Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 REMEMBERED (Guest Post)

Today marks the 
anniversary of one of the
most tragic events in our
nation's history. We'll all
forever remember where
we were and what we
were doing on that fateful
morning. I wasn't in
New York that day, but
"Guest Blogger" Michelle
Wilson was. And I'm
compelled today to reflect on 9/11 through
the personal story of
someone who was there.
On September 11, 2001, I was sitting in the unemployment office in FreeportNew York, a Long Island suburb of Manhattan—less than an hour away. I had accepted a position with a real estate appraisal firm, although I really did not want the job. My son was almost four and in preschool, my seven-month-old baby girl was waiting for me at home, and I was pregnant with my last baby. What I was thinking to accept this position I don’t know (the job lasted three days—I couldn’t bear to be away from my baby girl), but I had to meet with the unemployment people and make it official. As I waited, and waited, and waited, growing more frustrated and annoyed, I couldn’t imagine what could be causing this delay. Even for a government-run office, this was ridiculous. Finally, after what seemed like half a day, a woman came out and apologized for the delay. It seemed there was some situation in NYC involving a plane flying into one of the Twin Towers. Her daughter worked there, and she finally had made contact with her and she was ok. Thinking this was just a random bizarre accident, we proceeded with our appointed meeting and concluded it in a timely fashion.

I left the building and got back into my car, beginning the thirty-minute drive back home. The radio was delivering the panicked news—PLANES were flying into the Twin Towers AND the Pentagon—what? A plane was hijacked and eternal heroes eventually emerged. Here I am, pregnant, hormonal, driving by myself, one kid in preschool thirty minutes away, my mother babysitting my seven-month-old daughter at home, and my then-husband at work—also thirty minutes away in the other direction. Frantically calling everyone at once while driving as quickly as possible to reach my house, crying and truly believing that a nuclear missile was about to blow Long Island off the map, I thought I would never reach home. My husband left work to pick up my son and we all stayed glued to the TV as the horrific events unfolded.

My son went to preschool in FarmingdaleNew York, about a twenty-minute ride from home. That town lost so many firefighters and police, including parents of children from my son’s preschool. There were countless police-escorted funerals through that town. I  stood on Main Street for every one them to support these fallen heroes. My hometown lost two men in particular, Rich Bruehert, a friend of mine from long ago who worked in one of the towers, and Brian McAleese, a city firefighter. In a strange and ironic twist of fate, Rich dated a woman for years, and then they ended their relationship. She then dated and married Brian and they had four children. Both of these men lost their lives.

Everyone has different memories of this day—I think there are few people who could say that they don’t recall exactly where they were and what they were doing. This is not an easy story to write, I will say that. I feel as if I am reliving it while I type and the images and emotions it evokes are fresh and brutal. I’m always haunted by the memories, but the one thought that always remains foremost in my mind is the woman from the unemployment office. I think about her all the time. Did her daughter really make it out? I pray for them every time I think of it but I will never know. I just keep picturing over and over the crumbling implosion of those buildings, and I say a prayer for all those whose lost lives forever changed the shape of our twisted world.

-Michelle Wilson
(September 2012)

Do you have something to say, something to get off your chest or an amazing story to share? From pop culture views and reviews to political commentary to messages of faith, my blog is a great platform for writers to showcase their work. There are very limited criteria for submitting a post. Your views don't even have to be in line with mine—just create and contribute a compelling, well-written story. Interested? Send me and email.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

RECORD REVIEW: Queen "Live at the Rainbow '74"

QUEEN - Live at the Rainbow '74
(Available 9.9.14 on CD, LP, DVD and Blu-ray Disc)
Live at the Rainbow '74
Hollywood Records

A brash and
hungry young
rock band on 
the cusp of 
global super-
captured live
in its prime.

During the early to mid 1970s, Queen was one-of-a-kind. The band's sound was every bit as heavy as that of Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple yet it wasn't restrained by blues-inspired shackles. Queen's live show was explosive and theatrical — while (for the most part) steering clear of the KISS and Alice Cooper-like camp factor. And overall, the band was simply more intriguing and possessed more street cred than most of its bloated British contemporaries. But what made Queen truly special was that Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon were not only monstrous, badass musicians, but that they wrote great songs. Today, nearly 45 years following its conception, the band's legacy lives on. And despite Mercury's passing in 1991, Queen continues to reign among rock's royaltyAnd that's what makes this newly-released multi-record package such a treat it captures the iconic band in its prime, live onstage.

