Saturday, February 25, 2017

American English and Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Saturday night, my husband and I actually managed to have a date night. (Yes, this is a rare enough event to merit a blog post.) While my son went to a birthday party and then to a friend's house, we saw a Beatles tribute band, American English, perform at a local community college.

If you're not familiar with tribute bands, they pay homage to a particular artist or group by emulating everything from the outfits to the instruments to (of course) the music itself. The members of American English even copy the speech patterns and mannerisms of the individual Beatles. Of course, there's simply no replacement for the original John, Paul, George, and Ringo, but groups like American English give us a chance to enjoy live Beatles music.

This particular concert was billed as both a birthday tribute to George Harrison and a live version of Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I was therefore not expecting the first part of the show to feature B-sides and lesser known works from the early part of the Beatles' career, but I enjoyed it. American English played songs such as "Run for Your Life," "Matchbox," "Another Girl," "Till There Was You," and many more. It's surprising how many songs they performed in an hour or so, but most of the early songs were short. When they finished this part of the show, they quickly changed from the early "moptop" costumes to Abbey Road ones. "George" came out first to play a mix of solo and Beatles George songs--the most popular ones. (There were a lot of other great Harrisongs that didn't get played, but they would have had to devote the entire concert to George to do justice to his catalog.) The rest of the band crept onstage to join him for "Here Comes the Sun." They closed out the first half of the show with "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and served cupcakes during the intermission.

The second half of the show was devoted to the Sargent Pepper era, and the band dressed accordingly in the florescent uniforms from the album cover. Thanks to a "fifth member" with a synthesizer, they were able to recreate the many special sound effects from the album. Apparently it took the group six months to put this part of the show together. They didn't play the album straight through, but stopped to talk a bit between songs. Part of this could have been to give "Paul" a chance to drink water. Apparently he was still recovering from the flu, and he had great difficulty singing at this point. Nevertheless, he persisted. I particularly liked the way they added snippets of "Tomorrow Never Knows" to "Within You Without You," which was more rock-like (less sitar-dependent) than the Beatles' version. After finishing "A Day in the Life," the group came back to perform an encore of "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever."

No matter if you're a casual or serious Beatles fan, if you have the chance to see a tribute group, particularly American English, I suggest you take it. A splendid time is guaranteed for all. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Storage Locations: Flash Drive vs. Cloud

Normally I like to write or edit on my lunch hour, but I used my time yesterday to write this blog post instead. That's because although I remembered to bring my netbook, I forgot to bring the flash drive where I store current versions of all my important documents. (Don't worry; the flash drive was on my desk when I came home. I had removed it from my laptop but forgotten to stick it in my netbook case.) This happens every so often. Normally I find something else to work on instead; for example, I might draw up a character sketch or plot another story. This time, I wondered if it would make more sense to start keeping my working copies of documents in cloud storage. I would probably use Dropbox, which would work not just with my netbook and laptop but also with my phone. Office 365 also offers cloud storage, and I know other places to get it as well.

The main reason I work from a flash drive instead of cloud storage isn't security or privacy concerns (although those are important), but access concerns. Internet is usually available in most of the places I normally go, but not always. If we're traveling somewhere , I try to squeeze in some writing time while my husband drives. Finding wifi on the highway wouldn't work in that situation. I suppose I could use cloud storage most of the time and upload files to my flash drive right before the trip. Still, sometimes it's easier to have only one spot for your working files. (I do agree that backups should be in multiple locations for safety.)

Where do you keep your current files? For that matter, where do you keep your backups? (Formats can become obsolete very quickly.) Did you remember to back up your files recently? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Editing Quotas

Although I have a new story in progress, I'm actually spending most of my writing time editing Summon the Seasons and the Young Seasons short story collection. It's hard to gauge progress when you're editing. While you can aim for a consistent number of new words when you're drafting something new, editing isn't as straightforward. I'm not only replacing text, but I'm also removing some scenes entirely. (The current word count for Summon the Seasons is about 91,000 words, down from about 95,000 for the first draft.) Some scenes also require more extensive editing than others. While I'm spending a lot of time revising the opening of the book, I don't anticipate changing the ending so much. Maybe this is why the do-it-yourself MFA I discussed last week doesn't mention editing what you write.

Instead of trying to set a daily page or word count for editing, I'm going to set goal dates for myself. I'd like to finish editing Young Seasons by the end of March and Summon the Seasons by the end of June. It's up to me to determine how to spend my writing time to meet those goals, especially since I also have to factor in the first draft of the new story and all of my other non-writing tasks and goals. We'll see if I can make those goals.

