Sunday, December 28, 2008

Split personality

Okay, it's been a while since I posted anything. Things have been busy with the holidays, in addition to all the other things I keep stacking on myself. That's a good thing, though. The reason why I used to never get anything done was because I would keep thinking about doing things, but not actually doing them. Of course, my main project has been to finish the second draft of my sequel. That's going slower than I'd hoped, but it seems like the second draft is the most difficult. That's the one where you have to work out all of your plot problems from the first draft.

My other project is putting together a jazz improvisation class to start at the end of January. I think I have a method that can teach people to play good sounding jazz solos in only six weeks. Of course, that means I need to design a website for it, write a lesson plan, and record play-along recordings for it.

This gets me to my dilemma: being a musician and writer. I seem to only be able to be one at a time. The days that I focus on music, I have a hard time getting to the writing, and vice versa. It seems that I can only do one creative endeavor at a time. Hopefully, I'll find a way to balance the two, but I haven't yet.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's Official

It is now official. My novel Dragon War Relic is going to be published by Cedar Fort, Inc., a publisher right here in Utah County. I'm now in a holding pattern waiting to get scheduled to work with an editor. I'm hoping the book will be out by next summer, but I don't know how the scheduling works, yet. In the meantime, I'm now working on the second draft of the sequel to the first book. Hopefully, I can finish it before work starts on the sixth draft of the first book. I did two and a half chapters today, but they were mainly just edits from the first draft. I'm now to the tricky part where the plot makes a significant change from before.

Anyway, I'm excited about getting this first book published. The way I see it, there are three hurdles (to pull an analogy from my old track and field days) writers have to get over. The first is to actually write the novel. I don't know how many times I've talked to people who want to write a novel, yet haven't even written one yet. So, my advice to aspiring novelists, you have to sit down and hammer one out. It probably will be awful, but that's how you learn and grow.

The second hurdle I just made it over, and that is getting a publisher/agent. I was very blessed to only get about 6 or 7 rejection letters before I was accepted. For most writers, it is a lot more. Of course, I feel I had divine help.

Then, the third hurdle, is getting the book to sell. I'm not over that one yet. This is the one that makes me nervous. However, the acquisitions editor that accepted my book enjoyed it without even being a science fiction fan. But that was my hope, that it would appeal to a wider audience than just the sci-fi/fantasy crowd.

For more information about my book, you can visit

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Big news!

The big news of the day is . . . someone wants to publish my novel! I'm excited. It's been a lot of work and I feel very grateful to have been blessed with this opportunity. Things are still in the early stages, of course, since I still need to sign the publishing agreement and do some more editing (cut 50 pages, arg!), but this is definitely a major step. I'll put more information up when I get it.

I've been meaning to mention a few other things here that I've been putting off. For one, my author website: is up and running. I've also added info and content to my site. There is now an events list, as well as some downloadable handouts that I use at clinics.

I was planning on putting another practice routine up, since I've been working on some classical music lately. I practice differently for classical than I do for jazz. I'll try to put it up when I get a chance, but I think I'm going to be busy the next few days getting my novel ready.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Current Saxophone Practice Routine

This purpose of this blog is mainly for my music and writing, though it seems I keep getting distracted by politics. So, I thought I'd write about what I'm doing for my music practice lately. I've been getting more in depth into scales. For starters, I'm not a big fan of scales. If I could find a way to keep up my technique and never touch another scale again, I'd do it. Unfortunately, there is no way that I know of. I've noticed that when I don't keep up on technical/scale practice, my playing rapidly deteriorates. Anyway, for scales, I start off with full range chromatic (on sax), then do my 3-6-2-5-1 in all 12 keys. To do this, I start off with a major scale, then go up a third and play the locrian, then up a fourth and do the diminished whole tone, then up a fourth to the dorian, then up a fourth to the mixolydian/dominant and finish up a fourth back to the major. What this equates to is doing a minor 2-5-1 and using the minor 1 (dorian) as the 2 of a major 2-5-1. So an example in the key of C would be: C major, E locrian, A diminished whole tone, D dorian, G mixolydian, C major.

The next scales I do, not necessarily in this order, are the two whole tone scales, the '12' diminished scales ( I know, there are only three, but I like to practice all of them starting on each of the chromatic notes, that way, when I see the C dim7, I know which scale to use), the lydian dominant (mode of jazz melodic minor), and the locrian sharp 2 (another mode of jazz melodic minor). If I still feel like it, I might run through blues and jazz melodic minor to make it a total of 123 different scales.

