Party Like It’s 1999: 20 Years in Review

Here we are waiting for our new home in Las Vegas to be built remembering how this same time of year twenty years ago, we were also waiting for our first home to be finished. We got the keys April 13, and that’s about when the new house will be finished. 1999 was also the year we went to Walt Disney World together in May, and were determined to move to Orlando, because we knew we couldn’t possibly do all of Disney World the way we wanted all the way from San Francisco.

We traveled a lot that year. Besides WDW, other highlights were celebrating a milestone birthday for Rich at Bellagio in Las Vegas (pool cabana), and then we took Rich’s parents on a cruise for their 50th wedding anniversary. What a year!

Since then we moved to Oregon 3 times, Florida 3 times, California for the 3rd time, and Las Vegas 3 times. We’ve built 4 new homes (1 was a spec), and this will be our 5th. Oh my goodness! When we first left the San Francisco Bay Area in search of our own home, we had no idea we’d own so many and have such adventures. Not always easy, but they’ve made our life interesting and memorable and I can’t imagine missing any of it.

But besides the homes, we’ve loved and raised 7 kitties, said good-bye to 5 of them, met my father, wrote and published 6 novels, and am now writing and producing music.

It’s time to party, and we’re gonna party like it’s 1999 (counting down to the new house), dreaming of a Disneyland AP and a cruise in 2020!

Happy New Year!

Blogmas, Day 31: Unplug, Cut the Cord (Resolutions for #2020 #blogmas)

Today is finally the end of Blogmas (for those of us who kept blogging past Christmas), and the last day of 2019. It’s been a lot of fun discovering new bloggers who are also doing Blogmas. Which brings me to today’s post and unplugging and cutting the cord.

We already cut the cord when we dumped our cable TV for streaming services. First we tried HuluTV, which really sucked. We also tried DisneyPlus, which was fun for a few weeks until we caught up with all the new shows. And then we switched HuluTV to YouTubeTV, which is really cool, which is so funny, because as a content provider, I so dislike how YouTube works. But as a TV and music consumer, I’m really loving it.

I already unplugged from most social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc) but was still pretty active on Twitter. But it’s becoming so dissatisfying. So I’ve decided for my 2020 resolution to unplug from Twitter – at least take a break. I’ll keep the account (many of my Reverb contacts are on Twitter), but maybe not post or hang out there much. I prefer hanging out with other bloggers or even vloggers, for that matter, for those moments when, as an artist, you feel the need to connect with the world in an interesting but introverted way.

For example, while I’m writing this, I’m watching the latest vid from Best Life and Beyond on YouTube, giving me a peek into Disneyland, the next best thing to actually being there, while working on a song and some writing. Social media is mostly a time waster.

 

Blogmas, Day 30: End-of-Year Ableton Live Progress (#blogmas)

Many of you blogging this blogmas have mentioned the books you’ve enjoyed reading over the holidays. And in the past, that might have been me, too, especially if you mean fiction. But this year I’ve been cramming learning Ableton Live, taking tutorials and reading non fiction books. Gearing up for FAWM (“February Album Writing Month”), I guess

Logic Pro X is my DAW of choice but as an EDM producer, I wanted to learn Ableton Live. It seems so suited to the music genre. But it’s been quite a struggle in some ways, in others it’s been a breeze. I think that’s because each DAW specializes in different areas. I can sit down and start creating a song right away in Logic Pro, in Ableton, it seems the simplest things are the most difficult. But when it comes to mastering more of the advanced features in music production, Ableton seems to do it much more easily.

And while I’ve been madly applying myself to music tutorials for Ableton, I stumbled upon some really cool ones for Logic Pro, too, and have learned some interesting things I’m quite excited about. What to do, what to do? Ableton Live or Logic Pro? Well, I suppose I really don’t have to choose because I imagine it’s good for a producer to know more than one DAW. The real choice is which one do I use in the moment? lol!

