Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Interview with writer Jimmy Brandmeier

Writer Jimmy Brandmeier is here today. We’re talking about his new non-fiction, Be Who You Are, A Song For My Children. It’s also inspirational and humorous.

Jimmy Brandmeier is “the Dad” in a beautiful, wacky family of three daughters — Jamie (age 24), Jessie (age 23), and Josie (age 19) — Paula his wife of twenty- five years (ageless), two doves, a couple of goldfish, and a cat named Squeakers. Though their loving yellow lab, Satchmo, went to doggy heaven, his doggy hair will always be with them.
The couple moved their family from California to Wisconsin to raise their kids closer to family. They managed to be hands-on parents through the demands of two busy careers—Jimmy, a music industry veteran flying back and forth to California, and Paula, an airline pilot flying back and forth to Europe. Flexibility and priorities kept them from missing a beat in their children’s lives.

Apart from family, Brandmeier is a Telly Award winning composer/producer and a Summit award marketer. He’s worked directly with celebrity artists raging from Eric Clapton, Carole King, Avril Lavigne and Joss Stone, to Wynona Judd, Jason Mraz and Dave Mathews among others; written jingles for brands from Mazda to Mattel.

Brandmeier is a seasoned musician whose played everywhere from town halls to Carnegie Hall and a teacher, passionate about inspiring students to create a life of abundance and fulfillment. He has a deep-seated dedication to help people transcend inner and outer obstacles and understand the point of life, so they may live fulfilled and happy lives—which at its core, is the essence of his book Be Who You Are, A song for my Children.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was grabbed by the gut, by what turned out to be the tip of a message, which expanded as I wrote.

The book started out as a song that took on a life of its own. Each line grew into a separate topic. The lyric spun like a thread that wove into the prose that unfolded into Be Who You Are: A Song for My Children

I wanted my three daughters to hold on to their authenticity—to the unrepeatable sparkle in their eyes—no matter what. I thought the right words could protect them; shelter them from the inner and outer storms of lifeI didn’t want life suck the life out of them. And I wanted to leave them something they could lean on, long after I’m gone. 

But it wasn’t until reaching the end the book that I fully understood what the book was about—what it really means to, Be Who You Are. That unexpected message has unfolded into an unexpected life mission, one that I believe will cut through confusion, worry and want, and help lead people to perfect happiness, no matter what happens.

Who is your target audience?
I wrote Be Who You Are, for my three college age daughters, as they were trying to figure out, what they wanted, why they wanted it, and the bottom line question of life—what’s the point?

But even declaring a major, graduating from college, or landing the perfect job, doesn’t mean these questions have been answered. They nudge us through life, like a compass whispering the way, until the answers unfold, to anyone still open enough to hear. The thirst for authenticity—for perfect happiness—is ageless.

So whether you’re a multi-passionate Millennial determined to bypass the brainwashing and stoke the sparkle in your eye, a forty-something who’s sick and tired of limping through life, or a perfect success whose life is devoid of perfect happiness, this book guides you, like only a loving Father can, home to who you are—inside and out—no matter how what, no matter how far.

Why should a reader choose your book out of so many competing titles?
Many wonderful books tell us how to do what we love, find passion, lose weight, think big, start small, get rich, get ripped and manifest any life we can imagine. Be Who You Are also shows readers how to blow through their fears and explode into their dreams. But unlike Be Who You Are, many self-help books miss the point. The underlying assumption is flawed. When I achieve this or that, life will be great, and I’ll be happy. Not true.

Happiness is not an external event. Your inside life “is” life.

Most self-help books push you half way there. Be Who You Are pulls you all the way home.

You mean achieving our dreams of wealth and fame, won’t make us happy?
Singer John Mayer’s dreams came true, yet he lamented, “Something’s missing and I don’t know what it is at all.” Comedian Jim Carrey says, “I wish people could realize all of their dreams of wealth and fame so they could see that it’s not where you’ll find your sense of completion.” After actor Matt Damon won an Academy Award, he went back to his hotel room and threw it on the bed thinking, “Glad I didn’t kill anybody for that.

You worked in the music industry with some famous people. Please tell us what you’ve learned from them—and why you warn your kids about the dangers of fame in your book.
I wanted to spare my children from the delusions of fame and glamour, so I wrote about it. Fame is a drug. People who need to be famous for the sake of being famous are drug addicts.

