Monday, December 7, 2015

Too Long

It's been far too long since I produced any new music, and so I enrolled in Survey of Music Technology from Georgia Tech via Coursera for a second time to stimulate by juices a little. Here's my first assignment.




As I started to assemble it, a tune started coming to my mind, that matched a song idea I had awhile back, and so I think the two are going to get merged at some point, though probably after the holidays.

Even though I have been using Reaper for awhile now to record and process sound, I had forgotten how powerful it is, especially when combined with Earsketch, the development engine that allows Reaper users to programmatically generate and control audio and MIDI tracks.

If I can just stay at it, I should have a rather large number of new recordings coming out in the next few months. Some will be new songs and instrumentals, and some will be better recordings of my existing catalog.

I hope you'll like what you hear.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Saying Goodbye to ReverbNation

I've gone ahead and deleted my account from ReverbNation, even though my statistics tell me I have well over a hundred fans on that site. Why would I do that?

Because the same statistics also tell me that my songs have only been played on ReverbNation 19 times. What does that tell me? It tells me that most of my "fans" are actually just other artists looking for me to "fan" them back. That's like the Twitter followers I get that don't actually seem to have any connection to what I actually do or have to say.

That kind of gaming doesn't do anyone any good. It's just a waste of time for us all, time that we could be spending writing songs and making music.

It wasn't only that. Every day, sometimes multiple times a day, I'd get an email form ReverbNation telling me about some fantastic opportunity to promote my songs. Most of the them were completely irrelevant to my style of music, or had some other restrictions that left me out of the running. So no targeting on these emails.

But even worse, the few that did sound interesting were only available to paid members, something that was conveniently left out of the emails. I understand the need for a site to make money, but I need to make money, too, and I'm not going to do it if I sign up for every paid service that promises to give me exposure.

So, one fewer social media site for me to keep up on, and more time to write. Still working on my book series, some short stories, a weird book on people who believe that the Earth is flat, and at least four songs.

Now that the vacation is over, I'm hoping (between bouts of prep for the Christmas season) to put the seat of my pants firmly on the seat of my chair for some serious writing.

Look for the results soon. But not on ReverbNation.

Monday, November 16, 2015

My Contest Entry

I just entered a song in a contest for only the second time in my life. This one is the Great American Songwriting Contest (the other was the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, many years ago).

Before I entered the contest, I solicited suggestions from my Facebook and Twitter followers, and my friends. I got lots of suggestions, some of them quite unexpected. And I didn't take any of them. Not because they weren't good songs, but because the purpose of entering this contest is, for me, fairly specific and narrow.

My purpose is to submit a song that I think is well suited for recording by someone else, in the hopes of getting feedback from the judges (every song gets an individual critique) to see if I'm on the right track. Some of the songs that were suggested to me didn't quite fit that bill.

For example, one of my family suggested I Hate Halloween. I love that song. But I also have been planning to arrange my own recording of the song, with some local talent, for release in 2016, a couple of months before Halloween. And it has limited commercial appeal for a record company.

She Works So Hard and Don't Want To Know also got high marks from friends, but they are among the five songs I've already written for a planned album, and I'm not currently interested in having anyone else record them.

I was also surprised to see some of my old favorites come up as new favorites from people who hadn't heard them before, and so (unlike me) had no memories to associate with them. These included Years Away and It Seems Like I'll Never Let Go. It's got me thinking that I should dust them off and give them new recordings when I start working on my second album.

That's right, I am planning multiple albums. I'll let you know what they are about as I get closer to recording them.

As for the contest, the song I chose was Bad New Always Comes In the Mail. It's funny, it always gets a good reception, and I can easily see another singer getting good results with it. Was I right to pick this one? Well, only time will tell.

And it will be quite a while; the winners won't be announced until March, and the critiques won't come out until after that.

But it really doesn't matter whether or not I made the right choice. The important thing is that I made a choice, got a song out there, and will get some professional feedback. If the judges love the song, or if the judges hate the song (or something in between), entering this contest is still an important step in getting my songs out there.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Regrouping

Every once in a while, usually at some turning point, I will look over the projects I'm working on—or procrastinating about—and make some decisions about which are worth doing. The change in the weather as New England starts getting chilly and outdoor projects become less practical is just such a turning point.

The book series that I started is proving to be a slow-mover, because I committed myself to creating a world, and I haven't done enough of that the settle down to any real story developments, much less actual prose. I'm not abandoning the idea, but I am putting it on a shelf in favor of a new book, though I don't quite yet know what that book will be.

I'm working on a very unusual book right now that just sort of pushed it's way into my life (which you might know a little about if you also read Synapticality). It's a book about the strange world of YouTubers who believe that the Earth is flat. I'm not kidding. It's kind of disheartening, actually, but I sort of need to get it on paper and move on from it. I'll try to make it as interesting as possible, and not depress my readers too much in the process.

More songs are coming, and improved (hopefully to the point of being marketable) recordings of my existing songs, and an album, which I'll be talking more about by the beginning of the new year, if not sooner.

I'm also working on an instrumental album, kind of. There probably won't be any lyrics, but in a sense there won't be any conventional instruments either. It's sort of electronic music, but not completely, and that's all I'll say for now, if only to keep from confusing you. I'll probably have some kind of sample up soon, and when I do I'll announce the title of the album.

In an effort to reach a bigger audience, I'm going to start putting myself up on YouTube singing my songs, as soon as I can find a picturesque and acoustically reasonable space to film in. I'm going to try to do more video in general, if I can squeeze it in.

And I have an interesting publishing project coming up, too. Years ago, my late stepfather, a former newspaper editor, wrote a wonderful book to help confused people like me tell the difference between words that are far too much alike. It's called Similogues, and I'm delighted to have found a printed version of the manuscript, and lucky enough to have found a slight out-of-date electronic version, so that I can turn it into a book.

It will be one of my hunker-down-for-the-winter projects, and since I will be my mother, who lives on the opposite coast, proofing the result for me, look for a Spring '16 release date.

I've also decided that it's time I got serious about writing, and eventually making, a feature film. I have to find the right story, and I have some serious practicing to do before I take on anything that big, so this isn't something you'll see results from for several years. I'll be into my 60s before this happens. Hopefully my passion for the story and for filmmaking will make up for a lack of youthful energy and chutzpah.

