Sunday, September 29, 2013

Monday Moves

Happy Monday! This week's Monday Moves features my favorite singles skater of all time - Michelle Kwan. The move of hers that I'm living for is her charlotte spiral in her Scheherazade long program. If you've read Edge of the Past, you might remember this move from the scene where Emily and Liza were on the ice together.

After you watch this particular move, I encourage you to rewind the video and watch the program in its entirety. I was so blessed to be in the audience at Staples Center that night, and it was one of the most electric moments I've ever experienced at a skating event. I dare you to watch this performance and not get goosebumps!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


We're six weeks from release day of Fighting for the Edge!! I think it's time for another sneak peek :)


Time dragged at an agonizing rate as we waited for our turn to skate. I paced back and forth in a straight line between Sergei and Chris, blocking out their idle chatter. Our choreography ran through my mind, and I tried to channel the emotion of each move. Sergei and I had created the program together one night at the rink when we’d had the ice all to ourselves. We’d played the entire thirty-seven minutes of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and just skated around, feeling where the music took us, finding the right stanzas to explore. Every second of the program had meaning to me, and I wanted to perform it perfectly every time Chris and I skated.
Our team leader motioned to Sergei, so he ushered Chris and me rinkside. I faced away from the ice so I wouldn’t see how Maddy and Damien were skating, but I couldn’t shut out the loud cheers. The more I heard, the more jittery my legs became.
Chris stepped in front of me and grasped both of my hands. “We’re gonna nail this.”
I bobbed my head up and down, focusing on Chris’s warm hands instead of the deafening applause surrounding us. We can do this. We WILL do this.
A minute later, we shed our skate guards and took the ice. Adrenaline dulled my back pain, and I zoomed around the rink, ears on alert for the Canadians’ marks. I’d studied all the numbers, and I knew our top score for the season. Would Maddy and Damien top it?
The announcer read the free skate score and then gave their combined total with the short program. My neck tensed. Two points higher than our season’s best. We were going to have to land the quad to win.
I slowed my pace as Chris skated to my side. We stopped before Sergei, and he gave us a confident smile.
“You’ve improved this program at every competition, and you’re ready to take it another step right here, right now.”
Chris and I both took deep breaths, and Sergei locked eyes with each of us. “Show them your determination. Show them your hearts.”


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Book Spotlight: Set to Love

Today I'm featuring a new release from my fellow Astraea Press author Jennifer Rae Gravely. I love sports romances and this looks like a fun one!

The championship is her dearest desire, not love.

Recently appointed girls’ volleyball coach at Keowee High School, Randi Sly spends the night with rival coach Blake Steele after getting sick from drinking too much wine. Rumors swirl as the two battle for the State crown.
Join Jennifer's Facebook party on Monday, September 30th to celebrate the release of Set to Love. Stop in to say hello, eat virtual cake, and win some great prizes.

Jennifer's Bio:

Born in Ohio but raised in Pickens, SC, I graduated from Converse College with a triple major in history, politics, and English before earning my master’s degree in education. Returning to my high school alma mater to teach English and to coach volleyball, my teams won four state championships and six upper state titles in ten years. I live with my husband, daughter, seven beagles, and one cat. Set to Love is the second romance published by Astraea Press featuring the fictional Southern town of Keowee.

Twitter: @JenniferRaeGrav

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Monday Moves

This week I'm going old school with Monday Moves. There was a Russian pair team in the 90's that was always known for great technique and very inventive lifts. Elena Bechke and Denis Petrov were overshadowed by their Olympic-gold-medal-winning Russian teammates Katia Gordeeva/Sergei Grinkov and Natalia Mishkutenok/Artur Dmitriev, but Bechke and Petrov came into their own during their pro career. It was then that I grew to love them and their creativity. My favorite program of theirs is the Spartacus program in the video below, and I live for the lift where Elena soars high in the air on the climax of the music. Her position is exquisite.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2013 U.S. International Classic Recap

I’ve been home from Salt Lake City for less than two days and I'm already experiencing PSED (Post Skating Event Depression). I miss my friends that I get to see only a couple of times a year! Now that I have some time to collect my thoughts on the event, I’ll go day-by-day and give my first-hand impressions.

On Thursday I arrived at the rink just in time to see the men's short program warmup. In the first group, Josh Farris had lots of trouble with the quad and was looking shaky on the triple axel, too. I was so happy he did a much better axel in the actual competition later. Grant Hochstein landed a quad-triple but couldn't duplicate it later in the competition. In the second group, Max Aaron was popping off quads like nothing. I'm not a fan of his new hairstyle or his costume, but his jumping is "first rate" as Uncle Dick would say.