I’ve worked with people whose fame was a by-product of their artistry and excellence. Wonderful! I’ve worked with people whose mega-fame created a lifetime of suffering, confusion and craving fame like a crack addict. Not so wonderful. Per your question, here’s an example of the former. 

We were recording an album with singer songwriter, Stephen Bishop at Capital Records in LA. The CD was a Brazilian remake of some of his greatest hits, like On & On and Separate Lives, as well as brand new songs. Stephen called Eric Clapton to come in and solo on his hit song, Save It For A Rainy Day.

Clapton came in with humility and respect for the challenges of the music. He wanted to make sure he got it right—took nothing for granted. Oscar Castro Neves—a guitarist from Brazil was also there. Clapton the “guitar god” was asking Oscar for tips and direction. Still learning. Still curious. Still passionate about the craft. (not the fame) He had no ego whatsoever. At one point he wanted to try the solo on a nylon string guitar, which we didn’t have. So, I popped into a session in Studio B and asked the guitarist, if Eric Clapton could borrow his guitar. At first, he didn’t believe me. Ha! And when the red light went on. Clapton’s solo soared over those changes.

The lesson: Always be a beginner. Forget the fame. Focus on your craft. Humility is the recognition that we are only the channel; God, by whatever name God is known, is the source. Humility opens up a tideway through which the current of creativity can flow, flinging open the floodgates to unlimited possibilities. Clinging to the ego—the rock of control—dams it shut. Try it! It works for Clapton.

What exciting story are you working on next?
As I’ve said, writing this book has unfolded into an unexpected life mission . . . To that end, I’ve been supercharged, passionate and pulled, into writing a musical based on the messages Be Who You Are. Because the musical is based on a fictional story, I’m writing both the musical and the novel simultaneously. I’m really excited.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As far as writing books go . . . I’m not sure I’m used to that moniker yet.

I probably come from a different writing background than most of the authors reading this. I’m a musician. I started writing music in grade school. My first non-fiction book, Be Who You Are, A Song For My Children started out as a song.

As a composer, I’ve been immersed in writing songs, jingles, scores, music beds and anything else the client of the moment asked for. What comes first—words or music? Answer—the phone call. But certain truths for mastering the mechanics of writing—in order to free the soul of writing—are universal. The most powerful and least glamourous tool of all . . . butt in chair.

Habit is a hammer that builds virtuosity. Consistency activates a creative force in the universe sending us insights impossible to come up with sporadically, on our own. As Julia Cameron, author of The Artist Way, says, “were not thinking something up, were taking something down.” As I point out in my book, “world class dreams, require world class routines. Your goals and dreams must match your habits and routines.” What’s the difference between an artist and an amateur? According to Malcom Gladwell author of Outliers, about 8000 hours. Amateurs put in 2000 hours, by age 20, artists who’ve mastered their craft, put in 10,000. Talent is not enough.

I’ve met aspiring authors who do not read. If you want to be a better writer, be a better reader.
Read! Read! Read!

Creativity—at least the non-contrived, unexpected, happy accidents kind of creativity—originates almost entirely in the sub-conscious. You can program the sub-conscious with cable news and video games, or inspiring books, that shake the soul and expand your consciousness. Either way it’s going to come out in your writing.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Yes I write everyday—most often in a quiet place, in my home. The challenge is . . . it’s not always quiet. In a crazy household filled with three wonderful daughters, (for whom I wrote the book), a fantastic wife, dogs, cats and pet rats, its necessary to escape to a coffee shop to get in the zone.

But for me it’s more about “time” than “place.” I’m most creative and tapped in to the muse, early in the morning. I set up my “writing chair” the night before—wake up at 3AM, meditate, pray, visualize and sip that first magical cup of coffee. After saying hello to my writing partner—a great big Evergreen tree outside my window—I get to work. (I know. Weird! Kind of like Tom Hanks talking to his soccer ball in the movie The Cast Away), But hey, me and the tree have been through a lot of writing together. J

It is easier to slip behind the veil of ego, and the white noise of world early in the morning. The wee small hours of the morning opens the channel, for insights to flow through me, (not from me) with ease. I call it a dialog with divinity. Call it the force, the source, the muse, the universe; It doesn’t matter—it’s all the same reservoir of creation to me.

On average, I write for 90 minutes and take a break, then write another 60 to 90 minutes. I walk away after that, and deliberately quit thinking about writing. It’s part of the creative process, as described by Graham Wallace in the book, The Art of Thought. Know it or not, whether you’re writing a book or baking cupcakes, the same 4 stages are happening.

