easier to me. I have one bad session of writing, so the next day…The kids need me, the house needs cleaned, I need a mental break, I need to read a book for “research”, the list goes on and on. But the truth is, the whole truth…I’m scared. I’m scared that one bad session will turn into more and then I might fail. Forget the fact that I would definitely fail if I never wrote again.

So what do I do? I “buck up”, I get it together, I get back in the game! I chastise myself for all the excuses, the lies, and I get HONEST! So what if I had a bad writing day. At least I was writing. At least I learned something. At least I was doing something that means something to me. There are some that aren’t this “lucky”.

In case anyone is wondering, right now I am stepping up to the plate and I am completely in the game.

How about you? Do you make excuses or lie to yourself? Do you think you should always be honest with others? Please share.

SIS Barb

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cafe Chaos--Movies

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SIS Barb says:
Sometimes you turn on the TV and flip through the channels over and over again before something catches your eye. Something that makes you say…aw, what the heck, I have nothing better to do. Sometimes it’s a waste of time, but occasionally you find a real gem, a movie that reels you in and keeps you captivated. A movie that you will remember.

My Pick of the Week: August Rush (2007)

A real gem of a movie. A romance that the entire family can watch. The music is wonderful. The characters are believable. You fight back tears, but in the end, you let them go. These are good tears. Happy tears. August Rush is a film starring Keri Russell, Jonathon Rhys Meyers, Robin Williams, Terrence Howard and a wonderful child actor named Freddie Highmore. Follow the tale of two lovers ripped apart and a child in search of his parents. It is heart wrenching and magical.

SIS Bren says...
Living in a house full of men I don't often get the chance to watch what one might consider a "chick flick" so when the boys are out I start scanning through the movie channels to see what I might find. A few weeks ago, to my delight, I found that a movie was playing that I had wanted to see. I'm so glad I took the time.

My Pick of the Week: Atonement (2007)

Starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy as two lovers who are torn apart by the lies of a young girl, jealousy, and the onset of WWII. Filmed on location in the UK, this movie spans many decades. The cinematography is breathtaking and the story is gut-wrenching. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and highly recommend it.

SIS Beth says:
Every now and then I run across a gem of a movie that runs me through an emotional gamut. A story that can make me laugh, cry, shock me, and thrill me is a story to be treasured indeed.

My Pick of the Week: Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
A timeless movie about a severely dysfunctional family. Every single family member is as quirky as the next. Each one intensely interesting and dealing with his or her own unique gritty issues. The stellar cast, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, and Abigail Breslin are absolutely electric. Arkin and Breslin, as the grandpa who's helping his granddaughter to prepare for the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, steal the show. Hats off to writer Michael Arndt for penning such an intelligent and touching film. I highly recommend Little Miss Sunshine! (Those with kids be warned, Grandpa is awfully fond of the "F" word.)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Falling Stars

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I had an entirely different post written for today. I’ve decided to save it for next week.

As someone who’s worked in the entertainment business, one way or another, for more than 30-some years, and who’s loved all things show biz for even longer, I can’t skip over the passing of three performers who made their mark on my younger days.

Ed McMahon
Maybe it's wrong, but I will always think of Mr. McMahon as Johnny Carson’s sidekick. When I was growing up, Johnny Carson was King of the late night talk shows. What a treat when I got to stay up late enough to watch The Tonight Show.

Then later, I was old enough to watch it whenever I felt like it . . . which was whenever I could. I vividly remember thinking very early on that I would someday perform on The Tonight Show—meaning I’d made the big time. That didn’t happen, but that’s another story. I never met Johnny or Ed, but I did meet Doc Severinsen . . . but that’s another story. Mr. McMahon was the ultimate second banana, a good sport, and a kind soul. For years he worked tirelessly alongside Jerry Lewis on the MDA telethons.

