Monday, February 27, 2012

Michal's Window by Rachelle Ayala

My friend and writing critique partner Rachelle Ayala has published her debut novel Michal's Window, and I wanted to let everyone know about a special promotion she's having to celebrate the release.  If you download the book (currently priced at 99 cents!) before March 3, you can sign up for a $50 Amazon gift card giveaway! Just go to Rachelle's website and follow the instructions.  

Here's a little bit more about Michal's Window:

In ancient Israel where women are possessions, Michal, King David's first wife, is on a mission to claim his heart.

She lost it all in one agonizing moment . . .

Princess Michal is used to getting everything she wants, and she has her heart set on the young hero David. But their passionate love affair is destroyed by her father's murderous rage. Will David's departing promises be enough?

David the King is no longer the charming harpist she gave her heart to. The most powerful man in Israel, he falls into the arms of the beautiful Bathsheba. Temptation comes in the form of a dashing Philistine warrior. Michal vows to be the only woman in David's heart, but does she know her own?

A novel of betrayal, forbidden love, and redemption, Michal's Window is an imaginative retelling of King David's story through the eyes of the woman who loved him first.

I've had the pleasure of reading the book, and Rachelle has crafted a story you won't forget. She has a beautiful writing style that puts you back in ancient Israel, experiencing the emotions of these larger-than-life characters. Rachelle's writing career is off to a wonderful start with this novel!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - 2/26/12

Today is Six Sentence Sunday, where both published and non-published writers share six sentences from their work. I've posted an excerpt from my novel LIFE ON THE EDGE. Emily and Sergei are having coffee, and Emily is still struggling with her feelings.

Sergei grinned and laid his arm across the chair next to his. I laughed and soaked in the positive energy between us. 

As I sipped my coffee, I watched Sergei rest his hand on the table beside his mug. What would happen if I reached out and put my hand on his? Let my fingertips caress the smooth skin, the soft brush of hair just below his watch. Would the earth stop turning?

Thanks for stopping by! To read Six Sentence Sunday from other writers or to sign up, visit the Six Sunday site here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sweet Saturday Sample - 2/25/12

For this week's Sweet Saturday, I've posted another deleted scene from my current release LIFE ON THE EDGE. Emily, Sergei, and their friends are at a barbecue at Emily's aunt's house, a few months after Em and Sergei start secretly dating. Em encounters her cousin Katie, a dance student at NYU.....

Later I was helping myself to chips and spinach dip when Katie waltzed into the kitchen and sidled up next to me. I waited for her to make one of her usual condescending remarks.

“I don’t know how you concentrate at practice every day with a coach that hot,” she said.

I clamped my lips together, forcing myself not to smile. “I’m very focused on my skating.”

Through the wall of windows, we had a clear view of Sergei on the patio, and I watched Katie’s eyes latch onto him. “I’m guessing he doesn’t have a girlfriend since he came alone? You need to hook me up.”

Hold on just a minute, sister. “Actually, he does have a girlfriend.”

“Where is she?”

Defying good judgment, I snapped, “She’s right here.”

Her big brown eyes grew even larger. “You?”

“Yes, me. And you can’t tell a single soul, understand?”

“Wow. I’m impressed.” She smiled and folded her arms. “Secretly hooking up with your coach . . . that’s pretty juicy.”

“My mom and dad know.”

“Aunt Laura must’ve pitched a fit.”

I don't know if fit is a strong enough word, I thought as I placed more chips on my paper plate. “She’s coming around slowly."

Katie cocked her head and studied me for a moment. “I didn’t think you had it in you.”

“What?” I narrowed my eyes.

“Sneaking around. And with an older guy. You’ve always been the good girl,” she snickered.

“Well, this good girl’s all grown up now,” I shot back.

Nice. You must be doing something right to get a guy like that.”

I bit down on my lip, holding in another rash reply, and instead thought carefully how to respond. “You’d have to ask him since he’s the one who made the first move.”

