My Daily Flute Repertoire Go-Through List

One of the issues I face is TIME. It takes time to work up and then keep repertoire perform-able, and, never knowing what I’m going to be asked to play, I have to keep them all in the pipe (quite literally when one plays the flute). Added to that is all the foot switching required when you use electronic effects, and that’s the part that I usually skimp on — always a mistake. Invariably, it’s the stuff I skimp on that comes back to bite me, because that’s sure to be the piece or pieces that Forrest will decide he wants us to work on, or even record and video. And, of COURSE, if he wants to do a live recording session, it’s guaranteed that I’ll have neglected to cut my hair and look something of a disheveled urchin. (Of course.)

It takes a lot of time and meticulous attention to the electronics to set up for a live recording session. Because of Forrest’s driving schedule this winter, which has been as brutal, the roads having been the worst winter driving ever in Alberta and, especially, British Columbia, we just haven’t had the time to do any more live recording/video sessions. I know that it’s coming, though, so, below, I’ve pasted the list of my daily repertoire practice.

Some of these are really simple to play …until you add in messing about with the stomp boxes. Some of them, of course, are rhythmic nightmares for me, some just a torture of finger snarls. But all of it is tough when trying to keep my eyes on both music and the switches I have to hit just a millisecond before the effect(s) is or are is supposed to kick in.

In classical playing, one keeps a goodly amount of pieces worked up — about a hundred-and-fifty or so. With the stuff we play, though, I’m lucky it’s only about fifty-some, right now. Here’s my daily task: (And, yes, some of these are already recorded and videoed, but I didn’t feel like editing the list, because, honestly, I still have to keep up the ones we’ve already recorded.)

1. Alone Again Or
2. Another Brick in the Wall/Goodbye Blue Sky
3. Aqualung
4. Baby I Love Your Way
5. Beth
6. Black Hole Sun
7. Black Magic Woman
8. Bungle in the Jungle
9. Carry On Wayward Son
10. Cheap Sunglasses
11. Closer to the Heart
12. Cross-Eyed Mary
13. Dog Breath Variations
14. Duetto
15. Dust in the Wind
16. Eye of the Tiger
17. FM
18. Fooling Yourself
19. Hold Your Head Up
20. Hotel California
21. Icarus
22. Idiot Bastard Son
23. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed
24. JS Tull Medley
25. Lazy
26. Let’s Make the Water Turn Black
27. Let’s Move to Cleveland
28. Light My Fire
29. Living in the Past
30. Locomotive Breah
31. Long Distance Run Around
32. Marqueson’s Chicken
33. Mission Impossible
34. Money
35. More Than a Feeling
36. My Favorite Things
37. Never Been Any Reason
38. Norwegian Wood
39. Nothing Else Matters
40. Oh No
41. Oye Como Va
42. Peaches in Regalia
43. Porgy & Bess
44. Roundabout
45. Roxanne
46. Scarborough Fair/Sounds of Silence
47. She’s Not There
48. Siciliano
49. Sing or the Day
50. Summertime
51. Time of the Season
52. Uncle Meat
53. Waltz in A Minor
54. Walking on the Moon
55. Watermelon in Easter Hay
56. What’s New in Baltimore
57. Woman in Love


A Week Gone and Days of Catch-Up, Now It's -1°F

Monday, December 18th, the roads were clear. There was no snow on the ground, having all long melted away to return us to bare, slightly frozen ground. It was raining as I loaded up the Explorer with Husband’s guitar, computer, “bathroom bag”, washed clothes, food, drink, and miscellany to take him over to his semi-. Snow was coming, though. We’d have it for the Winter Solstice and Christmas, something that seems important to most folks.

Why people love the white stuff — cold, solid water — that, for me, means nothing but expense and hard work, is completely beyond me. But, hey! We live in a nation where the desires of the ‘wanna’s seem to take precedent over the practical and sane. Well, starting Tuesday morning early, probably around 2 A.M., it began coming. And coming. And coming, some more.

We live in a snow belt — a micro-climate — where even a mile south of us, when they get eight inches, we get two and more feet. Our micro-climate is about a mile in diameter, the result of mountains rising west of us within a mile’s walking distance. And, here, in the old growth forest, we have an even more interesting micro-micro-climate. At the end of the drive, there will be a foot on the ground, while at the house, there’s four inches …and that’s in the open spots, where the trees don’t catch the snow on their branches.

It was snow-blower time, and quick, because the stuff was heavy, the temperature hovering right around melting. I’d be lucky if I could get the stuff to blow without constantly having to clear the blades. Neighbor was cussing and fuming — couldn’t blame him — when he called to say, yep, it was deep out there on the county road. He’d meet me out there where we’d tackle it together. And it was still coming down with a vengeance as I headed north in low, low, the only speed that didn’t clog the blades. I felt lucky. At least it would blow.

In North Idaho, when the snow is wet and heavy like this (and, despite what the realtors and the Chamber of Commerce will tell you suckers, dupes, and gulls, it’s like this a lot), all but the highway-sized snow plows get bogged down by it. So do snow blowers, large and small, all the way up to tractor-sized. You want packing snow to build that snow man? Hey, we’ve got it by the ton, easy. You could build a full-sized, working castle with it, it holds together that well …until it rains right after you’ve carved in the last detail, melting it all down to sludge. Then, after the rain, here will come the arctic chill, freezing wheel-rutted slush on driveways and roads into crunchy, unbreakable ridges that slice tire sidewalls. Enjoy that white stuff, city slickers and townies. Meanwhile, we’re out clearing roads and roofs before the next onslaught. And the next onslaught was but an hour away.

Happy to have the driveway, road, and paths cleared, I refilled the fuel tank, cleaned up and checked the machine, then hung soggy, dripping coat, hat, and gloves to dry. I knew there was more coming, but NOAA promised the rest would be but a mere couple of inches.

Wrong.

By the time we were nearing dark — 4PMish — we had another six inches and that was here in the trees. What that boded north at the county road I didn’t want to think about. No sense dealing with it, though, not until daylight. The north wind had picked up, and there wouldn’t be any sense to moving the same snow twice and three times …which is what happens if it’s not an emergency and you’re still set on trying to move snow when it’s blowing sideways.

I laid down with a book for a warm-up snuggle under the afghan, happy that the power hadn’t even flickered — not once.  Fell asleep.

Boom — sound woke me with a start and, except for the snow glow coming in the windows, I’m all in the dark.

Grab flashlight, trundle downstairs. Battery operated clock reads 6:20 P.M.

Now, I trudge out to the road. Yep. Not a light on in sight — nowhere. At least, the power lines aren’t down on my drive or on the county road. That’s a good sign, or so I thought.  But, of course, the gas furnace was out.  (It requires power to run and no amount of argument had ever convinced Dad or Mom to get one that would stay going even when the electricity failed.)  Light the wood stove …before the house temperature drops.

Paper, kindling, and a couple of logs later, and I’ve got the barrel stove going, cats snuggling up, enjoying the toasting.  A check outside shows that, yep, it’s still snowing. No sense fussing. Time to do the power-down routine …which I actually should have done an hour ago, but…

Back upstairs to kill power to everything electric, hitting off switches on the older computers and pulling plugs on newer ones that, even with the back power button off, still stay “lit”. Soundboards …speakers …keyboards …circulation fans — check. Downstairs, and its turn off the furnace, unplug the mega-coffee pot, the cord to the block warmer on the diesel truck …. We do this because we’re near enough a major dam that when the power comes back on, we get a strong enough surge that it can fry everything from the lowly light bulb to stoves, furnaces, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, engine block heaters, computers…. Kzzt! And that’s WITH surge protection on. (Yes, it blows those big, bulky, super-expensive surge protectors, too, we found out the hard way. Costly lesson, that.)