A must-have for any dedicated fan, this incredible multi-disc, 41-song package offers two complete classic 1974 Queen concert performances at London's famed Rainbow TheatreThe first concert was recorded in March, during the Queen II tour  the second, taking place just eight months later, during the Sheer Heart Attack tour.

QUEEN - Circa '74
(Brian May, John Deacon, Roger Taylor and Freddie Mercury)
The two set lists are similar, and feature the band's best from its self-titled 1973 debut, as well as selected gems from its sophomore release. However, the second concert offers an expanded song selection that also includes prime nuggets from Sheer Heart Attack.

Musically, Queen had nuts and guts to spare — particularly during this period. And that raw, savage vibe comes across throughout as loud and clear as the band's lively and adoring audience. May's signature guitar style, along with Taylor's masterful drum technique and Mercury's iconic vocals sound as powerful and potent here as when these shows first were recorded 40 years ago. 

QUEEN - Live at the Rainbow '74
(An impressive package)
Simply put, Queen's songs clearly have stood the test of time. Noteworthy tracks featured in both concerts include "Son and Daughter" and "Modern Times Rock 'n' Roll" from Queen, as well as "Father to Son" and "Ogre Battle" from Queen II.

However, the BIG payoffs include "Keep Yourself Alive" from Queen"Seven Seas of Rhye" and "Liar" from Queen II and "Killer Queen" and "Stone Cold Crazy" from Sheer Heart Attack. Even the remake of Elvis' "Jailhouse Rock" is a high-energy highlight. "We will rock you," indeed! 


-Christopher Long
(September 2014)

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

RECORD REVIEW: Nicholas "I Fill Myself with You"

Singer / songwriter Nick Hildyard
I Fill Myself with You

One of my current
favorite singer /
songwriters returns
this summer with 
an incredible
collection of new
tunes and a couple
of re-recorded,
previously released
golden nuggets.

I touted Nick Hildyard (aka Nicholas) in my latest book, SHOUT IT OUT LOUD, as being one of the preeminent artists on today's contemporary Christian music scene. And for as much as I liked his self-titled 2013 record — and I liked it A LOT, his latest effort, I Fill Myself with You, marks an engaging and energized step forward.

Produced by legendary multipurpose go-to ace, Joe Vitale (EaglesJoe WalshCrosby, Stills and Nash), Bruce Hensal and Nicholas, the record launches with "Call My Name." The delicate piano track pops against the subtle yet driving guitar riffs and the lyrics offer uplifting encouragement.

"Our Deliverer" is a re-recorded song from Nick's previous release. However, possessing a "new and improved" sharper edge and some snappy Eagles-style slide work, it's even more compelling than the original version — a bona fide treat, to be sure.

A beautifully heartfelt love ballad, "God Gave Me You" makes for one of the record's brighter moments — a song highlighted by Nick's signature Jon Anderson-meets-Shannon Hoon vocal style.

Also a repeat from his last record, "If Only" is cleaner and more lively than when first released in 2013. Boasting fatter production and additional instrumentation, the tune now packs deliciously crisp drum and guitar work.

"Taking it for Granted" captures a rootsy and organic REO circa '75 vibe and oozes plenty-o-slide guitar factor. Musically, it's the best and most authentic AOR-sounding of the batch.

With its transparent lyrics, honest vocal delivery, and delicate Laurie Partridge-like piano / keyboard work, the mid-tempo title track is a true gem and brings the record to a perfect conclusion.

In sum, I Fill Myself with You is a superb record — one filled with impeccable songs and top-notch performances — a world-class piece of work, indeed.