After the men's warmup, I scooted over to the ice dance practice in the main rink.When I tried to take a seat on the judges' side, I was shocked and beyond annoyed to learn that no spectators were allowed on that side of the rink (last year there were no restrictions). I always sit on the judges' side because photographing skating from the opposite side results in lots of backs and butts in photos. Skaters design their programs with the key elements and poses facing the judges. The bleachers on the judges' side were practically empty, so why ban us lowly spectators from sitting over there?

Sorry for the rant. Back to the skating! I was most excited to see Meryl Davis and Charlie White's free dance run-through and also Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt's FD run-through, and neither disappointed. I've been wanting Lynn and Logan to try the classical style for a long time, and it looks beautiful on them. Their wonderful lines and lyricism are really shown off in this Spartacus program. In the same practice group, Meryl and Charlie cast a spell over the place with their Scheherazade run-through. They only did sections of the program, but it was enough to blow me away. Their movements were so balletic and fluid. Charlie's really caught my eye because he's always been a little "on the edge" with his movement, but here he's so controlled yet powerful and soft all at the same time.

After a quick dinner break, I headed back to the rink for the pairs and men's short programs. I was very happy Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir and Tarah Kayne/Danny O'Shea skated well. Kiersten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch's program works so well for them, and I can see why they kept it another year. It was a treat to see it again. They were the clear leaders at the end of the event.

The men's short wasn't too pretty. Lots of technical difficulties. I loved the tension in Josh Farris' tango choreography.  It's such a different look from his usual lyrical programs. Wish he could've landed the quad, but it was a good attempt.

I enjoyed Stephen Carriere's Scheherazade program a lot. Great choreography by Tanith Belbin. It was also great to see Grant Hochstein's Lady Caliph program again. He has such beautiful lines. Max Aaron's artistry looked improved over last year, but I had to roll my eyes at Tom Zakrajsek giving him the same Latin music that Ryan Bradley skated to (and I think also Brandon Mroz?) Agnes Zawadzki also did a mambo program while she was training under Tom. Is skating to a mambo a rite of passage in his camp?

Friday started early with the short dance warmup in the practice rink. Afterward, there was only enough time to run to Corner Bakery for lunch before going back to the rink for the short dance. My friends and I managed to sneak over to the judges' side, so we had a great view of the action. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje's program was cute, but I prefer their more serious and emotional programs (like their FD, which I'll discuss later). Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus's program was also fun and it showed off their very nice power and speed. If I may offer a costume critique - I don't think long skirts work for skaters who are on the shorter side. I'd like to see Stasia in a shorter skirt for the SD and without the belt, which I think cuts her off at the waist. I loved the length of her red FD dress last year. It was the perfect style for her.

Meryl and Charlie's program was utterly charming, and they looked incredibly crisp and polished for the first performance of the season. They were flying across the ice. I also enjoyed Nicole Orford/Thomas Williams' performance. Thomas seems to often be channeling Charlie. If so, he's picked a great role model!

I skipped the ladies' short program on Friday afternoon so I could grab an early dinner and be back at the rink in time for the pairs free skate. The event started off shakily with Felicia Zhang/Nate Bartholomay's uncharacteristically error-riddled performance. I was worried something might be wrong with Nate after he singled his jumps and they aborted two lifts. The energy picked up after that with great performances from the medalists. Kayne/O'Shea have a gorgeous look on the ice and they had a very strong outing of their Don Quixote program. So many wonderful little moments in their choreography. I'm very excited about their future!

Caydee Denney/John Coughlin also threw down another great performance. I forgot to mention that I thought their Tosca short program music cut was really bad. I don't think Tosca is meant to be short program music. But back to the long, they skated very well in their return to the international stage after John's injury. Moore-Towers/Moscovitch also skated superbly. Their La Strada program was so impressive, and so were their jumps. Pairs at Canadian Nationals is going to be very interesting!

The men took the stage after the pairs, and I may have zoned out on a number of the performances. Max Aaron's Carmen program had a couple of moments I recognized from Evan Lysacek's Carmen. Again I could see a bit of improvement in Max's artistry as I did in the SP, but I think he still has a ways to go to make the movements convincing. He has to really feel it. In comparison, I thought Josh Farris really felt the choreography of his Schindler's List program. His circular step sequence was stunning, and even with the jump mistakes I felt he was emotionally invested in the entire performance. If he skates this up to par at Nationals, he'll have everyone on their feet.

The men's medal ceremony was quite entertaining. Max had to go backstage to do an interview for a reporter who had a deadline, so Josh and Stephen Carriere had to wait rinkside for him to return for photos. Stephen took it upon himself to entertain the crowd, asking us questions and then telling us a childhood story. It was a great time!

On Saturday, I had a leisurely morning until we headed to City Creek for lunch and then the rink for the free dance warmup. We got our first look at the fabulousness of Meryl's Scheherazade dress and "ooh'd" and "aah'd" over its regal look. Nothing else noteworthy transpired until this happened:

My friend and I had an epic fangirl moment when we got a picture with coach Igor Shpilband. He loved our shirts!

