How Silicon Valley Prepared Me for Book and Music Production

Reading It’s All About Him, written by Alan Jackson’s wife, Denise, I’m thinking how when I heard “Here in the Real World,” back in 1992, working in book production at a Silicon Valley high-tech firm, I thought he’d really made it. But when the song came out in 1990, he was far from making it at all. Living in a tiny basement apartment in Nashville with a pregnant wife, “Here in the Real World” was the second song his label had released and it was unclear whether they would keep him or drop him.

I started thinking about how successful I felt in Silicon Valley when I moved into technical writing, earning writing and publishing awards from the “Society of Technical Publications.” I sometimes say I got my PhD in that world, and, for the most part, it was a really awesome fit for me: the companies I worked for, the people I worked with (eventually marrying one of my co-workers), and the opportunities it brought me.

I would later grow wearing of that stressful, high-pressure day-to-day life, Las Vegas became my relaxing getaway, wondering what it would be like to be a cocktail waitress – lol! Eventually, my heart would start leading me to more creative pursuits.

I began writing fiction, starting with short stories as part of the well-known  “The Writer’s Loft” program in Chicago. I moved into fiction and by the time I wrote my third novel, Real Women Wear Red, at the height of the Chick Lit boom, I got an agent, and was offered a publishing contract.

Long story short, when the Indie author movement started going strong, I was able to use my book production skills to publish as an Indie author. I’ve done better as an Indie than I did when I was with publishers, certainly, the smaller publishers.

But then that market became oversaturated and I kept dreaming of my first love, music. In my youth, I didn’t pursue music as an artist because I knew you had to be spectacular to make it and while I’d sung a bit here and there, I wasn’t spectacular by a long shot. And I didn’t know of any other music path, at least not one I was interested in.

Fast forward to today with the ability to produce your own music in your own studio. Now I see that those same book production skills (with a propensity toward software) I learned in Silicon Valley help me now with continuing to learn new music production skills.

Push2 is the latest instrument I’m learning and with that and my Novation Launchkey keyboard, I’m hoping to advance more in more in creating my own melodies, instead of relying on loops and samples. Recently, a collab partner from FAWM told me he wants to release one of our songs commercially, but the melody was not copyright free so we could not use it. Between his piano skills and my production skills, I think we’ve come up with something we can use instead.

I have no idea where music will take me, even if it’s just the thrill of making it for myself, but I’m excited when I think about how far I’ve come from Silicon Valley production editor to producing my own music.

 

“Never Met a Machine I Didn’t Like”

Will Rogers may have said, “I never met a man I didn’t like,” but my mother once said, “I never met a machine I didn’t like.”

Reading some of the “End of Absence” book I mentioned in my previous post, I realized a couple of things:

  1. The problem today isn’t the internet, it’s social media
  2. How you perceive problems today is who you are

In illustrating the “problem” today, the author tells the story of babies used to pinching an iPad to gain a bigger view and doing the same thing to a newspaper or magazine, as if that’s a problem.

The truth is, I do the same thing when I’m using a laptop. So used to mobile devices, I automatically expect the same thing on a laptop. Besides, when the baby gets older, he’ll know the difference between a paperback and an iPad. And no doubt they will still be around. After all, vinyl records have made a comeback when people thought they were gone for good.

I believe in human nature, and if all this technology creates a problem in the future, they’ll figure it out.

As for kids texting each other when they’re sitting next to each other, perceiving it as a need for companionship without the hassles of real-life people, I have to say that maybe that is a valid solution in today’s crowded, super busy world. If you know history or have watched movies set in the past or have read historical fiction, you’re aware of the “mountain” men who struggled when this country began to be populated. They increasingly sought out the wilderness, going to Alaska, etc.

So maybe texting each other, even in the same room is okay if you’re not neglecting other people in the room. Introverts react to today differently than extroverts.

Artists (writers, musicians, painters, etc) may react differently, too.

I’m definitely an introvert and have been using computers since 1976, unlike most people of my generation who reluctantly started using computers only when “forced” to.

