Follow The Signs
Hey Zamily! It’s me, Coy Bowles, your trusty guitarist, keyboardist, songwriter, author, weird and/or funny picture poster, and time-to-time blogger. Oh, and Zamily lover. Wow, how did I forget that? I didn’t forget. See what I did there?
I’m not exactly sure where to start with this, so I’m just going to go for it. The last three years have been both amazing and intense. The band has been on a tear and we’ve had so many incredible experiences, especially with our fans. Outside of that, I’ve released another children’s book called Will Powers. I got married. I just had a lil’ baby girl a few weeks ago. Basically, I went from being a lil’ bitty baby Coy to a full-grown Coy over the last few years. Some of what I’m going to talk about during this writing session is really personal. Some of you might know that I consider myself to be a pretty private guy, so this is a little bit of a stretch for me, but, I think it will all make sense when you get finished reading this entire thing (or at least I hope it will).
Let’s start at the beginning of the end, or the beginning of the beginning. A little over three years ago my mother went in for a minor surgery. Early that morning, I got a call from my dad saying she was out of surgery and everything was fine. Then, about 30 minutes later, I received a call from my dad again… “your mom is being sent to ICU, something is wrong… you need to get here as quick as you can.” My dad is basically my best friend. I’m that dude’s spitting image and couldn’t be more proud of that. They just don’t come any better than my dad. He and my mom got married when they were 18 and 19 and have the exact same birthday (my dad is one year older). To this day, they are still head over heels for each other and are constantly laughing. I was raised on nothing but love and support.
So back to the worst day of my life…
I jumped in the car and drove as fast as I could down to the hospital, which was about an hour away. I remember calling my mom’s brother, who I’m very close to, and said, “Man, I just don’t have a good feeling about this…” My dad muttered something about how she went without oxygen, so I knew it really wasn’t good. I get there and it’s not good…It’s not good at all.
It’s hard to write about this. It seems like really bad dream. The reason why I wanted to give y’all the real story is so you could see what blossomed out of it. My mom ended up going into a coma, and my dad and I stayed in the hospital waiting room for weeks and weeks. My dad slept in the waiting room every night. He said, “She wouldn’t leave me so I’m not leaving her.”
To add some further background to the story, my grandfather passed away at our house when I was a kid. I think I was 13. It was super traumatic situation. My dad and his father were very close. My grandfather had a heart attack in the living room. From then on, I had an almost an obsessive compulsive thought process in worrying about something happening to my dad. I love him so much and can’t tell you how great of a dude and father he is…We talk on the phone just about every day. He’s just the best. I was always so scared that something was going happen to him, like what had happened to his father. Being an only child, I was always worried that I wouldn’t be married, or have kids, or my own family structure, and that I would just crumble me if something happened to him. So, when something happened to my mom, I was like, “Whoa, it isn’t supposed to happen like this.” My mom was always the backbone and brains of the family. In my mind, I was prepared for something to happen to my dad, not my mom.
When I got to the hospital, I called my then-girlfriend Kylie Evans and explained that something crazy has happened to my mom. She told me that she could come to the hospital the next day. Kylie came and stayed the entire time. She didn’t leave for weeks. Who does that? We had only been dating for a few months and just in the last week or so had decided not to date anyone else. But really, who does that? Who quits their job and stays beside someone in need whom they barely know? Umm, well I’ll tell you… An angel sent from above is who. My WIFE Kylie Bowles. Did you catch that? Wife, I tell you. It was sign that I needed to marry her. If I were to be dumb enough to let someone like her slip away, after she spent weeks with me at the hospital just patiently sitting in the waiting room of ICU, then I should have just stayed at the hospital and got myself checked on. It was bananas. The whole thing was just nuts. My best bud, Rustin, came down and stayed with us for weeks as well. I got good peeps. It was truly amazing – the friends and family that came and showed support for my family and my mom.
At the hospital, I bumped into a woman who I went to high school with. Her daughter had been battling a serious illness for some time and had to come into the hospital every time she got just a little bit sick. My friend from high school said, “ My daughter loves your book Amy Giggles. You have to come read it to her. She will totally freak out and it will make her day.” I told her I would, but inside I was really nervous. I was thinking, “I don’t know how to be around sick kids or people. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to stare. What if I accidentally stare? What if she gets freaked out that I have a beard and dress different? What if she thinks I’m mean for some reason? What if I freak her out? What if I freak out?” Yeah, I know! I could possibly be guilty of thinking too much… Ya think?! But, I couldn’t break my promise to read to her, so I did it. And by the way, it was awesome. Her daughter was so cool and sweet, and shy. She loved the book. Her family loved her. I could quickly tell that this family was no spring chicken to spending time in hospitals. This hospital was like their second home. It was just another room, like any other room, but for some reason, because they were so close and you could feel the love of the family, the stuffy hospital room vibe disappeared. By the way, this was the first time I’d ever read a book to a kid. How weird is that? I had written a children’s book but didn’t have kids, and had never read a book to a child, much less the book that I wrote. It was a total success. I left that room with a warm heart and sweaty palms. It was a sign.
