Tag Archives: music

Two Crazy Weeks of Publishing Bliss

It’s been quite a two-week period on the writing front, and just goes to show what happens sometimes when you throw enough seeds in the garden. So, this blog is going to feel like a combination of a newsletter and announcements.

PrintLast week, two books came out on Amazon.com with which I was involved: The Hummingbird Review Spring 2013 “Hollywood & Literature” edition, which I edited and also contributed a couple of pieces; and Brian Wilkes’ book Stroking the Media, for which I contributed a chapter on the four essentials of generating good publicity – Timing, Opportunity, Newsworthiness and Perception. Will get into these in a future blog. Never had two Amazon listings in the same week, but there they are! Please order a copy – and one for a friend!

This week kept up the pace. I wrapped proposals for two people I have admired for many years: former Surfer Magazine publisher-editor Jim Kempton, who is now shopping his fantastic book of exotic recipes coupled with great surf travel and cultural stories, The Surfing Chef; and Stevie Salas, the Contemporary Music Advisor to the Smithsonian Institution (and great guitarist from Carlsbad), with whom I’m working on his memoir (more details forthcoming). Add to that the chapters I’ve either cranked out or edited for a number of other clients, and it’s been productive.

That’s not all: On Tuesday, Houghton Mifflin announced the acquisition and forthcoming publication of Just Add Water, my biography of surfing great Clay Marzo, who does it all with Asperger Syndrome. For this book, which is truly a joy to write (as those familiar with my long background as former promoter of the ASP World Tour and writing for the surf mags know), I owe a special shout-out to my longtime friend Mitch Varnes, who is Clay’s manager and who suggested I take a shot at writing this book when we had dinner a few months ago.

Mitch and I have history in turning ideas into great books; 20 years ago, Mitch helped me button down my concept and connect me with astronauts and NASA officials for one of the greatest projects of my career, One Giant Leap for Mankind. It was the 25th anniversary publication for the Apollo 11 moon mission, one edition of which NASA later picked up.

Oh yes, one more bit of news: on Thursday, the popular online magazine Indie Writer Net picked up the first of my two blogs on last weekend’s Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (the second blog will be right here on Saturday).

So, to cap it all off, I’m headed up to Orange County later this morning to appear as the guest on the Write NOW! TV show, with hosts Judy Saxon and Charles Redner. We’ll be talking about, well, writing, but also the benefits of writing about something different every day, and reading on a wide variety of subjects with the curiosity and precociousness of a child.

A quick advisory note on that, to take into the weekend: When you spread out your writing subjects – and forms of writing, from letters to journals to essays and short fiction, and everything in between – you develop the diversity to tackle anything and everything. When you read widely, your brain comes along for the ride and makes connections and observations you never thought you had.

Enjoy your writing and reading this weekend!

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March Madness, in More Ways Than One

Now that the greatest sports tournament in the country, the NCAA’s March Madness basketball showdown, is underway, time to take a breather from what has truly been a mad March from the writing and editing desk.

Actually, count in February as well, especially since the Southern California Writer’s Conference. It turned out to be a major catalyst and motivator to a lot of people, me included. I’m overjoyed to see so many of the attendees taking the spirit and momentum of the conference to power forward with their novels and non-fiction books. Consequently, they are keeping editors and agents very busy right now.

So, a few tidbits from the writing world, about some friends, and also fun cultural happenings from my other creative loves, music and art.

Spent Saturday afternoon at Rock Your Loxx in Oceanside, a hair salon with a wonderful rock music motif and theme. The salon, owned by long-time vocalist and stylist Stephen Jerome, is filled with classic album covers, books, photographs of thirty years of stars, memorabilia and the like. Stephen’s supplies and scissors sit on a Marshall amp, there’s a drum kit in the corner, and the newest piece is an autographed guitar signed by rock star Stevie Salas, who is from Oceanside.

On Saturday, I (literally) ran down to Rock Your Loxx to find nearly a hundred people jamming

Robert Munger (R) presents an autographed Stevie Salas guitar to Rock Your Loxx owner Stephen Jerome during Saturday's promotion for artist Derek Riggs.

