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“Everybody Lies House Remix” (#House #Disco #EDM) on Spotify and Bandcamp

I’ve been thinking for some time about remixing my song “Everybody Lies” as a dance track replacing the previous version on Spotify. I’ve also been thinking about Bandcamp for some time, especially when I noticed a Bandcamp plugin for my WordPress site.

I finally get around to doing both, but, alas, the plugin is no longer available on WordPress. Figures – lol! Anyway, it was still enough motivation to upload my first song of the “Best of FAWM” album on Bandcamp (song also listed in sidebar).

Btw, this is my “Everybody Lies” – apparently, there is at least one other song with that title – lol!

 

 

Scooter’s Big Adventure, a Picture Book Podcast

Funny, I’ve been dreaming about making an audio version of this picture book I wrote a few years back, inspired by Skipper, our Burmilla cat (sometimes called “Scooter.”) At 18, he joined his sweetheart, Lovey, on the Rainbow Bridge just a little over 2 years ago. I miss him every day.

Now that WordPress has this podcast feature where you can convert your blog post into a podcast, well, this is the time to do it. I tried the podcast feature out yesterday and now I’m giving this story a try (see illustrated pdf download).Stay tuned for the link to Spotify.

Mrs. Johnson went to the pet store and saw a white kitty wearing a red kerchief. She said, “I want that one.”

The owner said, “Okay, but you must promise to never let him go outside with his little red scooter.”

“Scooter?” she said.

“Yes, he scoots around on it. You’ll see.”

Mrs. Johnson did see and so she named him Scooter, named after his favorite toy. Scooter loved to help Mrs. Johnson in the kitchen where he added his own ingredients to the pot.

Every morning Mrs. Johnson and Scooter baked sweet treats and watched the children board the yellow school bus.

One blustery day, Mrs. Johnson went outside to get the morning paper. “Good morning, Mrs. Johnson,” the kids, waiting for the school bus, said.

She smiled and waved back. “If only my Scooter were a real boy.”

When Mrs. Johnson went inside, a gust of wind blew her door open. “Oh dear,” she said, “I must not have closed the door tight.”

As she reached to close the door, she heard the rumble of the red scooter fly past her.

“Oh, no,” she said. “Come back, Scooter.”

But the scooter picked up such speed that when she’d almost caught him, he scooted along even farther.

“The school kids will bring him back.”

When the school bus arrived and all of the kids got onboard, the bus drove away. Mrs. Johnson noticed one boy staring at her from the school bus window. She looked and looked and blinked her eyes. Surely, she must be dreaming.

She looked around but she didn’t see a kitty or a scooter anywhere. And that little boy on the bus was wearing the same little red kerchief that her Scooter wore.

Once she got over her amazement, she smiled because she realized he looked just like she had imagined he would look if he were a real a boy. He had blonde hair, blue eyes, a big, round smiling face, and a smattering of freckles across his nose.

Scooter watched the look of horror on his mother’s face become a smiling face as the school bus drove away. He knew she would be okay. Today was his day to have a big adventure with the other kids.

But he was sad about missing making lunch with his mother and his very own scooter that didn’t come with him as he jumped up the steps onto the bus. He hoped that when the bus brought him back home his scooter would be waiting for him.

He also hoped that his mother would be smiling and waiting for him like all the other mothers did every day.

A big kid, much bigger than Scooter, sat down next to him on the seat. But he bounced more than he sat and bumped into Scooter hard. Scooter smiled at him, hoping he wanted to be friends, but the boy jammed himself against Scooter again.

Scooter started to say, “Hey, watch it,” but his voice sounded more like a high-pitched meow. The boy rammed against him again and it was starting to not feel good so Scooter took his hand, shaped like a claw, and began scratching the kid.

The other kids noticed and started chanting, “Baby, baby, he claws like a baby.”

Scooter felt his ears draw back as he wondered what he had done wrong. The other kids seemed like they were making fun of him. He shrugged his shoulders and stared out the window again, but this time he didn’t recognize any of the houses in his neighborhood. His excitement over a new adventure was turning into fear.

But just as he started to worry about what he had done, the bus pulled up in front of a pretty little school, just like he had seen from watching TV.

