Today’s Featured Author – Sharon Davis

Today I welcome Sharon Davis to my blog. Sharon has long been involved in the Motown music scene and has written numerous books about various artists. Her latest book, Mighty Real: Sharon Davis remembers Sylvester, is about the disco icon Sylvester and his hit song “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).”

Guest Post

I was born in East Sussex, along the southern coast of the UK and educated at St Phillips convent school in Uckfield before attending the Lewes Tertiary college where I studied secretarial duties.  The dreaded Pitman shorthand drove me to distraction but happily I left the college armed with good grades and excellent typing skills.  These, of course, proved invaluable in later life although at the time, they were a means to an end to secure a secretarial job.

Dusty-3

Dusty Springfield

While I earned a living during the day working as a secretary for our local council, I became obsessed with Motown’s music and artists.  This interest was fuelled by Dusty Springfield, and her constant promotion of the Detroit sound via her interviews and live shows. I became the southern secretary for her fan club, met her several times, so my obsession grew.

To cut a long story short, I joined the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society run by Dave Godin, a valued friend and fan of Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records. Among other things, the TMAS spearheaded the first British Motown Revue in March 1965.  When this Society closed Motown in Detroit wanted individual artist fan clubs opened in the UK, so I applied to run one for the Four Tops, my favourite group of all time.   With the help of Motown’s publicity department based in Detroit, I got my wish and during the 1960s was able to help promote the music I loved so much from my parent’s home in Uckfield, East Sussex. Other fan clubs opened up across the country for other artists and the various secretaries regularly met up in London to listen to the all-consuming new American releases or organise Motown parties for fans in London hotels. Jimmy Ruffin was a regular visitor at these.

To this day, I remember printing stencilled copies of the Four Tops’ Four Tops newsletters on the machine at work – after hours of course – and my mother and I enveloping them up and cramming them into the local post box much to the dismay of our local post office!  Fan club members would also visit our house, St Michael’s Lodge, just to talk Motown.

I lived with my parents until I was 21 years old when I moved to London to work for EMI Records.  I pined to be a part of that industry because my only ambition was to join the music business  – but I didn’t know how. So, in desperation, I wrote to the EMI Records address printed on their record sleeves, asking for a secretarial job; was interviewed and was duly hired as a legal secretary. Ah, a foot in the corporate door.  A country girl in the big city of London was a huge step to take, but I did it.

My decision to move to the big city coincided with other fan club secretaries doing likewise.  From a flat in Ealing, London, and with  Motown’s blessing, the various fan clubs were amalgamated under one banner – Motown Ad Astra.  It was an awesome task, operating this club during the evenings and every weekends. Not only did the Club provide an excellent service to members, but we also entertained visiting Motown artists.  Either driving them around London, assisting with their touring schedules, and so on.  By doing this, a personal and professional bond was forged, some which remain relevant today.

From EMI’s legal department, I worked my way through the various departments until landing the position of personal assistant for the deputy manager of the company.  This was during the 1970s, the same period when the beforementioned Dave Godin, who was now writing for Blues & Soul, approached me with the offer to write a Motown page for the magazine.  This I did for two or more decades, later branching out as one of the magazine’s top journalists, interviewing major and minor acts.  A huge thrill, as my love of soul music broadened but my obsession with Motown was never replaced.

In time, Motown Ad Astra closed down and was replaced by the “TCB” magazine for several months. I couldn’t maintain that and write for Blues & Soul and felt by spreading the word in the magazine I’d reach a far wider audience. So, with a heavy heart, “TCB” closed down.

As far as I can remember, I’ve always written whether it be short stories or just notes from a place I’d visited or a song I’d heard.  Having said that, I also fancied myself as an artist, and for some years splashed around with brightly coloured oils on canvasses until I lost interest.

Thanks to my writing for Blues & Soul, and my growing reputation in the soul music industry, I became publicity manager for three American labels – Fantasy, Stax and Salsoul – all licensed to EMI Records.  From there, I secured my dream job as publicist for Motown, working from EMI’s offices in Manchester Square, in the heart of London’s west end.

Jermaine Jackson

Jermaine Jackson

For two years I worked with the company’s acts, ranging from Diana Ross, Jermaine Jackson, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Teena Marie, The Temptations, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas,  and so on.  The absolute joy of meeting artists I’d previously adored on record was something I never dared imagine.

Personally speaking, as I’m a factual writer, the best part is being able to pass on information about an artist or company that might be lost in the passage of time otherwise.  During my time working hands-on at EMI Records and Blues & Soul, I collected memorabilia, news clippings, transcripts of my interviews, visuals, and all manner of things which are priceless in my work.

I always write in my office at home, leaving it only for comfort breaks, to eat, and sometimes sleep.   Notebooks and pens are scattered all over my house, including the toilet, just in case something comes to mind and needs saving. Yes, as I’ve got older, so has my memory. It doesn’t work as well as it did. I also like the solitude that writing demands, and when a particular book is finished – then watch me go!  Rejoining the human race can be fun!

I outline my books through necessity.  Most have been artist biographies so it’s essential the time frame is accurate.  So a skeleton is drafted with significant dates and locations.  After completing that, the story can be filled into the appropriate sections. I write all my manuscripts in long hand, always have done, because not only do I love the feel of fountain pen on A4 lined paper, but I must have the personal touch injected into what I write. Sounds strange I know but, hey, it works for me. All my books are personally slanted while retaining the factual element.