Robert Munger (R) presents an autographed Stevie Salas guitar to Rock Your Loxx owner Stephen Jerome during Saturday’s promotion for artist Derek Riggs.

into the salon and waiting in line outside to see Derek Riggs, a fabulous artist best known for his Iron Maiden covers. Whether or not you like heavy metal, Derek’s legacy is this: He is probably the last great album cover artist of a storied tradition that began with Rick Griffith, Wes Wilson and the psychedelic rock band covers of the 1960s. As we all know, albums went the way of dinosaurs in the late 1980s, replaced by CDs — which are headed in the same direction as collectible vinyl becomes all the rage. It was an awesome afternoon for a hair salon whose unique design is now catching the interest of the greater rock music world, and for a stylist who definitely personifies his salon.

During the day, Rock Your Loxx’s interior designer, my long-time friend Robert Munger, introduced me to one of my media heroes: legendary disk jockey Bob Buckmann, who turned up with his wife. After building a 100-watt pirate station in New York as a teenager, Bob made his name on WBAB-FM in Long Island, followed by WAXQ, known better as Q104.3. He headed to the West Coast, and became programming director for the greatest of all West Coast classic rock stations, KLOS. You Southern Californians, remember “The Seventh Day,” when KLOS DJs “Uncle” Joe Benson and Jim Ladd spun seven full albums on Sunday evenings? Bob had a hand in this and other programs in more recent years.

Now Bob is at KGB-FM in San Diego, offering up his 43 years of professional experience. What a thrill it was to meet him and talk with him about a mutual acquaintance and friend, Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane, who I helped 10 years ago with his memoir, Full Flight. We agreed: Marty had one of the greatest voices to ever grace a rock stage. In fact, he inspired the titling of my novel, Voices, because in the 1960s, a helluva long time before a certain TV show grabbed the title, he was known as “The Voice”.

I know one thing: Stephen Jerome is all smiles today, which is his birthday. As Queen lead guitarist Brian May told me years ago on the American Idol set, where he was overseeing a week devoted to Queen, “The key to shaping a show is to hit ‘em over the head with the first two songs, then you can put whatever you want into the set.” Rock Your Loxx pulled off a great show.

• • •

I needed a good rocking break. It’s been crazy, with several clients getting ready (or already started with) the publishing rounds with fantastic novels, trilogies, memoirs and other goodies. In my 12 years as a book editor, I’ve never seen so many high quality manuscripts at the same time – and I’m hearing the same from other independent editors. The competition to publish traditionally is so fierce that writers are putting out their best work – early on. And I’m proud to say that my clients are writing highly publishable material.

Meantime, through my agent Dana Newman, I’m in the middle of publisher negotiations for works that I will share more with you when the good news comes. Yep, I’m superstitious. Seen too many “sure bet” deals slip through the cracks. But these look good, and when the contracts arrive, I’ll tell you all about them, who’s publishing them and where to find them next year.

• • •

Barbara Stahura and Ken Willingham

Barbara Stahura and Ken Willingham

A tip of the cap to my long-time friend, Barbara Stahura, who recently moved from Tucson to Southern Indiana. Barbara was the most versatile journalist with whom I worked when I was editorial director at Faircount International in Tampa, and also the person most responsible for hooking me up as a presenter/teacher at writer’s conferences.

Almost 10 years ago, Barbara’s husband, Ken Willingham, suffered a serious traumatic brain injury in a near-fatal motorcycle accident. She wrote about the experience in her 2008 memoir, What I Thought I Knew. She also wrote a workbook based on her time participating in Ken’s rehab, After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story, A Journaling Workbook, which is quickly becoming the standard-bearer for TBI writing therapy in a field that finally has the attention of the nation.

Today, Barbara is a national expert on TBI, particularly writing therapy, as well as a masterful journaling teacher. In a recent article in the Evansville Courier, she discusses the sudden change in her life, and the ensuing decade that has brought her to this front-in-center advocate’s position. What a great work and service, Barbara.