The kids filed out of the bus and headed for the classroom. Some kids hung up their coats in the back of the room while others sat down at small tables.

“Desk,” he corrected himself. He knew from watching TV that it was called a desk. And, sure enough, just like on TV, there was the teacher sitting at a desk in front of the class.

Scooter sat down at one desk after another but a kid would kick him out each time saying, “Hey, that is my desk” or “Are you a new kid in the class?” Finally the teacher looked at Scooter and asked him, “Do you have your enrollment papers?”

Scooter began to get frightened. When the teacher asked him again and started to walk toward him, he ran out of the classroom and he heard the kids laughing. This going to school thing was tougher than he thought it would be.

He roamed around the building and peeked his head into one classroom after another but somebody always asked him if he was new in school. He just wanted to hang out and see what was going on. He didn’t actually want to enroll in anything. The word enroll just made him hungry, thinking of the sweet cinnamon rolls his mother would sometimes make just before lunch.

Just then, like magic, his nose got a whiff of something good-smelling–something that smelled like it was coming from a kitchen–something that smelled like pizza.

“The cafeteria,” he said. He ran over to the building marked “cafeteria” and noticed other moms in there preparing food–just like his mom did at home.

A smiling mom with gray hair greeted him with open arms. She said, “There you are–our volunteer. We thought you weren’t coming today.”

She tied an apron around his waist, placed a white chef’s hat on his head and clapped her hands.

“I’m ready to taste the food,” he said. The mom with the gray hair laughed.

“Here, take these napkins and put them in the holders on every table. Then put this stack of clean forks and knives into the containers. When you’re finished with that, fill the bins with straws. By then it should be time for the rest of the children to come in for lunch and I’ll need your help with the milk cartons.”

When he saw the big trays filled with pizzas sitting on the counter, his mouth began to water and his tummy began to grumble. The pizza began to talk to him. “Eat me,” it said.

When the white-haired mom went to the freezer in the other room, Scooter grabbed a slice of cheese pizza. “Surely, she won’t miss this slice,” he said and began eating. And that was so good, he grabbed another, only this time he added some sausage and a dash of basil he saw sitting on the counter. He knew his spices from watching his mom in the kitchen.

“What this pizza needs is some anchovies,” he said and grabbed some sitting next to the bowl of spaghetti sauce and tossed them on each slice.

“More cheese would be even better,” he thought and grabbed a handful of grated cheese from the other side of the bowl of spaghetti sauce and sprinkled it throughout.

When Scooter looked up, he saw the gray-haired mom walk back to the table, but instead of her smiling face, she had a stern look on her face. But instead of the pretend mad look like his mom wore when she scolded him not to lick the butter cream frosting knife, this mom’s face looked really mad.

Scooter jumped down and ran out of the cafeteria and down the street. He ran and ran and ran as fast as he could, not even thinking about where he was going.

“Scooter, come back,” he heard her say.

He looked over his shoulder to see if she still looked mad, but he only saw a bunch of mean-looking kids running after him and dogs barking at him.

“Oh, no, not dogs,” he said.

He ran and he ran as fast and as far as he could. And just as the kids and the dogs started to catch up with him and grab the kerchief around his neck, he saw his little red scooter hiding in the gutter right in front of his house.

He jumped on the scooter and he turned the scooter toward the front door. The scooter took off, and just as he was about to crash into the front door, a big gust of wind opened it, and he slid right in like he was sliding into home plate.

He didn’t see Mrs. Johnson anywhere and remembered it was shopping day. By the time she got home with a big bag of groceries, he was fast asleep in Mr. Johnson’s chair. Mrs. Johnson scratched behind his ear and said, “Oh, Scooter, you won’t believe what I thought happened today. And here you were here all along fast asleep.”

By the time Mr. Johnson came home, Scooter could smell the scent of Mrs. Johnson’s cinnamon-spice cookies wafting in the kitchen, along with the flavors of pot roast, carrots, onions and potatoes.

Mr. Johnson grabbed his evening paper, squeezed in next to Scooter in the chair and said, “What a lucky kitty, sleeping and dreaming about wishes all day in my chair.”

And then Mr. Johnson picked Scooter up and squeezed him tight. And Scooter thought, “Never again would he wish he was somebody he was not.”

