Category Archives: Books
What’s it like to grow up as a small town Southern girl and marry a rock star, and then discover you have to share the love of your life with the band and thousands of their fans? That’s exactly what happened to Rhonda Nelson, whose husband Wayne Nelson, is the lead singer and bassist for the legendary Little River Band.
Together, Rhonda and Wayne have built a solid foundation of love while traveled across the U.S. Sharing a love of classic rock as well as seeking out their favorite wineries and socializing with new and old friends alike.
In her uniquely interesting new book, “A Different Life”, Rhonda pulls back the curtain on celebrity life. Offering readers a chance to hear stories and enjoy treasured family recipes and photos while experiencing all things pertaining to life on the road.
“A Different Life” is not a scathing tell all or a collection of recipes. It’s the story of one woman’s journey with an iconic band that’s sold more than thirty million albums over the course of their four-decade career, and one told from the heart.
I recently spoke with Rhonda Nelson about “A Different Life” and more in this exclusive new interview.
What made you decide to write “A Different Life”?
About two years ago, I wanted to start a blog, just writing about our life on the road. Then as I started working on it, the idea came about doing a book. I thought it would be a cool way for people to see some of the back things that we do. I think that when your name is attached to a band, people can sometimes get the wrong perception and think that it’s always glamorous and that you live inside of this bubble, but that’s not really the case. I wanted people to see that we share the same highs and lows that everyone else does.
What was the writing process like?
As I got to meet other authors and talk to people about writing, I realized that the way I did it was not the way most people do. I didn’t dedicate a certain amount of time each day to write. As I dug through old photos and memorabilia, stories would come back to me. The other interesting thing about the process was that no one really knew what to expect. It was never meant to be a tell all. It was meant to be something that people would enjoy about Little River Band and something they would have to treasure.
Was cooking something you always intended to include as part of the book?
Cooking has always been a big passion of mine and I pride myself in what I do with it. Originally (and unrelated to the band), I had intended to write a cookbook, but then I realized I wasn’t a trained chef. So I thought I’d revisit that book a little bit down the road. But as I was doing this book, I realized there was a common denominator, which was food and beverage. That’s when I decided to give it a bit of a twist and throw that in as well.
What’s the toughest part about being married to a working musician?
In the beginning it was hard because I wasn’t used to the band being gone for three or four weeks at a stretch, and one of the things I really had to teach myself to work on was trust. All relationships require that but if you’re living this kind of life and you’re always questioning things it will eat your relationship alive. You’ve got to know that you’re on a firm foundation and believe in that.
What’s been the most rewarding part?
The best thing that’s come from it, and especially over the last four years or so, was when Wayne and I decided on an avenue to give back, and that avenue is Little River Band and LRB music. There are organizations all over the country we feel strongly about, and we support them by doing concerts or helping them organize their fundraisers. It’s been an awesome thing to do and we’ve been so blessed to be able to give back.
Was there anything you learned about yourself in writing “A Different Life”?
For me, it really was realizing that no matter how much you doubt about what your dream is, just continue to push and you can make it happen. I can’t tell you how many times I’d say to myself, “What am I doing writing a book? People will think it’s ridiculous.” But then I’d say, “So what?” It was a goal I had and something I wanted to do and be proud of. That was the biggest thing I walked away with.
Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?
Last December, myself and some of the guys went out and did a “writers in the round” type of event where the guys played songs acoustically and I tell stories from the book. Right now, we’re working on putting another run together for December of this year. Wayne and I are also working on a similar motivational project about overcoming what life has dealt you and how to persevere and believe in yourself.
Is there a message you’d like readers to take away from reading “A Different Life”?
It all goes back to my reasons for wanting to write a book. I want people to know that we are real and experience the same highs and lows as everyone else. Whenever we meet you, we really listen to your stories. They resonate with us and touch our hearts. The other part; as you can tell when you read the stories, is that this is a path to the next project. Don’t give up on your goals and dreams. Just keep pushing through and live the life that you love. That’s the message I want people to take from it.
For more on Little River Band: www.littleriverband.com
The Teddy Bear with a Red Bow Tie
By Jillian Wood
What follows is a 5,600 word short-story written by my 15-year-old daughter for her Creative Writing class. I thought it was pretty special. I hope you do too.
“What were you thinking of ordering, French toast?” Matthew Davis had asked his eighteen-year old daughter, Alexa, as he scanned over the menu and took a sip of his water. He knew it was her favorite to order as a child whenever they had come to the local diner for breakfast. Due to her seemingly tense mood, he believed she really needed this carb-filled dish with sugary coating, in which she’d probably complain later on how much she regretted eating her days worth of calories for breakfast.
Ever since Maddy Harlow had commented on her maroon, strapless dress (which took forever to find) saying it looked a bit snug in the stomach at homecoming in her sophomore year, Alexa had been avid about how many calories she consumed in a day, the percentage of carb-intake, and adding at least 30 minutes to an hour of cardio to her daily routine. Although in her father’s eyes, she was always stunningly beautiful.
“I’m not really hungry, I’ll stick with my coffee,” Alexa stated softly, looking down, and rimming the edge of the porcelain mug in a circular motion with her fingertips.
“You’re not starving yourself, right? Because then that would require me to send you to a shrink to talk about your feelings and what not,” Matthew had an edge of humor as he spoke, trying to slightly lighten her mood.
Alexa scoffed, and rolled her eyes with a slight smile, “No Dad, I’m not starving myself,” she shook her head slightly, and sighed, “But maybe a shrink would be nice right now.”
“What makes you say that?”
She could hear the genuine concern in her father’s voice, igniting a small feeling of comfort within her; it’s been a long time since she felt that with him.
“It’s stupid,” she mumbled.
The loud chatter of early breakfast goers muted her voice, creating a struggle for Matthew to hear. He hummed faintly and looked out the large window for a brief moment, studying the murky water that stretched out along the harbor of Cape Ann, Massachusetts.
For the middle of March, it was not surprising that the morning wasn’t very bright. There was more of a gloomy aura with light grey skies and dampness permeating the misty air…almost the perfect scene for a time as it. White sailboats with arrays of different colored flags dotted along the small waves. Some boats that were larger docked into the wooden posts, with miniscule buoys bobbing up and down in the surrounding water. There was a stretch of a steep hill that protruded out from the horizon of the harbor, with neighborhoods accompanied by old, wooden homes that would make one imagine it having a screened in porch and a swinging door for those summer nights near the water.
The Davis’ had lived together in a small, two story, rustic home. It was a picture-perfect cliché for being near the water, with its wrap around porch, large windows, and a hammock hanging from a large Maple tree in the front yard. On the inside, you would find a small kitchen attached to an even smaller dining area accompanied by plain, eggshell white walls, as it was throughout the rest of the house. Matthew thought the choice of white walls brought positivity and a brighter atmosphere, but Diane, Matthew’s wife, believed it was too bland. Yet, Diane always had something contradicting to say. With only being about 10 minutes from the harbor, the location of the house offered a great view of the water.
Matthew knew Alexa loved the beach, and with just moving into a new home, he offered to renovate the attic space for his then six-year old daughter to room in. Together, the two hung fairy lights, sheer curtains over the bed to replicate a canopy, and painted a small picture of flowers opposite to the window wall. Some of Alexa’s greatest memories were in that room, having Matthew read “Goodnight Moon” to her every night before bed and acquiring the chance to build forts with Sammy, her younger brother.
As Matthew reminisced on the times spent within the house, he realized that he probably had been dazing off for a while now, “I bet you it isn’t,” he argued, snapping back from his thoughts, and glancing at her.
Alexa pursed her lips, “You would probably think it’s stupid if I said it, it’s not important.” She sipped her coffee, pinched her mouth in distaste, and reached for another sugar packet. The taste of bitter coffee always made her slightly cringe on the inside.
A bell chimed as a family of four walked through the door, distracting Alexa from her expectant father. The mother wore an olive green parka jacket, a cream-colored scarf, and beige boots paired with high socks peeking over the knees. It was something Alexa’s mother would probably wear; Diane always loved the Earth tones. A small infant lay in the woman’s arms, tugging at her dirty blonde strands and sucking on a pacifier. Alexa’s eyes travelled to the father placing his hand on the lower back of his wife, with a young girl, more than half his height, reaching to hold onto his jean jacket. The young girl’s free hand held a teddy bear with a red bowtie around its stuffed neck, similar to the one Alexa had once owned as a child.
Once the family of four had followed the hostess to their seats, Alexa returned to the paper sugar packet, tearing it open with her slender fingers, and pouring it into the creamed coffee. Matthew continued to look at his daughter with a look of expectancy masking his unshaven face and raising his brows. The inspection made Alexa uncomfortable as she shifted in her seat, and subconsciously played with the seashell necklace around her neck; it was a comforting mechanism.
“Does he actually care?” she asked herself, “Guess we’ll find out…”
“I feel that I didn’t live my life to the fullest. Nothing spectacular or amazing happened. All I’ve done is gone cliff jumping at St. Mikes with a few friends, and I didn’t even jump off the highest edge…I was too scared. I haven’t gone to one single party, smoked weed, gotten drunk, had sex…” Taking a slight pause, she shook her head slightly, “Like how lame am I? I only ever cared about school, and working almost every day of the week at Joe’s by helping rude customers just to try and make some cash for college. Oh, and lets not forget about taking care of Sam every night when Mom wasn’t around, but now he’s goanna be 14 and thinks I’m a lame sister! He basically called me a “goody-goody” for not wanting to have a good time like all of the other screw-ups in my school!”
It seemed to Alexa like the whole diner had quieted down after she had ranted; only the sound of plates clattering and utensils following was heard back in the kitchen. Slightly out of breath from her hurried speech, she turned her head slightly to peer at the booth behind her, trying to reassure herself that they weren’t looking at her like some clown…in which she was right. All of a sudden, a deep and contagious laugh escaped her father, his palms coming down to slap a few times on the wooden table.
“A-Are you serious?” He stuttered between chuckles, his front crooked tooth coming into show, “Is that what you think life is about? Partying and having sex?”
Alexa flushed in embarrassment, “Well, no. I don’t know, it just seems like it sometimes.”
“Mm, okay. You sure are lame for wanting to succeed in your future and taking care of your younger brother. Maybe if you did coke, you would be cooler.”
As she sensed the sarcasm Matthew exhibited, she began to question whether she should have said anything in the first place. He might find it funny, but this was no joke to Alexa. With a small frown, she picked up the menu lying flat on the table to the right and scanned over it again. She had been ready to get her reoccurring order of French toast,
“Where is the damn waitress?” Alexa questioned this to herself, peaking past her father to see if anyone was coming, but unfortunately saw no uniformed waitress coming her way.
“Listen,” Alexa’s hazel eyes snapped back to the voice of her father, settling back down into the burgundy, cushioned booth, “Just because you didn’t party, get drunk or high, and didn’t do the stupid shit most of the kids in your school probably do, doesn’t make you lame. In fact, it makes you smart and considerate.”
Alexa scoffed at this, and with a sigh escaping her father, he continued, “Seriously, Lexis. Life isn’t even about that anyways. You don’t need spectacular grand moments to be fulfilled. As long as you’re enjoying the times you have with the people you love, you should be happy.”
She took his words into consideration with great thought, and ran her fingers through the roots of her brunette waves; Alexa tended to do this while thinking, “Yea. I guess you’re right.”
“I know I’m right,” Matthew said confidently, “How about this…you tell me your greatest memory with your favorite people.”
“I don’t have many people in my life…you know that. All I have is Sammy and Claire. Me and mom…well…we don’t have great memories and she definitely isn’t one of my favorite people.” Alexa stated hesitantly and in consideration.
“Okay…and? What does that matter? Now, go on.”
“Well, alright,” Her front teeth clenched down to slightly bite the side of her lip, “I remember it was sunny outside, although we had been in the therapy facility, the day Sam was able to walk. You weren’t really there for much of his life, but damn, I wish you could’ve seen the smile and excitement on his face. We were all excited that day…even mom and especially Uncle Chris since he had been the main one, besides Sammy’s physical therapist, to help him into getting back on his feet.
Before that though, Mom was hopeless. The doctor said Sammy would need to see a specialist for his cerebral palsy, but she couldn’t afford it at the time. We had been struggling with money anyway because of the treatment for you, so I offered to try and start babysitting and walking dogs to earn some cash, but at the age of 11 that’s pretty tough I guess. Plus, Mom told me she didn’t want her 11-year-old daughter having to work and make money for the family yet…it was embarrassing in her eyes. By some chance, Mom earned a bonus at work a few months later and found a wallet with only cash inside on the side of the road… I always thought you might’ve had something to do with that day.
With gleaming eyes and a small, closed smile, Matthew interrupted, “Possibly.”
