Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Little Mantra

My political views do not make me a loser just because the side I voted for lost. This loss does not make my views wrong. My gender does not mean I'm less than. Neither my upbringing nor my blonde hair mean I'm ignorant. Neither my kindness nor my life choices make me stupid. My anger on behalf of the oppressed does not make me hateful. My anger at violence does not make me personally violent.

I am an intelligent, educated, compassionate, cultured, well-traveled, open-minded, endlessly empathetic, ever-reading, ever-seeking writer, musician, artist, and student of life, who cares about people and animals and the planet. Yes, my heart bleeds for them all. No, that's not a bad thing. It is a bad thing to stop caring; it is a bad thing to stop evolving. It is a good thing to be cautious; it is a bad thing to live in fear.

I am far from perfect. There are more things I don't know than things I do. Sometimes I hate myself. Sometimes I give in to fear and spiral out of emotional control. But I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be and there is comfort in that. Life has an ebb-and-flow rhythm; this also is comforting. Eventually, it's all going to be okay. Just love, love, love.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I don't know.

I haven't posted on this blog in ages. It's practically defunct now. Probably less than one person will even see this post. Whatever. I'm having a difficult time coping with the outcome of this election. I have never been a person who harbors anger or resentment. It has always been very easy for me to see the other side of an argument, to see where someone else is coming from, to let things go. If someone honks at me in traffic and then speeds around me and cuts me off, I always think, "Maybe they're on their way to the hospital. Maybe they're having the worst day imaginable." That's where my brain goes. I do not like to engage in chaos and historically have refused to give it my time and energy. I do not like to perpetuate negativity. But I'm dealing with a lot of negativity, a lot of anger over this. I don't understand the other side of this argument. I can't see where the conservatives are coming from. I find it outrageous that any reasonable person could accept this man for the highest office in our country. I'm dumbfounded and flabbergasted and befuddled and flummoxed and a hundred other colorful words that brighten up this sentence in a hopelessly grey post. There have been so many deal-breakers here. Many times over he should have cancelled himself out. But people said, "Nah. That's no problem for me." Or maybe didn't even give it that much consideration--maybe there are people out there that have yet to be confronted with these arguments. Maybe that's where the real issue lies--maybe people just haven't been informed. I don't know how anyone with any sort of online presence could have missed all this craziness but I suppose it's possible. Either way, it hurts. I'm sad and scared for minority groups who must now face oppression and hatefulness on a whole new, much deeper level. I'm angry at people's apathy about this. I'm angry at the hate, the violence, the anti-intellectualism, and the gaslighting. I'm angry that they could turn a blind eye or try to play the equivalence game and make out like the two candidates were essentially identical. They weren't. One is a decent human being. The other is a sleezeball is not a decent human being.

Every time I read or studied about radical, turbulent times in our history, whether in elementary school or college, I always thought, "Well, at least we've gotten past all of that. At least we don't have to fight those battles anymore." I thought we were more evolved than this. I truly thought we had progressed past this point. Now, I admit freely that my understanding is colored by my own privileged experience. The only discrimination I have received in my life has been for my feminine gender, my blonde hair, my very pale skin, and my weight. I have not grown up with black or brown skin, or a religion that is seen as Other; I have not grown up LGBTQ+ so of course it was much easier for me to blindly think, "Thank goodness we don't behave that way anymore." But I still thought there was an element of, "We find this unacceptable and we won't let it get that bad again." But here we are. Swastikas being painted on buildings, nooses being painted on vans, slurs being spoken, punches being thrown. And regardless of a person's reasons for voting for him, they have to see that he spoke to these hateful groups--that these hateful groups found something they liked in his rhetoric. How do people justify that? How can they qualify it or compartmentalize it? How do they ever stop thinking about those who are genuinely affected by this? Because I don't. I can't.

Monday, July 4, 2016

I Used to Wish I was a Vampire, but Now I'd Rather Just Have Clones

As I sit on the edge of my couch, not enjoying its cushioned comfort due to an obscene excess of fireworks booming just outside my door, I contemplate my otherwise lovely holiday weekend. My husband had the day off and we spent the day playing with our 1-year-old daughter, strolling her around the mall and such, and discussing our various projects. We are both very creatively involved. We each have multiple creative pursuits to pull our attention at any given moment.

