Music Monday: Taylor Swift’s “Safe & Sound”

I’ve got to level with you: the reason I chose this song from The Hunger Games soundtrack wasn’t because I was in love with this version. I’m actually utterly enamored of a cover by Halia Meguid, which can be found and downloaded from her tumblr, but tumblr is a tricky beast and I could not, for the life of me, get this post to imbed here in WordPress so that you could click play without having to leave my blog.

So you can listen to Halia’s version, no worries. But I had to ask myself: is the original all that bad? I mean, Taylor Swift is a super-easy target to make fun of, but I shouldn’t overlook the original just because people might think I have a secret cache of her music hidden on my iTunes. Spoiler alert: I don’t. I really, really don’t.

Resigned, I pulled up the video on YouTube and was surprised by two things: 1) this song also features The Civil Wars, which — if you remember Barton Hollow — made me extremely happy, and 2) the video for this song is wonderfully evocative and haunting, which is exactly how I imagined this song in my head. With only a teeny-tiny shout-out to The Hunger Games, the video itself tells a story set in Appalachia that feels just right, and it can mean whatever you want it to. It’s not often videos match what’s in my head, but this works beautifully.

Today you get two songs for the price of one: the original, and a lovely, haunting cover of it. I think my preference is still for the cover because it’s so much softer and sweeter, yet the original has some lovely harmonies that really speak to me.


Like it? Love it? Hate it? Sound off below!

Reminder: Music Monday is about the music, not the videos. Videos are just the medium I’m using to share the music, and some videos aren’t actually videos at all. Enjoy the songs, but if YouTube forces you to watch some sort of advertisement before you can get to the music, please be patient.

Giveaway with Aubrey Gross

Do you see ALL of these books? Well, if you like romance at all, step right on up, because Aubrey’s offering an awesome giveaway.

That’s right, GIVEAWAY. Not Scavenger Hunt. You don’t have to do a darn thing except decide which book you want and fill out the form linked below.

Sound awesome?

Here’s how it works:

You can win a copy of ANY of the above books. If you live in the United States, you have your choice between a signed copy from Aubrey OR an e-copy (except Heavenly Bodies, which is only available in e-copy). If you live outside of the United States, you have your choice of an e-copy only of any of the above books.

Clear as mud? I hope so, because now I need to explain how many winners there will be.

If we get 10 or less entries: there will only be ONE winner.

If we get 11 or more entries: there will be TWO winners.

So please, enter below, and boost the signal, because it increases your chances of winning!


You have until Tuesday, October 4th to enter. Winner(s) will be selected at random and notified by email on Wednesday, October 5th.

One entry per person, no purchase necessary, void where prohibited, all entrants’ information will be deleted once winners have been confirmed, etc. If you’re unsure as to whether or not your entry came through, please comment here to ask.

Please enter, and encourage your friends who enjoy reading romance to enter as well! Aubrey offers a variety, so definitely give her work a shot!

Music Monday: Of Monster’s and Men’s “I Of the Storm”

After the past couple of weeks of progressive, hard rock and heavy metal, I wanted to dial it back and bring you back into the fold and attempt to share my favorite song from one of my favorite albums, Beneath the Skin from Of Monsters and Men. There’s just one problem with that. I can’t pick just one.

You have to understand. I absolutely love this entire album. I would share the entire album with you if I could, so picking my favorite song is asking me to pick a favorite child: I can’t. Or I can, but it depends on the mood I’m in on any given day. Usually, sophomore albums aren’t as solid as a band’s debut, because so much blood, sweat, tears, and years goes into the debut that there just isn’t enough time to put the same effort into the second album. That’s not the case here. And I had no idea which song to pick.

I went to YouTube, thinking the videos would decide me. And I noticed there were quite a few lyric videos, each with a funky geometric shape as its preview. I don’t personally care for lyric videos unless they’re cleverly done, but I like the lyrics on this album, and I figured as long as you heard the song, who cares, right?

You guys. YOU GUYS. What they’ve done for these lyric videos is genius. It’s profound. It’s mesmerizing. It’s unsettling at first, until you realize what’s happening. What IS happening, you may wonder?

Each lyric video is actually a performer. It’s a person, filmed from the waist up, in the middle of the screen, lip-syncing the song with the lyrics showing below. But that’s not all: these videos are the most moving pieces of performance art I’ve ever seen. These people (and each video has a different person) aren’t just lip-syncing their songs, no. They’re performing them, as if the songs represent the very music of their souls.

I couldn’t stop watching videos. I had to be awake for work in six hours, and I still couldn’t stop watching. Some videos were better than others, and still, I had to wonder: which song would I share?

I decided on the song that I couldn’t tear my eyes from at all.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Sound off below!

Reminder: Music Monday is about the music, not the videos. Videos are just the medium I’m using to share the music, and some videos aren’t actually videos at all. Enjoy the songs, but if YouTube forces you to watch some sort of advertisement before you can get to the music, please be patient.

