Category Archives: Books
1. an opening, hole, or gap.
2. a space through which light passes in an optical or photographic instrument, especially the variable opening by which light enters a camera.
It was underneath the smell of cut grass and gasoline that I first noticed the hole. A medium-sized perforation about the size of a tennis ball that was sticking out like a pockmark on the face of my freshly manicured lawn.
On first glance I estimated its size to be approximately three-inches wide by four-inches deep. A perfectly shaped cylinder unlike any of the typical oblong-shaped chasms that are dug by man. On the contrary, I was certain this particular hole was delivered by one of the masters of dirt and dig – a varmint. The enemy of perfectionist yard enthusiasts everywhere.
Now, I’ve always prided myself in keeping a tidy yard and have been mowing my one-third of an acre plot religiously every Saturday morning during the mowing season. Always making a point to follow-up the proper mow with a good trimming around the base perimeter of the fence line as well as going the extra mile to get every rogue dandelion that curiously survives the spraying by the professional weed service I pay top dollar to in order to make my lawn the envy of the neighborhood.
And now — there’s a freaking hole in it.
For the last twenty years mowing the grass has been the only thing that has really given me any sort of happiness. During that same span of time the long, blondish lawn on my own head has disappeared and the chiseled abs I once had have succumbed to the inevitable phenomenon I like to call age mass. I’ve been in and out of jobs over the years, habitually single and even survived a bout with colon cancer at the tender age of thirty-six. For the most part you could say that my life has been pretty much status quo.
But I wasn’t always the lawn-loving, bald, thick in the middle-man you see here before you. At one point in my life I actually had dreams. Dreams of becoming the next Edward Van Halen as guitarist for the hair metal band, Silent Rage.
You’ve heard of us, right?
Don’t worry. I won’t shed a tear if you haven’t. But I will say that Silent Rage was one of the 80s most well-known hard rock groups. I mean, we played gigs everywhere from Maine to South Florida; opening for bands like Winger, KIX and Heaven’s Edge. We even had a showcase for the Adverse City Records honchos in New York City, who promised us a two-album recording deal in early 1991.
Yep, the world was going to be our oyster. That is until Kurt Cobain, Alice in Chains and the rest of those Seattle grunge lunatics shot that dream to hell. Forcing the band to dissolve and me to have to sell off most of my gear and take on the first of countless jobs just to make ends meet. Eventually leading to the middle-aged conundrum I now find myself in.
In a world where age, health and hair have forsaken me, mowing the lawn is the only thing I have any sort of control over. So you’ll have to excuse me if I get a little upset when a rabbit or groundhog comes into my inner sanctum and decides to dig a hole.
How did I not notice this obtrusive hole while I was mowing, you ask? Good question. I pondered the same thing myself. Surely I would have seen a tennis ball sized hole as I was making passes over it with the lawn mower, yet I must have somehow overlooked it.
But what made the whole thing even stranger was the fact that there was no dug-up loose dirt in the area surrounding the hole. In fact, the earth near the hole was hard packed and completely dry. Giving every indication that the hole had actually been there for a long, long time.
Now, I may be forty-five years old and been diagnosed with presbyopia at my last eye doctor visit, but even I would have noticed a blatant hole sticking out like a sore thumb several weeks into the mowing season. I decided to kneel down to get a closer look at the intruder’s work, hoping to find a clue as to what brand of rodent had been infiltrating my land.
As I started moving loose grass clippings out of the way a drop of sweat slipped off of my brow and fell into the hole. There, beneath the warm June sky something began shining out of its depth. At first I thought it might be a quarter or some small piece of glass or stone reflecting off the hot summer sun. Instead, it turned out to be nothing material at all.
It was a beam of light. A light shining out from somewhere within the hole. It was almost as if someone was on the other side of the hole shining a flashlight outward and into my eyes.
A lump began to develop in my throat and I actually felt my heart skip a beat. I’ll be honest with you here. I seriously gave consideration to making a run for it. Something about this whole thing just didn’t seem right. But instead of running, I decided to do what only a fool would do. I laid down flat on my stomach and peered my eye right inside that cantankerous hole.
Screw you, Alice in Wonderland.
What I felt when I first looked into the hole was reminiscent of a pirate who had been lost at sea for months. A pirate who would spend most of the day peeping through his spyglass in a vain search to find land but only finding endless sea. Until one day, just as he’s about to run out of food and water, he discovers the thing he had been searching for. The only thing that mattered.
As I looked down into the hole I could see a white-colored, cloudy canvas. Like I was flying through a sea of cumulus clouds, with edges clean and soft. A canvas whose brightness covered the entire spectrum of my senses and then; as if on cue, having already known of my intentions to see what lied beyond, the canvas of clouds quickly parted into some dream-state dimension
From a third-person perspective I saw myself in this surreal state just as clear as day. Only it wasn’t the forty-five year old me I saw. Instead, it was a much younger version of me, no more than twenty-one.
Nearly forty pounds from my midsection had all but disappeared and every last one of my long blond hairs had miraculously returned. The real me had a sense of confidence he hadn’t felt in a long time.
For all intents and purposes, it felt like the year 1990. Like watching some old home movie, but in the highest of definition. One where every nuance of every movement was noticeable – the sights, the sounds, the feeling. From that moment, I realized I no longer wanted to just look into the light inside of the hole. Instead, I wanted to become a part of it.
I watched from above as this younger version of me stood somberly next to his idling, green, 1976 Chevrolet Vega wagon. A dark brown suitcase sat next to the car as it sputtered in and out of stalling. I was certain that it wouldn’t be long into my trip before the car would leave me sitting on the side of the road.
It was 1990.
The familiar sounds of Westminster Chimes began to play from the St. Agnes Church a few blocks away. I had enough time to count each chime as it signaled the hour of day.
By the time it reached the ninth chime I had already determined that it was early morning based on the positioning of the sun in the eastern sky and by the faint sounds of another lawn mower leveling the landscape some distance away. It was also at that moment that I realized I was at West Chester University again and even more importantly, I was fully aware of what was about to happen next.
A young, attractive woman slowly approaches the vehicle. She had fair skin, a creamy complexion and the familiar long brown hair that ran down beneath her shoulders. With deep blue eyes that breathed a life in me that I’ve never felt before nor ever will again. She wore the blue denim jacket her parents had bought for her in high school, with matching jeans and scuffed up Chuck Taylor’s that have seen a lot of miles from the long walks we had taken together over the last two years. The smile she had that could light up a room was now replaced with sadness. I knew going in this was not going to be easy.
Christine is was my everything.
“Have everything you need?” Christine asked in her casual, nonchalant fashion. The faux me was already quick to answer.
“Yes. Enough to get me through to Scranton.” I said. Of course, I was lying. As Christine already knew from our many journeys in the beat-up old wagon, the Vega constantly burned oil and overheated. I figured I might only make it as far as Allentown before I’d have to stop.
“Did you get all of your paperwork complete?” she said, hoping that somehow I might have overlooked something. Something that would have delayed the inevitable.
“Uh-huh. Got the final papers from the bursar’s office yesterday. It’s all done. Turned in my keys to the resident advisor this morning, gassed up the car and here we are.”
“You know, you don’t have to do this.” Christine said solemnly. “Can’t you at least stay until the end of the semester and see what happens?”
Tears began to fill her eyes.
“ I can’t.” I said. “You know I’ve waited a long time for my music to take off. This gig up north promises shows for the next three months. Good pay too. Mike our drummer even says that it may lead us to a showcase in New York City if we’re good enough.”
There was an odd silence and then she said those same five words I still ask myself in my darkest nights.
“Are you good enough, Jim?”
Even though I already knew the answer, at that moment someone greater than me had pressed “pause” on this supernatural VCR.
“Choose.” a voice said.
“Choose?” I asked looking at the now frozen in time Christine. I could not take my eyes off of her.
“You can change the outcome. I’ve given you the choice.” the voice responded.
“But I already know what happens” I thought to myself, now knowing that whatever voice was speaking to me could also read my mind.
“Twenty-five years ago you decided to leave college for music.” the voice responded. “You now have the chance to change it.”
“Change it?” my conscience said. Could I really sacrifice these last twenty-five years? Is it possible to get a second chance in this life?
It’s true. I did turn my back on college and Christine [who was already halfway through her second year of pre-med] in exchange for a chance to become the guitarist for Silent Rage – the next great hair metal band. But instead of staying in school to get my teaching degree, marrying Christine and living happily every after, I took my beat-up Fender Strat on the road for two years performing to semi-packed crowds before the advent of grunge destroyed me and nearly every other 80’s hard rock band that existed and ended my musical dream.
During those ensuing years Christine and I fell out of touch. I don’t know if she ever did become that doctor but I am sure that her end result was better than mine. I did try looking her up on Facebook and LinkedIn after my battle with cancer [being face to face with death has a tendency to make you want to tie up loose ends] but came up empty-handed.
“Are you good enough, Jim?” the voice asked me again.
“This isn’t that movie, ‘Groundhog Day’.” my conscience told me. “No one can really go back. You only get one life and the trick is to make the most of it.”
Sure, grunge was a setback. And I know that if I had been made that decision back in 1987 instead of 1990 things might have been completely different. But age, health, relationships, job-hopping and even that little drinking episode I had that led to a night in the drunk tank were all setbacks. But none of those things really destroyed me. They only made me who I am
“Are you good enough, Jim?”
I looked at the frozen Christine. I looked at the frozen twenty-one year old me. I looked at the idling Vega that would wind up stalling out halfway to Pottstown, leaving me stranded on the side of Route 100 for two hours. Until a friendly trucker came by and offered me a lift into town where we talked about music and The Gulf War over a six-pack of Coors Light.
What happened next I can’t explain. It was as if the dream sequence I had become immersed in had suddenly become a puddle and a huge omnipotent hand had disturbed the still water. I saw Christine and the Vega and the young me ripple away into darkness while the real me drifted off into another stream of consciousness. I woke up lying face down next to the hole on a warm bed of freshly cut grass.
As I was pulling myself up off the ground I noticed that the sun had already begun its soft descent into the deep western sky. I smiled. The light and hole that once seemed so painfully intrusive to me was now gone and in its place was a breach that no longer seemed like it was the end of the world.
Although some may wonder why author Annie Lobert decided to name her new book, “Fallen”, the title of her first book has a dual meaning. Not only is Lobert’s journey of falling down and rising up a story of redemption, but the book’s title also comes from the name Lobert used in her job as a former prostitute and sex trafficking victim (although Lobert’s working names was pronounced “fallon”).
Growing up with aspirations of becoming an artist Lobert’s personal testimony of sex, drugs and violence is at times tragic, often reaching the lowest of lows. But in the end Lobert discovers that the love she longed for was with her all the time. And her new found peace has given her the strength to help others overcome their own personal demons.
Today, in addition to being the wife of Stryper guitarist Oz Fox, Lobert runs “Hookers For Jesus”, a Christian faith-based non-profit that addresses the issues of prostitution, sex trafficking and sexual violence.
I had the pleasure of speaking with this inspirational woman about her book, journey and mission.
How does someone who grew up wanting to become an artist, musician and dancer get involved in sex trafficking?
Those were all my aspirations and the things I wanted to do when I was growing up, but I had also come from a very hard childhood. My father was an alcoholic and was very demanding and ruled with an iron fist. We were raised in a strict military family and my father never let go of that mindset while we were growing up. He never gave me the attention I longed for and as a result I became very needy and insecure.
When I reached high school I started noticing that boys were looking at me – and I liked the attention. I thought that if I could get attention from men then I would be happy. So I sowed my oats, went out into the world and did a lot of underage drinking.
How did you first become involved in the sex industry?
After high school I had the idea of going to college and becoming a smart corporate businesswoman while learning about music on the side. Instead, I ended up going to the nightclubs on Tuesdays and Thursdays with my friend and met these guys who eventually became our sex traffickers. Hustling men out of money was something I thought I was made for. I was making $500-$1000 an hour and thought I’d be set for life. I eventually began working for escort services and at strip clubs. It turned into a culture and a lifestyle.
When did your life really begin to change in the industry?
