Friday, December 30, 2016

Just Write

It has been a weird year. Sure, for all the usual reasons—a contentious election, the loss of many wonderful people, Brexit, senseless shootings, and on and on—but it's also been a weird year for me and my family. I don't need to go into all the personal details, but one of the weirdest things about this year is something I rarely mention on this blog: the publication of The Earth Is Not Flat and the aftermath of its release.

Now, before you click away thinking "Oh no, not this flat-Earth garbage again," let me assure you that I'm not going to start a rant here about the flat-Earth. This entry is about writing and how unexpected things influence that process.

When I published the book in February, I had done perhaps eight months of research, and I thought I had a pretty good handle on the subject. I figured I would put the book out, do some promotion to let people know about it, and move on. So I released the book, set up a Twitter account, and started posting promotional tweets, and made a few comments here and there.

And in a short while, I'd discovered something unexpected: that I'd written the wrong book. Not that I think that the book I wrote is bad, but there is more to the story than I realized. You see, when I was doing my early research, I was just "some guy" who the flat-Earthers were trying to convince of the "truth." But after the publication of the book, I was "that guy" who wrote the book proclaiming the whole flat-Earth "movement" to be nonsense, and all of a sudden I saw a different side to the flat-Earth followers with much broader implications concerning scientific literacy, media skepticism, and the ease in the Internet age of spreading patent nonsense.

So, to jump ahead before this post becomes a book, I'm re-writing the book. It's not my first priority. After all, I already have a flat-Earth book out there, it's selling okay, and the blog that goes with it gets an astounding (considering how little promotion I do) 11K hits a month, something I'd rather see happening to, say, my songs on SoundCloud. But I have other projects that I want to finish first.

And that's what I was trying to do last night, when I sat down for a late writing session after spending the day preparing for an impending storm. I sat at the computer, the notes for the revised outline of my juvenile mystery story in front of me, and I started to play with it. And I couldn't get anywhere.

Now, my rule for writing sessions is "just write." Write garbage if you have to, or if you can't do that (and I generally try to avoid it when outlining), write something else. And the something else that popped into my head was the new version of The Earth Is Not Flat. Good grief. But the new book is now about 1500 words richer, and the mystery is being, well, mysterious. But it's better than not writing at all.

Still, there are times when I wish I had never head of the flat Earth. I think I might have another book out there, and several more songs, But sometimes there are things that can't quite let you go, things that intrigue you or make you mad or make you want to scream "stop!"

But maybe when the new version is done, I'll be able to leave it behind and get on with everything else. Meanwhile, when I'm stuck, I'll still follow my own rule and "just write."

Monday, November 28, 2016

Wasted Day

I wasted a whole day of sunshine. Or, maybe not. It depends on how you look at it. I'm expecting cold, wet weather for the next three days, so I supposed that I should have been out in the rare sunshine working on the back deck to get it ready for the even colder wet weather to come. But I didn't do that.

In part it was because of an ambitious craft project that my wife and I are doing for the local library for the month of December. But mostly it was because I got inspired. I promised myself I would sit down and at least review a few of the songs and stories I've been slowly working on so that, when I had a bit more time during the foul weather in the week to come, I could get some serious work done.

And one of the songs spoke to me. I've had the lyrics for the first two verses for nearly a year, could see where the subject matter was headed for the bridge and the third verse (it's AABA form), but the lyrics just wouldn't come.

Today they started coming. Not in a big rush like the chorus to When the Kids Are Gone did, but enough that I opened the rhyming dictionary and starting listing potential rhymes, wrote a couple of really horrible lines that will eventually lead me to better ones, and flashed on a way to improve the music, substantially.

And the day's not over yet. Well, the sunshine is. No deck work today. But the juices are flowing and I think this is going to spill over into my other writing for the rest of the evening.

