When I was planning this Birthday Bash, one of the last days to fill up was July 4th. I was on Twitter one night, wondering “aloud” if anyone would actually read the blog on the 4th. (Being a Canadian, I know the US isn’t *gasp* the centre of the universe, but still …they do seem hooked on the internet. Well, almost as much as my family.)

My good friend, Susan Helene Gottfried, from West of Mars and Win-a-book (who may have sent some of you here) stepped into the fray and volunteered to write today’s blog.

Susan has dual passions – writing and music. She’s worked in record stores and radio stations. She’s worked for tour promoters both in the office and as part of the stage crew. She’s even organized Metallibash – an “unofficial Metallica fan convention.” So it should come as no surprised that when it came to writing, she’s combined both loves and created her own fictional band, Shapeshifter. Those who have followed her blog have come to love the band – Trevor and Mitchell are my faves.

Enough of my palavering … here’s Susan — the “hero of the day.”


Maybe you Canadians capped off Canada Day earlier this week with fireworks. Many of us Americans will be awaiting the arrival of dark tonight with the same expectation.

Me, I’m fireworks blasé. It’s a by-product of living near Pittsburgh, which has got to be the fireworks-show capital of the world. I mean, in Pittsburgh, fireworks are set off when the Pirates win (okay, so that’s not so often anymore). Or when they score a home run (even less as often). We set off fireworks within our local communities to close out Community Day. Fireworks light up our skies because of a regatta, a parade. Heck, I even set them off indoors once, when my fictional band ShapeShifter celebrated New Year’s Eve onstage. (You can read all about it in my book: The Demo Tapes: Year 1) And you’d better believe that there will be some during the upcoming G20 summit, when world leaders gather to see my city strut its stuff.

It wouldn’t surprise me if fireworks are so common here that on any given night, you can find at least a few in the greater metro area. After all, what better way to celebrate Uncle Joe’s 101st birthday than with some boomers? If we get the really loud ones, he might be able to hear them without his hearing aids in…

I don’t know who came up with the idea of fireworks. I do know that Pittsburgh and fireworks go so well together because a couple of the big firework manufacturers are located here, about an hour north of the city itself. Maybe the city and the surrounding townships and municipalities (and everything else, from towns to villages to boroughs) get a deal on their fireworks. In exchange, we’re the testing ground for the new and innovative things being developed up there near New Castle.

Maybe sheep really come in all those cool colors that you can buy wool socks in, too.

It never dawned on me that this proliferation of Oohs and Aaahs was anything but normal. It never dawned on me that if I lived anywhere else (and I have, actually. Three different anywhere elses), there wouldn’t be nearly so many fireworks.

I never thought about, not until the local media pointed it out. To me, it’s just another cool fact of being from Pittsburgh. We have champion sports teams. We have fireworks. That’s how it is in Western Pennsylvania.

Now, this blasé spirit hasn’t stopped me — or the rest of the people in the city — from flocking downtown to watch the biggest of the best of the displays. For the past three years, my family and I have gone down to the Carnegie Science Center around dinner time on the Fourth. We’ve spent a few hours playing before going out on the patio for front-row seats.

Front row of what, you ask? Well, mostly front-row for the massive display set off over the confluence of the city’s famed three rivers. But invariably, every year as we wait for our monster show, earplugs in hands, we get to watch three, maybe four, smaller shows.

Maybe it’s the local townships and municipalities. Maybe there are a lot of Uncle Joes who have birthdays to celebrate. I don’t know.

After the fireworks have died down and the smoke cloud begins to float up the river, slowly dissipating, we head back inside the Science Center. More fun awaits us inside; the exhibits are open until midnight, and then we bed down on the hard concrete floor for a few hours of bad sleep.

It’s been awesome. It had become a tradition.

This year, for whatever reason, the Science Center isn’t holding the sleepover as part of the Independence Day festivities. I’m at a loss as to what to do with myself.

I’m okay with the idea that I might miss fireworks. Really, I am. I can see fireworks the next time I’m downtown, I’m sure. Like I said, they happen all the time here. I remember the night in college when I was driving across a bridge and, just like that, pulled over to watch some fireworks. We never did figure out why they’d been set off. Must’ve been Uncle Joe’s 101st birthday.

Instead, I think I’ll spend the night and the morning after doing something decidely un-fireworks-like. I’m going to turn on my TV, grab a manuscript to edit, and soak in the start of the three week challenge that is the Tour de France. I’m going to dream about being physically fit enough to do something so amazing as the famed race. And I’m going to work on my books.

Because as Leah and all of her other friendly guests will tell you, when we writers create really good fiction, we create our own fireworks. When a scene clicks or a character comes to life and steals a scene… fireworks. Oh, they may not go as high into the air and they may not go bang as loudly as the real things, but in terms of the way those moments set a writer’s heart to pound…

They’re better.

Have a safe and happy Fourth, all my American friends. And the rest of you, the next time you see a fireworks display that has no apparent reason, go on and wish Uncle Joe a happy hundred-and-first birthday. Or be sure to wish Leah a happy *coughfiftiethcough*. That firework above? One of Pittsburgh’s best.

For one of Canada’s best.


Canada’s best huh? Anyone else think Susan’s been inhaling a few too many sulphur fumes from the fireworks? Anyway, she’s giving up an e-copy of her Demo Tapes: Year 1 to a lucky commenter today. Trevor does not come as part of the package no matter how nicely you plead, though if we leave lots of comments, he has said he may drop in here.

