FAWM 2021 is in the House

So I finished FAWM 2021 (14 songs in 28 days) – not only finished it but finished early! I’m stunned. This may be a first. What was my secret? Music – creating music is my lifeline, giving me focus during these difficult times.

I know a lot of people are depressed now – many of us struggle with depression during ordinary times and these extraordinary times have added to our struggle. Our normal coping mechanisms have been unavailable to us.

For me, it’s mostly situational and, normally, I would take trips, change up my routine or make plans to change things. But that has been pretty impossible with the world shut down. Even my quick trips to California were not possible during the holidays when hotels were not taking reservations for “non essential” travel.

So I’ve focused on the good things that have come my way during this time, appreciate this special time my husband and I have had together with both of us working at home, ordering food delivery from favorite restaurants more than we would have before. Maybe stocking the bar more than usual – lol! Heck, I’m even starting to enjoy the masks and having more personal space in public.

True, I still have trouble sleeping and I find myself doing it in shifts. With way too much time with anxious thoughts or just lying awake with no thoughts interesting enough to engage me – I think that’s the worst part. Just lying there awake!

Thankfully, FAWM gave me a lot of focus and an opportunity to try new music skills, experimenting with new sounds and arrangements. Still, I finished early, but that’s okay because Ableton 11 drops Tuesday. I’m ready to go!

2021 FAWM: Variations on the House

Exotic Dance Ritual (FAWM 2021 Song #11)

SoundCloud says this song violates copyright but I purchased these samples from the Latina House Sample Pack from Black Octupus Sound via Sonic Academy, which gives me permission. I have disputed their claim. Besides, I’m only using it for the purpose of participating in FAWM 2021. So I will post here instead, just for the duration of FAWM.

Update: SoundCloud has agreed that I have the right to use the samples and has reinstated my song on their site.

FAWM 2021: Day 11, Song #7

Okay, so I’m definitely ahead of schedule for FAWM (February Album Writing Month) – 14 songs in 28 days. Actually, I’m halfway there! Yes!! And Ableton announced Ableton 11 is dropping on the 23rd so I’d like to finish FAWM before then so I can start playing around.

Anyway, track #7 is my version of a Rock EDM, although I have to say I prefer EDM remixes of classic rock songs and must try my own. Search on Spotify for “Classic EDM” if you’re interested. If you’re looking for my latest FAWM playlist, check out this SoundCloud link:

 

FAWM: 8 days in, 4 songs done

Hey, I’m right on target for FAWM (February Album Writing Month), where the challenge is to write 14 songs in 28 days. Now, I don’t know if I’ll actually pull off that number, I’m not even sure I want to, but I just take it one song at a time and here I am.

The first 3 songs were some form of House track and the 4th song is my first attempt at a DJ track, mixing 4 songs in one (2 in English, 2 in Spanish). I’m so missing cruising to Mexico and drinking Margaritas at Hussong’s listening to Latin EDM.

Music Playing on an Endless Loop in my Head

Musicians, tell me, when you’re working on a song, does it play on an endless loop in your head? If so, how do you cope? I asked my Bass playing uncle about that one time and he said there’s nothing to be done. Yikes! Maybe I should skip this music stuff and return to writing fiction, although sometimes my sentences would play on a loop, too, especially when editing.

But I so love music. And the loop doesn’t even have to be running when I’m working on a song. Just listening to music will do that to me, especially the songs I love most and get stuck in my head.

I’m starting to realize the truth to what my father said when we were getting to know each other that “All my kids play the drums.” That was such an epiphany for me!

At first I was content programming drums in my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), but now that I have a new Launchkey, I find myself drumming right before bed. I come upstairs and I can’t resist the colorful “Vegas mode” (yes, it’s really called that) lights, sit down in front of my keyboard and start drumming.

I’m starting to exhaust myself and FAWM hasn’t even started yet (February 1).

 

 

Chasing the Muse at 5 a.m.

It’s 5 a.m. and my head full of song ideas feels like it’s about to burst. The muse is calling quite inconveniently. I’d love to obey and sit in my music studio and start belting out some lyrics while fingering some piano chords. But that would disrupt the household – my husband who is sleeping before getting up to start his work day (at home) and the cats (one cat loves to sing along with me). Even without hubby now working full-time at home during this global situation, it wouldn’t be kind to start blasting music at this hour – lol!

The countdown to FAWM is upon me and I don’t feel prepared. Every song I write to keep my skills limber seems to suck! I have imposter syndrome – lol. I’m starting to feel like Brandi, the leading lady in “She’s Not That Good” (my wip I’m editing and posting bits of here).