For my part, I'm working on my new novel, a YA dystopia, of which I will say very little at this time, while also doing some light editing of Lone March, for a quiet second edition release at some point in the future. This clean-up is mostly for formatting issues, however, after careful consideration, I have decided to revise bits and pieces, mostly in Book One and mostly in the first chapter. I have toned down March's menstruation ignorance and made less of a show of her whole experience there. Most of that was written before I really knew who the character was. At the time, I was in the midst of writing my first novel, a funny confessional, and was still very much in the humor mindset, so naturally it leaked over into Moon-Linked. Even after I did learn who March was, I kept all that because I staunchly believed in the importance of the earliest possible opportunity to fit some humor into my otherwise bleak tale. But after some time, I've come to realize how much some of that stands apart from the rest of the series and the rest of March's characterization. So I have eliminated a few things. They are small and you probably wouldn't notice, if you were to re-buy Moon-Linked, which is something I don't know why you would need to do. But the book will be better, in my opinion, for future readers and strengthen the series as a whole. So there, I'm glad I got that off my chest!

I'm also finishing up some post issues with the paperback version of Book Seven and hoping to be done with it once and for all very soon. That will feel good.

My big news is that I have begun the recording for the Moon-Linked audio book! WooHoo! I have wanted to do the audio books since I first started writing the series and have thought often about it and I'm so excited it's finally happening! My husband helped me set up my own private little recording booth in my closet and got me set up with all the gear and told me how to work it and I've already gotten nearly 1/3 of the way through the first book. I can't wait to read the really fun bits! My plan is to release them chapter-by-chapter on Youtube, with a new chapter coming out every week, but for those unwilling to wait, I will also release them through audible and iTunes. I don't know how long the recording and editing process might take for each book but I would imagine it will be a while. Book One is the shortest in the series so hopefully the turnaround there won't be too bad, but I will keep you all updated on our progress.

I feel a bit bad for taking up so much of my husband's free time on his day off to help me with this, since he has so much on his plate already, but he is very supportive and always happy to help. Besides working full time to support us and our baby, he has occasional side projects that demand his attention and a web series with his friends that he produces, directs, and edits himself. If you are familiar with D&D, and especially if you're NOT familiar with it but would like to know more about it or perhaps start playing, you should check it out. We are also concocting a couple of ideas for some other web series we want to do so that's demanding a bit of our time as well. So I really just wish we could have clones, like that movie, Multiplicity, with Michael Keaton. And I could send one off to work on the new book, and Travis could send one off to his day job, and we could send a couple more off to work on all these web shows, and the audio books and so on, and we could just hang out with our daughter all day. Actually, wait, I really want to read the audio books. I don't want a clone doing that--I didn't think this through! Hmm...Maybe we just need to get better at time management. But no matter how you slice it, our plates are Thanksgiving-Feast-Full.

So some exciting things on the horizon over here! I hope you guys are as excited as I am! If you have thoughts one way or the other about audio books, read by the author, not read by the author, reading books/series more than once, reading books/series in multiple formats, like digital, audio, paperback, let me know in the comments. I'm very curious to see where other people stand on this and I'm really interested in finding out how people feel about author-read audio books. In fact, I've even put up a poll on my Twitter page, so participate if you are so inclined!

Happy 4th!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why Harry Potter and Twilight can Coexist and Everything Will be Fine (Or a Harry Potter Fan Makes a Case for Twilight)

Disclaimer #1: If you hate the Harry Potter vs Twilight debate, then use your common sense and don't read this post, it will just make you angry. That's how I ended up here, posting on this topic.

Disclaimer #2: I can speak with authority on all these things, having read them multiple times and seen all the movies more times than I can count.

First of all, let me just say I totally agree with the statement in the above image. "The Prince's Tale" (Chapter 33 of Deathly Hallows) is LIFE. It's beautiful and heart-rending and so, so tragic. It's why Snape became my favorite HP character. And JKR is a master craftsman. She built a world of Tolkien proportions--I would even argue that she built a richer world than Tolkien, in terms of character development and lore rules/standards/history. (And I spent years watching the LOTR trilogy quarterly, as in every three months, so you know I love Tolkien's writing. Reading LOTR goes without saying, as per Disclaimer #2.) Setting aside that brief comparison to LOTR, let's get back on topic.

Harry Potter is BY FAR the superior tale to Twilight FULL STOP.

HOWEVER, comparing Harry Potter to Twilight is comparing apples to oranges. The only things these two disparate series have in common is that they both deal with adolescents and they each have an equally rabid fandom. And Robert Pattinson.

Oh yeah, and Bonnie Wright and Jamie Campbell Bower were engaged for a while. And apparently Emma Watson and Kristen Stewart are buddies. The common ground stops there!

Yes, I agree that Bella Swan is an underdeveloped character who is often pigeonholed as the damsel in distress within the context of the story. And that, in comparison (as pointless as comparison is here) Hermione Granger is a strong, intelligent, capable young woman who GETS SHIT DONE. I also agree that the theme of Twilight is largely, "I will die without this other person."

But here's my argument: So what if that's the theme? Are we now saying that simply because the greatest fantasy epic of our time actually EXISTS that we can no longer enjoy a good old fashioned romance? How come we're not seeing this debate play out between Harry Potter and Insert Nora Roberts Novel Here? Well that's easy, because Twilight is YA; the characters in each series are roughly the same age as each other for most of it. With this logic, one could make the argument that Fenrir Grayback and Remus Lupin are essentially the same because they're both werewolves. What?! Or that Remus and Jacob Black are...okay, I digress. Forget this, let's move on.

People act as if the two are competing for the same title. They're not. They're separate genres. Well, they're both Fantasy, but one is Epic Magical Adventure and the other is Paranormal Romance. So I guess I should say they're separate sub-genres. The point is they can coexist.

Furthermore, I would like to set the record straight about this:

Yes, when Ron left, Hermione carried on. Because she's a total effing badass. Yes, when Edward left, Bella was overcome with depression. But that's okay. For one, Bella wasn't facing a genocidal war. There was no dark wizard for her to fight. So who cares if she wants to wallow? For two, the whole point of the story is her love for this guy. Would it really have been believable if she had just dusted herself off and said, "Oh, well, where's Jacob? He'll do just as well." I love getting into the melancholy and the malaise and the total emo-kid turns a character can take (like Harry in Order of the Phoenix). But then, I wrote The Lone March series, so, you know, it's clearly my thing. As a writer, it can be fun to explore the gloomy, moody emotions of your main character. When I wrote the character of March Howe, I straight up wallowed in her wallowing. I loved it!

And here's the other thing, by the end of that book, the same one where Bella spent four months somehow evading her clinical diagnosis, while the reader turned blank pages--which, by the way, I thought was pretty cool for the reader to be confronted with--she ends up rescuing Edward. She races across continents and runs head-first into a deadly coven's lair in order to save Edward from exposing himself and getting killed. Because that's the other side of this that no one seems to mention: Edward was just as depressed as Bella, arguably more so because he was actually going to get himself killed when he thought Bella was dead. It's all so wonderfully emo and narrowly misses its fate as being 'Romeo and Juliet with Vampires'. I mean, it kind of is, except for the tragic death scenario.

Now, I'm not going to delve too deeply into the arguments about the themes that many claim Twilight promotes, like domestic violence and abusive relationships, anti-abortion, religious undertones, etc. and so on. Or the fact that Harry Potter's themes are just, like, way better, you guys. But that's a hefty discussion for a different day. I will say though that there is something incredibly readable about Twilight. It awakens the thirteen-year-old in many of us girls and reflects a common fantasy of finding the perfect guy, who loves you for you, even if you're not the prettiest girl in school, or the thinnest, or the most popular. It's about finding a guy who can protect you, and, above all, pays attention to you and listens when you speak. I think that may be the most enticing part of the romance genre in general, at least for me anyway. I'm not a Fifty Shades kind of girl--BLECH--the sex doesn't draw me in to a tale of romance. It's the part about commanding the complete attention of the opposite sex. And that's why Twilight is in the fantasy genre, ladies, because guys who give you true undivided attention AND actually care what you have to say 24/7--like 24/7--is rare in my experience. And of course the idea of living forever with the one you love. Nothing wrong with that.

The point is, it doesn't matter that it's basically an indisputable fact that Harry Potter is better than Twilight. Harry Potter is better than most things in the world--and not just books. But that doesn't mean that Twilight is the absolute worst thing in the world either. It's fun for what it is. And I will probably read it again. You know, when I'm finished re-reading Harry Potter for the second time this year.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Why You Shouldn’t Stop Spending Money on Your Kids
(Even if they Get an Allowance)

By Erin Irvin

Can you name two topics where unsolicited advice is flat out infuriating? My picks are Parenting and Money! Put your hands together and you’ve got an internet bomb just waiting to go off. However, after reading some articles recently about things you should make your kids pay for from their allowance, I have a rebuttal.

