YA

The Ballad I Wrote Is Coming Out Next Week!

I recently told an extended family member that one of my goals in life is to create things. Hence, if you look at my Instagram account, you will notice it is called @joel_creative. This is not a label of what I think I am, but rather what I aspire to be.

Many creative endeavors are linked. Sometimes, I’ll write a solo song and then turn it into a choir song, and vice versa. I wrote a solo arrangement of Danny Boy and then gave it to a friend to write a piano accompaniment. Instead, he turned it into a choral arrangement, which my Celebris ensemble sang at our concert a couple months ago (he was in the group).  I call this confluence of ideas, people, and products “synergy.”

Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of my ballad. If you want a sneak peak, please sign up to my email list by Wednesday, July 11!

My Ballad: A History

Another example of synergy is when I wrote my young adult novel The Giftless Chronicles: The Vampire Conspiracy. I decided that one of my characters would sing a portion of a folk ballad. Since he’s part of a community that hunts monsters, that would be the subject matter. Folk ballads tell a story, so I chose to have two characters (a hunter and his love) go into the woods to fight an evil witch. Things get messy from there.

The Melody

Inspiration hit me like a Mack truck. I’d already written a folk melody (in Dorian mode, for all you music nerds) that would work perfectly. What if I wrote the whole text? I decided it would be like an old ballad, with old-timey words and everything. I finished it, and that was that.

Arranging the Song

Then another thought occurred to me. What if I made a recording? It would work well for promotional purposes. Other authors use skills that they have to promote their work. As a singer, conductor, & composer, I have a very particular set of skills (say that in your best Liam Neeson voice). Why not use them? I’d need to arrange the song, so I spoke with a friend, Joel Myers of The Founding, and he gave me some wonderful ideas.

Corralling the Musicians

After that, it followed that I would need to record it. I started corralling musicians, which is a lot like herding cats. Getting them all into the same room at the same time is quite difficult. In fact, I had two different musicians bail on me at the last moment. I was afraid that the recording wouldn’t happen, but I eventually ended up with Flute (Maria Gugliemina), Alto soloist (Daniela Peña), Bass-Baritone soloist (Me), Violin (John Robey), Cello (Samuel Kelly), and Mandolin (Joel Myers).  They’re all talented, dependable musicians, and you should hire them!

Recording the Song

Eventually though, we ended up in the recording studio and knocked it out. I sang and conducted at the same time, which I think helped keep us together and cut down on rehearsal and studio time.

Next, my studio technician (Garrett Gagnon) worked his magic. He cut/spliced things together, changed the balance on things, and then sent his versions to me. I listened and asked for some changes. All-in-all, it turned out to be a fun project, and I’m excited to share it with you soon.

One of my sisters told me that it was weird to write a song that goes into my book. It probably is. I’ve never been accused of being a normal person! Normal is boring, right? She also said that I should say that it was inspired by my book. I think either way works: the song can stand on its own or fit into my Giftless Chronicles universe. You can decide what you want it to be.

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Life Update July 2018

All of us know that life can get busy. Most of us, however, like to work on one project at a time. There’s only one problem with all of that for me: I’m a musician. My life is a continuous set of gigs.

The good thing about this is that I rarely do the same thing in the same place for more than a couple of times. Variety is the spice of life, and I love the challenge of taking on a new project, performance, or job. For a professional musician, life is a like a box of chocolates…and stuff.

The downside is that sometimes I don’t feel like a professional musician, but rather like a professional plate spinner.

Such a lost art!

Anyway, without further ado, here has been my life since my last life update:

West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts

I concluded a wonderful season with my homeschool choir. They were a blessing to me, and I don’t say that lightly. The kids brought an enthusiasm and focus to choral singing that I have never seen in that age group. We learned a lot and made some wonderful music. I greatly look forward to conducting them again in the fall.

Branch United Youth Choir

We finished our season with a collaboration with the irrepressible Nancy Brown and the Union City Community Chorale. The chorale was excited to have us there, and we even sang a song with them, which is always fun.

We also recently finished our annual choir camp (June 18-21). I taught them how to sing and gave them some basic sight-reading skills. Our theme this year  was Musical Theatre. The kids learned about the history of musical theatre (yay for learning stuff!) and how we got to styles that are used in musical theatre performances today. We did a scene from The Pirates of Penzance and sang some wonderful music from different musicals.

The Giftless Chronicles: The Vampire Conspiracy (Book 1)

A couple months ago, I had the privilege of publishing my first book. It’s a Young Adult novel and it’s about (hard to guess, I know) a vampire conspiracy. It’s a been an intriguing opportunity to learn about the self-publishing world. One of the best compliments have received multiple times is that readers “had to know what happened next.” To me, that is a sign of an engaging book. Please take a look at it and buy it!

I’m also excited to announce that I’m 14,000 words into a novella (17,000-39,999 words) set in the same world. This time, I’m focusing on one of the other characters, Corinne, and her adventures as she learns to be a Chronicler. Lots of exciting action, drama, and new characters to meet as I delve deeper into this rich universe!

Celebris Ensemble

It’s been a dream of mine to sing with a dedicated, talented group of singers. I formed an small choral ensemble here in Kalamazoo, and our first concert was on May 22nd at Bethany Reformed church. You can listen to some recordings and learn more about us at my Celebris tab. I’m working on next season, which should be some exciting performances. If you want to hire us for a gig, contact me at celebris.ensemble@gmail.com.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra Gig

At the beginning of June, I performed with a large group of professional singers (mostly made up of Audivi and Opera Modo) which sang in the DSO’s rendition of Puccini’s Turandot. It is some truly glorious music, and it was nice to sing in a mass choir of that caliber. The voices were powerful and resonant, and the musicianship of the singers was precise and focused.