I don’t feel comfortable wailing in my studio with my husband sitting in the next room over working. We’re a close couple but I’m used to having the house to myself during the day. Perhaps I should sit and edit my novel instead of music right now. It’s a quieter endeavor I can do any time, night or day, alone or in a crowd. Life was simpler before music. Ha!

This time last year we were building a new home, living in a rental much to be desired but the saving grace was the casita – a separate building I used for my studio. I could blast music any time, night or day. Wow! That was awesome! The best part about that rental house. It was perfect for FAWM.

I woke up with so many musical ideas, but they’re starting to fade. This is really frustrating. But they probably weren’t that good – they just seemed like it at 5 a.m.

At best, I can write this blog post, write notes to myself or work on lyrics, I suppose. But as I read this back, it sounds like one big whining session, and I’m so sorry for that.

But, wait, I’ve started to work on a song using my DAW and headphones and I think I’m onto something. So, yeah, it’s always best to find some way to catch what the muse is throwing your way, no matter the circumstances.

Editing Chapter 1 of “She’s Not That Good”

As I read over chapter 1, I’m pretty sure that neither “Previously” section will stay. But we’ll see. That’s the beauty of making it real–helps the editing process by bringing clarity to your writing.

She’s Not That Good

Chapter 1

“She’s not that good,” a woman on the other side of the cube wall whispers in her stage voice.

I know she’s talking about me. Maybe because I’ve heard those four little words, five if you count she’s not as “she is not,” for most of my life. Plus the fact that I’ve just been told by HR that I have five minutes to pack up my belongings before they escort me out of the building.

“Layoff” they call it, so why all the drama and formal proceedings as if I’ve done something criminal? Is it a crime to not be that good at something, even if it were true? Besides, this is only my first day at work. Who gives you a typing test on your first day of work? Especially in high tech? Unheard of.

A voice clears, and I look up. Has five minutes passed already? Oh, well, it doesn’t matter. I don’t have that much stuff to pack up. Being a temporary employee, a contractor, means I’m used to going from one job to another so I travel light—especially for the first week or maybe even the first month or two. I shut down the company computer, grab my purse, water bottle, personalized coffee cup, and follow my escort through the double doors, out to the lobby, and out on the sidewalk.

I don’t even have a car so I can escape quickly, tamp down my humiliation, or scream and cry in the privacy of my own vehicle. Oh no, today I chose to take BART to work. Fremont is an hour BART ride and even longer by car, so, of course, I took BART.

She’s not that good. Those words reverberate inside my brain in time with my steps as I walk the two blocks to the light rail station. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if whatever it is I’m not that good at hadn’t been somebody else’s idea in the first place. Like, “You know, you’re really good at singing, so why don’t you try out for the school play?”

I would resist using the argument that having a good singing voice does not make one an actress. But they would eventually wear me down and convince me that auditioning for the school play is the only thing to do and that I’d be a shoe-in. I’d rehearse for weeks and finally arrive for my audition, and there “they” would be, those same people who had practically twisted my arm to audition for their lousy play, huddling together, whispering, until finally their so-called whisper turned into a stage whisper, and nobody could help hearing them all say, as if in unison, “She’s not that good.”

I could have told you that. But that isn’t the worst thing that ever happened to me. No, much worse was when I went out with Little Tommy Tongue Twister, as we called him in elementary school. His name alone should have been enough to send me running for the hills. But a friend of a friend convinced me that Tommy was all grown up handsome now that we were all in high school, and had asked specifically that I come to a party he was having at his house while his parents were out-of-town. So, I went to Tommy’s party.

Not long after he spiked the punch with some rum his parents brought back from a Caribbean cruise, he pulled me into the closet and started sticking his tongue down my throat. Later, he had the nerve to say, “She’s not that good” when his friends asked why he never saw me again after that. After a while, kids at school saw me coming and would say, “She’s not that good is coming down the hall.” I wanted to die.

I began making plans to attend college far, far away, but every application came back saying the same thing, “She’s not that good.” You’d think I’d getter better at choosing what I was good at, but people misled me. My essays in English class would garner an “A,” and my teacher would convince me I should pursue a journalism degree. But after meeting with a counselor who had run me through the paces, he had written on my application, “She’s not that good.”

Which brings me to today and my first day of work where I had to take a writing test, a typing test, and a math test. The HR lady calls me into her office afterwards, and reads the note written on the results. You guessed it. It says, “She’s not that good.” So why not test me before they tell me I have the job? It makes no sense to me, but, then, these temporary positions never do.

It’s not that I want any of these things. I didn’t want the part in the school play, Little Tommy Tongue Twister, the journalism degree, or the job today. The problem is I don’t know what I do want. But I have a feeling that once I figure that out, they’ll stop saying, “She’s not that good.”