•  • •

Speaking of inspiration, stay tuned tomorrow and Wednesday for a two-part blog that will likely leave your jaw dropping. Let’s just say the subject, and the author, Martha Halda, are the closest things to me in this life. And soon, we’ll get to read all about it through her memoir, A Taste of Eternity.

That’s all the teasing for now. Back tomorrow. Write and read well today.

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On Dharma Bums, Eternity, Legacies & Champions: Publishing Highlights of 2012

Happy New Year!

Time to clean off the desk after a busy, eventful 2012…

Headshot- for proposalFirst of all, a big congratulations to my sweetheart, Martha Halda, whose memoir, A Taste of Eternity, is now at book proposal and agent stage.

Martha first thought of writing this book while recovering from a horrendous 1999 car accident in which she was pronounced clinically dead three times — and had a profound Near Death Experience that has defined her physical and spiritual life since.  To give you an idea of how far she has come from that accident? After her family was initially told she would be an invalid for the rest of her life, she went on to complete the 2002 Dublin Marathon, and lives a healthy, robust life today.

Now, she’s written the first three chapters of A Taste of Eternity, and looking forward to a 2013 publish date. Martha has also started a blog, in which she’ll share a few stories from the book and how her daily life continues to be touched by those precious minutes she spent directly in God’s hands.

• • •

Between Christmas and New Year’s, I picked up a very interesting project: to write a Cliff Notes-type “specimen” for Barnes & Noble.  The book in question? One of my all-time favorite novels, The Dharma Bums. Once again, interest in the Beat generation and author Jack Kerouac is flying through the roof, this time because of the December 21 film release of On The Road, Kerouac’s breakthrough novel. When Kristen Stewart is one of the three lead actors (she plays Marylou), the movie figures to draw attention for younger moviegoers. Many will likely turn to the rich soil of Beat literature, which continues to speak to the young, disenfranchised, soul and purpose seekers.

However, The Dharma Bums project excites me for another reason. In the decade since the last time I read the 1958 autobiographical novel about Kerouac’s the dharma bumsawakening to nature and Buddhism, I’ve gotten to know the real-life Japhy Ryder, the novel’s protagonist. With this book, Kerouac turned mountain man-Buddhist-poet-conversationalist extraordinaire Gary Snyder into a cultural hero and the leader of the “rucksack revolution”, a good 15 years before Gary won the Pulitzer Prize for Turtle Island.  What amazes me is how little Kerouac deviated from Gary’s voice and character in what was supposed to be a fictional character. Every time I read Japhy Ryder’s dialogue, I could hear Gary expounding on something or another during the many times we would get together in Northern California. The actions, the convictions, the interests, the profound knowledge and wisdom … all Gary. And to think: he was only 25 when he and Kerouac had the experiences that formed the backbone of The Dharma Bums.

Ever read a novel where you personally know the protagonist? I hadn’t, either. It certainly creates a different experience, one that I hope will add reading insight for the Barnes & Noble customers who pick up this treatment later in 2013.

• • •

photoAlso on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, and newsstands throughout the country, is The Legacy Series Magazine. I was privileged to help conceptualize this magazine, as well as edit it. We began with a tribute to the late Steve Jobs and his enormous legacy to businesses and consumers (besides masterminding Apple products, he facilitated change or the creation of eight industries). Then we talked to some of the most visionary people and leading innovators in technology today, including Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank co-star Mark Cuban, GE Senior VP Beth Comstock, bestselling author Ken Segall, Zinio Executive VP Jeanniey Mullen, Chris Voss of The Chris Voss Show, Ask.com co-founder (and my old high school friend) David Warthen, and iPhone Film Fest winner Craig Perkins.

We also wrote compelling features on the present and future courses of social media, filmmaking, technology, publishing, crowdfunding, music, green technology and cloud computing. All of these pieces brought out what I love most about fine magazine journalism: Great interviews, great insights, explanation of new concepts, and the writers’ distinct abilities to inject their personal experience and the stories of others into the material they were covering. You want to know what’s coming next in these areas? Get the mag.

The Legacy Series Magazine will be featured at MacWorld/iWorld in San Francisco in three weeks. We have a major announcement pending on possible multiple issues, but we will always produce the large annual publication in the fall.