Damn, it feels good.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Contested

At the last minute, for reasons of indecision and then technical issues with the cables in my recording workflow, I have once again entered the Great American Song Contest. Last year I submitted Bad News Always Comes In the Mail, and earned a Finalist award (which gives me the right to use the badge on my site, which I've yet to do because of all the other stuff that's been going on).

This year I decided on a less safe choice, Nickled and Dimed. I consider it less safe because it doesn't feel like a commercial song. It harkens back to the protest songs of the 60s, or even the 40s (and in fact, if you've heard the song, you might recognize a tribute to Tom Glazers A Dollar Ain't a Dollar Anymore in the lyrics). But, I think it's among my strongest songs lyrically, it's very popular with my little group of fans, and it's my wife's favorite, and she's a tough critic.

I put it in the Singer/Songwriter category, since there was no Political or Protest categories (I'd have been shocked—and delighted—had there been one of those). So we'll see how that works out. I'm not holding my breath, not because I don't think I have a chance, but because the judging doesn't finish until the spring, and I have far more to do than wait for contest results.

Like making sure those cable issues don't happen again so that I can get back to recording.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Play's the Thing

In two nights, I open as General Harrison Howell in the Village Players' production of Kiss Me Kate. It's a fun play, but not an easy one, with lots of complex songs, and killer scene and costume changes. I'm lucky on that score. I only have one song onstage, though the director asked me to lend my voice to some of the others from the wings, and I have only one costume, since, unlike many in the cast, my character is decidedly not in the play-within-the-play.

It's the first musical I've done in a couple of years, and it feels good to stretch my singing in a way that only musical theater does. Especially with a demanding (though lovable) music director who won't let us get away with being lazy. That' just the way I like it, and I'm already proud of what I've been able to make my voice do. Getting to sing with the leading lady, whose voice is nothing short of spectacular, is an added bonus.

If you happen to be in central New Hampshire this weekend or next, buy some tickets and give us a look. We promise the best show we can possible do. Details can be found at the Village Players website.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Heading Into Winter

It snowed today in New Hampshire. Nothing that stuck to the ground, and nothing to panic about, but a reminder that I will soon be spending a lot more of my time indoors. Except, of course, for the time I have to spend removing snow from the driveway.

This winter I'm going to try very hard to finish a lot of unfinished projects. It's been a tough year for finishing, interrupted by health issues (mine and family's), a death in the family which took me to California, and changes around the house (that are positive changes, but time-consuming).

I think that's why more successful careers in writing and music and movies are started when one is young, before there are so many obligations. But here I am. I can't be younger, don't want to be single, love being a Dad (though looking forward to being the Dad of adult children who are at least somewhat on their own), and so I will make what I can of this new career attempt, and reach as many people with my stories and music as I can manage.

But, of course, to do that, I have to finish them. So it's more time at the screen, writing, recording, editing, mixing, mastering, book formatting, and all the other things that go into creating something finished, something that's ready for prime time.

Ready for you. With thanks for sticking with me, reading my blog, and occasionally making your way over to SoundCloud to listen to my music or over the Amazon to read my stories. I do appreciate it, and I hope to show that appreciation by giving you more. Very soon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Branding

This is an exciting time to be a songwriter and performer. I think. But it's also a pretty confusing time. Yes, there are lots of opportunities that didn't really exist before for people who, like me, don't really have to option to move to (or in my case, move back to) one of the major centers of music publishing activity to have a shot at a career in music.

Because without having to make a big breakthrough, it's possible, at least in theory, to find an audience that will sustain you, or at least help sustain you, from the fruits of your artistic labor.

The question, of course, is how. For an old guy like me, it's pretty daunting. Not because I'm not tech savvy—I've been using computers since the 70s and creating Web pages since the 90s, and I know my way around a great deal of the tech stuff.

But this whole idea of having to build a brand for myself is new to me. I've been working on behalf of someone else's brand most of my working life, and not in a marketing capacity. So, although I know how to put together a Web page, and the mechanics of navigating the likes of Twitter and Pinterest and Facebook don't phase me, actually using the Internet to attract attention to myself is something I'm completely green at.

