Category: Books

Birthday Reflections at 50

October 5th, 2019 – My 50th Birthday.

I’m sitting here in a daze, trying to comprehend what I’ve just written. It can’t be true, can it? A whole f#cking half century? WOW!

I liken it to the same feeling I had twenty years ago, when the calendar was getting ready to change over to the year 2000 and the eventual dawning of a new millenium. I vividly remember, when I was growing up, that year seemed like it was a lifetime away. I’m talking futuristic, meet George Jetson style distance. And yet, not only have we reached that year, but we’ve now gone almost twenty years beyond it.

The past 365 days have been some of the best and absolute worst days of my entire life. It started in January when my very first interview, with Dan Donegan from Disturbed, was posted in the pages of Guitar World magazine. I will NEVER forget the day I walked into the shopping center on a misty gray afternoon and saw the new issue sitting on the shelves. It was like when Indiana Jones first saw the golden idol in “Raiders of The Lost Ark.” Or the feeling I had when I opened it up and fumbled through its crisp white pages and saw that my name had been printed under “Contributing Writers.”  Knowing that this magazine would be in stores all over the world was surreal. Thinking about it now still gives me chills. I went on to do three more interviews this year – one with Jim Heath (Reverand Horton Heat), one with Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard, Dio) and another with Alan Parsons.

Another monumental event that took place this year was my daughter’s high school graduation this past June. One that, when I think about it now, really puts the big FIVE-OH into perspective. I still remember putting her on the school bus for her very first day back in 2006. Back then, I was on the cusp of turning 37 and thought to myself, “Wow! She will graduate the same year I turn 50. That’s so far away.”

And now here we are.

Still makes me think about my own tenure in the hallowed halls of education and the day I received my first student ID card. This was wayyyy back in 1980. I looked at the reverse side of that card and saw “Year Grad – 1987” printed and thought THAT was a lifetime away. Realizing that by this time next year the card will be 40 years old is simply unbelievable to me.

This past year was also the one where I had to say goodbye to the best dog I’ve ever had — just three days before this monumental birthday. To say that I was devastated is an understatement, but a wonderful tribe of family and friends have made the burden a little bit easier.

So, what’s in store for this next journey around the sun? Well, I’m hard at work on two new books. The first is a prequel to “Neapolitan Sky,” which takes place thirty years before the events of that story. The other is another thriller based on the whole ancestry concept. There is a lot of life left to live, art to create, books to write, interviews to be done and most importantly, love to give freely.

This song always makes me stop in my tracks whenever I hear it. Does it do the same for you?

There’s an odd sense of immortality you have when you’re young that makes you believe time will always stand still, and that you’ll never be as old as your parents (my father died at the age of 51)… but then you take a nap and wake up to find yourself in that role.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few days of my 40’s is that it’s no longer about the years left in your life. It’s about the life left in your years.

Interview: Gabrielle Stone Discusses Her Inspiring New Book, ‘Eat, Pray, #FML’

Although Gabrielle Stone has never considered herself an author, the accomplished actress and director has always been an avid storyteller. But it wasn’t until a series of failed relationships — one which included a nightmarish divorce and another that ended with her traveling to Europe alone — that she decided to put pen to paper. The story of the events of her trip, the inspiration and thought processes are chronicled in her amazing new book, “Eat, Pray, #FML

Told from the perspective of a woman seeking to find inner strength and resolve, Stone has documented a journey unlike anything she’s ever experienced. One that was not only personally cathartic for the author, but a story that’s sure to give others the inspiration they need to perservere.

In its truest form, “Eat, Pray, #FML” is an inside, pull-no-punches look at Stone’s personal diary, but it’s also a book that reads like a mystery novel and flows like a female-empowered Lifetime drama. Pulling you in from the start with its honest writing and heartfelt emotion. Better still, it leaves readers with the tools they can use to overcome any personal obstacle.

“Eat, Pray, #FML” is available in paperback and e-book exclusively through Amazon. Click here to order!

I recently spoke with Gabrielle Stone about “Eat, Pray, #FML” and more in this exclusive new interview.

What was the writing process like?

Everything was written in real time as it was happening. It just happened to be a crazy trip where some interesting things took place. This book will connect with any female who’s ever been in love, felt betrayed, or isn’t sure how to live with herself. I don’t embellish anything that happened on the trip and I wrote the book as if you were having a conversation with me. Yes, I slept with some people; I drank, and I smoked in Amsterdam. But I tell these things so that when I get to the golden nuggets of what I learned and how I found ways to heal, it will resonate that much more.