I finish up night chores, which includes four hours devoted to getting battery-operated aerators going in the fish tanks, then head off to bed after banking the fire so it hopefully lasts until the power comes back on or until morning light, whichever comes first, hopefully the former, thanks. Meanwhile, my cell phone’s message list kept pinging every few minutes — the SO (Sheriff’s Office for those unfamiliar with my shorthand) sending warnings of roads closed due to power lines down.

Morning brought no power, just the daunting task of starting the snow blower by hand. Took me forty-five minutes. Neighbor, who has a smaller one, it only took him twenty, and he’s taller and stronger than me. We met on the road, him telling me that his house was holding at 55°. Mine was holding, with the barrel stove going, at about 68°. We set to blowing the county road and drives, again, both of us worried about what was to come — predicted subarctic temperatures down near the zero mark (…which, by the way, started today). “It’s gonna be a damned cold Christmas if they don’t get those lines fixed. Down all over both counties clear to the Canada border,” he told me.

Great!

The roof man showed up as promised. Before the deep freeze. But, instead of the crew, it was just the boss, surprise, surprise. He did the out-building roofs in under two hours. Happy day. Got that load off before the wet stuff froze down. He always blesses the fact that the main house never has to be cleared. Dad built it that way, foot thick log rafters and a roof so steep you can’t stand up on it without a rope, not an A frame, but a good 12/12 pitch.

It wasn’t until Thursday afternoon that they finally got the power on here. Others weren’t so lucky. They wouldn’t see a return till long past midnight.

Now, most probably think that when the power comes back on, life returns to normal. It doesn’t. There’s the tidying up and cleanup, re-powering-up the house and appliances, making sure that the heat tapes that protect the water lines are still working, and, please don’t forget to plug in the big diesel’s block heater. Right.

I just barely managed to get online Thursday …for about ten minutes. Friday? Sort of. Spent that mostly checking servers and installations. Oh, yeah, and email. OMG. Sifted and sorted that mess, too. So, now it’s Saturday morning, -1°F and, finally, I have a smidge’s worth of time to whine and be grumpy.

Everyone have a great Christmas. While we don’t celebrate it, we do enjoy your ‘joy and merry’ and, especially, the Christmas music!

 

 

 


Morning's Hot Toasted Buns

I have an author friend who doesn’t wake well.  She doesn’t wake ill, either, but she does wake slightly brain-dead, slightly out-of-sorts, and slightly, only slightly, mind you, miffed by people like me who bound out of bed with a bounce.  She wakes up slow. She wakes up stiff. It’s a back thing. And she deals with it by using a microwavable heating pad applied to her backside, plopping down (gently) to toast herself as she herds her first cup of coffee down her esophagus.

Now, I want you to imagine a woman in her late middle years who’s vivacious, perspicacious, and wry, whose humor is enough to send you into coffee-up-the-nose paroxysms at one of her witticisms once she’s finally gotten herself up to fighting speed. Then, she’ll run rings around those bleary-eyed twenty- and thirty-somethings still suffering the effects of their wild night spent at the rave in the arms of their latest heartthrob, the ones you find desperately hustling their kids off to school and themselves to their day job, their phones in their left hand, their right plying makeup using the rear-view as they careen down the interstate, driving by knee and a curse.

Breakfast for some is a bagel, for others a beer, but for friend Laura Belgrave, morning brings hot, toasted buns.


Those Darned Holes!

Dawn's Azumi flute

Hover over the links to learn about them before clicking. The links are all set to open in a new tab or window if on a tablet or PC.

Both the flutes I play, my beloved new Haynes and my Azumi, are what we flutists call ‘open hole’.  Since suffering a broken elbow, one of my ring fingers doesn’t work quite how it used to.  So, for that particular key, I’ve had to resort to using a little silicon plug to fill the hole.  Plugging it brought about a discovery.  First some back history, though.

When I play, due to bad training at the onset of my learning way back when, I have ‘high fingers’.  A lot of flutists do, and it’s all from being started wrong.  I’ve got another problem that is compounded by my high fingers.  I’m indelicate, especially when playing intensely and with enthusiasm for a piece.  Happily immersed, I’m completely unconscious that I’m pounding down the keys with my fingers, fingers which are quite strong and ‘athletic’ from riding horses since before I could ride a tricycle, from mucking stalls, hefting heavy hay bales, and all the other associated physical labor that goes along with girls and horses, fences and barns.  That pounding of the keys wasn’t noticeable when I was playing classically, either solo or in an orchestra.  We never used microphones or amplification, so the sound didn’t carry out to the audience.

Enter husband Forrest who brings things like condenser microphones into my life.  Touchy, sensitive, can-hear-an-ant-walk-across-the-floor torture devices, condenser mics pick up everything(Please don’t sneeze, cough, or laugh, or you’ll blow the mic’s diaphragm, rendering this very expensive and intimidating piece of equipment to the trash bin.)  It didn’t matter if it was the huge monster mic that hangs suspended in its grotesque-looking mount or the tiny one on my headset hovering by my cheek.  Both picked up every touch of hand, breath, and finger on the flute, every shift of a sheet of music.  If I shifted my hand, it came through like a desperate grab for survival.  When I inhaled through my nose and my mouth, something we do to get as much air into our lungs as fast as possible, it sounded like a dragon sniffing out dinner, while inhaling just through my mouth produced a slightly better result — a gryphon readying to roar.  (We went with inhaling by mouth as preferable, though that significantly reduces the amount of air I can pull in the nanosecond usually allotted me by rock music.)  The fingers?  There seemed no hope for those, unless I really, really concentrated on finger technique instead of playing music, and, as any musician knows, no performance goes well if you’re not letting go every inhibition to ‘let it happen’.

But, listening, I noticed that one key wasn’t popping …or, should I say, wasn’t popping as much — the plugged hole.

Hmmm.  Time to experiment.

Plug the rest of the open holes.  …And, what do you know!  The popping was cut in half, a great improvement.

‘French’, or open holed, flutes have their advantages, especially up in the flute’s fourth register (piccolo territory).  It’s a register only used in obscure pieces that nobody much ever listens to or plays, unless in a flute competition or for a special performance featuring a composer’s works.  Of course, open holes do have other uses, as well.  They allow one to play a flutist’s version of chords, bend notes, and play quarter tones …among other abstract uses.  For standard playing, however, plateau flutes, that is, flutes which don’t have open hole keys, work just fine, and, despite opinion to the contrary, don’t negatively affect tone quality and resonance, at least not to any but the most infinitesimal degree, if that.  Plugging up the holes wouldn’t matter for most of what I’m asked to play now.

My experiment and opinion aside, the real test came when we had our next recording session.  And, sure enough, though my right hand’s index and, especially, my middle finger still smacked the keys with such vigor that, thanks to the condenser mic, you’d think somebody was popping bubble-wrap during the session, the sound was much, much quieter.  Darn.  If only I’d known before we started laying down tracks long months ago.


My Hands

I received a really hurtful email this morning. It was from a fellow flutist who said, and I quote:

“You have really ugly hands. Maybe you shouldn’t video yourself playing flute. Or doing anything. Its [sic] no fun to watch. Ever think about getting your nails done? Try some lotion, too.”