I’m fueled to continue writing because there’s still so much for me to tell. As I’m getting older, I don’t want to run out of time, so am constantly writing notes and researching towards future books.  I have two that I’m planning and both are Motown-related. There’s still a huge market for accurate books about the company and I’ve still got much to tell, because of the privileged position of befriending many artists who are always happy to assist me with projects.  Yes, I am extremely fortunate to have these relationships and never, ever, take them for granted.

motown the historyAt the request of Proteus Books I penned my first book “Marvin Gaye” in 1984.  “Motown:The History” followed in 1988 after a deal with Guinness Books. This was a magnificent book mostly due to the extensive colour visuals and the inclusion, for the first time in any publication, of the US and UK album and single discography spanning thirty years.  The text was rather good as well!  Long out of print of course, the book is considered to be the Motown bible.  Interestingly, it’s also used as an autograph book by fans who lug the huge tome to performances for artists to sign.  Martha Reeves once said that she’s autographed this book more times than she cares to remember.

During the 1990s I revamped and extended my first book and with the artist’s knowledge published “Marvin Gaye: I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. Tragically, Marvin was shot dead by his father before he could see the finished project. I then changed tact to see if I could write about music outside the Motown box.  To this end, Mainstream Publishing took on my trilogy – “Every Chart-topper Tells A Story – Sixties, Seventies, Eighties”.  It was an interesting project which I greatly enjoyed compiling.

Into 2000 it was back to Motown with “Diana Ross: A Legend In Focus”, another elaborately designed book thanks to the brilliant designer at Mainstream.  Three years later, Carlton published “Stevie Wonder: Rhythms Of Wonder”,  and during 2006 I compiled a selection of my Blues & Soul interviews under the book title “Chinwaggin’” for Bank House Books. Three years later Equinox published “Lionel Richie: Hello”, then in 2008 Carlton took up the publishing rights for “A Girl Called Dusty”.  At last I had written about the singer who had steered me on my Motown adventure. It’s hoped that a movie will be made from this project.

As an aside, when Diana Ross penned her autobiography “Secrets Of A Sparrow” she enlisted my help as a researcher and duly credited me in the book as such. Over the years, I’ve compiled CDs for her, and written her sleeve notes and tour programmes.  Always happy to write about Motown, my work can be seen on countless CD and vinyl compilations, and I’ve been a regular talking head on television and radio programmes devoted to the company.  Providing background information and visuals for tv programmes is also part of the service I willingly provide, although, at the end of the day, I prefer to write than talk!

Book

sylvester bookJust recently Bank House Books published “Mighty Real:Sharon Davis Remembers Sylvester”.  You’ll recall I mentioned earlier on working for Fantasy Records. One of the artists I befriended from that label was the lovely, outrageous disco singer Sylvester, when he first visited London to promote “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” during 1978.  Not only did the single soar into the British chart – and later a top ten hit in most countries – but it elevated him into the higher echelons of dance music.  Spending almost every waking hour with him, I hoarded a million memories with personal visuals to match. We remained in contact with each other when he left Fantasy, and regularly met up with he toured the UK.   When he died from AIDS in 1988, I knew I had to pay tribute to this great artist, so decided to publish our time together to give his fans an exclusive insight into his hit in the making.  Sharing the moments and living the dream, so to speak.

“Mighty Real” should have been published during 2014 but due to my illness – which went on and on – I couldn’t promote it.  There then followed a printing problem which seemed to take ages to rectify, but quite suddenly everything fell into place.  By my standards, the book is minute: only 80 pages long and can easily fit into a back pocket or handbag.  However, everything I needed to say is included from the start of his career to the tragedy at the end.

Sylvester and Sharon

Sylvester and Sharon

I hope I wrote frankly about Sylvester’s unpredictability and stubbornness, his love to shock, and his thoughtful and caring nature for others. I also hope the love I had for him comes across through the friendship we developed. Also, for the first time, record company reports and schedules are made public, together with personal notes, a few surprises and secrets,  and pictures Sylvester loved – and some he didn’t.

Like most of my books, I find the closing chapter the hardest to write, particularly if the artist is deceased.  For Sylvester I racked my brain for ages thinking of something suitable, then opted for  one of his quotes.  He always liked the last say! This is probably the most personally slanted book I’ve ever penned, or likely to. That is, until I write my ‘autobiography’ of my ‘Motown Years’ which is currently simmering away gently on the back burner.

To date, “Mighty Real” has attracted great reviews and my readers have been kind with their comments.  So maybe I did something right!

Before I close, I’d like to thank you Susan for allowing me to join you and your esteemed authors.  It’s been a huge privilege for me.

You can find out more of Sharon’s writing about Motown on Soul Music’s website where she is a review and editor of Motown Spotlight.

Mighty Real: Sharon Davis Remembers Sylvester is available on Amazon, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble.

 

Today’s Featured Author – Clive Richardson

Today, please welcome author Clive Richardson. His book, Soul Citizen – Tales & Travels from the Dawn of the Soul Era to the Internet Age, was released earlier this year.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Clive Richardson. I’m not sure how my musical tastes originated, as my father liked big-band music and my mother liked shows and musicals – in fact I have an early memory of being taken to see the original London stage production of ‘My Fair Lady’ starring Rex Harrison! I heard Lonnie Donegan records and became a skiffle fan, then in the early 1960s, when I started work at the age of 16, I was captivated by Motown music and found soul music. The rest is history – and is related in detail in my book!