Do you set editing goals for your own stories? If so, what criteria do you use? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The 1000 Day MFA

Have you ever wanted a do-it-yourself MFA degree? Shaunta Grimes, who helped organize the Instagram book giveaway I participated in last November, has taken some of Ray Bradbury's advice and come up with a three-year (or so) program you can do at home. It involves a combination of reading widely, writing a short story a week, and writing a novel a year, among other things. I think one could learn a lot from this disciplined approach, but it's not a good fit for my writing goals at this time. If you're interested in learning more, however, you can check out the website. There's also a group on Facebook; however, I think you have to support the program with Patreon 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Excerpt from Letters to Psyche

Since Valentine's Day is on a Tuesday this year, my husband and I plan to celebrate the holiday late. However, I thought I'd share with you an excerpt from my short story, "Letters to Psyche." It's about Cupid's attempts to unite the houses of Montague and Capulet (the families of Romeo and Juliet) with love. If he fails, a curse will separate him forever from his own beloved wife, Psyche. The story is told from Cupid's point of view:

I was in the middle of shooting a youth when Elisabeth’s first curse crashed into me, causing me to misfire. I thought it was a fluke until several more curses hit me with enough force to make me turn visible. Luckily, I became transparent and rushed to her bedchamber before the youth noticed me.
I didn’t recognize Elisabeth; she was bone-thin with her wavy hair clipped short. I gleamed what had happened when the Christian priest came to hear her confession. Once he left the room and took his faith with him, I allowed myself to appear. She was close enough to death to keep my presence secret, and she didn’t seem surprised to see me.
“I grieve for your loss, my lady,” I told her. “It is my task to unite your houses as an example of love, not drive them apart.”
“But if we were your example, why didn’t you help us?” she whispered.
“I only spark love, my lady. Once it catches fire, it’s up to the couple to keep it burning. How can I focus on one couple when there are so many others who need me?”
“Have you no pity for us humans, Cupid?” Her eyes appeared smudged in their sockets. “The poets say even you were pricked by your own arrow. Why do you allow so many obstacles in the path of true love?”
A pox on the poets, my dearest, for revealing what should have been kept secret. As Elisabeth spoke, I remembered eavesdropping as my mother tasked you with sorting seeds, fetching golden fleece, and even sending you to Hades. How I had to sneak around to find sympathetic helpers for you. Even with them on our side, we nearly lost each other. But would we have realized how much we needed each other if we had not been parted for a while? Nothing worth winning was ever gained easily, but greedy mortals always demand the gods make their paths as smooth as silk. So I answered her as Athena had advised us, with the words, “It is the wisdom of the gods, Lady.”
“Wisdom, Cupid, or a wish to keep us blind?”
This was arrogance I would not tolerate. I was about to leave when she coughed herself into a spasm, enough to make me pity her.
She beckoned me closer. “Cupid, God of Love, I pray you hear my final request.”

This story is available at the stores listed here for only $0.99.

No matter how--or if--you celebrate Valentine's Day, I hope you have a good one!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Cloud Library

It's been a long time since I checked out an eBook from my local library. I don't remember all of the steps in the process, but I remember having to go through Amazon to get the book. This weekend, I wanted to read Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to get more background on the characters (and also to avoid watching it for the fifth time. My son kind of likes the movie, to put it mildly.) The physical copy was out, but the eBook was available. However, my library has a new (to me, at least) method for downloading eBooks: the Cloud Library app. The app is available for both Apple and Android, but not that many libraries are part of it so far?

It was pretty easy installing the app, and once I selected my library and entered my library card information, I was able to get the book very quickly. Every time I open the app, it defaults to a browsing screen instead of my book. However, it does show my progress in the book and how many days I have left for the loan. I have to admit I'm a bit spoiled by using the Kindle app; I miss being able to highlight text or see how much reading time is left in the chapter or book. However, one advantage of the Cloud Library app is that it remains in the Portrait orientation. (For some reason, my Kindle app now always shows books in the Landscape orientation, which I don't like.) Still, despite the shortcomings of Cloud Library, I'll continue to use it, just as I'll borrow paper books if there's no eBook available. However, I find the paper format more and more cumbersome. I tend to only read paper books at home now, particularly while I'm on the treadmill. It's much harder to keep paper pages open (I have to use a chip clip) and turn them than it is to swipe a Kindle with a finger.

Do you borrow eBooks from your library? If so, do you use Overdrive, Cloud Library, or something else to download them?

Monday, February 06, 2017

Writing in Difficult Times

If you're interested in making a long-term career out of writing, it pays to follow Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blog. Although her latest Business Musings blog post, "Writing in Difficult Times," was inspired by the current political uncertainties in many parts of the world, it also applies to other situations where a writer might be going through a low period, such as experiencing the death of someone close to them. Even the birth of a child throw's off a writer's schedule. It's also a reminder of the importance of fiction in helping other people cope with their own troubles. Head on over to and check out her work.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

IWSG--Writing and Reading

It's not only the first day of February but also the first Wednesday of the month, making it Insecure Writer's Support Group Day. This month, the co-hosts are Misha Gerrick, L.K. Hill, Juneta Key, and Joylene Nowell Butler. Our question for this month is How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

I started writing back in my twenties, so I've been both a reader and a writer for quite some time now. The biggest effect writing has had on my reading is to make me more critical as I read a story. Of course typos and grammar mistakes jump out at me, but I also notice pacing, consistency issues, and other aspects of craft. Sometimes these observations lower my opinion of the story; other times, I feel impressed by the author's skill. Either way, I'm less immersed in the reading than I would be if I were just a reader.

How about you? Do you feel being a writer has affected your reading? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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