• • •

TCW_r2_ecover-loresI also had the privilege of serving as co-author to Dr. Steve Victorson in The Champion’s Way. Steve and I spent three years gathering materials and writing this book, which revolves entirely around groundbreaking research Steve did in the late 1990s for his doctoral dissertation at Boston University. In that research, he interviewed more than 40 national, world and Olympic ski champions and top performers, and found 11 distinct characteristics in common between champions. These 11 characteristics are not found in any other books on the subject.

We put Steve’s findings to the test with champions in all sports — and they rang true, in every case. Thus, The Champion’s Way’s 200 pages explore the inner and outer qualities of champions, look at nearly 100 repeat winners in 15 different sports, and point out specific ways in which all of us can develop, sharpen and refine our own latent championship qualities. Besides plenty of great sports anecdotes, the lasting value of The Champion’s Way is how the 11 common characteristics can create top performance in our lives, no matter our vocation, sport or interest.

The Champion’s Way is available through bookstores nationwide, and in both print and Kindle form on Amazon.com.

 

 

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Dropping into The Next Best Thing Blog Tour with Author August McLaughlin

THE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP

Welcome to TNBT blog hop!

What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s a way that readers can discover new authors, because with bookstores closing and publishers not promoting new authors as much, we need to find a way to introduce readers to authors they may not see in their local bookstore.

Here, you’ll have the chance to find many new authors. Here you’ll find information about August McLaughlin and her psychological thriller, IN HER SHADOW, David Freed, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of the Cordell Logan mystery series, calls: “A dark, crackingly good psychological thriller that grabs you by the throat on page one and never lets up.”

Also, see links below to five other authors you might like to check out.

I’d like to thank fellow author August McLaughlin for tagging me to participate.

Click the links below to find out about August’s novel.

Website: http://www.augustmclaughlin.com

Blog: http:augustmclaughlin.wordpress.com

GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16138453-in-her-shadow

In this particular hop, I and my fellow authors, in their respective blogs, have answered 10 questions where you get to learn about our current work in progress as well as some insights into our process, from characters and inspirations to plotting and cover decisions. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions.

1: What is the working title of your book? 

Voice Lessons

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

I first got the idea while working with Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member, Jefferson Airplane/Starship lead vocalist Marty Balin, on his memoir, “Full Flight,” about 10 years ago. When Jefferson Airplane formed, he was known in San Francisco as “The Voice” because of his beautiful high tenor. Knowing his story, I imagined, ‘What would happen if a legendary band completely sat it out for 20 years — no recording, no performing — and came back to play one encore tour in today’s musical scene?’ I added some spice to that question, and here we are.

3: What genre does your book come under?

Commercial fiction, with a distinctly musical twist.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Tom Timoreaux –   Jeff  Bridges or Kurt Russell

Megan Timoreaux – Joan Allen

Christine Timoreaux – Dakota Fanning or Evan Rachel Wood

Chester Craven – Sam Elliott

Analisa – Sonia Braga

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A touring novel of music, superstardom, father-daughter relationship and redemption, about a music superstar who reluctantly leads his band on a one-off reunion tour after 20 years of retirement, only to watch his new backup singer, his daughter, emerge as a superstar in her own right as their strained relationship mends — and to receive his long-lost love child back into his life after he’d thought her dead or missing for over 40 years, and after she’d seen a webcast of his first reunion concert.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

Currently in the process of being marketed through an agency.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

One year. One year of writing prose that weaves through the past 60 years of popular music in America, the roots that made it happen, and the cities and states where you will find the fans of great music.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

“Never Mind Nirvana,” “Anything Goes”