Some people say I should be a fiction writer. Maybe they see in me some creativity and accomplishment. I’m flattered by that, because you see, I’m not a complete loser, although it may sound like that to you at this point. The problem is, I’m good at a lot of things—I’m just not good enough to excel in any of them.

I write good papers, I love history, and I got an “A” in my history classes, so people concluded I’m an intellectual and recommend I become a lawyer or a historian but even I can tell I’m not that good.

To make myself feel a bit better after that job debacle, I check for any messages about the other jobs I applied for when I first returned to California. You know, the hand modeling job. Everybody says I have beautiful hands, and even the rest of me passes for attractive, but when I seek those modeling jobs, I hear the usual, “too short,” “too tall,” “too fat,” “too thin.” I’m starting to feel like Goldilocks never finding the one that’s “just right.”

I call my mother’s land number, expecting to get the answering machine (yes, she still uses one of those) and I’m surprised when she picks up. “I thought today was your surfing day.”

She keeps saying stuff like, “I’m starting over,” when she suddenly begins pursuing all of her “childhood” dreams. One day it’s hang gliding, then it’s drama class, and now it’s surfing. Okay, so maybe it isn’t exactly sudden. I suppose that’s to be expected now that she’s alone after my step dad died of a sudden illness. And my brother, or rather half brother joined the Marines.

“They used to call me Gidget,” she says as if that claim alone justifies her latest desire to start surfing. Or maybe after losing her husband, she realizes how short life is and is determined to make all of her dreams come true. But I know she won’t stick with it–she never sticks with anything to be very good at it. No wonder I have the problems I have. But she keeps insisting I not follow in her footsteps, “Be a novelist. That’s who you are.”

“Like everybody else?” I say. Who isn’t a novelist these days? My mother is the one with deep desires to be an author, ensconced in her office in some quiet New England village, and when it doesn’t pan out as quickly as she thinks it should, she jumps on other so-called dreams, although I really wonder if she ever dreamed of being a surfer.

She wanted to give me the pen name she always wanted. “Constance Brocade–can’t you just see that on the front of a romance novel? Isn’t that the perfect name?” Only her name is Debbie so she decided to name me Constance. I would have died before I would let anybody know my name was Constance. Thankfully, my grandmother stepped in and out of spite, my mother named me after her favorite drink—Brandi. I’ve always suspected that’s what she was drinking the night I was conceived. Maybe that would have been okay if our last name wasn’t “Redwine.”

“What’s the problem, mother?” she would ask her mother. “Brandi isn’t any worse than Sherry” and that always shut her up. Sherry was the daughter of my grandfather–the daughter we never talk about.

“No surfing anymore. It’s not for me. I think I’m going to start photography next. I can be on the beach without hurting my knees. Don’t wait until you’re forty to follow your heart, Brandi. Do it now while you’re young.” Forty? More like mid-fifties.

“Did anybody call for me? You know the hands modeling people.” I give them my mother’s phone for these jobs because

  1. It keeps her off my back (if she thinks she’s doing something “important” like this, she doesn’t look closer into my life)
  2. It keeps recruiters happy because they love to call people
  3. I may or may not lose my cell phone
    (a) It’s been known to happen
    (b) there might/might not be a message in that.

Anyway, phones of any kind are intrusive, and the idea of texting makes me crazy. I know, I know. I’m nothing like the average young person the media tells me I should be. I did tell you I don’t really fit in with people, didn’t I? I’m an introvert and even texting seems intrusive. If you must reach me, send an email, and I’ll get back to you when I’m ready.

“I’ve told you, Brandi, those hands were meant for sitting at the typewriter pounding out novels.”

“Mom, nobody sits at a typewriter anymore. Computer, you mean, and no, I’m not going to be a writer.”

She’s used a computer for years but when she talks about writing, she switches into another era and imagines herself banging on the keys like some writer from a film noir movie from the nineteen forties. Maybe we’re more alike than I’d like to think. We both resist modern technology in subtle ways.

“Well, why not? You used to lock yourself in your room and read every book under the sun. Why wouldn’t you want to write one?”

It’s true–I love books–real books. Books you can hold and pages you can smell and even lick, if you were of a mind to do it. I also love reading them. That’s where I escape my normal life. Like allowing myself to dream of a career in music—that’s my real passion.

Music–I love listening to it and singing it and whenever my mother left the house thinking I was in my room reading, I was playing my keyboard–the music keyboard I had finally stood up for myself and insisted on. When it comes to most things, I swallow my desires and won’t ask for them. But the keyboard is important, and I did speak up. But somehow having done that, revealing so much of my inner being, I hate to play it in front of my mother. I can’t just sit there and pound the keyboard and fail–not in front of her.

But one day I asked her about music, I love so much, and she just doesn’t understand. “Mother, did my father love music?”