This is the plan, anyway. Anything that comes out of it, you'll get to see, as long as you come back and pay me a visit once in awhile.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Voices On Fiverr

Soon after this post is published, the Kindle store will have a new e-book by me, called Voices On Fiverr: Buying And Selling Voiceover On Fiverr Without Driving Yourself and Others Crazy. It's based on my voiceover experience, including the time I spent on the other side of the microphone directing voice talent for video games in the 90s.

The purpose of the book is not to teach people how to do voiceover; it's more to help smooth the way for buyers and sellers and encourage better working relationships among them. I've had good and bad experiences on Fiverr as a voiceover seller, and I think that I've managed to gain a few insights along the way.

If you are at all interested in offering voiceover on Fiverr, or enlisting the services of a voice artist, I think reading my book will help you get started on the right foot.

That's my take on it anyway.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

If This...

For some time now, I've been using a service called IFTTT (ifttt.com), which stand for: "If This, Then That." The idea is amazingly simple. You set up a trigger, the "If This" part. And if the thing happens that pulls the trigger, then that causes something else to happen, the "Then This" part. But as with so many things that seem simple, there is a lot of power lurking in this idea.

I've only scratched the surface. Up until recently, I only used it to simplify the announcements of my work. When there is a new song on SoundCloud, IFTTT generates a tweet, with the name of the track and a link. Automatically. Same for a new YouTube video, same with, for example, this blog entry.

I've also used IFTTT to tweet weekly reminders about my stories and songs. Basic stuff.

I've also installed two of their three smart phone apps, in the series they call "DO." The apps have you do something, like press a button, write a note, or snap a photo (I don't use that one—yet), and that serves as the trigger and input for some other action. A quick tweet or Facebook post, for example, or a note in Evernote. It can even send the location whence you pulled the trigger, which means you can get a map of where you were later. This has been really useful for my wife and me, as we're looking for property for the home we will, eventually, retire to.

But lately I've been thinking that my use of the service is too one-sided. I've been exploring ways that IFTTT can help send information to me. Say, when a certain search term comes up on Twitter. Then IFTTT can send me an email with a link to the tweet, and I can take a look and see if it's something that I want to retweet, or write about. It can do the same on a (so far) limited number of news sources, including NPR and the New York Times.

I might also consider using IFTTT to monitor activity on my Fiverr account, although the emails they send me might be as good or better. And that's the thing about using tools like this. It's easy to get caught up in finding ways to use such a neat tool, but you have to consider, in every case, if it's the best way to get the job done and, more important, if the job needs to be done at all.

Because as convenient as it is to have some of these things automatically happening for you, it's also too easy to get overwhelmed with information. That's why I don't "like" too many pages on Facebook, or follow too many people on Twitter, or subscribe to too many channels on YouTube. It's not that I'm not interested; it's just that it's important to focus on the things that are going to make my life and my family's life better.

So while I'm thinking of ways to use these powerful Internet tools, I also have to remind myself when it's appropriate not to use them.



Sunday, September 27, 2015

My Musical Journey

Today, I had a fellow musician leave me a comment on Reverbnation, offering support for my musical journey. Although I certainly appreciated the sentiment, I had to think about how my musical journey has been going for these past few months, and I have to say that there have been far too many detours, and at least a few stoplights.

It's not that I've been lazy. At least I don't think I've been lazy. But I have been busy with family projects and financial matters, and it's been hard to sit down to the real work of writing songs. It isn't even a matter of lack of inspiration. I have copious notes on new songs I'd like to write, and old ones that have caught my attention as being good candidates for finishing.

But inspiration is not enough. At some point in the process, you have to take the wheel and keep yourself going down the highway, with few stops and no side-trips. Now that the kids are fairly settled into school and sports, and most of the house projects are nearly done (or have to be put on hold for the New England winter), I should have time to isolate myself from the distractions and put some miles behind me.

If I don't, you'll know about it. Just stay with me; I think some good stuff is coming between now and the end of the school year.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Follow Me

I've been thinking about my social media presence lately. Of course, I'm thinking about it daily, trying to figure out how to connect with all of you, encourage you to listen to my songs, see if I can get some feedback and, with any kind of luck, start to develop some kind of fan base.

But what I'm specifically thinking about is what to recommend if someone asks me the best way to keep up on my work. And that's not as easy as it sounds.

My first answer, just after I set up my Facebook Page, was to follow me on Facebook. All my Twitter posts are posted there as well, a new blog entry always generates a new tweet, and I occasionally post longer bits on Facebook that don't appear anywhere else.

But here's the problem with Facebook: if you have lots of friends and you "like" lots of things, you'll miss a lot of posts, because your feed doesn't show everything. Now, I'm not saying that you need to hang on my every word (you mean you don't?), but that post you miss just might include something fairly important, like a new song or story I just released.

And I assume (hope?) that a new song or story is more important than the things I routinely share on Facebook and Twitter.  So if you really want to know when you can listen to or read something new, go to my main Web site and fill in the email form on the front page.

I won't spam you, I promise. In fact, you'll probably be wondering why I haven't written in a while. But that email list is strictly for the purpose of announcing new releases.

Of course, if you're interested in what I have to share, or just keeping up on my progress, the email list won't be of any help at all. So follow on Twitter. or Facebook, or subscribe to this blog, in addition to signing up for the email list, and you'll be nicely up to date.

So, come on, what are you waiting for? Follow!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Favorite Audience

I don't go camping very often. To tell you the truth, the whole sleeping outdoors thing doesn't do it for me. I like a roof over my head and a big comfy bed. But my wife loves to camp, and so I go along and make the best of it.

What makes it better is that there is always a ready audience, and usually some fellow singers and guitarists, in the group we camp with. And so the nights are usually spent at the campfire singing and playing.

I wish I sang louder, because sometimes people have trouble hearing me outdoors. I might have to resort to some kind of amplification at some point. But when they can hear me, the songs are well received. This was the first time I had the chance to sing She Works So Hard for the group, and they were surprised to find out that I had written it myself.