Katie shifted her gaze to Sergei again. “I hope he’s not making moves on his other students, too.”

“I’m not even going to dignify that remark with an answer.”

“Come on, you know the reputation of Russian men. I see it with dancers all the time.”

I crumpled the empty chip bag and gave it an extra firm squeeze, causing a piercing squeak. “Well, I guess I got one of the good ones.”

“Or you’re just as naïve as you’ve always been,” she said and walked toward the den.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Don’t give her the satisfaction of upsetting you. The back door clicked shut, and I opened my eyes to see Sergei. His forehead crinkled as he approached me.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s just my cousin Katie. She can be such a . . .” I muttered an unintelligible sound and tossed the bag into the trash can beside the island. “I kinda told her about us. She’d better keep her mouth shut.”

“Why’d you tell her?”

“Because she was about to pounce on you, and I wanted to set her straight.”

Sergei's face broke into a slow smile. “Ah, so you were jealous.”

I poked his arm. “Don’t let it go to your head.”

For more Sweet Saturday samples, check out the list here!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Life on the Edge Dream Movie Cast

I'm taking part in the "Characters in Love" event at Imaginary Reads. Stop by to see my dream movie cast for LIFE ON THE EDGE!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - 2/19/12

Today is Six Sentence Sunday, where both published and non-published writers share six sentences from their work. I've posted an excerpt from my novel LIFE ON THE EDGE. Emily are Sergei are sharing a moment after a successful competition.

“Bet you never thought you’d see this day when you first started working with me,” I said. “I could hardly stay upright in the lifts.”

“I always knew you had it in you.”

Sergei’s hot breath teased my ear, stirring the feelings I’d locked away when I was on the ice. With my arms wrapped around his strong shoulders, my mouth so close to his neck, I fought to push those feelings down again. I put all my energy into expressing gratitude, the one emotion I was allowed to convey to him.

Thanks for stopping by! To read Six Sentence Sunday from other writers or to sign up, visit the Six Sunday site here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sweet Saturday Sample - 2/18/12

For this week's Sweet Saturday, I've posted another deleted scene from my current release LIFE ON THE EDGE. Last week's deleted scene left off with Sergei spraining his ankle as he ran after Emily while they played around in the yard. Em has brought Sergei home to his apartment after a visit to the emergency room.

I sat on the bed next to Sergei and positioned the ice pack on his bandaged ankle. "Do you need anything else before I leave?"

"I never got my victory kiss,” he said with a gleaming smile.

I laughed. "You are hopeless."

He placed his hand over his heart. "You can't deny a crippled man."

"Already playing the injury card, are you?"

"I can't chase after you, so I don't have many options."

"Well . . .” I let out an exaggerated sigh. “I guess I can give you one kiss . . ."

I leaned over and pressed my mouth gently to Sergei’s. One kiss turned into several, each lasting longer than the one before it. The soft tingle from his lips caressing mine was too much to resist.

When I finally moved to stand, Sergei reached for my hand. "Don't leave me. You're a better pain reliever than Advil."

I smiled and squeezed his palm. "I wish I could stay, but I have to skate early in the morning, remember?"

"I know your coach, and he'll take it easy on you." He winked.

"Yeah, right. You know you're going to be cranky because you can't get on the ice with us.” I gave him a quick kiss before sliding off the bed. “Call me if you have any emergencies.”

"Does needing more kisses qualify as an emergency?"

I laughed and shook my head as I walked toward the door. "Goodnight."

For more Sweet Saturday samples, check out the list here!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

2012 Four Continents Review

My weekend at the Four Continents competition in Colorado Springs was a whirlwind trip! I arrived very late Friday night and started the event early Saturday morning with ice dance practice at World Arena. All the dancers looked relaxed and ready to go. Between the run-throughs, we were treated to Gloria Estefan tunes, keeping the Latin SD spirit going.