She turned to look at me with such pain in her eyes. I felt sick inside and was immediately sorry I’d asked. And that’s why I usually didn’t ask my mother questions about my father. For a few moments, she sat there in silence, glaring, then abruptly she said, “Actually, yes. You’re so much like your father, and it’s my job to fix that.”

And then she got up and started creating one of her not-so-famous one-pot dinners, making it clear that the conversation was over, rattling pots and pans, turning on the radio to some melodrama–never music. Besides, drama is totally her thing.

All of my feelings of not being good enough disappeared when I was snuggled in Miguel’s arms. With Miguel, I felt like the most beautiful, brightest, and loved person in the whole world. The problem was this didn’t happen nearly as often as I would have liked. My mother did everything in her power to keep us apart.

“You’re too young to get serious, Brandi,” she’d say.

I had a feeling that no matter how old I was, I’d be too young. Somehow my mother blamed being young on the fact that she had gotten pregnant with me so young–as if she would have been so much more if I hadn’t ruined her life. And if she hadn’t started dating at fourteen, she wouldn’t have gotten pregnant at twenty-five. Yeah, I know. I don’t see the connection either.

That’s why I hated summers most of all. You didn’t expect that transition, did you? Anyway, during the school year, there were many more opportunities to sneak off with Miguel. In the summer, she kept an eagle eye on me, and it was more difficult to come up with a way to sneak off with Miguel. Besides, he worked in his father’s landscaping business for the rich people in Mexico during the summer and his mother was just as hawk like protecting her son from me as my mother was “protecting” me from Miguel.

Miguel’s mother warned him about girls like me, that I could trick him into settling down before he was ready to, before college, before he had a chance at making a life for himself.

My mother’s real problem with Miguel? He was Hispanic. My mother once said, “How could you marry a Hispanic? Your kids won’t look like you.” As if that was the number one important thing about having kids. They should look like you.

How ironic that as much as my mother swore she wouldn’t be anything like her mother, when it came to me, she parroted her mother word-for-word. How do I know? She told me these same stories about how her mother treated her when she was a teenager.

My mother wasn’t our only obstacle. Miguel’s mother was afraid he’d never become the doctor he so desperately wanted to be. “You have a long row to hoe,” she’d say. “You can’t afford to settle down now, mi hijo,” she’d say.

I knew that Miguel would be a wonderful doctor someday, but what I loved most about Miguel was his poetic heart. He wrote songs and played them on his acoustic guitar. He’d call me and tell me to meet him at the park and there he’d be laying on the blanket on the grass, with the guitar in his arms, and he’d start playing and singing the song he said he had just written for me. Then he’d put the guitar down and pull me into his arms, kiss me, French me with his amazing tongue and before I knew it, he’d be on top of me. I’d feel how hard he was when he rubbed against me. My desire mounted until one of us would pull away.

As much as we wanted each other, we were also afraid. Afraid of the power of our feelings, afraid to have sex, but afraid not to at the same time. We were afraid for our futures because neither of us wanted the same lives our parents had. At least Miguel had the support of his mother. She wanted his future as a doctor maybe even more than he did. If it were all left up to Miguel, he’d play the guitar, but his mother would say, “Mi hijo, you’re too smart to be a musician. You can’t waste your gift.”

To go a whole summer without seeing each other felt unbearable. That last night we were together when Miguel and I snuck off to the beach and he built a campfire and serenaded me by singing romantic Spanish songs, the scent of the ocean and the crashing waves and Miguel all mixed together were more than I could resist and that was the night I gave my virginity to Miguel. I was sorry I hadn’t resisted his charms when he sent me the following email message:

Brandi,
I’m sorry to write this in email but I can’t look at your beautiful green eyes and say this. The facts are I’m going to Mexico and then college, right? And with medical school for four more years after that, well, we can’t get serious for years. To say “let’s be friends” would be insulting to both of us. I’ll never forget you.
Miguel

Yes, email. Not a text, thank goodness. He was never into texting either. But, still, to break up with me in an email? Okay, so it might have been a teeny tiny step up from texting. After all, email was more like a letter. A Dear Jane letter or, as it turned out, a Dear Brandi letter. It was still the coward’s way out. He pretty much admitted to that by saying he couldn’t look into my eyes and break up with me.

To say I was heartbroken would be an understatement. How could he do this to me? It just didn’t sound like Miguel–he must have caved under parental pressure. First his mother would start in on him and then when he joined his dad in Mexico, he must have said something to make Miguel do this to me–to us.

Part of me thought that he’d change his mind once he was back here–college or not–and that gave me hope. Another part of me was scared that no matter what he might feel for me, something bigger in his life was becoming more important and that I never would see him again–at least, not the way we had been before. Oh sure, I might see him on my way to the beach or at a party, but never as a couple.