There are a lot of tutorials out there, but it can be challenging following along. Sometimes they use third party plug-ins that you don’t have or their techniques zip past you so fast, you can’t possibly keep up. I’ve probably tried dozens just on one site. Anyway, here’s a sample song I managed to figure out in Ableton Live (via Groove3) from programming drums and synths to mixing and adding special effects such as EQ, reverb, and automation.

Blogmas, Day 29: Best Elvis Tribute Artist (#blogmas)

So I guess I’m going to do this thing until the end of the year – lol!

Today’s Review Journal was a reminder of those we’ve lost this year and the photo of Trent Carlini, my favorite Elvis Tribute Artist, caught my attention. I saw him years ago in the “Legends in Concert” show. Afterward, he hung out with everybody, and I thought that was pretty cool.

Blogmas, Day 28: Winter Wonderland in Las Vegas (#blogmas)

When it snows in the surrounding mountains, the Las Vegas Valley takes on a beautiful hue. The only downside is that it can make  travel to/from Vegas a a bit of a challenge, often resulting in being stuck due to road closures. We usually don’t make travel plans this time of year or book a flight if need be.

From today’s Las Vegas Review Journal:

Blogmas, Day 27: Make Mine a Hemingway (#blogmas)

I’m a bit late with today’s blogmas post, but we were having such fun out, I just now got around to posting.

I think this is one of the best parts about the Holidays – that time after Christmas before New Year’s when we often take a day off and hang out at a favorite restaurant.

Today’s choice was Tommy Bahama’s Cafe in Las Vegas Town Square, one of our favorite hangouts where tourists meet locals. It’s extra fun at Christmas with the decorations and holiday events. Happy Hour is daily and the bar lounge is cozy and offers live entertainment.

But we were there for lunch. And what a lunch it was! Delicious, amazing food, great service, the kind of tropical atmosphere where you think you’re on a Caribbean cruise (or back living in Florida).

I’d totally planned on having a glass of wine with lunch but when I saw the Hemingway (rum martini), I had to have it. Scallops and shrimp with lemongrass and curry sauce over almond rice – divine! Rich had the classic Mai Tai with ribs, mashes potatoes with cauliflower mix, and a slaw with cilantro!

The shops are always fun, and we picked up a couple of trinkets before discovering there’s an Ethel M’s outpost right next door! So we had to purchase a box made up the latest favorite booze candy flavor – the dark chocolate with tequila – and the dark chocolate salted caramel – making friends after spreading the word.

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Blogmas, Day 26: Starving Artist vs Thriving Artist (#blogmas)

Blogmas was so much fun, I, like many of you, have decided to extend it for a little bit longer. And as I grapple with plans for 2020 (as many of you), I’ve been doing a lot of mad reading.

My current read is Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins, and I’ve made some interesting discoveries as he makes many points about the “starving artist” vs the “thriving artist.”

Like maybe I don’t have to choose and shouldn’t choose between going all in with music or writing. I should be pursuing both. I can’t seem to help myself anyway, so I may as well give myself permission. The real challenge, I think, is getting up-to-speed on the music so that I can juggle both.

Here are a couple of insightful quotes I found:

Your art is never beholden to a single form. You can always change and evolve, and the best artists do this regularly. They understand that in order to thrive, you have to master more than one skill.

Starving Artists believe that to make a living you must make money off your art. But Thriving Artists don’t just live off their art. Like good investors, they keep diverse portfolios, relying on multiple income streams to make a living. Rarely do they go all in on any single area of work. The challenge, then, is knowing what investments to make and when.

Good advice, I think. The thing is, I can’t really stand over either one and demand it pay off. I do the work, put it out there, and then the return on my investment comes as a surprise when I least expect it. My job as an artist is to suit up and show up.

 

Blogmas, Day 25: Ghost of Christmas Past (#blogmas)

Standing in the toy aisle of ABC, a discount warehouse store in Southern California where we did our bi-monthly grocery shopping way before there was Walmart or Costco or Target, I inhaled the scent of plastic dolls brightly packaged and stacked on ceiling-high shelves. There was something magical about Christmas, even the small piece I got to celebrate.

