Friday I had one of those runs that makes life shining and glittery… simply awesome.

Forgive me as I descend into clichés, I’m sorry- it simply can not be helped.  The sun was shining, but it was early enough so that it was not scorching.  The birds were singing.  Okay, I didn’t actually listen to the birds most of the time as I had my iPod going, but they were singing.  It was that kind of morning.

There are days that pass and I’ve accomplished nothing, squat.  There are other days that I fall into bed at night and I revel in what the hours held, what I was able to pack into them.  My kind of days!

I am running more. (Have to, can you say, “winter pudge?” Seven pounds and NONE of my shorts fit… grrr.)  That always translates into fabulous advances creatively.  With pain comes rewards. One of the universal truths that I continue to forget, though God knows my respective coaches, especially Larry Meredith, did their darndest to grind it into my thick skull: if it doesn’t hurt, you aren’t doing it right, Gardner.

This past Friday I set my iPod to Iron Maiden and hit shuffle.  In forty-five minutes as I ran the five miles in the out and back Sycamore Grove course I composed this blog, a short story and the final two chapters in my newest novel, Sea Strand, currently in process.  It was… epic.

I was forty, heck, past forty when I discovered Maiden.  Now, to be honest it wasn’t like I was slumming all my life.  I love Rush, Dio, Scorpions, AC/DC, Zeppelin, Priest, Metallica, Queensryche, Muse and Nightwish.  Somehow, I just never got around to Maiden.  Then came the day when Dio and Maiden played together.  I went with my usual partners in crime: Jim and Michelle, and was forever changed.

Let me explain… an Iron Maiden show is like a huge beer hall where everyone knows the songs and the crowd moves together in a rhythm that includes each last soul.  Michelle and I are usually outnumbered by the men twenty to one (even more if you take out the women that look like men) so there are never lines in the ladies’ room.  We have never been hassled at a Maiden show.  Not one word, not one gesture, not ever and we’ve been to what, Mitch?  Like six shows?  I mean, that’s quite a few seeing as that covers the maybe three years since we realized what we were missing.

Iron Maiden is, at the end of the day, a creation of Steve Harris, the bass player.  He is their leader and primary (though not only) song writer.  Harris is well-read, intelligent, passionate and it shows.  The album Brave New World is based on Huxley’s actual work, and the Rime of The Ancient Mariner is likewise literature-inspired (“water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink“).  They quote Shakespeare (appropriately, I might add, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy” – from Dance of Death).  If Bach, Wagner, Beethoven or Mozart were alive today– they would be writing with the passion, the noise, the bombast and the intelligence of Iron Maiden.  There is no greater compliment.

This is music that drives one- and it inspires me.  Meet one of my muses… with apologies to some of my friends and family’s collective eardrums… this is Iron Maiden…

I have written and conceived battle scenes thanks to the imagery of The Clansman:

I have written evil, soul sucking creatures who will drain away your will to live in your sleep while listening to Fear of the Dark:

And on Friday, I figured out how to defeat a two thousand-year-old Sea Witch while running to Ghost of the Navigator:

Then there is one of my very favorites… the power to seize the day, because life is short and destiny is ours, if only we will it.  This is The Clairvoyant:

Here are the lyrics- find your muse, whatever it may be, just find it.  Then chase its inspiration and climb the skies.

Only 94 days until my next Iron Maiden show… joy, sheer joy.

Feel the sweat break on my brow
Is it me or is it the shadows that are dancing on the walls
Is this a dream or is it now
Is this a vision or normality I see before my eyes

I wonder why I wonder how
That it seems the power’s getting stronger every day
I feel a strength an inner fire
But I’m scared I won’t be able to control it anymore

There’s a time to live and a time to die
When it’s time to meet the maker
There’s a time to live but isn’t it strange
That as soon as you’re born you’re dying

Just by looking through your eyes
He could see the future penetrating
Right in through your mind
See the truth and see your lies
But for all his power couldn’t foresee his own demise

There’s a time to live and a time to die
When it’s time to meet the maker
There’s a time to live but isn’t it strange
That as soon as you’re born you’re dying…
… and reborn again?

There's a storm coming

There’s a storm coming

This post was written by Erika Gardner.  If you enjoyed it, please sign up to receive updates on this blog.  Or you can follow Erika on Twitter @Erika_Gardner or “Like” her Facebook page Erika Gardner- Writer and Storyteller.