And the so-called expert on audience-building sometimes have good advice, and sometimes not, and the people, at least in the music business, who seem to be best at audience-building are the ones who are too busy making music and building audiences to spend much time telling the rest of us how.

And, of course, it's different for everyone. Something that worked for a cute college woman who's songs resonate with a young audience may not work for an old guy who appeals (I hope) to his contemporaries, with songs that speak to the kind of experience that comes from having spent several decades on the planet.

So I'll be stumbling my way through this, trying different things, to see what works and what doesn't. I'll be discarding things wholesale if they waste my time and don't increase the number of people who read my stories and listen to my songs (even if they do get me a lot of "likes" and "followers"; that's why I left ReverbNation). And, if I can, I'll step things up if they get people to give me a little of their time.

I hope you'll be one of those. In fact, if you're reading this now, stop reading and head over to my SoundCloud account and do some listening, or to my YouTube channel where you can get to see me with guitar in hand, if that thrills you at all.

Because when I comes down to it, the whole point of all of this writing and singing and video-making is lost if there is no audience.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

And One More Time

Here is the third of the back-deck recordings:


I'll be getting out the guitars and the cameras and the recorder again as soon as I've found a space that's quiet enough and won't make me melt in the humid New Hampshire weather.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Here's the Next One: "Always Here"

Here is the second song I recorded on the back deck:


This was one of my "one-day" songs, and my favorite from among those. It didn't really happen all in one day, of course; especially this one, since I ended up completely re-writing the chorus. But the basic structure of the song was laid out in a single day.

More about my one-day songs in this post. Meanwhile, I hope you are enjoying the music.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Another New Video: "She Works So Hard"

Editing went well, and I have a new video on YouTube, the on-the-back-deck recording of one of my most recent songs, "She Works So Hard."


This one has a short recounting of the story of my Gibson acquisition tacked onto the front. The other two songs will be posted over the course of the next week.

This worked out well; I'm probably going to do it again. Since I will soon run out of my own songs that I know how to play with just the guitar and myself, and because it seems to increase exposure for musicians on YouTube, I will probably be recording some covers before too long.

There is a risk to this. If you record a song that is not approved for such situations, there is the possibility of a copyright strike. But I think I need to take this step, and I would appreciate feedback from anyone who's been down this road before.

Meanwhile, back to writing, arranging, and video editing.

And life, of course.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Decked Out

About two weeks ago, as an unexpected anniversary gift, my wife let me buy a camp guitar. I have been taking my old guitar from my teen-hood camping, but I've often worried about the temperature extremes, stray embers, and drunk friends in the company of a guitar that I've had for nearly 45 years.

The camp guitar was purchased used for $50. It's a Gibson Maestro Concert, not an expensive guitar to begin with, but it sounds pretty good. Good enough, in fact, that I thought I might try to play a little on-camera music using it.

The inside of my house is a shambles right now. Summer is the time when all the construction gets done on our perpetually-unfinished house, and so everything is torn apart and, to say the least, not photogenic. So, I decided to take to the great outdoors and shoot and record on our (also under-construction) back deck.

I set up two cameras, and my Zoom H2 Handy Recorder. I've taken to shooting double-system because I don't have any camera that has a good mic, or that will take an external mic. Someday, maybe.

I used my son, a bit taller than me, as a stand-in, set the cameras rolling, kicked him off the deck (he tends to talk too much), and sat down with the guitar. I turned on the sound, and started playing the three songs I planned to record today.

After I had played a bit, I started thinking that the whole thing would be an unusable disaster. There were cars and big trucks passing on the road, and leaves rustling, and even kids playing on the nearby beach. But, as the camera were rolling and the guitar was in my hands anyway, I went ahead and played the three songs, even re-doing the third one a couple of times until I was satisfied with my performance.

Then I took everything down, packed it up, and headed for my computer to first listen to the audio, with the idea that if it was unusable I wouldn't even bother keeping the video files.

And, much to my surprise, the audio wasn't that bad. Yes, the noises are there in the background, and they are the kind of noises that noise cancellation doesn't do well with, but they don't actually hurt the recording so much. Score one for the H2!

The video isn't great; when I lined up the shot, I forgot to allow for the difference in aspect ratio between the camera in still mode and the camera in video mode, so the aim is a bit low, cutting off my head. But it works well enough to do what I intended, which was to show off the Gibson.

And, frankly, to get me out of neutral and start me getting out in front of the camera, and maybe some live audiences other than my camp buddies.

The first purpose was well-fulfilled. The Gibson was very good in the recording. As to the second purpose, only time will tell.

The first video should be up by tomorrow, late morning or early afternoon. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ready To Record

I received, in the mail from Amazon.com, a ridiculously cheap and simple USB MIDI interface cable. figuring I had little to lose if it didn't work. Well, it does. In fact, it's completely plug-and-play, even on my Mac, which is saying something in this Windows-oriented world. (Don't think so? Heck even the auto-correct on my iPhone wants to capitalize windows when I'm just trying to write a note to myself about washing those glass-paned things in my house.)

In fact, getting my Mac to recognize and use the interface took far less time than learning how to configure MIDI in my DAW, Reaper (I also use GarageBand for simple loop-based editing, about which more in a minute). It's not that the configuration doesn't make sense (though, having upgraded recently, I've had to deal with some changes); there are just a lot of options.

Cabling is turning out to be an interesting issue, because I have a lot of older gear and it's pretty spread out in my attic studio; something tells me that I will be spending a fair bit of time swapping cables and plugging in mating connectors to get sound and MIDI to and from my keyboards. But I'll make it work.

And once I have it all figured out, or maybe before I have it all figured out, I'll start re-recording one of my songs with the goal of releasing it for sale. Scary, huh?

First up is Disconnected, because I already have a good idea of how I want that arrangement to go, and because a lot of what I've already done forms a pretty solid foundation for what I hope to end up with. In case you haven't heard it, here's the current version of Disconnected:



I think it's got a lot going for it. It needs a different vocal, and some variation, and tracks that sound more human and not completely computer-based. Not that synthesized music is bad, but this song, it seems to me, needs something with a little more of that personal touch (unlike the robot's portions of Perfect Little Robot, which cry out to be soulless, if such a thing is possible.)

This was recorded in GarageBand, but I think I may be bringing it over to the more powerful Reaper for the final recording. I like GarageBand's note editor, and the selection of loops, and the ease of doing loop-based editing, but for the final product, I need to extra control that I get with a full-Fledged DAW.

Not that I'll abandon GarageBand altogether for final recordings. I will probably use it when I rerecord Perfect Little Robot, because I like the robot voice I created for that using GarageBand, and I'm not sure how to get the same effect in Reaper.

Am I up to this task? I have no idea. I've never done anything like this before. But I'm a pretty fast learner, and I'm excited about the challenge. You'll hear a sample of the result if I manage it, though to hear the whole song you'll have to pony up a few pennies. It's time for the songs to pay the piper.

Meanwhile, I think a new song or two will be on the way before I manage to put Disconnected in the can. Stay with me; I'm getting back in the swing.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Overcoming Intertia

I am slowly getting myself back into the habit of writing. I spent a good part of the winter unable to work effectively because of health problems. But now I'm fit, reasonably well-rested (for an old man that still has children in school), and ready to get back to work.

At least I think I am. The biggest problem is that I seem to be, well, out of practice.

I expect to be out of practice when I don't pick up my guitar or sit down at the piano for a long stretch of time, just as I expect to be out of shape when I haven't walked or been on the treadmill for an extended period.

But I didn't expect my creative muscles to atrophy. Well, not atrophy, exactly. It isn't as if I have no creative ideas. But the flow seems to be harder to achieve than it was a few months ago, the last time I had some serious, productive writing sessions.

