Sneak Peek at My New Novella, Shadows and Nightmares!

As promised, here is the first chapter of my new story set in the Giftless Chronicles universe. If you like it, I will be sending an extended sneak peek (more chapters!) to the people who’ve signed up to my email list on Mon, Jan. 14.  Enjoy!

Prologue

“I told you we’d have to kill them,” Emilee said as she  ripped her sword out of the cowering werewolf’s leg. She pointed the sword at his chest, her blue eyes flashing with anger. “Would you care to accept our agreed-upon offer now, Ben?”
Ben yelped, then nodded. “I’m sorry, Emilee. It won’t happen again. We lost a lot of the pack trying to get this. The Knights—”
“Not my problem. You try that stupidity again, and Donovan and I kill even more of your pack.” Emilee glanced over her shoulder, her blond ponytail swishing to the side. “You see, Donovan, this is why you never make a deal with a werewolf if you can help it. They always try to rip you off in the end. Bunch of bottom-feeders.”
Donovan, a tall, dark, and muscular young man, dropped the female werewolf whose blood he’d been draining. She plopped onto the ground, her neck completely chewed through. His sleeve smeared her blood across his face in a failed attempt to clean it off. “Thanks for the lesson,” he grinned, “and the snack.” His teeth, currently two rows of razor-sharp teeth, vanished into a normal set.
Emilee smiled her beautiful white teeth back at him. “Well, if you’re finished playing around, Rybak could use your help with the artifact. It’s a little heavy. I need to pay Ben here what we owe him.”
Donovan nodded and cocked a dark eyebrow. “Yes, ma’am.”
She turned to Ben. “Shall we conclude our business? I have places to be. Walk over to my car, nice and slow. I’ll be right behind you.”
“Y-y-yes, of course.” He limped towards her car as quickly as he could, the sharp point of her blade poking in his back. Emilee always breathed easier after the shoe dropped with these deals. Werewolves might be carrion eaters, but you never knew when they might go feral, particularly during the full moon when they could transform into their powerful wolf-man hybrid forms. That’s also why she insisted they have their meeting during the crescent moon—less chance of getting overpowered. Not that the werewolves hadn’t tried. She glanced at the ten semi-hairy corpses that littered the ground.
When they arrived at her car, Emilee pushed a button on her key, and the trunk opened. “Go ahead and take the first briefcase. The money’s all there. We pay our debts.”
Ben placed the briefcase on the ground, popped the clasps, and lifted the lid. He checked the money, and nodded appreciatively. “Thanks for money. We—”
“You’re going to leave $50,000 because of that little stunt.”
Ben flinched, his stringy brown hair jerked in clumps against his head. “Yes, yes.” He picked up several thick stacks and handed them to her. He closed the case with a look of satisfaction. “Let me know if we can do anything else for you,” he said.
Emilee snorted. “I doubt we’ll need to hire you for a while. You tell that to your boss.”
He fidgeted, and held up the case against his chest. “Understood. By the way, what is that thing?” He lifted a bony finger towards a large, gray stone cube that Donovan and Rybak were lifting onto the truck.
Emilee had already turned her black-clad body away from him. “That’s definitely not something you need to know, if you want to live.” She left him standing there and walked to the truck-bed where Donovan and Rybak, a tall, thin, pale vampire, had finally placed it.
Rybak grunted. “Next time, bring more vampires. I don’t like all this heavy lifting.”
Emilee traced her hand appreciatively over a series of Anglo-Saxon runes etched into the artifact. She knew the other side had the same inscription in Latin. She’d been there when it was made.
“It’s been a while,” she said, smiling as her fingers slid into the grooves on the cold stone. “Strap this down well. I don’t want it sliding around during the long drive back.”
She was about to give them more instructions when her phone rang. She frowned as she saw who was calling, but she answered it with a sigh. “What now?”
“We have a new problem,” a gravelly male voice said with a thick Scottish accent.
“If I have to clean up another one of your messes…”
“This is not my fault, I assure you.”
Emilee sniffed. “Whatever. What’s the problem?”
“One of our residents is coming your way.”
“Really. Who and what is it?”
“I’ve emailed you a complete dossier. I wouldn’t waste any time on this if I were you. She’s very dangerous.”
“Like I was planning to?” She said sarcastically.
“She knows you from the old days.”
Emilee’s pale face turned even paler. “You mean…her?”
The gravelly voice rumbled in the affirmative.
“I’ll handle it.”
“You’d better,” he said.
Emilee finally regained her composure. “I will. I definitely will.”
She hung up and turned to Rybak and Donovan. “We have more work to do. This could wreck all our plans for The Return.”