A short moment later and with a roll of the eyes, Alexa continued with her memory, “After that, everything was a quick blur. At the age of six, Sammy visited the specialist and began to attend physical therapy three times a week over the course of three years. He had to do a few home exercises as well, which I always helped him with, unlike Mom. There were some tough nights where he got frustrated with himself…being so young. I understand why. He pulled through thankfully, and the day came where his therapist informed us that he could try taking a few steps with his walkers. I remember how big his braced smile was, with his brown locks all messy because Uncle Chris mushed it together.
When Sammy began to lift himself out of the wheelchair, I recall going to his side to try and help him, but he pushed me away and informed me that he wanted to do all of it himself. I made sure to watch him carefully, almost going over again as he wobbled a bit while getting on his feet. Sammy looked at us with his big, bright eyes and yelled out, “Lexi! Mommy! Look at me!” I praised him while Mom just smiled, and in great anticipation, Sammy took his first step. After all that hard work, I was immensely proud of him and I made sure to show that by picking him up and giving the biggest hug I could muster.”
Alexa had a brief smile on her face as she recalled on the memory. Everything about her younger brother made her happy, she wished that she would never have to leave his side. The relationship had always been strong between the two, except the one time when Sammy called her a prude for not wanting to go to the biggest party of the year. She had been angry with him for a few days for protruding into her business, but eventually forgave him when he consistently apologized; it got annoying.
“I can only imagine how happy he was,” Matthew stated, drifting his words off slightly, and looking out the window again. She was slightly taken aback with his lack of words and was about to reach out to tug on his light wash, jean-jacket sleeve to pull his attention away from the quiet harbor outside, and back to her, when he began to speak again, “I miss him, you know? I wish there was a chance I could see him again and watch re-runs of Full House together.”
There was a stutter of silence between the two, both beginning to let their minds drift. Alexa studied her father; she hadn’t seen him in a while. He looked as he did when she was slightly younger, definitely better than the last time she saw him, with his chestnut mop of hair, brown eyes, and thin lips. Slight aging under his eyes could be spotted, with a few stray lines beneath a cluster of masked freckles. More color in his skin and liveliness in his eyes could be spotted, if looking hard enough. She felt at ease with the man in front of her, knowing that the time did him well. Alexa wondered if time would do the same for her.
“Should I continue?” She asked, breaking the silence and taking yet another sip of her coffee.
“Yea, sorry. I didn’t mean to daze off like that…I was thinking of Sammy,” Matthew stated, with his face filled of sorrow and nostalgia, “But continue, tell me about Claire.”
With Claire in mind, Alexa’s best friend, she began to speak about her greatest memory with the girl, “It had to be almost the middle of July when Claire and I almost killed a bunny in the middle of the road. We had fallen asleep in her room watching Netflix and completely missed my curfew, which meant when I actually did get home, Mom would probably throw a fit and lock me in the house for two months. I think it was almost midnight when Claire and I tried to speed back to the house, her driving. We were bickering with one another, our voices overpowering the music playing on the radio in her mom’s old Volkswagen.
While I was blaming her for missing my curfew, she was blaming me because I didn’t set an alarm in case we had fallen asleep. It all happened so quickly, but as Claire looked over at me to yell once again, I spotted a bunny in the middle of the double, yellow lines, with the car heading straight for it. I screamed at her to hit the brakes, but it was too late. When Claire comprehended what happened after the small thud under the car, she instantly slowed to a stop and hopped out of the car quickly. I followed her of course, and there she was, walking towards where the bunny had been. We had both been looking down at the limp little guy; standing in the middle of the road, when all of a sudden it twitched its leg! I was shocked it wasn’t dead, but I remember feeling extremely relieved due to the fact that there was a chance it would be okay. Its little chest was rising up and down fast, probably scared out of its mine, and struggled to get up. Claire asked me what we should do about it, so I offered to take the bunny home for Sammy to help nurse it back to health. She agreed with me, but then, all of sudden, Claire busted out laughing, which eventually turned into sobbing.