-Christopher Long
(September 2014)

Bruce Hensal c/o BailOut Productions
(407) 297-6355 /

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

RECORD REVIEW: Ace Frehley "Space Invader"

Available NOW — in stores and online. 
Space Invader
Entertainment One Music
Hey, smell that?
That's the distinctive 
aroma of burning 
wig fibers and grease 
paint. Yep, must be the
"Simmons brothers"
fuming over being
spanked by their 
former bandmate.

Simply put, Ace Frehley has created some of the greatest rock music ever. He's also produced some world-class crap over the years too. However, his latest collection, Space Invader, showcases some of his finest work to date.

Produced by Frehley, the former KISS guitarist's sixth solo record arrived in stores and online on August 19th via Entertainment One Music. More of a true solo effort than his previous releases, the Space Invader band is comprised merely of Frehley on vocals, guitars and bass and Matt Starr on drums — along with a smattering of keyboard, bass and backing vocal contributions.

With its blistering "I'm in Need of Love"-style solo, the title track makes for a hard-hitting opener — Ace is back, and he told you so, indeed!

"Gimme a Feelin'" and "I Wanna Hold You" both exemplify signature Frehley at the top of his game, while the riff-laden "Toys" hearkens back to his classic Alive! era. And "Immortal Pleasures" oozes a catchy "Dolls"-like cadence from his 1987 Frehley's Comet record.

"What Every Girl Wants" is Space Invader's crown jewel. This guitar-driven, cock rock treasure is without question one of Frehley's hookiest, no-holds-barred tracks in a very long time.

Co-written by Frehley and Chris Cassone, "Past the Milky Way" is another mighty highlight. Deeply personal lyrics accompany some of Frehley's all-time most blistering guitar work. At this point in the record, the "Simmons brothers" should be experiencing a bit of buyer's remorse regarding their current obedient sidemen.

Everyone tells me when we're together,
I'm a better man.
And you help me feel so strong again.
When I'm with you, I always do the best I can.
(From "Past the Milky Way")

Frehley's remake of Steve Miller's "The Joker" is simply superb and he succeeds in making the 1974 classic his very own. In short, it's so fresh and so fun, it could truly become a "New York Groove"-caliber hit.

Space Invader closes with "Starship" — the latest in Frehley's long line of epic instrumental com- positions. Clocking in at just over seven minutes, this is his most unique and compelling opus since 1978's "Fractured Mirror." And yes, I have seen George Jetson!

(Melbourne, FL - 1993)
All four original KISS members now have weighed in and taken more than ample nasty shots at each other with their respective salacious tell-alls. But at the end of the day, everybody's just gotta shut up and let the music do the talking. The half-scab version of KISS has Monster — Ace Frehley has Space Invader. And although Gene and Paul won the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame battle, Ace clearly has won the street cred war  hands-down!

-Christopher Long
(August 2014)

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

CONCERT REVIEW: Rock 'N' Blues Fest - "A Tribute to Johnny Winter" / Melbourne, FL / 8.13.14 (Guest Post)

(Photos: Michelle Wilson)
- A Tribute to Johnny Winter -
w/ Edgar Winter
Vanilla Fudge / Peter Rivera
Kim Simmonds
King Center / Melbourne, FL / 8.13.14  

Michelle Wilson re-
turns with another
front row concert
review. I really wish
I had seen this one.

ROCK 'N' BLUES FEST - Melbourne, FL  (8.13.14)
The recent passing of legendary guitar virtuoso, Johnny Winter, was a devastating loss to legions of musicians and fans throughout the world. With his unrivaled guitar skills and unique style, the Texas bluesman has left his indelible mark on the music industry. Before his untimely death, Winter was scheduled to headline the Rock ‘N’ Blues Fest along with the Edgar Winter Band, Vanilla Fudge, Peter Rivera formerly of  Rare Earth and Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown. In homage to Winter, the tour transformed into a celebration of the icon’s musical legacy. Thanks to promoter, Brevard Music Group, the collective embarked upon Melbourne, Florida’s King Center for the Performing Arts for a night of lively, upbeat music, stellar acoustics and engaged fans.

