Musical Note to Self

As I enjoyed some downtime between Christmas and New Year’s Day, two realizations came to mind.  First, I had not watched my favorite Christmas show, the Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation classic Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. I love this story mainly because it contains the song behind my personal mantra “Put One Foot in Front of the Other”. Kris Kringle’s lesson to Winter is a great life lesson. I skipped watching the whole thing and just went straight my favorite part on YouTube:

Second, I realized I was not prepared for 2018 because I had yet to pick out a theme song. One of my practices over the past few years is to have song that reminds me to stick to my goals for the year. Usually, it’s a classic rock or pop song that I’ll hear every now and then on the radio, offering a random reminder. I’ll also usually include the song in playlists for race events and training.  For example, during my huge training surge in 2016, gearing up for my big Boston Marathon qualifying attempt, I made sure Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” was in every race playlist that year. 

Then, in 2017, I was slack – no theme song. Perhaps that was part of my 2017 letdown. So, in this year of getting back on track, I must declare a song. Before I reveal this year’s winner, though, let’s review some that didn’t make the list:

  1. “Do You Think I’m Sexy” – Rod Stewart with DNCE. I was not a fan of this song during its first run in the late seventies, but I have to tell you, this remake is good. It has a solid groove and would be fun to run with. Nicely done, Sir Rod, but probably not the right song for a guy staring down 50.
  2. “Breakdown Dead Ahead” – Boz Scaggs. One of my favorite Boz songs and has been know to make it into playlists. Again, not good for the impending AARP stuffing of my mailbox.
  3. “Waterloo” – ABBA. This is actually a great running song. I occasionally put it in playlists where I imagine the going will get tough during a race. 
  4. “What a Fool Believes” – The Doobie Brothers (with Michael McDonald, of course). I’ve never had this one on a playlist and don’t plan to start now, even though it’s a favorite.

Now, here’s the short list of contenders, some I considered just by quickly skimming through the songs on my iPhone.

Everybody knows
It sucks to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it.

– Ben Folds, “Still Fighting It”

  1. “Still Fighting It” – Ben Folds. A pretty deep song from Ben, written for his son. I really like the message. After all, I’m battling this aging thing as hard as I can, but, unfortunately, this is a terrible running song.  Perhaps, I’ll add it to the future piano lounge lizard set list, but that’s a blog post for another day.
  2. “Don’t Look Back” – Boston.  The title track of Boston’s second album, no doubt titled with the massive success of their first album in mind. Should be a good lesson for us all. A strong contender.
  3. “Don’t Stop Me Now” – Queen. Another frequent playlist entry. This implies momentum, though. Being currently stopped, perhaps this isn’t the right song this year.
  4. “Go Your Own Way” – Fleetwood Mac. Heard this on the radio this week, so it met one criteria. And this does cross my mind each morning right before I exit the highway into the parking lot of the day job.

Alas, those just weren’t striking the right chord, so I had to take a trip back in time…


The author. 8th grade. 1982.

The author. 8th grade. 1982.

One of my more important 2018 goals is to be more involved with my daughter. She’s in her last year of middle school, the twilight zone of youth, and I know she’s going through a rough time. Nothing really specific, just that brutally awkward time of adolescence. Thinking about her predicament gave me an idea.

I decided to go back to that time in my life when I was her age. – the early ’80’s – and a student at Northwood Middle School, and look up what where the songs that meant the most to me. Maybe there was something from the 14 year-old me that would be a great theme song for the 50 year-old me.

Thanks to Google, I quickly found the list of the Top 40 songs from January 9, 1982. The number one song that week was “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John. Hmm. I would never use that on a run playlist, but could it be a sign that I should write that Fit after Forty book, I’ve had in the back of my mind? She was taking about exercise, right?

I kept looking down the list and  chuckled as a saw “Don’t Stop Believin'” at number 18. Maybe “DSB” should replace “Put One Foot in Front of the Other” as my mantra song. I also got a kick out of Queen’s “Under Pressure” at number 29. That could certainly apply these days, and I already use it on run playlists regularly. I kept scrolling, but nothing screamed “The One.”

I decided to dig deeper and spent a few minutes reviewing some of my favorite artists and whether they had albums in 1982. I was now going for the deep track – songs that never made the light of radio or perhaps were from the B-side of a cassette. It didn’t take me long. Right under my nose, and already on my phone, was  “Never Give Up”, the 9th track (out of 10) on Sammy Hagar’s 1982 album Three Lock Box. Sold!

No I’ll never give up.
‘Till I make this dream come true.
I’ll never give up on you.
I’ll never give up.
No I’ll never give up.
I’ve just got to see it through.

-Sammy Hagar, “Never Give Up”

 As the schedule would have it, I had a January race, giving me a chance to try out the new/old song on a playlist. While I didn’t beat my target time, I did OK for an old guy who was nursing a sore hamstring. Sammy’s young voice was a good reminder to the old me to keep at it. Thanks, 1982. Now, let’s go kick some 2018 butt.