Unfortunately, whenever she starts crying, I start too…we were emotional wrecks looking at the bunny. I was trying to console her, through my own tears, because she wouldn’t stop saying how terrible of a person she was for almost killing a bunny. When we both calmed down, I went back to the car and looked for some type of cloth or shirt to wrap its body in. Claire watched over me as I wrapped the bunny in an old scarf that I found behind the passenger seat, and bring it into my arms. Surprisingly, the bunny didn’t freak out or try to escape, but just let me take it to the car. Let me just say, Claire visited that bunny everyday after that night, and made sure Sammy was taking good care of it. After officially naming the bunny Roady, in honor of where the little guy was almost killed, we bought a cage for it to sleep in Sammy’s room. Roady ended up living two years with us, but all he did was sit in a cage so…”
Matthew watched his daughter as she explained the story, using her signature Italian hand gestures and great facial expressions; she sure knew how to tell a story. Even though he had been gone for the past seven years, he still had the chance to watch her grow and become a young woman. Alexa had changed her hair a bit, going from her original dark brown to a nice auburn. She stuck a piece of metal in her nose, which his parental instincts didn’t agree with of course, but it wasn’t too noticeable. It was true that she definitely had dropped a couple pounds, admiring her already petite figure, but it was good that she lost it in a relatively healthy way. The woman in front of him was no longer his little girl.
As her words trailed off to the ending of the story, Matthew took the moment to interrupt, “So almost killing a bunny is the greatest memory with your best friend?”
Alexa laughed at his question; the story did sound pretty morbid when she thought about it, “No! It wasn’t about almost killing a bunny; it was about the situation in general. The whole night was a classic Claire and Alexa moment. We tend to bicker over the smallest things, and will always end with one of us apologizing or the both of us laughing it off. It was my greatest memory because it was a night that truly showed our entire friendship, and the Claire that I grew to become my best friend.”
“You guys seem to love each other a lot,” Matthew stated, resting the top of his chin on the palm of his hand.
“Yea…we do. She’s the only person who’s stuck by me all these years and vise versa. I wonder if she’ll be okay when I’m gone…” She trailed off, feeling a bit disturbed by the thought. Claire didn’t have many people in her life, just as Alexa didn’t either; the two were each other’s best of friends. Alexa would miss the Netflix marathons they made sure to do once a month and the long drives they took along the coast of Cape Ann beach, jamming out to 80’s classics and drinking the normal, vanilla frosty that they would pick up from Wendy’s.
“She’ll be okay. Time heals all wounds,” He gave the questioning girl in front of him a warm smile, trying his best to reassure her.
“You’re right. As time went on after you passed away, it became easier to deal with the sadness,” Alexa said softly, coming to terms with how content she began to feel about everything. “Claire would be okay,” she reminded herself, “and Sammy too.” With all the talking about her father, Alexa was brought to another memory, “Do you want to know my favorite memory with you?”
Matthew shifted in his seat, straightened his back, folded his hands together, and smiled at her, “Go on.”
“It’s a bit random, but my 11th birthday, you took me down to the beach even though you weren’t feeling up to it. At the time, I might have been in denial that the cancer was soon going to get to you, but subconsciously I think I knew. I remember I really wanted to spend the day at the beach for my birthday, and I had continuously begged you. Mom wasn’t in the house…like usual. Uncle Chris had taken Sammy to his therapy appointment, so you were the only one there to take me. Now that I look back, you were probably really annoyed that I had pestered so much. Because you were too drained to drive, you insisted that we take the bus.
Matthew took a sharp inhale and snickered, “The bus ride is a whole memory itself.”
A look of confusion crossed the once again, interrupted girl, as she tried to recall what he meant. She let out a small hmph, while in thought and instantly began to laugh once realization crossed her mind, “Oh, yea! The woman that decided to argue with you about her seat. You were trying,” struggling to find air as she laughed, “so hard not to curse her out in front of me.”
“Trust me, it wouldn’t have been good to do that in front of my 11-year-old daughter,” He stated, laughing along with her, “But, continue.”
Gathering herself up from the funny moment, Alexa wiped her minimal tears and began again, “I instantly wanted to go into the water with you once we got there, but you told me it would be too rough on your body at the time. “These waves definitely aren’t Miami ones,” you said, although I had no idea what that meant at the time. Even though you hadn’t gone in with me, you let me go in by myself anyway. I made sure to scoop up a bunch of seashells while I was in the shallow area of the water, because you seemed unhappy and I wanted to cheer you up. You were sitting by the water watching me play, when I ran up from the water and plopped the seashells near your feet.