Kicking it all off at precisely 8pm was legendary Welsh blues guitarist and founding member of Savoy Brown, Kim Simmonds. Touted as one of the leading innovators of late 1960s British blues and influenced by the likes of John Lee Hooker and John Mayall, Savoy Brown’s early sound was steeped in Chicago blues. Simmonds 20-minute set offered up some cuts from his latest record, “Goin’ to the Delta,” including the title cut and “Nuthin’ Like the Blues” as well as “Poor Girl” from “Looking In, ” during which Simmonds showcased a masterful harmonica solo. Backed by Edgar Winter’s brilliant band members including guitarist Doug Rappoport, bassist Koko Powell and drummer Jason Carpenter, the combination of Simmonds’ high energy, incredible guitar skills and outstanding vocals set the tone for the remainder of the dynamic show.

(The King Center / Melbourne, FL)
Next up was Peter Rivera, and the drummer / lead vocalist and founding member of Rare Earth never played or sounded better. Also supported by Winter’s band but with Carpenter moving over to the Hammond B3, Rivera and company delivered rousing renditions of Rare Earth classics including “Hey Big Brother,” “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” “Get Ready” and “I Just Want to Celebrate,” all of which were written and performed by others but covered by Rare Earth. Rappoport and Powell provided additional beautiful backing harmonies. It was a thrill to watch Rivera behind the kit as he impressed the audience with his masterful skills during the 25-minute set.

Boasting three of its original four members and taking the stage just shy of 9pm, Vanilla Fudge members included singer / keyboardist Mark Stein, guitarist Vince Martell and quintessential drummer Carmine Appice, as well as Powell on bass. Known for their reinterpreted, psychedelic covers, the seasoned players delighted the crowd with such memorable hits as “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Shotgun” and “People Get Ready,” which they dedicated to Johnny Winter. Stein’s vocal range is still incredible and Martell is a joy to watch as he plays guitar, but it’s Appice who steals the show.  Unquestionably one of the most transcendent drummers ever, I was enthralled by Appice’s tremendous talent, especially from my front row vantage point. 

EDGAR WINTER (8.13.14)
As renowned as his brother Johnny, Edgar Winter has a stellar musical history of his own, fusing a jazz, blues and rock flavor that boasts more than 20 records. Following a brief intermission, Winter and his band graced the stage and opened with Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” a clear reference to his late brother, and then followed it up with the John D. Loudermilk-penned “Tobacco Road,” which Edgar dedicated to Johnny. The multi-talented instrumentalist, who played saxophone, keyboard and timbales throughout, delivered such renowned hits as "Frankenstein," Dan Hartman’s "Free Ride" and Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61,” during which Simmonds came on stage and played killer slide. Wrapping up the event, Edgar was joined by everyone for a snappy version of the Jagger / Richards staple, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” to end the epic evening. Admittedly, I was a bit perplexed by the song and artist choice, as I would have expected the show to close with a Johnny Winter song. Having said that, however, it still was quite an enjoyable experience peppered with guitar and drum solos, and one that undoubtedly would have done Johnny proud.

-Michelle Wilson
(August 2014)

Do you have something to say, something to get off your chest or an amazing story to share? From pop culture views and reviews to political commentary to messages of faith, my blog is a great platform for writers to showcase their work. There are very limited criteria for submitting a post. Your views don't even have to be in line with mine — just create and contribute a compelling, well-written story. Interested? Send me and email.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014


OF THE 2000s

I've written extensively
this year—looking back
and revisiting events,
movies and music of
the '60s, '70s, '80s and
'90s. But today, it's all
about the iGeneration.

I recall having a conversation with a particular famous rock star while driving up the Florida coast several years ago. As we headed to our favorite beachside Mexican restaurant, we discussed the various changes taking place in the music business in those days. At one point, he commented that in the not too distant future, we'd no longer be buying music in any hardcopy format — that we'd all soon be carrying our entire music libraries with us everywhere — inside of tiny pocket-sized digital devices. I thought he was nuts.

Years later, the rock star has been proven right. In 2014, we consume music in an entirely different manner than we did even just ten years ago. In fact, I recently handed a CD to a teenage girl at church — to which she replied, "What am I supposed to do with this?" Out of the mouths of babes. But be sure, whether you're downloading from iTunes, shuffling old school CDs, or spinning archaic LPs, the term "record" merely implies a collection of recorded songs — regardless of the format. Hence, this list reflects some the best new millennium "record" releases. You may notice that my personal taste leans toward crunchy pop / rock, created by humans who sing (with their own voices). And they play authentic instruments, and write songs that hook ya from the first chorus.


shortly after its release,
I referred to this one as
"the perfect pop record."
And I still stand behind
that assessment.