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I spent seven years writing album and concert reviews for newspapers and magazines, during which I interviewed many bands. I have also worked with several musicians on their books. Coupled with a lifelong love of rock, classical, folk and the blues, as well as a fascination of the history of American popular music, I thought it was time to write a really good, character-based story with music at its core. What is more exciting than touring with a big-time rock and roll band? Not much. I toured with the reformed Jefferson Starship for awhile in 2000, and it’s the best. Then I thought about how difficult, fluid and emotionally taxing — and enriching and deeply loving — relationships are between fathers and strong-minded daughters, and wanted to write about that. So I put the two together, put The Fever on the road … and the book wrote itself from there.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Rather than borrow from hits of other bands (and deal with the rights clearances and fees), I wrote 80 songs in the protagonists’ persona and voices — 40 for Tom Timoreaux, and 40 for Christine Timoreaux. These serve to create the band’s set list for its massive one-off tour; the lyrics are both in the book and the website that will soon go up, http://www.voicecentral.com. Also, I wove the recent history of American music into every bit of this book, so you will find more than 150 anecdotes and band or song references throughout … like a “Where’s Waldo?” for die-hard music fans. What a lot of people don’t realize about the older rock stars (especially Robert Plant, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Paul McCartney) is that they all carry encyclopedic knowledge of and deep reverence towards the history of blues, folk and rock — not to mention making a few contributions of their own. I celebrate that, especially through the character of Chester Craven, the lead guitarist.

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CELEBRATING A JOURNEY OF WRITING AND LIFE (so far)

This week, my life partner and sweetheart, Martha Halda, and I will be returning to my alma mater, Carlsbad (Calif.) High School, where I will be inducted into the CHS Hall of Fame. The news of my nomination and induction came as a big surprise, but in receiving this award — along with five other CHS grads, two of whom I attended high school with — I’ve thought deeply about what this honor means.

First of all, the honor isn’t given lightly. With our induction group, CHS will have 25 members in its Hall of Fame (out of approximately 50,000 different students who have attended since CHS opened its doors in 1957). These include highly successful and influential people like Robert Stromberg, who won the Academy Award for production design on Avatar and is directing the upcoming adventure movie, Safari; Greg Nelson, my old Boys Club coach and inventor of the Don-Joy knee brace; Dr. Sally Melgren, one of the top ophthalmologists in the country; and Sal Masekela, a familiar face for more than a decade to millions of action sports fans who have tuned into the Winter and Summer X Games on ESPN.

Among those being inducted along with me is Patti Regan, who recently was featured as one of L.A.’s top 50 businesswomen. Our families grew up together on Basswood Ave. in Carlsbad, so that makes the day a little more special. Meanwhile, Martha and I went through all 12 years of grade and high school together, so having her there completes what will be a very sweet day.

High school is a where we’re supposed to study intently and zero in on our career aspirations. What I realized while thinking about the Hall of Fame is that I’m still doing the same things I was doing in high school — writing, distance running, listening to music, and mentoring. I began my professional journalism career while a junior at CHS in 1976, ran on highly successful cross-country and track teams, and tutored other students in Latin, writing and social studies. In a day and age when so many high school students feel aimless and are not necessarily getting good life/career direction from their overwhelmed teachers, this above all else feels very gratifying.

I was one of the lucky ones. The early and mid-70s were watershed years for diverse education and teachers who tried anything to get through to their students. Testing was a once-a-year inconvenience. The man who will introduce and induct us, Tom Robertson (known to countless thousands of thankful students as TR), was one such teacher. In 1973, while futilely trying to teach our freshman English class the romantic poets (Wordsworth, Longfellow, Keats, Shelley, Byron, etc.), he realized we were, well, clueless freshmen. He switched gears, and brought in a stack of records along with printed lyrics. These weren’t just any records or lyrics; they contained the music of Cream, David Bowie, The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mac (pre-Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham), Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and others.

For the next six weeks, we listened to music and studied the relationship between the lyrics, their meanings, and the feelings and thoughts evoked by the musicians as they sang them. When we returned to the romantic poets, we suddenly understood what they were conveying.

Almost 40 years have passed, but on the few occasions I’ve seen TR since high school, I remind him of this brilliant move and thank him for it. During those six weeks, my love of poetry, writing, music and innovative teaching crystallized. I knew I wanted to write publicly like these musicians, I loved the beauty of language and imagery conveyed by poetry, and I knew music would always be central to my life. By the age of 17, I was writing poetry, writing professionally, and writing regular concert reviews for The Blade Tribune (now North County Times), where I worked as a sportswriter. I was also the sports editor for Excalibur, the high school paper, and won the San Diego Union staffer of the year award for high school students in San Diego County. The paper’s advisor? TR.