Yes, we should teach our kids the value of money, how to save and spend responsibly, but I don't agree with this increasingly popular notion of making your kids pay for every extraneous expense from their own allowance. I grew up in a family with four kids and parents with blue collar jobs, who did the best they could for us. But we also didn't get to set foot in toy stores and never got any new toys unless it was our birthday or Christmas. And as an adult now, I feel there was a level of deprivation there that kids shouldn't have to deal with.

I’m not saying I resent my parents for this. I understand where this decision came from. My practical mother, who was juggling four kids alongside a 9-5 job (and making home-cooked meals and cleaning the whole house from top to bottom every weekend by the way!) didn’t want to deal with taking us places where there would be things we wanted, like the toy store, when she couldn’t afford to get those things for us. So rather than seeing the disappointment on our faces (or hearing it in our voices) she circumvented the whole thing by just plain not taking us to those places. I get it.

But you only get to be a carefree kid for a few short years. Let them have an ice cream treat on a summer Saturday without stressing over spending their allowance. Let them have that action figure they've been wanting, even if it's not a holiday and, again, without pulling in the anxiety of wondering if they can afford it. My first instinct is always, "I can't spend money on that, that's too expensive, it's not necessary so why get it?" because this is what I learned growing up. I often heard, “No, you don’t need that.” It was true, I didn’t need another Barbie doll, or the stuffed monkey, or the travel size Guess Who game. But childhood shouldn’t always be about Need and never about Want. I can tell you that it taught me to be so strict with myself that I feel I’m never allowed to do anything fun because I feel like I don’t deserve it.

I understand this may make me sound shallow for valuing material goods, or ungrateful for all the wonderful things I did get growing up. I also know there are plenty of children out there who don’t get anything, who are abused or ill or wards of the state, and that toys and treats are low priorities for children who have little. But this is all the more reason to do what you can to make your own children’s lives magical and, yes, a little frivolous. Sadly, we can’t save every needy child from poverty, no matter how much we give to charity, but we can strive to do more to brighten our own kids' days.

So can we just be a little stricter with ourselves as parents, and adults, to save up our own allowances? We can still teach our kids the value of money with small allowances and take them places to spend it, but we should also set aside fun money, reserved for spending on our kids, in situations where they should just be kids and have carefree fun. These years are precious and finite, and they will spend the rest of their lives worrying about making rent and paying bills and saving for big expenses. Give them the break while they can get away with taking it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Moon-Call is here!!

It's here, it's here, it's here!
For those who have been checking for updates recently, you will know that I previously stated on the Lone March website that Moon-Call wouldn't be available until next year, due to the cover being delayed. To my surprise, the SAINT who moonlights as my cover artist found the time to finish my cover before the end of the year! Let's all give a round of applause to Ryan Wieber, the Emmy award-winning FX artist superhero, who is eligible for sainthood!! I thought about going ahead with the plan and showing you guys the cover and releasing some tidbits from the book and then putting it out next year. And then I thought, "Yeah, but, I could also just put out the book." So I did. We've all waited long enough, right?
There are so many things I want to say--and believe me, I could drag this out for a mile and keep you scrolling down all day--but all I really want to say is thank you. Thank you to all the readers who have come with me on this journey and shown support and enthusiasm and shared Lone March with friends and family. Thank you for your patience and your kind words in comments and messages. Just, thank you! I'm so happy I finally get to share the last chapter of March's story with all of you! It turned out better than I could have hoped for and I'm very proud of it! I hope you guys like it too! So without further ado, here are the links to buy:
Also, there is no print version yet. As with Moon-Wake, it may take a bit longer for a paperback of Moon-Call but I will post updates on that.
I hope you enjoy the conclusion of March's story! Please let me know what you think in comments, or if you have the time, write a review. I would love to hear about your reading experiences with the final Lone March book. And take a second to sign up for the mailing list at the top of the page on the Lone March website and get updates on Lone March news, plus new projects I'm working on.
What a crazy ride it's been these past 6 1/2 years with March! I'm sad it's over but happy her story is told!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