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Bromley, then in the UK county of Kent and now part of South East London, on January 14, 1946. My family home was in the nearby village of Chislehurst, where I lived for the first 30 years of my life before buying my first property, a one-bedroom flat/apartment, moving to nearby Grove Park for 20 years. Then I met and married my wife Barbara in 1998, bought a small house, then moved a decade later to my present home in Mottingham, South East London, just a couple of miles from my birthplace.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I began writing in 1964, in the era of ‘fan clubs’ for singers and groups, when I formed a fan club for US soul singer Don Covay following his hit records ‘Mercy Mercy’ and ‘See Saw’. I wrote and published a small fan club magazine, about eight pages, mainly record reviews and a small history of Don’s career, then hooked-up with a group of other guys who also published small magazines, and we got together to write and self-publish ‘Soul Music’ magazine in 1966. We changed the title to ‘Shout’ after some confusion about styles of ‘soul’ music, and I continued as contributing editor/publisher until 1974, when I moved on to freelancing with other magazines.

Please tell us about your current release.

My book is called Soul Citizen – Tales & Travels from the Dawn of the Soul Era to the Internet Age, and is available both from Amazon CreateSpace and from Lulu.com, also via Amazon. It is my ‘music autobiography’, relating my experiences in ‘discovering’ Rhythm & Blues and soul music as a teenager in London in the 1960s. There are sections and chapters on collecting vinyl records, on seeing live music at concerts and clubs, and meeting and interviewing artists, on travels to the USA, New York and New Orleans, on UK music radio, my broadcasting experiences on the BBC, with pirate radio stations in the 1980s and with local and specialist stations from the 1990s to present, and on the evolution and progression of the soul music scene in the UK through the decades.

What inspired you to write this book?

A friend published a book collating his artist interviews as published in various magazines, which encouraged me towards s similar project, but extended from just previously-published material to memoirs of my decades of involvement with and in the music industry as a fan, as a radio broadcaster, as a journalist and as a record label manager for reissue projects.

How did you come up with the title?

I was working on a series of reissue CDs covering vintage soul music across various cities in the USA – the Soul City series on Fantastic Voyage Records, featuring New York, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New Orleans – so it was a natural progression to think of myself as a ‘Soul Citizen’!

What kind of research did you do for this book?

The research was mainly from my fairly good memory, assisted by 50 years of magazine and book files along with a vinyl record collection covering a similar period. LP record sleeves seem to carry more memories then do CD inlays and booklets! Online research was also useful too!

Do you have an all time favorite book?

I was an avid reader of science fiction in the 1960s, including Robert Heinlein ‘Stranger In a Strange Land’ and Arthur Clarke ‘ A Fall of Moondust’, then Stephen King, and it would be hard to choose between ‘Carrie’ and ‘The Shining’!

What book are you reading right now?

Most recent reads have been the Bobby Bland biography ‘The Soul Of a Man’ and the Huey ‘Piano’ Smith biography ‘Rocking Pneumonia Blues’, which takes me back to my several trips to Jazzfest in New Orleans during the 1980s.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

Apart from watching football/soccer as a lifelong fan of Charlton Athletic in south east London, I am also a keen tennis player, Chairman of my local club, and still involved in playing competitive league matches two or three times a week throughout the year!

Book Blurb

soulcitizenThe autobiography of a soul music fan from his formative years in the early 1960s, buying records and going to gigs, through decades of journalistic experience editing Shout! fanzine, writing for soul papers and album liner notes, to thirty years as a radio broadcaster. Adventure journeys to New York and New Orleans also feature, along with experiences as a re-issue record label manager, and comments on the development of the Soul/R&B music world. 222 pages, illustrated, paperback.

About the Author

CliveClive Richardson grew up in London at the birth of the Soul Era with Motown and Stax creating musical impact on the youth of the day. He formed a fan club for soul singer Don Covay, then expanded his journalistic career as editor of Shout fanzine and contributor to Black Echoes newspaper. He wrote liner notes for numerous albums, subsequently becoming label-manager of Shout! Records (UK), producing reissue soul and R&B CDs. Clive is also a consultant for Fantastic Voyage records, originating and producing vintage soul reissues. He is also veteran of a thirty-year career in radio, broadcasting on JFM, RTM and Solar Radio, now with a reguler weekly show on Solar Radio. Married to Barbara since 1998, Clive lives in South East London, is a keen club tennis player and football fan, a lifelong supporter of Charlton Athletic.

You can purchase Soul Citizen on Amazon in paperback or as an e-book and at Barnes & Noble in paperback.

#NewRelease – PAY DAY by ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Richelle Denise

Just released on Monday, here is a look at the latest from ReShonda Tate Billingsley and Richelle Denise.

Pay Day: Book Synopsis

Pay DayOne little ticket is about to change their lives. . .

but is it for better or for worse?

When the office lotto pool lands the winning ticket for four friends, each will embark on journeys that change their lives forever.

After years of stringing her along, Terrance has reluctantly married his longtime girlfriend, Sheray. . . just days before winning the lottery. Now, that he’s a rich newlywed, the former playboy is dreaming of what life would’ve been like as a rich bachelor. When the money drives a wedge between them, Sheray leaves and Terrance learns the hard way to be careful what you wish for.

Angelique has been overweight since she was young. Despite her insecurities, her boyfriend, Marcus, gives her his love and affection without reservation. When she uses some of her winnings to get weight loss surgery, her new body and new attitude gets her some new attention, and could cost her the man she loves.