Well, to that, here’s my response …though I neglected to mention in the video, an expert equestrian’s hands:

For those who can’t hear, here’s a transcript of what I say:

“People comment about my hands. The brave ask about them, the concerned and well-intentioned offering me bottles of flowery-smelling lotion, presenting me gift certificates for a manicure and nail job, bringing me ointments and salves. It’s true, I don’t have elegant hands. I’ve got working hands. These hands play flute and piano, type 120 words per minute, move heavy objects, in short, do a lot of hard, physical labor. They’ve moved tons of hay and grain, dug post holes, strung barbed wire, carried wood and water. These are a martial artist’s hands, a musician’s hands, a swordwoman’s hands. They ain’t pretty, but I love them.”


Professional Self-Publisher vs Professional Author, the Bottom Line

I just read an article about professional self-publishing authors versus hobbyists. I thought it was reasonably presented, well-written, succinct, and to the point. There were a couple of things, though, that niggled at me, mostly because my brain is always adding in the qualifiers, quantifiers, and outliers — the means and the extremes. First, though, a short synopsis:

The author, Peter Mulraney, first defines professional versus hobbyist quite nicely. There can be no argument from the tax authority, which is where the distinction is most critical, much as many a self-published author will dodge that comprehension until after they’ve gotten themselves stuck in some auditing mire.

From there, we get a quick summary of product-based business basics:

  1. the business plan
  2. the product and its marketing
  3. diversification
  4. record-keeping
  5. self-discipline

And, of course, this is where my brain releases devils within details, the first and foremost being that, in order to do #1 on the list, you have to have previously mastered #5, no small feat for many. Heck, for the majority, it’s tough to even muster enough self-discipline to get up in the morning in time to shower, dress, and head out for the day job with enough time to spare that some unforeseen delay like a train at a railroad crossing doesn’t send them into a frothing frenzy because they’re going to wind up fifteen minutes late for the job …again. Hence, you see that frenetic driver, their body leaned forward in urgency as they weave in and out of traffic to then cross three lanes in a dive for their exit, tires smoking as they round the last corner to scream into the employee parking lot.

Luckily, Peter lays out a nice road map, though, defining a business plan as “setting measurable goals.” He then gives a tidy example:

  • writing and publishing a book every year – that means scheduling time to write
  • building a body of work within a defined timeframe, for example, ten books in five years – that means committing to the long term view
  • setting sales targets, for example, selling 10,000 or 100,000 copies – that means scheduling time for marketing

Let’s take a look at those, shall we? Write and publish a book a year, and — very important this — scheduling the time to write that book. Okay. Do-able. …For some.

But, wait. Check out bullet point number two: Build a body of work within a defined timeframe — ten books in five years.

[Sputter.] That’s two books a year, something even big-name, trad pubbed authors often sweat to accomplish …and they (supposedly) have editors and agents to help them along in meeting that goal.

But there’s help once you’ve got number one out the door. It’s NaNoWriMo!

Voilà! That should get you book number two for the year.

Okay. Onto the second part of bullet point number two: committing to the long-term view.  Now, I ask: How many folks can you name, including yourself, who can make a monthly plan and stick to it?

How about just a weekly plan?

A day plan?

Okay. Let’s lower the bar: How about just making and fulfilling a monthly shopping list of everything needed in your household for the month, vowing to never venture out to the store again until thirty days hence? …How about just a week’s worth?

I’m sorry, but most everyone I know these days, save myself and Bill next door, can’t even manage a full day! And you think a five-year plan is going to be a functional reality? Do you remember that research paper you had to turn in by the end of the month in high school? How did that work out? That book you were assigned to read and give a book report on? That chapter of reading for History class?

If the honest answer is, “Great! No problem. Always got my goals and assignments done” or, even, “Usually got my goals and assignments done,” then, yes, do give long-term goal-setting the go. If not, practice completing short-term goals, increasing the length of time for each practice goal by twice every time you succeed. Once you have managed to succeed at setting and accomplishing a yearly goal, then, okay, give longer-term planning a try.

And now we come to bullet-point number three: “setting sales targets.”

In a word, don’t. Not even if you’re a best-selling, trad pubbed author with an awesome advance release team and publicist, plus an in on Oprah …unless,of course, you’re the mob boss in some mafia, syndicate, or cabal with enough influence that will guarantee the numbers you set yourself, by hook or by crook.

As to some of the details Peter mentions, I’m only going to address this one, because it’s to-the-point and on-target:

“Being in business means being flexible with what you write and publish. There is no point in persisting with a product line that does not sell.”

Bingo!

And here’s the translation: If the books you’re passionate about writing don’t sell, are you willing and able to write what does? Because that’s the difference between being a professional self-publisher and being a writer. The bottom line drives the former; passion, the latter. I count as the latter, which, because I do make a profit, because it’s work, not a hobby, makes me, not a professional self-publisher, but a professional author who now just happens to choose to self-publish rather than go back with the trads.


Home Alone on Thanksgiving.

It’s Thanksgiving across America. In countless homes, somebody (or even several somebodies) is up early prepping food to go in the oven. Me? No. I’ll probably grab a hunk of cheddar cheese for my daily sustenance, same thing, same amount I had yesterday.

Food isn’t important to me. Never has been.

Oh, sure. I do love (real) mashed potatoes and gravy. I love a good casserole. Turkey stuffing is the best …when done the old-fashioned way. I eat none of it since my body decided to pack on an additional, unwanted thirty pounds that stubbornly won’t come off, despite years of an 800 – 1200 calorie per day diet that includes no carbs.

Sure, a wonderfully grilled steak is a treat. A good piece of fish or chicken….

Such used to be life. No longer. (Mostly I exist on coffee.)

Thanksgiving is mostly about people, though. And, honestly, people don’t figure prominently in my life. Animals, yes. Not people.

I have a few good friends — cherished friends; I have my best friend — my husband, F. W. Lineberry; I have acquaintances — I’m talking real world people, here. Most of the people I care about now, though, most I name as ‘friend’, are Netizens. I’ve never met them in real life, and we certainly don’t share a meal on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving used to mean spending several days prior and the morning of prepping a huge turkey, baking squash, homemade bread and special sweet cakes, making stuffing, peeling potatoes, pulling frozen garden veggies from the freezer. There was polishing gold- and silverware, washing up heirloom china, sharpening carving knives, digging out the special table linens, cleaning house from top to bottom. No more. Not for the last few years. I think the last time Forrest and I prepped a Thanksgiving dinner was in 2011, when we lived in town, two years prior to moving back to Dad’s house. It was a smashing success, the guests people who were lonely and alone, folks who had no caring family or loved ones. And, since then, yes, I’ve put on dinner parties, but not a Thanksgiving. (Turkeys sigh with relief.)

In my life, there’s no real reason to make a big fuss on Turkey Day. Dad’s been dead for years. Mom just died. To them, Thanksgiving mattered. So, it mattered to me. No longer. Were my husband home (but he’s not; he’s still fighting nasty roads in BC, Canada), we’d have a meal together, delighting in each other’s company…just like we do any and every day that he’s at home — not often.

I’m a zentaoist. Every day is Thanksgiving. Every day is precious. More, every moment. And, honestly, putting on a feast, unless it’s for those who are lonely and have no family or loved ones who care, unless its for those who need it, makes no sense …to me.