Farrah Fawcett
I loved Charlie’s Angels. The original TV show, that is. I wanted to be one of Charlie’s Angel’s. My personality and looks were more suited to Kate Jackson’s ‘Sabrina’. But I wanted to be Farrah’s ‘Jill’. I wanted her smile. I wanted that hair! I went so far as to wash my hair with Farrah Fawcett’s shampoo—a Wella Balsam product. (Remember that anyone?) Later, she went on to prove she was more than a sexy pin-up (Remember her swimsuit poster?) with great hair. Her heartbreaking performance in “The Burning Bed” remains etched in my mind. Younger folk may only remember her ditzy appearances on David Letterman. Sad, because, okay, maybe she was a strange, but the woman was a cultural icon.

Michael Jackson
I hate saying I saved the best for last. So I’ll settle for, I saved the most influential for last.

Michael Jackson was a troubled soul. A seriously troubled soul. But he was also a musical genius. My admiration is solely aimed at his professional career.

To this day, anytime I hear a song by the Jackson 5, any song—ABC, I’ll Be There, I Want You Back, Never Can Say Goodbye, Shake Your Body Down to the Ground—I get a giddy thrill.

In kind, I adore every MJ hit all the way up to his 1987 album--Bad. Of course, nothing compares (J5 songs not included) to his mega hit--the 1982 album Thriller. I could be wrong, but I think it’s still the best-selling album of all time. The Girl is Mine, Billie Jean, Beat It, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, PYT, Human Nature, and Thriller… all mega hits and all from that one album. That’s damned impressive.

Then there was the groundbreaking musical video for Thriller. Please don’t tell me you’ve never seen it. If not, click here.

Like I said, the man was a troubled soul, but he was also a consummate singer and dancer. He set the musical world on fire.

What about you? Any memories or comments on the show biz celebs we’ve lost this week?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cafe Chaos--Books

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Welcome to Café Chaos. Grab a cup of coffee or tea (we prefer coffee) and join us for a chat. Every Thursday we’ll offer recommendations for book lovers. Feel free to comment on our picks or to throw in a few of your own. We’re listening!

SIS Barb says…
There are some books that grab you from the first paragraph. There are others that start off a little slow but something tells you…this is gonna be good. And when you get to the end, you are so happy that you gave it a chance because it was well worth it.

My Pick of the Week: Sugar Daddy
Sugar Daddy is a story that takes you on the journey. Follow along as a struggling young girl matures into adulthood. Liberty Jones is a character you will root for and cry with. A character that must decide between two men. Which one will she choose? Which one will you want her to choose? This book is a must read!

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Sis Bren says...
Mysteries, thrillers, anything that allows my mind to think and deduce, that's what I love. And when it is coupled with humor, I'm even more pleased.

My Pick of the Week: Deal Breaker
Myron Bolitar is a sports agent who always seems to find himself involved in murder and mystery. The banter between Myron and his partner, Winn, is witty and highly entertaining. Read along as Myron and Winn battle the bad guys in the first of nine in the Myron Bolitar series.

Author: Harlan Coben

SIS Beth says…
Reading is a form of escapism for me. When I really need to get away, I go back in time. Historical romance calls to my old soul and my love of adventure.

My pick of the Week: Ransom

A sexy, alpha Scottish highlander and a spirited, innocent English noblewoman clash and mesh in this thrilling tale laced with mystery, honor, and humor. I adore Julie Garwood’s colorful characters, her wit, attention to historic detail, and her ability to make me fall in love again and again. Ransome is one of her older novels, but perhaps my favorite. A definite keeper.

Author: Julie Garwood

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Brushes With Celebrities

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Well, I've finally returned from my trip to Indiana! It was so nice to be there with family and I hope to visit again soon. While I was there I was having a conversation with our sister, Brandy, and somehow we got onto the topic of PRINCE. I asked her if she remembered when I met Prince and she said she had never heard the story. So, I feel compelled to write about my brush with "The Purple One".

I was 19 and Prince was the hottest, sexiest thing going. Purple Rain was on the big screen and everyone was begging to hear his songs. The band that I was singing with at the time was playing at a Marriott in Worcester (pronounced Woostah), Massachusetts. I found out that Prince was going to be performing nearby and would be staying at the Marriott, and to me that was just the most exciting thing in the world. I told everyone who would listen, what a huge Prince fan I was and that I would do anything to meet him.