After a quick trip back to the Cheyenne Mountain Resort for lunch, my friend and I returned to the arena for the pairs short program. It was a great event for the American pairs! Amanda Evora/Mark Ladwig, Mary Beth Marley/Rockne Brubaker, and Caydee Denney/John Coughlin all treated the home crowd to great performances. Of the other competitors, two pairs caught my eye - Yue Zhang/Lei Wang of China and Paige Lawrence/Rudi Swiegers of Canada. I hadn't seen Zhang/Wang at all before, and I thought they had a nice softness and elegance about them. This was my first time seeing Lawrence/Swiegers skate live, and I liked the relationship between the two of them and their commitment to the character of their program.

The short dance followed, and the final group had a USA vs. Canada theme with Meryl Davis/Charlie White and Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir vying for gold, while Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani and Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje battled for bronze. I thought the Shibutanis gave the performance of the night, totally letting loose and owning every movement. My favorite part was when Alex let out a loud "whoop" during the program. On a fashion note, I wish Meryl would go back to the gold dress she wore at Nationals, and I'd like to see Tessa return to the pink fringe. I don't think the style of her new purple dress flatters her.

There was a row of restaurants down the street from the arena, so we thought dining options would be plenty, but everyone in the arena seemed to descend upon the restaurants all at once. With the long waits, we opted for Chuck-E-Cheese, where we could relive our childhoods and get in and out quickly. We returned to the hotel after dinner and stopped in the restaurant for the delicious dessert bar. Everything I ate at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort over the weekend was great!

The ladies free skate was in full swing by the time we got back to the arena. The skating in the penultimate group was disappointing, but the final group brought lots of excitement. Caroline Zhang and Ashley Wagner inspired standing ovations, and Mao Asada thrilled us with a beautiful triple axel. I hadn't seen Mao skate live in a few years, and I'd forgotten how she floats across the ice.

Sunday morning started again with dance practice, followed by the pairs free skate. Unfortunately, the altitude may have had an effect on the skaters as the competition was quite sloppy. The two best performances were given by Denney/Coughlin and Sui/Han. The Chinese pair still look like junior skaters to me, so I thought they were a bit overmarked. It was scary watching all the guys lift the girls near the end of the programs when I knew they had to be struggling with the altitude. I had to hold my breath a few times.

After the messy pairs event, I became even more worried about the skaters making it through their free dances with the altitude issues. There were indeed some scary moments, such as Alex Shibutani looking terribly ill after he and Maia skated. And I audibly gasped during the final moments of Meryl and Charlie's free dance because I thought Charlie might face plant on his butterfly leap. Weaver/Poje gave the most memorable performance in my opinion - they didn't look affected by the conditions at all.

The Exhibition wrapped up the event, and I greatly enjoyed a number of the performances. Takahiko Mura rocked out to one of my favorite Muse songs, "Neutron Star Collision," and Narumi Takahashi/Mervin Tran showed they could dance in their program to "Little Less Conversation." The Broadmoor Skating Club's group number was a lot of fun - seeing all the pairs teams together on the ice and seeing Larry Ibarra make a cameo with a great backflip!

The three Exhibition programs I'll remember most are Evora/Ladwig's, Adam Rippon's and Daisuke Takahashi's. Evora/Ladwig displayed so much joy in their program. They have such great class in their skating. Adam extracted every ounce of emotion from Rachmaninov's beautiful Piano Concerto No. 2. He looked completely at peace and in the zone as he flew across the ice. And Daisuke. What more can be said about him? He skated to a quiet instrumental piece, but he made it larger than life with his presence and his liquid-like movements. I feel so privileged every time I see him skate live.

I've added a couple of videos from the Exhibition to the end of my Sunday photo album here. One is a little interview with Adam Rippon and the other is Mark Ladwig introducing Caroline Zhang.