A lot of what happened in your relationship with your ex-husband and your discovery of his infidelity almost doesn’t seem real. Did you notice any warning signs?

I want everyone to know that I have no hate, resentment or anger toward my ex-husband. Having said that, I’m so happy to be out of that situation and being where I am now. The warning signs were there, but I always turned a blind eye and thought that we’d eventually fix things down the road. The truth is, he’d never been ok with my career, and whenever I’d go off to shoot a film with a kissing scene, or just be with male co-stars, there was a lot of jealousy. I went through a lot of hurt during that time because I was getting roles that were exciting professionally but then had to combat it with the berating and heartache from someone who was supposed to be one of my biggest supporters. It wasn’t as if I was working some other job and then decided to be in movies. He met me as a working actress. This is who I’ve always been. From an outside perspective, it’s hard to believe how he could’ve been so sloppy, but once I started finding things it all unfolded like it would in a movie.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Gabrielle Stone by Clicking Here!

 

 

 

Get Neapolitan Sky FREE This Weekend!

To celebrate all the amazing moms out there as well as the one year anniversary of the release of my novella, “Neapolitan Sky“, I’m giving away the e-book version of the story FREE this weekend – May 10-12!

Here’s a synopsis:

Dreams of becoming a professional writer are abruptly put on hold for college student Nica Mitchell following the unexpected death of her mother and her father’s cancer diagnosis. Forced to return home when he’s hospitalized after encountering a near death experience, Nica learns that her father has been keeping a dark secret. Something in between the stages of life and death that, when revealed, will change her life forever.

Watch the trailer for Neapolitan Sky here:

Click Here to download the book at absolutely no charge and with no strings attached. Please share this article with everyone you know!

Hope you enjoy!

Interview: Josh Malerman discusses The High Strung’s New Album, ‘Quiet Riots’ and writing ‘Bird Box’

Photo by Doug Coombe

Josh Malerman and the rest of adventure rockers The High Strung have unveiled the band’s eighth full-length release, Quiet Riots. The fourteen-track album is the group’s most harmony-laden to date, as it sees them reuniting with guitarist/vocalist Mark Owen, who’d been on hiatus for more than twelve years. Songs like the guitar-driven “Legion” and the effervescent “If You Wanna Roll” conjure up images of free-spirit and cross country drives, while tracks like “Riots Of The Mind” are a reminder that this world is still a very unsettled place.

The High Strung is: Josh Malerman (guitar/vocals), Mark Owen (guitar/vocals), Stephen Palmer (guitar), Chad Stocker (bass) and Derek Berk (drums).

Josh Malerman’s artistry not only lies within the craft of music but also as an acclaimed novelist. His post-apocalyptic thriller, “Bird Box,” a New York Times Bestseller, was recently adapted into a Netflix original feature. Since its release last December the film, which stars Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich, has become Netflix’s biggest hit to date.

AXS recently spoke with Malerman about The High Strung’s new album, Quiet Riots, “Bird Box” and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: How does the new album, Quiet Riots, relate to some of the band’s previous work?

Josh Malerman: This is the most harmony-laden album so far and a lot of it has to do with Stephen, our lead guitarist, who was more involved in this singing. Then there’s Mark Owen, one of our two singer-songwriters, who had left the band for twelve years and returned. For me, this will always be the album that was kickstarted by Mark’s return and our first real attempt at a harmony album.

AXS: What’s your songwriting process like?

JM: Usually either Mark or I will come in with a little hook of an idea. Whether it’s a chord change or a lyric one of us will bring it to the table and we’ll finish the song together. [Mark] Owen is also great at lyrics, and when you have a songwriting partner who cares so much about them as he does you can’t help but step up your game.

JM: Let’s talk about a few tracks from the new album beginning with “Riots Of The Mind.” What can you tell me about it?

JM: Mark brought that one to the table. It’s a wonderful way of saying things are crazy without being too hazy or political. There’s something pocket poetic about it. There’s a lot of crazy sh#t going on in the world right now and it would be wrong to not even wink in that direction.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Josh Malerman by Clicking Here!

