News From The Woods - March 25, 2011


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published March 25, 2011

"Face The Music"


Do I have your attention yet?

I know. It's been a while since I have contributed much to this column. It used to be a "regular monthly column", and then I went through a series of maladies, ailments, and surgeries. Hopefully much of that is behind me now. And since I was diagnosed with Diabetes I now have a pretty good idea why I have been having such a tough time with my medical and physical condition. I have been attending diabetes classes at the Reppell Diabetes Learning Center at Baxter Regional Medical Center and have learned a great deal about how to live with my diabetes. It has been helping and I feel at last I am getting a grip on this and learning how to manage it. It's rough but beats the alternative. And perhaps I will finally start to lose some real weight.

But the main reason I have been absent from this column so much is that I've been trying to finish up my memoirs, "Face The Music". I started writing it two years ago, and last year I finally finished the first draft. Three months after that I finally got through proofing it and making necessary changes to the timeline. Then I spent a couple of months sending out inquiries and submissions to book publishers and literary agents. I discovered that book publishing is very much like music publishing. At least this time I didn't waste any stamps and paper as I used email. Most of the "establishment" of print publishing snubbed their noses at me due to the fact that in their minds they considered it a book on rock and roll (based on what they THOUGHT it was about… since no one even bothered to ask me to send some samples). Some asked the usual questions… starting with "How long is it?"

Well, that ended the dialog right there, just as soon as they learned my book was around 800 pages. Without a single exception, the ones that even bothered to reply said I had to hire a "book doctor" to cut it down by 1/3. I thought about that for a week or so and decided that I could not do that myself because I would not be able to cut 500 pages out of my book! I would have to bite the bullet and consign myself to the fact that I would have to hand my hard earned work to a stranger and allow them to cut it to shreds. On one hand I HAD the original full length manuscript which I could give to my son (one of the reasons I wrote it in the first place - so Robert would know the life his father had) so if someone could cut it down to JUST the "meat and potatoes" it would be a really compelling read for some other stranger to read. I thought about that and thought about that…. And yet, I could NOT imagine how a book so edited would be as interesting as the whole book, filled with rich and colorful stories.

Ultimately, fate stepped in. I waited long enough to see the rise of the eBook! Over the course of those months of waiting I told several close friends about my quandary. I even gave a copy to a couple of very close friends that asked to read the book. Based on their assessments and positive feedback I was more certain as ever that the entire book would be a good read. One day I was talking about the book to my musical cohort Ron Miller. He has spent enough time here at the studio to see my screen saver, which runs through the My Pictures folder on my computer in a slide show of sorts. One day we got to just watching the screen saver while listening to music and he commented on how many great photos I had from my life. It got me to thinking when he said "Why don't you just turn the book into a iBook?" Over the course of a week I did some research and discovered that not only is the eBook gaining popularity but that MY particular book would be a perfect vehicle for electronic media. The only drawback that I could see would be the compatibility issue. There are half a dozen formats and (of course) NONE of them are compatible with each other! I'd have thought that the industry would have learned their lesson from the historic blunder of the Beta vs. VHS wars of the 80's. But Nooooooooooooo…….. the Greed overcomes the Need.

Not wishing to delve into electronic publishing blindly, I spent another month or so researching the eBook phenomenon and even asked some questions from some of the local "brains" at ASU about electronic publishing. In the meantime I thought that I would still have to go through the submission process with the legitimate publishing houses even for an eBook. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was mistaken! The ONLY reason I had to try to get published was because I cannot afford to pay for an 800-page book (and that is with NO pictures)! However, if I did it myself (and I have the capabilities) I could publish my own eBook on a CD-ROM and sell/distribute it on my own. While it is true that I cannot reach the masses easily by myself without the giant publishing company's resources behind me ("deep pockets") I COULD sell them one at a time on my own and keep the entire profit. The more I thought about it the more convinced I was that at least this way I could get the book out there on my own and with a minimum of hassle.

There were only two snags with this method. The first is that I still did not know how to format the eBook… what format to publish it in. The second snag was a throwback to my CD "New Tricks From An Old Dog", which I released in 1999. Determined to release the CD in the face of "doing it myself" - because I could not get a record company interested in representing my efforts - I was (and still am) forced to sell them one at a time. I had 1,000 CD's professionally pressed and offer them for sale on CD Baby,, and several other online "CD stores". Sales have been slow due to the lack of a national record label out there promoting my album. Let's just say I haven't exactly made it rich off the CD, and I still have several large boxes of product stored under my pool table, waiting for the day I am "discovered". While I do not want that to happen to this book I realize that at least I can produce them myself and make them one at a time if I need to which means I won't have a surplus hanging around waiting to be sold.