For the lonely? The bereft? Sure. But I do that any day, sipping coffee, water, or tea, maybe even orange juice, sharing a meal of whatever best comes to hand from the pantry and the frig, sitting down around the dining room table with someone who arrived spontaneously and just needs a spirit lift.

I listen to them and, if they get too morose, will liven the conversation with subtly pertinent anecdotes from life. It can last as long as four or five hours. Then, needs fulfilled, they venture back into the world, me returning to my solitude, grateful that I know I’m loved.


Don't.

Dear Website Owners Selling Something I May Decide to Try,

Don’t:

  • hide your pricing;
  • hit me with a persistent pop-up window requiring me to create an account, login with my Facebook account, join your mailing list, and/or anything demanding I share with you any contact information or identity information, forbidding me from exploring your products and/or services unless and/or until I do.

Do:

  • prominently display the benefits of your goods or services and the cost of those goods and/or services;
  • allow me to decide if I want to create an account and share my identity and contact information with you once and only if I decide to buy.

Your job and your website’s job is to convince me that you’re trustworthy, dependable, offer a worthy product and/or service. Hiding your pricing and terms of service, blocking me from information about your products and/or services unless I jump through hoops to get there is a sure way to lose me as a potential customer.


WHY!!!! (I don't promote my books)

 

“Dawn, why don’t you…”

“Because it’s a waste of my time.”

“But… .”

There are no ‘but’s.

What the hell am I talking about? Book promotion, that’s what.

As an author, specifically and mostly a novelist, I write ’em — books, that is, (used to publish them, too …until the pirates pissed me off) — but I’m not interested in spending my life chasing futility, much less paying for the dubious honor of being stupid …which is what happens when and if you fall for all the bullshit out there about book promotion.

Oh, sure Number One: Release a new book, and, maybe, a past reader will care, if they see the promo, always chancy because emailed announcements get ignored, posts on social media don’t get seen, ads get missed and blocked.

Release new books regularly, as in every three months, and, yes, you’ll sell some, both the new and some from your back catalog. It’s all predicated on luck and happenstance, though. There are no guarantees.

Oh sure Number Two: Facebook advertising works and doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg …or, maybe I should say, will cost only an arm and a leg, depending on your target demographics.

And, yes, oh, sure, Number Three: Amazon advertising works, with the same caveat as with Facebook.

Newsletters? Oh, sure Number Four: You’ll sell some books because you dun your mailing list subscribers, but you’ll also net a whole bunch of ‘unsubscribes’ in the process, people who will never, ever buy another book from you because you pissed them off by hitting their inbox at the wrong time.

Reality: A check of the numbers, especially when penciled out against time and money spent, means that you are, literally, paying for the privilege of irritating people who may be somewhat interested in your new release …maybe, but, mostly, are irritated by getting yet another “See? Look! I just released another novel” dun on their social media notifications or in their inbox.

I’m sorry, but my time is worth money, plus, I’m not interested in providing folks an extra excuse to dislike me more than they already do because I’m a mouthy, opinionated so-and-so. I especially am not interested in alienating those who do appreciate me because I am a mouthy, opinionated so-and-so, but who don’t like having me push my novels at them. And I’m certainly not into paying for people to unlike, unfriend, and unsubscribe …which is what happens, much as the “How to Sell Your Book” gurus don’t share that consequence — a real consequence!

And that brings me to the “How to Sell Your Book” gurus.

Did you ever notice that the “How to Sell Your Book” gurus never offer to use their “guaranteed formula” they claim works so well to sell your book? That’s because they know that their “tried and true” system doesn’t work. Did it and did they offer such a service, there isn’t a book author out there who wouldn’t part with 50% or even 100% of their royalties for becoming a ‘known’ author to readers.  Heck, wannabees would flock to cash in on the service at 1k, 2k, maybe even 5k in USD $$$$ per book. Heck, the gurus would be rolling in the dough, wouldn’t they?

But, no. That’s not what the “How to Sell Your Book” gurus are selling …for a good reason. They couldn’t do it. Their tried and true method would not work, even for them. It’s all smoke and mirrors, and they know it. They know they’d be spending innumerable futile hours, getting way less than minimum wage trying to, no matter how many starving third worlders they employed at pennies a day to plug in their magic formulas.

Instead, they take the easy route to fame and profit. They sell their “guaranteed formula” for success to hungry-for-fame-and-profit book authors, their guarantee only valid (read the fine print) if you meticulously follow all their rules and keep at it …forever. Oh, and buy their latest how-to book, because, y’know, don’t you? The market is always changing, so you’ve got to have the latest greatest along with their previous books on the subject. (“Secret #4 referenced in book 1, secret #9 referenced in book 2… .”)

Here’s the deal: Most all the folks who claim to have the inside edge on how to sell your books make their livelihood and niche best seller fame by selling “How to Sell Your Book” books to pantingly desperate and gullible authors. Now, while some of those methods worked for the instances shown, they don’t work by the time the “How to Sell Your Book” book hits publication. It’s a done deal, that strategy only working for a few weeks, maybe months at the outset for the strategy’s originator and a handful of others who immediately copied them. After that, nope. But the ‘how-to’ formula is still saleable, of course.

Well, what about services like Book Bub and Book Gorilla?

Book Bub is expensive and a PITA to get into (See concluding sentence of paragraph below.); Book Gorilla, inexpensive. But you know who signs up to those mailing lists? Authors interested in checking out those services as a possible path to more sales. (It’s part of the sign-up process, getting you on their mailing list.) The other most notable demographic are Bargain Basement book shoppers, mostly those who read lots and lots of Big R romance. Oh, sure, Number Five: Bargain Basement book shoppers will always grab freebies and, maybe, 99 centers. But that’s it. They ain’t into payin’ for books. It’s gotta be free or dirt cheap.

Onto oh, sure Number Six: There are a minuscule percentage of readers on those Book Bub and Book Gorilla mailing lists that actually are interested in discovering new authors and are willing to actually pay for subsequent books from an author’s catalog, but those folks are rare as hen’s teeth (and, for those not in the know, hens don’t have teeth. Hence, their ‘rarety’. That’s the irony embedded in the saying.) Oh, and, PSST! Book Bub has now become the tool of Trad Publishing, don’t you know? Indies really need not apply, please.

I’ve already covered “How to be a Hugely Successful Published Author“.  If you want to know my secret for promoting my books, it’s this: I occasionally and prudently advertise. I put my dead tree books in shops I know will attract buyers. And how about on the Net? My advice: Be yourself. Be active and interesting. Don’t badger people with duns to buy your books or keep announcing them over and over, ad infinitum. It’s enough to put the covers there for the seeing. Folks who become interested in you, the person, might happen to finally decide to read one of your books. And, if they like them, they might buy more of your titles.

If you seriously want to write books for a living, I suggest you either write the consistent best selling genre on Amazon — erotica/BDSM — or find some hungry non-fiction, self-help niche …like book authors seeking the magic secret to fame and fortune, then pump your books out at a rate of one every couple to three months, because, anymore, that’s about what you’re going to have to do for folks not to forget you and your books exist.

 


Living in the Past Performance Video Released ...Finally.

