Friday, February 28, 2014

Keepin' It Short

After much thought the past few weeks, I've decided to turn my attention to another short-story collection. 

I already have four stories in the can, following the theme of my previous 12-story collection, "Laments." I suppose these next stories will be "Laments: Volume Two" when I'm ready to publish. I also plan for this to be a dozen stories of various lengths. Of course, once I begin writing, that could all change because a story tells itself, and it's not over until it's over.

I was considering working on another novel, and that may still happen in the coming weeks, but I simply haven't found a specific topic I want to address at this time. It has to be something that I feel strongly about because I want to be able to convey those thoughts into words.

I have to have burning desire inside me before I make a commitment to write a novel. I may even work on multiple projects, if I am so moved. Only time will tell.

But I enjoy short stories -- reading and writing them.  And some authors believe there's no better way to get back into a regular writing groove than to write short stories. I recall one author who said it shouldn't be that difficult producing one a week.

I'll begin this project on March 1, and if things go well, will reach my goal in two months. I'll keep you posted.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Spotlight on ELO

Electric Light Orchestra, or ELO, blended guitars, cellos, violins, drums, horns and keyboards to produce some of the most original and dynamic progressive rock music in the 1970s and '80s.

The group, formed in 1970 by Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood, scored 27 Top 40 hits on the Billboard charts including seven that hit the Top 10. Interestingly, ELO never hit No. 1  in the United States despite selling more than 50 million units.  But they were certainly one of a kind.
Among their biggest hits  were No. 4 "Don't Bring Me Down," No. 7 "Telephone Line," No. 8 "Shine A Little Love," No. 9s "Can't Get It Out of My Head" and  "Turn to Stone," and No. 10s "Evil Woman" and "Hold on Tight." They also hit No. 8 with Olivia Newton-John with "Xanadu."

Among my favorites, in addition to their hits, include "Mr. Blue Sky," "Sweet Talkin' Woman," "Livin' Thing" and "Calling America."  And their rousing cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" is unforgettable. 

Needless to say, if you've read previous "Spotlight on...." posts, ELO hasn't been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not even nominated even though they've been eligible since 1996. Unreal.

I believe Lynne should be inducted in the Rock Hall simply for his solo work,  as a musician (ELO and Traveling Wilburys), producer, and songwriter. Read a great interview with Lynne in Billboard.

Now enjoy few music videos from this great band:

Roll Over Beethoven

Don't Bring Me Down

Telephone Line

Until the next time...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Story Songs: Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast

Back in 1972, Vegas crooner Wayne Newton had the biggest hit of his long career with "Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast." The song reached No. 4 on the Billboard chart.

This heartbreaking tune, written by Geoffrey Stephens and Peter Callander, tells the story of a couple's pending separation and how it affects their young daughter.  It is told from the dad's point of view. 

The first verse:

"The love between the two of us was dying
And it got so bad I knew I had to leave
But halfway down that highway when I turned I saw
My little daughter running after me crying"

And the daughter, apparently sensing something is wrong, pleads:

"Daddy, don't you walk to fast
Daddy, don't you walk so fast
Daddy, slow down 'cause you're makin' me run
Daddy, don't you walk so fast"

In the next verse the narrator says he's hurrying to catch a train and that the little girl doesn't know that he doesn't plan to return.

And then he hears her heartfelt cry:

"Daddy, slow down 'cause you're making me run
"Daddy, don't you walk so fast"

At that point the father, possibly feeling the guilt of breaking his daughter's heart, changes his mind:

"If only for the sake of my sweet daughter
I just had to turn back home right there and then
And try to start a new life with the mother of my child
I couldn't bear to hear those words again..."

And those tearful words are repeated as the child beckons him to slow down, closing with:

"Oh Daddy, don't you walk so fast."

Newton wasn't the first person to record the song. It was first released in Britain by Daniel Boone, who had another hit called, "Beautiful Sunday." Fellow Englishman Tony Christie also had a nice cover of the song.

I'm sure some folks contemplating divorce back then, when they heard this song, had second thoughts about their actions.

"Daddy, Don't You Walk So Fast" lyrics

Wayne Newton

Daniel Boone

Tony Christie

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cover Up Against Skin Cancer

My sun hat arrived in the mail today. It's something that I'll be wearing whenever I'm outside during daylight hours. It's a special hat in that it has  a 50+ sun protection factor, or SPF.
Wearing my new sun hat

You've probably seen SPF numbers on suntan lotion/sunscreen and perhaps some clothing accessories. The higher the number, the better protection you have against the sun's damaging ultra-violet rays.

A couple years ago I had a skin cancer spot (basal cell carcinoma) removed from my face. Since then, I've returned to the dermatologist every six months to have it checked while also having some precancerous lesions taken off my hands, face and back with liquid nitrogen. 

A lot of folks develop skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It's the most common from of cancer, with more than 2 million people diagnosed annually, and one in five will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. 

There's no doubt that my skin cancer and the precancerous lesions are product of being in the sun too long when I was younger, soaking up the sun at the beach, playing tennis and other sports, and other outdoor activities.  Needless to say, I've had my share of sunburned skin from not covering up properly and failing to wear sunscreen.