DSO Gig 2018

Upcoming Gigs

I’ve already listed a few in my other sections, but here goes: My Detroit Choir Camp is the last week of July and the first week of August. If you are in the Detroit area and you want your kids have fun singing musical theatre, contact Noelle Stiekes here.

I made a recording of a folk ballad that I wrote, orchestrated, and produced.  It’s based in my Giftless Chronicles world (one of the characters sings the first stanza in my novel), and it’s about a Hunter and his love who go into the woods to fight an evil witch. The song turned out pretty cool, if I do say so myself. If you want to get a sneak preview, sign up to my email list. You get access to behind the scenes stuff there!

I signed on to be the music director of a production of “The Story.” It’s traces the gospel through various Bible accounts. It should be a great time of collaboration and I’m looking forward to our performance in December.

In March 2019, I’ll be singing a gig with Sounding Light, a professional choir based in Oakland County, MI.

I think that’s about it. If you have any interest in voice lessons, hiring me for a singing or conducting gig, please contact me. The more work the better.

Here’s Me Reading an Excerpt from The Vampire Conspiracy

Hey All,

I thought I’d provide some more content from my debut novel, The Vampire Conspiracy. It’s now available in paperback, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how the cover turned out! If you’re interested in a contest for a free, signed copy, please sign up to my email list. You’ll get special info, content, and contests! For more info, check out my Fiction Tab.

Here’s a short excerpt from my book. In this scene John’s alcoholic father, Anthony, confronts his son about sneaking out and hunting monsters. John doesn’t take it well…

The Vampire Conspiracy Is Finally out!

Perhaps some of you thought this day would never come. Understandable. There were times when I did too! Thanks to everyone who helped me on this four-year journey. I couldn’t have done it without your help and support! This has been a wonderful growing experience. I’ve learned so much about the writing process and about myself. It was a blast. Thanks, and enjoy!

Available for $2.99 on Amazon and Kobo!

This book is Supernatural meets Grimm. Lots of action, family, and drama!

For those of you who don’t know about my Young Adult Urban Fantasy novel, you can also find info on my Fiction page. Sign up to my email list for special offers, including a chance for a free signed paperback copy!

One Week Till My Book Is Published!

Hey all,

Exciting news! Formatting is proceeding apace, and I will be publishing my book soon! I plan on publishing it next week! Thank you for bearing with me. Self-publishing contains a lot of minutiae that you don’t think about until you actually try to do it. Then, you gotta test everything to make sure it works and looks clean.

Again, I want to thank everyone who’s helped me get to this point. My beta readers rock! They gave me so much excellent feedback. They weren’t afraid to pull their punches. My book designers worked so hard and brilliantly. And my formatters have been forthright and efficient.

If you sign up for my email list, you will have a chance to enter into a contest for a free, signed copy of my book!

Q&A Time for My Book, The Vampire Conspiracy!

Since my publishing date is coming up fast, I thought it’d be good to do some Q&A about my book. You folks have questions, and hopefully I have answers! As always, you can join my email list for special access, contests, and offers. Without further ado, here we go!

Question 1: When will the book finally be out?

I’m finishing up the formatting as we speak. It should be out soon, and I will let you know on this very blog when the date is approaching.

Question 2: Is this one of those stupid books where the girls don’t do anything cool? (Thanks, mom) 😛

Question 3: Is this one of those stupid books where the girl beats up all the boys? (Thanks, dad) 😛 

I try to make the martial arts as realistic as a book with vampires and super-powered hunters can be. Physics, genetics, and biology are pretty unforgiving and all must be taken into account when actually fighting. Take from that what you will.

Question 4: Is this just another boring action book or is there actual character development?

I’ve always been drawn to the kinds of books where characters are either getting better or getting worse. A character that is not profoundly changed by the end of a novel is kinda boring. C.S. Lewis mastered the art of character development. His characters never stayed the same by the end of the novel. That is not to say that my book is Lewisian by any means. It’s a fun read with enjoyable characters.

Question 5: Why is John targeted by the vampire in the first chapter?

Suffice it to say, John is special, and the vampire senses it. That’s all I’ll leave with you for right now…

Question 6: Why did you start writing?

I’ve been making up stories in my head ever since I can remember. I’d run around the backyard swinging lightsabers at imaginary bad guys and all that kind of stuff. Two things held me back. 1) I never thought that I could. 2) I never thought I had the time. The opportunity to try my hand at it finally appeared a few years ago. Reduced hours at work meant that I could try something else. I started a children’s choir in Coldwater and bought a book on writing children’s fiction. I started writing, and the rest is history.

Well, that’s it. Thanks for taking the time to read this! I hope you enjoy the book!

I Need Your questions for a Q & A about My YA Book, The Vampire Conspiracy!

Hey All,

Today, I’d like to take some time and answer some of your questions you might have concerning my upcoming YA novel, The Vampire Conspiracy. If you have a moment, please send me a question. I’ll do my best to answer it on upcoming posts. Everything will be confidential. Simply sending in a question won’t add you to my email list, but those that are on my email list get first dibs!

Click this link to sign up to my email list today!

Here’s the form for the questions: