Blue Finger Days

Blue Finger Days

Like millions of people these days in the U.S. and around the world, my wife and I are taking a lot of walks. With our gym shuttered during the lockdown, it’s a great way to exercise and get out of the house.

We are fortunate to live in an area where the weather is predictably sunny and warm. During our walk we are surrounded on all sides by manicured landscaping and, in the distance, snowcapped mountains.

Since we’re not in a bustling city, we actually need to press the crosswalk button at intersections if we want to get a “Walk” sign. It occurred to me early on that there must be a lot of fingers pressing that button. That sounded like an activity to avoid.

My wife is practical, ingenious and focused on keeping us both healthy. Recognizing this COVID-19 Hazard, she immediately remedied the situation in a stylish manner. She cut off the finger tops of a kitchen glove.

So every morning before we go for our walk, I put on the blue finger, ready to boldly press any Crosswalk button with confidence.

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I Felt Like a Criminal For Shaking Hands

I Felt Like a Criminal For Shaking Hands

Not long after the California lockdown I was talking with my gardener. He had just transferred some rocks from my neighbor’s yard into our yard at no cost to me. (It helped him out too because the neighbor was also his customer and he didn’t have to haul the rocks away.)

Still, I have a good relationship with the man and I wanted to let him know that I really appreciated him thinking of us.

I don’t know what I was thinking, but as I was thanking him I was overcome by the hardwired action of reaching out to shake his hand. Even as I saw my hand moving toward his, in the back of my mind I was thinking: NOOOOO!

But I couldn’t stop myself. Before I could control myself we were shaking hands.

I looked around furtively to see if any of my neighbors had observed my social transgression. I felt as though I had done something awful. I had actually shaken someone’s hand! What in God’s name was I thinking?

I’m happy to report that as of this writing—several weeks after the event—the gardener and I are still healthy.

But the mistake taught me a lesson: It may be hard to break habits of a lifetime, like hugging people you like and shaking someone’s hand to express your gratitude. Greeting people you hardly know with a kiss on the cheek is now a relic of the past.

But then, to be honest, I never much liked kissing people I barely knew anyhow.

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The Plus Side of Social Distancing

The Plus Side of Social Distancing

Like hundreds of millions of people around the world, I’ve been practicing social distancing. In some cases it’s kind of a drag not being physically close to people you love or like. On the other hand, for me this policy has provided an unexpected upside.

There are certain people I actually want to avoid. Now, if we’re walking on the street, I can maintain my distance with a polite wave or even cross the street and no one thinks I’m being rude or standoffish.

The truth is there has never been a better time in my life to avoid people I don’t want to see.

I actually enjoy going out more now.

With my mask, of course.

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Put Music in eBooks

Put Music in eBooks

My career has been as a novelist and screenwriter. But when I came to LA decades ago, I really wanted to be a rock and roll star. Who didn’t?

Since then I’ve always tried to blend my music and writing. My first attempt was when I submitted a screenplay with a custom made leather cover. The cover included a pouch on the front big enough to hold a cassette tape that included songs I’d written for the screenplay.

A few years later I recorded an album in support of my novel Trick of the Light. I literally wanted to sell the album and the novel packaged together, but ultimately they had to be sold separately.

My first real opportunity to put my music in a book came in 2012. My plan was to embed the songs I’d written for my novel Cathedral of the Senses in the eBook version of the book. But it was very early days and Kindle did not support embedded media at the time.

Since the idea was so new, just putting media of any kind in ebook required workarounds, third-party programs, and hours of customer support.

In 2012 Apple’s .ePub files supported embedded media so I designed a version of Cathedral of the Senses for the iBookstore. The process was incredibly challenging and there were lots of trials and even more errors, but I was determined to see my music-in-a-book dream come true.

