Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"

Monthly Archives: March 2012

The songs I miss hearing way too much on the radio….

Trisha Yearwood hit the proverbial nail on the head with her song, “The Song Remembers When”: 


I was standing at the counter/I was waiting for the change/When I heard that old familiar music start/It was like a lighted match/Had been tossed into my soul/It was like a dam had broken in my heart.  After taking every detour/Getting lost and losing track/So that even if I wanted/I could not find my way back/After driving out the memory/Of the way things might have been/After I’d forgotten all about us/The song remembers when.  We were rolling through the Rockies/We were up above the clouds/When a station out of Jackson played that song/And it seemed to fit the moment/And the moment seemed to freeze/When we turned the music up and sang along.  And there was a God in Heaven/And the world made perfect sense/We were young and were in love/And we were easy to convince/We were headed straight for Eden/It was just around the bend/And though I have forgotten all about it/The song remembers when.  I guess something must have happened/And we must have said goodbye/And my heart must have been broken/Though I can’t recall just why/The song remembers when.  Well, for all the miles between us/And for all the time that’s passed/You would think I haven’t gotten very far/And I hope my hasty heart/Will forgive me just this once/If I stop to wonder how on Earth you are.  But that’s just a lot of water/Underneath a bridge I burned/And there’s no use in backtracking/Around corners I have turned/Still I guess some things we bury/Are just bound to rise again/For even if the whole world has forgotten/The song remembers when/Yeah, and even if the whole world has forgotten/The song remembers when.


If reading and the written word are the two great loves of my life, so far as enjoyable activities go, then music is a very close second in the race to claim my  heart.  You might not know this, especially if you’re new in my life, but about a million years ago, music was one of the sole focuses of my life:  I was a student of piano, voice, and yes, trombone for years.  I even have several blue ribbons and awards for state competitions for my piano playing.


Being the emotionally driven being that I am, naturally, certain songs can drive me to certain emotions: The Ave Maria?  CanNOT listen to it without sobbing in memory of my grandmother and several aunts and uncles who have passed on.  Beethoven’s Ode to Joy?  I’d call it “classic”, but, really, isn’t it already?  The feel of granduer and expansiveness and just sheer explosive force behind it.  I can practicially feel my the ivory under my fingers from the countless times I practiced that particular piece again and again.  I could go on and on.  But I won’t.  Because its time for me to list the songs I used to hear on the radio so much I’d think to myself, “Oh god! Not AGAIN!”  But now I miss them and wish like hell they’d come on more often.


The Lightning Seeds, “Pure”.  Released on 26 June, 1989, it’s just one of those songs I hear and remember my tight rolled pants, three pairs of alternating colored socks, and big hair that required a bottle of hair spray to keep in place.  When I mentioned this song to a friend of mine recently, she told me she still had the actual cassette tape of the song (if you don’t know what a cassette tape is?  I’m thinking you’re probably too young to be reading my blog… and isn’t it past your cerfew?).


Level 42, “Lessons in Love”.  Released in 1986, back when I was a mere 9 years old.  I can remember laying across the floor boards of my Mom’s car and hearing it on the radio while we drove around the city we were living in at the time (yes, that’s right.  Back in the 80’s?  Your kids had free reign of the car.  I can even remember an uncle who cut the seat belts out of his car because, well, he could.)


Def Leppard , “Pour Some Sugar On Me”.  Released September 8, 1987 in the UK.  I’m not going to explain why this song is on this list.  


Sir Mix-a-Lot, “Baby got back”.  Released May 7, 1992.  Okay, so maybe 2%, if that, of women in the world are painfully thin with no curves.  The other 98% of us?  Not so much.  I myself am curvy, and damn proud of it.  Even on the rare occassions in my life when I’ve been a size 4?  I’ve still got an ass and the boobs to go with it.  Sir Mix-a-Lot said what needed to be said, and that’s that his “anaconda don’t want none unless you’ve got curves hun”.  Plus, its just a damn catchy tune.  Try to not hear it on the mental stereo you have;  I guarantee you’ll probably be consdiering a hit man for me, if only to make it stop playing again and again in your head.


Ty Herndon, “What mattered most”.  Released in 1995, I can remember first hearing this song and wishing like hell my then boyfriend would listen to it and take the words to heart.  I don’t care if you abhor country music, the lyrics alone are worth it.  You simply cannot get around a man passionately singing the words, “Oh my god, what did I do?” in regards to the loss of a relationship, in full recognition of how he totally fucked it up.  This song is a song for anyone, man or woman, that has looked back and thought, “Jesus Christ, I am a total fucking moron!” after a relationship has ended.