I actually started this a LONG time ago, but…. Heck! You know. Life, and all that. Mom deciding to up and head off the planet didn’t help matters. Well, by the time I got back around to this, the file had somehow corrupted, the visuals squeegeeing faster and slower than they were supposed to in chaotic, no formulaic, and, therefore, not easily fixable ways. Wound up having to start all over, something I’m never good at. I rarely procrastinate. Ever. But, when it comes to re-making something already done, then, yeah, I postpone, avoid, defer. But, a promise is a promise, so I beat myself over the head until I sat down and spent the two weeks necessary to redo the editing and splicing. So, here you have it. Jethro Tull’s Living in the Past, performed by zentao Music, namely me and Forrest. As ever, this arrangement is Forrest’s, who somehow manages to capture the essence of any piece he sets his hand to.

If you want to read about the flute playing in this piece, I talk about it here, in “Playing Tull’s Living in the Past“. That’s how I do it, but (…and here’s the biggy) it’s because I can’t get that airy sound that comes easy to Ian Anderson and to beginner flutists. I’ve tired every which way to try to make myself sound airy, but, to no avail. I guess I spent too many hours working very hard not to sound airy. I suppose I could sabotage my flute’s pads, but I won’t. 😀


Update on Dawn's World

So you all know Mom died mid-October and, yes, I’ve been way under the radar when it comes to both the real world and the Internet. Why doesn’t have as much to do with grief, though there’s that, as much as it does shock and anger. Mom was not expected to die. Nobody, even the surgeon who fixed her torsion, expected it. Yes, she was that healthy inside, despite atrial fib. That she died came as a complete surprise. That she chose to do it during the two hours I was gone from her post-surgery room in ICU, having left her to go home to check and feed animals with her numbers excellent and stable, that she chose to check out in a matter of minutes to the ICU nurses’ disbelief, her heart rate steadily declining from normal to zero in ten minutes during my absence, felt like opportunism. She took advantage of the fact that I went home to check herself out of life, and all because of the indignity of a stomach tube threaded down through her esophagus into her stomach to drain off her backed up digestive effluent.

I’m not kidding, here. This is no joke. Her aunt and a great aunt — both of them — did the same thing — willed themselves dead, the 101 year old, having just finished doing a batch of pickles, sitting down on a couch and going in 24 hours upon deciding to die and the 103 year old who, likewise decided, but instead took three days to do it. And, according to family lore, it was the nature of these Eurasian women who, having survived child birth to enter old age, then extreme old age, all of them healthy, to simply and suddenly decide that they now wanted to die …and then they’d do it.

It’s always been eerie for me to hear the tales. What’s knocked me into retreat is the fact that she just had to demonstrate the quasi-validity of her stories, much as the pragmatic side of me sits here and vehemently shakes my head ‘no, not plausible’.  What brings the shock and anger, though, is something else: She had everything to live for — friends who called, friends who visited at least once a week, opportunities to gad about and socialize, go to dinner and to parties….  She embroidered, still beautifully. She voraciously read books. She lived in my home, then back to her own home with me there to provide for her every whim and need …excepting those things which I couldn’t provide — being the daughter she yearned for — something feminine and pretty, something vain and vacuous, something willing to chat about triteness for hours on end, none of which is me. I’ve never been able to be ‘one of her dollies’, though how she persistently tried to coerce me to be.


I wrote a short story a few years ago. Though it’s slightly fictionalized to preserve some semblance of dignity, I think I’ll share it… because this, for me, is what it was like having Mom live with us …us living with Mom. It’s called A Moment of Morning, written under my pen name, E. J. Ruek and originally posted to that site: https://www.ejruek.com/a-moment-of-morning/

A MOMENT OF MORNING

In the dark of the morning, I sit in the cold, listening to the faraway, echoing horn of a train. It’s 3:30 AM, my rising time—by habit and need.

My mother sleeps in my living room, slowly dying of self-neglect and petulance, and there’s nothing I can do. There’s nothing that her many doctors, visiting nurses, CNAs, and physical therapists can do. She makes her choices, refusing advice, urgings, instructions. She sticks to those choices. Rigorously. I’m just the maid. My voice doesn’t count, even if I am her only daughter…her only child. (She lost all eight others as fetuses, maybe by choice. I knew by the time I was four that she sure didn’t want me.)

Sipping coffee, waiting for the love of my life to phone home, I cast my mind inward, wondering at a woman who, my whole life, insisted that I “move.” And move I do, more than most, more than any of my contemporaries, except maybe Kathy. Three years ago, Mom moved, too. She was agile and fit. Then, due to her own choices of personal neglect, her ability to do so with ease and vigor vanished. At sixty-eight—did I tell you that I was a very late baby?—she became a maimed slave to a syncopated heartbeat—atrial fib. Now she lays on a bed, ordered to keep her legs up, and delivers me anger seasoned with pouts and, worse, self-pity.

My mother is, in her way, a prima donna—very vain. Yet, she is…or was…generous and caring, too. To and of others. (Never me; never my dad.) She cares for ‘her’ others a lot, especially her anthropomorphized dollies—thousands of dollies.

I keep thinking to myself—what will I do with all of those thousands of dollies, some worth ten thousand, each?

I know nothing of dollies, care nothing for dollies. I find them rather horrifying—porcelain, cloth, plaster, and plastic reincarnations of someone’s symbolically human ideal. (Are humans ideal? Even symbolically? …I wonder in doubt.) “You can tell the artist,” Mother will say, her delicate, model’s hands fondling a dress, a hand, a curl. She’ll line them up and point to the nuances of a particular artist on dolls that cost more, each one, than Dad made in a month. (After she bought them on time, he couldn’t afford the price of his heart pills.)

A friend suggests that I catalog them, then sell them on E-Bay. The very idea exhausts me. The research to price them would, alone, require a year of my time—time I don’t have with running a business and maintaining two households—never mind my writing, recording, and session work.

Then there’s Mom’s piles—decades’ worth of magazines and old newspaper articles, boxes of clothes bought at thrift stores and sales, yards of material waiting to be run up on one of her five pricey sewing machines. There are hundreds of books that she’s never read, toys still in boxes, foot lockers filled with embroideries. There’s hoards of too many dishes and vases and lamps; upstairs is that old wicker couch overflowing with teddy bears….

It’s a five bedroom house, filled to brimming with all of Mom’s treasures—old cradles and buggies, doll houses and miniature tea sets—and all of it’s covered in decades of dust. (She never cleaned house after Dad’s heart began failing—no reason, I guess.)

That’s just the inside. Outdoors, there’s the piles of old garbage, the broken down fences, the rotting car, truck, and trailer, this last a haphazard minefield inside containing a vast store of treacherous gardening tools. (I’d keep the gardening tools and fix up the fences.)

Another train’s passing, its horn dulled by the distance. My coffee is cold and so are my feet. It’s time to close the laptop and get myself started on chores, but I linger out here on the patio, outside in the cold and the snow.

My cell phone rings. I touch the headpiece I wear to hear hubs in my ear, his grumbling voice a relieving welcome.

He’s headed for Canada, a load full of giant, cumbersome coils. He asks after me, then requests some safe truck routes through cities in lower BC.

I oblige, ‘Googling’ the easiest routes. Then, to his question, assure him that, yes, the roof man will be here today to clear barn roofs of snow load.

Did I snowblow the driveway?

No, but I will.

Best do it before the temperature plunges to zero.

I know.

Did the dog’s blood work come back?

Not yet. It’s expected today.

I love you.

I love you, too.

Gotta go.

Bye.

_

In the dark of the morning, I sit in the cold, listening to emptiness. It’s 4:00 AM and time to get started on morning.