Thanks for reading! Again if you want the extended sneak peek, please sign up. If you haven’t read my first novel yet, here it is!

The INTJ Musician’s Top 7 Nonfiction Books from 2018

Hello Everyone,

It has been a while, so I thought I’d let you know about some great books that I’ve read this past year. This year was a first for me. I don’t usually read nonfiction, but I decided I needed more skills and knowledge. To help matters, one of my jobs allows me to read during lulls. I’ve squeezed in a lot more reading this year than usual, and you are the beneficiaries!

Disclaimer: 1) Some of these books can be directly applied to life as a working musician. Some will not. They’ve all helped my understanding of the world, though. 2) I have linked to their Amazon pages, but you could do what I did, which was order them from the library. I don’t get any money from sharing these links.

Without further ado, here are my top 7 books of 2018:

your creative career

7. Your Creative Career by Anna Sabino

This was an excellent book with a more philosophical take on being a creative. I would recommend it for those who need to get into the mindset of being an artist and a businessperson. It’s very pithy. It’s got great aphorisms that you can take to heart.

war_of_art

6. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

This short book will inspire those of us who want to create but are too afraid of taking the plunge. I don’t agree with all the language in it or even all the ideas. However, it has helped me focus, and I read it every so often in order to reorient myself.

hillbilly_elegy

5. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

I descend from hillbilly stock on both sides of my family, so this book was eye-opening for me. I even grew up in a place nicknamed “Hazeltucky” (that wasn’t a compliment, either). Even though I’m a few more generations removed than Mr. Vance, I still could see some of the same mindset struggles in my own life.

ren soul

4. The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine

Those of us with multiple interests and skill-sets often struggle. We don’t know how to use our skills to create an income and a life we actually want to live. Thankfully, Ms. Lobenstine specializes in helping people with multiple skills/interests find careers. I highly recommend this book if you are of this mind and are looking to change your life.

intellectuals and society

3. Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell

This was the first book that I’ve read by the great thinker, Thomas Sowell. To be honest, it was a bit dense. I struggled to read some of it. What kept me going was the fact that the material was so great. Having spent  a lot of time in academia, I’ve met people with the bias Mr. Sowell is attacking. All too often, people with degrees look down on people who don’t. We should value people’s opinions based on the merits of their argument, instead of judging them based on how wittily they express their opinions or how many letters they put after their name.

ethnic america

2. Ethnic America by Thomas Sowell

I know, two books by the same guy? This was much more readable than the other book I read, and it was a fascinating read. Learning about the struggles of the major ethnic groups (at least, up to the 1980s—seriously, it needs updated) in America gave me a lot of context. Highly recommended!

the money book

1. The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-timers, and the Self-employed by Joseph D’Agnese

The Money Book has changed my life more than any other book this past year. It contains a ton of helpful information on how to deal with personal finances when you have irregular income. Because of this book, I have saved more than I ever have! If you are a working creative, you need to get this book!!!!!!!

Life Update December 2018

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so please bear with me. Life has been quite busy, and December is a musician’s money-making season. I will have done 10 different performances between Dec. 1-22! Add that to a novella in my Giftless Chronicles that I’m editing, and I’m keeping busy! So, without further ado, here is my life update.

*Inhales Deeply*

Vessel for the Arts presents The Story (Dec. 7-16)

While I have participated in theater productions as a singer, this was the first time I have ever conducted a musical. It certainly has been a growing experience for me, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Learning words such as “vamping” and “striking,” working with an orchestrator, voice coaching, conducting actor/singers and orchestra—it’s all been a blast. All the people involved have been wonderful. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.

You all need to see this production. It’s pretty cool. And you’ll even get to watch the back of my head for the entire performance! We have four more performances this weekend in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. Check out this link to find performance times & locations.

A Celebris Christmas (Dec. 22 @ 7 pm)

I feel like we’re finally hitting our stride with the Celebris Ensemble, and I’m excited to say that we’re performing our first Christmas concert! Come to the Celebris Ensemble’s first Christmas concert! We’ve got some wonderful music lined up for my concert next week. The singers are all top-notch and the repertoire is not too shabby, if I do say so myself. We’ll be singing Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium, some Praetorius, some Whitacre, and more! Finish off your season of attending Christmas concerts by coming to ours at Oshtemo United Methodist Church.

