The best titles, whether they are created for books, or chapters within books, movies, or songs, are often miniature works of art. Tiny poems that are thought provoking or evocative. Eye catching and quirky, Ovenbird is exactly that. It’s also great to say: Ovenbird Ovenbird Ovenbird. When I first read the word, it was new to me, and I found it both  familiar and strange, which is exactly what makes it a wonderful title for this understated love song by Patrick McCormack.

Back in ’08, when I moved away

Settled in well, but I was afraid

I mistook every slightest noise for knocks on my door

Good morning, again.

Soon found a job, but it had my time

Forgot my friends, had I lost my mind

I jumped the turnstiles just to get home, and I hadn’t a phone

Good morning, again.

I sang alone to you from stage

I’d do it all again today

I meant every word that I ever sang

And every chord I played

So leave me all wrinkled and lost in the sheets

Dreadful is the morning that takes you from me

Still got the same old mattress today, but you wont complain

Good morning, again.


As you can hear, Ovenbird is a sweet celebration of love written in triple meter and reminiscent of the late Elliott Smith. After Patrick McCormack uploaded the song to the Sirenstories SooundCloud I asked him to please share his inspiration for the tune. (Secretly I just wanted to know what the title meant — KIDDING. I love the song and wanted to know everything about it.)

“The lyrical inspiration for Ovenbird drew from the beginnings of my independent life.  I was broke, jobless, and living in a new city (Chicago.)  So there was quite a lot of stress, but rarely was I angry or miserable about it.  I had a great partner every step of the way, and she’s the real meaning behind those lyrics.  She was always at my side with a great positive energy; I think that’s what comes through on the instrumental bridge.  Something as simple as waking up together really lessened the blow of my day-to-day.

“The title comes from a side project that my girlfriend (Katherine) and I were working on during that time period.  She would illustrate a national bird, and I would make a corresponding instrumental song.  Argentina’s national bird is The Red Ovenbird, and I had an instrumental track that later became the bridge of Ovenbird.”

Confession: Before Patrick McCormack joined the Sirenstories group and uploaded Ovenbird, I had heard the song before. Filmmaker Edward Burns who, in his words, “makes those small talky New York movies about the Irish guys from Long Island” ran a contest on SoundCloud to find a song for his work in progress, Newlyweds. 

Usually singer songwriter PT Walkley writes the music for Ed Burns’ films, and he wrote the majority of the songs for Newlyweds. However Patrick McCormack‘s Ovenbird fits right in, as if he wrote it specifically for the movie. If I told you why Ovenbird works so perfectly in Newlyweds, I’d be dropping a spoiler, so watch the film for yourself and listen for Ovenbird. It’s perfectly placed.

I’m sure many more of Patrick McCormack‘s songs will be well placed. A multi instrumentalist and composer from Vermont, McCormack’s diverse, poppy songs, and instrumental pieces that are sometimes spare, sometimes spacious, make his music a great choice for film — indie and commercial. I urge you to explore his recordings by clicking on the covers below.

PS I also encourage you to check out Newlyweds. In Newlyweds, as in all of his movies,  Edward Burns shows us familiar people with familiar traits in familiar relationships, and yet somehow, he gives us something completely fresh, funny, and profound. We know Burns’ characters, but they surprise us.

I watched Newlyweds by myself, but I didn’t feel alone. Maybe that’s because I saw my friends in the movie, or maybe because I saw myself. Ed Burns’ movies might be small, but they express universal truths, which is also a good description of Patrick McCormack‘s songs.

Please support original music and add to the buzz about Patrick McCormack‘s music by ‘liking’ his fb page. Thank you.

Last Hour Battle’s White Bear

From what I understand, white bear syndrome is a branch of the OCD tree.  A therapist I once shared office space with when I was a music teacher at a high school for at risk teens, told me that all musicians have OCD. Um.

I hear a bit of the Red Hot Chili Peppers in some of Last Battle‘s angular instrumental lines and their vocals have a slightly raw sound; imagine a younger, poppier Eddie Vedder. Imagine if Pearl Jam was a boy band whose members hooked up with a progressive rock guitarist then rubbed sandpaper on their sound—rubbed it the right way and scraped it up just right.

The Philadelphia based band says, “The white bear syndrome is when unwanted thoughts pop into your head and it’s extremely difficult to stop the never-ending cycle of thinking these negative thoughts.”

Not that I’ve ever had that. Happen. Ah, ever. You? Didn’t think so.

White Bear

How was I supposed to know that everything you said 
Were all the lies you breathed in 
How was I supposed to know 
that everyone is dead 
As the dream we lived in

it’s no surprise 
We’re running out of time 
All I had I offered 
Just so you would 
it’s no surprise 
We’re running out of time 
All I had I offered 
Just so you would break me

How was I supposed to know that everyone is dead 
From the lies they bath in 
How was I supposed to show 
To a closed down skeptic who’s sinking into the night 
That it’s all the same 
That it’s all the same 
Your mind’s playing games 
Your mind’s playing games

it’s no surprise 
We’re running out of time 
All I had I offered 
Just so you would 
it’s no surprise 
We’re running out of time 
All I had I offered 
Just so you would break me

If these walls surrounding 
Are the thoughts of new life 
Then without a creak 
without a whisper 
I will not speak 
Would only listen

It’s no surprise 
We’re running out of time 
All I had I offered 
Just so you would break 
It’s no surprise 
We’re running out of time 
All I had I offered 
Just so you would break me

Love the sparse beginning of White Bear and the semi whispered vocal. The chorus is a real hook, and profound.

It’s no surprise we’re running out of time . . .