I usually wear out my voice to the point that it cracks for at least a couple of days afterwards. And my fingers, not accustomed to this kind of marathon guitar playing, especially after the summer, ache at the end of it all.

But it's worth it. My camping friends are among my favorite listeners.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Not Quite

Okay, so I didn't manage to pull off another one-day song. There was just too much to do in preparation for my wife's birthday, and I couldn't give it the time I normally put in. But I did write something, and it felt good to be back at the guitar with my rhyming dictionary in hand.

Over the next week or so, I'll continue to work on the song, which is titled Do You Know How Much You Make Me Smile? I won't be at the guitar for a couple of days because I jammed a finger on my left hand while working on the deck, but I'll get all the words down and be back to playing as soon as the swelling goes down.

The kids go back to school tomorrow, and I'll be back to work soon after, writing songs and stories again. Hope you'll enjoy the results.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ready Or Not...

It's been a very busy few weeks, and none of the things I've been busy with have had anything to do with songwriting. Which means I'm kind of out of shape, musically and lyrically speaking. And yet, I think I'm going to have a go at writing a one-day song this week. Why this week, of all weeks, when the kids are still home and I have projects still in the works?

Let's just say it's a matter of inspiration. Not toward any one song idea, but just an inspiration to give it a try. If I manage to pull it off, with everything else (and it is not my number one priority this week), I'll give the particulars when I announce the song.

Meanwhile, back to my daily life.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Surprising Statistics

I was looking at my SoundCloud stats, and I noticed a very odd trend over the last couple of months. Although songs I mention on my tweets do get some attention, and I get a good number of plays on anything new, the most popular track of all my tracks is this one:




Now, I like this track, and I'm not ashamed of it. It was a class assignment for an online course I took from Georgia Tech that help me learn about Reaper, algorithmic composition, and several other technical aspects of making music. It was a demo of what I'd learned halfway through the class.

And for some reason, more than twice as many people have listened to it as have listened to any other track except this one:




And I honestly expect that this one gets a lot of plays because it has the same title as a song by Michael Jackson. Although The Man In the Mirror has gotten far more likes than Mixed Up Media.

I wish I knew what was sending so many more people to listen to my #1 track, because I'd love to send some of those same people to my actual songs.

Perhaps there is a message for me in here somewhere. I'm just not sure what it is.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hiatus, Kind Of

I haven't written anything in this blog since my boys started Summer vacation, much to my surprise. Although I shouldn't be surprised, because I hardly ever have any extra time during the vacation. Not only do the boys keep me busy, but emerging from the New Hampshire Winter and having some muscle at my disposal, it's time for me to get some projects done around the house.

Like helping my wife build a camping trailer, and building a deck in time for her birthday. Don't be too impressed; she's doing most of the work on the trailer that requires finesse, and the deck is guaranteed to be sturdy, but no carpenter would consider me a threat to his job. I'm a much better writer than I am a carpenter.

I have been working on the arrangements for Disconnected, and although the writing of my first novel is proceeding slowly, I am about to publish a new short e-book, a simple guide for both buyers and sellers of voiceover services on Fiverr, a book that I feel is needed based on some recent experiences with my own gigs.

There are a half-dozen or so undone songs rattling around in my head—and my Evernote account—that probably won't get touched until after our next-to-last campout of the season in September (the last one is at the end of October, which I've always thought was kind of pushing it in New England).

I've been very bad about making video, although I do have the excuse that the house is never quiet, not only because the kids are home, but because we absolutely have to keep the fans on. I sweat a lot when I'm doing my little voiceover gigs.

But it's coming to a close soon, and I hope that I'll have a fair bit of Autumn to work with before I have to worry about snow removal.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Getting Loopy

I was working on the arrangements, using GarageBand, for the new recording of Disconnected (here's the scratch recording), and I was getting a little bogged down in the details, so I decided just to play around a little. I started a new file, and looked through some rhythm tracks until I found one that I liked, and then picked a bass line. I set that to play back in a loop, just listened to the groove, and then something interesting happened.

I started singing the lines from a song I started to write awhile ago called Who's Gonna Buy? And although the groove I had in mind for the song originally was something very different, it fit with this new loop pretty nicely.

I don't know if I'm going to use this particular groove for this song, but just the fact that I could be pulled out of my original take on it suggests that I need to do this kind of playing around more often. Getting shaken out of my musical ruts can only be a good thing.

It will be awhile before you get to hear Who's Gonna Buy? Although I have written a lot of material on it, in small sessions with my rhyming dictionary, I am concentrating more attention on Disconnected, which I think may end up being the first song I make available for sale, as a single.

Whatever's coming up next, you can read about it here.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Shifting Gears

My two school children are now out of school for the summer, which changes my work schedule, which is just as well, because I need to change my focus for awhile. I have a good stable of songs now, and it's time I whipped some of them into shape with better arrangements and proper recordings. So that is my musical focus for the summer.

Not that I won't be writing songs; that process just never stops. But I'll be spending less of my time on new songs and more time on getting existing songs ready for prime time.

I'll also be spending more time on my much-neglected novel, which keeps taking a back seat to the music. This summer it will get a lot more attention.

Since I'll be experimenting a lot with arrangements and recording technology, you'll probably get to hear some experimental tracks that are pretty far outside my comfort zone. You'll find those on my Assignments and Experiments playlist on SoundCloud as the summer progresses.

The finished recordings of my songs will not be appearing on SoundCloud. Certain songs will be released on singles on iTunes and other music sales sites; others I'm collecting into an album. You'll be able to listen to some of these on Reverb Nation. I will, however, continue to put up scratch recordings of my new songs as I create them.

Look for a crowdfunding project near the end of the summer so that I can actually go into a studio with some real musicians and put the finishing touches on my best songs before I release my first album. I'll tell you all about it right here. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Another One Done

The song I was talking about on my last post is finally on SoundCloud for you to listen to. It took me a long time to bring it to a close, but I think it's worth the wait. I won't say it's my favorite song, only because I tend to be biased toward my newest creations and I don't want to downplay my other songs for what might be nothing more than an infatuation.

But after I've lived with it for awhile, I suspect it'll be way up toward the top of the list. I hope you agree.