While playing a game in the video room at the hotel one afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting Sheila E.'s guitar player, Stefan Birnbaum. Sheila E. was the opening act for Prince's Purple Rain tour and I was ecstatic to have met Stefan. He was very nice and we had a great conversation and he said he would stop into the club later and listen to our band. WOW! For me, a small town girl who was somewhat sheltered, this was super exciting.

So that night, as promised, Stef showed up. We were in the back of the club by the waitress' service station when I was hit by the overwhelming scent of flowers. Not just the light fresh scent you experience when sniffing a bouquet of flowers...More like you were attacked by all of the floats from the Rose Parade. You get the idea... I must have made a face because Stef asked, "Do you smell that?". I said that I did and asked what it was and he told me to turn around. I turned and was face to uh, well, top of his hair-do with Prince. No lie. I was standing not six inches from "The Purple One"!!!! He was wearing silk pajamas, long pearl necklaces, and about five inch heels. Oh yeah, and about three bottles of old woman's perfume. I was wearing probably three inch heels and still towered over him. He's not a tall man, but his sexiness more than makes up for it. He smiled that delicious smile and said "Hello, how are you?". To which I eloquently and intelligently replied, "Hi". I was in total shock and of course after he walked off, I could think of a million things to say.

Following Prince was his entire band, The Revolution. They made their way to our stage and after talking with the manager and our band leader, took their places on stage. Doc, Wendy and Lisa were all there, and Sheila E. sat in on drums. They began their jam and I was thinking that life couldn't get much better. I stood on a brass rail beside the stage taking it all in and handing guitar picks to Wendy while she sang back-ups on my microphone. I'm thinking "God, this is great!" Suddenly, Prince turned and looked at me, and on the microphone, he spoke to me. He said, "Could you please get down off of that rail. I don't want you to hurt yourself". Can you believe it? Prince himself was concerned for my well-being! What a high!

I was still feeling that high when I called my mom the next day to brag about my experience:
"Mom! You'll never guess who sat in on our stage last night!"

"I don't know. Who?"

"Prince! Prince and the Revolution and Sheila E.!" I exclaimed.

"Oh that's nice," she said with absolutely no enthusiasm. "Well, Wayne Newton's band sat in with your sister's band."
This she said like it was so much better. And this wasn't even Wayne Newton himself. It was just his band. Ah... defeat. Well, I didn't care. It was still an incredible experience for me and one I will always cherish.

So what about all of you? Care to share any Brushes with Celebrities? We would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cafe Chaos--Music

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SIS Barb says…
A voice that stands out. A voice that is truly unique. A voice that is immediately recognizable. Not always the best singer but one with style. Not always the most attractive vocalist but one with personality. Those are the ones that are timeless.

My Pick of the Week: Al Green

He is one of the all time best, a singer of Gospel and Soul music. He is an icon. His music was the hit of the 1970’s and still going strong. There are those who imitate but can never replicate. He is truly one of a kind.

Recommended album: Al Green: Greatest Hits

Favorite Song: Let’s Stay Together

*You can listen to tracks by clicking here

SIS Brenda says…

Real singers, true singers…sing. They don’t lip sync or add a lot of effects to their voices. They sing from the heart and they sing from the soul. They are respected for their talent and their longevity. My pick of the week is one of those singers.

My Pick of the Week: P!nk

Edgy, soulful, stylish, gutsy, truly awesome and a complete rock-star! She can belt it out with the best of ‘em and pull you into her songs. Her songs run the gamut from pop to blues to political statements and everything in between.

Recommended Album: Funhouse

My Favorite Song: Sober

*You can sample songs from this album by clicking here.

SIS Beth says…
When I want to escape, truly escape, I listen to new age or Celtic music. I discovered this genre quite a few years ago and have been an avid fan since. Enya, Yanni, Loreena McKennitt, and Clannad are just a few of my favorites. Magical and haunting, their music transports me to another world.