West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts

My kids will be singing tonight! They have done great work, and I’m excited to announce that we will be participating in the Michigan School Vocal Music Association’s Choral Festival (MSVMA) this year! It’ll be fun taking on the public schoolers!

Branch United Youth Choir

We finished the first half of our season by singing with the Branch County Community Chorus on Dec. 1. The kids did a great job. I’m very proud. Now, I need to prepare for the second half starting on Jan. 22…

Miscellaneous

It is always thrilling to see my students grow as singers and artists! To that end, I’m still teaching voice lessons. I also am performing with different ensembles here in MI! I think that about wraps it up. Have a Merry Christmas!

The Unforgivable Sin in Music

As musicians, we are always pursuing the perfect performance. We spend years honing our craft. We practice incessantly, sometimes for hours every day. We pay experienced teachers lots of money, hoping that they give us the skills to play that one scale perfectly or sing that beautifully placed high note.

I’m here to tell you that all of that will only take you so far. There are lots of people who can play technically proficient music that I don’t want to listen to, and there are lots of people with significant flaws in technique that I do want to listen to. For crying out loud, computers can play things more accurately than a human ever could. It doesn’t mean I’m gonna go to a concert played by computers.

So what do I look for in a performance or a composition? I want to feel something. Make me feel the thrill of love or the despair of abandonment, the grandeur of the Grand Canyon or the sheer power of Niagara. Draw me in. Give me no chance to look away. Do this, and I promise you I will pay attention.

The ability to express these powerful emotions engages the listener. This is what separates a good artist from a great one.  Ultimately, audiences will forgive a musician who plays wrong notes; they won’t forgive a musician who consistently fails to move them.

This is what I strove to do when I recorded the ballad that I wrote, The Hunter and His Love (SpotifyAmazon, and itunes). Did the musicians and I perform it 100% correctly? Nope. There will always be mistakes even if others don’t notice them. That’s not the most important question. Did you feel the darkness of a world where even the heroes can die? Did you feel the dark, personal tole paid by the heroes? That was what I was going for.

A good musician plays the right notes; a great musician feels the right notes. Sadly, students often miss this in their pursuit of musical mastery. Technique is not the end in-and-of-itself. Technique is what frees us to express ourselves exactly as we want, without the distractions of wrong notes and sloppy playing. And it is when we express ourselves clearly, honestly, and beautifully that people will stop to listen.

The INTJ Artist and Defeating Self-sabotage

Last week, I finished the second concert of my Celebris Ensemble. We sang a really fun concert of madrigals, folk songs, and jazz and pop standards. As always, I tend to reflect (some might say overthink) about my concert and things that I’ve learned from it.

The act of creation can be a tough business. At least I’ve found it to be so. You receive that flash of an idea, that moment of inspiration, and then the next several months are carved up into research, planning, communicating with people, rehearsing with your fellow musicians, etc.

Any time you as an INTJ (or anyone really) engages in a creative act, two main obstacles stand in your way to complete it: you and other people. But before you engage with others, you must first fight yourself—your fears, worries, insecurities, weaknesses, and gaps in your knowledge. These keep you from succeeding. Author Stephen Pressfield, in his excellent book The War of Art, called these enemies “resistance.” The battle against resistance is renewed every morning. (Disclaimer: The book contains some objectionable elements).

Increasing Your Knowledge and Skills

As a creative entrepreneur, I’m astounded by the sheer volume of things I don’t know. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to create something—an event, a book, a business—and come across something vital that I need to know: some new skill, some vital piece of information, some tool or person I need to do the job. Instead of being daunted by the fact that you don’t know something, be excited that you get to learn something new.

One truly helpful place I’ve rediscovered on this journey is the library. Some of you might think this is obvious, but it wasn’t to me. I’d forgotten how valuable of a resource this place is. Your tax dollars already fund this, so you don’t need to pay more for books, which can be pricey. If the library doesn’t have the book, they can order it from another library. I’ve found this to be very helpful: Go to a bookstore, see what new books you want, and then borrow them from the library. It’ll save you a ton of money in the long run, and you still gain access to the info you need.

Defeating Your Fears

When engaging in an a creative act, please understand that the middle of the project is the hardest part. This is the time when fear creeps in. What if I fail? Will so-and-so get back to me in a timely manner? Will the right venue open up? Will the singers have their notes learned?

If unchecked, fear can self-sabotage you. You don’t work as hard as you need to, or you give up when victory was within reach. Neither of these things will help you. The nice thing about being an INTJ is that I don’t care what most people think of me. There is that handful of people though, and sometimes I worry that nothing I do will gain their approval.