I met a man at a club I was working in one night who I thought was my knight in shining armor. He was a drug dealer who took me to Las Vegas and one night when I came home from “work” proceeded to tell me to give him all of my money and then beat the crap out me. From that moment on he told me he was my pimp and I was his working girl and that I had to do whatever he asked me to do. Then he told me how sorry he was to have to do what he did and that he loved me and how he only did it to teach me a lesson. The craziest part of the whole thing was that even though I was shocked at getting beaten, I was still in love with him. I just fell into it and that’s how I became a sex trafficking victim.
Did anyone at any point ever offer you any help?
I met a lot of men who actually wanted to help me. One of them would always say, “Annie, you are destroying yourself!” He helped get me out of the industry and off drugs. We had a great partnership and even started a business together in Las Vegas. But our business eventually failed and I decided to go back to the only thing I knew would keep me going. Every day became a ritual. It was always get up, get high and go turn a trick. I knew better but felt comfortable about doing it because I was in so much pain mentally, physically and emotionally. I knew that no one just wakes up one morning and says, “Hey! I’m going to be a pimp or a prostitute!” But the truth was, I had been in the industry for 16 years an was now in my thirties and had thrown away all of the respect I had for my body and for myself. The pimps in my life had taken everything from me and broke me down. I thought it was over.
At what point did you hit rock bottom?
It took years for it to happen. I had never taken heavy drugs before but the first time I tried cocaine I became completely addicted. One night I was doing a lot it and wound up overdosing. It felt like a knife had gone through my chest and was stabbing me over and over. That’s when I had a heart attack and near death experience. I could actually see my coffin and watched my body float away into a dark place. And that’s when something in me cried out. I had gone to church when I was a young girl so I already knew who Jesus was and for a moment I was no longer that person in the wilderness crying out for help because there was a wolf. I just said, “Jesus, help me! I’m going to die!”
What happened next?
I wound up being taken to the hospital and remember as I was lying there being treated the doctor came up to me and told me that it was a miracle I wasn’t dead. He said, “God must have been with you.” It really clicked in my head that God had heard my prayer — and that’s where my journey started. From that day I pretty much stopped everything and started getting my life back together. I had woken up to the fact that I had been forgiven and it was a great epiphany to know that I was still loved.
What inspired you to start Hookers For Jesus?
After everything I had done there was one person who still welcomed and accepted me — and his name is Jesus. I was so thankful that I was taken out of such a dark place that I wanted to give that same wonderful life change to another human being that was in the same place I was in. That’s what started Hookers For Jesus and basically it’s this: “We fish for people who are drowning.” Matthew 4:19.
What made you decide to write this book?
I’ve wanted to write a book for years about my story. What started out as one sheet of paper soon turned into a rough draft. By the time I had most of it written I had gone through five editors and also gotten the help from a ghostwriter named AJ Gregory. It’s been quite a journey.
What would you like people to take away from reading “Fallen”?
I want to let people know that no matter how far they’ve fallen their life actually means something and they can always get back on track. The truth is you don’t have to have been a prostitute or a victim of sex trafficking to understand what I’ve been through. When you fall, there are people out there who can pick you up as well as a higher power and greater source. All you have to do is reach out to them. The best way to receive help is to first realize that we can’t do everything on our own.
It’s hard to believe that we’re already on the third installment of our Doodle Dog Book series. What started out as a dream by two high school friends has turned into something bigger than either of us could have ever imagined.
But Michele and I both believe that the real fulfillment in accomplishing a dream comes from giving it a purpose – and that’s exactly what we’ve done, by donating 100% of our profits from sales of our first two books to worthy causes.
In keeping with this trend, all personal proceeds from sales of our brand-new book, “Doodle: When Times Get Ruff” will go to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, a non-profit organization which provides a home away from home for families with seriously ill children staying and receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.
“Doodle: When Times Get Ruff” tells the story of Chloe, a young girl who faces uncertainty when her younger brother Christopher becomes ill. With help and love from both family and friends, Chloe is able to overcome her fear.
If you’re already a fan of the first two books you’ll notice the return of a few familiar characters, but with an added twist. You may also discover a few “easter eggs” that have been hidden somewhere within the text as well.
As an added bonus, from now until December 31st, Michele and I will be donating all future profits from sales of our first two books, “Doodle” and “Doodle Meets The Pound Pup” to RMHC of Central Ohio as well.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mackenzie Schuler, the Marketing & Communications Coordinator for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, to find out more about her job and what goes on at RMH. We hope that after reading this interview with Mackenzie and seeing all of the good work that she and the rest of the staff and volunteers at RMHC of Central Ohio do for their community, you will consider purchasing a copy of our book or helping us spread the word!
How did you become involved in non-profit work?
I grew up in Iowa with a family full of outdoors men. During my senior year in high school, my Grandpa was sitting up in a tree stand when it suddenly gave out. He fell fifteen feet and broke all of the vertebrae in his neck and back; completely shattering his spine. While he was in the hospital being treated my mom, grandma and aunt would all take turns staying either in his room or in the hospital waiting room. I remember they would be there for days on end and I got to see firsthand how draining it was for them to be in that environment and not have any break or an oasis to get away from it. I had originally intended to be a journalism major but that experience shifted my focus to non-profit work. I had two great internships while I was in college and fell in love with it.
What’s the mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio?
Our mission is to serve the families of seriously ill children in central Ohio and we create, find and support programs that do just that. When a family checks in, we don’t ask them to pay anything. That means we have a large gap that we have to makeup through fundraising.
People may already know what the Ronald McDonald House is, but we also have a number of other things – including the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile which is basically a traveling, pediatric doctor’s office that goes around and visits kids who may not be able to get access to healthcare otherwise. It travels north to Mansfield all the way down to southern Ohio.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Well, there is no “typical” day in a non-profit setting [laughs]. We get to wear many different hats. I remember one Saturday I was here and we were all unloading head boards. We don’t hire anyone to do it for us. We do all of the work ourselves. So one day I might be meeting with a family to talk about their experience at RMH and the next day, I might be moving furniture or reupholstering chairs.