I was spoiled this year with so many events to attend in North America. I'm sad this was my last skating trip of the season, but I'll still be blogging! Check back for more thoughts on the skating world and also updates on the progress of my sequel to LIFE ON THE EDGE!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

2012 Four Continents - Sunday Events

Will do reports on the Sunday events later. Photos posted below!

2012 Four Continents - Sunday Events

2012 Four Continents: Saturday Events

Greetings from snowy Colorado Springs! Lots of action on the ice today - dance practice, pairs short program, short dance, and the ladies free skate. I'll put together some thoughts on the events later, but I wanted to upload my photos as soon as possible.

Included with the event photos are some shots from the beautiful Cheyenne Mountain Resort. I've always wanted to stay at a cozy lodge, and this hotel is that exactly. The weather is a little colder than I'd like, but the snow makes everything so pretty!

Here are my photos from Saturday's events:

2012 Four Continents - Saturday Events

Six Sentence Sunday - 2/12/12

Today is Six Sentence Sunday, where both published and non-published writers share six sentences from their work. I'm sharing the opening six lines from my WIP, the sequel to LIFE ON THE EDGE. Working title is EDGE OF THE PAST.

Last practice before Grand Prix Final - no mistakes!

I repeated that over and over in my mind as Chris pulled me into our pairs spin, our blades tracing tight circles on the ice. We whirled around, and I caught a glimpse of Sergei, our coach and my fiance', keenly observing us. In two days I'd be visiting his home country of Russia and meeting his parents for the first time. All while trying to win one of the biggest competitions of the season. No sweat.

Thanks for stopping by! To read Six Sentence Sunday from other writers or to sign up, visit the Six Sunday site here.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sweet Saturday Sample

For this week's Sweet Saturday, I've posted another deleted scene from my current release LIFE ON THE EDGE. This scene was part of the first draft of the story before I made a lot of cuts and altered the timeline of events. Emily and Sergei are spending the weekend alone on Martha's Vineyard at Em's aunt's house. They're getting ready to play croquet, which Em used to play with her cousins but Sergei has never heard of.

I set up the wickets around the expansive yard and gave Sergei a brief explanation of the rules. Once we started playing, he quickly moved around the course, and before long he was beating me rather handily.

"You're sure you've never played this before?" I asked.

He held up his hands and chuckled. "I swear, I haven't."

I stalked toward my red ball, cursing my apparent rustiness with the game. Later when Sergei gained an even bigger point lead on me, I took my mallet and knocked one of his balls clear across the yard.

"Hey!" he exclaimed. “What are you doing?"

"Oops, guess I slipped." I shrugged and widened my eyes with innocence.

He laughed. "You are such a sore loser."

"I haven't lost yet!"

"I'm giving you a three-shot penalty for misconduct," he said, trying not to smile.

"You don't have the authority to do that."

He crossed his arms over his chest and spread his feet firmly. "Oh, I have the authority."

My frustration was momentarily forgotten as I couldn’t ignore how hot Sergei looked in his stance. The aviator shades resting on his slightly sunburned nose, the T-shirt stretching over his tanned biceps, the khaki shorts that showed off his muscular legs . . .

I cleared my throat and folded my arms, mimicking Sergei. "Well, let it be known I am finishing this match under official protest."

"You know, we never said what the stakes are," he said. "I think the winner should be entitled to something."

"I think bragging rights will be a sufficient prize."

"No, there should be more . . . like the winner gets to pick the meal and movie of their choice next weekend."

I scrunched up my nose. "Ugh, then you're going to make me watch some weird foreign film with subtitles."

"Are you conceding the match?" He smiled.

"Not a chance." I pointed my mallet at him. "Go get your ball and let's finish this."

It didn't take long for Sergei to complete the course, at which time he thrust his arms into the air. "Victory!"

"Yeah, yeah, you got lucky on your first time out. And I haven't played in a few years."

He grinned. "Yep, that's the sore loser I know and love."

"I'm just telling it like it is," I huffed.

He held his mallet in both hands and looped it behind my back, using it to trap me against him. "You can't admit I beat you fair and square."