The trick is to disregard the fear. So what if you fail? You’ve already done more than most people.  You’ve learned something new. You’ve grown as a creator. So what if the failure was your mistake? God still sits on His throne. He’s still controls everything. Stop worrying. It ain’t that important in the grand scheme of eternity.

Conclusion

I recommend some things here that will help you succeed on your next venture. Conquer your fears; expand your skills. Stop worrying and jump in with both feet. It’ll probably go a lot better than you think it will.

My Celebris Ensemble Concert Is This Sunday, Oct. 21!!!

Celebris is singing in Kazoo! If you are in Kalamazoo this Sunday, Oct. 21 around 1 pm, please come on down to First Congregational Church. It’s a beautiful space with wonderful acoustics. I could not ask for a better place in which to sing. The singers are talented, the music will be fun, and a great time will be had by all! We will not charge for admission, but we will be asking for donations for this nascent ensemble. We need your help in order to grow and create!

Here’s our concert order. As you can see, it’s got a lot of variety. There should be something for everyone. Please Come and Enjoy!

I

Tutte le bocche belle (Claudio Monteverdi)

Blue Moon (arr. Jonny Priano)

My Sweetheart’s Like Venus (arr. Gustav Holst)

My Bonny Lass, She Smileth (Thomas Morley)

II

Danny Boy (arr. Ryan Block)

And So It Goes (arr. Bob Chilcott)

III

My Lord, What a Morning (arr. Harry T. Burleigh)

Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal (arr. Alice Parker)

Will the Circle Be Unbroken (arr. J. David Moore)

IV

Fix You (arr. Philip Lawson)

Life Update August 2018

Well, the fall season is fast approaching, and I am busily organizing things in order to be prepared. I’m incredibly excited about the opportunities the Lord has given me,  and I even have some opportunities for others that I can share!

Vessel for the Arts—The Story

This fall, I will be the music director for a production called “The Story.” It is a series of vignettes from the Bible (Adam & Eve, Esther, Daniel, Jesus, Mary Magdelene, etc.). I’ll be conducting the orchestra and working with the voices. The performances are Dec. 7, 14, 16 at Comstock Community Auditorium and Dec. 8 & 15 at Caledonia High School Fine Arts Center.

*Big Announcement!!!!* 

We are hosting auditions on Aug. 21-25. If you are interested in the mission of Vessel for the Arts and want to try out, please come. The project will be a lot of fun, and we’ll present gospel truth in an engaging and artistic manner! Click Here for audition and rehearsal information.

Branch United Youth Choir—Coldwater, MI

We’re starting our fifth year (can you believe it!) of empowering young singers in this rural community in south-central MI. We just hosted a wonderful choir camp on June 25-28. The kids enjoyed themselves and learned about musical theater. Our next season looks like this:

Fall Semester:
Oct 2-Nov 27—Rehearsals
Dec 1—Concert
Fall Tuition: $80
Spring Semester:
Jan 22-Feb 26—Rehearsals
Mar 1—Concert
Spring Tuition: $80
There are tuition scholarships available for those who are interested but aren’t sure how to pay for the choir. We want to make music training and empowerment available to all.
As a cool thing, if you are a homeschooler, you can get your tuition paid for by the Gull Lake Partnership

West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts

I will continue to conduct the Kalamazoo Jr./Sr. High Choir for the WMHFA. Even though last year was a first year for all of us, we made some great strides. My goal is to keep the momentum going. We’ll be participating in MSVMA this year and everything. To all my school teacher friends—I’ll see you there!

Celebris Ensemble

This last May, I started a small vocal ensemble in Kalamazoo. We sang a fun concert with some early music, contemporary music, and vocal jazz. We’ll be singing some concerts in the next few months, including in October and December. Stay tuned!!!

Voice Lessons

I’m thankful that there seems to be a lot of interest in voice lessons for the fall/spring season. If you are interested in them, contact me here. My goal is to get my students to become the best singers they can be in the shortest time possible. You’ll get a solid foundation of healthy vocal technique, and I will get you to the next level!

Book Stuff

Those of you who’ve been following me know that I put out a book in April. I’m happy to announce that I’ve completed a novella in my same Giftless Chronicles universe. I’m currently finishing the first round of editing. I hope to get this out soon, with perhaps another related project!

My Music

I also published a song called The Hunter and His Love. Listen to it on Spotify and buy it and stuff.  The more you listen to it, the more bills I get to pay and the more music I get to create!
Okay, I think that’s it.