Interview: Thompson Square’s Keifer Thompson discusses the duo’s new children’s book, ‘Time To Get Dressed’

Photo by Garrett Merchant

As new parents, the multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated duo Thompson Square (Keifer and Shawna Thompson) have discovered a new layer of creativity with the release of their first children’s book –the appropriately titled “Time To Get Dressed.” The book, written by Thompson Square, illustrated by Ana Patankar and inspired by the duo’s two-year-old son, Cooper, features a sing-song storyline with whimsical pictures designed to teach children how to get ready for their day.

In addition to “Time To Get Dressed” Keifer and Shawna Thompson continue to ride the wave of success and acclaim from their latest album, Masterpiece. An eleven-track opus that features more of the duo’s infectious vocal blend while sonically exploring landscapes of R&B, reggae and rock.

AXS recently spoke with Keifer Thompson about “Time To Get Dressed,” music and more in this new interview.

AXS: What inspired you to write “Time To Get Dressed?”

Keifer Thompson: Our son, Cooper, was a few weeks old and I was putting him in his crib one morning. I started putting his socks on and just started singing, “Socks, socks, one by one… Puttin’ on socks can be so fun.” Shawna was there at time and asked me if that was something my mom used to sing to me as a kid. I told her it was something I had just made up and she told me I really needed to finish it. I’d never written anything like that before so I went downstairs and a few hours later went up and showed her. Then we played it for management and everyone agreed that we needed to make it into a book. We got an amazing illustrator, sent a few photos and suggestions of how we wanted it to look and she knocked it out of the park. What’s interesting is that it’s not just a song. It’s a learning tool and application that helps with the whole process of getting dressed. It’s been neat to see people gravitate toward the book. We’re very excited at how it’s taken off.

AXS: What’s the biggest thing you and Shawna have learned as new parents?

KT: There’s a level of love that’s unparalleled and something that can only be experienced by a parent. You often hear people say they can relate, but you really can’t until you know that you’re responsible for the life of someone every day. Before Cooper came along my mornings usually started early in the house thinking about songs or writing. As a creator, you’re always looking for that next emotional roller-coaster. This is a built-in inspirational vault and has given life a purpose.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Keifer Thompson by Clicking Here!

Go Jimmy Go: 2018 Year in Review

As a musician and writer, 2018 has been the best of year of my life. Not only did I complete more than 124 interviews for this blog, GuitarWorld.com and AXS.com over the course of these last twelve months, but 2018 also marked a trifecta of amazing milestones for me.

I began this whole writing journey with a single, simple Facebook resolution I made to myself on New Year’s Day in 2011. If you’ve been a regular follower of this blog over the last seven years, you’ll know that its the same one I post every January 1st to remind me of how it all began and just how far I’ve come:

Keeping that promise to myself over these last seven years has been an amazing ride, but 2018 saw three of the biggest, pinch yourself moments ever. Things I only ever dreamed about doing. So, as this year comes to close, I’d like to revisit them one more time.

2018 started out with a trip to Los Angeles in February for a once in a lifetime experience at Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp. Not only did I get to jam with two guys from my all-time favorite band, REO Speedwagon, but I also had the rare opportunity to perform on stage with Night Ranger at The Whisky A Go Go! Joining me that night were Craig Goldy (Dio) and three guys, Bobby, Rik and Tom, who I’d never met before but who quickly became friends and bandmates I’ll never forget.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: all the while I was in L.A preparing for Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp, I was also busily putting the finishing touches on something I think every writer dreams about doing, and in May of this year that dream finally came to fruition with the release of my first novella, “Neapolitan Sky.”

The story about Nica Mitchell’s journey actually began in the Summer of 2017 and took nearly six months to complete. It was a labor of love, pain and constant rewrites and second guesses. When I finally put the pen (or in this case, the lid of the laptop) down, I had the good fortune of having more than a dozen of my friends help me by being test/proof readers and editors. Their input and experience was invaluable in getting the story ready for publication. Following the release of “Neapolitan Sky,” I also had two amazingly successful book signings in Bethlehem and New Hope, PA.

Equally as surreal as the physical book was the release of an Audible version, which was read by one of my favorite artists and actresses, Ashley Watkins. Where I had brought the words of Nica Mitchell and her friends to the page, Ashley literally brought them to life!

