Synthwave Takeover Plus Addicted to the Alexandra Mallory Series (#amreading #amproducing #notwriting)

I’m now on book 10 (The Woman in the Storm) of the Alexandra Mallory series by Cathryn Grant. I’m hooked! Binge reading. This is so unusual for me these days. To find one book, let alone a whole series I can get so immersed in. That’s because Cathryn Grant is a brilliant writer. And it doesn’t hurt that we have such similar backgrounds. I can so “relate” to the character, setting, the writer’s voice, writing trajectory, Silicon Valley career, super strict religious background etc. (see Writing is Murder: Motive, Means, and Opportunity).

Ironically, though, I think that is who I used to be. I’m now immersing myself in electronic music, my passion far stronger than writing, as it turns out. Cathryn inspires me to think about getting back to writing, but as soon as I sit down at my desk, I see my music keyboard and microphone and get totally lost in creating some music. Other than an occasional scene, my wips just can’t get any traction. Music has always been my first love and once I said that out loud, I had to ask myself why I was pursuing a career in fiction instead of music.

Speaking of music, as I prepare for 50/90, I’m also excited by Sonic Academy’s “Synthwave Takeover” going on in the month of June, starting today. Don’t think I’ll be able to participate in the remix contest, though, since we’re getting ready to move cross country. But SynthWave is an interesting, retro genre that I’m more than a bit interested in. Who doesn’t love 80s music? Especially in a new, fresh way.

“The Woman in the Water” Excerpt (#amreading #bookreview)

I’ve recently discovered a fascinating psychological suspense author Cathryn Grant. She makes some interesting insights into the human psyche through her characters. And I love her writing (although she may use “shoved” a bit too often – lol).

This passage from The Woman in the Water (the second in a series) especially spoke to me. Maybe because right before Covid, we had downsized and the smallness is really getting to me, especially now that we’re both working at home full-time. But I’m not as comfortable leaving the house, pushing through crowds and being around people as much as before Covid.

The Woman in the Water
by Cathryn Grant
(Excerpt)

“A large home provides a chance to lock yourself away from the chaos. Inside your house, surrounded by a decent-sized piece of property, there aren’t any panhandlers or solicitors. There aren’t any madmen ranting extreme political views, unless you choose to turn on the TV. You don’t have to smell loathsome perfume and cologne, or hear music that rips the nerves right out through your skin. There aren’t any people talking in loud voices, drowning out your own thoughts or quiet conversation with your dinner companion. There’s no litter and filthy sidewalks, no dog shit and broken glass, no threats to your physical safety.

All of those things are more or less first-world problems but that doesn’t lessen my aversion to them. With a quiet, well-secured, spacious home, you encounter the world on your timetable, your terms. Instead of having humanity shoved down your throat, you can brush up against it as you please, taking small sips. Humanity is like a martini—nice if sipped slowly, knocks you on your ass if you absorb too much too fast.

The world is a crowded place. It’s overrun with traffic and barking dogs, unimaginative strip malls with unkempt facades, cars sitting in front yards, screaming children, and unwanted odors.

But a beautiful home isn’t just about what you want to avoid.

Human beings were meant to possess space and beauty. We feel that in our souls.

Sure the crush of people going to a baseball game has a certain excitement—the sheer mass of humanity with all their thoughts moving in a similar vein. There’s energy and connectedness. The crowds surging through Times Square or down Bourbon Street, a giddy appreciation for the variety of living souls and the noise of conversation—a thousand minds verbalizing their thoughts, small bites of the things they have to say caught as you pass by, usually forgotten, sometimes remembered as clearly as if they were speaking directly to you.

But overload causes frayed nerves. Lack of control over your environment leads to despair.

When there’s adequate space, breathing becomes relaxed and comfortable. You don’t feel the crush of your possessions piled on top of each other, towering over you, moving closer as if they want to swallow you alive. There’s room for closets filled with shelves and cabinets and drawers. When the space is too small and all your things are exposed, it begins to feel as if insects have invaded your home. You hear their jaws grinding as they move ever closer. Your skin crawls, and your limbs twitch with a frantic desire to escape the sense of confinement.

Despite the thrill of crowds at sporting events and inside bars and clubs, the human body needs space like it needs water and food. Standing in a park or at the peak of a mountain gives a feeling of calm and freedom. A large house does the same thing. A spacious bed where you can stretch out, even when someone is lying beside you, even a tall man who takes up a lot of room with his height and the heft of his muscle. A shower large enough for two, and a long counter with an enormous mirror where you can dry your hair and put on makeup without tripping over each other, a mascara wand shoved in your eye.”

“She’s Not That Good” Goes Cruising…

I just returned from 7 nights on the Carnival Panorama still in her inaugural year that was cut short due to, well, you all know. She’s a beautiful ship, the cruise fare was a bargain, and no flights were required. Besides all that, I was hoping that freshly back from a cruise experience, I’d be overflowing with ideas on how to finish She’s Not That Good. I think I’ll have to wait. Why? Too much reality interferes with my imagination – lol!

What I will say is that my favorite part about cruising, besides being at sea, is being able to casually drop in and listen to a live band. Our favorite this cruise? The House Rock Band that played in the Ocean Plaza Bar, the best kept secret onboard the Panorama. We grabbed a couple glasses of wine and sat outside where we could take off our masks and still enjoy the music. I listened to the beats and my muse can’t wait to get back into the studio to write some new music.

