Sunday, March 4, 2018

Update on Writing and Activities

It's been a few weeks since my last post. The reason is because I've been busy on my work in progress and a few other things.

I've written every day—except one—since Jan. 1. I'm approaching 38k on the third book in the John Ross Boomer Lit series. If all goes to plan, I'll finish the first draft by the end of the month.

After that, I'll let it rest for a few weeks to simmer in my head, then return for a rewrite or two or three or (you get the idea) before submitting it to my publisher and editor. 

During the interim, my wife and I will be escaping the U.S. for a few days, crossing the big pond to the Emerald Isle. I traveled to Ireland in 2004 and vowed to my wife that I'd return with her. I love the place and the Irish. 

In February I participated in three web radio interviews, dealing with the opioid crisis spreading across America. My last novel, "Darkness Beyond the Light," focuses primarily on the epidemic and how John and Sally Ross confront the scourge.

If interested in listening to the interviews, just click here, here, and here. I'll be taking part in another webcast on March 12, along with four other panelists discussing school violence.

I also read two excellent books about writing: "The Writer's Lexicon: Descriptions, Overused Words, and Taboos," by Kathy Steinemann, and "Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting It)" by Janice Hardy. Highly recommended. Although I've written 12 books, I always find time to learn and improve on the craft.  In addition to books, I'm an avid reader of blogs that focus on writing, literature, and reading.
That's where I am at this point in time. Now back to the manuscript (by the way, I've discovered drinking hot tea boosts the creative juices).

Until the next time...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Story Songs: Covering The Bee Gees

There are millions of Bee Gees fans around the world. Perhaps even a billion or so. Count me in. 

Robin, Barry, and Maurice Gibb
The Brothers Gibb —Barry, Robin, and Maurice—sold more than 220 million records and registered nine No. 1 songs (in U.S.) during their illustrious career that spanned six decades. They were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

While they recorded numerous hits in the 1960s and '70s, what impresses me is their songwriting ability. They weren't a cover band. Perhaps that's why so many of their songs come straight from the heart and touched so many people.

But let's consider the artists who covered their songs, many with great success. Click here to get an idea about the group's songwriting prowess (you'll be surprised by the number of artists and the genres). It's a big reason the music of the Bee Gees will live on for many years. 

Here are some of my favorites covers:

By the way, my favorite by the band was their last hit, "One," a No. 7 song in 1989. From what I could tell, it hasn't been covered but I bet it will be in the coming years.

Do you have any favorites?

Until the next time. . . .


Friday, February 2, 2018

Online Book Marketing Challenge -- Followup

I'm an old author who doesn't mind learning a few tricks, especially when it comes to marketing and promotion. 

I completed the #12MinuteBookLaunch, a six-day exercise/webinar about promoting books, on Facebook. It was an enjoyable learning experience, conducted by Becky Robinson of Weaving Influence. It took only an hour out of my somewhat busy schedule (6 x 12 minutes = 72 minutes), and well worth the time and effort.

It provided useful tips for marketing my novel that was published last November, and I'll be using the lessons for my third novel in the John Ross Boomer Lit series that I hope will be released this year.

The online class showed me ways to recognize and expand my networks and email lists; how to ask others to help launch a novel; implement various LinkedIn tools to make valuable connections; use a free (I like free!) website to make graphics to share with others, and another freebie to send tweets. I would encourage other authors to participate in the webinars (I've already signed up for another one, scheduled for Feb. 6, pertaining to successfully launching books).

While you're here, feel free to connect and/or follow me at the following sites (I'll connect and follow back):

Until the next time. . . .

Monday, January 29, 2018

Online Book Marketing Challenge

I readily admit that marketing and promotion are my weak points when it comes to being a writer. My excuse is that I'm a writer, not a promoter or marketer. 

But I'm willing to listen and learn from others who know some of the ways to increase sales.

This week I'm participating in the #12MinuteBookLaunch, hosted by Hometown Reads (a place I recommend to join). It's a weeklong course, involving only 12 minutes a day. And it started today.

If you're interested in taking part, sign up by clicking here. I'd suggest doing it today (Jan. 29) or tomorrow.

I'll let you know if I see a jump in sales over the next few weeks. And good luck if you decide to enter the challenge.

Until the next time. . . .

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Can Journalists Become Successful Novelists?

A comment I've heard more than a few times is that journalists can't write good novels. I'm not sure what that means, unless there is some thought that journalists are hacks who don't have the skills and imagination to weave fictional stories.