Once that fun is over, I've also been doing arpeggios to bring out the 'color' notes of a scale. For instance, if I see a C Maj7 symbol, I do a B min 7 arpeggio to it. Why, you may ask? The B min7 gives me a B (the maj 7th), D (the 9th), F# (raised 4) and A (the sixth). If it is a C min7, I play Bb Major arpeggio: Bb is the min 7th, D the 9th, F the 4th, A the 6th. If it is a C7, then I do a Bb Maj7+5: Bb is the min 7th, D the 9th, F# the +4, and A the 6th. When I think about these arpeggios, along with the scales, while improvising, I am more likely to choose these more 'colorful' notes. I run through all twelve keys in Band-In-A-Box, or lately I'll use Aebersold Major and Minor and just focus on one major and one minor key. It doesn't give me mixolidians, though.

Okay, next I finally get to music. I make sure to do some reading practice, which lately has been the Gordon Goodwin tenor sax book and the Bb Omnibook. I find the Bb Omnibook to be more of a challenge than the Eb, especially since I've been doing it up an octave on tenor to avoid all those notes below the range and to work on my altissimo chops.

I'm also trying to get some classical alto chops back, so if I don't do the jazz reading, I'll work a little through the Ferling and lately I've been working a little on the Bernard Heiden Sonata. In addition, if I'm doing a classical day, I'll spend several minutes working on vibrato, since playing jazz does not keep my classical vibrato style in shape.

Lastly, if I'm doing a jazz day, I improvise through several standards, usually with Band-In-A-Box. I also sometimes do some sight reading practice by having BIAB create a random solo and then I read along.

There are other things that I do at different times, but these are the main things I've been doing lately. I need to get more clarinet and flute practice working in, too.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin

I've been floored by the announcement of Sarah Palin running for vice president. Mainly, because as an Alaskan refugee in Utah, I've been following her career and have been impressed by the fact that she is a public servant, and not a politician. I've always felt that we have way too many politicians running our government and that the public servant has become extinct. Not anymore.

Anyway, when they announced her as VP, when most people were saying, "Who's this?", I thought, wow, what a no brainer. She'd be fantastic. Now, I think the rest of the country is starting to see the caliber of person she is. Of course, I'm also excited about this because she is the daughter of my 6th grade teacher, Chuck Heath. It was neat seeing him on television the other night, except, I remember him being taller than that . . . and with less gray hair.

Friday, August 8, 2008

3 years

Today marks the three year anniversary of arriving here in Utah. It doesn't seem that long. This has been a good move for my family, but I still miss Alaska. Still, when people ask me where I'm from I say, "I'm from Alaska, I just live in Orem." Overall, my kids are a lot happier here, even though they hated our guts when we took them away from Alaska. My wife is definitely much happier. She says the only way she'll move again is in a pine box. I guess I'm going to be here for a while.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

editing and mansions

I'm slowly making my way through the fourth draft of my novel. Last week I was pretty motivated, this week . . . well, not so much. Next week, I'll be in Montana, so I won't get anything done on it.

On Saturday, I played a wedding reception up in Midway. It was at a "house", but a better term would be mansion. It was flippin' huge! I want one. Anyway, it was designed with a Swiss traditional look, similar to a hotel I stayed in near the Matterhorn. It was cool. I need to start taking my camera with me to gigs so that I can take pictures of some of the more interesting venues I perform at.

Meanwhile, my wife and older daughters are at girls camp this week, leaving me with only the younger two at home during the day. Music lessons are kind of slow this month, too. July is always hard on lessons.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Fablehaven and Glenn Beck

Not too much is happening now. I submitted my short story and am currently reading a few books to improve my writing chops. Once I finish those, I'll tackle my two novels again. I find the writing part is easy, it's the editing that is hard. I'm also slowly reading Fablehaven 2, mainly for study. I carefully read each chapter and take notes on what the author (Brandon Mull) did to make it interesting and keep the story moving.

