Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Fan

Richmond, Virginia circa I won't say when. The year I began my college career, I had no idea how influential it would be for the rest of my life. The school, Richmond Professional Institute of the College of William & Mary (Now VCU), was the arts division of that renowned college. It was located near Monroe Park, from which the streets fanned out through the district that became known as "The Fan". The classrooms, with a few exceptions, the theatre, the visual arts buildings and a couple of academic buildings were housed in antebellum homes that were present when Robert E. Lee walked the streets.

It was not the buildings or even the District that truly defined what "The Fan" was. It was a center of creative energy such as I have never since been able to discover. Everyone, famous or infamous, was obsessed with the arts: music, theatre, dance, visual arts, sculpture, design, photography and illustration. It was a mecca that celebrated the avant garde and the unusual with great and not-so-great talents. The only way I can describe it is that it was what I imagined, through reading books like Shakespeare and Company, the history of Sylvia Beach's iconic Paris bookstore in the twenties and thirties, biographies and films, the "Left Bank" was during that period of "The Village" in the thirties.

The people, as well as the art, created the energy. College buds, Tom Robbins (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, etc.) who was gone on to sell millions of books and be declared one of the greatest writers of the Twentieth Century, Bernard Martin, an internationally known artist whose paintings far exceed my budget, Bill Jones, a journeyman painter who could paint anything you desired, a Matisse, Picasso or a Monet. The only thing he couldn't paint was a "Bill Jones". Dick Carlyon, a well-known artist who became one of the great art history professors of all time. There were also recognized artists, actors, playwrights and musicians that were "Artists-in-Residence" during the period. The names go on and on.

It was the age of Abstract Expressionism in the visual arts and James Dean, Julie Harris, Christopher Plummer and others in the theatrical world. While the painters and sculptors headed off to study with Hans Hoffman in the summers, we actors found work wherever we could, adapting whatever image we felt would get us through the door. I mentioned James Dean. The picture included in the post was my first professional publicity photo, taken by my friend Bernard Martin, who mastered photography as well as paint.

The creativity wasn't limited to art. There was the time when, out of cash and thirsty, Bill Jones called the local brewery (They produced Richbrau Beer) at ten o'clock at night, announcing himself the president of The Walpole Art Association, a group visiting Richmond from Farmville, Virginia, and leaving in the morning. He asked if it was possible to tour the brewery. They agreed and fifteen or so thirsty college artists had as much beer to drink as they could manage.

I was very privileged to have experienced those people and granted an extraordinary life by them. In speaking with Martin and Robbins recently, we all agreed that one could not find that kind of creative energy, atmosphere and characters in one place in today's world ever again.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Author Interview: Featured on The Cult of Me

Hey everyone, wanted to make those who follow the blog aware of an author interview posted about me on a UK blog called "The Cult of Me." While the blog owner promotes his own material, he also works really hard to help other authors out and have the chance to talk a little bit about themselves. Well, I did just that, and the result is posted here! -> Send me to the interview!

I hope you all are having a wonderful Spring season, and you should definitely stay tuned for a new book hopefully coming out this summer!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Prologue Excerpt

For those of you who regularly follow my tweets or Facebook, you'll know that I have a new novel I'm working on. While it is not finished, I am including the prologue to the book here to keep you all updated. Enjoy!

**Please note that any and all words here are my own. Copyright infringement will not be tolerated**

Prologue after the jump.

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Days With Brother Jukebox

There are those who know me personally - if anyone does - know before I began writing books, I spent a lot of years - actually what I call "years of night", meaning I didn't have a lot of days, in the music business. Nights were when you made your living. I was a singer, singin' all kinds of music: doo-wop, progressive jazz (remember The Four Freshmen, the Hi-los? Prob'ly not.), rock and roll, blues. Finally, I sang songs that were about heartbreakin', womanizin', cheatin', hard-drinkin' and fightin'. Did they all end in "in"? Songs like "Brother Jukebox" and "Hank Williams You Wrote My Life" and others. Those two and more were written by my friend, Paul Craft, who also wrote for the Eagles, Linda Ronstad and Dolly Parton. There were also lesser songs in this genre that I didn't sing (one has to have standards), songs like "If I'da Killed You Then I'd Be Gettin' Out Now" or "Ain't No Trash in My Trailer Since You Left."