Sure, there are lots of distractions, habits you get into that involve something other than writing, especially when health gets you behind on life and not just your work. But I thought I would be able, when I did sit down without any other distractions, to put fingers to keyboard and start writing.

Especially because I have always given myself permission to write junk. You see, if you don't give yourself permission to do really bad writing, you'll choke. Nothing you write for the first time will seem good enough to commit to paper (or computer screen), and you'll edit as you go.

My solution to this is to just say "write what comes next, and hang quality; you'll get it right on the second (or third, or tenth) pass." And not only has this worked well for me, but I have found that, absent the restraints of trying to write my best prose the first time, I actually write a lot that I can use in the final draft. Much to my surprise.

Songwriting is somewhat different. I still allow myself to write junk, but there is no "what comes next." In songwriting, it's looking over all the notes and pouncing or whatever portion stands out, or sparks and idea, or (if I'm being really good) establishes the structure that I can hand the rest of the song on.

But I haven't been able to get into the swing of it in the last couple of weeks. Something always pulls my mind away. I've been spending too much time going after flat-Earthers, not because it sells books (I'm happy to say that the subject is as unpopular in reality as I hope it might be), but because it's easy, feels more productive than it is, and is low-hanging fruit.

That's just the sort of temptation I need to avoid if I'm going to get back to those periods, of which there have been many over the past few years, when the work seemed to come easily, not without work, but without having to remind myself where my priorities were. That time produced some of my very best songs, and a non-fiction book I'm very proud of.

Now I just need to get that magic back. I don't think it was a fluke. I think it was all about sitting myself down and practicing every day, just like I do with the guitar and the piano.

Will I succeed? Well, you'll know, one way or the other, if you just stick around.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Still Here. Honest.

Okay. Mid-April passed, and so did mid-May, and nothing new to show you. Sorry about that. More health issues, and not just my own. But I'm better, everyone else is better, and I'm back to work. I reconfigured my workstation to make it easier to edit video and record music. I've decided to concentrate more time on arranging and recording my existing songs. Not more time than on writing, just more time than I have been.

I think I've been avoiding that because, in the field of arranging, I'm a complete beginner. But you have to start somewhere, right? And I'm lucky enough that, as this old dog tries to learn some new tricks, I have some amazing technology at my disposal. Not to mention access to the minds of a lot of people, via the Internet, with a lot more experience that there are (thank you so much) willing to share.

So, I'm back at it. Just today, I wrote out a prose version of a song I'm very excited about. It won't come quickly; it's a very complex topic and it cries to be done just right, but it's happening (though I think it's time for one or two one-day songs soon). I added a substantial amount to the book I'm writing. And, amazingly, I still like it.

Finding some quiet time to work on song recording is a bit of a challenge, but I have a lot of work to do with directly-connected instruments before I need to worry too much about outside noise.

So bear with me, let you friends know about the songs and books I already have out there (the books could use a little review love, since I have some flat-Earth stalkers trying to do in my ratings), and stand by. There's good stuff in the queue.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Getting Back To Work

I'm feeling better, and although I have a lot of catching up to do in my regular work and home life, I am getting back to writing and, in fits and starts, songwriting.

The songwriting feels like it hit a brick wall, and rather then continuing to run into it, I've decided to take a break from the songs I was working on and try some of my other ideas. Next week I may even try another one-day-song.

I'm also editing a video that my wife and I shot of (mostly) her making "putz" houses, little paper houses for Christmas decorations. They were a lot of fun to make, and I think anyone with a love of crafts, or kids who love crafts, will enjoy the process.

That's enough to keep me busy for now, and with any luck you'll start seeing the results of my efforts by mid-April. Hope you'll come have a look.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Health Break

I'm having some minor health problems, which have slowed down my creative work these past couple of weeks. Nothing terribly serious, but painful and tiring enough to be very distracting. I did manage to post another song, When the Kids Are Gone:


I've been writing when I can, but it's a bit hard to concentrate. I expect I'll be back to my normal self soon, and I have lots of things I'm anxious to get to. Songs, and stories, and some movie-making, I hope.