25 Albums I Listen to All the Way Through Without Skipping

It's been a long time since I've done a post on music so this was my idea: Which albums do I listen to and never skip a song? Maybe they don't make the 'top albums of the decade' list (though many of them do, in my opinion), maybe they are from little-known or up-and-coming indie bands who only have one record to date, maybe they have been around for ages and it's so obvious that everyone is like, 'Well, duh, I don't skip on that album either; who would?', but regardless I wanted to put together a list that is my own personal picks. In the past I have talked about music that I listen to while writing, but there aren't many of those albums on this list because a lot of the following is stuff I like to sing along to, which I've stated before I can't listen to when writing because I just end up singing and not getting work done. So a lot of this music may be stuff I've never talked about on my blog, meaning there's a whole world of my musical loves that you guys know nothing about. Being the obsessive music-phile I am, this thought made me sad. So, music-lovers, let's talk shop.

These are in order of the year they were released. Trying to put them in order according to preference was giving me a headache.

1. Blonde on Blonde - Bob Dylan (1966)

I got heavy into Dylan during my first year at University, back in '06. Blonde on Blonde was in constant rotation during my '07 Spring semester and I have fond memories of cramming in reading assignments right before my Short Story class, with this album piping through my 'phones. It went well for the first month or two...until I inevitably learned the songs too well and started singing instead of studying. But it was fun while it lasted.

2. Revolver - The Beatles (1966)

This is the one. Not Rubber Soul, not Abbey Road, not even the White Album. For me, it's Revolver. Don't get me wrong, I love all the albums I just listed but Revolver is the one I never skip a song on. It's just so lovely and sprinkled with some of their early instrumental and recording experimentation. I have a weird, dissonant memory connection to this album because the first time I listened to it, I was a teenager and got SO LOST on a 2.5 hour drive home from the airport that it took me more than twice that to get home. Keep in mind this was before iPhones and GPS systems. I had no maps in the car so I had to alternate between calling my dad and trying to explain to him where I was, and stopping at gas stations to ask for directions. It was a nightmare. But at least I had good music for the drive. I know this story has nothing to do with the music but it's one of those weird things that won't leave your head, you know? So every time I listen to Revolver, I remember that awful drive home. Despite the bad memory, I still love listening to this album, which I think is a testament to how good it is.

3. Physical Graffiti - Led Zeppelin (1975)

Some of you may be asking, "Not their first album, or Led Zeppelin IV?" Nope, this one is where it's at for me. This is another album that brings back memories of driving for me. It's excellent driving music and my husband Travis and I once listened to it while driving back home to Texas from Kansas City. We listened to it twice during that long drive. It's that good. We also listened to Bowie's Diamond Dogs, among many other things, but this was the best for driving and the only thing we listened to that day that makes this list because, seriously, what song would you skip?

4. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd (1975)

Me and Pink Floyd go way back. They are probably the first band from my parents' era that I really got into. Before Zeppelin or even the Beatles. They came at just the right time, when I was sixteen and ready for something a little more experimental. I credit them with pulling me away from bubblegum pop and ushering in my period of musical discovery. For some that's The Who or The Doors, but for me it was Pink Floyd. I almost put Dark Side on this list, instead of this one, but if I'm being really honest, I have been known to skip "Time" because the ticking clocks and alarm sounds can be off-putting for me sometimes and I can't be bothered to just fast-forward a bit so I'll skip it. Wish You Were Here though is golden. It only has 5 tracks but altogether it's a standard 45 minutes. "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" (all 9 parts) is one of my all-time favorite songs ever. Side note: I discovered recently that several of my favorite Pink Floyd songs were penned by Syd Barrett. "See Emily Play"; "Arnold Layne"; "Bike"; "The Gnome"; "The Scarecrow". Further proof that I am attracted to the eclectic and eccentric. Syd's story is sad to me but hey, maybe he really enjoyed his life out of the spotlight. Of course, as with John Hughes, we may never really know.

5. Doolittle - The Pixies (1989)

I wore this album out in my early twenties. Genius. So many good ones--I mean they're all great, otherwise this album wouldn't be on this list, but some of my very favorite Pixies songs are on it. "Wave of Mutilation"; "Monkey Gone to Heaven"; "Hey"; and then it finishes strong on the ultra cool "Gouge Away". So good.

6. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) - Wu-Tang Clan (1993)

I have enjoyed listening to rap and hip-hop since my early teens but this album is when I started to really respect it as a true art form. It shows off the creative genius and mad skill of RZA in ways that even his solo 'Bobby Digital' stuff doesn't do. Side Note: During the year I studied abroad at Leeds University, I listened to "Bring da Ruckus" whenever I had to do any walking at night on my own. It made me feel tough and totally helped me project my 'bad ass attitude' so I wouldn't get messed with. You may laugh at the thought of this; I certainly do.