Presents would definitely be stacked on a wall in the living room once they were revealed from their hiding places such as the hall closet. Creative shapes such as giraffes and other creatures would entertain the kids. Perhaps they wouldn’t notice there was no tree, decorations, or that the presents would be opened on the day or two before Christmas.

Visiting the neighbors across the street, I was mesmerized by the silver tree decorated just inside the front door with strings of Christmas cards hung across the top, and presents underneath. And the romance of the beautiful Christmas carols I sang with the school choir with my mother and brother in the audience was a night to remember. My step dad was usually missing, but, then, he often worked at night.

Somewhere around New Year’s neighborhood parties would hold sway. Roy Orbison on the stereo, mixed nuts, ruffled potato chips and French onion dip served in gold-leaf dishes set the stage. After too many Screwdrivers and other cocktails, the parents would sleep in and we’d get out of bed hoping to share in some of the spoils from the night before.

“Hello ‘der” told the story of somebody’s mom and somebody’s dad when the day finally greeted them after crawling out of bed. A Polaroid photo of another dad with one leg out of his pants revealing his boxers revealed more to the kids than they’d planned on.

I was thankful I had gifts and no matter what day we opened them, at least when we returned to school in the new year and when kids asked what I got for Christmas, I had answers to give. My mother said one year they were tempted to put up a tree, but what would happen if my Jehovah’s Witness grandmother should show up and see it? I remember what happened when she caught us with an American Flag for Flag Day.

Today, all of that is behind me. Today, I embrace Christmas trees, cards, carols, and all the bright lights to somehow give myself what I had missed. It’s never quite enough. What is enough is living the promise I sang in those songs about Bethlehem and mangers, wise men, drummer boys, silver bells, and bright stars. But most of all, Little Lord Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Merry Christmas!

 

Blogmas, Day 24: War of Art (#blogmas)

War of Art by Steven Pressfield was one of the books circling the Writing Community back when I first started writing. For some reason, I recently dug it out (on Kindle) and reread it. And then I downloaded the follow-up book Do the Work. I highly recommend it if you have any desire at all about pursuing art as a profession instead of a hobby or anything in-between.

I’ve been juggling writing and music, unsure about how to pursue which one. Is one my profession and the other hobby or both professions or both hobbies? What do I really want to accomplish with either?

One reason I did the December book tour for Déjà Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon and #Blogmas featuring all of my books, was to see if I could get my writing career back moving in the forward direction it had been moving before social media and the new algorithm, before the saturation of other books and writers, before fantasy and vampires and erotica took over the world (or whatever it was that halted that forward momentum), to see how serious readers and the Universe are about me as a writer. But, perhaps, the real reason for the turn was to turn me toward my real calling, which just might be music.

I’ve tried to pursue both, but I really think you need to choose one or the other if you’re going to pursue any as a profession. Besides the tours, as a good-bye salute, I’ve also made sure all of my books are available in paperback as well as Kindle. Some had only been available in digital form. I guess I’m wrapping things up to prepare the way to move on.

Of course, if the world clamors for my books on Amazon, breathing new life into my writing career, okay, then I’ll get that message to keep providing new books. Otherwise, I’m going to assume music is my future calling and 2020 is the time to go all in.

 

Blogmas, Day 23: The Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon Book Tour Wraps Up (#blogmas)

Since the book tour extends beyond Blogmas, I thought I’d list the last 4 stops on this post. And then I can talk about other things to wrap up Blogmas for this year.

Deja Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon Book Tour Final Stops:

Monday, December 23 – All the Ups and Downs

Thursday, December 26- Jazzy Book Reviews

Friday, December 27: Gimme the Scoop

Friday, December 27: All About Books

And that’s a wrap for December’s book tour.

That leaves two more days of Blogmas. Hopefully we can find something fun to talk about. See ya real soon!