But first we kicked off the cruise by indulging in the tasty “Orangesicle” (think “Pina Colada”) at the Tides Bar in the aft pool area.

The other favorite spot was actually the Atrium, a redesigned space on the Panorama that I wasn’t too fond of at first. Until I had a Tequila Sunrise, an old favorite cocktail from my youth, at the base of the Atrium. The atmosphere was much better, to me, lower rather than higher.

And I think that’s another favorite thing I like about cruising, Carnival cruising, in particular. I feel young again. And now I may be inspired to get back to writing.


Aft Pool, Carnival Panorama

Orangesicle, Tides Bar

Prosecco and White Wine, Ocean Plaza Bar


Tequila Sunrise, Bahama Mama, Panorama Atrium Bar

Drummer Dottie Dodgion Leads Me To Ableton Live/Push2

So I’m thinking I need to know more about drumming since the drums seem to be my favorite instrument in electronic music. I searched online for “female drummer,” thinking I’d be able to relate even more since the music industry is so heavily male. And who do I find but Dottie Dodgion who drummed with all the greats in her time until she was 91. We’re talking the 50s/60s when a female drummer was unheard of. I also discovered she died just this last September.

And then I discovered her autobiography The Lady Swings: Memoirs of a Jazz Drummer. So, naturally, I snapped that up, and I am completely enthralled with her story. And completely humbled. Her father was a drummer so she internalized all that he knew and did, besides having inherited those genes, and a lifetime of learning and practicing and loving her instrument.

My father said, after I met him later in life, “All my kids play the drums.” In fact, his grandson, my nephew, earned a degree in Jazz Performance at Fresno State. You guessed it – he played drums.

And then my life started to make a lot of sense. My uncle said “Now that you know you’re a Holmes, you’re going to want to pay attention to music.” I’ve always loved music, sang and played the keys, guitar, violin when I was young, but didn’t really do much with it as an adult beyond turning the radio up loud, windows rolled down, racing my black Pontiac down Cornell Road in Portland, Oregon.

Although most of the music I create usually falls into the “House” category of EDM, I love all genres, including Jazz. Naturally (I keep using that word), I desired to know more about it and downloaded the Peter Magadini Jazz Drums tutorial from Groove3.

I’m totally intimidated, realizing that being a traditional drummer is beyond me (or, at least, my interest), but I can learn a lot by knowing as much as I can about the drums by studying different genres.

I also realized that this is where Ableton Live shines over Logic Pro, at least to me, when it comes to programming drums using the drum rack and Push2. I am finally motivated to spend more time learning Ableton and Push.

Wired for Story But Not The Kind You Might Think (#Music vs #Writing)

These days I enjoy reading about writing more than I do actual writing. My brain seems to have been rewired for music – not story. At least, not the kind of story you think of when NaNoWriMo hits the stage every November (for me, November is the worst month with Thanksgiving and travel).

Still, I keep trying to gear myself up for NaNoWriMo, even though I did it once and hated it. So why do I keep trying to do it? I was hoping to finally finish “She’s Not That Good,” but I’m thinking it’s time to put that one away for good. It’s “not that good” – lol! (And I don’t want to spend the time trying to make it that good.)

Or maybe because there’s been a bit of a letdown after 50/90 ended. I miss the music community. So when I peek into the NaNo forums looking for community, I notice there’s definitely a leaning toward younger and it all feels so corporate. I now remember how good it felt to leave Silicon Valley behind. Why would I want to step foot in it again? I don’t.

And so it’s back to Logic Pro 10.7, but this time using one of my 50/90 songs to try out some of those Dolby Atmos features. Oh, yeah, I’m much more excited about that. Here’s the song I’m going to be working on:

Now that’s my kind of story – a whole lot more fun than character sheets and outlines.

 

 

Wired for Story (#OctoberPrep #NaNoWriMo #WritingCommunity)

We’ve been locked down for so long, mentally, if not physically, that I’ve forgotten how to go out and do things. I’ve been hunkered down in my music studio totally loving it but I can’t stay there 24/7.

So climbing the walls, wracking my brain for ideas of where to go to get out of the house other than casinos and rock climbing, I went to our one Barnes & Noble, rediscovering my love of being surrounded by books and people who love them.

While on that outing, I discovered “Wired for Story,” and it got me to thinking which is the purpose of the book – lol! And I realized that what I said in Writing for Today’s Reader, that “She’s Not That Good” won’t be welcome by today’s Millennials, was somewhat true but also somewhat not true.

Yes, Millennials are overwhelmed by all they are pressured to do and want to feel good enough by doing much less, so the story of the protagonist in “She’s Not That Good” also feels that pressure and only by figuring out what’s most important to her will she feel good enough. It’s not that Millennials should just give up and settle for less. It’s that they should find that one thing they’re meant to do. That reminds me of a scene in “City Slickers.”

I was thinking that since I’m not a Millennial, I couldn’t tell a story for them. Wrong. That in spite of our generational differences, we are alike, too. Besides, I’ve often thought that Boomers and Millennials are quite similar in many ways.

I’d really like to finish “She’s Not That Good” for NaNoWriMo, so here’s hoping this will give me the push. Besides, after finishing that LogicPro 10.7 intense class (and 50/90), I need a break from music. 🙂

“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.