I tilted my head upward. "If beating a girl at a country club sport means that much to you, then by all means, go ahead and gloat."

"Oh, I will. And I'm looking forward to picking out a good movie next week. Something Italian . . . or French . . . a very long movie. And you can cook a three-course dinner. What's something that takes a really long time to cook?" He lowered his mouth toward mine with a smile. "That's what I'll want."

"I might be a sore loser, but you're an obnoxious winner.” I pushed lightly on his chest.

"Uh-uh, you're not getting away. The fine print says the winner gets a victory kiss, too."

"You're gonna have to catch me first.”

I wrestled away from Sergei and took off running across the yard. He sprinted after me, so I turned and reversed direction. As I ran toward the side of the house, I heard Sergei cry out in pain.

For more Sweet Saturday samples, check out the list here!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pairs Behind the Scenes Video

In LIFE ON THE EDGE, I mention a lot of behind-the-scenes moments at skating competitions. Tom Wehrle shoots amazing videos backstage at events, and his video of the pairs at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships shows many of the types of moments I reference in my book - from the emotion in the Kiss & Cry to walking through programs backstage. Check out this wonderful video!

Check back this weekend for my photos from Four Continents in Colorado Springs! I'll be attending the pairs and dance events!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Romancing the Valentine Giveaway

Romancing the valentine giveaway hop
The Romancing the Valentine Giveaway Hop is being hosted by Reading Romances!

WHAT YOU CAN WIN HERE: a $10 Amazon gift card!
OPEN TO: U.S. and International
HOW TO ENTER: Leave a comment below telling me where you'd go on your dream Valentine's Day date

Welcome to the Romancing the Valentine Giveaway Hop! This is my first time participating in one of these, and I'm excited to be a part of this hop with so many great authors.

My debut novel LIFE ON THE EDGE, released last month by Astraea Press, is a sweet romance set in the world of figure skating. Here's a brief look at the story:

Nineteen-year-old Emily is new to pairs skating, but she and her partner Chris have a big dream - to be the first American team to win Olympic gold. Their young coach Sergei, who left Russia after a mysterious end to his skating career, believes they can break through and make history.

Emily and Chris are on track to be top contenders at the 2002 Winter Games. But when forbidden feelings spark between Emily and Sergei, broken trust and an unexpected enemy threaten to derail Emily's dreams of gold.

Emily doesn't have much dating experience since she's been focused on her skating career. But she's an old-fashioned romantic at heart and knows how she'd love to spend Valentine's Day if she had a special guy in her life . . . especially if that guy was Sergei.

Emily dreams of their Valentine's date taking place in her hometown Boston. Sergei picks her up at her parents' house in neighboring Brookline, and they take the T (the area's subway) to Boston Common for their first stop of the night. Em and Sergei lace up their skates and join the crowd on frozen Frog Pond. They don't do any fancy moves like Em and her partner Chris do in competition; they're happy just holding hands and enjoying the feeling of gliding around the ice together.
After skating, they hop on the T and head to the North End, Boston's Italian neighborhood (where Em's mom grew up). The elegant restaurant Lucca serves as their destination. Em and Sergei savor every bite of their delicious pasta dinner before bundling up their coats and walking a few blocks to Modern Pastry for their favorite Italian dessert - cannoli!
Stuffed from dinner and the decadent dessert, Em and Sergei take the train to the Public Garden, where they walk among the snow-covered trees and gaze upon the frozen lagoon shining under the moonlight. Their stroll through the park takes them to Beacon Street, and they make their last stop of the evening at Starbucks. Sergei orders his standard no-frills cup of coffee while Em gets her usual skinny latte. They sit at a table nestled close to the windows and watch as light snow flurries begin to fall outside.

The dream date ends with Sergei bidding Emily goodnight on her front porch, giving her a kiss that could melt glaciers.