Talk about the impact one teacher can make! Talk about the value of a single teacher in unlocking the doors of one’s potential!

I never forgot this. Many years later, my teaching opportunities came, first through writers conferences and workshops, later as a high school track and cross-country coach, and more recently, as a writing professor at Ananda College. I always looked for the opportunity to bring out the very best in my audiences, athletes and students — even if they could not yet see their higher potential. I also employed this approach with many of the more than 100 authors whose books I have edited or ghostwritten. The experiences with my professional writing and college students, along with the authors with whom I have worked, have built the measure of much of my life to date. When I think of my Ananda College students, for instance, I am filled with love for them as people, and admiration for their wonderful writing talents. Our class sessions resonated with mutual love, respect, and a deep desire to become the best writers, editors and people we could be. They pushed me as hard as I pushed them.

Meantime, my career has been quite an adventure aboard my pen, whether through newspaper writing, magazine writing and editing, book writing, scripting videos, or website writing and blogging. I have worked with the Apollo astronauts, great sports champions, Olympic gold medalists, iconic filmmakers like George Lucas, top business leaders, the men who planted the flag on Iwo Jima, surfing’s ASP World Tour during its formative years, great artists and artisans, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame musicians like Jefferson Airplane’s/Jefferson Starship’s Marty Balin (he wrote the mid-1970s megahit Miracles, among many other great songs), American Idol-launched stars like Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry, marathon superstars like Bill Rodgers (four time Boston Marathon champion), innovative healers and spiritual leaders of many different faiths, and medicine men in both South America and Native American traditions. I’ve also run three Boston Marathons after renewing my love of running at age 40. This included a number of training runs with Bill Rodgers, with whom I formed a friendship about five years ago.

The book I just co-wrote with Dr. Steve Victorson, The Champion’s Way, sums up what my drive has always been: to take the measure of someone’s greatness, find out how they got there, and tell the world about it. And, hopefully, integrate a trait or two within myself along the way.

Now, 36 years and quite a few books into my writing career, here is what I have learned: Nothing is more gratifying than knowing you made a difference in someone’s life through giving of yourself without consideration of reward. The happiest people are those who give selflessly to others. This has been my goal with every client, author, student or fellow runner with whom I have worked. When you ask me how many books I’ve worked on, I’m just as likely to say, “I’ve edited more than 130 books” as to give you my own book count. Giving to others is what makes us great human beings.

So on Friday, when I walk onto the stage at a packed assembly at Carlsbad High School, I will do something long overdue: I will give TR a handshake and a hug, and thank him for unleashing the writer within me. While I have had other great teacher/friends over the years (Steve Scholfield, Dr. Bev Bosak, Dr. Don Eulert, Dr. Madeleine Randall and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder top the list), TR started a ball rolling that has defined my life.

When it comes to greatness, what can top that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On the Creative Process, Jimmy Page, Champion’s Way & Music

A Midsummer’s interlude between writing, editing, coaching and counting down the hours until the Summer Olympics begin …

The other day, while watching It Might Get Loud, a tremendous 2008 documentary on the process of making music, starring Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, I was struck by a comment Page made concerning the creative process. “Whether you’re writing written word or music,” the legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist said, “the creative process is a very spontaneous thing. It’s the whole reason for being here, really.”

These poignant words concern the art of moving forward, of putting pen or brush to paper or canvas and letting it happen. I find this to be both the most appealing part of writing and also the hardest to initiate. One thing is certain: once we enter the realm of a new story, song, poem or painting, we enter an entirely new world.  For some, this prospect can be so scary that they never proceed to write the story, novel, memoir or song burning to be expressed.

To me, the creative process is almost as important as breathing. I think that, if we embrace it in our daily lives, and teach our children and grandchildren to do the same, we will find vast and rapid improvements in society, education, sense of self-esteem, concentration and attentiveness, and business. Creativity, innovation and vision have never been more important to embrace, because the “tried and true” way is crumbling around us – in business, finance, education, the environment, the weather, entertainment and most other aspects of our society and culture.