My First Podcast: Cruise Ship Night Life

Missing cruise ship night life? Okay, so maybe you’re missing night life of any kind. But cruise ship nightlife is pretty much all the night life I do. Or did. So I created a dance track using a few of the new tracks I created during FAWM, and upload it to YouTube. It was so much fun making – both the DJ track and the YouTube video. Hope you enjoy!

You can find it on YouTube by searching for Screamie Birds Studios or by clicking the link below:

To cruise virtually, check out my two novels set on cruise ships:

Real Women Wear Red and Real Women Sing the Blues.

Thanks for listening to my first podcast from my WordPress blog at kathyholmes.net.

 

Kathy Holmes or Screamie Birds? Challenges of an Indie Author/Artist

I’ve written a bit about how I’m trying to juggle being both an Indie Author and an Indie Artist, writing novels and producing EDM (Electronic Dance Music). But it seems the world wants to know exactly who and what you are and trying to juggle both isn’t really following the rules of creating a brand. It’s fine to break the rules if the rules don’t make sense. But the truth is, you don’t want to confuse people. You only have a second, it seems, to catch somebody’s attention. You need to be clear about who you are.

I’ve used “Screamie Birds Studios” to represent both, as in, my writing and music studio. Still, people don’t know what a screamie bird is. If you google it, you’ll find all kinds of links to “screaming birds.” Screamie Birds even sounds like screaming birds. I tried recording an intro to a DJ track I’d made, welcoming people to “Screamie Birds Studios” and it sounded like I was saying “Screaming Birds.” If I tried to be more clear, I sounded like an idiot.

So here I am trying to make the most of this new WordPress “Podcast” feature where you can convert your blog post into a podcast. I don’t know who to be – “Screamie Birds” or “Kathy Holmes.”

I used to be just Kathy Holmes but then Katie Holmes came on the scene and it seems no matter what variation you do of “Kathy” all searches go to Katie.

So then when I started focusing more on my music, I thought it would be fun to be “Screamie Birds” – the name my childhood friend and I used when we wrote our first song and wrote to Ed Sullivan to be on his show. Nothing like dating myself. But the Beatles were big then and “Screamie” meant “Singer” and “Birds” meant “girl” so we were the “Screamie Birds.” Ha!

I’m started to feel like a screaming bird just writing this post. I’m definitely having an identity crisis. So maybe this will be my introduction to my first podcast. Screamie Bird or Kathy Holmes? What do you think?

EDM: For Those Who Connect With Sound, Not Lyrics (#EDM #Music #Producer #Novelist #WritingCommunity)

I read this tweet (no, I haven’t quite deleted my Twitter account, although I do try to keep my peeks to a minimum), and this thought resonated with me. It explains so much. Especially when I realized I liked the sound of words, not the words themselves. This goes way back to the first grade. I loved the word “said” and the name “David” – the “d” sounds like a drum in my head.

When I met my father later in life (I may or may not have met him when I was a small child), he said, “All my kids play the drums.” Bingo! Then my life started to make sense. The more I connect with music (especially EDM – Electronic Dance Music in case you don’t know), the more I understand myself.

But when my literary agent told me my writing had a “poetic, almost lyrical rhythm to it,” I wondered what that meant. My father’s family were all musicians (guitarists, keyboardists, drummers, bassists, etc), going back to time immemorial, and my grandmother wrote poetry, I thought that must mean I was supposed to be a songwriter. Lyrics must be my thing. And so I enrolled in a modern musician certificate program starting with songwriting. I ended up realizing the difference between poems and lyrics and that it takes a special skill to translate those words into words that go with music. That was not my gift.

My gift that I’m exploring is sound design. I have so much to learn but I absolutely love it! One of my uncles was a sound engineer and so that makes sense. I may also be a storyteller, but not through lyrics. I have good family direction. My uncle said, “Now that you know you’re a Holmes, you’re gonna wanna pay attention to music.” And my dad said, “Keep writing. You must fulfill your destiny.”

And so I continue to juggle both. One gives me a break from the other, refreshing me for both. I may resist that, but I think I need that.

