“Don’t Judge the Past by the Present” and Other Advice for Writers

“Don’t judge the past by the present.” – The wisest thing my mother ever said.

Today there’s a lot of judging about the past in the media. As I mentioned in my previous post Writing for Today’s Reader, there is also a lot of rewriting of history in today’s movies, TV shows, and plays.

The thing is, if you haven’t lived it, you might not know the true meaning of it. So often I see this on “The Voice.” The younger singers, even if they’re not that young, weren’t around when the song was first around and so they don’t get the nuances or know how to fully emote. Their technical skills are incredible. But the song falls flat because they don’t know how to convey the emotional meaning of the song.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. And one of the books is Dawn Eden’s The Thrill of the Chaste. We’re both Catholic converts and I’ve enjoyed two of her other books (My Peace I Give You and Remembering God’s Mercy). In “Chaste,” she mentions the song “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles. She says this:

“She’s not looking for affirmation so much as absolution. All her man has to do is say he loves her–then a night of sin is transformed into a thing of beauty.”

“If the Shirelles tune were to be written today, the singer would likely have to lower the bar down to “Will You Respect Me Tomorrow?”–if even that.

Dawn is a talented writer but how did she miss the meaning? Perhaps because she wasn’t around when the song was first around. All she knew were the facts of who wrote it, who recorded it, when it was released, etc. But having lived through that time, even though I was just a kid, I knew–we all knew--that the real meaning behind the question of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” was really “Will You Respect Me Tomorrow?”

I don’t know how old “John from Nashville” on Songfacts is, but he got it right when he said, “This song is a clever way of saying ‘Will you respect me in the morning if I go home with you tonight?’ ”

My advice to writers? Talk to people who actually lived it, if at all possible. Instead of quoting tweets, for example, dig deeper to find the real meaning and the work will stand out.

Choosing Fun (#cruising #amwriting)

I gotta say, Carnival Cruise Lines has an awesome slogan of “Choose Fun” now being rolled out as “Back to Fun,” which is what we’re all looking for, right? I gotta tell ya, watching Ordinary Adventures “Symphony of the Seas” vlogs, I cried – so missing cocktails by the pool at sea!

I’m trying to get into the cruise mood to edit the third novel in the 3-book cruise series starting with Real Women Wear Red, continuing on to Real Women Sing the Blues to, hopefully, “Real Women Are Good Enough” (aka as “She’s Not That Good”). As much fun as “She’s Not That Good” sounds to me, I’m thinking I should stick with the “Real Women” precedent from the other 2 books.

I tried publishing it episode by episode on the new Kindle Vella, but have noticed my readers aren’t into that so I’m publishing it as a book, like all my others.

But after taking a music break, I don’t know… I may have to put this project back on hold or at least keep it on the slow path. I need my music!

Push2 Has Stolen My Heart in My New Red Studio #Ableton

Ableton Live’s Push2 arrived last Friday and my first order of business was to rearrange my studio. First, I got a small, corner desk to replace the tri-level monster I thought I had to have.

Unfortunately, this bedroom in this house is smaller than I’m used to. I got out the tape measure and it is not the 10×10.1 feet the floorplan showed. It was supposed to be .1” larger than hubby’s next door. As it turns out, his is larger so we switched rooms. I left him the large desk because smaller spaces don’t bother him the way they do me.

Anyway, his office with the large desk looks so professional, compared to the dining room table he was using. And that room has always had more of a masculine feel with the dark grey drapes and chair. It’s perfect for him.

So, not only did I get the bigger room, but a smaller, corner desk was what I was after, along with red drapes, red bookcase, and red chair. I am so pleased.

And then I was ready to install Push2 and start playing with it (with some tutorial guidance via Sonic Academy). I am having a blast! So much so that I totally hated spending some time editing the third book of the “Real Women Wear Red” trilogy yesterday morning. (Now you see why my studio is decorated in red – lol!)

Don’t know if I will get back to editing since I’d like to really know what I’m doing with Push2 by the time 50/90 begins in July. Besides, my heart just isn’t into writing fiction these days. That time may be behind me now. Now it’s all about the music!

The next step, I think, is to get this table I saw on Wayfair to replace the low bench. Then I can have a place for my third keyboard instead of it sitting on the chair. The red chair may not fit if I do, though. I may have to keep looking for the right thing.

If Politics is the New Religion, Then Twitter is Church

I read somewhere that “politics is the new religion” and a light went off. So that’s why we all seem so divided and verbal about it today. This is a recent thing. Even if my childhood was long ago when people agreed not to discuss “politics or religion,” until recently, people really didn’t.

I’ve been trying to delete Twitter for some time (been off Facebook and Instagram for years – yay me!), but I keep going back for more of the Twitter Kool-aid. I keep believing the lie that somehow I need it. “Just this one,” I tell myself. I need one social media. YouTube doesn’t count, right?

But people on Twitter are annoying, to say the least, that it’s affecting how I feel about people. It’s giving me a somewhat skewed idea of who people are. This is not real life. There are plenty of lovely people out there. But social media (and reality TV shows) puts the idiots in my face. And they’ve never seemed more idiotic than during this pandemic.

Just yesterday somebody tweeted something like, “Have you ever known just looking at a person that they must be Republican?”

I’m neither Democrat nor Republican so I wasn’t offended by the statement. But that view, in my opinion, is taking politics way too far.

I deleted (deactivated) my Twitter account again today. I don’t want to be a member of a cult.

The other social media trouble spot I have is with Youtube and YouTubers. For me, that usually means the Disney vloggers and cruise vloggers where, after a while, I must question their value. I receive value from musicians showing me how to use Ableton Live or LogicPro.

But the reason I say I don’t receive much value from Disney and cruise vloggers, is that their experience is not your experience. Besides, at closer inspection, you realize their content reveals them to be either too stupid, too dishonest, or too lazy to educate themselves on their topic (not all, but way too many).

They’ve so fooled people that people send them gifts and money as if that will give them some kind of similar experience. My experience is always different from theirs. But sometimes I’m tempted to peek in when I can’t have that experience. What I’ve discovered is that by watching their experience, my experience is less than.

Full disclosure: I have a YouTube channel where I upload videos from my travels, or book trailers for my novels, and include some of my music. And I don’t mind others who do that. But not the ones who are aggressively marketing their channel, who will use click-bait headlines, the ones who make it their daily job to come up with just about anything to get views, often giving dishonest reviews, those who hold live chats where people send them “super chats” and they may or may not interact with you if you don’t (mostly not).

I confess, I watch them way too often. It’s been unbelievably tough during this pandemic, my head is still swimming, and I think a lot of us have leaned on YouTubers to get us through this. I know my channel got a lot of subscribers during this time, and are probably now busy unsubscribing – lol! I know I am.

I’m much better off if I spend my time in my studio, writing songs, producing tracks, writing stories, and reading. My latest find that I can’t wait to get to? The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection
(found on Author Roni Loren’s blog when she was trying to focus her life away from the internet and to encourage her son to spend quality time unplugged.

This is just one book on her list. I’ve read a few of these and find them fascinating how the internet and social media is changing our brains. Now that’s scary. But I’m hoping it’s just more inspiration to get me away from all of it, including YouTube.

Managing social media and other distractions is even more important for writers and other artists. After all, “Solitude courts the muse.”

 

 

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.