Each shell I had brought up you inspected carefully, and chose the smallest one. It was almost too small with a very clustered shape, that I thought it was ugly compared to the rest of them…then you informed me that’s what made it unique. In the moment, the shell was very insignificant, but you suggested that we poke a hole in the end of it and pull a string through it to turn it into a necklace. I learned a good lesson that day because of you; to not judge others by the first glance, but what essence lies behind them.”
Alexa twiddled with the necklace as she explained the memory of her father. Somehow, when she would glide her fingers over the small ridges and bumps of the bluish shell, it brought great comfort and soothed her. While she had found the necklace so important to her as a young girl to now a young woman, Matthew didn’t completely understand why she had held onto it so long, “What do you mean the essence that lies behind them?”
“Well, after you had passed away a few months later, that necklace we made reminded me of the last good moment we had shared. When I began to miss you, I would hold onto the shell, think back to that day, and remind myself that you were at peace; it helped me move on. Yea, it’s still not the prettiest shell, but what’s behind it is beautiful,” She explained, and looked at her father.
“I never knew you were so deep,” Matthew chuckled, “but I’m glad that it brought you comfort for when I couldn’t.”
“Yea, me too…” Trailing off, she looked down at her half-full cup of coffee again.
“What about your mother?” Matthew asked this hesitantly, he didn’t want to hit a touchy subject and bring her back to the tense mood.
“What about her?” Alexa said sharply.
“I’m assuming by that tone of voice missy, that you don’t have a great memory with her?”
“Maybe as a child, but I can’t remember any off the top of my head. You already know that when you were diagnosed, she changed.”
A disappointed sigh escaped his lips as he heard this, “Yes, I know. It’s sad isn’t it? She used to be so happy, and loved spending time with you and Sammy. We always used to come to this diner when you were a child…it was kind of a ritual every Sunday morning before church.”
“She’s the reason I’m dying and talking to you right now,” Alexa stated bluntly, not letting the mention of a good memory from her father budge the way she felt.
“Technically, you two were both argu-,”
“Diane was the one drinking and driving with me in the car,” Her harshness cut him off, and he instantly silenced. Tears began to brim in Alexa’s eyes, as she felt the sting in her nose begin to approach, “I would be alive right now if she hadn’t picked me up from Claire’s drunk.”
Alexa loved her mother and tried her hardest to forgive and forget, but the way she acted when Matthew was diagnosed and after his death, changed her view of the woman she once had a close relationship with. From the passing of her father, she had been the one to basically raise Sammy and put food on the table, with her own money, while Diane stayed at the local bar and reappear every few days to stay in her room, and then leave once again. Yes, there were some not so bad times with her mother, but the bad always outweighed the good when it came to Diane.
“The only way you’ll find complete peace is to forgive,” Matthew said kindly, sympathizing for the young girl he left many years ago.
“But I’ve forgiven her so many times. Why should I when this could possibly be the worst thing she’s done to me?” Desperate filled her voice…she wanted to forgive but she did not know how, “She should have known not to drive with me under the influence; what kind of mother does something so ignorant?”
Matthew slid from out of the burgundy booth and stood up, extending his hand outward, “Let me show you something.”
She looked up at him hesitantly, began to slide out of her side of the booth, and put her smaller, feminine hand into his extended one. When their hands molded together, Alexa instantly felt at ease to be in the smallest touch of her father. Matthew guided her towards another booth in the back, dodging a few coming people heading towards their seats, and passing the front door of the diner.
“What is he doing?” She began to question to herself.
He began to slow down in front of her and came to a stop in front of a small table in the back corner, with another large window on the wall. Once Alexa comprehended the sight in front of her, she tensed and let out a small audible gasp. There, sitting in front of the two standing, was the family of four that she saw walk in earlier enjoying their breakfast. But this was not any random family; it was Alexa’s.
Recognition became clear as she took notice of the young girl seen before, as herself at the age of six, eating a small plate of French toast, and holding onto the teddy bear with the red bowtie. One-year old Sammy sat in a high chair across from young Alexa, nibbling on dry cheerios. A slightly youthful Diane was sitting to the right of her, holding Matthew’s hand from across the table and sipping on her coffee. The young girl kept asking Diane for a sip of the coffee in her mother’s hand.
Seeing his persistent child, Matthew smiled, “You always loved coffee, even at the age of six.”
“Explains why I’m constantly choosing it over water,” Alexa said with a slight laugh.