 

Screamie Birds St. Paddy House Party

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

In honor of the occasion, I put together a playlist of some of my favorite tracks I’ve created during 50/90 and FAWM. This time I used Ableton Live 11 to produce the track and, let me tell you, it was far more producer friendly than Logic Pro, although I do kinda like creating in Logic.

Hope you enjoy!

Missing Cruise Ship Night Life? #dance #music #cruise

Missing cruise ship night life? Okay, so maybe you’re missing night life of any kind. But cruise ship nightlife is pretty much all the night life I do. Or did. So I created a dance track using a few of the new tracks I created during FAWM, and upload it to YouTube. It was so much fun making – both the DJ track and the YouTube video. Hope you enjoy!

You can find it on YouTube by searching for Screamie Birds Studios or by clicking the link below:

To cruise virtually, check out my two novels set on cruise ships:

Real Women Wear Red and Real Women Sing the Blues.

Thanks for listening to my first podcast from my WordPress blog at kathyholmes.net.

 

Writing Fiction: To Covid or Not to Covid

I’ve written several times here about my struggle to juggle writing music and writing fiction. My brain works differently for each art but what excerbates the whole situation is well, Covid. I had finished the first draft of “She’s Not That Good” (posted exerpts of the first couple of chapters on this blog), when it started but haven’t been able to continue working on it.

Do I continue writing it with no mention of Covid as if it never existed? Do I rewrite it to include Covid? Do I purposely set the date pre-Covid? Do I write it as if Covid is over? Do I change the time and place? All questions writers are asking themselves these days. But one complication is that it’s set on a cruise ship. I couldn’t even mention cruising on Twitter (regarding my 2 other novels set on cruise ships), without people going all crazy on me.

I’ve had my head so immersed in writing music lately that I totally missed the conversations writers were having, if only in their heads, but I find this helpful article To Covid or Not to Covid: The Challenge of Writing Fiction During a Pandemic, just what I needed to read and think about now.

The Last of Social Media

Several years ago I finally empowered myself to finally completely sever my relationship with Facebook and have never been happier making that decision. Instagram was easier to walk away from. Twitter has been more difficult. I deactivate/activate my account several times a month these days. In December, I almost made it through the month, going from deactivate to delete. At the last minute, I logged back in to keep the account. Maybe because I’ve had it since 2005.

YouTube is another problem I’m having (especially during this time of isolation). To be specific, I’m having difficulty unsubscribing from all of those travel vlogs like Disney and cruising. I unsubscribe and then resubscribe, “needing” to peek in to see what they’re up to now and then. On a daily basis. Especially when there are Disney or Knotts events coming up. But really? I’m not sure I can stand that level of stupidity and self-absorption any more.

One vlogger said recently that they were in no hurry to upload their Knotts Boysenberry Festival because most of the other West Coast vloggers were in Disney World. Okay, so you’re only in this to be first I guess. Not to provide content your viewers are interested in. Vloggers just care about getting hits associated with being first out there in some grand competition (to, hopefully, make money).

Unsubscribe…

Okay, so the next test will be if I can delete my YouTube channel. It’s a mishmash of Disney, cruising, travel, book trailers, and music. I’ve been trying to focus more on music but I have a feeling the subscribers I do have are there for Disney and cruising and not my books and music. But right before the pandemic, one of my cruise videos went viral (for me) and got 87K views in practically no time. Hard to delete it now…

But, perhaps, if I finally take that final step, deleting Twitter and YouTube, I’ll actually be able to juggle writing books and music instead of feeling like I must choose one because I don’t have the bandwidth to do both. Maybe I do have the bandwidth if I don’t waste it on meaningless unsocial social media.

But what if I need Twitter to promote my next book… I read that, and I know this to be true, you don’t really sell books on Twitter or any social media. Social media is really just a lie.

FAWM 21 House Playlist on MixCloud

After a bit of nudging by my fellow FAWMERS, I put together a DJ track of my favorite House songs I created/produced for FAWM 21 and uploaded it to MixCloud. I definitely think I may be moving toward the DJ path. I’m looking forward to creating more playlists of remixes and original tracks. It’s just so darn much fun!

