How Quincy Jones Discovered Piano

Before you listen to Quincy Jones describe how he discovered piano, I suggest you watch this clip of Herbie Hancock. On American Masters, he describes the Jazz scene in New York during the 1960s and how Quincy Jones inspired him.  

How Quincy Jones Discovered Piano

"Every cell in my body said this is what I'm going to do for the rest of life," Jones says in this charming interview with Steven Colbert.​

​A Taste of Q's Big Band

After these inspiring interviews, here's your reward. This clip spotlights a young "Q" conducting his "dream band"—an 18-piece orchestra of world-renowned players such as Clark Terry, Phil Woods, Sahib Shihab, Budd Johnson and Benny Bailey.​

One Writer’s Beginnings

One Writer's Beginnings, as Eudora Welty shows us, come from our light in relation to the world around us. She is one of my favorite short story writers. So when I read the manuscript for Footsteps: In Love with a Frenchman by Susan M. Tiberghien, I fell in love with the simple, everyday stories of life and decided to publish them under my imprint Red Lotus Studio Press. The difference is that Tiberghien writes nonfiction. These essays about falling in love, raising six children in five European countries, speaking three languages, are real. Imagine, if you will, a European Brady Bunch with discriminating tastes and better table manners. These essays are all too human and funny.

For Labor Day weekend, I placed the eBook on FREE promotion for you. 

There is much to learn about how writers become writers. In Susan's essays, we see her process evolve and gain insight into the risks she took in her career. My favorite essay is Emilia's Petition. Would you sign it? Read the essay and let me know!

Best wishes, dear readers, for a happy Labor Day weekend!

Footsteps: In Love with a Frenchman

Click here to download the eBook for FREE this Labor Day weekend!

You Are Much More Than Social Proof

Georgia O'Keeffe chose her friends carefully. She counted her true friends on one hand.

Considered a pioneer in the Modern Art movement, she was born on November 15, 1887. Two years later, Thomas Edison filed a patent for the electric lightbulb. O'Keeffe died in 1986, in the age of Post-modern artists. Just shy of her 100th birthday, she missed the beginning of the Digital Age and its widespread public adoption of the Internet. Much has changed. It is now 2016. Friendship remains the same. True friendship still takes time.

As creators, our challenge is to understand how the spectrum of online friendship unfolds when we use social networking tools. 

You Are Much More Than Social Proof​

The other day, a young actor told me her agent said she needed more "friends and followers" on her social media platforms. As if this "social proof" matters more than her gifts and talent. What troubles me about this agent's comment is that he provided no context for her about what "more friends and followers" even means. 

Think about it. It takes less than one-tenth of one second to "like" something. Consider the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram posts you've "liked" today. How many? What do you remember about them? What's different in your life as a result of all of the "liking" activity. 

To achieve more: you need only to program social algorithms to engage with other social algorithms. Achieving more has nothing to do with your talent.

To achieve real: you need to consider your audience in the context of the Spectrum of Online Friendship. ​The content your create, your engagement style, your genuine interest in your audience amplifies your talent. This is at the heart of a brand strategy, one that builds the career you envision for your future.  

Actual "social proof," as a marketing metric, is measured by the number of brand advocates you have on your social platforms (not total number of friends or followers). ​Brand advocates promote you by sharing your content with their friends. Your talent resonates and means something special to them. They care about your success. 

The Spectrum of Online Friendship

Developed by Mike Arauz, digital market expert, the spectrum of online friendship is a tool for developing a mindful, marketing practice. Your objective is to cultivate relationships over time for lasting value. The first step is to evaluate your own social behavior. Consider your engagement with people and/or brands that mean something to you. Find your behavior on the spectrum. Where are you a brand advocate?

Next, ​use the analytics from your social media platforms. Look at your friends, followers, subscribers. What is the quality of their interaction with you? For each platform, where is your audience on this scale? How many brand advocates do you have? Notice where you have opportunities to create or curate types of content your audience will find valuable. 