I hope you've enjoyed learning a little about Emily and Sergei. Check out more of their story in LIFE ON THE EDGE, available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and!

Don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card! Let me know where you'd go on your dream Valentine's Day date (please include your email address in your comment). 

Hop and enter the other giveaways here!

Six Sentence Sunday - 2/5/12

Today is Six Sentence Sunday, where both published and non-published writers share six sentences from their work. I'm sharing an excerpt from my debut novel, LIFE ON THE EDGE, released last month by Astraea Press.

In this week's excerpt, Emily and her friends have just left the competitors' party at Skate America. Emily is trying to deal with her feelings for her coach Sergei.

"You guys wanna hang out downstairs for awhile?" Chris asked as he did a few hip-hop steps on the way to the lobby, sending us into more laughter. We passed the hotel bar, and I saw Sergei and his dinner companions had moved over from the restaurant.

My smile faded, recognizing yet another reminder of how Sergei was out of reach. He was where he belonged, networking over drinks with officials, and I was where I belonged, being silly with my fellow skaters. 

The dividing line between our roles was too defined to cross.

Thanks for stopping by! To read Six Sentence Sunday from other writers or to sign up, visit the Six Sunday site here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sweet Saturday Sample

For this week's Sweet Saturday, I've posted another deleted scene from my current release LIFE ON THE EDGE. This scene was part of the first draft of the story before I made a lot of cuts and altered the timeline of events. It takes place a couple of months into Emily and Sergei's relationship.

After our morning training sessions, Aubrey, Marley, and I drove to one of our favorite lunch spots near the rink. As we dove into our salads, Aubrey said, "Marley and I were thinking about doing a shopping trip to Boston this weekend. You in, Em?"

"Can we do it next weekend? Sergei and I are going to the Vineyard this weekend."

Aubrey held her fork in midair. "You're going for the day?"

"No, we're going to the cliffs for the sunrise, so we're leaving Saturday and coming back Sunday.”

Marley raised her eyebrows, while Aubrey set her fork on her plate. "You're staying the night? Just the two of you?"

"Yeah. At my aunt's summer house."

Marley glanced between Aubrey and me. "This is pretty big, Em."

"I know what you’re thinking, but it's not like that," I said.

"You can't really be that naïve," Aubrey said.

"I'm not. I just don't think something has to happen simply because we're alone together."

"Alone in a house . . . at night . . . on an island . . ." Marley added.

"You've gotta know it's the only thing Sergei's thinking about. Honestly, I'm surprised it's taken him this long to make a move," Aubrey said, leaning back in her chair.

"Well, we've been alone at his apartment plenty of times. I guess I've made my boundaries subtly clear," I said.

"Clear enough that he won't be expecting anything this weekend?" Marley asked softly.

I bunched up the napkin in my lap. "I was looking forward to this trip, but now you guys are stressing me out about it."

"I can't believe you weren't already thinking about what could happen,” Aubrey said. “What are you going to do if Sergei expects more?"

"I have to be honest.” I lowered my eyes to the table. “I just hope it doesn't make him have second thoughts about us."

For more Sweet Saturday samples, check out the list here!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

2012 Nationals - Sunday Events

Sunday brought another early wake-up call because the Friends of Figure Skating breakfast was scheduled for 8:00am at the arena. After mingling with a few skaters, I headed to the concourse to kill time before the second group of men took the ice for their free skate. In that second group, Alex Johnson skated wonderfully, and I attempted to throw a stuffed Smuckers strawberry onto the ice, but it flew sideways and almost hit the IceNetwork commentators. It would've been awesome had it landed on their desk!

There was barely time to breathe between the men's event and the pairs free skate. My nerves were again on edge for a couple of teams. The first group skated magnificently, highlighted by the balletic performance of Gretchen Donlan/Andrew Speroff. The final group had a few missteps, unfortunately by my favorite teams. The results didn't quite shake out as I'd hoped, but I do think we have a strong team going to Worlds.