As a former journalist—spending more than 30 years as a reporter, editor, columnist for newspapers, national news service, and magazines—I'm a bit taken aback by that kind of thought. There's almost a snobbishness to it, and it  usually comes  from those who majored in English, creative writing, or some artsy-fartsy degree. 

For some reason,  lawyers can write novels and doctors can write novels, but those whose lives are immersed in words (reading, writing, and editing) are somehow unprepared or ill-equipped to compose fiction.

Robert McCrum, in The Guardian, in defense of journalists, wrote "...we somehow want our hacks to be hacks, and our storytellers to be… masters of the fiction universe."

But is it that difficult?

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Robert Dietrich, who has authored 15 fiction and nonfiction books, offered this opinion in the Nieman Reports as part of the transition a journalist must make: "In journalism you often conceal your heart; in fiction you mine it. In journalism facts can carry a story; in fiction the telling becomes crucial so style and insight grow in importance. Newspaper editors cut the clutter of descriptive detail while fiction editors demand it. In journalism the punch line usually comes at the beginning, in fiction usually at the end."

Lucy Moore, writing in Female First, noted 10 reasons why journalists have the tools to become novelists. Among the skills is being a good listener, ability to research details, "quietly" observing others as well as surroundings, and being able to focus on writing and meeting deadlines.

Three years ago published a list of the jobs that 13 writers had before they become successful writers such as Stephen King (janitor), John Green (chaplain), Nicholas Sparks (salesman), and Agatha Christie (pharmacy tech). You know they used those life experiences in revealing truths in their novels.

And Paste Magazine listed 10 authors who didn't graduate from college, and came from a varied backgrounds.

As for journalists, have you ever heard of Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Ken Follett, George Orwell, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman, Mailer, Anna Quindlen, Stieg Larsson, Thomas Harris, and Pete Hamill? There are many more.

Some of my  friends with journalism backgrounds who write fiction include Cheryl Dellapietra (Gonzo Girl), Sharon Reynolds (Walking Air), Jonathan Miller (Alone Again), Silas House (Clay's Quilt, etc.), Ed Ford (The Plot), as well as the late David Dick (The Scourges of Heaven).

Novelists come from various backgrounds. Most folks can learn the craft of writing; it's not rocket science. Stephen King recommends reading a lot. Yes, there are rules but the primary trait is the desire to tell stories, and doing it.

Until the next time. . . .

Friday, January 19, 2018

Is Time Running Out for These Rockers? (Part Four)

This is more of an addendum to my three previous posts about those music artists who have been overlooked or passed over for induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio
While listening to the radio and compilation CDs in my collection, I came across several rock acts that I believe should merit more consideration for the hallowed hall for aging rockers (a term used loosely in a few instances).

This isn't as extensive as the previous posts although it spans acts from the '50s, '60s, and '70s. The information comes from Wikipedia, All-Music, Future Rock Legends, and artist(s) sites as well as my own recollections.  By the way, Future Rock Legends is a great site to find the eligibility status of current and past artists.

So here goes:

Pat Boone—He had 38 Top 40 hits, including six chart-toppers, and sold more than 45 million records, with most of his success coming in the late 1950s and early '60s.

Peter, Paul and Mary—The popular folk trio had 10 Top 40 hits including the No. 1 "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and  No. 2s, "Puff (The Magic Dragon)" and "Blowin' in the Wind"  and  in the 1960s.

Chubby Checker—While many folks remember him for his cover of  Rock Hall of Famer Hank Ballard's "The Twist," Checker had 20 songs reach the Top 40 in a career that continues to this day. He had three No. 1 hits ("The Twist" two times and "Pony Time").

Tommy James and the Shondells—The Michigan rockers had 14 songs in the Top 40 including two reaching the top spot in the 1960s, with bubblegum, ballads, and psychedelic.

The Chambers Brothers—Although only two Top 40 hits, the No. 11 "Time Has Come Today" and No.. 37 "I Can't Turn You Loose," the group were pioneers in fusing rock, psychedelic, soul, and gospel. My favorite tune is the smooth "I Can't Stand It."

John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers—A pioneer in British blues, the group produced a number of premier performers such as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, Keef " Hartley, Harvey Mandell, John McVie, and Aynsley Dunbar. Mayall, who  is 84, still tours.