It was those latter clubs, some with chicken wire in front of the bandstand to ward off beer bottles, in places like War, West Virginia and Penns Grove, NJ, that introduced me to a number of things the other music scenes hadn't provided, such as going to sleep on Monday and waking up on Wednesday on a bus, somewhere, with people, some of whom I knew and others who had just joined the fray while I was sleeping. It was a "Brother Jukebox, Sister Wine" kind of existence.

I was thinkin' about some of those experiences late last night when I realized my blog had been pretty much ignored while my brain was searching for the next novel. I then asked myself was music or writin' the most fun. Ever do that? Ever ask yourself what the best time, the best period of your life, the one with the most fun was? Just for you. Don't think about anybody else.

Looking back, I would have to say music was the most fun time without question. Musicians have no responsibilities except for the music. Musicians have no responsibilities except for the music. But, I also have to admit writin' is a good time, too, and less damaging and safer. I would also have to admit that the life experiences I got through music gave me things to write about. (Nothin' Left to Lose). We will talk more about this later. I'm off to Virginia, but I'm not invitin' Brother Jukebox or Sister Wine.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Louisiana Burn Voiceover Teaser

So you're thinking about purchasing Louisiana Burn, but that $2.99 is just a little bit too hard to part with. I understand! And this is why I'm here to help. It's pretty easy to go on Amazon or other sites that sell books and read a small sample of them to see if you might enjoy it. But I decided to take it to the next level, and had the talented Lynne Darlington, a voiceover professional from New York, record an excerpt for me. At this point, I'm happy to share that very voiceover with you:

If anyone is looking for a voiceover professional for any sort of work, I'd highly recommend Lynne; she was a pleasure to work with and obviously did a wonderful job. Her email is for any inquiries. If you'd like to check out her site, the link is

Also, I'd just like to mention that all of my books, including the others in the Sam Larkin Trilogy, are now available as eBooks... They can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, the Apple bookstore and more, all for just $2.99.

Happy listening and happy reading!!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How to Keep a Conversation Going on Twitter

The masterminds behind Twitter must have been people who didn't like to listen very much. In case you're not familiar with the concept of Twitter, the whole idea is that people can instantly spew the thoughts out to the general public anytime and anywhere - provided that they keep their thoughts to a maximum length of 160 characters.

Needless to say, if you're trying to hold any sort of intelligent conversation on Twitter, it becomes increasingly difficult. Let's be honest; if you can help it, 'u'd rather not hav 2 typ like dis' to save character space. Unfortunately, it's unavoidable at times in order to fit in the information you want to convey, along with any links you may want to go with it.

But my question is this: Is it actually even possible to keep a truly interesting conversation going on Twitter?

Let's go back a ways to pen-pals (boy am I getting old...). You would write them, and wait days or weeks before you heard a reply. But wasn't it true that part of the fun in the anticipation of the response? In some ways it kept the conversation going, because there were always new things that were happening in between the letters, and therefore there was even more to talk about each time you had the opportunity to reply to a letter. Fast forward to the present period, and here we are with instantaneous Twitter, where you may only have to wait a few minutes before someone replies to your "tweet". Now, I don't know about you, dear reader, but in my life, not very much can happen in one minute. And therefore the topics presented in this "tweet-versation" must be concise in explanation, yet verbose in thought. And that, my friend, is the challenge.

Over the next few days, weeks, months I've set myself a personal goal to reach out to those people on Twitter that are following me, and I, them. Of the 960 or so who are following me, I have had the pleasure of just a few conversations and those only lasted a few "tweets". I think it's high time that these people find out who I really am, and I who they are. And thus the challenge begins.

I will post back some findings on this experiment at a later date!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Day in the Mountains or You Never Know!