After twelve years of marriage, Janine’s husband announces that he’s leaving her for another woman. When she realizes he could possibly get a portion of her prize, she devises a scheme to keep it from him. But when her plan backfires, will she lose it all?

Raquelle’s life has just been turned upside down when she’s caught embezzling money, which she started doing to support her sick son. With a boss bent on making her pay, Raquelle is facing hard time and about to discover there are some things her lotto winnings can’t buy…or can it?

With a bitter former coworker lurking in the background, these friends are discovering their big payday will definitely change their lives…just not in the ways they expected.

About the Authors

ReShonda_Tate_Billingsley_publicityphotoblueReShonda Tate Billingsley is a former news reporter and anchor, who now writes books full-time.  She is the author of 35-plus books and a mother to three. Her sophomore novel, Let the Church Say Amen, has been made into a movie, directed by actress Regina King and produced by Queen Latifah’s Flava Unit, Royal Ties Productions and Bobcat Films. (Oh, and she did make my film debut as well! Look for her in the church scene!)Honored to have won the 2012 NAACP Image Award for Say Amen, Again and been nominated again in 2013. She is also the cofounder of Brown Girls Books, a boutique publishing company with over 20 authors. She is also a proud University of Texas at Austin graduate. Not only does she love writing, she love reading almost as much!

Richelle DeniseRichelle Denise is a contributor of the Dating Game Anthology.  The title of her story is called mixing business with pleasure.  She loves to entertain readers with her style of writing. She is passionate about the reading. You can generally find her spending time with her two sons.

You can purchase Pay Day on Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

 

Today’s Featured Author: Graham Betts

Today I welcome Graham Betts to my blog. He took on the challenge of creating a Motown Encyclopedia. And I would say he succeeded as the book contains biographies of all 684 artists who had releases on Motown and their various imprints, as well as biographies of 16 musicians, 23 producers, 19 writers and 13 executives.

Here he shares some of what went into compiling this encyclopedia.

Guest Post

When I originally left school in 1973 it was with the intention of becoming an architect. Those aspirations came to an abrupt end after just eighteen months and so I decided to use the next two years to think seriously about my next major career move. In the meantime I landed a temporary job, later made permanent, with the Social Science Research Council as an Information Officer.

Despite the rather grand title the job entailed writing to the numerous academics the Council funded and asking them to provide a 400 word summary of their research, which would then be featured in the annual publication Research Supported by the SSRC. I quickly discovered that academics cannot provide 400 words – I received either forty words that had to be worked up to the required length or some four thousand words that needed heavy editing. Thus I received on the job experience of editing and proof reading, and whilst I didn’t think much of the job at the time, the overall experience would prove useful in my later endeavours.

Working for the SSRC kept my days occupied and during the evenings I invariably went out to concerts and shows and would send in reviews to magazines. Although these were not commissioned they were usually printed, in full, by the recipient magazines, giving me a growing portfolio of articles. That in turn led me to the realisation that my preferred career choice would be something to do with the record industry. I sent out covering letters and photocopies of the printed articles to all the major record companies in England, uncertain as to what particular role I was aiming for but hoping that they might see me fitting in somewhere within their organisation. As luck would have it, at the time I wrote Pye Records was looking to expand the Press Office, so my experience within the SSRC as an Information Officer, coupled with my knowledge of music gave me an opening. In January 1978, therefore, I became an Assistant Press Officer and three months later, having successfully completed my probation, I was upgraded to the full rank of Press Officer.

Writing artist biographies, release sheets and press releases at Pye was infinitely more exciting than my work for the SSRC. I was still going out most evenings to shows, except I was now effectively being paid to do so! I was still writing too, with my stock being somewhat raised when I won the Melody Maker Essay Contest in 1978 (when I entered the competition I was still a civil servant at the SSRC), which saw me having to write a further article for the magazine. Given a choice of what and where I wrote, I opted for doing a piece on Motown Records – the label was just about to celebrate its twentieth anniversary and The Commodores were enjoying a worldwide smash with Three Times A Lady. I was therefore sent on an all-expenses trip to Florida to catch up with and interview The Commodores, then flew across the States to California where I undertook interviews with other Motown personnel.

I have continued to work in the record industry since those heady days, including spells with CBS Records (now Sony) and more recently in the budget and reissue sector. I currently work for Pickwick Group, where for the last fourteen years I have been Artist & Repertoire Manager with particular responsibility for all the company’s releases.

My writing career has continued alongside my work career. Obviously, the bulk of my writing has been connected with music, an area that I feel I have specific expertise. Having contributed to numerous books over the years, including such publications as the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles, The Motown Story and The History of Rock, I had my first music book published in 1997, a biography of George Michael entitled Read Without Prejudice. Soon after I produced a series of football (soccer) books for Mainstream, writing five and editing another five club histories. Since then I have had published a further twenty seven books on either sport or music and also contributed to a considerable number more. All of these are in the non-fiction category – I do have an idea for a historical novel but apart from doing some research on the period I want to set the novel in have done little else about it.

This is mainly down to having a number of other book projects on the go. I’ve recently signed a deal with the OCC (the Official Charts Company, who produce the British singles and album charts) for a series of books that are possibly to be crowd funded, although the OCC are handling the logistics and I will take care of the writing. Then there are a number of other chart based books we are looking at that will probably be print on demand books. Overall, therefore, I’m as busy now as I have been for the last twenty years or so. And I still have a full time job, meaning I write in whatever spare time I can allocate!