My pick of the week: Clannad
If you’re not already a fan of this gifted group, you’ve probably heard their music via one or another movie soundtrack. I discovered them because of a song that plays during a scene in Last of the Mohicans. I was so enraptured that I endured squinting through endless credits just to learn the name of the singer/band. I immediately rushed out and bought everything I could find by Clannad, an Irish based group that mixes traditional strains with traces of folk, rock, and jazz. Bold and haunting, I highly recommend this unique group to anyone in need of ‘escape’.

Recommended Album: The Best of Clannad: In a Lifetime

My Favorite Song: I Will Find You (theme from Last of the Mohicans)
*You can sample songs from this album by clicking here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The AHA Moment

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There are those times when everything just clicks, but more often than not, it doesn’t and you have to go back and edit and rewrite and edit some more. But every time—okay, most of the time—you make those changes, it makes you a better writer with a better story.

I’ve been told that some writers map everything out before they even start the first paragraph. All of the research is done and the outline is finished and ready to aid them on their writing journey. I am not one of those writers. Maybe I should be but I’m too impatient. I think they call it flying by the seat of your pants. Well, my pants must have wings because that’s the only way that works for me—so far. Who knows? Maybe when I get more experience or at least get this first book under my belt, I’ll try the other method. (Probably not)

But how, I ask you, do they know how their characters will evolve? I go to bed thinking I know what’s going to happen next, then wake in the morning to find my heroine has decided that just won’t work for her. Most of my characters seem to have a mind of their own and who am I to say they can’t be who they want or need to be? They don’t like structure and they don’t want to be transferred from an outline to a chapter in their book. They want to tell the story in their own way and I feel very much compelled to let them.

Which brings me to the AHA moment, also known as Bartholomew 45-7 to some of my family members. Why? Who knows why we make up the things we do??? It started as a joke and took on a life of it’s own. But the AHA moment is when everything clicks and you know where you’re going and why. The story is telling itself and you’re along for the wild ride. I love the AHA moments! They are the best and the craziest moments in our lives, whether it’s when we’re telling a story, reading one or just living the story of our lives with the ones we love.

Please share some of your AHA moments. I’d love to hear them.

SIS Barb

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Cafe Chaos -- Movies

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SIS Barb says…
Since I don’t usually have time to see the latest movies, I sometimes find myself pulling out some oldies but goodies—and by oldies, I mean 5+ years. I like to watch them lying on the couch with pretzels and a coke on a rainy afternoon.

My Pick of the Week: Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
It is an adaptation of Fanny Flagg’s novel starring Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary-Louise Parker. This movie has it all…Suspense, comedy and it’s a real tearjerker. I especially love the parking lot scene with Kathy Bates and the young snobby girls! So much fun. My type of flick!

SIS Bren says…
Movies. Love them. Love the variety. Sometimes I want deep and thoughtful. Sometimes fantastic and magical. But sometimes you just need something mindless to laugh at.

My Pick of the Week: Wild Hogs (2007)
Tim Allen, William H Macy, Martin Lawrence, and John Travolta. Enough said. No? Okay, well . . .

IMDb offers a great blurb: A group of suburban biker wannabes looking for adventure hit the open road, but get more than they bargained for when they encounter a New Mexico gang called the Del Fuegos.

The scene where John Travolta is crying cracks me up every time.

SIS Beth says…
Like Barb, I rarely get to the latest movies, but I have a huge collection of favorites, in multiple genres. Aside from books, movies are my chosen form of escapism. Romance, adventure, drama, period, fantasy . . . Take me away!

My Pick of the Week: The Waterhorse: Legend of the Deep (2007)
The screenplay is an adaptation from a children’s novel—The Waterhorse. But this exciting, endearing film isn’t just for kids. Or maybe it’s just that it appeals to the kid in all of us. Imagine if, as a young child, you discovered a mysterious egg and then went on to nurture what hatched out of it. Imagine if the hatchling was a Celtic water horse… also known as the Loch Ness Monster. Charming, funny, tender, and thrilling, this movie is a magical adventure. My heart pounded during a water sequence that I don’t want to reveal. Just imagine the ride of your life!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Sting of Rejection

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On Wednesday, Bren blogged about stage fright. Her story and those shared by others got me thinking about how often we battle fears and obstacles in order to do something we love and/or to attain a goal.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever suffered genuine stage fright. Anxiety, yes. Fright no. Whether it be singing, dancing or acting, I love the rush of performing live in front of people. Or at least I used to. After 30-some years in the performing arts, I no longer burn to sing. I burn to write. However, the similarities between the entertainment and publishing business are vast. For instance . . . auditions and submissions.