1-    Preparation. Questions, what does the story want, what do I want to say etc.
2-    Incubation: Quit writing let the mind/universe process questions and problems.
3-    Illumination: Aha! The answer/idea/insight comes when you least expect it.
4-    Verification: Plug in the answer and verify how it works. Adjust accordingly.

When I’m done with my morning, preparation stage, I work out, wake the kids, do errands in order to let the writing, incubate. Because the initial creative heavy lifting is over in the morning, total quiet isn’t necessary. I can write at a coffee shop for the next session. When I come back for round two, everything flows much easier.

And one more writing, place: I love to walk my writing. Walking frees the mind. I’ll go on long 2-3-hour walks and record insights, ideas and paragraphs on my iPhone. I’ve written full songs without touching an instrument. When I get back to my desk and enter the verification stage, the ideas I’ve walked out of me generally stand up.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
As I’ve said in the previous question, I’ve bonded with a great big evergreen outside the window of my writing space. The stillness it represents, somehow speaks to me. Again, I know . . . weird.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A musician and all things creative.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
These wise words of comedian Steve Martin, have been burned into my sub-conscious like the holy grail melded into the altar of my mind. I will never forget them. He said . . .

Always… or was it never? I mean always? I mean never. Hmm No, I’m sure it was always…

“Always keep a litter basket in your car. Cuz when it gets full, you can just—throw it out the window.”

Deeeeep Thoughts.


Thanks for being here today, Jimmy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Interview with novelist G.A. McKevett

Mystery author G. A. McKevett joins me today to chat about her new cozy novel, Murder in Her Stocking.

Since publication of her first novel in 1986, Sonja Massie has authored over sixty published works, including the highly popular and critically acclaimed Savannah Reid Mysteries under the pseudonym G. A. McKevett.

Sonja's novels range from Irish historicals to contemporary thrillers. Her earthy humor and fast-paced plots delight her fans, while critics applaud her offbeat characterizations and incisive observations on human nature.

Irish by ancestry, Sonja has authored two non-fiction books on the history of Ireland: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Irish History And Culture and Irish Pride: 101 Reasons to Be Proud You're Irish. Both books impart detailed knowledge of the complex and controversial Irish story with a light hand and plenty of humor. Her Irish novels include: Dream Carver, Daughter Of Ireland and the bestselling Far and Away - the novelization of the Ron Howard movie starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

On nationwide tours, Sonja lectures to published and "pre-published" authors in her workshop, "The Novel Approach," a seminar which covers such topics as: story structure, characterization, plotting, pacing, and marketing manuscripts.

Sonja has taught numerous courses at university and adult continuing education facilities including: general fiction, historical research, and mystery writing. She was managing editor at "Single Living" magazine and has functioned as a manuscript doctor and storyline editor for major publishers. Earlier in her career, she was a prolific ghostwriter, authoring both fictional and non-fictional books for celebrities and professionals.

Having lived in Los Angeles, Toronto, and County Kerry, Ireland, she now resides in New York.

Welcome, G. A. Please tell us about your current release.
Murder in Her Stocking is the first book of the new Granny Reid Mysteries. This new series is a prequel to the Savannah Reid Mysteries, which I’ve been writing for the past 25 years.

What inspired you to write this book?
From the beginning, fans of the Savannah series have told me how much they love Savannah’s grandmother, who is in most of those books. (When Granny doesn’t appear, I hear about it!) Throughout the Savannah stories, we’ve heard bits and pieces about how Granny Reid raised Savannah and her eight siblings. Though how this came about has never been fully explained.

Since Granny has been so popular with my readers, I thought she deserved a series of her own, and happily, my editor and publisher agreed. Certainly, there will be a murder mystery in each book, but what I find most satisfying about writing this series is the chance to explore the backstory of characters we’ve only known as adults in the Savannah Mysteries. Plus, it’s fun to go back to the 1980s, to a quaint little town in rural Georgia, to the “good old days” of big hair, shoulder pads, and disco music. Though of course, people being people, there was plenty of skullduggery going on, even in little McGill, with its three block long Main Street and one stoplight.