I sat in the hospital waiting room for the next few weeks thinking about how fragile everything is, how hospitals have a really strange way of weighing on you, and how many people come in here and don’t come out, or how many people have to come back all the time. I had a talk with Zac’s wife, Shelly, before I had written Amy Giggles, and had asked her what topics she thought would be good for children’s books. Seeing as they have 70 kids, I thought she would be perfect. I’m kidding—they only have 5 children. But, Shelly wrote down a bunch of ideas on this lil’ card holder thing and gave it to me. One of the ideas was about how kids get really freaked out when they get sick, especially when they get sick for the first time. So I’m sitting in the hospital for hours and weeks on end and I start writing songs and stories in my head. One of the stories that I ended up writing was one about how being sick is really scary, and how doctors and nurses are the smartest and sweetest people in the universe and so on . . . More on that in a minute.
Somewhere in the last three years, I’ve had lots of meetings with different people about how to navigate being an author in the children’s book world. I mean, I sort of accidentally started writing children’s books. I’ve always loved writing and felt like I had somewhat of a gift for it. I thought that it would be easier to write a 32-page kids book than a 500-page novel, so go figure. Some of the people who have always been so awesome are the people at Elf On A Shelf here in Atlanta. They are just the coolest family that followed their American dream to make their business a success. The company is owned and operated by Chanda Bell, her sister, and her mother. I sent Chanda an email and asked her to take a meeting with me. I needed help on navigating the release of Will Powers. We had dinner and I asked her lots of rookie questions about how publishing companies work, how the business works, who I’m supposed to have on my team, and how much everything costs. She told me that she thought my next step would be to find a “writing agent”. Writing agent? Writers have agents? Yeah. SUPER green rookie card style over here.
A few days later, I got on a plane to go to play iHeart Radio Festival with ZBB. In the seatback pocket, there was a magazine for writers and the cover featured an article on how to find your writing agent. I’m like, “You’ve got to be kidding.” When the lady in front on me went to the bathroom I quickly scurried and looked through her lil’ magazine holder to see if every seat had this guide to finding your writers agent. Like, maybe the band got thrown on some writer’s convention plane or something. But, I was the only one. It’s a sign. So, the week before this I had a phone call with my lawyer about the legalities of using the name Will Powers. She said the only thing that is close is something that will.i.am , from the Black Eyed Peas, has registered or something like that. She says, “Do you know anybody who knows him?” I start laughing. “Nah, I don’t know the Black Eyed Peas guys. That’s a pretty different crowd then the folks I run with.”
Fast forward to about 10 minutes before we play the iHeart Festival. I’m standing backstage watching the television monitors as the band before us plays and I turn to my left, and I swear to you that will.i.am is standing right there. I said, “What’s up man? Hey I write children’s books. I wrote this story about a guy named Will Powers. It’s a real motivational story about work ethic and self-entitlement.” He says, “That’s cool.” I tell him that it’s my way of giving back. He told me that giving back is important, so I slyly said, “Don’t sue me for using the name Will Powers, ok?” will.i.am asked me if the character looked at all like him, with sideways hair, and I said, “Nah man, it’s just a kid with a regular old haircut.” He said, “Cool do your thang.” What? What just happened? I felt like I was in a Saved By The Bell episode and just came out of a dream sequence where the television starts getting all wavy. It was another sign, you guys.
I self-published my book, Amy Giggles, and I had been talking with our management about seeing if any publishing companies would be interested in either Will Powers or Amy Giggles. They set me up with a phone call with Random House publishing, which is a big deal. I sent them the books and waited to have the phone call. About 30 minutes before the phone call, I sent the editor a story that I’d hardly read to anyone called When You’re Feeling Sick. I had this really crazy feeling in my gut that they were going to pass on Will Powers and Amy Giggles for some reason. The phone rang and it was the team at Random House. I was nervous and had decided to not talk too much or try to be overly funny. When I try to be funny, it always makes me more nervous that I’m trying too hard, and then my brain that already thinks too much jumps into hyper drive, and I light speed start talking Star Trek to someone who’s talking Star Wars. Anyway, it doesn’t work out usually when I “try” to be funny.