Once again we passed on watching the ladies' competition in favor of uploading photos at the hotel and stopping for an early dinner at Taco Bell (keeping it classy!). It sounded like we didn't miss much. When we returned to the rink, the tailgaters were out in full force for the Utah-Oregon State football game. It was fun seeing the sea of red all over the streets. Inside the rink, the ice dance teams showed us a variety of styles. Isabella Tobias/Deividas Stagniunas had some cool moves in their James Bond free dance. I especially liked the move near the end where it looks like Isabella is reaching for the sky.

Lynn and Logan had a few bobbles in their free dance, but I absolutely loved the program and the freedom in their movements. I thought they showed wonderful emotion with each step, and their highlight moves are stunning. I also liked that the first cut of music is a lesser-known piece from Spartacus. It's a beautiful section of the ballet. And then it crescendos to the popular section that builds so well and drives the emotion even higher. This is another program that can bring the house down at Nationals.

In the final group, I thoroughly enjoyed Weaver/Poje's tango. They didn't use any of the tango warhorses, so it felt fresh, and I loved the simple costumes. I think their best look is sensual and passionate, and this program shows off that strength.

I wasn't crazy about Penny Coomes/Nicholas Buckland's Michael Jackson program. There were too many music cuts for my taste. I liked Julia Zlobina/Alexei Sitnikov's Pina free dance because it reminded me of Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy's Pina program, which is my favorite of theirs. Zlobina/Sitnikov have impressive flow across the ice, and I think they're going to be a team to watch.

Meryl and Charlie took the ice last and provided the perfect exclamation point to the evening. They've clearly studied the Scheherazade ballet in training this program. Every step has a purpose, every movement matches the music. They ran out of steam a little at the very end, but for the first outing of the season it was amazingly performed. The program has masterpiece written all over it.

I love this event in Salt Lake City, and I hope the USFSA continues to hold this competition there for many years. It's an easy flight, the airport is super close to downtown, the rink has a relaxed atmosphere (despite the dumb new seating restriction this year), and there are lots of dining options near the host hotel. And you can't beat the price of the ticket - $30 for an all-event pass! It's the perfect setup for an international event.

Next up on my skating travel calendar is Skate America in Detroit! I'm so excited to finally visit the ice dance capital of the U.S. I'm going to try to visit a couple of the training rinks while there. Only a few more weeks until the Grand Prix season begins!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Moves

I'm a little late with Monday Moves this week, but I got back into town late last night from the 2013 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and wanted to highlight one of the moves I saw there over the weekend. It's the amazing opening lift of Meryl Davis and Charlie White's Scheherazade free dance. The entrance, the positions... I'm living for everything about it!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

2013 U.S. International Classic-Saturday Events

So Saturday was pretty much an amazing day. I'll write lots more when I get home, but here are the photos from Saturday's events! I skipped the ladies again because it was dinner time. Priorities!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

2013 U.S. International Classic-Friday Events

Friday started early with the Short Dance warmup. After a quick break for a late breakfast/early lunch we were back at the rink for the Short Dance competition. As I have been known to do on many occasions, I then skipped the ladies short program in favor of having a meal. Then it was back to the rink for the pairs free skate and men's free skate!

Here are the photos from the Short Dance warmup and competition and the pairs FS and men's FS and medal ceremonies. (plus a couple of videos post-men's medal ceremony)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

2013 U.S. International Classic-Thursday Events

Hello from Salt Lake City! The action has begun at the U.S. International Classic. Busy, busy day so no time for reports just yet, but here's the link to my Thursday men's and dance practice photos and a few practice videos of Meryl Davis and Charlie White:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sergei POV Scene - With Liza

I had to take a break from the Sergei POV scenes to finish edits and proofreading for FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE, but that's all done now, so I have a new scene to share! This is the first one from EDGE OF THE PAST I've written. Check out more about it after the spoiler space!


This scene takes place at the Boston rink fundraiser shortly after Liza comes to the Cape to visit. Sergei and Liza are spending the day together alone for the first time.


