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Essays inspiration life musings personal growth

Echoes In The Valley Of Oops


This phrase came to me when I woke up this morning. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds interesting. So…let’s go exploring.

It could be someone telling me to recall the wrong turns I’ve made in life. To be honest, I haven’t made that many, but I’ve made enough. I’ve come perilously close to crashing and burning more than once.

I believe each one of us is walking a tightrope across a broad and deep chasm. Somehow, most of us are making it across. We are doing so by the hand of grace. Because we are loved. You might even say cherished. It’s easy to forget this love, but it is always there, like a gentle hand, guiding us on our way. I may often feel alone, but truly, I am not.

I hope these words help you on your journey. Have a wonderful day!

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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment music

Shadows Of Love


Gordon Lightfoot is one of those rare individuals who resides in the top echelon of his profession. It takes a huge deposit of raw talent, hard work, intestinal fortitude, and luck to reach the level of success Lightfoot has achieved in the music business. Amidst all of this recognition, Gordon remains a simple and straightforward man. He is a survivor with no plans to retire. At 83 years young, Lightfoot once dodged death when his manager found him lying on the floor of his dressing room with a burst aorta. Lightfoot has navigated numerous romantic relationships, spawned six children and five grandchildren, remained close with his offspring, and outlasted most of his contemporaries, not without some regrets.

When he comes on stage these days, Lightfoot often uses a misquote inaccurately attributed to Mark Twain: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” In November of 2021, Lightfoot had the honor of re-opening the newly renovated Massey Hall in Toronto in a live performance. He has played the historic concert venue more than 160 times.

Lightfoot released his fifteenth original album in 1982 on Warner records. The songs on the album are slower and more contemplative than many of the songs he released in the prior decade. As is his custom, Lightfoot compiled the album’s songs from scraps of notes he collected in his briefcase and tapes he recorded at home.

Of the album’s title song, “Shadows,” Lightfoot has made a few somewhat vague comments. He says it was the best song he had at the time, and that it is about a particular problem he was going through in his life involving a man and a woman and nature.

I feel the song is quite beautiful. I’ve learned it the way Lightfoot plays it. Here is my cover of “Shadows.”

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Arts & Entertainment humor inspiration Interviews music

The Gift


Jim Brickman at the Los Angeles Gracie Awards in 2013

Jim Brickman collaborated with Tom Douglas to write “The Gift.” Jim wrote the melody and Tom wrote the lyrics. Listening to many of Jim’s love songs, I can’t help but think that the man has a heart the size of Kansas.

I found an entertaining video on YouTube describing the story behind the making of The Gift. In the video, Jim reveals a healthy sense of humor about himself, and Tom tells the story with a healthy dose of humor. Here’s an edited version of the story’s opening. For the full version, click here.

Jim: “The Gift is the first song I wrote with Tom. It just felt right from the beginning. I have a recollection of our first meeting, but it’s not very clear. I’d like Tom to give his version of the story.”

Tom: “Mine’s not gonna be very flattering.”

Jim: “That’s alright. They know me.”

Tom: “So, I get a call from my agent saying I have America’s foremost Romantic songwriter and pianist who wants you to do a song with him. Needless to say, I was more than a little intimidated. I’d just moved to Nashville with my family, and I was nervous about everything. So, I walk in to meet Jim for the first time, and he’s matter-of-fact. ‘Hi. Good to meet you.’ That sort of thing. Then he starts in with, ‘I have this song with a title, The Gift. Here’s the goal: I want it to be spiritual, but not religious, seasonal, but not Christmas, and, I want it to be a love song.’

Tom (continued): “So, I’m thinking to myself, I made a terrible mistake leaving my hometown of Dallas. I was kinda like stunned, and Jim goes, ‘Here’s the melody. I’d like the syllables of the words to match the music.’ “And I’m thinking, really? Anything else? So, he goes ahead and plays the melody and I record it. Then he says, ‘Oh. One last thing: I need it by tomorrow.’

And so on. Let’s get to the music. Here’s my version.

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment inspiration music

The Love of My Life


Love In An Open Field

When Jim Brickman began taking piano lessons at the age of five, his first teacher reported to the boy’s parents that he showed little promise as a future pianist. The student didn’t follow directions. He did things his own way.

I can think of four reasons why Jim’s first teacher thought so little of his potential. Either the boy was unusually rebellious, lacking in talent, or mentally ill. The fourth reason proved to be the right one. Jim was born with extraordinary talent. 

Fast forward a half-century. Jim Brickman is known as one of the world’s foremost Romantic songwriters and solo pianists.

Brickman started his career writing advertising jingles. To call the man persistent is probably an understatement.  

To his credit, Jim has recorded twenty-one number one albums, thirty-two top radio hits, and he has been nominated for two Grammy Awards. He is also a published author and appears on his own radio show, “The Jim Brickman Hour.” Not bad for a kid with no potential. 