Looking back, I had it easy when I first started performing. I didn’t have to audition for my first singing gig. My dad worked as the food and beverage manager at a local Holiday Inn. He talked the leader of the house band into letting me come up and sing a song. I didn’t want to. Well, I did, but I was scared. Okay. I’ll confess to stage fright that time, but then I performed and people applauded and I was hooked. After a few times of ‘sitting in’ for a couple of songs, the hotel hired me to sing with the band every weekend. I was fourteen.

When I was seventeen, I left home and went ‘on the road’ with a band. We performed in hotel lounges and nightclubs all over the Midwest. We worked approximately 50 weeks out of the year. We never had to ‘audition’ live for a job. We had an agent who booked us using a promo shot and demo tape. Sometimes we weren’t a perfect match for a club, and yes, I’ve been fired—not fun—but I didn’t know how easy I had it until I settled in Atlantic City eight years later. I didn’t want to travel anymore. I wanted to perform exclusively in the casinos. That meant auditioning . . . over and over and over.

Plainly put, auditioning sucks. In my case, usually it took place in the middle of the day, on a stage, in an empty room. No audience to feed off of. Just an entertainment director, or maybe the entertainment director plus a few suits from marketing or accounting, sitting at a table, watching and judging. Sometimes leaning in and whispering to each other. Sometimes looking bored. Meanwhile, you’re trying to perform your heart out. You want them to like you, to hire you. You need to pay the bills. You need to feed your passion. I don’t think I was ever at my best during an audition. I was always nervous. Sometimes my mouth got so dry, my lips stuck to my teeth.

For you writers out there, imagine sitting in the same room while an editor reads the manuscript you just handed him/her. Being right there while they judged your work. When they decided to either contract you or reject you. Worse, what if someone from the marketing department and PR department were there, too. Imagine how you’d feel when they leaned in and whispered to each other about your story. In front of you.

Uh, huh.

Back to performing…. Generally I wouldn’t find out until a day or two (or sometime a week) later whether I got the gig. The entertainment director would notify my agent of his/her decision. The agent would call me and either I’d whoop for joy or cry. Rejection stung. Big time. The absolute worst was losing out on a job, not because you weren’t talented enough, but because of the way you looked. I’ve known singers who lost gigs because their hips were too big. One, because her ankles were too fat. Yes, that really happened. Once I lost a job because of what I was wearing. The casino president was there and said I looked like I should be standing on Pacific Avenue. For those of you not familiar with Atlantic City, that’s where the hookers hang out.

A) I was wearing a customized dress that I spent a lot of money on. A design copied from a dress in Vogue magazine. Sexy, not slutty.

B) If you liked my performing, how about just asking me not to wear that dress Mr. Stick-Up-the-Butt? I had a ton of costumes in my closet. Ah, but that would be too logical.

As you might have guessed from the above tone, I grew cynical over the years. But I also developed a pretty thick skin. So much so, that when I received my first rejection letter from a publisher for a manuscript I’d submitted, I didn’t cry. I was disappointed. Really disappointed, but I wasn’t crushed. At least I hadn’t been sitting in that room when the editor read and judged my manuscript. Don’t get me wrong, rejection is never fun. Especially when your work gets rejected time and time again. However, I wanted to see my work in print so badly… I so very much wanted to pursue a career as a published author… that I continued to ‘audition’ over and over until I finally landed ‘the gig’.

Years later, even with several books under my belt, I still ‘audition’ every time I submit a new proposal. And then there’s the added risk of reader rejection. Not every reader will like your work and some will have no problem trashing you all over the Internet. Do I feel a sting from bad reviews? Absolutely. But from someone who used to make a living on stage and survived hecklers, drunks, and plain rude people who had no problem saying something like “You suck” right to my face… I can endure a snarky written review. I can even take it when someone says to my face, “I don’t read those kind of books” or the ever popular, “Oh. You write those trashy bodice rippers.” (The latter really burns my buns, but that’s another post.)