Many times I’ve tried setting myself a daily target of words, but I seldom keep to it – sometimes you find the words just flow and you can sail past whatever target you have and on other occasions the well seems to dry up and rather than struggle along I will shut down my computer and go off and do something else, hoping that when I return to whatever project it is I’m working on I will once again have found the inspiration.

I’ve not received much advice, good or bad, during the course of my writing career. However, one thing I did read that has served me in good stead was by Stephen King, who said, “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” When I was struggling to produce the five club histories for Mainstream and was up against a deadline that seemed to be approaching quicker than I could write, I gave myself probably the simplest of all incentives to get the job completed; I wrote out a check for the amount that was payable on delivery of the manuscripts and used that to help me complete the task in time! Hardly the most creative of inspirations, but effective none the less!

My most recent book, Motown Encyclopedia was without doubt one of the hardest books I’ve ever undertaken. I originally came up with the idea when I was doing some research for another project and found myself having to switch between three or four books in order to find out the truth behind one story. This was largely because most of the reference books I was utilising tended to present the story in chronological order. Then I happened to be reading a Laurel & Hardy Encyclopedia and thought the format would lend itself well to Motown.

Graham & StevieAs you can imagine, the Motown story is one of the most complex of all stories connected with the record industry. Nearly everyone knows everything there is to know about the likes of Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye. Or if they don’t know about those artists, then there are plenty of reference books or websites that will provide that information. What intrigued me was the stories of the lesser artists, those who had only one single released or scheduled and who had then fallen off the radar. How did they come to be recording for Motown? Who discovered or signed them? What were their experiences like?

In order to ensure I covered everybody in the Motown Encyclopedia, my first task was to create a definitive discography, listing every single and album release. And not just on Motown but all of the sub-labels too, such as Tamla, Soul, Gordy, Rare Earth and V.I.P. There were also instances of records being originally released on Motown and associated labels and then being sub-licensed to other labels. Barrett Strong’s Money is the most obvious example of this; originally released on Tamla it was licensed to Anna Records (then distributed by Chess) and became a Top 30 success. There were other examples during Motown’s early, formative years, as well as the several licensing deals Berry Gordy did to get his repertoire released in Britain and Europe. Later there were releases that only appeared in Europe, including a number of titles aimed at the Northern Soul market, all of which had to be covered in the book. Finally, there were a number of licensing deals Berry Gordy did that worked the other way; Creed Taylor’s CTI label, Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s boutique label Manticore and British independent label Gull are among the labels that had their product manufactured and distributed in America by Motown during the 1970s. It took me about four months or so to complete the discography, by which time I’d discovered there were over six hundred artists who had some connection or another to the company, well in excess what I expected. Irrespective of this, each and every one would have a mini biography included in the encyclopedia.

I’d also decided to feature every record that made the Top Ten of the pop chart on either side of the Atlantic and provide some background information to the record or its creation. Then I looked at the musicians, writers and executives, as well as other entries that are key to the Motown story, such as the idea behind the original Motortown Revue and the dates on that historic tour, the first live dates in Europe and the line-up and programming for the Motown 25 television showcase. By the time I’d drawn up the list of everything to be featured, it ran to more than 1100 entries!

Not long after I came up with the idea and put together a synopsis, my then agent contacted to say he had a publisher keen to conclude a deal. Indeed, the would be publisher was said to be that keen they wanted a deal to be agreed within two months, ahead of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Eventually the deal fell through; the publisher still thought the book was a great idea but felt that as Motown was an American record company the book should have an American writer! Having already done a lot of the research in identifying the entries I wasn’t prepared to hand over the idea, although I might have been prepared to accept a co-author and even put forward a couple of name suggestions for them to pursue, but nothing came of it. I must admit I’m still rather glad nothing did come to fruition with that particular publisher because I think they failed to grasp the full extent of what I was proposing. They only seemed interested in the Motown story as it related to America, so didn’t particularly see the need to mention those records that only appeared in Britain. Which is fine until you realise Lynda Carter, better known on either side of the Atlantic as Wonder Woman, had a record released on Motown in Europe only, which would have meant her omission.

There were other publishers interested over the next couple of years, some of whom I came closer to agreeing a deal with than others, but ultimately none of the offers seemed worthwhile, not when set against the amount of research and time I spent putting the book together. One seemed to think I had managed to put the entire book together purely from Wikipedia! Instead, I spent a total of three years researching and writing, trying to track down every artist I could in order to obtain information. It was actually a repeat of the detective work I’d undertaken for my Complete Hit Singles and Hit Albums books some ten years previously. If I couldn’t find the artist then I’d try and track down the producer, songwriter or manager; anyone who might have some background information I could utilise. I have to say very few of the 684 artists (this number includes those artists whose only Motown connection is the inclusion of a track on a compilation or soundtrack, but hey, I’m a completist!) proved totally elusive and I had some fun doing it; one artist I couldn’t find but managed to locate his producer via ebay when I spotted his rather unusual surname and after initially contacting him via the ‘ask the seller a question’ function managed to get some great, hitherto unknown background information on the artist.