If you haven't done so, be sure to head on over to my Facebook page and like it for the latest news. Although I'll always announce new songs and stories here, on Facebook I'm going to start discussing my upcoming work on my first album, and I'll even give my Facebook fans a chance to weigh in.

And the Facebook page also gets all my tweets and, by extension, announcements of new blog posts and new posts to SoundCloud as they happen. All the latest stuff will be on Facebook, and I promise I won't fill up your timeline with cute cat pictures or celebrity gossip.

Unless I become a celebrity myself, and then all bets are off.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Breaking the Logjam

There's a song I've been writing since last fall. If you follow me on SoundCloud, you might have heard the first verse and the chorus in the brief time the unfinished song was posted, as one of my class assignments. The title is She Works So Hard. Despite having a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to say in that song, it went nowhere for several weeks, and I finally pushed it aside for other projects.

Until a couple of days ago when, as I often do, I was looking through some of my unfinished songs to see if any of them sparked any ideas. And, suddenly, the last verse of She Works So Hard just sort of fell into place. When I saw the last verse and the first verse together, I finally realized that I didn't quite have the story of the second verse right. One little change to what was happening in the middle (isn't it always the middle that gets you, no matter what it is you're writing?), and nearly all the lines started falling into place.

I say nearly all because I have one more line that's not quite there. But I'll finish it soon, and when I do, I think it will be among my favorites. In fact, I think that's why I've taken so long to write it, because I like the idea so much, and I didn't want to give it short shrift.

When it's done, you'll have to let me know what you think.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Same Song, Different Day

The last assignment in the songwriting course is to adjust the phrasing of the song from the next-to-last week, and re-record the song. I was glad to do that, because my voice was a little better, and, thanks to the phrasing changes, so was the song.

I kicked it up an extra semitone to accommodate my voice, now less able to hit the low note at the end of each verse's third line, and recorded the guitar and voice separately. Not perfect, but perfect is going to have to wait until I'm ready to do an album; right now it's time to get back to writing.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Newest Song

I managed to finish my song for class and get it recorded and posted, despite a rather nasty virus that I seem to have contracted while away camping, or perhaps just before I left. It's actually a good thing that the deadline was yesterday, because when I woke up this morning my voice, which was already in pretty bad shape, was nearly gone.

I'm sharing the new song with you so that you can hear the song, not my sorry, stuffy-nosed recording of it. I have to re-submit the song with some phrasing changes by Thursday, and with any luck my voice will have recovered somewhat. The new recording will replace the old so I don't have to listen to the old one anymore, and neither do you.

But here, for good or ill (and when I say ill...), is my latest song (EDIT: This is the new version; the old version was removed):

Feel free to comment on the song, share it with your friends if you don't think they'd mind the singing, or with your enemies if you think they would mind the singing.

And you can comment on my voice if you must, but you won't be telling me anything I don't already know.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why I Don't Use Rhyme Worksheets

As I mentioned last week, I'm coming up on a deadline for a song that I'm submitting as an assignment for my songwriting class. I know, I'm pushing it, but I spent far more of my time singing during my weekend camping trip than I did writing, and to top it off I managed to contract some kind of virus which had me sleeping until nearly noon today.

But, to the subject mentioned in the title. Part of the course I'm taking is a rhyme worksheet, where you list nine or ten key words and find a nice collection of good rhymes. I did one for the assignment, as required, and I don't mean to say that they're a bad idea, but on the whole they don't work for me, because of the way I tend to write.

Take the song I'm working on now (I am working on it, in my head, honest). It was inspired by passing one of the local graveyards and seeing that a John Deere backhoe had dug a grave, and that the area was being set up for a funeral. "Too bad," I thought, "but that's the way life goes; it happens every day."

And, being that I'm a songwriter, the inevitable happened, and I came up with an idea for a song that used major milestones in our lives to make the point that as important as those things are to us, individually, any one of them means nothing to the world as a whole because they literally happen every day.

So I did my usual thing, writing the idea out in prose, and working out the chorus. Then I went ahead and did a rhyme worksheet for the class, based on my prose, which talked about all the various emotions that go with these milestones. So far so good.

But after I finished the worksheet and started writing actual verses, I found that I had started with a very concrete idea, using actual items the singer had come across to set the scene. And I decided that switching from concrete "show me" lines to abstract lines about feelings was not where I wanted to go. And there went about 90% of my key words.

My lyrics evolve too much and too fast for me to choose my key words so early in the process. So, while I take every advantage of the theory of rhyme types put forward by Pat Pattison, which is so useful and liberating that I use a chart based on it as a bookmark in my rhyming dictionary, I've decided that the one tool I won't be using from this class is a rhyme worksheet.

But that's just me.

Meanwhile, I have less than 24 hours to complete, record, and post a new song. So I'd better get back to work.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Queue Is Full

One thing about taking a songwriting class is that it gets my juices flowing, but doesn't necessarily leave me a lot of time to finish songs (except for the one, due in about a week, that I have to finish as an assignment—yikes).

The result is that I have a lot of works in progress. Two, partial songs created for assignments, currently appear on my SoundCloud account.  And then there are a couple that I've been beating my head against for months. I suspect I will get a little done on some of these while I'm away camping this weekend, but I probably won't finish most of them until my current class, and possibly the next one, is over.

Wait, what? The next class? Yes, thanks to one of the students in the Coursera class, I found a class from FutureLearn and the University of Sheffield that seems to focus more on the musical aspects of songwriting, something I've felt constrained by for quite awhile now.

So some of these songs I have in the works might be awhile coming to fruition. But I hope when they do, they'll come accompanied by better tunes.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Another One-Day Song

I finally got the most recent one day song, Feeling My Oats, finished and recorded, and so here it is:


I'm not sure it's done; I might want to add another verse to it at some point, but I'm not going to worry about it right at the moment. I'm sitting down to write a song as my final project for songwriting class, and although I'm not ignoring all my other songs, that one takes precedence.

While you're on SoundCloud you might notice a couple of other tracks that I have not bothered to announce on this blog. These are just a couple of assignments for the class and not complete songs. If you're interested, you should listen to them soon because they will disappear after the class is over, about a week into June.