I'm also working on two projects with my wife, one involving dollhouse miniatures, and the other our adventures in working our way toward our retirement, not so far in the future, when the kids are, in fact, gone, and we are ready to scale down our living space so that we can spend less time looking after and paying for a house, and more time on our art.

As those develop, I'll link to them here. Not quite in the same vein as my songs and stories, but still, I hope, very interesting.

Stay tuned.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Here I Go Again

As promised, another video of me singing on YouTube. This time, it's Wake Up Call.


And a little bonus of sorts. I've decided to put up some of the songs that I can't just play and sing on the guitar. For the first one, I just used iTunes Visualizer to create the background. It's my most recent experimental piece, Random Pentatonic Inspirations.



More on the way soon!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Getting My Feet Wet

Okay, it's not as if I've never been on camera before. Not only do I have a few videos on YouTube of me talking, but I've actually been on TV. Me. Singing. In 1977. But I haven't publicly sang on camera since then.

Until now. I bit the bullet, set up a camera and my Zoom H2, and did some singing and playing. And, trying to quell my inner critic, I posted the first part of it on YouTube yesterday. And here it is.


Nothing fancy, just one continuous shot of me singing Bad News Always Comes In the Mail. I'm hoping to expose my songs to a wider audience by using YouTube and not just SoundCloud. There's more on the way.

And, in case you were wondering, the TV appearance was on The Gong Show. I sang Don McLean's Vincent (Starry, Starry Night). I won.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Finish Lines

If I had grown up later, I think I would have been diagnosed with some kind of attention-deficit condition. At times in my life it has served me well. Directing, for example, demands the ability the shift gears constantly and without warning. Writing, though, not so much.

I always have a lot of different projects in the works, and always of different types. Songs and books and scripts, and I jump back and forth between them. It's like running against myself in a race, leaping from lane to lane, and not knowing which runner I'm actually supposed to be at any moment.

Problem is, I have a little trouble getting to the finish line these days. Okay, I did just finish an 18,000-word book, which I just submitted a print version of. So I haven't been completely stuck on the track.

But I have a number of things that are almost finished. I just need a couple of lines here or there, or a refinement to the tune, or a good sit-down with the outline to bang out the meat of the story.

But I also have projects that have just left the gate. They beckon to me daily, telling me that I have not paid attention to them for an inordinate amount of time, and they're good ideas, things I really want to get moving on. But it's hard to run to the finish line when you're dallying around at the start.

I'll get over it. I've done it before many times. I'll be pulled this way and that, with no idea what I should be concentrating on at any moment. And then, without any particular warning, it will start falling into place. I'll get a good pace going and, no matter how many lanes I'm running, I'll pull ahead on most of them and produce some real work.

It's coming soon. I can feel it. But it's trying my patience.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

New Randomness

I was doing a little testing today to see if I could come up with some shooting situation in my forever-under-contruction house that looked and sounded good enough to finally put some of my music on YouTube. (I know, I could just put the music against a still background, but what's the point?)

The results look okay, but I'm not sure how they sound. When I've evaluated it, I may decide it's good enough to post. I've seen much worse on YouTube, and maybe I'm being too picky.

But that's not what this post is about. While I had the microphone out, I decided to do something that I've been meaning to do for a couple of weeks: replace the beat components of my random algorithmically-generated composition, title Random Pentatonic Inspirations, which was created using Georgia Tech's Earsketch online programming environment.

Of course, as I mentioned when the posted the original, it's not the same tune this time; every time the program is run, many random decisions determine what the final product will be. This is the latest result:




I don't know how much time I'm going to be spending on randomly-generated music, although I think I might, as a challenge, consider trying to write a song to a random track. But the tools that I used to create the music have many non-random uses, and I'll be revisiting them often, especially as I work on the album that will include the work based on the Animal Crossing experiment I posted before.