From the opening chords of
"Blueside," this So-Cal combo
immediately harnessed the
stylistic songwriting genius
of Brian Wilson and fully
captured the pure magic of
the The Beach Boys — at a
time when I'd all but given
up on pop music. Other
highlights include "Stay
Away" and "I'm Shakin'."

At first, I was nearly duped
by Good Charlotte's tattoos,
piercings, guy liner and snarly
attitude. But be sure, this ain't
no punk record. In fact, with
hooks large enough to reel
in Buicks, this record is as
poppy and appealing as any
Cheap Trick classic.
Not since The Knack hit
in 1979 had I crunched on
such a tasty treat. Featuring
 the hooky hits "Just the Girl"
and "Catch Your Wave," this
treasure landed in the Top 20.
Co-written by KISS frontman,
Paul Stanley, "Angel to You
(Devil to Me)" is another of
the record's many highlights.

When a band has been around for
so long, and has ingested so much
that its members have died, it gets
a pass for not having its original
line-up intact. Co-founders David
 Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain
returned after a 30-year hiatus and
delivered a record that's closer styl-
istically to Appetite for Destruction
than to the Dolls' previous efforts.


With his fourth solo effort,
singer / songwriter / producer
Butch Walker recreated the
modern day equivalent of
Born to Run. It's the crown-
ing jewel of his impressive
career-spanning catalogue.


A crazy girl turned me on to this
one in '08. Check it out for your-
self. If "Set Phasers to the Sun"
and "New American Classic"
can't convince you that it's one of
the greatest rock records ever, you
may wanna check your pulse.

The songs — crisp, clever and
catchy. The band — razor-sharp.
The Beatles-meets-The Monkees.
A record that's packed with such
 amazing hooks, "Stacey's Mom"
 isn't even the best of the batch!

This Is Love

A well-crafted, heartfelt and
life-changing collection
created by a gifted group
of singers, musicians and
songwriters. The cure for
whatever ails ya! Read my
complete review HERE.

Volume 3

M. Ward are angels
sent from God.
Read my official
record review HERE.


Simply put, Justin Furstenfeld
is a total genius. These songs
are so unique — so brilliantly
beautiful that it still hurts my
soul to listen to the record —
nearly a decade following its
release. The perfect testament
to the power of music. Bravo!

These lil' stankers first hooked
me with "The Reason" back in
2004. Then, this record hit in
2009. To this day, I still wet
myself every time I hear it.
 "I Don't Think I Love You,"
"So Close, So Far," "All About
You," "The Letter," "Tears of
Yesterday," "You're the One"
 — Fornever makes me
happy not to be dead.

Wake Me

Snappy and happy.
Catchy and crunchy.

This is THE
greatest record
(That is all.)

I hope that you've had fun with this feature. I sure had fun putting it together. I also hope that you may have discovered some great new music.

-Christopher Long
(August 2014)

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Monday, August 11, 2014


Magnolia Pictures

Michelle Wilson returns with
an insightful screen review.
THIS one, I gotta see!

Muscle Shoals, Alabama likely would have been the last place in the world for the birth of not one, but two iconic recording studios. This sleepy little area on the shores of the Tennessee River encompasses a “magic” all its own, and “it’s like the songs come out of the mud,” as U2 frontman Bono suggests in this 111-minute documentary that chronicles the formation of Rick Hall’s FAME Studios and The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Sections’ (dubbed The Swampers) Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. The collaboration between black singers and white session players was virtually unheard of, but as Hall points out, “we were color blind” in the studio. Clarence Carter also reinforces this notion: “Music played a big part in changing people’s thoughts about race, especially in the South. Each time a person went to Muscle Shoals, they came out with a hit record. You had to know there was something magic in Muscle Shoals.” Carter goes further by explaining that there was no use of “Mr.” in the studio when addressing the white session players: “You just worked together. You never thought about who was white or who was black. You thought about the common thing and it was the music.”