As for the format, I have finally made my decision to publish the book in Adobe .pdf format. My original manuscript was created in Microsoft Word as a ".doc" file, and converting over to a .pdf is a relative easy task. Not only that that but the images converted easily as well. The final draft, with pictures, looks really good in the Adobe format and the images seem to jump out of the screen at the reader. Moving around through the chapters in .pdf is also easy, as there is a window at the top of the program where you can just enter the page number and instantly go straight to the page. Adobe is one of the most widely used formats, and almost every computer user already has Adobe loaded onto their system. If not, it is an easy matter to download and the program is free.

After spending another month selecting and inserting the images into their respective places in the book and reviewing my work, I am thrilled to have made the decision to make the book an electronic publication. In the "old days", if you wanted to include pictures into a printed book, due to the increased cost, the number of images was very limited and they all had to be inserted into a "photo section" of the book. With the electronic version, each image can reside right alongside the corresponding text, making the experience a much richer and comprehensive read, thus ensuring that the stories are more real to the reader. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Once I saw how much the images helped the stories, I could not help but start wondering just how much richer the book would be if the reader could actually listen to some of the music that so many of my stories are about. After all, the title is "Face The Music", and the book is about the life of a musician, right? And since this IS now a multimedia electronic book, why not go all the way and make it a totally "rich media" experience, allowing the reader to totally immerse themselves in words, images and music? After all, I had all these songs and groups and recordings in my archives I could tap into. So, to that end, I began to select specific songs representing key events, bands, and music artists in my life. In Chapter One for instance, which is about my parents backgrounds, there is a large section on my mother. So in Chapter One I also included a music clip of my mother playing piano and singing, to give the reader a musical taste of what the story is about. In Chapter 31 there are stories about my involvement with the Swiss rock band "Krokus", so I also included a song file from those rehearsal sessions. Chapter 43 includes the story of my making the "New Tricks From An Old Dog" CD, and as a bonus to my readers I have included the entire album on the CD-ROM ! SO when they read about how one of the songs was recorded they can actually listen to that very song they are reading about. How's THAT for a "rich media" experience?

I had to devise a coding system to the MP3 music files, as I did not want to clutter up the reading experience of the book with hypertext and links. So, in the AUDIO folder included on each CD-ROM, each sound file description is preceded by the chapter number for easy identification and location. As an example, in Chapter 15 I tell the story of when I got to play with my mother in her band called the "Wildcat Gang" in the 70's. The reader simply has to open the AUDIO folder and look for any file beginning with "CH15_". In this example the file reads "CH15_The Wildcat gang". The only minor drawback is that there are no indicators in the Chapters what music has been included. Again, this was by design as I did not want to clutter up the clean look of the book when reading it. Readers can consider this an "added bonus" rather than a "media inclusion". The upside is the reader gets a complete library of music they can play at any time when accessing the CD-ROM.

In case you are starting to wonder at this point…. I knew I had to stop somewhere. After all, I also have many film and video clips and music videos I could also include, but that would open up a new can of worms. I'd have to choose a video format and would also have to go to a DVD instead of a simple CD-ROM. The CD-ROM can be read in every computer but what if someone had an older computer without a DVD player? As I say, I had to draw a line somewhere, and I think the video may be more of a distraction away from the book itself. I don't want the reader to have to switch back and forth….. Too many media choices, perhaps. Maybe I will save the film and video for another time…. (Not to mention I am getting a little sick of my own book by now). After all, I don't want to give too much of a good thing, do I?

So now…. The book is finally finished! There are 55 Chapters, 500 Images, and 75 audio clips in this CD-ROM (including the "New Tricks From An Old Dog" album). The very last thing for me to do is to have the front CD cover insert printed. As soon as that is done I will be posting my intention to fill orders on it. I have a price in mind but will wait until I offer it on the Internet to post the cost. I promise you, it will be worth it just for the music! But if you are interested in the music business, or like entertaining stories, or enjoy reading human interest stories about the lives of others, this book is for you.

This memoir will take the reader through the life and career of a man who spent his childhood in rural Arkansas but graduated from a prestigious naval military school, then became a musician and public personality during the golden age of rock and roll. It is an inside look at the personal trials and tribulations of pursuing a vocation fraught with uncertainty, rejection, and disillusionment, not to mention a string of failed marriages and amazing stories of bizarre accidents and freaky Karma. Along the way there are also hilarious personal accounts and unbelievable tales of life in the music business. Against all odds he manages to overcome his demons, realize his dreams, and is given a second chance half way through his life.


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