​True Friends Take Time

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to "buy" friends and followers. You cannot buy trust. Trust must be earned through consistent social listening and creating and/or curating the kinds of stories, moments, resources that affirm your connections. ​

Circling this post back to Georgia O'Keeffe, I think Charlotte Cowles interview with Juan Hamilton in Harper's Bazaar ​provides a good bit on insight into the artist and her approach to friendship. Check it out. Exclusive: Georgia O'Keeffe's Younger Man

And, as always, please share your comments on this post!​

When You Give an Author a Cookie

How is your business journal coming along? 

In the post, Keep a SMART Business Journal (Part I), ​I wrote about the Forgetting Curve and the Learning Curve. While working on Part II of the post, I started listening to the audiobook Smarter Faster Better: The Secret of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter at The New York Times

​Not only is Duhigg's second book excellent, the publishing professor part of me wants to write an entire post, right now, on how an author builds a body of work and the elements of packaging and branding. Instead, I am taking a page from Duhigg's first book and practicing self-discipline. 

Choice or Habit? ​

For instance, did you know that more than 40% of the actions people perform each day aren't actual decisions, but habits? When I read this in Duhigg's first book, it blew my mind. When am I choosing versus only thinking that I am choosing? Which actions fall into the 40%? ​

In his first book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Duhigg explains in clear language with interesting examples what habits are and how they serve us. In fact, I added a question about best/worst habits to my client questionnaire; by doing so, clients have a better understanding of "noticing" the world around them more clearly.

So before I publish Part II of the business journal post, I think it is helpful and fun to watch the video of Duhigg talking about his cookie habit and what he learned about how his brain works. ​Plus, I've included five quotes from The Power of Habit that I feel have helped me become more productive. 

Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.


The problem is that your brain can't tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it's always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.


Habits can be changed if we understand how they work.


Dozens of studies show that will power is the single most important keystone habit for individual success.


Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach. 


Keep a SMART Business Journal (Part I)

The other day, while flipping through my business journal, I found this quote (post graphic) by writer Barry Eisler. This particular business journal was one I wrote three years ago. When I read this quote again, I felt reassured that I am still aspiring and perspiring in the right direction.

Like you, I'm familiar with advice about keeping a journal for story ideas, plots, characters, titles, pitches, etc. But, I think it is rare to hear advice from successful writers about keeping a business journal. We still have work to do around fusing the divide between creativity and sustainability. This post underscores how we can grab hold of Eisler's quote and build on it by keeping a business journal.    

The Forgetting Curve

Even though I've been working solo for 10 years, I am as guilty as the next writer when it comes to this lie we all tell ourselves: "I keep a solid, working idea of my business in my head. I know what's going on. I have notes." 

No. We don't retain as much information as we believe we do. Further, when we go to those fancy workshops, we forget most of the strategy details we learned before the cocktail hour begins. 

According to Art Kohn, author of Communicating with Psychology and expert in performance improvement, we forget 90% of what we learn in seminars, workshops, and training programs. In his article, Brain Science and the Forgetting Curve, Kohn explains the intricacies of our neural networks, how our brains parse stimuli, and he translates the evidence into our Forgetting Curve. Acknowledging that we cannot hold everything in our heads is a good start. We are now ready for a different curve that is more useful for our goals. 

The Learning Curve

One of the biggest takeaways I have from my coach training is a frame for how we learn. Learning how to drive a car is a good example. In the beginning, our position is unconscious incompetence (we don't know what we don't know). After a few driving lessons, our position is conscious incompetence (we recognize what we don't yet know). The day of the driving test, we have conscious competence (we know what we know). We pass the driver's test. Driving becomes routine. We've reached unconscious competence (we don't think about what we know; we do it automatically). 

Unconscious incompetence

Unconscious Incompetence: we don't know what we don't know. 

Conscious incompetence

Conscious Incompetence: We recognize what we don't yet know. 

Conscious competence

Conscious Competence: We know what we know. 

Conscious Competence

Unconscious Competence: We don't think about what we know; we do it automatically. 