My main focus here though is being the Marketing and Communications Coordinator. I do all of our social media as well as all of internal and external communications. I also work directly with families to tell a story each month for our electronic newsletter. I’ll work with our Family Services department to find a family who would be willing to talk about their experience and then tie it back to everyone who helps give their time, money and effort to the Ronald McDonald House.
What can you tell me about the recent expansion at RMH?
Currently, we have 80 guest rooms and have just added a 42-room expansion. With 122 rooms, it makes us the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world. It’s really exciting. In addition to the rooms, we’ve also added things like a roof-top garden and a salon area. We have lots of common spaces for families to spend their time together and keep their lives as normal as possible in not so normal circumstances. We’ll be having a Community Open House on Sunday, Sept 14th from 1-4pm. We want to use this opportunity to thank people for all of their support and want them to feel like they’re a part of the project as well.
What are some of the ways people can help?
There are a number of ways you can get involved. When you visit our website you’ll find a tab there that says “How You Can Help”. It can be anything from volunteering regularly to making a meal or even collecting pop tabs.
Is there something that people might not know about RMH that you think they should be aware of?
One of the things people might not be aware of is that we rely 100% on donations from the community. We also have a very small staff, so in order to keep our facility running we have volunteers that are here from 9am – 9pm every day of the week. Our volunteers also help us save money. As an example, since we don’t have a hired cleaning staff, our volunteers are the ones who keep our house spotless. It’s because of their hard work that we’re able to save over a million dollars a year.
What is the best part of your job?
There are so many great stories that are told every day here at the Ronald McDonald House. I love the mission and how no one is ever asked to pay. It’s an amazing service provided to the community. One where the only thing the family has to be concerned about is helping their child heal. They don’t need to focus on anything else. Only on what’s important.
For more information on
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio – Click Here!
Click here to Order a Copy of Doodle: When Times Get Ruff
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year since George Jones passed away. But a new tell-all biography by longtime friends Charlene and Peanutt Montgomery keeps Jones’ memory alive as well as sets the record straight on the country music icon’s life and career.
The Legend of George Jones: His Life And Death is a collection of stories that traces Jones’ early years, five marriages (including one to another legendary artist – Tammy Wynette) and a career unequaled in the world of country music. From his humble beginnings playing guitar and singing on the streets of Beaumont, Texas, to his ascension to the Country Music Hall Of Fame, Jones’ journey is told by the two people who knew him better than anyone.
George Jones was one of the most important and influential singers in music history and the voice behind many of country music’s most enduring hits, including “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, widely regarded as one of the greatest country singles of all time.
Peanutt Montgomery, co-author of the new book wrote 73 songs for George Jones and nine popular Jones / Montgomery hits are included on a CD that accompanies the book as well as two previously unreleased songs, newly recorded by some of country music’s top players.
Although Jones himself never got a chance to read the finished book, the story remains for fans young and old to enjoy. I spoke with Charlene and Peanutt about the book and their memories of George.
What made you decide to write a book about George’s life?
Charlene: I actually started writing the book about five years ago and knew even before then that I wanted to write one. In a way, I wrote it out of sympathy for George. A lot of bad publicity had come out about him over the years. People have this picture of George being a drunken musician and a bar room brawler, but that wasn’t George at all. And although I wont deny that he did do some rough stuff, there were so many good things he did during his life that people never really knew about. He had such a good heart and was so good to people.
The stories in the book really make you feel like you’re right there with George. What was the writing process like?
Charlene: I knew about George’s childhood almost as if I had lived it with him. Only because I had heard him tell me about it so many times. He would always talk about things like his mother cooking and how wonderful it smelled. Or how he really missed things like listening to the wind whistling through the tall pines in the big thickets.
A lot has been said over the years about George and Tammy Wynette’s marriage and their fights. Most of it tabloid fodder. Was a lot of their disputes over domestic issues?
Peanutt: Many of their fights had nothing to do with domestic issues. Sometimes, if Tammy would get a bigger royalty check or one of her songs went higher in the charts than George’s it would aggravate him [laughs]. Even though they were both making money together, he often didn’t look at it that way.
At what point do you remember seeing George at his lowest?
Charlene: The time he shot at Peanutt was probably the lowest I had ever seen him. At the time, he was terribly addicted to cocaine. All the years that we had spent with him, he suddenly became a man that we did not know. He got paranoid and didn’t know who to trust. He didn’t even trust himself.
Can you tell me about the time George first told you about “He Stopped Loving Her Today”?
Peanutt: One day George came by and asked me if I could help write on this song he had. Then he played me a demo tape of “He Stopped Loving Her Today”. I told him that I couldn’t write on that song without getting permission. Then he said, “Well, to me it doesn’t sound like it’s finished.” So the two of us went out to eat to talk about it some more and at the time he was so messed up that he was dropping food on the table and would even lap his food off the table like a dog. That’s when I knew I had to do something.
A few days later, I went down to the judge and told him that George was in danger of hurting someone or himself. The judge eventually had George committed for thirty days and I think that was the beginning of really helping him come out of his problems. But I’ll never forget those days when he would try to get me to help him write on that song. Looking back now, I probably should have called up Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman [“He Stopped Loving Her Today” songwriters] and asked to help them with it! [laughs].
Do you have a good story about what it was like writing a song with George Jones?
Peanutt: I remember one time George was up in New York for a week or so and when he came back he said to me, “Peanutt? Old George is gonna be a hard act to follow!” I said, “George, that’s a good title for a song!” At the time, George had a little concert piano in his living room. We both went in and started banging on it and wrote “A Hard Act To Follow”. That was the song on the b-side of “He Stopped Loving Her Today”.
What would you like people to remember most about George Jones?
Charlene: The thing that usually stands out is that George was a drinker, but he was also a common man who could relate to common people. I would like people to remember that George had a good heart.
Peanutt: I always put the spiritual world in with our lives. I claimed George Jones years ago and told him that he was going to be a Christian and was going to go to Heaven to be with God and all the rest of us one day. George would often question God, wondering how God could permit little children to be born crippled or people to grow old and be mistreated. I told him, “George, we don’t know the answers to all of that, but just believe in the Lord.”