On Sunday, I was able to play tenor sax in a concert band at the Marriott Center in Provo. It was a patriotic meeting in conjunction with the Freedom Festival. Glenn Beck was the keynote speaker and he gave a marvelous talk. He was introduced by Stephen R. Covey. Michael Ballam also did a couple of musical numbers. As for my part, we played patriotic music, like Battle Hymn of the Republic, Americans We (or is that Wii?), and Stars and Stripes Forever. I've been playing a lot of jazz tenor lately, but this was the first time in about 6 years since I performed classically on it. The last time was playing a Prokofiev piece with the Anchorage Symphony.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Back to writing

I finished the third draft of my latest short story and hope to get it to Writers of the Future next week. I was planning on taking a break from writing, but something possessed me to start another short story. This one is back into my normal tongue-in-cheek style, since my last story was so depressing. This is revisiting a character I created several years ago, but the story got rejected. I really liked the character, though, so, now that my writing skills are hopefully better, I thought I'd try him again. He's a smart-donkey, wise-cracking youth who single-handedly saves his incompetently run kingdom. I'm trying this one in the first person, which is not my normal style, but it helps highlight the character's voice.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Marienthal and Pickett

Last night I took my older kids up to see the Crescent Super Band perform with Eric Mariental (from Big Phat Band, Chick Corea) and Lennie Pickett (from Tower of Power and Saturday Night Live) up in Salt Lake. It was a fantastic concert, with both Eric and Lennie doing phenomenal things. Eric impressed with his technical skill, altissimo, solo content and personality. Lennie wasn't as animated as Eric, but he showed that he is still the master of altissimo on tenor. I can squeeze an extra octave out of my tenor, but I swear that he was getting two. Plus he did some fascinating stuff combining slap tongue and altissimo.

Anyway, those kinds of concerts are what inspire me and keep me going. I always encourage my students to get out and soak in these master performers, since it shows us what quality time in the practice room can do for us. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go practice my altissimo range.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

connected to website

I finally got a link to this blog put up on my website (, so I guess I need to start talking about music. Now that we're in the summer months, I've noticed that many of my student's practice hours drop. There is more time available to practice, but more distractions. Plus, there is no longer a schedule to keep us as organized, so we tend to let activities take longer than necessary. What works for me is to schedule my practice time. Pick a time of the day and tell yourself that you will practice at that time every day possible. There will be times when something will come up and you won't be able to do it, but by having it scheduled, it will be much more likely to happen.

Summer is also a good time to get extra music listening in. Music is a language, and in order to be fluent, you must listen to fluent native speakers. So get out there and transcribe some John Coltrane.

Monday, June 9, 2008

On writing

I suppose, since this is a writing blog, that I should write about my writing. It will probably turn out to be more of a music blog, though. As far as writing goes, I am working on a short story that I'm planning on sending to Writers of the Future. It is a depressing story, which is not normally my style, but I liked the idea of an oppressive government profiting off its people by selling drugs that are supposed to heal, but don't. Not unlike in our society. Okay, so it is a social commentary disguised as a fantasy story. Normally, I like to write and read things that are cheerful, funny and uplifting, so this is just a brief excursion into my dark side. I just finished reading The Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, which I like for it's tongue-in-cheek first person perspective.

This weekend, I just submitted my novel, currently titled The Dragon War Relic and Other Ancient Stuff, to Cedar Fort. I've tried several of the larger publishers, at least the ones that don't require an agent, and have several rejection notices to show for it. One thing about smaller publishers I've noticed so far is that they actually look at your stuff. I got reactions back from the larger companies so fast that I am sure that they never read them, they just sent the form rejection letter out. I will say, all the rejection letters I've received have been nice and positively phrased. No one has said, "You're a complete loser, give it up."

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My first blog

I'll admit that I'm old fashioned. The idea of a blog has not appealed to me until now. I believe in written journals, since, as Tony Robbins once said, "A life worth living is a life worth writing about." So why put personal thoughts up on the web for everyone to be able to see? I didn't have an answer.

I went to a writing conference with Cedar Fort Inc yesterday, and one of the speakers said that all writers should have a blog. Sigh. Okay, I'll do it. Even though I'm not yet published, I guess I am a writer. I didn't know what I would blog about, but, I'd give it a shot. As I pondered this and thought about some of the other blogs I had read, I realized that blogs are not just personal journals, they are soap boxes. Everyone, even shy people like me, have plenty to say about life and want to vent it. Blogs, whether anyone else in the world reads them or not, provide an avenue for everyone to get their say. At least it can make us feel good about it. The more I thought about it, I thought it would be fun to be able to talk about my writing experiences as I try to get my first novel published. I could also talk about my musical experiences, since that is my day job, and about raising a family with five kids. But why stop there? I have a lot of opinions about health and fitness, nutrition, spirituality, and politics.

So, if anyone is out there reading this, I hope my rantings here will do some good. If nothing else, I hope it can brighten someone's day.