Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Music Won't Wait

Most writers began telling their own stories because they loved to read. I wasn't any different. Grew up reading everything I could put my hands on, and I have my father to thank for that. He loved to read and I followed his lead early and often.

Dad taught me a lot of things, but I didn't share his other talents. He was a whiz of a carpenter, building a beautiful family room on our South Florida home. He had a knack for knowing how things worked and how to fix them when they broke. I'm so inept, my wife had to explain which end of a hammer to use.

Dad also had a pretty fair singing voice, while I couldn't carry a tune in a wheelbarrow. Not that he would have given Pavarotti any competition, but he could belt out a song, impressing his friends and family.

One thing dad couldn't do was play the piano. I remember him sharing that secret wish one day, and telling me he was going to get around to it before he was too old. Dad didn't usually share his feelings except when my brother or me made him mad. Then he let us know how he felt — big time. But he surprised me when he said he wanted to write songs and jingles, and thought playing the piano was the first step in the process. Words and music rattled around in his head, and he was convinced if he could play the music, the songs would come to life for him.

Perhaps it was all a dream, but we'll never know.

Dad waited until he had a heart attack before he bought an old stand-up piano. I recall visiting him and seeing the piano sitting in a corner of the family room. He said he was going to hire a teacher and learn to play as soon as he felt a little better. And he did. He'd just started his lessons when a second heart attack ended his dreams and his life at the young age of 52.

That was forty years ago this summer, but I often think about my dad and his unfulfilled dreams. We spend our lives working, raising a family. We pay bills, go on vacations, and back to work. It seems like we're waiting for some divine signal to start our real lives, putting off our dreams until the time is right.

"When the kids graduate, we can travel."

"When I pay off the mortgage, I'm going to write that book."

"When I retire, I'll learn to play the piano."

I've told my sons the story of my father and his piano dreams. Told them not to delay pursuing their passions because when it comes to how long we'll be around, we're not our own timekeepers.

Go ahead, play the piano and write your songs while the rhythm of life surges.

The music won't wait.

(See how I made one of my dreams come true with my newest book, MATANZAS BAY)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

How Hard Are You Working?

Every writer jumps into the publishing pool with dreams of making a major splash. We might work at a book for years, believing the payoff will come as soon as we see the book in print. Never mind that we haven't been paid a single cent for those many hours we've invested, our dreams are driving us forward.

And dreams are good to have, but reality tells us that most books never sell enough copies to compensate the author for the investment he or she has made. Still, the times they are a'changin', as Bob Dylan reminded us so many years ago. So we shouldn't be satisfied with small dreams. Last month, announced that John Locke was the first self-published author to sell more than one million Kindle downloads.

Now, self-published isn't a dirty word anymore because independently published authors are making serious money. But it still involves creating and working your marketing plan, continuing to work daily on self-promotion and building a buzz for your book.

I'm curious what has worked for you. Social media like Facebook and Twitter? Guest blogging? Or the old-fashioned newspaper review like this one in The Florida Times-Union for Matanzas Bay. Or Karen Harvey's kind review in The St. Augustine Record.

Let's share our secrets and keep our dreams alive.