But perhaps the biggest, and most exciting, event of the year came just a few weeks ago with the release of my first two interviews in the pages of Guitar World magazine. As a guitarist, I’ve been absorbing this magazine like religion every month since 1985. It’s a bible for any aspiring guitarist. Having already been blessed (religion – bible – blessed, get it?) to write for the website for nearly six years, getting the opportunity to contribute content to the physical magazine was another dream come true. When you open the magazine and see your name printed on the page right next to some of your guitar heroes its not only poweful, it’s humbling. Moreover, it’s proof that hard work, networking and kindness pays off.

Next year will mark another major milestone as I’ll be turning fifty years old. But as I look to that day with both fear and wonder I’m reminded that each and every day is part of the journey. Collectively, I look back on these last seven years and can’t believe some of the things I’ve accomplished. I’ve met so many amazingly talented people along the way. Not just actors, musicians, artists and filmmakers. In many cases, these are people who’ve become dear friends to me. Friends I’m proud to have in my life and ones who inspire me to do better.

Here it is in a nutshell: Since 2011, I’ve done nearly 2,000 interviews and articles, released three children’s books with one of my dearest friends, wrote my first novel, and have rounded out 2018 with two interviews published in the pages of Guitar World magazine. Even with all of that it still feels like I’m just getting started. There’s so much more to do, and I can’t wait to get started. As a preview, I already have an interview on deck with Def Leppard, who will be inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. I’m also halfway through my new book, a prequel to “Neapolitan Sky” that’s set in the year 1986!

Please don’t read that last paragraph and think I’m tooting my own horn. I’m nobody special. What I’m trying to say by writing it down is that if I can do it — so can you. Dreams don’t just fall into your lap. You have to go out and make them happen. And sometimes, all that can start with just a simple resolution:

“I’ve resolved to do some writing. So here goes:”

I hope reading this blog will inspire you to do the same thing I did on January 1st, 2011, and that is to make a promise to yourself for 2019. A resolution to do something you’ve always dreamed about. Take the first sentence of my resolution and change the word “writing” to something you’re passionate about. Then go out and make it happen.

Here’s wishing you peace, love, music, art, writing….and all the best for the New Year.

Interview: Author Mark Eglinton Discusses Working with Ken “K.K.” Downing on guitartist’s Autobiography, ‘Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest’

Mark Eglinton is a best-selling author and biographer with an uncanny ability to perfectly capture a subject’s voice on the written page. His musical accomplishments include co-writes with such artists as Pantera bassist Rex Brown, and his acclaimed 2017 biography on James Hetfield, “So Let It Be Written,” used exclusive, firsthand interviews to construct a definitive account of the life of the Metallica frontman.

Eglinton’s latest project teams him up with former Judas Priest guitarist, Ken “K.K.” Downing for Downing’s insightful new autobiography, “Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest.” In it, Downing takes readers on a journey from his impoverished childhood to some of the biggest stages in the world. Along the way, Downing gives an emotional recounting of his life and discusses all the highs and lows of his career, including a re-telling of events that led to his departure from the Priest following their epic 2008 double album, Nostradamus.

AXS recently spoke with Mark Eglinton about “Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest,” and more in this exclusive new interview.

AXS: When did the idea for doing a biography with K.K. Downing originate?

Mark Eglinton: The first contact was somewhere around 2015. I’d seen interviews with K.K. and always thought he was a soft-spoken, sensitive guy who had a good story to tell. At the time, K.K. was involved in his business, so getting time with him was difficult. We were limited to talking on weekends, where we got to know each other. The initial feedback was really good and from there the project was on.

AXS: As a music fan, tell me about your relationship with Judas Priest.

ME: Priest was one of the first bands I became aware of when I started listening to heavy music. I was at boarding school and was struggling with being homesick. Another guy who was a few years older than me gave me a tape with some music on it to keep me going. On that tape, among other things, was music from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Free, Boston, and a track from Sad Wings of Destiny called “Victim Of Changes.” It was something I’d never heard before. From that point on, I started digging into Priest. I’ve always been a fan of the band and K.K.’s part in it. He’s so down to earth and the same guy no matter how good or bad things are going.

AXS: What did you love most about their music when you listened to that tape?

ME: The darkness. I loved Boston’s “More Than A Feeling.” Those harmonies were a whole new world, and it was the same with the good-time feeling of Skynyrd. But Priest had something else. Sad Wings of Destiny had darkness and space. You could hear all of the instruments and it sounded so great. Those early Priest albums had the ability to conjure a world that really appealed to me at that point in my life.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Mark Eglinton by Clicking here!