There’s an old saying in psychology that says there’s something called a self-fulfilling prophecy. That if you say something over and over and believe it enough, it can come true. Be positive and look at the good side of life, even in the bad. I really believe that because I heard that on his death-bed, George accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior.
Charlene: If there’s one thing that George Jones taught me that was of great value, it happened back in the 1960’s. He was mad at Jimmy Peppers, who was a songwriter he was working with. I remember he said, “I don’t ever want to speak to that boy again!! Our friendship’s over!!” Then a few weeks later I saw George laughing and cutting it up again with Jimmy Peppers. I took him off to the side and said “Hey, I thought you said you didn’t want to have nothing to do with Jimmy Peppers?” He said, “Well Charlene…you can’t ever hold a grudge!” So whenever I get into a situation like that, I always go back to the advice he gave me that day. It was way back when I first met George Jones, and I’ve never forgotten it.
For more information on
The Legend of George Jones: His Life and Death Click Here!
In his new autobiography, Honestly: My Life And Stryper Revealed, guitarist Michael Sweet bares his soul. Within its pages, the Stryper frontman details everything from his humble upbringing and troubles with the law to the rise, fall and rebirth of Stryper.
From the creation of the signature Stryper guitar sound to his stint touring with Boston and the tragic loss of his beloved wife Kyle, Sweet spares no expense when looking back on his life as husband, father, bandmate and Christian.
Honestly is more than just a biography or reflection of old road stories. It’s a spiritual journey and heartfelt look into the mind of one of the most recognizable voices in rock and a true guitar great.
Sweet also is about to release a new solo album, I’m Not Your Suicide, which gives him the opportunity to showcase a different side of his musical persona. The impressive disc combines hard rock and metal messages (“Taking On The World Tonight,” “I’m Not Your Suicide”), elements of classic rock (a cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”) and country (“Coming Home”).
I recently spoke to Sweet about his autobiography and album, both of which will be released May 6, and his other upcoming projects.
GUITAR WORLD: What made you decide to write a book at this stage of your life?
I had a lot to say and also felt the need to do it in terms of it being therapeutic and healing for me. People have also had lots of question marks over the years and wanted to know things. I thought the best thing to do would be to deal with all of it in a book and tell everyone the story.
Check out the rest of my Guitar World Interview
With Michael Sweet by Clicking Here!
Joey Parker was at a crossroads in his life. Growing up in a very conservative town in Idaho, he often struggled with his own personal identity and relationships as well as with college and his purpose in life. It wasn’t until a trip to Africa that Joey was able to find his true calling. A passion to make a difference in the world that would result in the creation of an entire movement.
Today, Joey’s humanitarian efforts have not only resulted in raising funds and awareness for those suffering in third world countries, but also for the major social and ecological issues here at home. Joey also regularly contributes articles and interviews highlighting the positive side of Hollywood for his own website as well as for MTV Act.
Joey’s first book, The Joey Parker Movement: Against All Odds is an insightful collection of personal stories offering today’s youth encouragement in overcoming life’s obstacles. From dealing with anxiety to coping with heartache and death, the book is a primer for building a better perspective and world. With celebrity contributions from the likes of Denise Richards, Lisa Rinna, Kristin Cavallari and even a foreword by Paris Hilton, Joey’s book is a story of one man’s dream for the future and a how-to guide for living a better life.
I spoke with Joey about his inspiring new book and movement.
How did the idea for the book come about?
I always thought my story was unique and interesting and the idea of writing a book was something that was always on my bucket list. About two years ago, I reached out to a publishing company that was following me on Twitter and about a week or so later we had a conference call. They loved the idea and concept for it and the process began.
What was the writing process like for you?
I’ve never done anything like this before so I spent a lot of time writing at night, writing in coffee shops and going back and forth with my editors. It was a learning process, but such an amazing project to work on. In the book I talk about many different subjects that were tough for me to go through. I think it will really help other people come into their own as well.
A lot of celebrities made contributions to the book. Tell me a little about that.
All of my relationships in the book came about randomly through Twitter, interviews or through some of the work that I’ve done. I’ve maintained many of those relationships so when the opportunity came to reach out with the idea for the book, they all loved it and wanted to write-up pieces for it.
Paris has such a unique voice. A lot of people tend to see her through a different lens (i.e. tabloids), but she’s a smart entrepreneur who’s grown such an incredible business empire. She’s a fascinating person in pop culture and there’s a lot of pop culture throughout the book. I really wanted to add her voice to the foreword.
What was the inspiration that started The Joey Parker Movement?
It was during a time when I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life and figuring out who I was as an individual. I decided that one of the things I wanted to do was go on a really big trip, so I went to Africa. While I was there I saw a whole other side of the world I never thought I would get to see. When I came back I knew I wanted to do something. I just wasn’t sure what it was.
What did you do next?
I decided to start blogging and writing about the positive side of pop culture. I began writing articles, Tweeting and reaching out to celebrities for interviews. I wanted to show a different side of Hollywood. The positive side. There’s so much negativity out there and people just tearing each other down. I want to embrace the good. That’s where the theme of my website and book came about.
How would describe The Joey Parker Movement?
It’s an evolving theme that’s based on living with a positive attitude and embracing the good in life. For the website, it’s about embracing the good in Hollywood and showing a different side that people don’t often get to see.
What disappoints you the most about what’s going on in the world today?
I am disappointed in the lack of compassion that so many politicians around the United States have when it comes to LGBT rights. I was just at a hearing in Boise, Idaho where I was able to talk with protestors who were urging Idaho politicians to “Add The Words” to the Idaho Human Rights Act (adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”). For months, activists went to the capital to protest yet politicians throughout Idaho once again ignored the people. After my visit to Boise, three LGBT teens committed suicide.
The time is now to speak up, and politicians need to wake up. We must begin to pass laws that protect our people. The youth of our country need support and I hope through my book the younger generation can find some extra hope that boosts them forward.
Consequently, what excites or encourages you about what’s going on in the world today?
How passionate our generation is. I believe we are a unique generation that is ready to push toward a positive future. We truly are ready to make a difference. We are sick of the cycle we have seen in the past and are ready to take it into our own hands. We are vibrant go-getters ready to take on the obstacles we have ahead and pave our own ways.