Oh, and Happy 4th to all those of you south of the 49th parallel. (And those of you in Alaska too – didn’t mean to exclude you.)

Oooh, Aaaah, Ooooh, Aaaah

19 thoughts on “Oooh, Aaaah, Ooooh, Aaaah

  • July 4, 2009 at 4:07 am

    Hero of the day. Heh heh Het.

    You rock, Leah! Thanks for having me!

  • July 4, 2009 at 5:30 am

    Thanks for the visit on your holiday….I hope everyone stays safe. I will be watching your American fireworks tonight as I watch them over the St Clair river…Are you sure ALL the ooohs and aahs were for the fire works? You do write fiction right? LOL

  • July 4, 2009 at 5:37 am

    Since leaving D.C., I never get to see great fireworks anymore. I usually start catching them on tv along with the Boston Pops or something. It's amazing that I still like them so much. My father told me the display they took me to when I was three is the reason I'm so disturbed by thunderstorms, loud booms, and flashes of light. Curious.

  • July 4, 2009 at 6:32 am

    Here in Germany we also have fireworks at different times of the year and for different celebrations.

    I'm actually from England and our big firework night is 5th November. If you've ever watched V For Vendetta, you'll know why.


  • July 4, 2009 at 6:48 am

    I saw fireworks yesterday at the taste of Chicago but then again I've been seeing and hearing fireworks now and then all over around me. City or not, the folks around my neighborhood are in preperation mode for tonight. Happy July 4th everyone!

  • July 4, 2009 at 8:24 am

    I like the fireworks but it's also not the same as when I was younger. Now I more like to watch the show happening then being in the middle trying to pick which one next and stuff. i also like the bigger show. We live pretty close (few blocks away) to the highschool that puts off the big firework show in my small town so we don't have to fight the crowds to be able to watch the big ones in the sky we can watch from our backyard or frontyard. It's nice.
    lexeetoste at sbcglobal.net

  • July 4, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Love the fireworks. We'll be catching the Macy's fireworks display tonight. Happy July 4th.

    janie1215 AT excite DOT com

  • July 4, 2009 at 9:53 am

    I love fireworks, but it looks like they will be rained out tonight. I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July.


  • July 4, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    We used to take the boys down to the fireworks on the lakefront when they were little. But I'm not sure they do them anymore. So many cut backs these days.

    They used to have a contest in Toronto every year, but I think that's stopped too. Even still, Toronto get the nice big flowery-type fireworks on the fourth. But of course our "Fireworks Day" was generally Victoria Day (towards the end of May.)

    We usually curl up on the couch and watch the Boston Pops playing in Boston every year.

  • July 4, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Hey, Happy 4th. I used to love goint to watch the fireworks, in Colorado they were set off over the lake, and where I grew up in Florida they were set off over the ocean (you could see several sets at the same time). Now, not so much, but I do like watching them on TV. 🙂
    P.S. don't enter me in the contest, I have a copy. 🙂

  • July 4, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Hey Ya'll. Happy 4th of July from Texas. We love our fireworks BIG.
    Have a great weekend.

  • July 4, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    'What better way to celebrate Uncle Joe's 101st birthday than with some boomers? If we get the really loud ones, he might be able to hear them without his hearing aids in…' – LOL! Sometimes I think you're writing in the wrong genre. You are hilarious, Susan!

    Happy Fourth of July, my friend.

  • July 4, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    We don't have many fireworks displays down this end of the world. In fact, I can't remember the last one I saw. I'd have to think really hard.

    Susan, I love the fireworks/writing comment. I'm off to create some fireworks of my own. 😉

    I already have Susan's book, so don't enter me in the contest, and I have to say, everyone needs to meet Trevor and the band. Like Leah, Mitchell is one of my favorites too.

    Happy 4th July to everyone in the US.

  • July 4, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    There's been small fireworks going off around here since yesterday morning, and even some dummy shooting a shotgun. Not too smart in the city.
    We only have small shows on the 4th here now.. Everything is put into Thunder over Louisville, the begining of the Kentucky Derby Celebration.. so the city can't afford doing any other big show. Which is ok, I'd rather not have my house literally rattled more often [I'm 10 miles away from where they have it].
    Have fun & be safe everyone.
    ioki_jo at hotmail dot com

  • July 4, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    of course fireworks are huge in Texas, but, sadly, the fire hazard takes a lot of fun out of it. We'll have some small ones here, since we're out in the country, but we'll also usually able to see about three or four different county or city displays from the roof. 🙂

  • July 4, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    Happy 4 th July!

  • July 4, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    We don't have fireworks nearly as often in Denver as you were describing in Pittsburgh. That said, we do have a a number of big displays on the fourth to choose from as three of our major sports teams play and each have a display. So, our three outdoor stadiums each have their own display that is pretty cool to watch.

    The best part for me is that the displays from two of the stadiums are visible from my grandparents' house which is just up the street from where I live. My family's tradition is to go up there and sit in their front yard and watch the displays. This year it was only me and my parents up there, but it was still a lot of fun.

  • July 5, 2009 at 1:06 am

    I have not been to a fireworks show in years, with the perceived hassle with parking and navigating the crowds but they are pretty. The firework displays are mostly planned by the cities and then all the people who buy the smaller stuff and set it off for hours. Actually is 2am here and mostly quiet now.

  • July 5, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Loved watching the fireworks through the eyes of my 2yo girl last night!

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