But don't fret; I like them enough that they will probably re-appear in the coming months as complete songs.

Meanwhile, a little note: if you really want to keep up on all the latest news, you should "like" my Facebook page, which gets all of my Twitter feeds, including all of my SoundCloud posts. I also will be posting news to my Facebook page that I don't put on Twitter.

If you're not on Facebook, or don't pay much attention to it, or have so many friends and likes that you're likely to miss my little announcements, then you can also sign up for email updates on the front page of my website. The email announcements won't be as frequent, timely, or thorough as the Facebook posts, but you're less likely to miss them as long as I don't get caught in your spam filters (which sound very painful).

If you're a SoundCloud member, you can always follow me there, but that will only get you the songs, and there's more than songs coming down the pipe. You can also follow me on Twitter, which is the second-freshest options next to Facebook.

And if you like my music, and whatever else I'm creating, I hope you'll take the time to share with your friends, family, and even passing strangers. As I've always said when acting on stage, I love to play to a full house.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Writing the One-Day Song

Every week I try to do a song over the course of a single 24-hour period. It's not always possible, and I don't always finish, but I do schedule it once a week.

The idea is not to pump out as many songs as possible, especially because the song that I write in one day may take up to two weeks to get refined into a finished song, which is longer than some of the others that I didn't give myself such a tight deadline on.

No, the One-Day Song is a tool that I use to shake up my writing, to force myself to think like a songwriter intensely for a whole day, even when things are happening around me that have nothing to do with songwriting. (Well, maybe not nothing—it seems that inspiration follows me whether I am looking for it or not.) It's an adjunct to my other shake-up-my-writing tools, including working from a beat track, doing algorithmic composition, writing in a genre I've never written in before, writing with a different instrument in my hands, or writing in a different time signature.

I like to keep things fresh.

Today, in addition to my constant songwriting companions, the thesaurus and the rhyming dictionary, I pulled out two idea kick-starters. One won't be surprising at all, it's Sheila Davis' The Songwriter's Idea Book. The other, though, is a browser's book for word lovers, The Henry Holt Encyclopedia Of Word and Phrase Origins.

Davis' book lead me to start thinking about idioms, and so I started browsing through Henry Holt to find some promising phrases for song titles. Now, this is the sort of thing that I could waste an entire day on, coming up with a title, but not actually writing a song. So, this whole brainstorming session had a 45-minute timer on it. I flipped through randomly and found the expression "feeling one's oats."

And there's the title, "Feeling My Oats." As soon as I heard it, I had the line before it (with the idiom rounding out the last line of the chorus), and an idea of the tune. So I did something I don't normally do and started to figure out how the rhyme scheme and line lengths in the verses and chorus should be and wrote those down. And now I'm writing lyrics to go with that. Will it work? I don't know, but it's produced some ideas so far that seem promising.

You may ask, "Well, if you're supposed to be writing a song in one day, why are you wasting time writing about writing a song in one day?" Good question. But the one-day song isn't me banging my head against the table for 24 hours struggling to come up with words and lines. It's setting up the structure, making as many notes as I come up with on the spot, and then making sure my work is out where I can come back to it again and again during the course of the day. Thank you, Evernote, for letting me have my lyrics and notes on my phone, my tablet, my computer, and even my TV (I have a Chromebox hooked up to the TV).

The ideas will cook, and occasionally they will draw me back to my notes, send me to the thesaurus and rhyming dictionary (you thought I'd forgotten about them), and as I'm about the business of writing prose, marketing, and making dinner for the kids, I'll get more and more ideas to add to the notes.

I think there's a good chance that a song will come out of it by tomorrow afternoon, even with the kids around and Mother's Day preparations to make. Of course, if it does, you'll know about it soon enough.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Continuing To Educate Myself

I think I may have mentioned that I am once again taking the Songwriting course by Pat Pattison via Coursera. I have taken it three times before, and I've downloaded all the lectures so that I can watch them anytime, so why am I doing the course again?

Deadlines. They really help keep me writing. And then there is the chance to do something outside my comfort zone. For example, the verse and chorus that I just submitted for grading started out with me just thinking about the requirements for the assignment: that the verse feels unstable (has forward motion) based mostly on the number and length of lines, and that the chorus feels stable (comes to rest) on the same basis, and that the subject matter for each is appropriate for the feeling.

I know that most of you reading it won't exactly know what I'm talking about; these are concepts developed by Prof. Pattison, and he explains them much better in the course than I possibly can in a short blog post. But it lead me to thinking about moving from something that feels unstable to something that feels stable, and I thought of a young child suffering some kind of little trauma, which is anything but little to the child, being comforted by her father. Unstable followed by stable.

As I developed the lyric, though, I found myself going somewhere that didn't sound like the usual me. That's a good thing, not because the usual me is so bad (I hope you'll agree), but because I want to change it up and keep it fresh whenever possible. And what I'm hearing sounds a little like a show tune. Definitely something new for me.

Now, the song is far from finished, and I'm not exactly sure where I'm going with it, except that the little girl in the song is going to grow during the course of it. But here is the first little snippet:




So have a listen, feel free to tell me what you think, keeping in mind that the song is likely to change a lot before I declare it done.

And now back to work. Not only do I have three other songs in the works, but I'm going to attempt another one-day song tomorrow. Not that you likely get to hear it tomorrow. As with Always Here, I expect it to get rewritten over the course of several days before I'm ready to record it.

Because with pretty much any kind of good writing, that's just the way it goes.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Finally!

I've written two songs in just a little over two weeks, but between tweaking and all the little things that have prevented me from getting in front of the microphone, I just haven't been able to record my new songs.

Until today. Empty house, no noise to speak of, and an itch to get them done, and now they're on SoundCloud.





And since I posted the unfinished lyric to Always Here before, let me post the finished version:

V1:
When I was young
I lost my way
Traveling on a road that had no end.
But I found you
Along that road
And you’ve been walking by my side since then.

Chorus:
You’re ALWAYS HERE for me
As we wander through this life.
You're ALWAYS HERE for me
On a trek through space and time
I can always forge ahead
Because I have you near,
My life's complete because you're ALWAYS HERE.