Gerry and the Pacemakers—The George Martin-produced group had seven Top 40 songs including three No. 1 hits on the UK charts.

Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels—The hard-driving group had five Top 40 songs from 1965-67 including the No. 4 "Devil With a Blue Dress On."  Ryder went solo after that run but failed to match the success he had with his bandmates.

John Denver—The multi-genre performer sold more than 30 million records, hitting the Billboard's Top 40 14 times including four at No. 1. 

Barry Manilow—He's cracked the Top 40 an impressive 47 times, recording 12 No. 1s.  Along the way, he's sold more than 75 million records.

Boz Scaggs—He had seven Top 40 hits from 1976-81 and his album, "Silk Degrees," reached No. 2 in 1976. He released his first album in 1965 ("Boz") and recorded with Rock Hall inductee Steve Miller in the late '60s.

That should do it (until I click the "send" button and another act comes to mind). Who did I miss (Lou Christie, Chad and Jeremy, Peter and Gordon, Petula Clark, B.J. Thomas, Jay and the Americans, King Crimson,  Peter Frampton, Mott the Hoople, Free, The Monkees, Rick Derringer, Rotary Connection, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Pointer Sisters, etc.)?

Until the next time. . . .

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Is Time Running Out for These Rockers? (Part Three)

Now we move to the 1970s. It doesn't seem that long ago until I count the years, realizing that in two years it will be a half-century since we embarked on that memorable decade. Times flies, whether you're having fun or not.

I thought the early to mid '70s produced some of the best music in rock history. While some may disagree, and I respect differing opinions, what started great didn't end well with the emergence of disco. But I digress.

We've gone through Pre-British Invasion and Post-British Invasion musicians. Now let's look at some acts who should be given considerable attention by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since those in power are now dipping into the '80s and '90s.

As noted in previous post, credit artist(s) websites, Wikipedia, All-Music, and other music-related sites as sources as well as some personal recollections and reflections:

So here goes.

The 1970s:

The Alan Parsons ProjectThe Alan Parsons Project was primarily the work, inspiration, and imagination of Alan Parsons and the late Eric Woolfson (who passed away in 2009). The group recorded 10 albums, beginning with "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" in 1975, my introduction to their music. While noted for their theme albums, the APP had six Top 40 singles including No. 3 "Eye in the Sky" in 1982. Parsons is a noted studio engineer, having worked on The Beatl
es' "Abbey Road" and "Let It Be" and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon." Woolfson sang most of the team's records and was also a composer and pianist. They were truly a dynamic duo.

Bad Company—A true supergroup, Bad Company was singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke from Free, guitarist Mick Ralphs from Mott the Hoople, and bassist Boz Burrell from King Crimson. Rodgers has one of the great voices in rock while Ralphs ranks among the best guitarists. The group was known for its albums, with four of its first five reaching the top five in the album charts. Among the memorable singles were "Can't Get Enough," "Feel Like Makin' Love," and "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy."

Bread—David Gates and company were a soft-rock band that came out of California, producing some ballads that have stood the test of time. Bread recorded 12 Top 40 singles including chart-topper "Make It With You" in 1970. They fared even better on the Billboard Easy Listening chart with No. 1s "If," "The Guitar Man," and "Sweet Surrender." They could rock too, with tunes like "Truckin'" and "Mother Freedom." The Rock Hall has been too hard on soft-rock bands and artists.

Eric CarmenCarmen had early success with The Raspberries ("Go All the Way" and three other Top 40 hits), but it was as a solo performer that he really displayed his vocal prowess. He had eight Top 40 songs including No. 2 "All By Myself," No. 3 "Make Me Lose Control," and No. 4 "Hungry Eyes." He also wrote "Almost Paradise," a big duet hit for Loverboy's Mike Reno and Heart's Ann Wilson that was featured in the move "Footloose." I like some of his lesser hits, notably "I Wanna Hear It From Your Lips" and the Beach Boys-inspired "She Did It."

The CarpentersRichard and Karen Carpenter are the epitome of soft rock. Richard's arrangements and Karen's heart-felt vocals produced timeless classics. They had 20 songs reach the Top 40 including three No. 1s: "(They Long to Be) Close to You," "Top of the World," and "Please Mr. Postman," and five at No. 2. They even had a "power ballad" ("Goodbye to Love," featuring a scorching guitar solo by Tony Peluso) that drew the ire of a few fans but still hit No. 7. Sadly, Karen died in 1983 of heart failure, resulting from her battle with anorexia. By the way, the brother and sister sold more than 90 million records, which isn't soft.