Graham & GladysMy original intention had been to do a straight reference book, but during the course of my research I came to realise the value of the information I was getting. Add to this the interviews I’d conducted with Motown artists over the years, such as Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Edwin Starr, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and High Inergy, as well as various executives and producers, such as Norman Whitfield, Harvey Fuqua and Hal Davis, and I came to the conclusion the book would be a more enjoyable read if I incorporated those quotes into the respective entries.

Finally, after three years of work and still no nearer getting a firm publishing deal I was faced with a difficult choice. As far as I could see, my options were to abandon the book, pay for a limited print run or make it available as an ebook. Options one and two were non-starters, so I looked at the third one. I’d got two other books that I’d been commissioned to write but which hadn’t been published owing to the collapse of the publisher so I thought I’d test the market, so to speak, by getting those out on Kindle. Actually, it was more about learning how to format for Kindle than actually earning a return on the two other books. Neither of them are music or sport and I put them out under a pen name, but I learned enough from the process to feel confident that I could turn the Motown Encyclopedia into an ebook without too much difficulty. So, in June 2014 I duly launched the book via Smashwords and Amazon and was pleasantly surprised at the response I received.

It didn’t take long before I was getting requests to turn the book into a paperback version. I’d held off doing a print on demand version because I’d heard some horror stories about the quality of print and the binding, but having control of every aspect of the process with CreateSpace enabled me to see that the book would look every bit as good as a version from a conventional publisher, so I launched that version in August. And once again I’ve been surprised at the response, with paperback sales now running at between three and four times the level of ebook sales. It proves to me, if not to anyone else, that reference works are better enjoyed as physical books since you seldom read them from start to finish but delve in and out as the fancy takes you.

The version that is available at the moment covers the Motown story from its formation in 1959 through to its sale to MCA in 1988. It seemed to me to be an appropriate place to draw a line, but I’ve been continuing my research and writing and have worked out the artists and records that came along after and could, conceivably, produce an expanded version. As if a book of a half a million words needs expanding!

When I started the Motown Encycloepdia I did the bulk of my work typing away at the dining table, which meant we ate most of our meals off trays in the front room! By the time I’d finished, my daughter had left home to share a house in London and my son was about to head off to university. I now have the luxury of a dedicated office (my son’s old room), with all of my reference books and copies of my own books adorning the shelves. And my wife has her dining room table back, even if we still eat our meals off trays in front of the television!

Book Blurb

MOTOWN COVER FINAL NEWMotown means different things to different people. The mere mention of perhaps the most iconic record label in history is often enough to invoke memories and mental images of Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Jackson 5, The Supremes and numerous others. With each group recalled, there is an accompanying piece of music of the mind, from Baby Love, My Girl, Signed Sealed Delivered, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, ABC and Tears Of A Clown and countless more. Quite often, you can ask people what kind of music they like and they will simply answer ‘Motown’, and both they, and you, know exactly what is meant.

Or rather, what is implied. The Motown they are invariably thinking of is the label that dominated the charts in the mid 1960s with a succession of radio friendly, dance orientated hits, most of which were written and produced by the trio of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland. This period is referred to, naturally enough, as the Golden Era, when Motown was not only the dominant force in its home city of Detroit but carried The Sound of Young America all around the world. The kind of music that had them Dancing In the Street from Los Angeles to London, Miami to Munich and San Francisco to Sydney. It was the kind of music that attracted scores of imitators; some good, some not so good. The kind of music that appealed to the public and presidents alike, and still does.

It was that Motown that this book was intended to be about. However, when you start digging deeper into the Motown story, you realize that throughout its life (which, for the purposes of this book, is its formation in 1959 through to its sale in 1988) it was constantly trying other musical genres, looking to grab hits out of jazz, country, pop, rock, middle of the road and whatever else might be happening at the time. Of course it wasn’t particularly successful at some of the other genres, although those who claim Motown never did much in the rock market conveniently overlook the healthy sales figures achieved by Rare Earth, the group, and focus instead on the total sales achieved on Rare Earth, the label.

This book, therefore, contains biographies of all 684 artists who had releases on Motown and their various imprints, as well as biographies of 16 musicians, 23 producers, 19 writers and 13 executives. There are also details of the 50 or so labels that Motown owned, licensed to or licensed from. All nine films and the 17 soundtracks are also featured. Every Motown single and album and EP that made the Top Ten of the pop charts in either the US or UK also have their own entries, with 222 singles, 84 albums and five EPs being featured. Finally, there are 36 other entries, covering such topics as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Motortown Revues, Grammy Awards and the most played Motown songs on radio.

The 1,178 entries cover every aspect of Motown and more – of the link between Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies and Wonder Woman, of the artists from Abbey Tavern Singers to Zulema, and the hits from ABC to You Really Got A Hold On Me. The Motown Encyclopedia is the story of Motown Records; Yesterday, Today, Forever.

About the Author

GrahamBorn in London in 1957 Graham Betts began his working career training to be an architect before switching to the music industry in 1978 as a Press Officer with Pye Records. He subsequently went on to work for CBS Records (where he was Head of Press) and a number of budget labels, including Tring, before becoming Artist & Repertoire Manager for the Hallmark label. He is currently A&R Manager for the Pickwick Group. He has written for numerous magazines and publications over the last twenty five years, including Blues & Soul, Record Buyer and The History Of Rock. A contributor to numerous books on music and football, Graham has also had more than twenty published under his own name, including Michael Jackson – A Celebration, Read Without Prejudice (a biography of George Michael) and England Player By Player (a history of the England national side) as well as the annual publications Complete UK Hit Singles and Complete UK Hit Albums (published by Harper Collins). His most recent book, the Motown Encyclopedia, was published as an e-book in June 2014. Winner of the 1978 Melody Maker essay contest, he currently lives in Aston Clinton with his wife.