I’m probably more comfortable behind a computer than sitting in a group of people I’m expected to interact with. But no worries there, I remember my mother, a business machines major back in the 1950s, once said, “I never met a machine I didn’t like.” We teased her about that and she laughed, a bit embarrassed. But oh so telling.

People are different and we all react to today’s technology differently. I, personally think the problem is social media, not technology. I’m absolutely thrilled how technology has given me the opportunity to create electronic dance music. I may be older and do not have kids so I don’t always know what’s going on with them, but my music is one way I connect with younger people. And I love that.

“Everybody Lies House Remix” (#House #Disco #EDM) on Spotify and Bandcamp

I’ve been thinking for some time about remixing my song “Everybody Lies” as a dance track replacing the previous version on Spotify. I’ve also been thinking about Bandcamp for some time, especially when I noticed a Bandcamp plugin for my WordPress site.

I finally get around to doing both, but, alas, the plugin is no longer available on WordPress. Figures – lol! Anyway, it was still enough motivation to upload my first song of the “Best of FAWM” album on Bandcamp (song also listed in sidebar).

Btw, this is my “Everybody Lies” – apparently, there is at least one other song with that title – lol!

 

 

New Beginnings (#50/90 #poem #lyrics)

Yes, it’s the 4th of July, Independence Day for the U.S. but also the first day of 50/90 (the write 50 songs in 90 days challenge). And so a poem came to mind during the night, raw, for sure, but, inspired by “The Making of Frozen II” on Disney Plus, I post it as part of the process of 50/90.

New Beginnings

Surrender the old
Trust in the beginning
Embracing the new
In spite of the blues
These words to the wise
My fears not disguised

This time feels different
Body older and fragile
Relying on me no longer
My spirit is stronger
The old self-reliance
Becomes a castle of silence

My heart beats a longing
For what I know not
Showing up and suited
Desire deeply rooted
Stories and sounds on keyboards I write
What the muse whispers to me in the night

In the Midst of Turmoil, Create.

You will go nuts if you spend too much time on social media, or media, in general, especially in times like these. So what’s an artist to do? Create. Write. Paint, Sing. Cook. Produce Music. That’s where sanity lies.

So I thought I’d share a couple of my recent projects. Although I am not a painter or that kind of artist, I am a bit of a visual artist. My background is in book layout and production. Therefore, I’ve been dabbling a bit with videos on YouTube. Mostly posting some of our cruise and Disney videos, our time in Florida, Las Vegas, and some even feature my novels. That was so fun.

I’d created a book trailer when my first book was published but later when Google bought YouTube, they messed it all up. So I reimagined it with real video but kept the same tune. Makes me smile, taking me back to those heady days of getting an agent and publishing for the first time when we first moved to  Florida. Check it out:

One time in Florida was not enough so we moved back not twice but three times in all. Here’s the video of our last time when we had the great privilege of building a new house in a Central Florida beach town.

And here’s a link to a video that seems to be growing in views every day. Unlike most of my videos that may get a dozen views, this incredibly short video of Oasis of the Seas has climbed to almost 65,000. Go figure! Now if those viewers would buy my cruise books – lol!

To find out more about my novels, click here.

If you’d just like to subscribe to my Travel Channel on YouTube, click on this link.

Thanks for stopping by. Happy creating!

 

Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon, the Book, the Poem, the Tour, and Now the Song (#FAWM)

You may recall that I’d just finished a publicity tour for my psychological suspense novel, Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon at the end of 2019 before starting FAWM on February 1st. Well, during the tour, I’d written a poem about the book here.

So, naturally, I turned that into a song for FAWM 2020. Check it out. I hope you like it – the song, poem, the tour, and the book. 🙂

#1 EDM Artist in Las Vegas on Reverbnation

Wow! The thing I thought would never happen happened! Screamie Birds is now the #1 EDM artist in Las Vegas on Reverbnation.

I’ve bounced around between #2 and #10, but mostly keeping steady at #2. Last week I went from #2 to #3. But now, for the first time I’m the #1 EDM artist in Las Vegas on Reverbnation. I thought it would never happen! So stoked! Time to create some music!