Rick Hall with Clarence Carter at FAME
Recording Studios, Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Chock full of interviews, commentary, photos and footage from various renowned recording sessions, the film offers a glimpse into how it all came to fruition. Additional insights are added by Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records, Gregg Allman, and Jaimoe. The production is peppered with fascinating background stories and anecdotes too numerous to mention but definitely not to be missed. From Duane Allman’s slide guitar epiphany, to Aretha Franklin’s tension-filled sessions, to Etta James’ temper, to cutting tracks with the Rolling Stones and even to the rise of Lynyrd Skynyrd, there is so much packed into this movie that it warrants multiple viewings.
The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, or The Swampers,
Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, Sheffield, Alabama.
Directed by Greg “Freddy” Camalier with interviews conducted by Stephen Badger, the film delves extensively into the tragic early life of Rick Hall, who was raised in extreme poverty almost solely by his father. A horrific accident led to the death of Hall’s young brother, and his mother left the family for a life steeped in prostitution. Hall vowed to rise above his situation and to make something of himself, and after a series of downfalls and further heartbreaks including the loss of his first wife in a car accident, Hall returned to Muscle Shoals and opened FAME.  With the words of his father always ringing in his ears, Hall didn’t just want to be good at something; he wanted to be the best. Infamous for a perfectionist work ethic and a quick temper, Hall could be “a joy and pain to work with,” as soul singer Candi Staton mentions. Hall’s first group of session players was so exceptional that they went on tour opening for The Beatles, and not long after Hall had to replace all of them as they graduated to bigger endeavors. It was his next group of session players, nicknamed The Swampers by Leon Russell producer Denny Cordell, who would help solidify Hall’s place in music history.

Aretha Franklin with The Swampers, FAME Recording Studios,
Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
The film chronicles the partnership and eventual falling out between Hall and Wexler, which led to Hall signing a new contract with Capitol Records. No sooner had he closed the deal when his session players unilaterally decided to follow Wexler across town and open their own studio, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Comprised of bassist David Hood, guitarist Jimmy Johnson, drummer Roger Hawkins and late keyboardist Barry Beckett, The Swampers proceeded to perform on endless hit records for major acts. Johnson even received engineering credit on The Rolling Stones’ blues-based gem, Sticky Fingers, and is a major figure in this narrative with invaluable remarks throughout. Both recording studios found great success after parting ways, as Hall hired his third group of session players and even received the prodigious Producer of the Year award in 1971.

Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman, Atlantic Studios, New York City.
(Photo: Stephen Paley)
The one component that this in-depth feature may have lacked was a more thorough examination of Duane Allman. For as groundbreaking as his slide guitar work was as a session player and with the Allman Brothers Band, the coverage of him seemed a bit light. His innovative guitar style literally helped launch an entire music genre, not because playing slide was new, but because seemingly no one in a contemporary band had incorporated it into the music until Allman’s arrival. Due to his conservative nature, Hall was unaccustomed to Allman’s lifestyle and voiced his concerns about working with him to Phil Walden, co-founder of Capricorn Records who eventually would buy Allman’s contract from Hall and transform the Allman Brothers Band into a huge success. Walden advised Hall to stick it out and that Allman would make him millions, but as Hall admits, “I missed the boat on that one.” This was even after the famous Wilson Pickett session that, at Allman’s suggestion, spawned the remake of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” and as Swamper guitarist Jimmy Johnson states, “all of a sudden there was Southern rock.”

Bono succinctly sums up the essence of Muscle Shoals and its impact on not only the music industry, but also on the world: “If you look at the recording studios, they were humble shells. But what they contained was an empire that crossed race and creed, ethnicity. It was revolutionary.”

-Michelle Wilson
(August 2014)

Do you have something to say, something to get off your chest or an amazing story to share? From pop culture views and reviews to political commentary to messages of faith, my blog is a great platform for writers to showcase their work. There are very limited criteria for submitting a post. Your views don't even have to be in line with mine — just create and contribute a compelling, well-written story. Interested? Send me and email.