What’s the message you’d like people to take from reading your book?
Happiness is an inside job. Looking within ourselves may be scary, but it’s facing our inner battles that unlocks the path toward true happiness.
For more on The Joey Parker Movement
Be sure to check out his official website by Clicking Here!
Guitar fans already know about B. Hagen (The Commander-In-Chief) from the amazing guitar duel she recorded with Thomas Valeur. The video of the 24 year old Norwegian guitarist performing Pablo de Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen Op. 20 went viral and became one of Guitar World magazine’s top viral videos of 2013. But Hagen’s creativity goes well beyond the instrument. She’s just released her first children’s book, “The Freezing Snowman”.
Written and illustrated by Hagen herself, this beautiful 46-page book tells the magical story about a snowman suffering from the elements and unable to help himself. For young readers, the story demonstrates not only the power of persistence, but also the rich rewards for helping those around them.
I spoke with Hagen about her book, the guitar duel and the other projects she’s currently working on.
What made you decide to write a book?
Originally, I thought it would make a cool Christmas present for my younger siblings. But when the rest of the family figured out what I was up to, they all pushed for me to self publish it.
How did the idea for the story come about?
I was making a snowman with my two youngest siblings back in the winter of 2012. I remember needing a hat and a scarf for him so I asked my youngest brother Eric if I could borrow his. He was not at all interested in any of HIS things being used, so I told him that the snowman was freezing and desperately needed something to keep himself warm. That was how the idea of the Freezing Snowman was born.
What is the real story behind The Freezing Snowman?
It’s about many things and can be interpreted in many different ways. At first, I was thinking it was about someone being utterly miserable; in a situation they cannot influence. The snowman is not really happy until he starts melting, which is obviously ironic. The kids hold on to him though, just like kids do when they have a pet that is suffering. It might be better for the snowman to “die”, but that would be terrible for the children as they refuse to let go of who they love. They have given him an identity and perceive him as living. The mother of the children (who is a grown up) doesn’t see this. That of course leaves the question of whether or not the snowman is alive or only exists in the imagination of the children. Ultimately, I think this book is about love.
How long did it take you to write and illustrate the book?
I started making the drawings during the winter of 2013. I showed them to my then 7-year-old brother just to see what he thought and he got very excited about the story and wanted more. The writing took me a bit longer, as I waited to get feedback from my 19-year-old brother and mother. I remember there was a major discussion in the family about the ending. I then re-did all of the illustrations later in the year using different materials. The original drawings were all made on cardboard, which I cut myself.
Do you come from an art background?
I do. I had my first exhibition when I was 13, when I was doing geometric abstraction. My big dream since I was 5 was to become a designer. I got accepted into my high school’s advanced art program and later took classes with Linda Cohn and Kirsten Leenart at the Hyde Park Art Center. Everyone expected me to pursue a career in visual arts, but I took a 4 year break from art to focus on my music. I still design my own stage outfits and in late 2012 started doing art again. All of the illustrations in the book were made on Langton watercolour paper using Faber Castell watercolour pencils, Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolours, Derwent Inktense Blocks and Staedtler pigment liners. I also used a variety of brushes and a very handy sponge!
Tell me a little about your Guitar Duel. How did you choose the song and how long did it take to prepare?
I grew up listening to classical music. Itzhak Perlman’s recordings were always played, and the “Zigeunerweisen” was a personal favourite. It was my manager/mother (Elisabeth) and my idea to do a guitar recording of it. It took me 5 months to prepare and I even got injured: dislocating my collar-bone while practicing. But I always like a challenge, and it feels really good to be able to play such a fantastic song. I’m thrilled at how well it has been received!
What other projects are you working on?
I’m currently preparing for a new guitar duel with a very successful British based classical guitarist. We have picked two of the pieces already and will have our first rehearsal soon. As far as my solo career is concerned, I have another tv appearance at the beginning of next month. I’ll get to play two of my original songs on ”Good Morning Norway” and will also be interviewed. I’ll also be performing at the Musikkmesse in Frankfurt, which I’m really looking forward to! And I was just a guest on the biggest Saturday night TV talk show in Norway. More than 600,000 people saw the program so that was very cool!
Do you see yourself writing more children’s books in the future?
That would be great! I have tons of ideas for more stories, both picture books and morbid short stories for older children. Most of them, if not all are inspired by my siblings or my own childhood.
What satisfies you the most having completed your first book?
The illustrations look good in print! Now it’s time to see what children think about it!
For more info on The Commander-in-Chief and The Freezing Snowman
check out the Official Website by Clicking Here!
In the U.S you can purchase a copy of the book here!
Author Andrew Golub is not your typical Duran Duran fan. Over the course of three decades, the Pacific northwest native has amassed a rather impressive arsenal of band memorabilia. It’s a collection that includes everything from rare articles and artifacts to carefully restored posters and prints that document every chapter of Duran Duran history. Selections from Golub’s archive have already been showcased in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum as well in an A&E Biography, two film documentaries and several public exhibitions.
Golub’s 260-page book, “Beautiful Colors: The Posters of Duran Duran” presents an interesting perspective of the band’s career as well as his own fandom. Through the use of full-color posters from 1978 to the present, Beautiful Colors documents the band’s evolution through vintage artwork and stunning photography by Christine Born.
The book has received overwhelming praise from members of the fan community as well as from Duran Duran themselves, with keyboardist Nick Rhodes contributing a touching forward. Beautiful Colors is a book for any fan of Duran Duran or those with a penchant for 80’s nostalgia. Moreover, the book is a true testament to the power of music.
I spoke with Golub about the book and his fascination of all things Duran Duran.
What was your primary motivation behind the Beautiful Colors book?
A book was always a possibility given the breadth of my collection and I’ve received many gentle urgings to produce something like this from friends and fans over the years. From exhibitions to my website, I strived to make my collection more accessible to the global fan community as well as the band. Due to their sheer size, posters tend to be the most dramatic category in the archive and the type of memorabilia I feel most proud of. So the concept behind Beautiful Colors felt like a natural decision.
How did you determine which pieces to include?