Quite frankly, I don't recall sunscreen back in the 1960s and '70s. Most of us were trying to get those deep, golden tans.  

The effects of sun-damaged skin can show up early or late in one's life. I have two friends who have similar skin cancer in about the same place as I do -- one loves the beach and the other was an avid golfer. And they were about the same age as I was when it was diagnosed and removed. 

I suppose the point I want to make here is two-fold. For you younger folks, don't be a sun worshiper. Use sunscreen and wear clothing that will protect you from the sun's harmful rays. And that includes sunglasses as well to protect your eyes. 

For older folks, use sunscreen and moisturizers to keep your skin from getting too dry. And if you see something on your skin that looks a bit funny, rough or discolored, visit a dermatologist and get it checked out and possibly removed before it gets any worse. Better safe than sorry.

Getting back to head gear, remember that while baseball-type caps can help the top of your head, they don't provide protection for your ears. I have a lot of ball caps, but I now wear them for after the sun goes down. I have been wearing straw hats the past few years while mowing the lawn, but they don't provide maximum protection.

Also, visit websites such as the American Cancer Society and Skin Cancer Foundation to learn more about skin cancer. 

Until the next time... 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Bully List Trailer -- Finally

One of the tasks an author should do is have a trailer for their book. 

Ideally, it should be done before the publication date. If not then, at least by publication date. And if that can't be accomplished, then soon after publication date.

As you can see, the trailer for "The Bully List" is nearly five months after publication (Oct. 1). I don't want to make excuses but I will mention work, outside activities and the holidays. I hope you can give me a little slack.

One more thing: Procrastination.

But I figure it's better to get something out rather than nothing out all. I hope it will spark some more sales in the novel -- which is aimed for middle-school and above including adults.

So please forgive me for dragging my feet in producing this trailer (something indie and self-published authors can understand).

I'll try to be more timely with my next novel -- but I'm not making any promises!

Until the next time...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fifty Years Ago Today -- The Beatles

Many of us in the United States are celebrating The Beatles today. It was 50 years ago that the Fab Four made their debut on the popular "The Ed Sullivan Show."

We didn't have cable or satellite TV in those dark black-and-white ages. It was the NBC, CBS, and ABC networks that ruled the airwaves.

On on that magical evening on  Feb. 9, 1964, John, Paul, George, and Ringo were in the spotlight, and Beatlemania was in full bloom.

I was at church with my family that eventful evening in Campbellsville, Ky. The one-hour service ended at 8; that's when the "The Ed Sullivan Show" was broadcast.

We hurried home to see the program. I think my Mom and Dad were curious to see the Beatles on TV as well. And then came Ed Sullivan's distinctive introduction, "Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles!"

It was earsplitting listening and watching the reaction to the group as they performed, especially the young girls screaming and shrieking. Ed Sullivan even seemed to be shaken up by the noise from the audience.

The atmosphere was simply electric, even for a country boy watching the show in Kentucky.

I've been a fan of the Beatles for more than 50 years, first hearing the group's music on WLS in Chicago and WABC in New York. I suppose I own most, if not all, of their music. 

It's not that often when folks recall where they were when cultural  happenings in their lives. That's usually reserved for events such as the attack on Pearl Harbor, JFK's assassination, the Apollo 11's lunar landing or the 9/11 terrorist attacks.   

Needless to say, the Beatles changed the course of music and influenced countless musicians and non-musicians like me. And it marked the first wave of the British Invasion that led to other acts such as The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, and The Dave Clark 5.

Remember this song -- "We Love You Beatles" from many years ago?

"We love you Beatles
Oh, yes, we do
We love you, Beatles,
And we'll be true

"When you're not near to us
We're blue
Oh, Beatles, we love you
(Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)"

After a half century, we still love the Beatles. It seems like only yesterday.

Until the next time...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Writer's Block or Burnout?

With the exception of prolific authors such as Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Isaac Asimov, Barbara Cartland, and Danielle Steel and a few others, there are times for the rest of us when it's simply difficult to write.

Is it writer's block, or perhaps burnout? Or a bit of both?

Sometimes when we have plans to write, but life happens and takes us away from those best intentions. And in the interim, we lose focus and put it aside for another time. Procrastination.

Now some writers recommend that the best way to break through writer's block is to write. That has worked for me at times.

But I find the key to success is having a purpose for what I'm writing. There has to be a goal. I certainly don't want to be writing around in circles. 

That's why it's good to have solid ideas on what you want to put on the screen. It at least gives you a map to look at while you're unsure which road to take. By writing, you will probably find the direction you want to go. 

And sometimes I wonder if writers simply develop burnout after so many years? Weak sales may make some decide that there are better things to do. Some may decide the struggle simply isn't worth it. It does get discouraging at times.

There are other reasons as well, such as physical or mental illnesses. Maybe there is something physically wrong that takes us from our writing. Maybe depression is working against us. Sometimes we don't realize what has diverted us from something we once enjoyed.

Whatever the reasons, sometimes it's good to take a break from the rigors of it all. We all know it's a rather lonely endeavor to write a book.

Until the next time...