7. Third Eye Blind - Third Eye Blind (1997)

This one came to me through my older sister (much like Green Day, No Doubt and Tonic--ah, the nineties). After hearing it all the way through (and instantly falling in love) I pretty much commandeered it from her collection and proceeded to play the shit out of it for the next four years. More than anything I loved the lyrics--they are so poetic and flow so easily. This album had a hand in inspiring some of my own early songs, just in the way I wrote and kind of how I viewed the world. In fact, this may be the first album I ever 'studied' closely and read the lyrics and really thought about the stories the songs were trying to tell and how the lyrics told those stories.

8. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea - Neutral Milk Hotel (1998)

As with many things, I came to this party rather late. I had never heard of Neutral Milk Hotel until my very favorite band, Eisley, credited them as an influence. Even then I didn't seek them out until Eisley did an acoustic cover of the title track and I loved it so much I went in search of the original. Turns out lots of musicians cover this and other Neutral Milk songs, many from this very record. Like Beach House and Sufjan Stevens, Neutral Milk Hotel seems to be one of those bands that other bands/musicians love. It always interests me to check out a musician's/band's influences because those influences had to have done something cool to garner respect and admiration from fellow artists. Anyway, this album is wonderful and experimental and challenges your expectations as a listener. It can be a bit of a downer if you're paying attention to the lyrics but then sometimes a downer song is just what you want to hear.

9. Aquemini - Outkast (1998)

Before I found Wu-Tang Clan, I listened to a lot of Eminem, Tu Pac, and Outkast. Outkast survived continual rotation after Wu-Tang (Eminem and Tu Pac less so), which says a lot about the duo and their artistry. Lyrics slick and tongues quick, this album showcases the wit and whimsy of Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Also, they are southern boys, which I relate to, being a southern gal. They sounded like guys I went to high school with.

10. Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea - PJ Harvey (2000)

This album has a distinct 90's feel to it that I just love. I can't put my finger on it, whether it's the instrumentation or the lyrics or more just the way she sings but it has a 90's quality--in a good way. A really, really good way. Plus there are no less than 3 tracks from this album featuring Thom Yorke. Enough said.

11. Vespertine - Bjork (2001)

This album is so beautiful. It has a very romantic feel with heavy string work and experimental sampling of non-instrumental sounds that are made musical in these songs. There is also a sort of palatial vastness to it that makes it very easy to listen and sing along to. She's a goddess.

12. Turn on the Bright Lights - Interpol (2002)

This is another one that got a lot of play during my '07 Spring semester. It was often Dylan on Tuesdays and Interpol on Thursdays. I love all their stuff but this is the one that I always played all the way through without skipping. So many good ones--"Untitled"; "NYC"; "Stella was a Diver". Some people don't like Interpol because they say all their songs sound the same. I say, hey, if you made one really cool song, no reason not to keep building on that original idea. If it's not broke...

13. Hail to the Thief - Radiohead (2003)

I know a lot of Radiohead fans who would look at me like I'm crazy for this being my choice. Let's remember that this is a list of albums where I never skip a song, not necessarily my overall favorite. Although in this case it is. But still, it's hard. Their whole body of work is...there are no words. I mean, The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A??! How are you supposed to choose??! Well for this list, I had to be really honest. It's the same situation as with Pink Floyd and Dark Side of the Moon. As good as they are, I usually end up skipping one ("Planet Telex"; "Fitter, Happier"; "Kid A") but not on Hail to the Thief. This album was on all the time for the entire year of 2004. Well, this one and the next one on this list...

14. Hopes and Fears - Keane (2004)

If you like to sing, this album is so fun to sing along with. Beautiful melodies, easy but still poetic lyrics and chill music behind it all. Also I love Tom Chaplin's soft English accent. I remember my brother-in-law brought this album to my parents' house over a holiday not long after it came out and I clicked play on the CD player (yes, that's right, an actual CD player) out of curiosity and then I could not stop listening. I just sat there till I'd heard the whole thing. So, so wonderful. I went out and got it the next day. Yes, that's right, I went out and got it, as in drove to Best Buy. Old school.