V2:
The many years
I've walked with you
We've had our share of bumps along the path
But hand in hand
If we stay close
Together we can find our way at last.

(CH)
BR
And lest we think that we've arrived,
There's another destination, just as long as we're alive.
(CH) 

My songwriting assignment for Thursday is a verse and a chorus that meet certain criteria. Since I'm kind of on a roll, I've decided to try to write an entire song by that deadline.

Wish me luck, and keep an eye on me. And tell your friends.

Behind the Scenes

I've been pretty quiet lately, at least the public side of me. It's been almost two weeks since my last blog entry, and I haven't posted anything to SoundCloud since I updated When the Kids Are Gone more than a month ago. Even my Twitter feed has been mostly automated reminders of late. So what's going on?

Well, plenty, actually. I have finished the tune for Always Here, I wrote another song called A Birthday Song (inspired by my cousin in California, who prodded me for a new song by way of Facebook), and I've started on two new songs for my songwriting class.

I also just finished Maps and the Geospatial Revolution, a MOOC from Penn State via Coursera, and that was keeping me busy. And the kids had a week of vacation, which puts a crimp in my work time.

So, sometime soon, maybe even today, there will be a little burst of postings and something new to listen to, and then I'll get back to work on writing.

But if, while I've got my head in my work, and my hands on the keyboard, I seem to have disappeared from the online world, fear not. I'll pop my head up once in awhile.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Back To Basics

I've been struggling with tunes lately. Lyrics are falling into place much more readily than they have in the past, but now the tunes are starting to sound a little worn. I've always been much more a storyteller than a composer, but it didn't matter before when I only wrote a song every few years. Now that I'm writing a song every month or so, it's getting to be a problem.

And it's an ill-timed problem at that, because I'm taking the online Songwriting course from Coursera again, mostly because the deadlines, the feedback, and the chance to connect with other writers keeps me from getting lazy. But it's oriented toward lyrics, not melody writing. And while I'm taking the course, I expect to write more lyrics than usual, I'm going to be looking for some fresh tunes.

I think what I'm going to do is go back to watching the lectures I have from the University of Edinburgh on music theory, and also spend some time on the blog of Gary Ewer, who talks a lot about the music side of songwriting. It's going to be hard to fit it all in (especially because I'll be in the final project week on my maps course at the same time), but I owe it to my new lyrics to give them some solid music.

There are two new songs coming up soon, so stay (pardon the pun) tuned.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Another Setback

I had every intention of doing a quick me-and-my-guitar recording of my new song Always Here today. I was going to carve out a little time in the late morning before it was warm enough to open the windows. Then something came to me.

Now, I should explain that I get up at 5:40 every morning to see my kids off to school. I don't always get to bed at a decent hour, so sometimes I will go back to bed for awhile after they get on the bus. I did that this morning, and the song I had just written started going through my head. And I woke up and said to myself, "You stole that tune."

It reminded me of a story that Billy Joel tells of presenting his wonderful song Moving Out (Anthony's Song) to his band for the first time. When he was finished, they said something on the order of "You schmuck, you just wrote Laughter In the Rain by Neil Sedaka." Try singing the opening lines from Moving Out to that tune, you'll get it. Obviously, he changed the tune, and the rest is musical history.

I fared a little bit better than Mr. Joel in this case, because I stole the tune from myself, from an unfinished song at that. But the tune matches the unfinished song much better than the new one, and so it's back to the drawing board, or the fretboard perhaps, to come up with a new tune.

I don't know if the result will be musical history, but I'll sleep better knowing I've sorted it out.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Anatomy Of an Unfinished Song

Here are the lyrics to song I just finished writing today. Or so I thought.

V1:
When I was young
I lost my way
Traveling on a road that had no end.
But I found you
Along that road
And you’ve been walking by my side since then.

Chorus
You’re ALWAYS HERE for me
Pushing back my darkest days
You're ALWAYS HERE for me
Bringing sunshine into shadows
You let me see the rainbow
And turned my gray skies clear.
My life's complete because you're always here.

V2:
The many years
I've walked with you
We've had our share of bumps along the path
But hand in hand
If we stay close
Together we can find our way at last.

(CH)

BR
And finally when we think that we've arrived,
There's another destination, because we walk to stay alive.

(CH)

It looks finished, right? It's got two verses, a bridge, and a chorus. The verses express a lovely, sweet sentiment, and so does the bridge. And so does the chorus. So what's the problem. Do you see it?

The verses and the bridge are expressing a completely different sentiment than the chorus. The verses are a lovely metaphor about traveling through life together (supported by the bridge), about which the chorus has absolutely nothing to say. Not that the chorus, by itself, is bad. But it doesn't fit (or maybe the verses don't fit; I wrote the chorus first).

I could probably record this and put it up just the way it is, and sing it around the campfire with my favorite critics (mostly because they're not all that critical because they love to jam and want me to stick around) in our trailer club. And maybe no one else but another songwriter would notice.

But I can't just let it stand the way it is. It's the germ of a pretty good song, and if I let it be mediocre our of laziness, then I don't deserve to call myself a songwriter.

So this one isn't quite done. I might do a quick-and-dirty recording of it today just so I don't forget the tune and the chords I'm using, but this one needs some rethinking and rewriting before I go public with it.

I mean, more public than publishing the unfinished lyrics on my blog.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A Change of URL

The former URL of this blog reflected its origins in something I called "The 52-Week Challenge." I abandoned the Challenge, as it was causing too much stress and not enough high-quality work, although it did get me in the habit of writing daily. The blog hasn't changed, and the only consequence is that if you type in the old URL, you will be sent to a blog with only one post, which sends you here. No big deal, I hope.

I't all just part of re-aligning my social media presence, which is one big experiment anyway, to try and build up a cohesive presentation of myself and my work. That in itself is a challenge, with so many and such diverse options at my disposal.

And I thank you for your patience.

The Writer's Curse

It's a slightly nippy morning in New Hampshire, but it's not cold. In fact, the weather has taken a lovely turn and, for the first time for awhile, I'll be opening the windows this afternoon, and we'll indulge in some Spring cleaning. I was walking down the front hall, about to go outside and start taking down Easter decorations (some of which are still buried in snow), when our bulletin board caught my eye. There are a couple of unchecked lottery tickets pinned there.