In my case, after working as a publisher for 15 years, I had unconscious competence when it came to writing business plans. Most writers do not realize, or if they do, they may not appreciate, the time and effort an editor puts into a publishing plan for each manuscript purchased for the publisher. Each book has its own business plan. Each publishing program (the entire list) has its own business plan, which is the foundation for the editor's performance evaluations. Over the course of 15 years publishing books for my list, plus working in various managerial roles, reading and critiquing the plans of the editors who worked in my groups, I've read more than one thousand plans easily. 

When I went solo I thought, "hey, I'm my own boss. I can lighten up. I know all of this planning stuff." I kept writing my business journal, but I did not write a formal business plan (until several years ago).  Today, my written business plan continues to pay off. When people ask me what it is like to be self-employed and what's my best piece of advice, I suggest that they set aside all the bonuses, awards, accolades from their employers.

Start with a beginner's mind and be open to not knowing what you do not know. Then, start writing it all down.  ​

How to Start Your Business Journal

Accountability is what makes a business journal powerful. As I will discuss in Part II for this post, accountability is the foundation for your business plan. Keeping a business journal is the first step. To get started, I offer three tips.

Tip 1: Choose a method that complements your learning and working style. If you are an  auditory learner, someone who takes and gives verbal instructions easily, record your journal using a voice notes application. Every few days or once a week, carve out time to replay your voice journal and jot down key points, phrases, observations. 

When I work with musicians, I find they like to work out the basics of their journal through chords and songwriting. Writers, on the other hand, like to use a notebook or a note-taking application such as Day One Journal or Evernote. If you are artistic, you might choose to draw and sketch a few notes using storyboard frames.

Once you have a method, your goal is to be consistent with recording entries.

Tip 2: Choose timing that works for you. In his insightful book, The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life, Geshe Michael Roach suggests keeping a Six-Times Book, where you are checking in with yourself six times each day. Most of us, myself included, have yet to obtain this level of enlightenment. 

I notice that most people develop the discipline for business journal writing when they do it for 15 to 30 minutes each morning, or several times per week. You might also try two-minute writing exercises. For example, choose one word to associate with a specific goal.

Try it right now. Jot down your goal. For two-minutes, write whatever comes to mind around the word "happiness" in relation to your goal. Then, do the same with two other value-oriented words such as "courage" or "serendipity." Now that you've written for a total of six minutes, put the pen down. Stand up, read these entries aloud. Your goal now has a voice! Go for it!

Tip 3: Choose to Make it Easy. ​When you move from beginner's mind to developing the new habit of business journal writing, your inner critic will scream, stomp, and say whatever it takes to maintain the status quo. This signals true progress on your part. Rather than resist this inner critic, acknowledge it and move forward. Keep recording entries.  

In Keeping a SMART Business Journal (Part II), I share what I've learned about breaking the rules of SMART goals and rewriting them to work for creatives.

You know I love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts, questions, and resources in this blog's Comment section. And, let's connect on other social platforms, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

Happy business journal writing! ​


Live a Committed Life

You are meant for something special.  But are you awake, really awake in the world?

In this inspiring Ted Talk by philanthropist and writer Lynne Twist, she describes leading her life not only by her wants and needs but by her commitments. Her commitment, to end world hunger, brought her to the Amazon Rainforest. Her talk is fascinating.

My introduction to Lynne's work was through her book, The Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources. I recommend it to different clients and the book's impact transforms their life choices. It is a powerful book. 

What are you committed to?

Are you prepared to initiate action around what you fear most? ​

Hold this question in your heart​ while listening to Lynne's talk about our collective dream and what she's committed to in the Amazon Rainforest. 

Then, ask yourself the following question: Am I asleep or awake in my own dream? ​

Live a Committed Life​

6 Questions Reveal Your Brand Strategy

When writers ask how to create a brand strategy, I share with them what many a wise marketer has shared with me: "Your brand is what other people say it is." In other words, people trust their friends and acquaintances far more than they trust clever slogans. Word of mouth is the most powerful form of communication we have. The key with brand development is to focus on what people say consistently about you. 