I feel a lot of this backwards slide comes down to one thing: Beginning in schools, extending through television and film and continuing through the way business is conducted, we have lost what it means to be creative, spontaneous, and daring. Even the saying “outside the box” is tired and, well, inside this box of limitation into which learning and growth have been placed. This is dangerous, because creativity is nothing less than the outward expression of our hearts, souls and imaginations – the very aspects that animate life, give it meaning and purpose.

It’s time to break out. Create something new today. Just go for it. Let it happen, and follow it along, as though someone is leading you by the hand on a new journey. Chances are, that’s what you will experience: a new journey, a new adventure. Ignite your creative passion, and see in what ways it expands and fulfills your life, and presents new possibilities. It’s the whole reason for being here, really.

• • •

It’s been an interesting summer, working at different stages of two books on which I’ve spent years. Next week, the book I co-wrote with former US Ski Team conditioning coach Dr. Steve Victorson, The Champion’s Way, releases nationally – just in time to accompany the London Summer Olympics. Which is appropriate, because Steve interviewed dozens of Olympic and World Cup gold medalists for the book. I added thirty years of comments and experiences from the many champions, in sports and other pursuits, I have been privileged to interview or work with. Some of those featured include ski legends Franz Klammer, Phil and Steve Mahre, Rosi Mittermaier and Ingemar Stenmark, 11-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater, late PGA Tour champion Payne Stewart, two-time Olympic 400 meter hurdle gold medalist Edwin Moses, marathon legend Bill Rodgers, and former American Idol winner and country music superstar Carrie Underwood.

At the same time, I’ve been polishing up Voice Lessons, the novel I first wrote in draft in 2004 and have since revised – and shelved – several times. In many ways, this is my personal, 110,000-word tribute to the music of my lifetime, wrapped around a touching, lively and often intense father-daughter-daughter story line.  The polishing act is one of my favorite parts of writing, whether I’m polishing my own books or those of clients. I think of polishing from a sculptor’s perspective: if the process of writing the story is akin to drawing the desired from from raw material, then polishing is like applying the final touches to draw out a sculpture’s finest features.

For this book, which includes a concert tour, fifty original songs and a panoramic view of the building blocks of one of my generation’s great contributions to entertainment — rock music — the polishing act has been a wonderful exercise in refining what it means to be creative, to write a song, to feel how performance impacts those in the audience.  It also distills the experiences of the 40-plus years I have spent listening to music, hundreds of concerts attended, dozens of musicians I’ve met and known, and the specific types of music that originate from all corners of the country. If you like music and a good story …

What has struck me throughout this phase, interestingly enough, is that the process of perfecting a novel is the same as perfecting a sports, business or life skill that we covered in The Champion’s Way: Every word and sentence need to resonate with the energy of one’s very best effort. That’s what it takes. When that happens, readers put their busy lives on hold, sail away on the opening pages, and immerse on a journey that will entertain, enthrall, enlighten and/or change them in some way.

Voice Lessons will be published in 2013. Soon, we will activate its official website, which will be a vast multimedia experience of its own.

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A Busy Summer of Writing Arrives

A few writing and book topics on a very hot Summer Solstice:

I love writing in summer. The longer daylight hours, warmer weather, presence of trees and plants everywhere, and completion of a college year seem to conspire to throw this writer’s creativity into high gear.

This summer is especially prodigious. In six weeks, on August 1, Dr. Steve Victorson and I will celebrate the publication of our book, The Champion’s Way. Developed from Steve’s doctoral dissertation at Boston University, The Champion’s Way has been a dream project as a book writer, editor, former sportswriter and coach: a look at the 11 distinctive qualities that champions master over all others. However, we make this discussion engaging, with more than 50 interviews with various Olympic and World Champions, along with dozens of other sports anecdotes. Anyone can become a champion of themselves in life, business, the arts, education or sports. That’s our core message — master the 11 qualities.

We spent more than three years writing and rewriting this book. What is especially endearing is that the book is releasing during the first days of the London Summer Olympics — a perfect companion read to see how these great athletes tick.