Welcome to the Trip: The Great Orphan Black Rewatch Begins!

The funny thing about being an editor: the very things you hound your writers into doing are often the very things you forget to do yourself. Or maybe that’s just me. But I tell my writers to promote their posts wherever they can, including their blogs if they have them, and what to do I do?

I utterly forget to do so.

But only for a day.

Over at Speculative Chic, my rewatch of Orphan Black has begun with the very first five episodes of season one. The plan is to do 5 episodes every month, and by time I finish season four, I’ll have the fifth and final season to freak out over. Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men, yada, yada, yada, but so far, so good, and if you’re a fan of Orphan Black and you’ve watched the first five episodes, I’d love to have you join the discussion.

How Many of Us Are There? Orphan Black Rewatch Episodes 1.01 thru 1.05

There will be spoilers, of course, but nothing past episode 1.05. I’ll be discussing episodes 6-10 for October 19th, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up, especially if you’re watching the show for the first time. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.



Second Chances with Aubrey Gross

Aubrey and MemawWelcome to third and final installment of Calico In Conversation with Aubrey Gross. If you missed Parts One and Two, click below to catch up:

Part One: Hard to Swallow
Part Two: Triumph and Taking Risks

Editor’s Note: this interview was originally conducted in March through August of 2016.


Let’s say you’re at a party, and you meet someone whom you learn is an aspiring writer. Really novice and is tinkering with a novel. Quick: what’s the first piece of advice you give them?

Just finish it. The first draft doesn’t have to be the best thing ever — it just has to get done. Lots of people “want” to write. Only a handful of those people actually manage to do it and have a finished product.

Great advice! That’s something every writer needs to hear, and it’s the toughest to follow. So let’s talk about YOUR work. What do you think is the one thing all of your books have in common?

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Music Monday: Dream Theater’s “Panic Attack”

There was a time that my husband and I were into the game Rock Band for the PlayStation, and through Rock Band, I discovered a great many songs and bands that I really enjoyed. The game was a gateway, of sorts, and one of the songs I really enjoyed hearing (I couldn’t play to save my life), was “Panic Attack” by Dream Theater.

Dream Theater is metal, but it’s also progressive rock. There’s a lot of complex instrumentation happening in this song, but what hooked me first and foremost were the vocals and the melody, which I wish we got more of. I’ve since explored more of the band’s music, and I’ve fallen for some of their later stuff, but “Panic Attack” will always be my first and favorite. The video below isn’t a video at all, so you can hit play and do other things on your computer, but go ahead and hit play, and tell me what you think!

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Sound off below!

Reminder: Music Monday is about the music, not the videos. Videos are just the medium I’m using to share the music, and some videos aren’t actually videos at all. Enjoy the songs, but if YouTube forces you to watch some sort of advertisement before you can get to the music, please be patient.


Triumph and Taking Risks with Aubrey Gross

Welcome to Part Two of Calico In Conversation with Aubrey Gross. If you missed Part One: Hard to Swallow, feel free to click here to catch up!

Editor’s Note: this interview was originally conducted in March through August of 2016.

book signing


I feel like over the years, genre fiction has gotten to be far more accepted by the mainstream, though sometimes you’ll still get a literary snob complaining about things like YA fiction or Game of Thrones. But thanks to the film and television industry, I feel like there’s a boom there that I hadn’t previously seen in my lifetime. EXCEPT: why is romance still the red-headed stepchild of the genre market?

I think it’s a combination of things. There’s the misconception that romance is “mommy porn” or “porn for desperate, single women,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. Romance isn’t pornographic. Romance is about emotions, and a lot of people don’t “get” why anyone would want to read a book that’s primarily character-driven and chock full of all kinds of emotions (and, yes, often sex). My reason for reading romance is that it reaffirms my belief in love despite the odds, whether those odds be a psychotic killer on the loose, a mother determined to see her daughter married off to the duke rather than the earl, the complexity of a long-distance relationship, or a heroine who’s unable to trust after being left at the altar by her first love. Romance is about triumph and taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone and growing as a person — all in the name of love. A lot of critics say romance novels are unrealistic, to which I say: but are they really? In our relationships, we all have things we have to overcome in order to be happy. Distance. Past experiences. Wariness. Job dynamics. Our own internal fears. The list goes on and on.