So what do people say about you? Consider the compliments as well as the questions put to you at events. As part of our human nature, we take a lot of our knowledge and experience for granted. The first step of your strategy is to relax and put yourself in the shoes of the audience. ​

Start with a Beginner's Mind​

Consider the example of Phillippe Petit, the high-wire artist who walked a tightrope stretched between the Twin Towers in Manhattan in 1974. The crowd stood beneath his feet, staring up in hushed Awe. He exemplifies what we call in coaching "unconscious competence." What appears to be Petit's instinct is really the result of thousands of hours of practice until the moves became unconscious to him. In fact, if you watch the documentary about him, you'll see that in the very beginning he fell off  a lot of French laundry lines in his hometown.

When you teach a workshop or give a reading, the audience experiences you at your practiced best. They aspire to be in your position. So, the key to developing your brand strategy is to meet your audience where they are. A treasure trove of great content is there for you to use for your own brand and platform building, but you need to relax and allow it to come to the surface. With your beginner's mind, answer the following six questions. 

6 Questions ​Reveal Your Brand Strategy
  1. Make a list of questions you are asked most often by other writers. Then, separate these questions into the following categories: craft, theme, creativity, and publishing.
  2. When people approach you after an event, what are the compliments you hear most often? In other words, what are you doing really well?
  3. Reflecting on your writing career, what inspirational quotes stay with you?
  4. What do you consider the stages of development for a writer? What does each stage look like?
  5. Make a list of challenges you've faced in your writing life.
  6. In your library, which are the five most important books? ​
How to Organize Your Content

The question you might be thinking is: what do I do with this information? ​At least, I hope this is your question because it is the topic of a future post. 

The answer depends on your style of working and your methods of organization. So before I launch into suggestions, I'd like to hear from you first. Post your organizational tips, questions, and thoughts in the comment section below. 

Let me know how I can help you walk the walk to develop your brand!

39 Law & Order Episodes in the Arts

No matter where you are in the world, Law & Order is playing on a screen somewhere. While there are several brand spinoffs, I'm partial to the original series. When it debuted in 1990, I arrived in New York City, sight unseen, as a new editor at HarperCollins. I remember how exciting it was to walk all around Manhattan and to see different production sets on location. 

When it comes to the murder investigations, I am not surprised that in the show's twenty year run, the publishing industry leads the way with at least nine murder plot lines, followed musicians and film producers. ​

For all of you Law & Order fans who are writers, artists, and creators of all kinds, I put together a guide to the creativity-fueled episodes (1990 to 2010). 

Your thoughts on why publishing leads in the number of murder investigations?  

Paint Pallet

"Prisoner of Love"

The investigation into the death of a controversial artist reveals that he was involved in twisted sex games with two powerful figures. 

Theatre actor


An aspiring actress dies from a drug overdose. Investigation reveals that her domineering mother may have driven her to suicide by forcing her to act in a pornographic film.

Theatre actor

"His Hour Upon the Stage"

The frozen body of a Broadway producer is found five years after his death. Stone suspects that a show investor and producer's girlfriend were involved. 


"Star Struck"

An obsessed fan is charged with the brutal beating of a soap opera actress. During the trail, he claims a voice in his head told him to do it. 

Photography Camera

"Skin Deep"

Logan and Cerreta investigate the death of a fashion model photographer and discover that the photographer's real business was prostitution.

Theatre actor

"Extended Family"

A Broadway producer's daughter is abducted from a department store. Later, she and her mother are found in a woman's shelter. 



A 19-year-old co-ed accuses a crude heavy metal artist of rape. However, Kincaid fails to reveal an important detail about the accuser to Stone before trail. 


"Blue Bamboo"

A singer claims Battered Woman Syndrome as an excuse for killing her former employer, whom she claims abused her during her employment.