The point to my ramble here is that it’s rare that we’re handed our dream on a platter. Most of us have to pay our dues, and that often involves rejection in some form or another. The trick is to feel the sting then let it go. Taste is subjective. If you want something, go for it. Fight for it. Hone your craft and never give up.

When all else fails just remind yourself that opinions are like buttholes. Everybody has one.

What about you? How do you handle rejection?

SIS Beth

Thursday, June 18, 2009

And the Winners Are...

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Congratulations to Tori, Sherry, and Cheryl! Our three winners in Wednesday's random drawing. Yes! You each won a signed copy of one of Beth's books. You can view your choices by clicking here. Send your preferred title and mailing address to Beth at sis.bbb@gmail.com Meanwhile... Scroll down for book talk at Cafe Chaos!

Cafe Chaos -- Books

Welcome to Café Chaos. Grab a cup of coffee or tea (we prefer coffee) and join us for a chat. Every Thursday we’ll offer recommendations for book lovers. Feel free to comment on our picks or to throw in a few of your own. We’re listening!

*SIS Barb says...
A good book is a getaway from mundane, everyday things. A good book can make you laugh, cry or scare the crapola out of you. A good book insists that you not put it down. A good book can get you into trouble.

My Pick of the Week: The Black Dagger Brotherhood series
If you like vampires, you've got to read this. Sexy, thrilling and endearing. I highly suggest reading the series in order as it adds to the effect.

Author: JR Ward

Latest book in the series: Lover Avenged

*SIS Beth says...
Like most readers, I’m over the moon when I start reading a book I can’t put down. The precious page turner that has me turning pages until my eyes are bleary. That doesn’t happen for me as much as I’d like. Then again, I don’t have as much time to read as I’d like. That said I’ve come across some real treasures lately.

My Pick of the Week: The Fever series

I only recently tripped upon this series. The first three—Darkfever, Bloodfever, and Faefever—were already out, so I got to read them back-to-back. I fell in love with the author’s voice and the compelling tale, sometimes humorous, sometimes scary. This urban fantasy (with a wee bit of romance) is like decadent, dark chocolate—delicious and addictive. I devoured these stories and nearly wept at the cliffhanger ending of Faefever because the next installment wouldn’t be out for several months. The day grows nearer. Dreamfever will be mine mid-August!

Latest book in the series: Faefever

*Due to being out of town, SIS Bren was unable to share her book recommendation this week, but do please share yours! Do you enjoy reading series? Do you have a favorite? Do you have to read them in order?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stage Fright

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The fear, anxiety or persistent phobia of performing in front of an audience. Hasn't everyone experienced stage fright at one time or another?

Sis Beth always looked perfectly at ease in front of an audience. If she was nervous, I never saw it. Sis Barb? Cool as a cucumber. Me? A nervous wreck. When I was in high school, every year I would perform a vocal solo at a State contest. This contest was held at a college in Indianapolis that had old wood flooring. I would tend to tap my hand at my side while I sang and a friend suggested that I should lightly hold my dress in my hands to keep me from tapping. So I did. Since I could no longer channel my nervousness through my hand, it traveled down my body into my legs causing them to shake uncontrollably. So while I was singing for the judges, instead of them seeing me tapping my hand, they now could hear the clicking of my heels on the wooden floor throughout my entire performance. The more I tried to stop shaking, the harder I shook and the louder it got. I should have just tapped my hand.

Even though I performed on a stage five and six nights a week for 20 something years, I would still quite often, get stage fright. Remember how I said Barb is cool as a cucumber....

I was approached to sing at a wedding for a co-worker and I graciously declined saying that I tend to get very nervous singing at weddings. They persisted so I came up with the bright idea that I would ask Barb to sing with me and hopefully that would calm my nerves. The song was a capella (just our voices without music) and we practiced and practiced and I felt really good about it. We sounded great and I was pretty confident that it would come off without a hitch. Just to make sure I had my nerves under control, I got one of those little bottles of wine, like the ones you get on an airplane, and drank it in the car just before we entered the church.