Many of Jim’s songs have been covered by leading pop singers such as Carley Simon, Olivia Newton-John, Johnny Mathis, Kenny Logins, and others.   

“The Love of My Life” is one of Jim’s better-known and typically beautiful songs. I’ve adapted it for the acoustic guitar. Here’s my version. 

By Developing the Habit of Focus and Discipline You Will See Your Dreams Come True.

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment music

True Colors


“True Colors” is a song with legs. It started out as a song written for a mother in a traditional ballad format. Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly wrote the song in 1986 and offered it to Anne Murray, a popular singer at the time. Murray passed on the song. Cyndi Lauper took it and creatively revamped the format into a stark and breathtaking version.

The song became a hit worldwide because of its universal appeal. The songwriters acknowledge that Lauper was the perfect artist to adapt the song partly because of her bold style. Released as the title song on Lauper’s 1986 album, “True Colors,” is the only original song on the album that the artist did not help to write.

In 1998, Phil Collins covered the song on his “Greatest Hits” album. Australian country music star Kasey Chambers covered the song as the theme for the 2003 Rugby World Cup. In 2007, Cindy Lauper launched “The True Colors Tour” to support gay rights and fight hate crimes. In 2016, Justin Timberlake and actress Anna Kendrick used the song in the soundtrack for the movie “Trolls.” Kodak also used the song to advertise their film stock.

Like I said: The song has legs. Here’s my version.

When someone shows you their true colors, don’t try to repaint them.

Categories
Arts & Entertainment folk guitar music relationships

“And I Love You So”


couple,love,fields of green,couple in love,sunlight in a field,carefree couple

If you are a child of the 1960’s/70’s, then you’ve probably heard of Don McLean’s memorable hit song, “And I Love You So.” What you may not know is that the song was widely covered by other recording artists, most notably Elvis Presley and Perry Como. Yes, I said Perry Como.

It is a paradox that McLean created such beauty in his music while being a monster in his personal life. His controlling, verbally abusive treatment of his daughter left her with serious psychological disorders. His behavior ruined his marriage. I guess we are all Jekylls and Hydes. The differences individually lie in which side prevails and to what degree.

In a career that spanned decades, Don McLean wrote and recorded twenty-two studio albums, four live albums, and 16 singles. He is best known for his song and album of the same name, “American Pie.”

I’m constantly amazed at the way major recording artists create unique compositions to express their music. “And I Love You So” features an original picking method combined with interesting chord shapes. To learn to play a song the way the artist does is a great way to expand your musical scope and technique. It took the better part of three weeks to master this song. It has some beautiful riffs in it. Here is my version of McLean’s hit. I hope you enjoy it.

Moving Forward

Take the next step that’s in your wheelhouse. This is the path to your success. Don’t overreach. Falling off a cliff is no fun.

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Arts & Entertainment music

Where Does The Time Go?


futuristic super sonic Jet

Fifty years have flown by at supersonic speed. I can flash back on memories of my childhood and adolescence and remember them clearly as if they happened yesterday. I try to be present for each remaining moment. I forget. I get lost in my head. Again and again. A week slips by in a day. Does time go slower when we are young? I think it does.

How is time going by for you?

I thought Joni Mitchell wrote and popularized “Who knows Where The Time Goes.” It turns out a British folk rocker named Sandy Denny wrote the song and Judy Collins made it famous. A little research can go a long way. Here’s my version of the song based on the way the late great Eva Cassidy played it.

Science Fiction Writing Tip For Today:

“You have to be out of your mind while knowing what you’re doing most of the time.”

Jacob Casell

Best-Selling Author

The Silver Sphere

Volume 2 Coming Soon

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Arts & Entertainment folk guitar music

Beauty of the Bells


Have you ever heard of Steve Gillette? If you were alive in the 1960’s and liked folk music and folk ballads, there’s a chance the name rings a bell. Gillette never made it to the top of the charts, but he’s a very talented singer/songwriter. Many of his songs have been performed by artists you have heard of like John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia, Nanci Griffith, and Linda Ronstadt.

Steve has recorded seven solo albums. In 1989, Steve married Cindy Mangsen. Together, Steve and Cindy have recorded seven albums while touring across the country for decades. Steve and Cindy are truly wandering minstrels.

The Bells In The Evening appears on Gillette’s debut album released in 1967. In my opinion, the album, simply titled “Steve Gillette”, stands as one of Steve’s finest recordings. “The Bells” is a bittersweet (actually sweet bitter) song of love blossoming in the spring and fading away in the fall. It’s a song full of immense joy and sorrow that combine in a mixture of awesome beauty. The song is also replete with imagery. When you listen, what images come to your mind?

Please enjoy my version of “The Bells In The Evening.”

“Our actions entrench the power of the light on this planet. Every positive thought we pass between us makes room for more light.”

John Lewis

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current events inspiration music

Is There Anything I Can Do?


Prayer for Peace

In these troubling times, it seems like the world could go off a cliff at any moment.