I cried for days and all the while I heard that little voice say, “You’re not that good.” I was good enough to be a high school sweetheart, but nothing more serious. There must be something more to this than college. Maybe white girls were okay to play around with before marriage, but a Hispanic girl would be his choice for a wife.

He was off to UC Irvine, but I wound up at San Jose State a year later than everybody else in my class. The words I read when I got that letter said it all, I just wasn’t good enough.

4 Weeks ’til #FAWM2021

Today, the first Monday of the new year marks 4 weeks until the beginning of FAWM. And I think, for me this year, that means creating an album of remixes using some Latina House samples I’ve purchased from Sonic Academy.

Remember that TV show “Semi-Homemade” where Sandra, I think was her name, took some sort of dish already kinda made but then added her own touch to it? Well, that’s the kind of cook I am. In fact, I’m discovering that I’m also really digging the concept when it comes to music. At least for now.

So for the next 4 weeks, I’m going to be preparing for that. Gathering my samples, translating/rewriting lyrics, etc. for song ideas. That means I won’t have time to continue editing SNTG during the week. Instead, I’ll be posting my chapters on this blog over the weekend. Stay tuned for Chapter 1.

In the meantime, here’s a piece of a song that I’m working on remixing. Next step: recording the lyrics in English.

Previously on “She’s Not That Good” (Version 2)

Or, as as the third book in the cruise series (see Real Women Wear Red and Chasing Moondoggie), I could start out with this version of “Previously…”, especially since it is more connected to the hook (see Write Naked, Chapter 18 “The Right Hooks and Warm-up Jabs”).

But this version also seems more about catching the reader up than really explaining the hook (why she thinks “she’s not that good.)” That’s what chapter 1 (coming up next) does so maybe neither version of “Previously” is needed. But it also features the “Sandy Brown” character as the heroine instead of a secondary character. I must have changed my mind about her early on and would have to make a lot of edits to keep this character as the heroine. But it was supposed to be her book back when my agent asked me to write a 3-book series. So maybe it should be her book and that’s why I stalled on finishing it.

We’ll chat more about this later.

She’s Not That Good

Previously…

Not that long ago, okay, maybe a year or two or three… I boarded a ship bound for the Caribbean and the first thing out of my mouth was, “My name is Sandy Brown and I’m addicted to Coppertone.” I kid you not. The weird thing is the person I said it to turned out to be my mother. How did I know that when I boarded that ship, I’d stumble across my birth mother and we both loved to wear red.

Okay, so maybe I had a bigger chance of loving the same color as my mother than actually finding her on a cruise ship.

And I fell for a guy named Troy, practically the first guy I met after my divorce from Cliff, as in “jumping off a cliff” when I married him in the first place.

But that’s not all. Oh no, later I take another cruise with my mother and Millie. Have I mentioned Millie yet? Oh she’s quite a hoot, just another random woman I met on that first cruise. Anyway, this time we cruised Hawaii. I know, gorgeous, right? So then I fall for this guy named Adam Troy. I should have known that wouldn’t work out.

Okay, that’s enough catching up for now. But, oh, yeah, there’s one more thing you should know about me. That hangup I had from high school about not being good enough, yeah, well, it’s ballooned into unbelievable proportions now. But more about that in the next chapter.

Previously on “She’s Not That Good”

There’s something about making it real that kickstarts the creative juices. Certainly the editing juices. You know, that moment when you must switch from anything goes to self-critic. So I thought maybe I’d finally make some serious progress with my wip if I posted it in its current state of being “in progress.”

Somehow, the flaws tend to stick out as soon as you make something public. That’s a good thing if it’s still “in progress.” I may totally cut this from the book. In the meantime, I’ll keep editing.

She’s Not That Good

Previously…

I love my job. The commute is short, well, relatively short for the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s in the South Bay, which is convenient for where I live in Fremont, just across the Bay. It’s in one of those low-rise two-story buildings surrounded by trees and grass and sidewalks, perfect for taking power walk breaks or just to stroll. There’s an amazing onsite cafeteria, well, actually three cafeterias if you count all the buildings on the campus. There’s even a piano bar next to the onsite Starbucks. And did I tell you I work with one of my good friends? Not exactly my BFF but a friend I used to work with at another company. It’s perfect. Well almost.

Oh, the less than perfect part isn’t about the job itself. I love that. I’m in book and web production of the marketing arm. It’s part creative, part technical. I love that because that describes me pretty well. Creative. Technical. Partly. Is that a thing? Well, I can say this: I’m not one of those nerdy types that has to have all the latest technology gadgets, but I do love the ones I love. And they might not be the ones you might think of. Not the social ones. I’m not that social. Okay, so maybe I am a bit nerdy, not in the “PC” kind of way, but in the unPC–introvert–kind of way.