When I was in sales many years ago, I attended a sales seminar facilitated by a failed salesman, who had changed his career path from sales to holding seminars on "How to Sell". It was much like unsuccessful actors or writers, who became critics or wrote book on "How to become a Successful Actor" or "How to Become a Best-selling Author". The one thing he said I found profoundly enlightening was "You never know where your next sale is coming from." which I have found to be very true; consequently, I am manic about self-promotion. This would embarrass some people and certainly offends the dignity of some authors; however, I have found that doesn't only apply to sales but also to opportunities.

People will never know about my books if I don't adhere to that philosophy. This is likely the reason I have more than 40,000 books (5 titles) in print or the eBook format. None were self-published. I met one publisher in a coffee shop. One in a grocery store. Most of this as a result of not being shy, which I will never be accused of. Strike up a conversation. "What do you think of these new electronic books?" "Do you read much?" They may look at me strangely, but I usually manage to get in the fact that I'm a writer. "Really? Do I know your books? What have you written?" and so on.

Case in point: On a recent weekend I was traveling in the mountains. I had a time schedule to keep to arrive in Brevard, North Carolina. The trip started from my home in Greenville, SC. Mapquest said it was 58 miles, an hour and twenty minutes. Fortunately, I left early, as I usually do. If you have a car set up by a NASCAR crew chief or have participated in the "Pike's Peak Hill Climb", you might make it in that length of time. I found that estimate extremely inaccurate, and I am not a cautious or slow driver. The road is two lane, no guard rails and steep drops into Never Land. Some of the most beautiful scenery I know of, but certainly not built for speed.

After being on the road for nearly two hours, Brevard was not in sight. I was hungry and frustrated. Suddenly, there was a small mountainside restaurant not much larger than the first floor of my modest house. I needed directions and food, so I stopped. As I got out of my car, a jeep pulled in and three young people got out. Two men and a woman. They were dressed for a day tromping through the hills - the men in jeans and she wearing cut-offs and knee length rubber boots. They would surely know where the hell Brevard was and how long it would take me to get there.

I used the standard southern opening: "Are you all from around here?" "No, we're from Greenville, SC." The answer came. Although my hopes faded, I asked if they knew where Brevard was and they did. "About thirty minutes away." "That far?" "It's only about twelve miles." Are you getting an idea about the road?

Being on a health kick, I order only two chili dogs. I have found after much research, one can only get "real" chili dogs at small "Mom & Pop" restaurants far from civilization. I did manage to ignore the home-baked pies displayed on the counter next to the sign that said: "I need ones". To my point, they were the best chili dogs I have found since I moved to SC.

Since the threesome that got out of the jeep were sitting close, I struck up a conversation, managed to give them a business card that listed my books and a picture postcard of the cover of my book, "Nothin' Left to Lose", which had just been issued as an eBook. In the conversation, it came out that one of the men, Aaron von Frank and his wife Susan own a public relations firm, bitTyrant. That certainly caught my attention. I am always impressed by young entrepreneurs, who look or sound like they know what they're doing. Needless to say, I asked them to contact me, that I would like to hear more about their business.

The following Monday - by the way, because I had left Greenville so early, I did make it to Brevard barely on time - I received an email from them, giving me their contact numbers and even a suggestion to have lunch together in Greenville one afternoon. I replied, "What about Thursday?" "Fine."

To get back to my point, we did have lunch on Thursday and a great conversation. They are extremely knowledgeable about the business they are in and because of their youth and intelligence, creative and willing to take risks, technically well-informed (something I am not) and have major clients and a new technique, "Method Marketing". I had found a goldmine. The lunch ended with their offering to come up with some ideas - a few of which would have never occurred to me - and a very acceptable financial arrangement.

"Are you all from around here?" I had asked and look where it led. The theorem: You never know where your next sale or opportunity may come from, and, if you find a small Mom & Pop restaurant in the wilderness, be sure to stop for a chili dog or two.

from L to R: Susan von Frank, myself, and Aaron von Frank