The tools available to musicians with little or no budget continue to amaze me. I'm an old guy, after all, and back in the day it took me a very long time to save up to buy a Tascam Portastudio, which recorded on cassette tapes, gave me four tracks, and offered very little in the way of control or effects.

Now, for the price of having a computer (which I also use for writing, filmmaking, marketing, and so many other things), and a small investment in software, I have tools I could never have dreamed of when I first started writing songs.

It's a good time to be a creator.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Dollar Tree Finds

Sometimes you find the most useful things in unexpected places. I made a video awhile ago about a tripod mount I found for my phone, which was actually just part of a selfie stick from The Dollar Tree. Here's the video:


I've been using two of these for test shoots for what I hope will become my first music video. Nothing fancy, just me singing on camera, but I need to make sure I have enough light, a background that's not too distracting, and a way to record decent sound.

But back to The Dollar Tree. While I was there just a few days ago buying snacks for my family, I did what I always do: browse the electronic aisle looking for cheap charging cables. And my eyes locked onto something unexpected. A remote trigger cable for a cell phone camera.

It said it worked on iPhone, and for only a buck it was sure worth a try. I took it home, plugged it in, and sure enough, it works like a charm. As with the tripod mount, it's not very well made, and so I don't know how long it will hold out. Because of that, I'll buy at least one more if they have them the next time I go back (I live in the sticks, and so I don't make trips to the store for just one thing).

What did I want it for? Well, when you have a phone clamped to a tripod mount that only cost a dollar, there's a good chance that tapping the screen to take a photo or start a video might move the camera. Now I don't have to worry about that.

There are bargains to be had, even for filmmakers, if you just keep your eyes open.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Almost Forget To Tell You

I put up a couple of new experimental tracks on SoundCloud, and I completely forget to announce them.

The first is the final assignment for my final taking of Survey Of Music Technology course. It's code-generated using Earsketch (which is now pretty much exclusively online), and nearly all of the choices for beat pattern, note interval, and backing chord are randomly generated, within certain parameters.

I plan on making a new version of this with my own beat components, since I really couldn't find anything I thought set the mood for the music in the libraries I had available. Still, it's a pretty interesting piece:




Of course, the next time I generate it, the tune will be different.

The next experimental piece I did was a test to teach me how to use the output from the instruments in the video game Animal Crossing: City Folk and mix it together into a composition. This isn't even close to a complete piece of music, but there are already some things I like, and some things I discovered that will make my job easier when I'm composing the real music.



I particularly like the way the strings work together. I recorded the music on a WiiU game pad straight into my Zoom H2 Handy Recorder, cut the individual segment apart in ocenaudio, and imported the music in Reaper. I expected to have to do beat detection on everything, but luckily the game plays back at precisely 120 BPM, so I'm not even going to have to worry about it.

I'm back to playing around with Animal Crossing this week, while I'm also working on three almost-complete-but-not-quite songs. And recording, and writing, and trying to do some kind of music video for YouTube when I can find a quiet place to shoot.

Letting the Flat Earth Book Sail

The Earth Is Not Flat is available in the Kindle Store. It's out there for the world to see, and aside from formatting a print version and perhaps a new cover, and a little promotion here and there, I'm pretty much done with it.

And as far as this blog is concerned, it's the last you'll hear. I'm moving any reference to flat Earth to my new blog and my new Twitter account, so that you don't have to hear about it.

If you're curious, you can follow those other social media outlets, or buy the book, but here on Let Me Tell You a Story, I'm back to talking about music and stories and movies.

You know, the things that really matter.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Flat Earth Book?

Once I've gotten a bit of editing done, formatted the interior, and created the cover, I will be publishing another book. It will probably appear within the next week or so. And the title is: The Earth Is Not Flat.

Sounds like it might be a good title for a science fiction novel, right? Or an allegorical story commenting on the poor state of education. But, no; it's non-fiction.

