Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Erica's #15 - See Elton John in Concert (11/30/2013)

Like most children of the '80's (and probably children of the 70's too), I've been listening to Elton John since birth.  My parents liked him, his songs were all over the radio, and even in The Lion King in the 90's - you couldn't escape hearing his music if you'd have tried.  Elton John and his music are about as big a part of pop culture as you can get.

A couple of years ago, we went out and bought an old console turntable at an antique store.  We snatched up a few Elton albums (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Honky Chateau, among others).  Elton's music has that timeless quality that ensures that you can listen to it for four or forty years and never tire of it.

Elton's latest tour brought him through Rosemont, IL at the Allstate Arena - only about a 4 hour drive from our house - on the weekend after Thanksgiving, so I pulled up Stubhub and, after much deliberation, picked out a couple of tickets on the side of the stage.  They were on the side that Elton faces, rather than the side behind him.  No offense to Elton, but I'd much rather look at his face any day.  I was worried that the tickets would be limited view, but they really were fantastic seats, other than the fact that we couldn't get a full view of the stage production.

Traffic was a nightmare, and we got there just as the opener, 2CELLOS, was finishing up their set.  We were bummed to miss them - they are amazing!  Lucky for us, they also sat in with Elton's band on quite a few songs.

It couldn't have been more than a few minutes after that when the lights dimmed, and Elton took the stage.  He was, in true Elton John style, wearing a sequined jacket with the word "Fantastic" on the back in offset red sequins.  This was, of course, accompanied by a shimmering pair of red shoes.  Elton doesn't hesitate to let his sparkling personality shine through!

We hadn't yet had a chance to listen to his latest album, The Diving Board, and we were worried that we wouldn't know many of the songs he performed, but (lucky for us) this show turned out to be Elton's Greatest Hits (which, I'd imagine, most of his shows are).  I knew all but a couple of the songs, and nearly everyone was singing along with every tune.  It was great to hear some of the Elton classics like "Rocket Man", "Your Song", "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues", "Candle in the Wind", "Levon" and "Crocodile Rock" in person.

And, all these years later, Elton still is a kick-ass piano player.  He makes it look easy, fingers flying over the ivories.  It was amusing to note that he has a teleprompter sitting at the edge of the stage - you'd think that after all these years, those songs would be such a part of him that he could play and sing them in his sleep!

All in all a great night - and since we got into the parking lot so late, we got right out without having to wait in traffic - score!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Erica's #70 - Participate in NaNoWriMo (11/28/2013)

So, for anyone who hasn't heard of NaNoWriMo - it stands for National Novel Writing Month. It happens every year in November, and the challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in the 30 days in November.  That breaks down to about 1,667 words per day.  If you're writing in paragraphs, that's about two pages in word (12 point font, single spacing, normal margins).  Doesn't sound too bad, right?

Well it is tough.  And there are about 309,000 other "wrimos" who know that feeling now too.  I had a rough concept in my head from a short story I wrote when I was probably 11 or 12 years old - typed it out on our very first computer that my dad bought when he went back to college, and printed that bad boy out on that dot-matrix printer.  I can just hear that beautiful noise now...

I actually think I have a copy of that story somewhere printed out.  Someday, I'll find it.  So I had a concept, but I am not much of a planner.  I hated having to create outlines for anything in school, because it seems like such a waste of time to me.  If I'm going to do something, doing it once is enough.  That theme also translates to checking my work.  I rarely do it.

So the moral of that story is that I just jumped right in and started writing.  The story is set in Montana, and is about 6 friends in their senior year of high school - four boys and two girls.  The title of the novel is Rush - it's loosely themed around Montana's gold rush, and the fact that the kids are exploring an abandoned gold mine.  The six kids have been inseparable for almost a decade, and they are contemplating what they want from life after high school.  They're an adventurous bunch, and in this story, they end up finding an entrance to an old mine and exploring it.  There's adventure, danger, and a love story - what more could you expect from a novel?

I have no doubt that it isn't the next great American novel, but hey, it turned into an actual novel.  I finished it late on Thanksgiving Day, at just over 50,000 words.  The first six chapters are devoted to one character each, and there are, I believe 25 other chapters in the book.  I'm so glad its finished!  It felt good to validate it one last time in the word count checker on the website (, and get the notification that I was a winner!  Anyone who writes 50,000 words or more is a winner though, and you don't get much except a fancy little certificate to print out saying that you won.  And that all-important feeling of accomplishment!