Motown Encyclopedia can be purchased on Amazon and Amazon UK.

Benefits of dialogue in your novel

I’ve written about many topics regarding writing your novel, including a few posts on dialogue. But I have never really addressed the importance of dialogue in your story. (To check out some of my other dialogue related posts, see the end of this post.)

dialogueDialogue is simply characters speaking aloud. Now not all books have to have dialogue. If your main character was stranded on a deserted island, then he wouldn’t have anyone to converse with. But most books have at least some dialogue to break up the action. Dialogue can provide several benefits to your storytelling.

1.) Immediacy – The use of dialogue allows the reader to be involved in a scene. They experience what happened rather than just have the author or a character tell them about it later. Wouldn’t you rather witness an argument between two people than hear about it later?

2.) Characterization – Dialogue is an excellent method of revealing character. When you hear a person speak, you get an understanding of what kind of person he or she is. It can reveal if they are educated, funny, happy, bored and so much more with not only what they say but how they say it.

3.) Information – Dialogue is a way to deliver information to the reader. It can reveal people’s passions, motivations and more. This can be a way to get back story or other important information into the story without dumping a lot of information in a long story-stopping description.

Now how much dialogue you include in your story is can range from a lot (as in most of the story takes place in a conversation rather than a narrative), or you can use very little depending on your own preference and the demands of the story (such as the man on a deserted island example from earlier). There is no crime in writing a story with only minimal dialogue if that is your preference. But don’t avoid dialogue because you feel challenged by writing it. As with all aspects of novel writing, it takes practice to write dialogue well.

For tips on crafting natural dialogue, check out this post.

For advice on using slang and dialects in fiction, click here.

If you want help on using the right number of speech tags, check this out.

Today’s Featured Author: M. Lauryl Lewis

Today I welcome horror author M. Lauryl Lewis to my blog. Here is an excerpt from her latest novel, Grace Lost.

Excerpt

I was able to hear Emilie moan in anger above over my own sobbing. Immediately after she cried out, I heard the sound of my revolver firing overhead. I felt my stomach drop, my skin went ice cold, and Susan began sobbing beside me. The flicker of intrusive thought in my head had been mercifully brief. Boggs stood and walked up the stairs slowly, leaving me and Susan to comfort each other.

“What was that?” she asked me, her voice full of fear and disgust.

“Louisa woke up,” was all I could choke out.

I knew the door upstairs opened because Emilie’s crying got louder. I could hear Boggs’ muffled talking, and I could hear when Gus broke down for the first time since I had met him. The sound of a grown man weeping is in itself a frightening and heart wrenching thing.

Gus’ expression of grief got louder for a brief period while he walked through the hall. I heard his bedroom door close and knew he had shut himself in the room as a way to cope.

“I have to go to Boggs and Emilie,” I whispered to Susan.

I stood, shakily.

“Don’t leave me alone?” she begged. Her face was a mess of tears and grief.

I held a hand out to her, and she took it. She stood and we walked the stairs together.

“Susan, go into my room and wait? I’ll be back soon.”

She nodded and let herself into the room I shared with Boggs. I hesitantly walked to the room where mother and baby had died and entered. The many candles that Emilie and Susan had lit earlier in the day still flickered. Boggs was standing at the foot of the bed, looking at the mother who in death still clung to her baby.

“Where’s Emilie?” I asked quietly.

He turned to me, his eyes threatening to spill tears of their own. “She’s with Gus. They’re a mess.”

“I sent Susan to our room,” I said.

Boggs nodded. “Louisa came back, Zoe. Gus had to…”

I interrupted to spare him from having to explain. “I heard. The baby?” I asked.

He shook his head. “It’s just been still. I told Gus I’d watch for a while, though.”

I noticed Boggs held my revolver in his right hand.

“Maybe it won’t happen,” I said, hopeful.

“Maybe not.”

They say a watched pot never boils, but talking about it makes it happen. It was then that I heard that faint tiny cry again, and felt the dead baby invade my mind.

Boggs looked at me for confirmation.

I nodded once. “It’s turned.”

He sighed. “What should we do?”

“I think a gun is overkill, pardon the pun,” I said through fresh tears.

“I’ll do it, Zoe. I’ll make it quick.”

“Please hurry, Boggs? Send him to be with his mom and dad?”

He nodded. I left the room and went to sit with Susan. I got to our doorway. I never heard anything, but knew it was over when the spark in my mind died. I hoped I’d never come to learn how Boggs had gone about it.

I took a deep breath, and walked into our room. Susan was sitting on the bed, her back resting on our headboard.

She looked up at me, her face illuminated by the glow of a single candle.

“It’s over,” I said. “They’re all together now. A family of three.”

“Can I stay in here tonight?” asked the other woman through her tears.

I nodded. “Of course.” I couldn’t send her to be alone downstairs or expect her to return to her room where the corpses of our friend and her baby remained.

I walked over to the bed and sat down beside her. “Why don’t you climb under the covers? Try to sleep.”

She nodded. “Ok.”

I tucked the woman in. “I need to use the bathroom for a little while, Susan. I’ll be back in a while.”

She nodded. “Zoe?”

“Hmm?”

“Thanks for being nice to me.”

