Friday, December 20, 2013


If anyone asks me what my favorite carol is my answer is quick--Carol of the Bells. It's been my favorite since I was a very young and according to my parents I loved it as a young toddler. I don't remember so I must take their word for it. 

My first memory of it was when I was just four and we lived in Washington D.C. I had a new baby brother that year. He was born October 25th. I was out in our small back yard. Big fat snowflakes were falling all around me and I was spinning around and trying to *fly* up to catch them and I *fell* right out of the sky when I heard it. It wasn't our neighbors on either side of us. It was coming up from the alley. My fenced in yard was 25 steps(my mother counted them the last time I escaped) above the alley. But someone was playing it loud on the radio, I think it was a radio but, it could have been a record player because another Christmas song followed it. What drew me was the sound of the bells. It was so pretty and different from what I had heard before. I really wanted to go down the steps and find where the song was coming from but that path had already gotten my little Houdini self in serious and painful trouble. I sat two steps down and listened (hey, I was still in the yard). I remember wanting it to play again like it did on Dad's record player.

I have two carols to share with you today. Both are unusual in different ways. One is played with carillon. The other isn't unusual in the instruments but the setting and reverence brought to the piece sets it apart.

This particular version of The Carol Of The Bells is played with bells. It's a manual carillon. The carillon in French, or glockenspiel in German, is a percussion instrument made up of tuned bronze cast cup shaped bells arranged in chromatic sequence and tuned in concordant harmony and played from a baton keyboard. It's a huge instrument and this one weighs in about 4 tons. I chose this particular video because it shows how it's played--both hand and foot movements. I'm not sure I would want to listen to many other songs on the carillon but for the Carol Of The Bells it's pretty cool.

I'm sure many of you have heard O Come, Emmanuel. This version is played by the Piano Guys on the piano and cello. For me, the cello is a haunting instrument. It touches something deep inside. I love the sense of reverence brought to this piece and watching Steve play...seeing the emotion well up from his heart as he plays is beautiful. The location they chose to play and the acoustics for this video is fabulous. 

You'll notice in the upper right of the video is a link to a special Christmas video which blends scenes from this video with an enactment of the story. It's pretty and well done.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I had a chance to chat a bit with my guest, romance author, M.L. Buchman. While he's not an anomaly, Matt is one of the few male authors writing romance and does very it well. He writes in several genres but I've only read his Night Stalker series (something I intend to rectify) and he tells a compelling story. You get the flavor of military combat life and some seriously hot romance. What I like about his writing is it can be read and enjoyed by both men and womennot girly hearts and mush. Matt's stories have lots of action and his characters have flaws, emotional scars, and a strong sense of honor. 
I'll tell you something, when I'm in the mood for a good kick ass military based story I reach for Christine Feehan's Ghost Walkers or M.L. Buchman's Night Stalkers and while Matt's stories aren't paranormal they are equally addictive. J 

  • How did you start writing?

Twenty years ago, I’d lost everything: my job, my business/career, my house that I’d spent 7 years remodeling for the family I never had time to find. So, for lack of a better idea, I set off on a solo bicycle journey around the world. Somewhere in the air from Korea on my way to ride across the Australian Outback, I started writing a little vignette. It turned into my first novel that sold to a tiny regional press after I returned. That was it, the storytelling bug had bitten me.

  • And I understand you recently became a full-time writer?
January of 2013. Once again, the lack of corporate commitment to their employees sliced the ground out from beneath my feet. My wife and I talked about this dream I’d been pursuing for twenty years in stolen moments. But now, with my step-kid was almost through college, we decided to go for it. We dumped everything and moved to a small house on the Oregon Coast. I began writing like a madman. The fans have been hugely receptive and it’s really taking off. I have twenty books out now, and more coming next year.

  • Twenty?
Yep. Take Over at Midnight  is my twentieth as well as being the fourth in my Night Stalkers series. I also write contemporary romance, fantasy, and I have a foodie thriller.