Another quick turnaround followed the pairs and led into the final two groups of the men's free skate. In the first group, Jonathan Cassar inspired a standing ovation. There is a plethora of beauty in his skating. Also skating well in the first group was Grant Hochstein, another lyrical skater who doesn't need the jumps to be entertaining.

In the final group, Adam Rippon and Jeremy Abbott both redeemed themselves with strong performances after last year's Nationals disappointments. Jeremy's free skate to Muse suits him so well. He just flows through the connecting moves and hits every nuance of the music.

The pairs medal ceremony provided some humor when Donlan/Speroff first bowed in opposite directions and then broke protocol by going around the back of the podium to hug the other medalists. It was too cute.

We had a few hours before the Exhibition to unwind at the hotel, and then it was back to the arena for the final event. I'd waited all season to see Jeremy's "Hometown Glory" exhibition live, and he didn't disappoint! That program gives me chills. I hope I get to see him skate it again at Four Continents. Adam's Rachmaninov exhibition was also to die for. The music is perfect for his style.

Here are the rest of my photos from Sunday's events and a couple of videos I took at the Exhibition. The first video shows Rockne Brubaker, Mark Ladwig, and Ross Miner pretending to slingshot Alissa Czisny into the crowd during the finale. The second shows the guys talking Mary Beth Marley into using the slingshot.

2012 Nationals-Men's Free Skate, Pairs Free Skate, Exhibition

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2012 Nationals - Saturday Events

My alarm went off early Saturday morning so I could make it to the last free dance warm-up group at the HP Pavillion. After a little blunder where I took the light rail in the wrong direction from the hotel, my friend and I made it to the arena with some time to spare. The top five ice dance teams took the ice and looked sharp in their preparations. My nerves were already buzzing, anticipating the close battle for the third and fourth podium spots.

With an early noon start for the free dance, we had to grab a late breakfast before the event. Back at the arena, a great crowd filled the seats to support the dancers. My favorite performance of the first two groups was given by Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus. They absolutely shine when they dance, and they have a wonderful connection with each other.

When the final group emerged from the tunnel, the intensity level of the event surged upward. All of the contending teams were worthy podium-finishers, but there were only four spots to be had. Madison Chock/Evan Bates started it off with a beautiful and lyrical performance. Their jazzy Chopin free dance remains one of my favorite programs of the season. Following them were Meryl Davis/Charlie White, who continue to amaze as they reel off one splendid performance after another. The audience completely embraced them and jumped to their feet after their rousing Die Fledermaus program.

Lynn Kriengkrairut/Logan Giulietti Schmitt had to follow the world champions, and they took the good vibes and ran with them. After a costly mistake in their free dance at last year's Nationals, it was exhilarating to watch them give their all and skate a perfect program in San Jose. Lynn was visibly emotional after the performance. I admit to screaming like a banshee when their scores came up and showed Lynn and Logan had earned a spot on the podium. Skating after them were Madison Hubbell/Zach Donohue, who impressed with their power and sultry connection. They've come on the scene quickly and made people take notice. The final skaters of the event were Maia and Alex Shibutani, who closed the show with their fast-paced swing program. Like Meryl and Charlie, they continue to amaze with their technical precision.

A nice break for a late lunch was in order after the free dance. I didn't return to the arena until it was almost time for the Hall of Fame presentation for Michelle Kwan. Michelle looked beautiful, and it was so moving to see her with tears in her eyes as the crowd rained down applause upon her. The highlight video was great, but I wish they would've also shown her 1996 Nationals performances since they took place in San Jose.

When the ladies' free skate resumed, my friends and I took the opportunity to cruise around the concourse and check out the displays and games since there were no crowds. We returned to our seats for the final group and saw Caroline Zhang's impressive comeback after a few disappointing years.

Check out the rest of my photos from all Saturday events!

2012 Nationals-Dance Warmup, Free Dance, Kwan Ceremony, & Ladies Free Skate