Since the collection is bursting with treasures, selecting posters for inclusion was a challenge. But once I decided to focus only on official promotional posters (from record companies, concert venues, etc), the choices became clear. Posters are designed to capture attention and ignite the imagination. They represent memories and milestones, for the band as well as the fans. I feel as if I’m working to preserve history through a medium that would otherwise be lost in time. My book may commemorate Duran Duran’s history, but the memories on each page belong to fans around the world.
When did your love of Duran Duran begin?
The first strains of Fab Five Fever nestled into my DNA when I was 13 – the later part of 1984. The combination of charismatic photo sessions, captivating videos, and spectacular, memorable music was all it took to activate my inner Duranimal. My days were soon filled with trips to supermarket magazine racks, brainstorming on how to fund purchases of DD material and of course, taking good care of the items in my growing collection. Hard to believe there was a point when my whole collection fit inside my bedroom. A fortunate thing since my mother refused to build an annex on to the house for memorabilia maintenance [laughs].
What was it about their music that really interested you?
Nick’s soaring keyboard arrangements against Roger’s rock-solid beat, John’s velvety funk-infused bass, Andy’s electrifying guitar licks, and Simon’s lush, wonderfully cryptic lyrics. Every song offered something fresh and exciting with each new listen. “Seven and The Ragged Tiger” was my first album, launching a full, swift occupation of my senses. The synthesized rapture of “The Reflex” captured my imagination first, followed by the harmonized bliss of “New Moon on Monday,” and the rest of the record overwhelmed with awesome. I found Duran Duran’s music stayed with me long after I stopped listening, and I felt myself yearning for more—discovering other albums, learning about the members, and essentially assembling a portrait of the artists behind my favorite tunes. The music was my gateway drug.
What made you decide to start collecting pieces of Duran Duran memorabilia?
Being attracted to Duran Duran’s strong visual style, acquiring memorabilia seemed like a natural direction. Photos offered glossy, handsome images and magazine articles were often accompanied by fan-friendly, full-page pin-ups. But posters took Duran Duran’s exciting, photogenic persona to an even higher plane. While I’ve enjoyed filling out the archive with many odd and fascinating artifacts, the posters have always been the heart of my collection and the clearest visual representation of Duran Duran’s professional history.
How do you acquire pieces for your collection?
Much of my effort revolves around careful networking, reaching out to those within the concert promotion industry and building credibility with my archive. The biggest challenge comes with every new tour, when the whole world becomes a potential harbor for poster production. That is also when I become most aware and appreciative of all the wonderful friends and fellow fans keeping me in mind across the globe!
Do you have a particular favorite?
Without picking a single, most prized item, I would highlight the posters I’ve been able to find from the band’s earliest chapters. Whether testing new material in Birmingham clubs, cutting their teeth as a support act or exploring their New Romantic roots, Duran Duran’s formative years remain the most elusive to document through posters. I have moments of quiet incredulity and deep pride when I look at the first chapter of my book, populated with more posters than I ever expected to include.
Have you ever gotten to meet the band?
I have met the band on several occasions and each encounter has been intensely meaningful and ingrained as a life highlight. Every time I am fortunate enough to meet Duran Duran I am reminded of why I do what I do, why the band deserve nothing less than absolute lifelong celebration and I walk away with renewed commitment to my archival work.
What’s your favorite Duran Duran song? Album?
I was introduced to Duran’s sound through the Ragged Tiger album, particularly “The Reflex”. That record and single will always occupy a premium spot for me. However, Rio is bursting with some of my biggest faves. Especially “Lonely In Your Nightmare”, “Save A Prayer” and “Hold Back The Rain”. Timeless classics which never fail to elevate my heart rate, tap my emotions, and transport me to a very happy place. In the band’s recent years, All You Need Is Now is nothing short of crazy-awesome, having re-captured the same visceral, joyous feel that got me hooked in the first place! “Runway Runaway”, “Blame The Machines” and the title track are pure brilliance that I enjoy down to the molecular level.
What has the band had to say about your book?
The band has been incredibly supportive through Twitter and Facebook, and after a recent trip to present the book to Duran’s management in New York I learned the band assessed Beautiful Colors as “magnificent.” It was important to create something that both the band and the fans could be proud of. In addition to charting the band’s history, I set out to honor the bond between the band and their faithful following as well as my own connections within the global fan community. This passion is a powerful common thread we all share, and I feel blessed to be part of something so special, enduring and so much bigger than myself.
For more information on Andrew Golub and
Beautiful Colors: The Posters of Duran Duran Click Here!
To See Golub’s portion of an American Collector’s documentary
(38 minutes in): Click Here
She’s been a model, video vixen, rock star wife and a reality TV star. But Bobbi Brown has taken things to an entirely different level as published author. The ex-wife of the late Warrant vocalist Jani Lane is dishing the dirt about the LA scene in her new tell-all book, “Dirty Rocker Boys: Love And Lust On The Sunset Strip.”
In it, Brown talks about her journey from Louisiana beauty queen to the glamorous life of LA. From her early modeling career and time spent on TV’s Star Search to how she became the infamous “Cherry Pie” girl in the Warrant video of the same name.
Brown also pulls no punches when it comes to detailing her sometimes stormy relationships with Lane, Tommy Lee (Mötley Crüe), Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction) and even a young Leonardo DiCaprio; often going into vivid detail about the sex, drugs and debauchery that ran amok in the 90’s. Her book is a roller-coaster ride of emotion and a refreshingly quick read. More importantly, it’s an open and honest look at the life of a Louisiana girl who’s come full circle.
In addition to the release of Dirty Rocker Boys: Love And Lust On The Sunset Strip, Brown’s reality show along with other fellow rock ladies has just completed a second successful season. I spoke with her about the book as well as her relationship with Lane and the close circle of friends that’s become known as the Ex-Wives of Rock.
What made you decide to write a book?
I had read about a dozen or so rock books that I had been mentioned in. As I was reading the stories I just remember thinking, “Well, that’s not exactly right.” I felt the stories were more serving the ones who wrote them and weren’t really being accurate or honest. So I thought I would do a retort, but also have it be what life was like on the scene from a woman’s perspective.
What was the writing process like?