2017 – 1. Greg – 0

Whew! Glad that’s over. I won’t lie; 2017 was rough.  There were high hopes. After all, 2016 started slow but ended strong with finally achieving a couple of long-term goals in running and writing. I fully expected to ride a wave of momentum to continued successes in 2017.

Sisyphus and Me

Sisyphus-Overcoming-Silhouette-800pxUnfortunately, as the year wore on, I began to feel like old King Sisyphus. You may remember Sisyphus from your high school Greek mythology days. After angering the gods, Sisyphus spent the rest of eternity pushing a large boulder up a hill. Just as he’d near the top, though, he’d lose control and the rock would roll back down.  Sisyphus would then have to start over.

Two years ago, I found myself back at the bottom of the hill for the second time in my career – another company layoff. And while I’ve been employed at a new job now for well over a year, I don’t seem to making progress pushing the rock around the valley floor, much less back up the hill.

In a way, my writing “career” has had similar ups and downs – some decent stretches of blogging and writing as I made progress up the hill, only to slip up and let inconsistency and distractions roll me back down. Unfortunately, that’s where I am today.

So, I’ll start 2018 in two valleys – valley of the lost writer and valley of the sputtering day job. This time, though, I’m at least equipped with the knowledge of how to climb back toward the writer’s peak – put in the work and deliver content.  For a floundering day job, I’m not so sure. I’ve put in the work over the past year, but I’m not making much progress. On top of that, I’m not sure I want to climb this particular hill.

Hopefully, you find yourself in a better place to start 2018. If so, awesome! Keep up the good work and don’t lose the grip on that boulder. If not, it’s a great time of year to pick yourself up, and start pushing again. That’s my plan.

So, here’s to a great 2018.










The Old Dog Manifesto

“Look in the mirror. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Not one nearby? Then take out your phone and turn on the camera app.

Press the icon that flips the camera to “selfie” mode.

If you’re not sure how, ask a teenager.”  – From The Old Dog Manifesto

What happened?

Does it seems like just yesterday you were young with crazy dreams and now you’re staring in the mirror at wrinkles and gray hair and think you’re going crazy?

OK. Maybe it wasn’t yesterday, but you still cannot believe it, not to mention you don’t really know how it happened.

If you’re not happy with this middle age thing, you need to read The Old Dog Manifesto.  In it, I’ll convince you an old dog can learn new tricks and show you how to start.  Fill out and submit the form below to receive an email with a link to the download. Along with the manifesto, you’ll also receive regular updates from me, Greg Fowler.

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Photo Credit: Little_squirrel Flickr via Compfight cc

The Unexpected

Photo Credit: Little_squirrel Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Little_squirrel Flickr via Compfight cc

In the weeks since I published Negative Split, I’ve had several unexpected experiences.

First, there’s the surprise reaction.  This is when people I know, but aren’t familiar with my writing hobby, find out about the book in my presence. The looks on their faces have been funny. Sometimes a follow-up question of “Why?” or “What made you want to do that?” comes out.

Second, I’ve been really humbled by several people who read the book and declared “I’m not a reader, but I couldn’t put it down.”  This includes a 74 year-old man who said he hadn’t read a physical book in 30 years (he does listen to audio books!).  He even purchased several copies to give to friends and family.

Finally, my favorite surprise has been talking to people about the whole publishing process from start to finish.  Turns out, a lot of people have felt the pull to write a book  but didn’t know how to begin .  Or, like the current manuscript I’m reading for a friend, people have completed books and don’t know how to take the final steps to publication.

If you’re one of these or if you’re just curious, here’s what went into publishing my first novel:

1. Wrote rough draft. My word final count is just over 62,000 words.
2. Re-wrote a lot of it.
3. Printed out a few spiral bound 8.5″ x  11″ copies of the manuscript from Office Depot and had a few pre-release readers check it out. This was not really for grammar/typos but for story consistency. Some readers did point out plenty of errors.
4. Corrected the errors and made some story tweaks based on the input. I didn’t make every change suggested.  Some were very good ideas but I felt changed the feel of the story too much. Some suggestions just meant more work than I felt like tackling.
5. Re-read it again. Corrected inconsistencies no one else caught and made more error corrections.
6. Hired a proofreader for cheap from
7. Worked with a designer from to create front and back cover art.
8. Took edited copy and cover art and created the paperback version on (an Amazon company).
9. Ordered and received a printed copy proof from Createspace. Re-read it yet again and caught more mistakes the proofreader missed.
10. Uploaded the edited copy to Createspace, and growing weary of searching for mistakes, approved the online version.
11. Pressed the publish button to make it live on
12. Created the Kindle version through Kindle Direct Publishing, another Amazon company (
13. Went live on Kindle.
14. And finally the scariest part: Made the launch announcements on my KeyOfGF blog and social media.