Anngun, “Snow on the Sahara”.  Released in 1997, for me, “Snow on the Sahara”, just reminds me of my early twenties.  If there was a soundtrack for my tumultuous early twenties and heartbreaking first marriage?  That song would make it each and every time.


Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, “Zoot Suit Riot”.  Released in 1997, it was one of many songs in the late 1990’s that broke out huge with the re-occurance of the swing-dance craze.  Swing dancing is a huge, huge part of my childhood: Everyone in my family can do it, benefitting from some very talented aunts and uncles passing the bad ass dancing torch on to their children and siblings’ children.  It is without a doubt, one trait you do not mind passing on to your children in our Catholic-sized family.


KC and the Sunshine Band, “Keep it comin’ love”.   Released 1977.  lDo I really need to explain why I dig this song?  Okay fine, I’ll explain it:  You can shake your ass to this song, end of story.


The Village People, “YMCA”.  Released 1978.  Okay, I explained “Keep it comin’ love”.  If I have to explain this one to you?  Just go ahead and remove yourself from my life.


Buzzcocks, “Ever fallen in love”.  If you’ve ever been in a relationship where the fighting was as good as the sex?  This is a song that sums it up perfectly.  No other way around it.


Seals and  Crofts, “Summer Breeze”.  Released 1972.  Try to not think about sitting in a comfy chair in your backyard with some nicely iced lemonade (or if you’re me, vodka), in 80 degree weather during the gloaming, while listening to this song.  It quite simply screams relaxation and vacation time with nothing to do but just simply, be.


Don Henley, “The End of the Innocence”.   Released 1989.  The title of this song says it all.  We all have a moment when looking back over our youth, we remember as being the one that our own childhood began fading.


John Cougar Mellencamp, “Jack and Diane”.  Released 1982.  There is absolutely no way around it, JCM knows how to write damn good music.  For me this song is remnicent of Chanute, Kansas, the very small town my father grew up in.  My all time favorite line?  “Hold on to sixteen as long as you can/Changes come around real soon make us women and men”.


What song do you miss hearing way too much?





Podcast 9! Whispers From the Other Side – Oh Hang On That’s Just Amber In The Cupboard

Interview with the epic Russell Blake

Not too long after my husband gave me a kindle for our seventh anniversary (sigh… still the BEST GIFT EVER!), I came across an independent writer by the name of Russell Blake. In June of 2011, Fatal Exchange was Blake’s only novel, and was avail only in e-book format – and with its low price, what did I have to lose? Well, for starters, I lost a great deal of sleep the night I started reading Fatal Exchange, due to the fact that I could not put it down. After finishing what was one of the most amazing, not to mention unique, thrillers I had read in over twenty years of being a literary junkie, I sent a tweet to Blake on twitter letting him know how much I enjoyed it, and asking him when his next novel would be available. Fatal Exchange was the first of many novels I’ve written reviews for, and after almost a year, still one of my favorite of Blake’s work. One thing has changed, and that is Russell Blake has pulled the incredible feat of  THIRTEEN novels being published in just ten months, and the only thing cookie cutter about any of them is the amazing genius behind it. So I am very happy, and quite honored, to have interviewed Russell Blake on the occasion of his thirteenth book going live, as well as to kick off a guest blog tour.
The thirteenth novel is The Voynich Cypher, and I can tell you firsthand that it’s an amazing read, in the tradition of The Da Vinci Code and Raiders of the Lost Ark, but at lightning pace.

Where did the idea for Voynich come from?
I wanted to write something different than my customary conspiracy-driven thrillers, and I’d always had an idea floating in the back of my mind for a Raiders of the Lost Ark kind of treasure hunt as the basis for a book. When I finally decided it was time, I started looking for something that was real, and would lend itself well to a mystery, and I remembered a discussion with a buddy of mine years ago about this obscure medieval document written entirely in code that had confounded cryptographers for nearly ever. One thing led to another, and pretty soon the first 20K words were written.

Voynich seems to be grander in terms of details on real places. How long did the research take for the novel?
Hundreds of hours. On the Voynich Manuscript itself, on geography and history, on cryptography, you name it. It was a TON of research.

Will we see Dr. Cross again in a later work?
I think so. I’ve already got a glimmer of an idea in my noggin. Just need to sort of let it steep for a bit until it’s got more substance.

You always seem to have several work in progress projects lined up. What’s up next for you?
I’m putting the finishing touches on the sequel to King of Swords, tentatively titled Revenge of the Assassin. That should launch end of April/early May. Then I’m thinking the sequel to Fatal Exchange, and then a sequel to Delphi, and then probably a sequel to Voynich. The protag, Dr. Steven Cross, is the protag from my Wall St. thriller Zero Sum, so I think he’s going to feature in a few more books over the next year or two.