Blogmas, Day 29: Best Elvis Tribute Artist (#blogmas)

So I guess I’m going to do this thing until the end of the year – lol!

Today’s Review Journal was a reminder of those we’ve lost this year and the photo of Trent Carlini, my favorite Elvis Tribute Artist, caught my attention. I saw him years ago in the “Legends in Concert” show. Afterward, he hung out with everybody, and I thought that was pretty cool.

Blogmas, Day 26: Starving Artist vs Thriving Artist (#blogmas)

Blogmas was so much fun, I, like many of you, have decided to extend it for a little bit longer. And as I grapple with plans for 2020 (as many of you), I’ve been doing a lot of mad reading.

My current read is Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins, and I’ve made some interesting discoveries as he makes many points about the “starving artist” vs the “thriving artist.”

Like maybe I don’t have to choose and shouldn’t choose between going all in with music or writing. I should be pursuing both. I can’t seem to help myself anyway, so I may as well give myself permission. The real challenge, I think, is getting up-to-speed on the music so that I can juggle both.

Here are a couple of insightful quotes I found:

Your art is never beholden to a single form. You can always change and evolve, and the best artists do this regularly. They understand that in order to thrive, you have to master more than one skill.

Starving Artists believe that to make a living you must make money off your art. But Thriving Artists don’t just live off their art. Like good investors, they keep diverse portfolios, relying on multiple income streams to make a living. Rarely do they go all in on any single area of work. The challenge, then, is knowing what investments to make and when.

Good advice, I think. The thing is, I can’t really stand over either one and demand it pay off. I do the work, put it out there, and then the return on my investment comes as a surprise when I least expect it. My job as an artist is to suit up and show up.

 

One Year Ago (Today) Original Song #50/90

I posted the original lyrics written in the wee hours of the morning as a tribute to my father’s passing, one year ago today in the John Wayne and Jacqueline post.

Then I took the story and wrote an EDM track, with stripped down lyrics, compete with groggy vocals, all recorded on GB on the iPad with earplugs in the living room so not to awaken the house. Here’s the outcome:

L.A. Nights Book Trailer is Live

Story and Music by Kathy Holmes

I love making book trailers, using visuals and making my own music to give a peek into a story I also wrote. L.A. Nights is available as a standalone short story or as part of the Cougars in Cabo anthology. For more information, see SHORT STORIES under the BOOKS menu.

FAWM Day 5: Howling of the Wind (#poem)

Rat-a-tat on my window pane
The treetops holler from the third floor
Like a stranger knocking let me in
Pounding loudly outside my bedroom door

The slider on the second floor rattles my nerves
Is Daisy safe hiding in an unreachable place?
Should I tiptoe downstairs in barefoot curves?
Dodging life’s bullets hurling in space

Slurping kitty quiets the mouse
And the raging fury of the desert wind
Stills my heart praying for grace in this house
While the muse gathers strength to show up again

Creativity hides from a quiet life
Yet the artist resists her vocation like the Prophet Jeremiah
The priest reassures me about suffering and strife
A human lost in confusion in a broken Hallelujah

Once I was lost and now I am found
And the howling of the wind spins round and round…

(My middle-of-the night offering to my King)

Red Tiled Roof (poem)

Rat-a-tat-tat Rat-a-tat-tat
Rhythm of the drum of an ally cat
Clippity clop of a horse’s hoof
Rainy night on a red-tiled roof

Drip drip drip sings the rain
So unusual on the desert plain
This time home is more of a stranger
It feels so temporary, so full of danger

Where did it go just last year
It’s gone for good is the deepest fear
Three thousand miles more or less
Hurrying back to cross the abyss

Writing songs up all night
About home and loss and other frights
Night time writing so aloof
Recognizing only the red-tiled roof

You’re Somebody Else (Warming Up for #2019)

We all have goals we set for the new year, and I’m setting goals for both writing and songwriting, I’ve been struggling with how to juggle both but I find that instead of saying I’ll do music in the morning and writing in the afternoon or vice verse, I just have to go where the muse leads me – as long as it leads me somewhere on a daily (M-F) basis.