“This was my greatest memory with you two. I think this morning was when the ritual of going every Sunday began. It was a couple years before I was diagnosed…your mom was still happy…we were still happy.
As she watched the young family interact, she began to remember everything about that morning. Six-year old Alexa had been complaining that morning because she wanted her mother to make French toast, but they didn’t have any of the right ingredients to make it. To make her daughter happy, Diane suggested they go to the diner and eat there for breakfast. She bought Alexa a plate of French toast, which the young girl complained about eating at first, but became convinced to because then she wouldn’t be able to try the coffee her mother was drinking.
Alexa watched her younger self finish the plate of French toast and turn to her mother, reaching for the coffee.
Diane quickly pushed her hand away, “Hey! We don’t grab, we ask and say please,” she reprimanded in a strict voice.
The six-year-old didn’t let that drop her mood, “Sorry, Mommy. Can I try coffee, please?”
Seeing the gigantic grin on her young daughters face, she passed it to the girl hesitantly, “It’s a little warm, remember to blow first.”
Listening to her mother’s words, Alexa blew slightly on the coffee, and carefully took a sip with her small fingers wrapped around the stained mug from the previously, multiple times it had been filled with coffee. As soon as it entered her mouth, the young girl’s face twisted up in distaste as it did earlier with older Alexa and the bitter coffee. She quickly spit it out and the whole family began to laugh at the child.
“Oh honey!” Diane said laughing and reaching to wipe her face off, “I knew you wouldn’t like it yet.”
Looking at the past memory of the family made Alexa tear up slightly, as her heart swirled with nostalgia, “I remember it was too bitter, that’s why I spit it out.”
“I know you might’ve had complications with your mother, but she wasn’t always the way she is now. She was happy, but sometimes people take traumatic situations differently. Your mother didn’t have the seashell necklace like you did,” Matthew explained to her, and gripped her hand a little tighter.
With this entering her mind, Alexa began to feel less agitation towards her mother, but more forgiveness and understanding. The thought about how hard the death of a husband must be had never crossed her mind, and it wasn’t her place to judge due to the fact that she couldn’t relate. Yes, she felt a great loss towards her father, but Diane experienced something quite different than Alexa had. No longer did Alexa want to hold this grudge against her mother; she was ready to find peace.
Light began to flood through the windows, forcing the two to squint their eyes slightly to block the harsh rays, and bring their free hands to make a small shade over their eyes. As the light became less bold, Alexa peered out the window to the sky and became aware that it was no longer grey. The water was not dark and murky, but a strong blue with the reflection of the sun expanding along the small waves. Seagulls were flying around the harbor, some perched on the flags peak of the sailboats that were docked at the harbor, and squawking at the town’s people walking down below. It was a peaceful scene.
Everything around the father and daughter became silent, as Matthew guided Alexa towards the door of the diner. The two stood for a second, observing the surrounding area of the diner.
“Are you ready to go?” Matthew asked with patience, but with readiness laced in his tone of voice.
A small smile of content rose on her face and she answered to him, “Yes.”
With their hands intertwined, Matthew pushed the door open to the outside and continued to walk into the appending light. Before Alexa stepped out into the field of unknown, she took a quick glance back at her younger family with joy spread on their faces; enjoying each other’s company. Six-year old Alexa was coloring in a placemat from the diner, seeming to be focused intently, when she took notice to the older girl looking at her. A smile played on her lips, as she stood up on the chair to wave excitedly; the teddy bear with a red bow tie dangling from the young girl’s free hand. Alexa waved back, a final sense of ease overpowering, as she turned back to the front and stepped into the calm light with her father.
Following the success of his psychological thriller, “A Head Full of Ghosts”, author Paul Tremblay spent most of the summer of 2014 trying to figure out what his next book would be about. He began by asking himself the same question most horror writers do – “What scares me?”
Tremblay eventually found the answer to his question while spending time in the woods near his home. The result would become his page-turning thrill ride, “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock”.
Although its title may conjure up images of 1970’s Hardy Boys mysteries, this is a 21st century tale of fear and intrigue. Elizabeth Sanderson gets the call in the middle of the night that all parent’s dread. Her son, Tommy is at a sleep over at a park when Tommy suddenly wanders off and disappears.
The supernatural element and emotional struggles of the family and neighbors in their desperate attempt to find Tommy make “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock” one of the highlight reads of summer.