~ ~ ~


So Mom Died 10-13-2017

…which is why I completely disappeared off the Internet. Here’s what happened:

Took Mom to Emergency Monday, October 9, about 7:30PM or so. She was complaining of pain in the lower right GI, exactly where her appendix was taken out when she was nine. After 4 shots of morphine that didn’t touch the pain, the CT results came back, and they got her a pain killer that worked. Wednesday, she went to surgery, again about 7:30PM. Came out with flying colors. Surgeon was ecstatic. She was sooo healthy inside once he removed the piece of small intestine that had twisted because of scarring from her appendicitis operation so many years ago, something, I was told, that is common with those who have had appendectomies. (Wonderful news, that!) Anyway, Thursday she was doing great. By Thursday afternoon, though, things changed, and, Friday morning, at around 4:40AM, her heart rate began to steadily slow, till, about ten minutes later, it ground to a halt.

So there you have it. That’s what happened, for those who want to know, mainly, of course, her relatives.

Be in Joy, Mom.

Dawn


Okay. It's here! And I...

LOVE IT!!!!!


What's Important?

A friend of mine — a best friend of mine (Anita Lewis) — spoke today about gratitude on Infinite Matters. She just came through Hurricane Irma. Having survived what I consider to be more than my fair share of life’s critical emergencies and traumas, I could totally relate. And, of course, as with everything, relating brought analysis and conclusions based on my own experiences with a forest fire-storm, numerous tornadoes, proximal lightning strikes, floods, being under siege because of armed federal fugitives with the resulting response of county, state, and federal law enforcement and their (thankful) invasion of my farm. Worst of all, brutal, physical assault that completely changed my life.

There seems to be a real disconnect in a solid majority of everyday people between what’s really important and what, lacking experience with real danger and disaster, only seems to be important, so much so that what is actually important doesn’t ever really hit home with most people until they face extreme crisis, catastrophe, trauma, unbearable pain, and, yes, death. That disconnect is, I think, what separates war veterans, military and civilian, from those of us who have never experienced war firsthand. It’s what separates law enforcement from the rest of us. Mostly, especially today, it’s what separates cultural combatants from reason.

When the biggest issue in your life is whether you’re going to make the mortgage payment or the rent, get to work on time, earn that promotion, or, even more trite, going to be able to get that limited edition iPhone, your nails or cornrows done by your favorite beautician, catch a date with some hotty, or be able to walk around publicly flaunting some aspect of yourself without criticism, then cultural issues can, for some, seem really significant. When faced with true hardship and trauma, though, everything pales, except what really is important: love, life, health, safety, sustenance, shelter, and freedom from terror and from physical pain for you and your loved ones and kin, maybe even, at least for some of us, extending that, too, for your kith, and your neighbors, near and far.

I think a solid majority of the well-off — and, no, I’m not speaking ‘financially’, but, rather, those who, regardless of circumstance, have love, life, health, safety, sustenance, some sort of shelter, and freedom from terror and from physical pain — need a hard wake-up call, a lesson in what’s really important, a hands-on experience that nails them in the forehead and dumps them into survival crisis. Maybe then they’d realize that all this fuss about varying cultural and political differences is, in fact, a luxury allowed them because they are not having to focus on base survival.

My husband, Forrest, has it quite right, I think. Are you willing to give up everything for it? Even your life and the lives of your loved ones? If the answer is no, then, no, it isn’t important. If the answer is yes, then, yes, it’s truly important.


In for a Digital Grand

So, for the last three months, I’ve been eyeing my pianos — my acoustic pianos — thinking, I really ought to get back to playing regularly …get back to serious practice. After all, I’m not writing novels or books, right now (though that itch has been making itself known, too). I’ve successfully resisted the idea, though. It would mean getting a piano tuner/piano repair person in to go through both instruments — expensive (VERY).

Yesterday, along comes my husband (via cell phone conversation), who asks: “What would you think about playing piano, again? …As part of zentao, the music. I mean actually performing.”

I gulp, thinking about all the work and expense that means, me getting my chops back along with potentially having to restring and refelt one or both of my pianos. I mean, they’re both antiques, now, the upright grand built in 1917, the spinet in the 60s. And they’ve been moved and moved and stored and moved, again.

Then Forrest starts talking his musical Geek Speak — MIDI triggering, patching into the sound system, and a bunch of other jargon that I don’t understand.

Ummmm….

He talks on, speaking dreams and wishes, visions and hopes. I listen, my brain reeling as it starts connecting dots here and dots there. He’s not talking acoustic piano. He’s talking digital. Wow.

As he elaborates, I’m getting more concerned, more wary, and, simultaneously, more relaxed to the idea. I have the training and skill, though, as mentioned above, I’m very out-of-practice. And I can hear his excitement at the potentials he envisions, the first tune he wants to do being a Michael Hedges piece. He’ll arrange it tonight for me to play.

Now, we own three electronic keyboards. But we don’t (…or didn’t) own a digital piano, which is a completely different instrument.

He’s set on a VERY expensive keyboard he’s read the specs on. Meanwhile, I’m frantically doing a search for digital pianos. The keyboard he’s talking about is or can be a digital piano. It has the weighted keys. But it is not a digital grand. It’s a professional keyboard, designed for triggering stuff I don’t understand. A digital grand piano, on the other hand, is, in fact, a fully sampled grand piano.

As he talks to me throughout the day, I feel the inevitability. This is going to happen. It’s only a matter of ‘when’, and, since we’re both ‘now’ people, I realize that, yep, I’d better find what I want, and it has to be something we’ll both be happy with.

Yamaha makes the very best digital grand pianos. I hit Yamaha USA. I study the specs. I also go check out the unit he wants, and, no, it’s NOT a digital grand piano, which is what I want. Back to the digital grands. I read through the specs, the features. I look at the reviews of the one that first caught my eye. I check out the one I tried over in Spokane in July, a unit sitting on the main floor at Hoffman’s Music. I liked that unit. A lot. And it wasn’t over-the-top expensive. My eye travels back to the top-of-the-line model. Sigh. It’s got the top-of-the-line sampling, the GHS keyboard, and the damper resonance enhancements, which makes it act, play, and sound like a top quality acoustic grand.

Without telling him of my decision, I order one, and I order the three pedal add-on, because I play Rachmaninoff, not just Bach and Chopin. I need all three pedals, thanks. Would feel lame without them. Deal done, I text him about it. He’s good about it. In fact, this morning, he’s excited — more excited than me.

Me? I’m okay with the idea. I’m resolved to the fact that, yes, once again I’m going to be working very hard to get myself up to speed …up to the performance level he needs for what he envisions. Luckily, the piano is an easier instrument to play than the flute. (Yes, really.) I’m in for a grand — a digital grand. It’s coming in Friday.


My Morning Funny

Dawn's Azumi flute

So, husband texts, asking which pieces I’d like to rehearse when he gets home. I give him a rather extensive list of well over a dozen difficult pieces. An hour-and-a-half later, when I’m working through number four on the list, he texts to tell me that he’s hit all of them, so we’re good to go, and he’s heading out …which means he’s starting his assigned heavy-haul KW semi- and heading toward customs to get back into the U.S.

I sit there staring at that text, thinking, ‘You hit that entire list? In an hour-and-a-half? Wow!’ Then comes my sigh of frustration.

Music is so totally in his hand, and so is his instrument. What I have to work weeks at, he manages in a few minutes, or, at most, a few run-throughs during his practice sessions.

Laughter strikes me. It’s only fitting, I think, that me, who spent decades in formal study, grilled and drilled, has to work very hard to come up to speed, while he, who had no formal education in music or his instrument, can toss off really, really intricate, difficult riffs like it’s nothing and hit them every time.