I know already that the tickets are not big winners, because no one won the grand prize on any of those days. So I'm just making sure I don't throw away a buck. Or five. Or thousands.

And, of course, my writer's brain kicked in. I should explain that my wife and I play the lottery, not with the idea that we will become fabulously wealthy, but just to prod a few dreams here and there. Not even dreams of obscene amounts of money, but just what life might be like if we didn't have to worry about money anymore. The investment is never more than a couple of dollars in a week, and the dividends are a clearer understanding of what we consider important. But I won't go into that here; I was talking about being a writer.

Because, as a writer, my immediate thought wasn't "Oh, wouldn't it be nice to have some extra money." It was "Hmm, I wonder if there's a song in that." So, naturally, I had to go straight to the computer and capture as much of the idea as I could before losing any of it. Fortunately, I had a Chromebox hooked up to my TV so I don't have to climb the stairs or deal with typing on my phone to accomplish this.

But the Easter decorations are still out in the front yard, and I still don't know if any of those tickets are worth anything, because while I was writing down the one song idea, I saw some of my notes for another song, and it sparked a few ideas, and, well, you see the problem.

Which is why my house is never clean. I hope the songs are good enough to make up for that.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

New Web Site

The new, vastly improved version of GSBrooks.com is now up and running. With the weather we've had up here, I decided not to wait for new pictures, so there will be more changes when Spring finally takes hold and I can get out for a little fun photography.

The site will continue to get fleshed out as I add for music, more books, music videos, and more social media options, and some more pictures. I may toy with the colors now and again just because. But now all the links work, and all the ones you need to follow what I doing are there.

If you want to comment on the site (good or bad) you can email me, or comment on my Twitter feed. There will be a couple of Facebook pages coming soon, too, one for my stories, and another for my songs And, of course, links will be provided on my site.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Running Late

I'm working on Web site changes, and they are coming slower than I'd hoped. Part of the problem is that I want to have some new pictures taken for the site, and the weather here in New Hampshire has been less than cooperative. I will either have to wait for the snow to melt (which I'd prefer, because I had in mind some nice shots of me and my old guitar out by one of the lakes in the area), or I'll have to find a suitable indoor location and settle for a different theme.

The copy doesn't come easily either. It's easy to talk about my songs that I particularly like, or even my favorite stories, but I  have trouble bragging on myself. Not that I won't do it, since I do need people to actual read the books and listen to the songs and, on occasion, hire me to make a go of this. But it's not the kind of writing I ordinarily do, and I want to make sure I get it right.

In other news, I will soon be withdrawing Pay Now, Buy Later: The Simple Mathematical Power of Patience from publication. A page-one re-write is in the works, and the new book, due out late this summer, will be titled Pay Now, Buy Later: How Debt Poisons Everything. It will be a broader look at the problems created by debt.

The print versions of my short stories will probably be withdrawn within a couple of weeks, too, to be replaced, when I have a couple of additional stories to publish, by an single book of collected works. I'm doing that because the print versions of the stories are too expensive. The individual stories will still be available in the Kindle Store, and there will be a Kindle version of the collection as well.

And just a reminder that you don't have to own a Kindle device in order to read Kindle books. Applications are available for Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS, and you can use the cloud reader on pretty much any Web-connection computer. I was just reading a book on my Chromebox and the cloud reader works very well indeed.

Thanks for following along. I'll make it worth your while soon. It's going to be a busy summer.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spreading My Wings

I'm venturing out into some new social media venues, starting with ReverbNation, where I've now uploaded two of my songs. I've yet to decide how ReverbNation and SoundCloud are going to work together for promoting and sharing my music, so things are bound to change radically and frequently as I explore.

I'm spending a lot of time working on my new Website version, which I don't think will be quite ready for April 1, but should arrive about a week or so in (I'll be traveling over the Easter weekend to be with family, which slows the writing process a bit). That will help me correct a couple of broken links in addition to expanding the amount of information available in the site.

And, of course, I'm still writing. Two songs in active development now, the novel (for some time to come), and a new short story I'm just getting started on.

So stick with me. Good stuff coming soon!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sprung

Here it is, the first full day of Spring. The ice here in New Hampshire is just beginning to melt, and I'm finally thawing out myself. The husky cough is almost gone, and I've started exercising my voice again. I expect that I will soon be recording the complete lyrics to When the Kids Are Gone.

And, of course, there are other projects in the works. I'm concentrating a lot of attention on my novel for young people, the first in a series of an indeterminate number of parts. And I'm working harder on my songs.

I'm also working harder on recording my songs. I'm in the process of setting up a better studio space, including a quieter, deader place to record vocals and acoustic guitar. And, as I mentioned last time, I have my new DAW to work with.

I'm planning on putting out an album, simply produced, of my recent songs, and making them available as both CD and downloads. If I get a good response from that, I may set up a crowd funding project for a more ambitious recording project. More about that if it starts looking viable.

And there will soon be more places to find me; I'll be trying out some of the other social media and music hosting sites to see if they actually increase my exposure enough to pay back the time I will need to invest in them. Stay tuned here for links.

One more thing before I retire for the night: there will be a new version of my Website launched before then end of the month. Also simply produced, but I hope more useful than the current version.

I'm excited about all the changes, and I hope the changes will give more people a chance to be excited about my work.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Licensed

While I was taking an online course entitled Survey Of Music Technology, I downloaded an evaluation copy of the digital audio workstation called Reaper as part of the course. I used it during the course, and found it to be exceptionally versatile, especially combined with Georgia Tech's development engine known as Earsketch.

But after the class was over, and I was onto my old songwriting ways, I sort of forgot about Reaper, relying for my down-and-dirty demo recordings for ocenaudio and Garage Band.

But now I'm trying to record more sophisticated demos, and I decided I needed to step up my game a little, so I went ahead a bought a license for Reaper. Which is really cheap. Unless you are a professional studio, the license is only $60. That's the best creative bargain I've seen since Apple Motion.

And aside from being a great DAW, combined with Earsketch it's also an amazing tool for experimenting with algorithmic composition and the incorporation of normally non-musical sounds into my work. And listening to some of the assignments I did for the Music Tech class, I'm very much looking forward to getting back into that.