"Family Values"

During the investigation into a wealthy publisher's death, the victim's daughter claims to be having a relationship with her mother's new husband. 



Briscoe and Curtis go to Los Angeles to question a personal trainer about a movie executive's murder. During the investigation, Curtis finds a potential romantic interest. 



Briscoe and Curtis serve an arrest warrant on a Hollywood director in the film executive murder case. Opposing counsel--Jamie's ex-husband--challenges the warrant. Jack and Jamie now must go to L.A. to defend it.



The prosecution's murder case against the Hollywood director threatens to fall apart. And the case could cost Jamie her job and custody of her child, and it could cost Curtis his marriage. 



The investigation into the murder of an up-in-coming editor uncovers a love triangle between the victim, a pretentious writer, and a jealous attorney. 



Detectives suspect that a best-selling novelist was shot because she was having an affair with a married FBI agent who was helping her with research. It turns out that they have the right motive, but wrong suspect.


"Surrender Dorothy"

The DA's office believes that a well-known psychologist/author may have driven his daughter-in-law to suicide because of her increasing rebellion against his "submissive wife" philosophy.

Paint Pallet


A man claims he acted under extreme emotional disturbance after he murders the woman who sponsored a graphic painting. 



Detectives discover that a murdered concert violinist was having an affair with her orchestra conductor.


"Swept Away"

A Reality Show cast member kills one of his fellow cast members during a heated argument. But was the confrontation staged?


"Formerly Famous"

Briscoe and Green suspect that a washed-up former Vegas lounge singer may be connected to his wife's murder. But they also discover that his wife has a history as a con artist. 


"3 Dawg Night"

A hip-hop star goes on trail for the murder of a night club patron who accused him of being a sellout.


"True Crime"

McCoy becomes suspicious of a former police officer and current true crime writer investigating the death of a controversial rock singer, when the singer's wife is killed. 



A promising young writer confesses to the murder and robbery of a cabbie and demands that he receive the death penalty. 

Theatre actor


The child of a popular comic dies after he is reportedly thrown out of a window during a fire. 

Theatre actor


A popular Broadway composer is accused of murder. His psychiatrist blames it on a traumatic episode he had as a teenager.



The leader of a rock band is accused of tampering with a flamethrower at a concert, which causes the death of 23 people. 


"Everybody Loves Raimondo's"

A film producer is killed at this restaurant known for its mob ties and celebrity clients. 



A novelist dies after undergoing multiple plastic surgeries. Detectives believe her doctor took unnecessary risks.


"Ain't No Love"

A hip-hop performer is accused of murdering a rap mogul, but his friend testifies during the trial that he is the killer.  



An investigation into the death of a conservative talk show host leads to a stalker who claims to be having an affair with his wife. 


"Dining Out"

The host of a popular cooking show is on trial for killing a television executive. However, the trial takes an unexpected turn when a juror is enamored with the client.

Photography Camera


A botched burglary ends in murder, and the apartment in question belongs to a paparazzi who may have compromising photos of a celebrity and her baby.


"In Vino Veritas"

A washed up, anti-Semitic actor is arrested with blood on his clothes. Detectives later discover that a Jewish television producer he has a connection to has been murdered. 


"Charity Case"

The adopted infant of a soap opera star and a relative of the baby's biological father are center to a murder investigation.



A jeweler who caters to the hip-hop community pleads guilty to killing a female rap star. But he later claims that a violent record producer intimidated him into confessing to the crime. 



While investigating the death of a former male prostitute whose memoirs have become a best-seller, Lupo and Bernard discover that the writer was a fraud. 

Theatre actor


The death of a gay male actor exposes a scandal that threatens to bring down a powerful pastor of a large New York church who preaches intolerance.


"Melting Pot"

The murder of a film director leads to motives that include immigration and Muslim fanaticism, but picking the correct one may be difficult.


"Murder Book"

Green and Cassady investigate the death of a publisher who approved a book written by an ex-athlete that describes how he would murder his wife if he was the real killer.