The Champion’s Way will be available for pre-order in the next few weeks on Amazon.com. The official website will be up by July 10. Meantime, visit our Facebook page.

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The other book I’ve been writing for years, Voice Lessons, is also finished. Am now conducting the final polishing edit after ten years, three complete rewrites, and a restructuring of the plot after it almost sold to Dutton in 2003. The novel is a father-daughter-daughter relationship piece set against the backdrop of a legendary music group that reunites after many years. The main protagonist, music legend Tom Timoreaux, heads out for a long-awaited reunion tour with his band, The Fever, and hires his daughter, Christine, as a backup vocalist. In the course of the book, she becomes a superstar. I won’t spoil the surprises and emotional content of the book, but I will add that the book also provides a panoramic backdrop of the last century of American music, and how the rock and roll pioneers not only drew from many influences, but lived and breathed music in ways that would be really refreshing to see from more of today’s stars.

The book’s official website – with “backstage” passes, Fever “tour schedules,” lyrics to the 80 original songs I wrote for my characters, and much more to entertain music fans everywhere — will be available for viewing in August, and publication is scheduled for Spring 2013.

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Also releasing in Spring 2013, Backroad Melodies, my fifth collection of poetry and essays. This will be my first released poetry collection since The River-Fed Stone in 2008, and it will feature 50 new poems plus 10 essays — including a multi-paneled tribute to my friend, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder, drawn from our many discussions, good times and readings.

One of my personal favorites from this collection is the essay, “For The Lifelong Love Of Learning,” in which I share my own personal experiences with students and faculty through Education for Life, one of the best and most principled systems ever created to inspire, motivate and inform students on what ultimately matters in their intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical development.

We’ll keep you posted on Backroad Melodies. Look for preordering and other information by Holiday 2012.

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Not to be outdone, we will begin our new e-book line in Fall 2012 with The Best of The Word Journeys Blog, featuring the most popular and commented-upon pieces from the first 100 postings of this blog. Several of the blogs went viral, owing to the beauty of social media, and several others ended up in unexpected places (such as Christian Science Monitor’s Culture Cafe), with unexpected readers — back stories that I share in the run-ups to the pieces.

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I’m also working on a very special and unique project, The Legacy Series: Innovations and Technology, with my associate, Lisa Maine, and my friends and colleagues at Innovative Properties Worldwide in Denver. This special publication, which will be available over the holidays as a print magazine, e-book, mobile App and iPad publication, focuses on what we need greatly in this country economically: more innovation, vision and complete commitment to the business models revealing themselves for today and tomorrow. We launched this publication as a tribute to the memory and contributions of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. We depart from Jobs’ enormous impact as an inventor, visionary and businessman to look at the seven industries that Apple products either created or infused, as well as developments in a wide variety of areas.

One of my favorite jobs when developing and editing a specialty publication like The Legacy Series is the interviewing process. During this time, I love hearing the visions, ideas and strategies of forward-thinking CEOs, who have one eye on their bottom lines and the other on tomorrow’s marketplace. You’ll hear from plenty of CEOs throughout the publication.

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The end of summer brings with it one of my favorite writing conferences at which to present: The Southern California Writers Conference. This conference has been partially or wholly responsible for more than $3 million in publishing deals for first-time authors. In the past two years, it also has established the reputation as one of the best conference resources for up-to-the-minute developments in the ever-accelerating digital book world, and what it requires of authors. I will be presenting two workshops, with topics to be drawn from: editing your own manuscripts; writing your book’s business plan; repurposing content for print and online use; and/or a creative writing intensive.

The SCWC features top editors, publishers and agents, all of whom are looking for great books and authors. The workshops are first-class, and we have read-and-critique group sessions that are second to none … including the infamous Rogue Read & Critiques, which start at 9 p.m. and end at … well, the record is 6:45 a.m.

Be sure to click onto the SCWC’s website and register now if you plan to attend. It’s well worth every penny.

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Like I said, summer is a great time to breathe deeply, expand the mind into the warm, open air, and see what comes back creatively.  Enjoy your writing and reading … and most of all, the sun and warmth.

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