The one shortcoming of my job? I’m not in a committed relationship. I’m a gun for hire. What they call a “contractor.” No paid vacation, holidays, or even a promise of tomorrow. Okay, that’s true for a lot of people, especially in California, the “for hire” clause, which can be terminated at a moment’s notice. But most employers won’t just dump you. No, they’ll build a case against you.

As a contractor, I have none of that. For example, I was contracting at one of the biggest Internet companies of its time, doing two different jobs, reporting to one manager but working for the other in a diplomatic position. You see, manager one didn’t like the response time of manager two’s group so manager one put me in the awkward position of trying to please both groups. And when I bonded with group two, deciding to spend most of my time there, manager one sent HR after me, firing me on the spot and escorting me to the door. I can’t tell you how horrific that felt, like I was some kind of criminal. All they had to do was say, “You’re not that good,” and I would have gone gladly. After all, I’m used to hearing “she’s not that good” whispered behind my back.

So back to this near-perfect job. I’d gotten wind of the fact that they were trying to get rid of the full-time employee that worked with my friend. And my friend–Georgi, let’s call her–hinted that when that happened, the job would be mine. And when I hinted that I wanted to take a few days off to see my sick grandmother in Southern California, she encouraged me, as if they would take that time to fire said person, and when I got back, the job would be mine. Sounds too good to be true, right?

Did you see this coming? I didn’t. But this is how it went down. I take off Friday night to visit my grandmother, and by the time I return the following Thursday morning, the undesirable employee is gone but, now get this, the person sitting in his chair is Darla, another friend of Georgi’s. Her excuse? Darla was there, ready to start, and I wasn’t. Unbelievable, right? My job satisfaction dropped from a nine to a zero. I felt so betrayed. I immediately began looking for another job and, well, that brings you up-to-date, and you can read about that fiasco in the next chapter.

Except that I’ll add that you should have seen their antics when I told them I was leaving. Suddenly, I was so desirable. They really laid it on thick, and part of me wanted to believe them. Because I never heard anybody there whisper, “She’s not that good,” not even when they tried to explain why they hired Darla in my absence. They made me feel like I was a valuable member of the team. Except when I wasn’t invited to meetings, meetings where, behind closed doors, I heard whoops of laughter like they were having the time of their lives. No I began to hate contracting and that lack of commitment. Except when they hired somebody else while I was gone, gone on a trip they encouraged me to take.

Oh yes, they were underhanded, backbiting, all the while smiling and praising me to my face. I think I almost prefer the upfront telling me I’m not that good or even the whispers among themselves, whispers of “she’s not that good” I can still hear.

Okay, so fast forward to… chapter 1.

“To Be Absolutely Ridiculous is Better Than Absolutely Boring”

As I work through my list of what I’d like to accomplish in 2021 (music vs writing), thinking I must choose one and that theme (or brand) must be reflected throughout (do I use the author photo or the producer photo, do I use kathyholmes.net or screamiebirds.com?), I’ve decided to do both, be both, and to follow my bliss after reading this quote from Write Naked.

 

Ableton Live 11 vs Logic Pro 10.6 vs Writing vs 2021 (#NewYearGoals)

This is what I’m faced with as we head toward 2021, not coming quite fast enough it seems. The holidays seem to drag on, this year more than usual, and we all so want life to return to normal. Enough already!

I’m still trying to figure out how to juggle giving enough attention to my writing career and my songwriting/music producer career, still in its infant days of launching.

Ableton Live 11 is reported to be coming out in early 2021, whatever that means. I’m still trying to learn all the Logic 10.5/10.6 features.

This has been the common theme over the past year or two: how to write marketable novels and music in a way that honors both. The “kick as” writing books act as if all you’re doing is writing and the to-do list is enormous. So how do you do both? One must be the frontrunner.

So do I decide that first? Which is the frontrunner: “writing” or “songwriting.” Music or books. EDM or fiction. It probably doesn’t seem that important to worry about Ableton vs Logic if I’m putting writing in the foreground. Or does it?

I’m on the list for the Ableton 11 upgrade, which comes with a discount if I pre-order. But does it make sense to spend that money if I’m going to focus more on writing fiction? Shouldn’t I invest that money in the marketing of my books? Besides, I’m kinda loving Logic Pro 10.5/6.

To be honest, I see more of a fruitful career path in writing fiction, although I’ve been neglecting it in a big way lately to focus on music. Do I keep pushing, going all-in with music (I have tons of tutorials I need to get to) or pick up the pieces of my latest wip and kickstart my life as an author?