15. Soviet Kitsch - Regina Spektor (2004)

Sadly, I didn't hear Reg or even know who she was till fall of 2007. I didn't listen to a lot of radio, guys. I had a giant CD collection and eventually got an iPod and when I wanted music, I stuck strictly to my own stuff because I condemned the radio as the home of crap pop music, which is generally what it is. But I'm willing to bet that occasionally they threw in a little "Fidelity" or "On the Radio" during the time before I'd heard of her, in which case I just missed out. But hey, it's not like I missed the party entirely, I just, as usual, came late. And immediately proceeded to catch up double-time--I couldn't get enough. Regina's music was what I'd been waiting to hear for so long. She was the answer to my unconscious prayers. I relate to her quirky thought patterns and ironic humor and her childlike experimentation with sounds and words. She is a genius. She is a goddess. And this album showcases all of that very well. It starts off unassuming with "Ode to Divorce" then you get hit with "Poor Little Rich Boy" and "Carbon Monoxide" and it just takes off. With off-beat stories and witty lyrics that coincide so well with her voice and sound, Soviet Kitsch is arguably her best album to date.

16. Wincing the Night Away - The Shins (2007)

This. God, this album. I have maintained for the last eight years that this is, in my opinion, the best album ever. Ever. By anyone of any genre. It's incredible. Like Regina Spektor, James Mercer is a god. I often refer to him as the modern-day lyrical Shakespeare. He is an amazing, genius writer. I have made a study of the lyrics of this whole album. They are all beautiful and deeply layered and have a lovely poetic flow. There is literally not a single weak song on this whole album; they are all equally strong and perfect. Even since Port of Morrow came out in 2012, I still find myself listening more to Wincing the Night Away. I have to hear it all the way through every few months or I swear I will go through withdrawals. It will always be my favorite album ever. I'd like to point out that there may be individual songs from other artists (Regina, for example) that I like better than an individual song on this album but as a whole piece of work, all 11 tracks together, this album makes up the best complete piece of music of all time, in my opinion. Although, admittedly, several of the songs on this album do, in fact, make my list of favorite songs. I'd say at least a couple make the top 10.

17. For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver (2007)

Beautiful. The lush harmonies and quiet lyrics combined with Justin Vernon's soft R&B vocal vibe just moves me every time. It's a really lovely record and often brings me to tears when I listen. It's very evident too that he was recovering from a break-up and illness at the time he recorded it--I think it really comes across that he's in pain. I love music with honest emotion, like The Antlers' album Hospice and pretty much the entire catalog of Cloud Cult.

18. Combinations - Eisley (2007)

This is my favorite band. Regina is my favorite solo musician, James Mercer is my favorite lyrical writer, but Eisley is my favorite band. Much like I felt about Regina, the first time I heard Eisley was like coming home--it was exactly what I'd been waiting for and I didn't even know it. We actually grew up in the same town so I met them before I ever heard their music. Sherri DuPree wrote the website address on my hand and I went home and checked it out before it faded from my skin. There were only 4 songs on the site to listen to. I listened to them over and over again. I would come home from school and it was sort of a routine to sit down at the family computer, pull up the site, and listen to those 4 songs every afternoon. I was overjoyed when their first album, Room Noises, came out in 2005. I have seen them live more times than I can count, especially in those first few years, and I followed them online. Needless to say, I was on pins and needles waiting for the second album but there were rumors it would be very different from the first one, less whimsical fantasy, more grown-up, and that worried me because the whimsy and the fantasy were exactly what I loved about them. But the rumors were incorrect. Combinations was definitely a more grown-up record but it was really just a graduation of the first and, in my opinion, still contained all the fantastical beauty of Room Noises. Lovely descriptive language, reminiscent of classic fantasy and sci-fi novels, unique song-stories, and intricate harmonies. It's just really something special. I love all their albums but this is the one that never gets a skip.

19. The Courage of Others - Midlake (2010)

I like to think of Midlake as the male-vocals counterpart to Eisley. Also, they are from Denton, Texas and went to UNT, where I myself studied, so that makes them extra cool. I actually heard about them through Eisley too. As much as I love Bamnan and Slivercork and The Trials of Van Occcupanther, The Courage of Others is on a whole other level. It may employ less whimsy than on previous albums but it has all the same descriptive storytelling and staggering harmonies. They have a very cool 70's vibe, using things like flute and recorder, hammered dulcimer and harpsichord, to create a vibrant, throwback sound that is still very chill and easy to listen to. And on top of all that are these gorgeous melodies and harmonies coupled with deep, pseudo-spiritual lyrics that bring the whole album together as a substantial entity, sitting up and taking part in the life around you while you listen. The genius behind the sound and lyrics (and main vocals) of Midlake left the band after this record. From here on out, Tim Smith will be solo and known only as Harp. No record from him yet but I will definitely be checking up regularly. When Harp puts something out, I hold out hope that it will be something else that makes this list.