I used to be that good, but with a qualifier: only after years and years of determined practice and only by continuing daily practice, practicing every day, at least four hours a day, could I be that adept and agile, my sight-reading top-notch, my ability to toss off brand new pieces superb, and my repertoire flawless — four hours of practice a day. And that, my friends, is the difference between a virtuoso musician (him) and somebody who’s just talented.

Azumi flute


When the POG2 and the Digitech Throw Tantrums

DigitechRP1000, POG2, and Dawn, Strip

Like I mentioned previously, there’s a lag between playing a note and it sounding through the PA. It’s not much. It’s usually not that noticeable …unless I’m playing under heavy distortion or using the stomp loop to bring up the POG2’s multiple voicing to go along with some of the Digitech RP1000’s distortion or flanger or …whatever makes the sound ‘happen’. Then, it can be noticeable milliseconds of lag, requiring me to really lead the beat. Occasionally, though, the units actually throw tantrums.

I was practicing some difficult foot switching between patches on a piece where I’m playing some fast, upper register lines. As I switch between patches, I’m hearing wobbles the moment I bring the parts up to speed …which, admittedly, really gallop along. I slow the tempo down, and the wobbling disappears. Bring the tempo back up, and there are the wobbles, again.

I’m one of those people who looks, first, to themselves as creating or causing the problem. A check with effects off, though, showed that, I was playing the part accurately. Bringing the effects units back online, I tried again, only to find that, sure enough, at speed, the wobbles happened. Now, I knew that neither the Digitech nor the POG2 like the flute’s third register’s upper high notes played at speed, but this particular glitch hadn’t ever exposed itself to my hearing before …maybe because, stressed out about just getting the switches hit when I should, I wasn’t listening — all too possible. Now I was listening, though.

Trying the line without the POG2 didn’t improve things. Trying the line with only the POG2 on and bypassing the Digitech, also didn’t make things go smoother.  I began trying various other patches on the Digitech with the POG2 off. Okay. That worked. I tried other voicing on the POG2.  Okay, too.  It was both the Digitech’s patch and the voicing being asked of the POG2 that were throwing problems, and isolating one, the other, or having them both working together didn’t make any difference. They did not, either of them, like that line played at speed and were vehemently voicing their objections through the PA.

It made me laugh out loud to hear the machines in their grumbles. They were both having a devil’s time hitting the pitches that swiftly. Slow it down just a tad, and everything stabilized. Turn it up to burn speed, though, and both of them threw fits.

The funny things you have to deal with playing power-driven flute!

Digitech RP1000, the POG2 and Dawn


Author Community All Aflutter and Cluck. OMG!

So, a bunch of “legitimate, hard-working ‘authors'” are in an outrage. Feathers are kerfuffled, bent, even broken. Tsks, clucks, cries, and screams of outrage (text-style) flood the cyberlanes. SJW-style calls-to-action abound. Hands grab virtual pitchforks, clubs, hoes, and hatchets.

It might not make your local news, but, in the online author circles, the ripples are palpable, the temblors quaking their virtual landscapes. The headline reads: “Scammers Break The Kindle Store”. (If you’re interested, DuckDuckGo it, because, no, I won’t link to it or any of its reblogs.) What that headline should read is: “System-Gaming ‘Authors’ Beaten at Their Own Game,” because that’s what’s happened.

Authors ‘serious’ about getting their ‘eBooks’ noticed in the hopes of making both money and a name for themselves as ‘successful indie authors’ collect and then mine their followers, email list subscribers, author pals and cooperatives, friends, relatives, and anybody else they can to try to get their books highly ranked on Amazon and other online book selling venues. Calls-to-action abound with

  • Urges to read a provided eARC (eBook version of an Advanced Review Copy) then post reviews of the book on its release date or very soon thereafter. (Of course, four and five star reviews are expected.)
  • Coordination of blog posts among genre-similar associate authors promoting the book are pre-scheduled, as are blog tours.
  • Subscribers and followers are urged to buy within x days of release or an older release’s new promotion, with specific dates sometimes assigned.
  • Social media pals are sent copy to post pre-release, on release day, and the few days following that release.
  • Seeking permafree status on Amazon of an author’s first book or, better, of the first of a series, is something pursued with vengeance and artful manipulation.
  • BookBub campaigns, Book Gorilla campaigns, eliciting votes for best cover contests and best book contests….
  • et al. ad infinitum.

Here’s the reality: Legitimately good books written by legitimately good authors don’t usually make it to the top of any rankings, because most legitimately good authors don’t have the crowd charisma and marketing gumption (and, yes, I said ‘gumption’, defined as ‘boldness of enterprise; aggressiveness’, because that’s what it is) necessary to hold sway.  Success in eBooks, especially on Amazon, regardless of actually how good the book is (and most of them are, in fact, schlock) is based on how well the author of that top-ranked book has gamed the system, which is dependent upon ‘likeability’, luck, skill at manipulating the various ranking algorithms and, more so, skill at convincing others to raise you and your book’s popularity and sales/download/pages-read numbers.

So, indie authors are in an uproar …because outsourced clickfarms have stolen their tactics of inner circle clickfarming and are ruining their game-plan. Truth is, all the outsourced clickfarms are doing is exactly what the authors were doing, only much more effectively, it seems.

Me? I don’t find the outsourced clickfarming any less ethical than author-run efforts. In fact, I think I find them less offensive. Of course, my opinion is that of a tiny minority, and, I guess, it’s extremely offensive to people like Stuart Whitmore over on G+ who decided to resort to insults and trolling me over it. That’s okay. I expect that. I’m not and never have been willing to just go along to get along, embracing the most popular opinion just because it’s socially advantageous.


An Epic Session Despite Residual Effects

Nothing Else Matters

Residual effects from recording our video tribute to Chris Cornell still plaguing me, namely an ear-worm that’s been playing itself over and over in my head for a solid week, we set up for recording again, this time to record Forrest’s arrangement of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters.

Nothing Else Matters has special significance for Forrest and I. It’s our love song, describing in music and words, how we feel about one another and, truly, about life with each other …and life in general, too. The music evokes the kindled essence of who and what we are to each other, to life, and to ourselves. The lyrics express our attitude, feelings, and perspective about life, others, society, and, yes, even the core of our love to and for one another. It’s our song in a lot of ways, far beyond normal significance.

Enough of all that stuff, though. Back to the session.

Because it’s rock, we keep it strictly in time to its intended tempo, recording under headphones to a click track …which makes it a bit of a trick, because intonation (staying on pitch) on the flute requires subtle adjustments, note by note on the fly …which requires both ears listening. To complicate things, the flute has delay (sometimes called echo) on it in places, and, later, both the guitar and the flute are under heavy distortion, the guitar chunky, the flute gritty and reedy. For me, this makes performing it a careful thing, because I must compensate accordingly for the signal lag that happens to the flute under distortion patches.

Add to that, in this session, my red light fright made my back and neck rigid with tension. Halfway through, it felt like I had knives or, maybe, ice picks, stuck, both, in the back of my neck and in my lumbar region — nasty, piercing, metallic sensations that worsened with the most subtle movement. By the end of the session, I was greedily, needily eyeing a bottle of pain killers, something I rarely ever take, no matter what. I managed to finish the session without resorting to chemical numbing, but just.