"Reality Bites"

The father of several special needs children is accused of killing his wife over her reluctance to sign off on a reality show based on their family.

Write by Hand

I love Bette Davis. The other night, I caught her film In This Our Life on TCM. Released in 1942, there is one part where her uncle and father are waxing and waning for the good days. You know the ones. The days of honor, duty, personal responsibility. Some things do not change. 

And that, my friends, is how I feel about writing by hand. Just because the world runs on smartphones does not mean we should throw writing by hand out the window, even if elementary schools are throwing it out of the classroom. Allow me to make my case.

​3 Reasons to Write by Hand


As a form of thinking, writing brings clarity. Our written thoughts point to patterns of what we say "yes" to in our relationships and what we say "no" to in our lives.

Are we saying "yes" and "no" in a way that honors our values consistently? ​

Read aloud. Each word by your own hand validates your unique role in the world. ​


​Writing by hand is tactile. We slow down to form the letter of each word, allowing us time to distinguish between our emotional states, happiness and joy, for example, are not the same. 

With typing, the tactile sensation of pushing the keys is the same for every letter. We sacrifice reflection for production. ​


The 21st Century is the Age of Sharing our Selfies. Every organization and social media service provider uses our personal data to aggregate marketing information and to channel our emotional needs back to us through targeted advertising.

To write by hand is to create a sacred and safe space to be alone with our thoughts and feelings.​

In This Our Life was the last novel written by Ellen Glasgow. She wrote 19 novels before this one. Can you imagine it? No computer?! She wrote early drafts by hand. In 1941, Glasgow won the Pulitzer Prize for the novel and Warner Bros. bought the film rights for $40,000. 

I rest my case. ​

Why You Need a Reader Persona

One of the unwritten rules of growing up on a farm is not to name the animals. After you name a chicken, pig, calf, or goat, you'll never be able to slaughter it for food. Naming creates a relationship, a sense of intimacy. 

Calf looks like Peanuts

Peanuts, a Black Angus calf I named after he was rejected (within minutes of his birth) by his mother, wobbled against my leg for balance. From that moment, we were in an relationship. Twice each day, I mixed gigantic baby bottles of calf-manna (powdered milk) and walked to his pen to feed him. After he ate, I let him out of the pen. That summer, he followed me around the farm while I did chores. We were pals. He trusted me.

A year later when Peanuts was an adult steer, Dad scheduled him for our annual livestock drop off at the butcher. I took a stand. "We are NOT eating Peanuts."

Dad shrugged and said "fine by me." He chose a brown steer that I had not named and put him in the stock trailer instead of Peanuts.

Peanuts lived happily ever after grazing in the pasture.  

The following week, as usual, we had sirloin steaks on the grill for the fourth of July. Year after year, steer after steer. 

Steaks on Grill
What's the Marketing Point, Here? 

Recently, I thought about Peanuts when I read Jesse Weaver's article about the business models of social media companies. Weaver is the director of product design at In Weaver's discussion about how the free Web is eating itself, he made a keen observation about "hooking" people on content and using the word "user." Weaver writes, "the only other people I know who call their customers users are drug dealers."

I stopped reading to consider this.

Is this what we do when we create content for engaging with our audiences? Are we trying to get people "hooked" in order to move them through a sales funnel because we need as many "users" as we can get in order to grow our platforms? To me, this approach feels similar to a livestock funnel: year after year, steer after steer.

Give Your Audience a Name and a Definition

As creators, we have a responsibility to model respect in our writing, art, business. Once you make the decision to eliminate the term "user," when thinking about your ideal reader or customer, your work finds a deeper level of meaning. You begin to engage with a "persona," a fictional composite of your ideal reader, viewer, or client. 

How Do You Create a Reader Persona? 

Before I share my strategy for doing so, I am curious to learn if you created one or more personas to describe your audience. How is the reader persona and effective tool for you? If you have not created a reader persona, what are your immediate questions? Send them to me and I will incorporate them into my next post on this topic. 

Please post in the Comments section. ​