The best way I know to start warming up with music is to do some rehearsal vocals as a singalong cover song. So as I was rearranging the kitchen cabinets (have I told you how tiny this kitchen is?) in the Vegas house, I heard this song on Spotify and just had to do my thing with it.

So, here it is, warming up with “You’re Somebody Else” (Flora Cash).

#Blogtoberfest Day 23: Why I Won’t Be Doing #NaNoWriMo

As hard as I’ve tried to get back into writing fiction – taking a class from the Las Vegas chapter of RWA and reading No Plot, No Problem – to motivate myself to join NaNoWriMo for the month of November, I just can’t do it. I’m too far gone when it comes to music these days and I’m dreaming of upgrading my studio.


(Photo: iPhone snap from Sweeetwater Ad in Electronic Musician magazine)

#Blogtoberfest Day 18: Writing Lyrics (the Great Juggling Act)

I’m pretty sure I won’t really be doing NaNoWriMo – oh, sure, I’ll continue to write the tome I seem to be working on when the mood strikes, ie, a scene or emotion comes to me that I must write down. Maybe because these days music is my main focus. And that is quite a juggling act.

In Songwriting: Essential Guide to Lyric Form and Structure, published by Berklee Press, it says this about writing lyrics upfront, right in the introduction, the first page of the book:

You will have no trouble learning about lyric structure. It is simple, just like juggling. When a juggler keeps four balls in the air at once it may seem like magic, but there is no magic involved. The juggler learned by throwing one ball up and catching it, throwing and catching, stopping and starting the motion; always gaining greater control over the movement of the ball. Then came two balls, then three, throwing and catching, stopping and starting, with greater and greater control.

As a lyricist, you must learn to juggle four balls.

1. How many phrases does it have?

2. How long is each phrase?

3. What is the rhythm of each phrase?

4. How are rhymes arranged?

And that’s just the lyrics. Then there’s the music, and music production. Each piece requires great skill, learning the craft, and practice. And then they all must work together – prosody, that’s what it’s all about.

#Blogtoberfest Day 13: In My Dream (#poem)

In my dream I saw you smiling
You hadn’t smiled in so long
In my dream I heard you laughing
And then I knew I’d been so wrong

The years had passed and I barely knew who exactly you were
The pain inside, the nights you cried were hidden so well
Then he came along and touched your face and I was so mad for taking his place
From the window of your little beach house I saw everything in the mirror

The troubles we’d had around the fake dad were no more
Could it be I could now see they started when I was just a baby
Writing that letter to my father might have been harder than I knew
You hated yourself more than ever and we took the fall instead of you

In my dream I saw you smiling
You hadn’t smiled in so long
In my dream I heard you laughing
And then I knew I’d been so wrong

Tropes and Other Annoyances (#poem)

Where do you fit in as the years go by
Creating the person you are meant to be
In a world that oppresses you like a swatted fly
Pretending to encourage you with eyes that cannot see

They make up categories, genres, brands, and props
Changing them chasing the thrill of what’s dope
It’s not up, it’s down, it’s not release, it’s drop
And the worse one of all is your favorite trope

They call you out if you resist the latest trend
If you stand up for beliefs, you’re suddenly a hater
And the trends of trends are never your friend
Individuals are suspects, social media is the meter

Everything has changed, your music is dated
When pursuing the arts after a lifetime of work
The stories you write are ignored or hated
When all you have loved has suddenly gone berzerk

When you’re young you feel like you’ve got the world by the tail
Opportunities approach you, tease you, and tempt you
With all that’s ahead of you and with fears you will fail
It’s not youth or age but the boxes that squeeze the shoe

Each age has its challenge whether numbers or years
I’ve seen it come before me, I’m living it now
Those coming after will see it in a mirror so clear
Don’t judge the past by the present values somehow

Social media will be replaced by what’s shiny and new
Those annoying words like trope will be long forgotten
People will adjust and come to their senses, I believe is true
We are the reflection of our Creator and the one who is Begotten