What made you start writing? Is there an author who inspired you to write?
You know what? Probably Stephen King, and John Grisham. Because they made it appear easy enough that I foolishly thought, “I can do that.” I think Ludlum and Forsyth influenced me a lot as a reader, but I really think when I first sat down to write, I was thinking, “I’ll write The Firm, and A Time To Kill, and be done by lunch.” Needless to say, there’s more heavy lifting to it than that. I’ve spent the last twenty years figuring that out.

You’ve stated in previous interviews that Al from the Geronimo Breach is one of your favorite characters. Will your readers be seeing him again?
Boy, I don’t see any reason to reprise him at this point. Because part of his beauty, his symmetry, if you will, is that he is what he is, and the more situations you put him in to draw it out (milk it) the less like he is that he necessarily has to be. Al’s essence is that he’s almost irredeemably flawed. How can you have him evolve in Geronimo, and then come back in book two, without him being the new, improved Al, which to me spoils some fascinating part of him; or have him not evolve, in which case he stops being interesting, and just becomes a regression to his loathsome and reprehensible self? I think the interesting thing about Geronimo is that it’s a road novel. A journey, in which the protag changes over its course. Hard to sustain that without becoming formulaic. And I’d rather not do sequels if I feel the character hasn’t got something to carry the second book. Some characters, like Steven Cross of Zero Sum, or Michael Derrigan in Delphi, or ESPECIALLY El Rey and Romero Cruz in King of Swords and Night of the Assassin, beg to be reprised. So I plan to. My new one, The Voynich Cypher, uses Dr. Steven Cross from Zero Sum, and continues with a new adventure. Next one, Revenge of the Assassin, is an El Rey/Cruz book. But more Al? I just don’t see it at this point. When I sit down to write, I always have a little voice in the back of my brain that asks, “Why? Why this, why now?” And I can’t think of a good reason for Al to share more about himself than in that one book.

How long did it take you to write your first novel, Fatal Exchange?
About eighteen 12 hour days. Not counting rewrites.

You seem to have a wealth of ideas. How do you come by them?
Tequila. No, honestly? Tequila. And I am naturally skeptical of everything and everyone, so I assume that I’m being told a lie whenever I hear anything, until proven otherwise. That lends itself nicely to thinking up alternative explanations, which brings me back to Tequila.

What do you do in the mornings to get yourself woken up and going?
I feel a constant sense of unfinished work, and a fascination with what I’m going to write next. Not in a creepy, ‘I’m standing outside of myself watching my fingers type words I can’t later remember’ kind of way, although we’ve all had that – right? But I am excited to get the story out. That’s why I write like I do – very intense, 12 to 15 hour days of keen focus. I wake up wanting to get the scenes out. Hard to explain. That, and a sense that I’m making progress and getting better at my craft. I feel like a kid, when you’re looking at the teenagers going, ‘I can’t wait to get there.’ I can’t wait to get to the next chapter. I realize that sounds completely weird, so maybe I should change my answer to cocaine and hookers. I hear they can keep you awake…

Do you have any writing quirks?
No. I am in every way normal, other than the nude ice dancing thing and the preoccupation with Latvian and Estonian prostitutes, and of course, battling world domination by clowns, and their chimp minions. What’s a writing quirk, by the way? Nerdy fetishism of some sort? Just curious…

What do you think of books that are later made into movies?
Depends. Silence of the Lambs didn’t suck. Most do. I tend to write in a very cinematographic style, so I’d love to have some studio squander millions ruining one of my books. I personally think that either Banderas or Del Toro should option King of Swords, because that book, and the rest in the series, would be their Die Hard or Terminator. So call them. Please. Really. I’m not kidding. I think William Morris Endeavor reps Banderas. I could get you the number…

If you were going to be stuck on a deserted island, what three items would you take with you?
Anti-clown weaponry, Latvian and Estonian companions (those count as one, right?) and Tequila. Although I’m assuming there will be a three star Michelin restaurant with a rotating menu there, right? If not, I could probably give up an Estonian in exchange for food…

What three books are on your “to be read” list?
Groan. I really don’t have one. It’s too embarrassing. I have at least 16 books on my kindle now, 8 of which I was sent for a “browse” which I am months behind looking at. So much as I’d like to appear deep, and claim the Dalai Lama’s latest (I assume he is still pumping them out) is on there, I have nothing for you on this one.

