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.

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.

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.

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.


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


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.