Just as a sample of what I'm talking about, here are two things I created while learning to use Reaper and Earsketch:






Not much like my usual songwriting, I know. But that's more or less the point: to break me out of old habits and shake up my creativity a little. Or a lot.

As an aside, I haven't recorded anything new in a long time—even the finished version of When the Kids Are Gone—because I've been sick with a very husky cough. It's not even that my voice sounds that bad; it's just that I can't get through more than a few lines without coughing.

But Spring is coming fast to New Hampshire, and I expect to shake the cough very soon. And then I'll be spending a lot of time in front of the microphone. And with my new DAW.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Defining Storytelling

Recently I've been taking an online course in geospatial intelligence, the gathering of geographic and related data for use in decision-making. It sounds a bit out of my field, and to be sure, I'm not planning that kind of career change this late in life.

But aside from just being a fascinating subject, I've found that knowing how to use location-based information enhances my storytelling. I've used it to research locations where my story might be set. It's no substitute for actually visiting a place, but it serves well for minor settings, and to remind me of features I might have forgotten from places I haven't seen in awhile (as well as keeping me up on changes).

But it's also broadened my idea of what storytelling is. I'd always thought of storytelling in the narrative sense, something told from beginning to end, with words (mostly), pictures, and sounds. And now that I think of it, that’s a funny way for one of the pioneers of interactive media to think. So it’s good that I’ve started thinking more about non-linear storytelling.

One of the courses I took some time ago produced this map, an exploration of one of the walks near my home using tools provided in the ArcGIS system. Although it has a natural order, from the start to the finish of the walk, it also invites the user to explore whatever catches his or her fancy from the thumbnails or the satellite imagery. During this latest course, I’ve begun to think about how I could incorporate sound and motion into this idea.

But this is just one small example of non-linear storytelling. Following leads where they take you is at the heart of how we explore the World Wide Web, and it seems that there might be other ways to let people defined their own story experience as they go.

If they want to. There’s still plenty of room for the guided tour, in real life or metaphorically in the form of a standard narrative book, movie, song, or play. Even interactive fiction usually has either a single ending or a limited number of possible endings.

But the popularity of games like Minecraft shows that there is a place in audiences’ lives for a self-defined experience. I think there’s a place in my life for trying to provide at least a small amount of it. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Home-Based Writer?

I usually tell people I work from home, and sure, I still spend the majority of my working hours at home, in front of my keyboard or sitting at the kitchen table with the thesaurus and the rhyming dictionary, or (not often enough these days) in front of my green screen.

But I have a family with an unpredictable schedule, which gets me out of the house even when I don't want to be. There are fun things like basketball games, but there are less fun things like dentist appointments that sometimes have me sitting somewhere with time on my hands.

That's when I appreciate technology. I'm writing this post, for example, from the waiting room of a dentist's office on my Kindle Fire 6.

Of course, writers never really stop writing; even if they are not taking pen to paper or fingers to keyboard (or index finger to virtual keyboard), everything reminds us of our current book or song, or suggests a new story altogether.

In this age of tech, though, it's easier than ever to capture and organize those ideas wherever I happen to be.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sorting Through the Bookcase

From time to time, I sift through the books on my bookshelf, mostly to free up space because I have books stacked in front of other books and flowing out onto tables and occasionally even the floor. So, in order to find the books I need and avoid tripping hazards, I weed out the ones that, if I’m honest with myself, I know I won’t read, or read again, or refer to.

And this exercise turns out to be more than weeding books; it’s weeding activities. It’s deciding on priorities, and separating mere interests from passions. Not that I have anything against broad interests, but at age 58 you start to realize that it’s important to spend more time on passions. And so books about things I’m interested in but will never learn go off to the library book sale, along with novels that don’t excite me as much as others.

I learn a lot about myself during these purges. This time around, I managed to do some organizing by subject, too. That way I could move the books I need the most to the most accessible areas. Books on writing and reference books got the top spot, right at the end of one shelf, so that I can get to them easily (although my rhyming dictionary and thesaurus, constant companions during the middle phase of my lyric writing, hardly ever make it to the shelf and spend more time at the kitchen table).

Next to them on the shelf are my books on filmmaking. Screenwriting books go with writing books, because it all starts with the story no matter what the medium, but when I finally get myself back behind a camera, I have good references on lighting and sound design that I want close at hand.

Of course, there are lots of other subjects—computers, theater, economics, science, music, art, and magic, to name a few—and my lineup of fiction that I’m going to read. But after this evening, there’s a box of books that represent subjects that I feel I just don’t have time for in my life right now.

And a clear path to the subjects I do have time for.

Friday, January 9, 2015

How Did That Happen?

Somehow, 2015 snuck up on me, tiptoed past me, and never even said "boo" on its way through. It's already nine days into this new year, and the only thing that seems to have changed is the weather in New Hampshire, which was ridiculously warm during the holidays, and suddenly tripped and fell into negative territory, like the weather equivalent of a stock market crash.

The date is, of course, arbitrary, though the western world has been celebrating our trip around the sun on January 1 for a couple of millennia. And so, though I have no particular connection to Ancient Rome (or perhaps I do; likely anyone with English ancestors has Roman ancestors as well), I go along with the crowd and rethink my life and work at this particular period of time each year.

2015 came in inauspiciously; my lovely wife had work on the first, and so we didn't even stay up to usher in the first day. And though I usually have my plans for the coming year drafted before the magic hour, a hectic holiday season, which began with a Thanksgiving devoid of electricity, pushed everything down the road a bit.

But better late than never, as the cliche goes. I may not have firmed up my plans, but I know that they include a young adult novel, first in a series; at least a dozen songs; an album of my own singing (is the world ready for that?); several short stories; and a feature-length screenplay, at least the first draft.

I'll be back doing videos some time soon, too, though I'm still figuring out what, exactly, those are going to be.

So I make it sound, at any rate, like I've got the coming year all mapped out. But it's an illusion. And it doesn't matter really what the plan is; what matters are the results.

And if you're curious about those, keep reading, follow me on Twitter, and check out the Website.

Should be an interesting ride.