We passed several of my co-workers on our way to the front pew of the church. These people had heard me sing numerous times and they were all excited that I would be singing on this day. So Barb and I are sitting there with the piano and organ directly in front of us. The piano and organ were back to back and the pianist was sitting at the piano playing softly while everyone was being seated. I was feeling pretty good right about now, the wine had kicked in and I was certain everything would be okay.

The preacher walked in and signaled to the pianist that they were ready and so she stood up from the piano bench and began to make her way around to the organ to play the Bridal March. As she rounded the piano, she tripped. Not just a little trip though. Like, almost fell to the ground trip. Now some people might be concerned and want to ask her if she was okay. Not Barb. She finds this sort of thing funny. More than funny... she finds it hilarious. She busted out laughing and I was slapping her leg begging her to stop and she was trying to hold it in which caused her entire upper body to start convulsing and I just knew that everyone in the entire church had their eyes on us now.

So much for feeling in control.
Now I was shaking and sweating and when it came time to sing, I was horrible. Think Stevie Nicks marries a billy goat and they have a kid (no pun intended) and that kid is me and I'm trying to sing while standing on top of a huge vibrating machine. Not pretty.

When it came to Barb's part of course she sounded beautiful. After the ceremony, my friends/co-workers kept saying things to me like "Wow, what happened to your voice? Why did your voice sound so shaky?" I was mortified, but oh well... It is one of the best memories I have of performing. I can always count on Barb for a good time. Sometime I'll have to tell you the story of how Beth gave me a fat lip on stage.

The stage fright is upon me once more as I get ready to post my first-ever blog. I worry that it is too long, or not funny, or worse yet, just plain not interesting. So to try and calm my nerves I am asking yet another one of my beautiful sisters, Sis Brandy, and her crazy daughter Sydney to read it for me and make sure that it's worthy of posting.

As for you, you should all write and tell us if you’re calm and cool like my sisters, or a nervous wreck like me. Please have a beautiful and inspiring day!!!!!!


Bonus time! Beth is giving away three signed copies of her books (your choice of title) today. All you have to do is comment to this post. Winners chosen at random. One book per winner. You can view your choices by clicking here.

Adios Daddy-0s!
SIS Bren

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

And the Winners Are...

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Congratulations to Richard, Adriana, and Fedora! Our three winners in Monday's random drawing. Woo-hoo! Hope you like romantic adventures.

You each won a signed copy of one of Beth's books. You can view your choices by clicking here.
Send your preferred title and mailing address to Beth at sis.bbb@gmail.com

Meanwhile... Scroll down for music talk at Cafe Chaos!

Cafe Chaos -- Music

Welcome to Café Chaos. Grab a cup of coffee or tea (we prefer coffee) and join us for a chat. Every Tuesday we’ll offer recommendations for music lovers. As professional singers for a collective 60-some years, we're pretty opinionated about musical performers/performances, but we're not the type to bash. Not generally anyway. Feel free to comment on our picks or to throw in a few of your own. We’re listening!

SIS Beth says…
As singers go, I like those with unique voices. I also enjoy a singer who knows how to appreciate a melody. Verbal gymnastic are impressive, but when overused, annoying. To me anyway. Some of my favorite singers may not be the most commercially successful, but they are among the most talented.

My pick of the week: Lisa Loeb
Most people know Lisa for her hit ballad ‘Stay.’ Some only know her for that. ‘Stay’ was her biggest commercial hit. But Lisa has released several albums and has a huge cult following. I love her quirky voice, thoughtful lyrics, and catchy melodies. A gifted singer, guitarist, and songwriter, this girl can rock!
Recommended Album: The Very Best of Lisa Loeb
My Favorite Song: Fools Like Me
*You can sample songs from this album by clicking here.

SIS Brenda says…
No frills, no fuss, just talented singers and musicians doing what they do. I love a good vibe. I love raw talent. Give me a little grit in the voice any day of the week.