I remember what it was like in the nineteen-sixties when we lived under the threat of nuclear devastation. Today, we live under the veil of multiple threats: COVID, cyber attacks, totalitarian regimes, Jihad, the environmental crisis and a few others topping the list. Taken together, I believe these threats have made the world a more dangerous place to live in than ever before.

Can I/we do anything about these threats? Let’s try to answer the question with some self-inquiry.

I’ve noticed on WordPress that there is a lot of blogging about the pain of life: heartbreak, lost loves, loneliness, anxiety, and more. Sure, pain is part of life, and people can relate to it. My question is: Is there something else?

The news carries stories constantly about the daily tragedies that occur around the world. Last night, for example, I was listening to a CNN report about a horrible flash flood in Germany. It’s good to know about these things, but is there something else I can focus on?

If I am a compassionate person and I listen to the suffering of others, is there someplace I can go to find peace, strength, and even, God forbid, Joy?

How many people in the world interrupt their complaining to find this place? Does it exist? Have you found it?

And finally, if I find peace within myself, will the world be a better and more peaceful place to live in?

Think about it.

Before we close, I’d like to continue the inquiry with some questions surrounding the hot topic of vaccinations.

If you don’t want to get vaccinated because the short or long-term effects are unknown, do you stand a better chance of survival if you get the more virulent COVID Delta Variant?

Did you know if the rate of Delta infections keeps rising, there is a very good chance the virus will mutate into even more virulent strains? Quite possibly, these new variants could be immune to our current vaccines.

Do you realize that not getting vaccinated puts not only you, but everyone else in the world at high risk?

If you are in good health, what is your reason(s) for choosing not to be vaccinated?

It seems I can’t end without singing you a song. Talking about the sixties, here’s one that goes back there. It’s from Steve Gillette’s debut album released in 1967. In my opinion, every song on this album is outstanding, except maybe the first one. Steve Gillette never made it to the top of the charts, but he’s a very talented artist.

“Back On The Street Again” is one Gillette’s best known songs. The song is about a lost love (there I go contradicting myself). It’s also about getting back up and moving on. I find the song to be touching and stirring. Maybe you will too.

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

Categories
ebooks fiction humor Novels

The First Day of Forever


This is the prologue to the new edition of “Three Days to Darkness.” I’ve extensively rewritten the original novel (first published in 2010) to bring it up to date. It’s amazing how the world has changed in eleven years, but some things never change, like the themes grounding the story. I’ve also added a paperback edition to the digital edition, along with a spiffy new interior design. Don’t miss this heartwarming, humorous, and action-packed saga available at major online retailers worldwide.

Darius McPherson never saw it coming. His thoughts were elsewhere. On the kids. The ones he could save. They weren’t kids, really. Some of them were older than him. They were all tough and uneven around the edges, but a few of them were diamonds in the rough. They were the ones he considered his kids. They had real potential. They just needed someone to care about them. They needed a role model and some inspiration. Darius was happy to provide both. Not a bad summer gig for a guy waiting for his first year of law school to begin.

He pressed the bell on the side of the barred wooden door. The royal blue paint under the ugly bars gleamed in the direct sunlight and looked completely out of place in the burned-out industrial neighborhood in midtown Detroit.

He waited patiently to be buzzed into the youth counseling center. “Be right with you, Darius,” his supervisor said through the intercom. He liked Allison Turner. In her late thirties and twice divorced, she had managed to stay kind-hearted despite rough circumstances. She was also extremely capable. Allison had taught him more about inner-city teenagers than he could have learned in a decade on his own.

The door opened and a group of youthful offenders burst into the street. Darius knew several of them. They were attending classes at the center as part of their plea bargains. Darius smiled at them, even though he knew most of them were as dangerous as plastic explosive wired to detonate at the slightest provocation.

“Hey La Vonn” Darius called to the tallest boy in the group. “I hope you learned something today.”

“Yeah. How to stay outta’ the crowbar hotel,” the slender boy replied.

“Do you mean learning how to game the system or how to stay out of jail?”

Darius noticed La Vonn’s eyes open wide. He turned around in time to see a gray Lincoln Navigator with shiny, twenty-inch wheels and dark tinted windows round a nearby corner. No rap music blared from inside the car, which made Darius suspicious. He heard the sound of footsteps running away from him. He thought it undignified to run. And why would anyone in the neighborhood want to harm him? When the windows came down in unison, a cold chill went through his body. Darius saw young men wearing ski masks inside the car. He had no time to react.

The first shots hit the cinderblock wall of the youth center. Not unlike fireworks on the Fourth of July, Darius remembered thinking before a bullet pierced his chest. At first, he felt like an ice pick had stabbed him in the heart. Then there was a burning sensation. He remembered seeing his body lying on the cracked sidewalk in a pool of blood. The last thoughts that went through his brain were of his parents, his older brother and younger sister, and of course, Rebecca. After that, he sensed his awareness swirling down a dark tunnel opening at the far away end into some kind of scintillating light.

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