  • What about your life do you bring to your writing?
Just about everything. The characters take a vacation on a sailboat—I rebuilt a sad old fifty-foot ketch back in my twenties and learned how to sail it by myself. They go flying—I used to have my private pilot’s license. They travel to some exotic locale—if I haven’t been there, I’ve ridden my bicycle to somewhere similar enough to fake it. I have an eclectic resume, I’m being kind there. But as a long-term computer nerd and project manager, I’ve worked in industries such as law, construction, opera, and map design. It all makes great fodder for story. Did I mention that I’m addicted to Project Runway and Top Chef? I’m a lousy seamstress, but I’m a better than average cook, that’s why I wrote my Angelo’s Hearth foodie contemporary romance series, and why I’ll be starting another soon now that Angelo’s is nearly over.

  • How would we pick you out of the crowd?
You probably wouldn't. I tend to be quiet, even in a circle of friends. My favorite time of day is when my wife and I cook together or curl up on the couch with books or a movie. Well, there is one thing that stands out. Even mention kids and I’ll start bragging on my step-daughter. I’m one of “those” parents, so don’t get me started. It’s the one topic I never know when to shut up on.

  • What does your day look like compared to when you were in corporate?
I used to work hard, often long hours. I’d crawl home, spend a couple of hours with the family, and when they’d gone to bed, I’d gear up to write for another hour or two. Now, I write almost as many hours as I used to work, but the crawling is gone. I've never had so much fun as this last year. It’s still stressful, starting a new career in a new town, but I just love, as my mentor says, “sitting in a corner and making shit up for a living.”

  • If writing is no longer your hobby, what has taken its place?
I’m not sure yet. I spend more time walking the beach, reading, watching movies. In the past, I’ve designed and built a couple houses, I might have one more of those in me. We’re talking about taking up Italian in the next month or so which could be a lot of fun. I wouldn't mind doing some traveling again, though probably not on a fully loading touring bicycle; that’s hard work.

  • Since you have done so many things, what’s the one you've liked the most?
Oh, the present one, writing. If you look at job satisfaction surveys, which I've done a number of times over the years, almost any form of art takes the top five or so spots. I love what I’m doing, it both energizes me and let’s me share that energy and excitement with others through my art. That it also pays enough to support my family, well, that’s a surprise I’m not yet used to.

BUY: AmazonBarnes and NobleChapters/IndigoIndieBound

Name: Lola LaRue
Rank: Chief Warrant Officer 3
Mission: Copilot deadly choppers on the world's most dangerous missions
Name: Tim Maloney
Rank: Sergeant
Mission: Man the guns and charm the ladies
The Past Doesn't Matter, When Their Future is Doomed... 
Nothing sticks to "Crazy" Tim Maloney, until he falls hard for a tall Creole beauty with a haunted past and a penchant for reckless flying. Lola LaRue never thought she'd be susceptible to a man's desire, but even with Tim igniting her deepest passions, it may be too late now...With the nation under an imminent threat of biological warfare, Tim and Lola are the only ones who can stop the madness--and to do that, they're going to have to trust each other way beyond their limits...


M. L. Buchman has worked in fast food, law, opera, computers, publishing, and light manufacturing. It’s amazing what you can do with a degree in geophysics. His Night Stalker Series have garnered starred reviews, top picks and have even been named an NPR Best Romance of 2012 (I Own the Dawn). He lives in Lincoln City, OR, with a loving lady and the coolest kid on the planet. For more information, please visit

Monday, December 16, 2013


The hammered dulcimer (aka cimbalom in Europe) is not a musical instrument one hears everyday and traditionally it has been used for folk music. The hammered dulcimer has been used by classical composers and has even been used in popular movies like Star Trek In Search Of Spock (when they were stealing the Enterprise) and also, more recently in Lord of The Rings The Two Towers (used to highlight how sneaky Gollum was).  It isn't a new instrument and has been around, in one form or another, since about 3500 BCE.

Dulcimer means sweet song from the Latin dulcis (sweet) and Greek melos (song). It does have a sweet sound but I like the energy and rhythm it can bring to a song. Here's a few selections of Christmas songs played on the Hammered Dulcimer. 

I particularly like the unusual sound it brings to this particular Christmas carol, The Little Drummer Boy. It's played by Ted Yoder.

Even with traditional carols the dulcimer brings a toe tapping energy to the beauty of the song.

I love the feeling of uplifting joy Mark Wade brings to this traditional Christmas song...he's able to capture the rich fullness of the song.

I'm a fan of Ted Yoder's playing. I love his energy and chord choices.

  • BTW, anyone know what famous group of singers first brought The Little Drummer Boy exposure? Care to guess what the original name of the song was?