Yep, this is what I’m dealing with. This is how my mind has been rambling and why I haven’t been posting here as often as I used to. Any advice? Did you say, “Pick one and move on already?” or maybe it was “Sit butt in chair and just do both!” lol!

Write Naked

It’s Christmas Eve day here in Las Vegas and I’m already enjoying one of my Christmas gifts – a new Kindle reader. I’d lost my previous one in Newport Beach on a trip to California when we were living in Florida.

One of the books I’m enjoying reading on my brand new Kindle is called Write Naked by Jennifer Probst. It’s got me fired up to get back to writing in 2021. For the past few years, I’m been mostly focusing on writing and producing music. I’ve played at juggling both but for this upcoming year, I’m making a promise to myself to really do both.

The thing that stands out to me in Write Naked is the importance of putting your heart out there and on writing great characters. This excites me because I’ve received some great feedback on my characters. Cyn, in Real Women Wear Red (book 1 of the “Real Women” cruise series), was called “fabulous” by one agent and another agent offered me representation. If you like fun, strong women and/or a cruise fan, you might like this one (I’m so missing cruising!).

But that’s not all. Book 1 is followed by book 2 (now called) Chasing Moondoggie, and I’m determined to finally finishing book 3 in the series. I try to reveal my heart in my characters but is it too subtle? I’ll be taking a closer look at this third book to make sure I’m doing exactly that.

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope that you have a wonderful one. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope it’s your idea not to. Christmas is always hard for me because I grew up not celebrating it (not my choice), and it’s sometimes hard to make up for lost time. But that’s getting my writing wheels in motion, thinking about some future stories.

So please stick around – another promise I’m making for 2021 is to update this blog a little more often.

Most of all, here’s to all of us having an awesome 2021!

Music Production, Writing, Reading… Running Out of Coping Mechanisms

Watching videos of people enjoying the Christmas festivities at Disney World, well, I can’t help but feel a little jealous. With California’s strict reopening guidelines and Disneyland’s reluctance to open up any of the parks (i.e., Knott’s Berry Farm) until now, and the cruising industry’s slow road to recovery, Nevada getting close to lockdown again, well, I’m going a little crazy. I mean, who isn’t, right?

I’ve spent these last 8 months at home working on music, switching back and forth between Ableton Live and Logic Pro, the latter due to the 10.5 updates. And now with news of Ableton Live 11 coming out soon, well, there’s even more for me to dive into. But there’s also a lot of stress with all of that learning and it wears me out. So I’ve taken time to read and even work on a couple of manuscripts I’ve started writing. But nothing, really, after all these months, is really working toward peace of mind. Prayers and positivity help, of course, but when there’s an underlying or maybe not so underlying crisis happening, it’s really hard to escape.

I think many of us felt a bit of relief when Biden won, even if we weren’t big Biden supporters, if only because, in my case, I did not want to sit back and watch the lunatic, aka the Narcissist for another 4 years. His behavior since the election validates everything I know about Narcissists. And once you’ve had an experience up close with one, you don’t need a psychology degree to get it. Maybe you get it even more than somebody who has just studied it. Experience is a great teacher.

So with heavy handed governors issuing mandates (sometimes necessary, but, perhaps, not done in the best way) and a lunatic for a president, it’s like reliving a dysfunctional childhood all over again. The artist’s spiritual life and food and drink and rearranging the furniture a zillion times helps for a while, but I’m running out of coping mechanisms.

Today’s joy, though, was picking up my latest copy of Electronic Musician. Just reading the masthead made me smile, reminding me of my early days in San Francisco working in production on Mac User magazine. So cool to see my name listed as Production Manager. That took me to McGraw-Hill Publishing in Berkeley, but the most fascinating part of that was sharing the building with a music studio and seeing a glimpse of artists like MC Hammer getting out of the limo. The MC Hammer dancers lived in an apartment complex down the street from mine.

And so, when all is said and done and things are back to normal and I can cruise the high seas and relive my childhood at Disneyland, well, in the end, it’s all about the art, the music, and the spiritual journey I am on.

Ableton Live 11 vs. Logic Pro 10.5 (#music #production #Logic #Ableton)

This time last year toward the end of 50/90, I got Ableton Live 10 Suite. I was curious about some of the more accessible features to me, at least more accessible than Logic Pro X, the DAW I’d been using since I started music production. But then Logic updated LPX to 10.5 with some amazing features. That left me reeling. Now which DAW would I use? Logic or Live? I’ve been scurrying between the two ever since, trying to find my definitive answer. I really want to commit to just one DAW.