I look forward to listening to more of Last Hour Battle. Click on the link and you can do just that.

Oh and feel to leave a comment. Are all musicians OCD? How about writers?

What Sells Books?

Every good novel needs a character with a compelling voice. Someone to sing a Siren song of love or loss, a Siren song of suspense or mystery, a Siren song of snarky cynicism, coming of age, middle school antics, musicians, or murder. There are a million stories (or a mere handful told a million different ways depending on who you’re talking to) and these stories must be told in a voice that matters. Authors, agents, editors, readers — everyone agrees. A strong voice is the most essential element of any story.

But something that not everyone agrees on, especially since the publishing industry is changing so rapidly, is the best way to sell books, although by now everyone has heard the word ‘platform’.

Platform is just another word for voice. Not the voice of the story, but the voice of the author. These days everyone seems to be saying that it takes more than a book to captivate and keep a reader’s attention. It takes a vibrant personality, someone who has A Story Behind Their Story, or at least, someone who is skillful enough to draw a crowd on facebook and twitter.

So do these things work? Does social networking sell books?

I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the YA books I read in 2011 and tell you how I came to buy them.

Shift is a YA dystopian by author/artist Charlotte Agell. I fell in love with Agell’s picture books, which she illustrates with gorgeous watercolors, so decided to read just about everything she wrote. I wrote about her here and here and after she told me about The Crosswalk Kings, her son’s band, I wrote about them here.

I read about the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins first in The New Yorker.

I connected with Tara Kelly on twitter. At the time she was posting music recommendations and I liked the music she suggested. I checked out her site and saw that she offered editing services. I liked her site and thought well, if I’m going to hire her, I need to check out her writing. I’d already learned that she was a musician and her book Harmonic Feedback was about musicians so of course, I was interested. I bought the book and hired Tara to do a Big Picture Evaluation of the manuscript I was working on. I liked Harmonic Feedback so much I ordered her latest book, Amplified from my local bookstore. I couldn’t put it down. If you’re a musician you MUST read Amplified.

Joëlle Anthony is another author I connected with on twitter. I’m not sure how I started following her, I think I may have found her link in an article about twitter in the SCBWI bulletin. In any case, when Kidlit4Japan was auctioning off baskets of books to help raise money to benefit the victims of the earthquake and devastating tsunami, I bid on Joëlle’s basket because I knew the main character of her book Restoring Harmony was a musician, and at the time, everyone on twitter was talking about Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Joëlle’s basket had both, as well as an arc of Where She Went by Gayle Forman. Where She Went is the follow-up to If I Stay, so I ran out and bought If I Stay from my local bookstore. I wrote about Restoring Harmony here.

More tweets! Although my twitter account seemed to have a problem with me following Jay Asher (I swear I had to follow him three times before he remained permanently on my follow list!) no one else seemed to have that problem and his name and face seemed to pop up everywhere. Everyone I was talking to on twitter was talking about Thirteen Reasons Why and finally, after I connected with Jay on facebook and saw a gazillion copies of his book in Barnes and Noble, I bought a copy. And couldn’t put it down. Although I’d like to talk about it with him over a cup of coffee. There’s probably a club I can join.

Divergent by Veronica Roth was another book that everyone I chatted with on twitter was talking about. Another unputdownable book.

Twitter. Again. If you don’t follow @thunderchikin on twitter you must, if only to see his laughably gorgeous avatar show up in your twitter stream. But laugh is the key word here and it was David Macinnis Gill‘s sense of humor that made me go out and buy his book Black Hole Sun. He was kind enough to send me an ARC of Invisible Sun (Could it be because one of his characters is named Mimi?) and I will buy book III in this sci-fi grunge series as soon as it’s available. In this case, the author’s personality is what made me interested in his writing. That plus his hot avatar.

One of the local bookstore owners (who by this time, as you might imagine, has become a close friend) recommended Shiver and it still surprises me that I did not originally hear about Maggie Stiefvater online from #YAlitchat since that’s where I’ve learned about so many fantastic YA authors and their books and Stiefvater is actually a member of the group. I must have missed the chat that night!

I think Maggie Stiefvater is one of the best YA writers out there and if I could . . . I would eat her books.

I learned about Sarah Dessen at Ye Olde Local Bookstore, which, by the way is River Road Books in Fair Haven, NJ.

A whole rack of books by a YA writer? Yes please, I’ll take one. And go back for more.

Thank you SCBWI! For all you do for me, including introducing me to authors and people who work with authors. I met the author Natalie Zaman in a crit group at an NJ SCBWI conference and after reading 30 pages of one of her WIP became a fan.

Ally Condie‘s book, Matched was recommended by an editor I met at the same conference. Love.

And from Natalie Zaman, author of Sirenz, I learned about Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. Good old fashioned word of mouth via NJ SCBWI. Love, love, love this book. Gorgeous writing, killer cover.

Jo Treggiari and I have friends in common, so again, word of mouth. I couldn’t put this book down, it made me think of the summers I spent in the Canadian wilderness as a teen. More on that in another post. I was surprised at the amount of time spent in the main character’s head at the beginning of Ashes, Ashes, as well as the many descriptions at the start of the story. I loved the way this writing technique enabled me to get to know the mc and her surroundings so very well.

I know, I know, I can’t believe I didn’t read this book sooner. The brevity in the writing, in the voice, made me think of a song. Beautiful, dark, perfect, I loved Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

And so I end my first annual blog post on books. I hope you enjoyed my totally unscientific fan-girl based conclusions. Maybe by next year at this time I’ll have something completely different to say about what sells books. Until then, I hope you continue to tune in to Sirenstories for new music.

Happy New Year!