I smiled at her, but didn’t put much effort into making it seem sincere.

I walked alone to the bathroom, where I intended to draw a hot bath and try to soak many layers of evil off of myself. I was filthy. I lit a large candle that we kept on the counter. I studied myself in the mirror. My clothes were mucky from our trek through the woods. I wasn’t sure if the blood smeared on my arm was from Louisa, the faceless little girl in pigtails, or something I wasn’t even aware of. Dirt was smeared on my face. I took my clothes off and piled them near the sink. I walked to the claw foot tub and started the water. Once it was warm, I put the stopper in the drain and climbed in. I sat upright and drew my legs up, curling into a ball. I cried openly, hoping the sound of the water running would drown out my sobs. I wanted to be alone. I ached from head to toe, inside and out. I was tired of living in a Hell on Earth and tired of losing friends. I was tired of being afraid day and night. The tub eventually filled and I shut the water off. I let myself slip under the water and hoped to soak my troubles away. I came up for air and let myself just lay there with my eyes closed.

 Book Blurb

NewGraceLostAfter a night spent at a run-down cabin in the woods, estranged friends Zoe and Boggs wake to find that the dead have risen. They flee, hoping to find safety, but instead find themselves surrounded by their worst nightmares. Joined by two other survivors, they will face unimaginable horrors and suffer unthinkable losses as the rules of nature are rewritten. They will soon realize that the living dead aren’t just the shambling, mindless creatures that legends portray.

Author Bio

81phpnCH6yL._UX250_M. Lauryl is a wife, mother, author, former registered nurse, and nature-lover. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest of the US, her books take place from seashore to mountains, often in the areas she loves the most. Her biggest goals in writing are to create realistic (and flawed) characters and to make readers feel the emotions of her stories.

You may find out more about her on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can buy Grace Lost on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

Today’s Featured Author: Maris Morton

Today I welcome author Maris Morton to my blog. Her book, The Sea Bird’s Egg, will come out later this year as well Small Crimes and Bad Behaviour, a collection of short stories.

Guest Post

The world where I set my mystery stories is essentially a domestic one, with credible characters going about their lives in (mostly) rural settings in Australia’s largest state, Western Australia.

I’ve come to fiction writing later in life than most aspiring novelists do, after working in jobs ranging from being the director of a public art gallery and Keeper of the Paintings (splendidly old-fashioned title, isn’t it!) at a State gallery, art restorer and exhibiting artist; clerical work in the public service; cooking for shearers and laboring as a shed hand on farms; teaching high school English, and English as a second language to Christmas and Cocos Islanders who had been resettled in the town where I lived; cooking in an old peoples’ home; and some journalism, broadcasting  and PR work. I’ve also dabbled in the alternative lifestyle, with a small acreage where I raised fruit, vegetables, poultry, a few sheep, pigs and goats, and two horses — not all at once, I hasten to add! As well as all that, I’ve been married and raised three children, some of the time as a single parent.  Now I live on the other side of the continent from my old home town in glorious sub-tropical rainforest, where I still grow fruit and vegies and have chickens, and listen to the songs of the myriad wild birds that inhabit the treetops around me.

This wealth of experience has given me plenty to write about, and now that I’ve started I can’t see myself giving it up.

As a lifelong devotee of crime and mystery fiction it was inevitable that this was the genre that I would choose for my first attempts at fiction writing. I started out aiming to write a conventional, and probably predictable, crime story, but of course the whole thing got out of hand and developed into something else as I became involved with my characters. I set out to entertain my readers, not to impress them with my literary skills.

After the usual disheartening string of rejections from publishers, I was amazed and delighted when the MS of my novel A Darker Music won the inaugural CAL/Scribe Fiction Prize and was published by Scribe in 2011. The crime in this one is a subtle matter of cruelty and indifference rather than a murder. A more conventional crime/romance is The Herb Gardener, published in 2014 by Odyssey Books. Both tales are set on farms in WA and give different pictures of farming life there.

What interests me most is the way people who are outwardly perfectly ordinary, law-abiding citizens can, when goaded by circumstances, do very bad things. I’m not interested in writing about serial killers, international or corporate crime: other people are already tackling all that, some of them brilliantly. I’m more concerned with what happens behind closed doors, in peoples’ homes. After all, that’s where all of us spend a good deal of our time; much of it important time. I believe that it’s vitally important that my readers feel they can connect with my characters, and the places where these characters live and play out their dramas are realistically-enough drawn that readers can imagine themselves there. So far, the feedback I’ve been getting indicates that I’m managing this pretty well.

In 2015, look out for The Sea Bird’s Egg (which also includes a murder, and exploits my interest in the art world) and a collection of my short stories, titled Small Crimes and Bad Behaviour, to be published mid-year by Port Yonder Press, Iowa. At present I’m working on a story based on my experience of working in an old peoples’ home in a country town; its title is Meadowcroft.

About the Author

mm 1Maris Morton came to writing late, with her prize-winning debut novel, A Darker Music, published after she had accumulated experience in jobs ranging from cooking for shearers, teaching, the public service, arts administration, finally retiring as the director of a public art gallery in 1999.

Two decades of living in country Western Australia has provided the background for much of her writing. At present, she lives among the rainforests of northern New South Wales, working on a new novel to the accompaniment of a symphony of birdsong.

Her books are available in print or e-book format from Amazon, The Book Depository or direct from the relevant publishers. You can learn more about her and her writing from her website.