Each chapter in the novel contains a short sample of a song appropriate for that particular scene. When you watch a movie you hear songs that were not necessarily written for that movie. Yet they capture the emotional tone of the scene. (In the movie “Street Crimes,” which I wrote and directed, I also put parts of two songs in the film. I mention this only to establish that I’ve done both: Put music in film and in books.) Readers could choose to click the link and hear the song or not. They could also click another link redirecting them to iTunes to buy the song. (The book is still available in the Apple Bookstore, where you can download a sample. Cathedral of the Senses is also available in regular eBook and paperback formats on Amazon. 

Eight years can be the equivalent of several lifetimes in the digital age, and putting media in your eBooks is a lot easier to do now. Although I published two more “media enhanced” novels using the iBooks platform (Trick of the Light, and I, Walt Whitman), I haven’t published a new novel with embedded music in about eight years. That is about to change. I’m planning to finish my new novel, Shakespeare’s Cadillac, early this summer and the eBook format will include excerpts from a dozen new songs. The songs themselves will be available on a companion album (available on iTunes and Amazon Digital, as well as popular music subscription sites like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora).

While publishing a new novel is interesting to me, this article is the first in a series that will help you decide if a “media enhanced eBook” is right for you. Here are several points to consider.

  • Novelists can add their own or other people’s music to their eBooks (if they have the rights to do so).
  • Non-fiction books about music are perfect “enhanced eBook” candidates, e.g., biographies about a musician or band, or even an eBook about your band or gigging experiences. That said, it is impractical to embed full versions of lots of songs in an eBook for reasons I’ll go into in more depth during this series. But even if you could, you would be better off, from a sales or business point of view, to sell the eBook inexpensively, or even give it away, and create links to music download stores. Consider how powerful a tool this can be: You provide an “impulse buy” link at the exact moment the reader is enjoying your work the most.
  • Businesses can use eBooks as high-end premium items. Your eBook can become a “store” by embedding short informative audio and video files. The videos can be short 30-second examples of how your product works, or they might promote your consultation services. Put contact information and links to your company’s website and social media next to the videos.
  • Another extremely practical use for media in eBooks is the MEMOIR BOOK. Short interviews (with links to full YouTube videos) with family members can become treasured, and readily accessible, keepsakes for future generations. Short digitized excerpts of old films and videos are perfect embedded media content. The great thing about an eBook is that you don’t have to print and ship thousands of copies when you’re only going to sell a few dozen or a few hundred to family and friends, as is the case with most Memoir books. And finally, you can add to the memoir book every few years by simply uploading an updated file!

In the next part of this series I will tell you How to Put Music in Your Novels and make it a fun project. For example, if you’re a novelist, what about setting up collaborations with your songwriter friends? How cool is that?

In subsequent installments of the series I will talk about, and provide examples of, Best Uses of Embedded Media in Your Business eBook, and How to Use Embedded Media in Your Memoir eBook.

If you have any questions about the series please feel free to contact me via the Contact Form on this site.

Trick of the Light in eBook and paperback formats are available on Amazon. 

The accompanying music soundtracks for Trick of the Light and Cathedral of the Senses are available on iTunes and Amazon Digital among other music download and subscription sites.

Trick of Light on iTunes, Click here. Trick of the Light on Amazon Music, Click Here.

Cathedral of the Senses on iTunes, Click Here. Cathedral of the Senses on Amazon Music, Click Here. (Note: Songs on the Cathedral of the Senses album are performed by various artists, mostly from Sedona, AZ.)

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Story Behind the Song: I’ll Meet You in the Middle

Story Behind the Song: I’ll Meet You in the Middle

I’ll Meet You in the Middle

By Dale Menten

My first wife died in 2008 after a ten-year struggle with cancer.

In 2011, I married a lifelong friend, Julie Johnson. It didn’t take us very long to discover that our political views were ‘slightly’ at odds: she was ‘slightly’ left of center, and I was ‘slightly’ right of center. I wrote this song in an effort to bridge the gap.

It’s a musical plea for non-partisanship. “We are more alike than we are different.”

Julie and I are happily married, and residing mostly in the middle.

Listen to the Song