What is the best thing about the town/city you live in?
Are you kidding? It’s frigging Meheeco, baybee. Beach, warm water, cold beer, blue sky, easy living and friendly natives. Summertime, and the living’s easy. You want California dreaming/endless summer? Come to the pacific coast of Mexico. Just try not to get beheaded by the cartel enforcers. Puts a damper in your day.

What book could you read over and over again?
David Foster Wallace. Infinite Jest. Like going to church. More on a single page than most authors can muster in a career.

What is your favorite band or musician?
Boy. So many bands. Rhino Bucket, album one. AC/DC, the Bon Scott years. Stevie Ray Vaughn. T-Ride. Stanley Jordan. Jean Luc Ponte. Holdsworth. Queen. Floyd. There are just too many. May I also say I haven’t heard anything worth listening to in a decade? I know. I’m an anachronism. But it’s true. Sorry Snoop. Dre. Eminem. Even you, Beyonce, and you know I have strong feelings for you. But you aren’t the Beatles or the Stones (and how is Keith Richards still alive?) or even Bon Jovi. Sorry. Hope the billions soften that blow. Tough love.

What book do you think is a necessary read?
Necessary? Again, hard to say. The Magic Mountain. Infinite Jest. PS Your Cat Is Dead. The Holographic Paradigm. Day of the Jackal. Ludlum. Anything by Le Carre. All for entirely different reasons. Essential for what reason? Entertainment? Style? Philosophy? And of course, all of mine. In no particular order. I’d buy them all to be safe. Wink.

What advice can you give to newbie independent authors?
You probably won’t make it. Odds say you won’t. Overwhelmingly. So write out of ego, or a need to tell a story, or pride of craftsmanship, or some ephemeral drive you can’t describe, but don’t do it to be a hit. Do it to tell the story you need to tell, in as vital and competent way as you can. That’s the why. The how? Read and reread The Elements of Style. Then you can toss it. But only once you’ve internalized it. Especially, rule number one. Eliminate unnecessary words. Meaning tell the story as clearly and eloquently as you are able, in as direct and efficient a manner possible. “To be or not to be” is infinitely more eloquent than two paragraphs saying the same thing. And the other how – force yourself to write, every day, no matter what. No whining or sniveling. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head. You want to write? Be a writer. That means write. And do so better than anyone else – or at least aspire to, and put in the work to be better every day. Appetite comes with eating. So eat. Every day. Be your own harshest critic – your internal dialogue should be ruthless, and demanding. Push yourself. Constantly. You are either shrinking or growing. Stasis is death. You want a ticket into the game? Be the player that is worth calling onto the field at the bottom of the ninth. Make your work a small miracle for those who read it. Less is, well, less.
Having said all that, delight in crafting sentences that resonate – that nobody else could have created. Because in the end, that’s probably all you’ll have from the effort other than an ulcer, a fat ass, and lasting bitterness. And twelve cats. Can’t forget those. Mister Mittens will not be denied. Trust me. Humans won’t want to be around you much, and the animals only because you feed them. And their love will be conditional and temporary.
Other than that, it’s a pretty fulfilling gig.

You can connect with Russell Blake at the following:
twitter: @BlakeBooks
Russell Blake is the acclaimed author of the intrigue/thrillers Fatal Exchange, The Geronimo Breach, the Zero Sum trilogy of Wall Street thrillers, King of Swords, Night of the Assassin, The Delphi Chronicle trilogy (The Manuscript, The Tortoise and the Hare, Phoenix Rising), The Voynich Cypher (March, 2012) and Revenge of the Assassin (May, 2012).
His first satirical non-fiction work, How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated) released to rave reviews from literary luminaries like Lawrence Block, John Lescroart and David Lender.
His second non-fiction book, “An Angel With Fur,” is the true story of Lobo the miracle dog and is an international bestseller.
“Captain” Russell lives on the Pacific coast of Mexico, where he spends his time writing, fishing, collecting & drinking tequila, playing with his dogs and battling world domination by clowns.

Review of Russell Blake’s The Voynich Cypher

For his thirteenth novel, The Voynich Cypher, Russell Blake once again blows readers out of the water with his genius story-telling capabilities. We’re once again reading about Dr. Steven Cross, who’s journey to decipher one of the most cryptic secrets history has been holding on to, is a gripping and mind blasting consipiracy theory that makes Brown’s The DaVinci Code look like a first grade level reader. More intense and arresting than The DaVinci Code, Blake grabs readers attention with a shattering opening scene that draws the reader in and keeps them there until the final, shocking conclusion. A roller coaster ride that takes place over multiple countries and continents, as always, Blake finishes up by giving the reader an ending they could never guess at. Do not miss this electrifying thriller!

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