Tremblay is no stranger to accolades. His previous book, “A Head Full of Ghosts” was recently awarded The Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel. It was also optioned for the big screen by Focus Features and has even received praise by the master of horror himself, Stephen King. A U.K. version of “A Head Full of Ghosts” will be available in late September.
I recently spoke with Paul Tremblay about the new book and more in this exclusive interview.
Where did the idea for “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock” begin?
I started by asking myself the question, “Of all the things that scare me now, which one scares me the most?” As a parent myself, the obvious answer would have to be to have one of your children go missing. Then I started thinking about Borderland State Park. It features prominently in the book and is a real place I used to hike in all the time. I decided to put those two things together, and make one of my favorite places kind of creepy.
Can you tell me a little about your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’ve done both. With “A Head Full of Ghosts” I did a lot of plotting and pantsing. For this one, I started by doing a sixteen-page summary that took quite a bit of time to complete. I learned a lot about structural work as I prepared for the story; right from the beginning and through the whole process of writing. The first draft took about eleven months to complete. When I first finished, it was by far the longest thing I had ever written.
Did you have to do much research in preparation to write?
My son was actually my Minecraft expert. Both he and my daughter grew up playing the game. I didn’t know a whole lot about Snapchat, and most of that research was done online and figuring out what police would be able to get from it. There’s this idea of how using social media makes us safe and closer than we actually are. I decided to use it to make it harder to find Tommy.
Do you have a set daily goal of time or words in mind when you sit down to write?
I usually don’t set a time when I’m working a project but I do try to set a goal of 500 words a day—and that could be in the morning, afternoon or night. I always try to fit it in but also give myself permission to miss that mark. More times than not, I’ll make those 500 and some days will even surpass that.
Did you encounter any challenges while writing “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock”?
This book took me out of my comfort zone a little bit. All of my previous novels were done in first person point of view. This one was third person jumping around to different characters. It’s good to push yourself as a writer and continue to get better.
What’s the best bit of advice you can give to aspiring writers?
For someone starting out the biggest thing is read…read… read! If you want to be a writer, you can’t sacrifice anything else for reading. Also, give yourself a reason to be patient. If the first book doesn’t sell, use that process to stick with it. You’ll learn a lot as a writer from being rejected and from listening to what editors say. Take their comments about your work and use it to get better!
You’ve recently won The Bram Stoker award and Stephen King has even mentioned how much he loves your work. As a writer, when comes to mind when you think about those things?
It’s very affirming and humbling. I actually started writing because of Stephen King. So getting accolades from one of my heroes tells me that the work has paid off. Winning an award by a horror association is also one of the highlights of my professional life and something I’ll never take for granted.
What would you like people to take away from reading “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock”?
I don’t want to add to the culture of fear and have people be freaked out and afraid for their children. But I’d really like for people to come away feeling empathy for all of the characters –even the ones that don’t do good things. As a writer, that’s important to me. Readers don’t always have to feel sympathy for the characters but they should understand the decisions that they make and why they do what they do.
Lita Ford’s new memoir, Living Like a Runaway, is jam packed with stories of a truly eventful—and impressive—rock and roll life.
In the autobiography, Ford details her years as a teenager with the Runaways, getting caught with a young Eddie Van Halen in a bathroom, her battles with management and trysts with guys like Nikki Sixx, Tony Iommi, Ritchie Blackmore and Glenn Tipton.
She even devotes ample space to her turbulent marriage and how she subsequently lost access to her sons through parental alienation. Simply put, Living Like a Runaway is a story of life and love from the reigning Queen of Metal.
I recently spoke with Ford about the book and her new album, Time Capsule, which is a collection of previouly unreleased material from the Eighties. You can check out our full interview below.
What made you decide to write a book at this stage of your career?
I really wanted to tell my story. As a female in the music industry—a man’s world—trying to become successful, I wanted to document it, and I wanted to be able to leave something behind so people would know what was going on inside of my life. The hurdles I had to jump and the things I had to do to be where I’m at today and to hopefully carve a path for others.
What was the writing process like?
At first, it was difficult trying to get a co-writer who could follow me. Because there’s so much crammed into my life, it was sometimes hard for me to get the point across. But I didn’t want the book to come out in any other shape or form. It had to be true and it had to be real…and we did it.
You can read the rest of my
Interview with Lita Ford by Clicking Here!
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.
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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.
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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.
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