So, the editor at Random House says, “I just read your story you just sent. It’s pretty cute.” My mind starts in with the thoughts like does she mean “cute” like puppy cute? Or “cute” like, I want to give you a publishing deal, cute? I didn’t say that, but I thought it . . . Did I mention that I was nervous? The editor said that she was calling to tell me that Random House was going to pass on the two books that I’d sent (see, I told you). I had a gut feeling, right? She then said, “But I really like this story that you just sent over. Let me hang up and read it a few more times and I’ll call you back.” I then decided to say, “Did we just break up and get back together again?” She replied with an, “Uh, I think so”. We hung up the phone. I then went into the Star Trek light speed mode of questioning everything that just happened. Did that just happen? Did she think I was hitting on her when I said the break up thing? Was that funny? I think I remember her laughing when I said it. Was it a funny laugh or what a creepy weirdo thing to say laugh? The phone rings again. The editor says, “I really like this book. I’m going to talk to rest of the team and run it by them, but I really like it and want to move forward.” We hung up, and I ran and jumped out of the top window of my house. Again, I’m kidding. I did, however, call my wife and my mom in a very distinguished tone, and a slight British accent, to talk about how developed my career in writing books for the little ones had become.
I know you guys are either like, “What comes next, Coy, please tell us what comes next!” or, you’re like, “Dude is not scared to sit down and write a long, long story.” So I went though all of this to simply tell you this—I need your help. I’m following the signs. It’s all happening. It feels really good to be in the place to be guided. I believe in this book I wrote called When You’re Feeling Sick, I mean, I really, really, really believe in it. I wrote it while I was in the hospital about to lose my mom. I wrote it while I fell in love with my wife who was by my side. I wrote it while I read my first book to a kid who had been in and out of hospitals most of her life. I wrote it and never showed it to anyone, and at the last minute, knew that it was somehow “time”. I now have a writing agent (said with slight British accent). He’s a great guy and does a great job. I’m about to be a published author by one of the biggest publishing companies in the world, Random House. When You’re Feeling Sick is going to be sold in stores. Like real stores! Not just the ones in my hometown. Writing children’s books all started out as a way for me to give back and make a difference. I didn’t mention earlier that proceeds of my sales also go back to children’s non-profits in the Atlanta area, like Sunshine on a Ranney Day, Make-A-Wish Georgia, and Camp Southern Ground.
The success of Amy Giggles and now Will Powers has just been amazing. I get emails and posts from kids and parents saying how much they love those books. But this book is different. It’s different to me because When You’re Feeling Sick really has a chance. It has the support of a major publishing company. It has a chance to really make a difference and affect so many kids who either have the flu for the first time, or are faced with serious and long-term illnesses. It’s one thing to teach kids about bullying and work ethic, it’s a whole other deal to make kids forget about sickness and suffering for a few minutes through a silly book that gives them relief through hope and humor.
I can’t wait for you guys to read it. I believe in this book so much. I tried to drip as much love and hope and silliness into the words and guide the illustrations in a way that it was bright and positive and inescapable. I can’t thank you guys enough for all the love and support over the years with all the ZBB gigs, CB&F gigs, and all the books. I want you guys to know that I fully realize that I have a chance to affect people in a positive way. I was given a voice with the success of ZBB, and I take it as must that I give back. I’d like to sincerely ask that you help me spread the message of this book. Reach out to kids, doctors, hospitals, and schools. Buy a copy and send it to someone you know. Buy a copy and send it to someone you don’t know. Help me spread the word on social media. There’s a chance of putting smiles on faces. There are chances of really adding positive vibrations to this world and making a difference. I’m preaching to the choir here. You guys are the guys who make it all happen. You guys are the folks that give me the voice and make it possible for me to give back. For that I’m so grateful and I try from the bottom of my heart not to let you down and give it all that I’ve got. Take this as a sign. I promise it can’t hurt if you do.
I wrote two songs with Carlos Sosa, saxophone for ZBB, which will be available soon for free streaming and download from www.coybowles.com . Please jam to them with your kids and family; one of the songs might be the first and only to say poopy in the lyrics. Funny enough, as a new dad, I know all about that now.
If you’d like to show some support on social media: parents, snap a photo of your child making a silly monster face like this one using #SickMonsterFace and we might feature them on our website and social media pages! Tag and follow me @coybowles on Instagram , Twitter , and Facebook .
If you’d like to pre-order the book, please go to this link: Pre-order