Then this morning, my email was filled with announcements of Ableton Live 10 updating to Live 11. I got up at first light, made some coffee, and jumped on YouTube to watch some videos. When I mentioned on one that I couldn’t decide which one to commit to, he made a car analogy of which one do you feel more comfortable jumping in and taking for a spin (or something like that).

My problem is this: starting a Project in Logic Pro is like me grabbing the keys to my Black Challenger and heading down the open desert roads, radio blasting, wind blowing in my hair. I’m having a great time, thinking I know what I’m doing. Until I look at this shifty knob that’s just sort of added on for those who know what to do with it. And I don’t. And I’m afraid if I allow myself to try it out, I’ll blow it up.

Starting a project in Ableton, for me, is like cranking up a VW Bug (funny, they both happen to be made in Germany and my husband’s last name is German), and shifting it into gear (a bit awkward, but by the time I’m headed down the road, I’m feeling like I know everything about it, and I could even change the oil) – lol!

LP 10.5 gave us some cool Ableton features. Ableton 11 is giving us some cool LP features. So now I have no idea which DAW to commit to. But I need to figure it out before Ableton 11 is released. And before I buy Push2. I wonder if Push would push me over the edge.

“I’m Your Bogeyman”

We had such a fun Halloween, just the two of us, sipping a little something, dancing, and one of the songs on our playlist was “I’m Your Bogeyman” by KC and the Sunshine Band. Now that I think about it, it seems a bit appropriate for these times. I mean, who can sleep this week? Might as well dance.

“I’m Your Bogeyman” (KC and the Sunshine Band)

It’s 12:44 (#poem #songwriting #lyrics #howto #amwriting)

You know those moments when you can’t sleep? Well, that’s when I grab my phone and start writing down words, some rhymes, allowing the rhymes and the ideas to flow and see where the song goes. And the next thing I know I have some material for the beginning of a song. It may need a lot of work but at least I have something to work with later on.

Here’s what came to me the other night – starting with the time – 12:44. I hear a melody and need to sit down and work it out on on my keyboard.

It’s 12:44 and I’m lying here awake
Mouth is dry from the vodka, the desert, and the feelings I can no longer fake
Why do I do the things that seem are not good for me

That keep me running
Keep me gunning
They keep on coming
Turning me into a wreck

No words comfort me
No fools to love on me
Where does this all lead me
Nothing but a dead end

Keep on praying
Hearts bleed in stating
Silent screams saying

Keep on trying
Keep on crying
Can’t stop hiding
Memories are killing me

There’ll be no healing
The words I’m feeling
Thousands I’ve written down
Until I actually speak of them

Out loud
Out of my mouth
Not on the page
All that rage

It’s time to go for broke
Until I choke
That thing that nudged me until I awoke
at 12:44

I Thought I Loved Words…

I’ve been using the iPad so much that I now have sore shoulders, sore arms, sore neck, and it hurts to sleep. So I’m swearing off the iPad. I read that this is a thing now, especially for women, this difficulty using an iPad without pain.

I use it for so many things. What will I do with myself if I can’t use it? I even use it to read. Snap! Why not get some audio books? I tried some samples and I liked it. Not for fiction but non fiction. Listening to a book on writing craft was fun. Until they spoke of their love of words.

I remember when I thought I loved words. I love the idea of words. I love the idea of getting back to writing words. But I really love the *sound* of words. No wonder I’m enjoying audio books. But I shouldn’t be listening to audio books on writing craft. Not when I love the *sound* of words. No, no, this brings me back to my love for music, the thing I’ve been running from for so much of my life. And the thing I thought I’d been running toward in recent years.

Resistance. It’s still a thing.

Do You Feel Like I (We) Do?

Had a fabulous start to the Road Rally – really awesome to “hang out” with fellow musicians. The highlight, so far, was the “Production Master Class with Karl Richardson,” the guy who produced so many huge disco acts like the Bee Gees (not to mention Eric Clapton).

But I think as today dawns, we Americans are all feeling the same no matter which candidate we’ve voted/are voting for. And then this song started running through my head, because, for me, life is all about music and no matter what happens, I’ll still have that.

As a producer, I just love how this song comes together. To me, this song is so perfect in so many ways. (Remember when we could groove together like this?)

Do You Feel Like We Do (Peter Framptom)

Taxi A&R Road Rally Prequel Starts Today

As a member of Taxi A&R for 3 years now, I must confess this will be my first Road Rally mostly because it’s being held online this year, like most other conferences. I’d hoped to get to it live in Los Angeles for the past 2 years but the first year we were living in Florida and last year we were building a house in Las Vegas and it just didn’t work out.

What’s different about this year, other than being held online is that there are 3 days of “prequels” anybody can tune into for free – you don’t have to be a member.

If you’re interested, just go to the Taxi A&R YouTube channel here. Let me know what you think.