Being blessed with the darned-near-spiritual gift of Divine Nosiness, Stella “Granny” Reid finds herself in the thick of the tightknit community’s various scandals, from the dastardly “desecration” of Christmas decorations, to rumors about the school principal’s Grinch-bedazzled boxer shorts floating down the street (after his wife tossed him out the door and his belongings out the window), to the murder of the town’s preeminent floozy, Prissy Carr, who dies in Stella’s arms in a cold, dark alley.

What exciting story are you working on next?
At the moment, I’m writing the second of the Granny Reid Mysteries, Murder in the Corn Maze. It’s a Halloween book, in which Granny and her friend, Elsie Dingle, uncover some disturbing facts about their own family histories.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The day I received a phone call from a New York editor, offering to buy my first book and make me a real, grownup, published writer! We didn’t have caller ID in those days, but long-distance phone calls had a certain, distinctive, buzzing sound to them, sorta like when you were a kid, talking to your friend with two oatmeal boxes and a string tied between them.

I was living in California at the time, and as soon as I picked up the phone, I heard the buzz and knew it was either the publisher I’d sent my manuscript to in New York or my southern grandma.

I’ll never forget one word of that call until the day I die. Here’s how it went….

Me: Hello?
Her: Hello. Is this Sonja Massie?
Me: (My heart pounding so hard in my ears that I could hardly hear.) Yes.
Her: (With a playful tone) This is Phyllis Lefkowitz, calling from Silhouette Books.
Me: Ye-es!
Her: (Practically giggling) Well, we read the manuscript you sent us….
Me: (gulp) Ye-e-e-es?
Her: And we would like to make you an offer on it, if you –
Me: (screaming, totally incoherent shrieks, dropping the phone, wild dancing, finally picking the phone back up) Oh, oh! I’m so sorry I dropped you. (crying) It’s just that I’ve never sold a book before. This is the first time that I…(sobbing so hard I’m hiccupping)…I didn’t mean to scream in your ear like that!
Her: (laughing) No apology needed. I learned long enough to hold the phone away from my ear after delivering the news to a first-time author. In fact, we editors fight over who gets to make these calls.

“First time author?” I remember thinking, Oh, my goodness, she called me an “author!”

Please believe me when I tell you it was far better than winning the lottery. I know many, many people dream of authorship. I’ll be forever grateful for this gift.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do write full time. I’m self-employed and have a mean, relentless boss. What I put up with from that woman, I’d never tolerate from anyone else. I work until very late at night (3:00am), so I sleep in late. I’m not good for much until I have a lot of strong coffee in me. So, I spend what’s left of my morning on correspondence and personal business. In the afternoon, I turn off electronic communications (only receiving calls from my kids, grandkids, and agent) and I write. I have an early dinner, then go back to work. Sometimes, I break to watch a television show with my husband. (I love the BBC productions.) and then I crank out some more. Some days the pages add up. Some days they don’t. But it’s my duty to show up, and I do. However, I take time for family. I have five grandangels, who are the lights of my life, and I set aside time for them whenever they’re available. Their schedules are even busier than mine. They come over and spend the night. We have dinner together, a session of “Arts and Craps” (their term, not mine) a movie and decadent snacks. Ahhh, those times are the best!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know how interesting or quirky it is, but I definitely have my ritual. Before I begin, I eat one piece of high-quality chocolate to get the brain working. If it’s winter or the AC is a bit much in the summer, I cover my lap with a super soft blankie, and light a candle. I’m not sure why the candle. Probably something in my genes left over from the days when my storyteller, Irish and Native American ancestors shared their tales with their neighbors around campfires, stone hearths and coal stoves.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A nurse, until my mother gave me a description of bedpan duty that was far too graphic for a five-year-old. A ballerina, until I saw a movie that showed a dancer bandaging her bleeding toes. A rock star, until I saw a picture of Kenny Rogers sitting asleep in an uncomfortable airport chair with rollers in his hair. A cowgirl, until I found out that Michael Landon (Little Joe on Bonanza) was already married. For a while, I wanted to be a go-go dancer, wear white boots, a mini-skirt and wriggle in a cage. Let’s just say, it took a while for me to settle on “author.”

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I want to thank them. Without their faithful readership, I’d never be able to make a living eating chocolate in my pajamas and feeling as though I’m making a difference, however small, by allowing people a few hours of escape from their troubles.

Without them, I’d just be an overaged go-go dancer, smelling faintly of Bengay and popping ibuprofen, while attempting to wriggle in a cage. (Heaven forbid.)


Thanks for joining me today, G. A.