20. Ring - Glasser (2010)

There is a great harmony to this album, just in terms of the different sounds of each song and how well they work together as a whole. "Apply" is one of the most listened-to songs in my iTunes library. I have played it over and over again when working on certain scenes in different Lone March books. It's hard not to sing along and will probably be retired for writing purposes, now that I've finished Lone March. I will have to find something else that evokes the same feeling for future writing, if I need to write a similar scene to those from Lone March. This may prove impossible because if there is one thing Glasser is, it is different from everything else. It's got heavy undertones and great beats with light, breezy lyrics on top. You can tell Cameron Mesirow had fun creating this record and I love when that comes through in the music.

21. The King is Dead - The Decemberists (2011)

This album is comprised of 10 little pieces of rock gold. It's got a very American folk vibe--more so than their previous work--and it's very plain to hear that it's sort of an homage to R.E.M. (I mean they even got Peter Buck to play on a few songs, for cryin' out loud.) That made this album doubly special for me and Travis because R.E.M. is his favorite band and we consider our "song" to be "Be Mine" from New Adventures in Hi-Fi. This album just kicks it all the way through, like some kind of American Southern-Pastoral Folk Art Fever Dream. Also, it's another one that got a lot of play while I was working on Moon-Wake because I mean, "January Hymn" and "Dear Avery"? It's like they were written specifically to accompany what was happening in my book!

22. Threads - Now, Now (2012)

This one is sneaky. No one talks about it being a concept album but I think it kind of is. There is a theme running throughout it that you may miss if you're not paying attention to the lyrics. The majority of the songs refer to threads, ties, knots, and patterns. Even the ones that don't use those terms are still thematically in tune with the rest of the album. If you like Eisley you will like Now, Now. They have a very indie pop sound musically with super pop-punk vibes coming through the vocals. Also, like the DuPrees (in Eisley) the 3 people that comprise Now, Now are just sweet, delightful little pixies (and yes, that includes Bradley Hale because guys can be pixies too).

23. A Minor Bird - Sucre (2012)

This is Stacy King (nee DuPree) of Eisley. She embarked on a new musical journey with her husband and a mutual friend of theirs and together the 3 make up Sucre. Holy Cow. God bless the existence of this band. Let's put aside her amazing voice and her serious songwriting strengths and just talk about the music itself. It's got everything--deep, romantic string arrangements underlying bright, fresh percussion and airy melodies. It's opulent and ethereal and commands the aural senses. It is evident that she has been highly influenced by Bjork; it has a very Bjork-like energy, musically speaking, but with what I believe to be even more beautiful vocals.

24. Sway - Merriment (2014)

This is Christie and Collin DuPree, the two youngest siblings of the DuPree family, and their cousin, Remington. I've been listening to Christie's stuff for years but this is the first official record since she formed an official band with her brother and cousin and they got signed to the same indie label on which Eisley now resides. Much like their siblings, these guys are incredibly talented and have a knack for creating angelic melodies with exquisite harmonies, with a hint of fantastical, descriptive stories woven into the lyrics, much like so many Eisley songs. Christie's voice is lovely and her writing is delicate and honest and I can't wait to see where they go next. I have tried to skip around when listening to this album, in favor of playing one that was in my head first, but I always end up going back to the ones I skipped before I'm done listening, thus I've never listened to this record without hearing the whole thing.

25. PHOX - PHOX (2014)

I fell in love with the song "Laura" and then I couldn't rest till I'd heard the whole album. It's so different from what's out there and yet very reminiscent of so many things in so many ways. Monica Martin's voice is so perfect and fresh and beautiful. The songs are catchy with witty lyrics and a super fun sound. Even the slow songs are fun to sing along to and have great hooks. Since it came out a year ago, I have worn it out. I can't wait to see what they do next.

So there you have it! What do you guys think of the albums on my list? What albums make your lists? Leave a comment and let me know. Let's talk music!