A few stretches, bends, and deep breathing techniques cleared the problem within minutes once I fled the studio, escaping outside into the night, there to assuage my taut nerves with gentle darkness and kind evening breezes. Then came the sound.

Session done, Forrest had opened up the studio windows and was playing the recording. It filtered out into the night and, listening, I felt awed. That was us!  From a distance, It sounded epic, and that’s saying something for a flute and guitar duo of a song that brings me, a woman who doesn’t cry, to the brink of tears.

“Nothing Else Matters”

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don’t just say
And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
But I know

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
But I know

I never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don’t just say
And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they say
Never cared for games they play
Never cared for what they do
Never cared for what they know
And I know

So close no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
No nothing else matters

 


How to be a Hugely Successful Published Author

First off, you have to write a book …or get somebody to write it for you, but it has to be one that is going to strike the fancy of ‘the mob’. (Think 50 Shades….)  If you don’t have something that’s going to strike a chord with the masses, then you’re just one insignificant among the millions of others publishing in the U.S., never mind globally.

Now, before doing anything else, and I mean anything (no queries to literary agents, no submissions to publishers, or, if self-publishing, no announcements, no pre-publication notices or pre-release sales, no cover reveals…NOTHING), lets go down the checklist:

  • Are you an extrovert? Yes?  Good.  Continue.
  • Are you part of one or another ‘in’ crowd, hugely popular both in the real world and on social media, and do you have a frenzied bunch of followers who dote on your every word, video, and image share? Yes? Good. Continue.
  • Do you have a bunch of money to fling to the winds? Yes? Good. Continue.
  • Are you already famous? Yes? Excellent. If no, continue at your own risk.
  • If self-publishing, get a really good cover made for your book. If going the literary-agent-to-big-traditional-publisher route, start querying the big agents, but, after landing one who actually manages to shop your book to one of the big five, expect to wait about 1.5 years before going to the next step.
  • Whether self-publishing or going with one of the big trads, hire a top-of-the-line publicist, buy lots of advertising, and get on with it.

And, no, this is not tongue-in-cheek. And, yes, you’ll come out behind for the first book, but, if it’s a hit like 50 Shades…, no problem. You’ll make it back on books 2 and 3. If it’s not a hit, continue with books 2 and 3 at your own risk …and, yes, if it’s not a hit and traditionally published, your publisher may very well dump you; your agent probably will, too.

One more thing: If you do make it, hire a financial adviser and learn what NOT to do so you don’t wind up blowing your wad and end up in the poor house.

 


Blunt Honesty from a zentaoist POV

Here’s some honesty:

In social circles, or, better said, by human judgement, your value is often measured by ‘successful’ achievements, by your name and heritage, by what you do for a living, by how lucky you are, by who likes and loves you and who doesn’t, by how much money you have in the bank and your status in relation to others. These are quantitative measurements.

And it’s all false.

In reality, your value, which can only be measured by you and no one else, is a qualitative, not quantitative one. It’s based on who you are as a Self, an entity, or, better said, as an entity consciousness. It’s not what you do for a living, how many assets you control, what you own, what kind of car you drive or the house(s) you own in which neighborhoods, who you’re friends with or related to, who values you and who doesn’t, your status amongst peers or any other nonsense. And it is nonsense.

In zentao, we say that we are what we do, but that ‘saying’ — those words — can mislead the uninformed. It’s not whether you dig a ditch or perform successful brain surgery. It’s not whether you build rockets, lead an organization, or raise children. It’s not ‘what’ you do, as in some job label, that defines you, but, rather, the ‘what’ of yourself with which you do anything. It’s the quality that matters. It’s the intent that matters. It’s the essence of the very doing that matters.

If you cut wood for a living, it says nothing about you, the self. If you clean septic tanks, likewise. Or write legal briefs. Or build cars. Or run a multi-national conglomerate. Or a country. Rather, it’s the nature of your intent and intensity — what you pour into the doing of yourself into that project, that job, that ‘doing’, that is the measure of yourSelf. And the judge of that doing isn’t others — it doesn’t matter whether they deem it of value. Rather, it’s what you yourself KNOW — that you did your utmost with pure heart and clean intent.

Labels mean nothing. At all. I tire of friends who brag upon the supposed accomplishments of themselves and of others whom they claim as friends, the very fact of that friendship some supposed measure of their own value as a person.  Bunk.

I tire of the long lists of Fortune 500 names they drop. I tire of the relations they claim as uncle, aunt, grandfather, or great grandmom. It means nothing — nothing at all.

What matters is who they are, not who they know, not who they are related to by blood, nor the mammon they have managed to hoard. What matters is how they do anything, even breathe — how they live their lives, in their hearts and with their minds.  Do they, when they set out to do something, whether they fail or succeed in that task, do it fully and completely to their utmost? …Because what matters is what of themselves they commit to any and EVERY moment of being and doing. And that’s the blunt truth of the matter.

It’s not ‘what’ you do, as in job, but how you do it, not measured by false standards of success or failure, but, rather a ‘how’ of pure intent and pure self-immersion in expression.

When we say ‘we are what we do’, what we mean is: Every doing we undertake, we do with our utmost, pouring ourselves into it to the fullest perfection, willingly and thoroughly, with complete commitment of ourselves in that doing. If you don’t commit yourself to that level of doing regardless of what it is — washing dishes, taking the garbage out, raising a child to majority — anything — then you’re doing injustice to your Self and insulting, even, yes, vulgarly desecrating the very resources utilized to perform that any action, activity, or project, including the resources utilized to maintain your life  — the very air you breathe and foodstuffs that sustain you.

In short, if the quality of your every moment of being isn’t committed to the utmost expression of being and doing YOU, then you defame your Self.


Resolve to be Kind

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I have an aversion to cruelty. I especially have an aversion to cruelty perpetuated by humans. I think it, not just unnecessary, but the true evil, the only real evil–sentient-made and sentient-perpetuated.

We humans don’t need to perpetuate cruelty/evil. We don’t need to embrace and accept it, much less applaud it.  Yet, we do. And, while I very much understand the underlying factors which contribute to the behavior, I refuse to give credence to any permissive-minded excusing of it.

No.

As sentient beings, we humans have choice–a choice to refuse to act out our fear-based hatreds and craving-based greeds. We have a choice to be kind or cruel in any circumstance. And we have an obligation to be kind, not cruel. To ourselves and to all other entities, sentient and insentient. To do otherwise, to choose cruelty over kindness, condemns us in our own self, by our own memories–etched in our brains, our cells, even our DNA, to self-condemnation.

You can scoff. You can cry out that your personal savior, be that Jesus or some other, will wash away your every sin and you are forgiven. But the fact of your deeds is indelibly scribed, and while your personal savior might forgive you, you remember and, by your every cruelty, will self-condemn.

Now, psychologists will argue that self-condemnation requires conscience, and conscience is determined by cultural conditioning and neurology. They will point out that cultural norms define what is and what is not identified as cruel, as bad or good. They will point out that the sociopath has no conscience.

Right and wrong, according to psychology, is relative, yet science identifies a moral generator that develops in primates and in human children, the latter beginning at the age of four, despite culture and upbringing–a sense of fairness, scientists call it. It’s genetically ingrained, probably rooted in evolution of the species. Regardless, it exists and can be measured. It’s very much past time that we employ it for our own peace of mind and for the betterment of ours and every other living thing’s existence. To do less, even if conscience must be learned, as in the case of the sociopath, is to condemn yourself and the human species as truly, remorselessly evil.

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