As I briefly mentioned in November, and wrote about last July in the blog Synapticality, I first encountered the latest members of the (literal and figurative) flat-Earth society on YouTube some months ago. I was aghast at the shallowness of their thought processes, and their tenacious refusal to do the most basic research before making pronouncements and providing "proof."

I commented. I tried to stave off the flood of poor logic, not so much to save the already converted, but to shield those who seemed to be latching onto the idea as some kind of rebellious triumph over "the man."

It's been tiring, though, and so I thought it best to put as much of it down in book form as I could, put it out in the world, and then move on to the next thing.

I'm sure having a book on the subject will get me lots of email and comments on other social media that I need to answer, but I'm done seeking out flat-Earth nonsense to try to fight it.

I have too many other projects in the works that I don't find nearly so depressing.

Look for the announcement soon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Friends and Fans and Followers

I'm relatively new at this whole social-media thing, and so I don't really know much about getting followers. And, oddly enough, I'm not sure that I should care.

I'm on Facebook, Pinterest, SoundCloud, YouTube, and Twitter. That's pretty much my whole social media presence. Generally speaking, when someone follows me on Facebook, they tend to stick around. Same with Pinterest and SoundCloud. The Facebook followers are mostly personal friends and acquaintances, the Pinterest follower mostly connect with the subject of one of my boards, and the SoundCloud followers are interested in hearing whatever tracks I'm coming up with next.  I have almost no YouTube subscribers, but that's because I haven't done much there of late.

But Twitter is a different story. Oh, yes, the followers I have now are mostly people who have some interest in what I'm posting, how my songs and stories are going, or what's happening in my life. But those are the ones who stick around. Twitter followers comes and go like crazy. Why? Because somewhere in the litany of the social media experts, someone came up with the idea that the way to get followers is to follow others.

But if you're only following someone to get them to follow back, what good is that doing anyone? Most of the new followers I get are people who promise more followers, or sell books on social media, or who give inspirational seminars. Stuff like that. I'm not interested in that, and so I don't follow back.

And, sure enough, a couple of days later, they'll unfollow me. I supposed I should be devastated. Think of those follower numbers I could have built up if I'd just followed back and let my Twitter feed get clogged up with their sales pitches.

What good does that do anyone? I'm not going to buy their products, and is anyone really going to follow them (and buy their products) just because they have more followers? I don't think so.

And if I spend my time trying to get more followers and friends, then I'm not spending the time writing stories and songs, and finally getting out there and making some videos. Because the point of this, really, is to get fans. People who are waiting for my next book, my new song, or to see if I will ever get back to making videos.

And in the end, it's not a numbers game. It's a relationship, a dialogue, between me and the people who are willing to spend a little of their time (and, occasionally, a little money) to hear, watch, or read what I make.

And if, after that, they happen to follow me on social media, they will be welcome.

Them, I might even follow back.

Friday, January 1, 2016

A New Year

Fresh off the calendar, I have a whole new year to play with. Last year, I wrote six new songs and published a book. This year, I'm hoping for more.

For one thing, it's about time I released an album. I won't announce the name quite yet, but I've selected a theme which five of my current songs fit nicely, along with two of the songs that I'm working on. I hope to add three more songs to the mix. There may or may not be a crowd-funding campaign for the album; time will tell.

I also have a few songs that I feel ready to record as singles, and those will be my first songs released for sale.

I also have two books in the works, one the first in a series of stories called The Milliken Diner Mysteries, and the other a non-fiction book with the unlikely title The Earth Is Not Flat.

I'm also planning to get back in front of and behind the video camera, with some little stories, some thoughts on filmmaking and songwriting and, well, anything else that comes to mind. Look for the first video within a week.

I'll also be giving my website a major facelift over the course of the next couple of months.

All-in-all, it's going to be a busy and, I hope, productive year. I hope you'll enjoy the fruits of my labor, which you can find out about right here.