“Liza, would you like some pasta?” I asked as we approached the Italian food booth at the carnival. “Emily’s Uncle Joe is an awesome cook.”
Liza’s gaze went from me to the big pot of steaming pasta then back to me. “Yes, please.”
I was still filled with amazement every time I looked at her. Seeing my own eyes on her pixie face… knowing I’d created her, this beautiful, special little girl. I had to stop myself from staring at her in wonder.
Uncle Joe gave us a big smile and wiped his hand on his red apron before extending it forward. “You must be Liza. It’s very nice to meet you.”
Liza’s tiny hand disappeared inside his. “It’s nice to meet you, too, sir.”
“Well, you’ve got some good manners there, young lady. But we’re gonna be family soon. You call me Uncle Joe.”
“Okay.” She smiled shyly.
Uncle Joe shook my hand next. “How you doing, Sergei?”
“I’m good. Just trying to figure out this dad thing.”
“You’re gonna be a pro. But if you have any questions, call me anytime. With three kids, I’ve seen it all… and more.”
He turned and filled two bowls with his pesto pasta, and I put my money on the booth. Liza’s eyes widened as she took one of the bowls and inhaled the mouth-watering aroma.
“Thanks, Uncle Joe,” I said and picked up two plastic forks from the bin.
“Make sure you stop at the cookie booth,” he said.
“Oh, we did already. Liza has a couple of bags in here.” I patted her purple backpack.
She and I moved over to the small area of tables beside the rink, and I brushed powdered sugar off two of the chairs before we sat.
Liza took a bite of pasta, and I asked, “Do you like it?”
She hummed and nodded, and I said, “Emily is a great cook, too. She has this recipe and makes it all the time.”
“Do you think she’d show me how?”
I was about to say sure, but I clamped my mouth shut. I’d promised Elena I’d help her get back in Liza’s good graces. Discouraging Liza from spending time with Em seemed ridiculous, though. I wanted them to be close. Em was going to be my wife for goodness sake. But I could see how much it hurt Elena to be shut out by Liza, so I had to somehow balance everyone’s needs.
“I bet she’d love to show you, but she’s pretty busy getting ready for Worlds, so she probably won’t be cooking much the next few weeks.”
Liza’s mouth drooped a little, and she turned to watch a small group of girls goofing around on the ice. I pushed the bowties around in my bowl with my fork and tried to think of something to bring her smile back.
“So, what’s your favorite thing about skating?” I asked.
She finished chewing and shifted her eyes toward me, brightly shining once again. “Going fast and feeling like I’m flying.”
I smiled. “I noticed when you were practicing yesterday how fast you skate. You have a lot more speed than other kids your age.”
“My dad used to call me Speedy–“ She stopped and bit her lip. “I mean, my adopted dad.”
Part of me was incredibly envious of the man who’d been able to raise Liza from birth, but I was thankful she’d had a great father. From what Elena had told me, he’d been the kind of father every kid dreams of having.
“It’s okay.” I rested my elbows on the table and leaned toward Liza. “You can still call him Dad. I’m very happy he was there for you all the years I couldn’t be. I don’t want you to ever feel like you can’t talk about him with me.”
She continued to chew on her bottom lip. “What should I call you then?”
I knew what I longed to hear her say when she looked at me, but I had to be patient. Liza was overwhelmed with enough at the moment.
“Sergei is fine. We don’t have to rush into any special titles.” I gave her a smile and was relieved when I received one in return.
Liza dug into her pasta, and I found myself staring again. What had she looked like as a baby? As a toddler? I’d missed so much of her life. Time we could never get back. How often would I see her once she and Elena returned to Russia? A couple of times a year? What kind of father could I be to her if she was so far away?
There was a potential solution – one both Em and Elena might think was crazy. But it was really the only thing that made sense. Liza should be living in the States. Just seeing how happy she’d been the past few days being back here, I knew that was the best option for her. It would be an adjustment for Elena to move here, but I could help her with the transition. The way Liza had begged me to take her out of Russia… I couldn’t stand the thought of saying goodbye to her in three weeks and making her return to a place where she was so miserable. She belonged here. With both of her parents to help her through all the changes in her life.
I just had to convince Em and Elena.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Monday Moves

This week's Monday Moves features an ice dance couple I'll get to see compete this week! Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt are one of my absolute favorite teams, and their 2010-2011 free dance to "I Belong To You" by Muse was such a gorgeous program. The two moves from that program that I live for are the straight-line lift and Logan's split-slide move at the end of the program. Check them out below!

This is an exciting week because it brings the first big international skating event of the season. The Olympic season! And I'll be in Salt Lake City later this week to cover all the action at the U.S. International Classic! Look for lots of photos and videos here on the blog. I can't believe another Olympic year is here already. It doesn't feel like it was four years ago that I was planning my trip to Vancouver and freaking out because I was actually going to realize my dream of attending the Olympics. I won't be making the trek to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Games, but I'll be attending the International Classic this week, Skate America in October, and U.S. Nationals in January, so there will be lots of event coverage coming your way!

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Release date of FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE is less than two months away! Here's a little Emily and Sergei moment from the book :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Monday Moves

Welcome to the second edition of Monday Moves! Today's skating moves that I live for are Jeff Buttle's spirals and spread eagle from his 2004 Samson and Delilah long program. Commentator Dick Button swooned over them, and so do I! This program was so beautifully constructed (and I adored the music cuts), and every move fit the emotion of the music so well.