And I’ll also be quite frank — I sometimes think part of the derisiveness is simple jealousy. In 2013, $1.08 billion in romance novels were sold according to BookStats. And according to Nielsen and BISAC, romance novels accounted for 13% of adult fiction novels sold (source: RWA). Because those numbers only reflect books with ISBNs, there are a lot of indie books NOT being reported on (the folks over at Author Earnings do an amazing job of explaining this). The July 2014 Author Earnings Report took a look at the genre breakdowns, and at the time 66% of romance novels in the Kindle Store were indie published (my guess is that it’s probably more than that now, just from anecdotal evidence). Basically, what it boils down to is that a lot of people read romance, which means more readers (and yes, more money) for romance authors as a whole. I might be off base with that one, but from personal experience and the experiences of other authors, I don’t think I’m too off the mark on that. 😉

I’ve often wondered, too, about the fact that romance tends to be the ONE genre that’s primarily driven by women, if there isn’t a little bit of institutionalized sexism happening here, intentional or not. And no, I’m not just blaming the men; women can and are just as bad when it comes to criticizing the genre, its tropes, and its readers. I admit to being guilty of it myself, once upon a time ago.

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Music Monday: Ghost’s “If You Have Ghosts”

This is a song I’ve been wanting to share for weeks now. I’ve hesitated though, because unlike everything else I’ve posted, where if you like what you hear, you feel free to start listening to the band/singer’s catalogue with abandon, Ghost comes with a bit of a warning: if you’re easily offended, you may not want to listen to their original work, even though the music is fantastic.

What type of offended? Well, you know those bands that sing nothing but Christian contemporary music and it’s all devoted to God and Jesus and the worship and praise? Well, throw in some metal, and replace God and Jesus with the Devil, and you’ve got Ghost.

No, I’m not kidding.

I’ve seen them perform in concert twice now. The second concert was fantastic, and it didn’t hurt that I was more familiar with their material than I was the first time. But what made it so great was the pure spectacle and show: there’s so much charisma during the performance, especially that of the lead singer, that I alternate between thinking what that they REALLY believe what they’re singing about versus it’s just a gimmick that they’re REALLY dedicated to. Then again, they’re from Sweden, so it may very well be the former.

Toward the end of that second concert, after all of their original work, so much of which has fantastic melodies and haunting chords, they performed a cover by Roky Erickson: “If You Have Ghosts.” And it was gorgeous.

You don’t have to worry about your soul if you listen to this cover: this cover absolutely has nothing to do with the band’s beliefs and everything to do, I suspect, with the delightful use of being able to sing their own band’s name in a rather ironic way. And if you like what you hear, and you’re not easily offended and appreciate great music despite the lyrics, try giving “Cirice” a try, and if you really feel like having a laugh and want to hear a song deliberately styled as a contemporary Christian ballad, try listening to “He Is.”

But for now, if you just want to hear what the band sounds like, and if you want to hear an amazing cover song, listen to “If You Have Ghosts” and tell me what you think.

Like it? Love it? Hate it? Sound off below!

Reminder: Music Monday is about the music, not the videos. Videos are just the medium I’m using to share the music, and some videos aren’t actually videos at all. Enjoy the songs, but if YouTube forces you to watch some sort of advertisement before you can get to the music, please be patient.

Winners: Matthew S. Rotundo Giveaway!

So as usual, the winners tend to creep up on me, and I forget to make the announcement until the end of the day. But the giveaway did encourage six people to draw their hats in the ring, which means we had one winner. I’ve emailed both Matthew S. Rotundo and that winner, and I’m letting that winner work out the details for her prize!

Thank you to all who entered, and all who spread the word! Matthew wrote quite the ripping yarn, so whether or not you won, I hope you get a chance to give his fiction a shot!

For those of you who didn’t win, and those of you who did, have you caught Part One of Aubrey Gross’ interview with me yet? She hasn’t promised a giveaway or a scavenger hunt, not yet, but I bet if we show her a lot of support, she might be willing to give away a free book or two! Just click here to start with Part One: Hard to Swallow (yes, Aubrey totally approved that title), and come back next Tuesday for Part Two: Triumphs and Taking Risks!

Hard to Swallow with Aubrey Gross

unnamedAubrey’s been reading and writing since she was about two and a half, and has been a storyteller for as long as she can remember. Early on, she discovered a love of romance, reading her first Harlequin somewhere around age twelve (it featured an F1 race car driver, as this was long before NASCAR was cool). She wrote her first romance novel in high school. It was admittedly not very good, but she wrote another, and another. She thinks those first few might still be on a floppy disk somewhere in a storage bin.

Aubrey eventually honed her writing abilities through undergrad creative writing courses and eventually graduate school, where she earned a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. These days she writes books she likes to describe as “stories about broken people healing, finding love, and laughing a little bit, too.”

Editor’s Note: this is part one of a three-part interview. Parts two and three will be published September 13th and September 20th, respectively. Also, this interview was originally conducted in March through August of 2016.


Now, to get started, I ask all of my interviewees the same starting question, and that’s this: how do we know each other?

We go way back to our freshman year of college at Hollins University. We were in the same creative writing class our first semester, and a small group of us just kind of gelled and nicknamed ourselves The Merry Bandits. We’ve been brain twins ever since. 😉

Brain-Twins FTW!!!! Hollins was and is known for their creative writing program. Given you’re from Texas, why did that inspire you to travel so far?

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