Jim CroceCroce was at the top of his game when he tragically died in an airplane crash in 1973, at the age of 30, with guitarist Maury Muehleisen. Croce had been performing since the mid-1960s, but didn't chart any songs until No. 8 "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" in 1972. He followed that with seven more Top 40 songs including chart-toppers "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and "Time in a Bottle." Croce had a sense of humor but could poignant tunes such as "Time In a Bottle" and "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song." I don't know about you, but "Time In a Bottle" brings tears to my eyes, especially when I think about what more Croce may have done in his life. He was an original storyteller.

The Doobie Brothers—In the previous post, I mentioned Johnny Rivers as an artist I would have considered a shoo-in for the Rock Hall. I feel the same about the Doobies. They were huge in the '70s (and still tour in 2018) with their high-intensity musicianship and great vocals. The Doobies had 16 Top 40 songs over a 20-year period including "Black Water" in 1974 and "What A Fool Believes" in 1977 reaching the top spot. The early Doobies featured Tom Johnston as lead vocalist, and after his departure, the soulful Michael McDonald became the primary singer. The Doobies could rock "(Listen to the Music" and "Rockin' Down the Highway"), roll ("Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me)), and do some soul ("Real Love"). And they've sold more than 40 million records during their long run.

Foreigner—Brits Mick Jones, Ian McDonald, and Dennis Elliott and Yanks Lou Gramm, Al Greenwood, and Ed Gagliardi formed Foreigner in 1976. The debut album sold more than 4 million copies and produced hits such as "Feels Like the First Time," "Cold As Ice," and "Long, Long Way from Home." In all, they've had 16 Top 40 songs including soaring "I Want to Know What Love Is," a No. 1 in 1984. Foreigner has sold more than 80 million records worldwide. Another super group that has been overlooked for too long, eligible since 2002.

Jethro Tull—I'm also puzzled that Jethro Tull, which has been eligible for the Rock Hall since 1993, hasn't been inducted. They have one of the most dynamic artists in vocalist/flutist Ian Anderson, and have recorded some of the best progressive music in rock history. Perhaps they've been overlooked because of their lack of hit singles? "Living in the Past,"  hitting No. 11 in 1969 and "Bungle In the Jungle" at No. 12 in 1974 are their only Top 40 hits. But they made up for it with 14 Top 40 albums, with "Thick as a Brick" in 1972 and "A Passion Play" in 1973 reaching No. 1. They sold more than 60 million records. Maybe the Moody Blues will open the hallowed doors for them.

Little River Band—This Australian band has sold more than 30 million records, charted 13 Top 40 hits in the U.S. Billboard magazine noted that the LRB was the only act to have a Top 10 hit on the American charts from 1978 to 1982. The No. 3 hit, "Reminiscing," written by Graham Goble and one of John Lennon's favorite songs, has been recognized as one of the most played tunes on American radio (5 million plus). "Lady" has also been popular with more than 3 million plays on the airwaves. The group has already been inducted in Australia's music hall of fame. I saw
them in concert in the 1990s, with most of the original members, and they were excellent. By the way, Glenn Shorrock is a standout singer.

Kenny LogginsLoggins has a sterling resume as a singer and songwriter. His first major success came with Jim Messina in Loggins and Messina, selling 16 million records and posting three Top 40 hits. As a solo artist, he has 14 Top 40 songs including No. 1 "Footloose" in 1984. As a songwriter, he teamed with Michael McDonald for the Grammy winning "What A Fool Believes" and "This Is It,"and "Whenever I Call You Friend" with Melissa Manchester (also a big duo hit for him with Stevie Nicks). He still performs with country-rock group Blue Sky Riders. Loggins has sold more than 25 million records in his illustrious career.

Carly SimonSimon has recorded 13 Top 40 hits including No. 1 "You're So Vain" in 1972. Her debut album, "Carly Simon," won a Grammy for best new female artist. The album included my favorite song by her, "That's The Way I Always Heard It Should Be," a tune that doesn't paint a rosy picture about marriage. She wrote "Let the River Run," featured in the movie, "Working Girl," which garnered Oscar, Golden Globe, and Grammy awards. Although known for her singing, Simon was inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994. 

I'm sure I've missed a few (dozen). Who would you recommend?

Until the next time. . . .