Caroline [Ryder] and I met and hit it off right away. She really got my sense of humor and what I was looking for and came back with the best perspective of my voice. There would be times where she would come over and we’d stay up all night just talking stories. I couldn’t have asked for better ghost writer. I wanted it to be realistic and for the reader to feel like they were one of my friends and I was talking to them about it.
After you arrived in LA, did you think that you would be immune to the drugs, sneaking around and cheating?
I think that when you get into a situation like I was in, you always sort-of believe in the back of your mind that somehow you’re “special” and that’s not going to happen to you. But that’s delusional. And the thing is it’s not even personal, but I think it’s the nature of the beast when it comes to dating a musician.
It’s been discussed that Jani’s time with Warrant was strained due to his addiction. What was his relationship like with other members of the band while you were with him?
They all got along well and never really had any serious rifts. It was “party scene-ish” and just very social. There were no serious emotional bonds or loyalties that I witnessed. In the same respect, they had known each other for quite a while and had history together. That’s why I was a little bothered after Jani passed that they didn’t make a bigger deal about it. I took that personally. I do know that he put them through a lot of grief, but I think that was part of his illness and addiction.
You mentioned your regret for not being there much for your daughter Taylar while she was growing up. Is there anything else you regret?
You know, I could actually sit here and say that I have a little bit of regret about all of the decisions that I’ve made. Looking back, you can always say things like ‘”Hey, maybe I should have done this differently or tried a little bit harder.” But I’m really grateful every day for what I have and I think that has a lot to do with the way things are going for me now. I’ve also learned that the more grateful you are, the less sad you are.
Did you discover anything else about yourself after you finished writing the book?
It was very cathartic. I didn’t go into it imagining that it would end up being therapeutic, but going through all of these stories opened up a lot things that I had suppressed over the years. Some of which I never really had any closure with. It was a nice release.
Let’s talk a little about “Ex-Wives of Rock”. What’s your relationship really like with the girls on the show?
Believe it or not, it’s exactly what you see on camera. We’ve known each other for more than 20 years so it’s very much like a family. We may have our battles, but it’s never a situation where one of us will say “I hate you and I’m never going to speak to you again!” We may fight and argue but at the end of the day, we all care for each other.
Have any of the people you talked about in the book approached you to refute your side of things?
Knock on wood… Not yet! [laughs]. What I will say though is that it’s my own perspective of my story and I was very honest and open about it. I might have said things that some people didn’t want discussed or talked about, but it’s my life too. It is what it is. My favorite thing to say is “If you didn’t want anyone to find out about it, then maybe you shouldn’t have done it!” [laughs].
What advice would you give to people who might want to follow in your foot steps?
Don’t just think that you’re going to go out to LA and “give it a shot.” That kind of attitude just won’t fly. That’s when you can get caught up in the mistrust and be side tracked by opportunists. Make sure that it’s something you’re really passionate about and driven to do. It’s a crazy city and everyone here is here for a reason.
Is there a message you’d like people to take from reading your book?
I don’t want people to come away from it feeling sorry for me. When they finish the book, I want them to feel that my life has come full circle and maybe say “Good for her!” I want them to feel good about what they’ve read. I also don’t want them to feel like I was a victim, because I wasn’t. All of my life experiences were my own choice.
No one made me do any of the things I did. But in the end, they all made me the person that I am today.
The other day I watched a video clip from director Peter Jackson’s upcoming movie, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; part two in a trilogy of films based on the classic 20th century novel by J.R.R Tolkien.
Jackson, as you may know, was also the director of The Lord of The Rings trilogy of films (the sequel to The Hobbit) which netted him Oscar nominations for all three, as well as the coveted Best Picture Award for the final film “The Return of The King”.
The Hobbit is one of my favorite stories of all time, and one of the few books I like to re-read every few years. Seeing this awe-inspiring video and realizing that the new movie was coming lit the fire for me, so I once again decided take the plunge. But as I dove into my worn, weather-beaten paperback copy of The Hobbit, I quickly became reacquainted with the same gnawing feeling in my gut that happens every time I read it (or any one of the other “Rings” books for that matter).
I’ve always been a big fan of fantasy worlds with dragons, wizards and trolls. Perhaps it’s the chivalry of noble men with magic rings or the notion that good always triumphs over evil that keeps me coming back. Or maybe it’s the fact that I was consumed with playing Dungeons and Dragons growing up. In any case, I love stories about bands of brothers who stick together on a journey and see it through to the end.
And that’s where my problem with Gandalf comes in.
Gandalf is the wizard in the story who “nudges” poor little Bilbo Baggins (the hobbit) on his journey with a bunch of dwarves to slay a dragon and obtain a ransom of wealth. Gandalf is one of those dudes who can pretty much destroy the whole damn world if he wants to. So why he seems content to send little people out on a dangerous quest is a mystery.
But it’s not the fact that he takes hobbits and dwarves off to fight dragons that upsets me. It’s the fact that Gandalf also likes to play “Now you see me, Now you don’t” that really pisses me off.
You see, Gandalf is one of those guys who likes to get everyone together, tells them how horrible the journey is going to be and even promises to go with them on what seems like an impossible quest. Then at some point early on during the course of the adventure, he conveniently pulls the disappearing act, and his 23 skidoo tends to occur just after an early battle. Gandalf will say something like: “Urgent matters to attend to, if you must know” or some other such nonsense. And no amount of tears or pleading from the little guys will make him change his mind.
What’s worse than Gandalf actually leaving the group is the fact that he somehow “magically” returns dozens of chapters later, just in time for the final battle and to obtain a share of the glory. Then all the way home Gandalf never has to leave again. Nope, travels with Bilbo every step of the way for months at a time. WTF?
As I finished the last page where Gandalf and Bilbo are laughing about their “adventure” together, I couldn’t help but imagine if something like that happened today. Suppose you and a team of others were building a state of the art high-rise building. Early on, your best crew member (Gandalf) leaves for no reason, but then comes back months later to hammer the final nail and claim he was a part of it. Instead of gold and glory, I’d be willing to wager Gandalf would be sporting a black eye.
Oh, you may have fooled the hobbits and the dwarves Mr. Gandalf, but not me. I’m on to you wizard.