My Pick of the Week: Jason Mraz
His music is the epitome of cool. A little Jazz, a little reggae, a little R & B and just enough of about everything else thrown in.
Recommended Album: We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things
My favorite Song: Lucky (Featuring Colbie Caillat)

*You can sample this album by
clicking here

SIS Barb says…
I prefer country music for many reasons, although the main one is talent. Country singers and musicians are extremely talented, usually writing or co-writing their own songs. They know how to play their instruments and they can SING. They don’t need all the special effects simply because they are especially gifted.

My pick of the week: Sugarland
Their music makes you want to sing along with the windows rolled down and your hair slapping you in the face. Whether it be a ballad or one of their many, wonderful, up-beat songs, Sugarland is unique and unforgettable.
Recommended Album: Love on the Inside
My Favorite Song: Wishing
*You can sample songs from this album by clicking here
Okay, SIS readers.... Chime in!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Hills are Alive

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Hi! So glad you could stop by and check us out.

I’m Barb a.k.a. Justen a.k.a. Elle J Rossi. The latter being the name I’ve chosen to write under—probably. I am the youngest of this group of three sisters but number five out of seven children. To say I'm honored to be among these lovely sisters of mine is a gross understatement. They are two of the most beautiful and talented gals I know.

But let's get back to me seeing as Mondays are my day! I contemplated long and hard about what our first topic would be and after racking my brain…I surprised myself considering I’m much more Mary Poppins than The Sound Of Music, but still, I thought—what better way to get to know people than to find out their favorite things. So, I’ve decided to list some of mine—in no particular order—and hope you will let us know some of yours!

* My family and friends . . . All of them! But especially my husband and two children. We’ll call my daughter “drama” and my son “comedy” for future reference. Oh, the tales I will share. Priceless!

* Coffee . . . Yes, I admit, I-am-a-fiend! A habit I have no desire to break! Flavors, flavors and more flavors!

* Books . . . I can’t stop myself. I usually read 2-3 books a week and I don’t check them out from the library. (sorry, Beth) Why? I don’t want to give them back! Oh, and it kinda weirds me out that so many people have had their grubbies all over ‘em.

* French Fries . . . Duh, self-explanatory.

* Hot, hot days . . . I live in Wisconsin. It’s freakin’ cold here!

* Thunderstorms . . .
Pure energy.

* Country Music . . . A big Yee-Haw w/great friends and it reminds me of my dad, whom I miss immensely.

* Writing . . . It’s an escape, a get away, a far off land

* Laughing . . . The doubled over, wetting your pants kind!

* Dogs . . . However, I don’t have one. We’ll discuss my plot to get one later.

So . . . these are my Top 10 and I remind you, their order strictly depends on the day! I would love to know your top three (at least) and please, make sure to introduce yourself first! Next week, we’ll talk about my new endeavor…Writing.

Bonus time! Beth is giving away three signed copies of her books (your choice of title) on Monday and Wednesday. All you have to do is comment to this and Brenda's posts. Winners chosen at random. One book per winner. You can view your choices by clicking here. Hopefully, you like romantic adventures. If you don't, maybe she can convert you.

I thank you for dropping by and hope you will visit again and again. But remember to grab a cup of coffee first! This should be fun!

~SIS Barb

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Launching SIS -- June 15!

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After a couple of weeks of site tweaking, Sisters in Sync is almost ready to roll. Join us on Monday, June 15 for our official launch into the blogosphere! Until then, you can get to know us by clicking on the SIS Scoop page.

Barb, the youngest (and perhaps craziest) of the three of us, has bravely agreed to write the launch post. As the oldest, I feel somewhat protective of her feelings and would hate it if she heard crickets chirping all day. Same goes for middle sister Brenda who's posting on Wednesday. So...

As a bonus, I'm giving away three signed copies of my books (your choice of title) on Monday and Wednesday. All you have to do is comment to Barb and Brenda's posts. Winners chosen at random. One book per winner. You can view your choices by clicking here. Hopefully, you like like romantic adventures. If you don't, maybe I can convert you.

Until Monday...