So, there you have it, my fourteen steps to becoming a published author. Obviously, there’s more detail behind most of those points, but I’m trying to keep this fairly short.

As I post this, I have already decided to do a couple of things differently on book number two.  For instance, I will not use Office Depot for the Beta reader copies.  There was nothing wrong with their product, but it was expensive, and 8.5″ x 11″ was too bulky. For number two’s beta copies, I will go ahead and use Createspace for my proofs.  It will take a few days longer, but I found the book read so much easier for error checking in the final format.

I will also probably form a proofread team, people willing to read very carefully for typos in exchange for a final copy of the book. These won’t necessarily be the same individuals as the beta readers, but they could be.

One last thing. I tackled the book after blogging, albeit irregularly, for several years. Some of my long blog posts might have seemed like novels, but they were nothing like this effort. If you want to write a book, but currently don’t do any writing, I’m not saying you shouldn’t write a book.  However, depending on your subject (especially non-fiction writers), I’d recommend blogging first. This way, you break your subject into small manageable chunks and build up your writing chops.  Then, after some point, you can combine the blog posts into a book.

If you already have a first draft of a manuscript, and it has been a while since you looked at it, I’d recommend re-reading it.  Correct any errors you find, then recruit a pre-release read team. Have them read it and give you feedback. Then go from there based on the input.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments (click on the comments link at the top of the post).


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Upon Further Review

Word on the Facebook street is many of you have received your copies of Negative Split.  I am thrilled and humbled people actually took a chance on my first novel.  With the crazy busy-ness December can bring, I certainly understand if now actually reading my little story is not at the top of your priority list. Once you do get around to reading it, I hope you will take the time to leave a review. Reviews are one of the keys to building an audience beyond the curious friends and family circle.

If you purchased from Amazon, they usually remind you. Just keep an eye on your email. If you purchased a signed copy from me directly, I’m not 100% sure if Amazon will allow you to leave a review there. I hope they will, so please try.  However, if Amazon gives you a hard time about not being a verified buyer, you can leave a review on my author site. (I’ll include these links at the end.)

I know leaving reviews are a pain, especially if it turns out you don’t really like the book and are just trying to say something nice.  In that case, maybe I’ll forgive you for not leaving a review. 🙂  However, some of those honest non-five star reviews probably give a little more validity to the review process. So, don’t be afraid to give a lower star review. People tend to be suspicious of reviews that glow too much, but don’t everybody go giving me one star, either.

Unfortunately, leaving a review might give you flashbacks to those old grammar school book report days when the teacher called on you to stand in front of the class and give your report.  Yeah, not too many people remember those days fondly.

Photo Credit: Dave's Domain Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Dave’s Domain Flickr via Compfight cc

I’ll confess, the only part I liked about book reports was drawing a picture of a potential book cover or a scene from the book for the report. (Crayons + manila construction paper = fond memories.)

Another confession: as much as I read, I rarely give reviews. Bad Greg. Add that to the 2017 resolution list.

One reason we don’t give reviews is we don’t know where to start. So to help out all of us, I did some research on writing book reviews and found a template from a blog by Lesley Ann McDaniels that might be helpful:

You don’t have to follow this by the letter, of course, but maybe it will help get your review wheels turning.

Lesley Ann’s Fiction Book Review Template:

Opening statement: Include title, genre, and author.

Synopsis: Include main characters and brief overview of main plot. Be careful not to give away too much!

Overall impression: This is where you give your personal impression of the book.

Suggested points to include:

Were the characters credible?

What problems did the main characters encounter?

Who was your favorite character, and why?

Could you relate to any of the characters in the story?

What was your favorite part of the book?

Do you have a least favorite part of the book?

If you could change something, what would it be? (If you wish you could change the ending, don’t reveal it!)

Would you recommend this book?

What type of reader would enjoy this book?


Here’s an example:

South Carolina and the world lost writing legend Pat Conroy this year.  And while new comer South Carolina author Greg Fowler won’t be mistaken for a Pat Conroy replacement, his first novel, Negative Split, is a solid start for a rookie.  Negative Split is the story of romance novelist Nathan Stiles, who struggles with several mid-life crises. Anyone who’s gone through the threat of divorce, loss of a job, or life not really turning out the way he or she planned will be able to relate to Nathan.  The author does a decent job of exploring a student-mentor relationship between Nathan and his old high school cross country coach (and my favorite character) Willie Silvers. While this novel is listed as contemporary romance, anyone who enjoys a comeback story will enjoy this. It’s definitely not just for women.

Or you could just say: Wow.  Didn’t expect that from new novelist, Greg Fowler.  Can’t wait for his next book.

Anything you care to leave will be appreciated.

To leave an Amazon review (or purchase), go to the Write a Customer Review button at the bottom of this page:

To leave a review on my author site:

Thank you,