I Wish I’d Had the Courage (#poetry)

When I see single moms
I wish I’d had the courage
But life was different when I was young
I wish I’d had the courage
I wish I’d had the courage

To just say yes
Grab some happiness
Turn my back on those
Who would judge what I chose
Stand up, be strong
Not feel that I was wrong
I wish I’d had the courage

I look at whole families
And see what I couldn’t give you
What I couldn’t have for myself
I question all the questions
And answer all the answers
With doubt and fear and loneliness
Not knowing how to ask for help

When I see single moms
I wish I’d had the courage
But life was different when I was young
I wish I’d had the courage
I wish I’d had the courage

FAWM 2021 is in the House

So I finished FAWM 2021 (14 songs in 28 days) – not only finished it but finished early! I’m stunned. This may be a first. What was my secret? Music – creating music is my lifeline, giving me focus during these difficult times.

I know a lot of people are depressed now – many of us struggle with depression during ordinary times and these extraordinary times have added to our struggle. Our normal coping mechanisms have been unavailable to us.

For me, it’s mostly situational and, normally, I would take trips, change up my routine or make plans to change things. But that has been pretty impossible with the world shut down. Even my quick trips to California were not possible during the holidays when hotels were not taking reservations for “non essential” travel.

So I’ve focused on the good things that have come my way during this time, appreciate this special time my husband and I have had together with both of us working at home, ordering food delivery from favorite restaurants more than we would have before. Maybe stocking the bar more than usual – lol! Heck, I’m even starting to enjoy the masks and having more personal space in public.

True, I still have trouble sleeping and I find myself doing it in shifts. With way too much time with anxious thoughts or just lying awake with no thoughts interesting enough to engage me – I think that’s the worst part. Just lying there awake!

Thankfully, FAWM gave me a lot of focus and an opportunity to try new music skills, experimenting with new sounds and arrangements. Still, I finished early, but that’s okay because Ableton 11 drops Tuesday. I’m ready to go!

2021 FAWM: Variations on the House

Exotic Dance Ritual (FAWM 2021 Song #11)

SoundCloud says this song violates copyright but I purchased these samples from the Latina House Sample Pack from Black Octupus Sound via Sonic Academy, which gives me permission. I have disputed their claim. Besides, I’m only using it for the purpose of participating in FAWM 2021. So I will post here instead, just for the duration of FAWM.

Update: SoundCloud has agreed that I have the right to use the samples and has reinstated my song on their site.

FAWM 2021: Day 11, Song #7

Okay, so I’m definitely ahead of schedule for FAWM (February Album Writing Month) – 14 songs in 28 days. Actually, I’m halfway there! Yes!! And Ableton announced Ableton 11 is dropping on the 23rd so I’d like to finish FAWM before then so I can start playing around.

Anyway, track #7 is my version of a Rock EDM, although I have to say I prefer EDM remixes of classic rock songs and must try my own. Search on Spotify for “Classic EDM” if you’re interested. If you’re looking for my latest FAWM playlist, check out this SoundCloud link:

 

FAWM: 8 days in, 4 songs done

Hey, I’m right on target for FAWM (February Album Writing Month), where the challenge is to write 14 songs in 28 days. Now, I don’t know if I’ll actually pull off that number, I’m not even sure I want to, but I just take it one song at a time and here I am.

The first 3 songs were some form of House track and the 4th song is my first attempt at a DJ track, mixing 4 songs in one (2 in English, 2 in Spanish). I’m so missing cruising to Mexico and drinking Margaritas at Hussong’s listening to Latin EDM.

Music Playing on an Endless Loop in my Head

Musicians, tell me, when you’re working on a song, does it play on an endless loop in your head? If so, how do you cope? I asked my Bass playing uncle about that one time and he said there’s nothing to be done. Yikes! Maybe I should skip this music stuff and return to writing fiction, although sometimes my sentences would play on a loop, too, especially when editing.

But I so love music. And the loop doesn’t even have to be running when I’m working on a song. Just listening to music will do that to me, especially the songs I love most and get stuck in my head.

I’m starting to realize the truth to what my father said when we were getting to know each other that “All my kids play the drums.” That was such an epiphany for me!

At first I was content programming drums in my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), but now that I have a new Launchkey, I find myself drumming right before bed. I come upstairs and I can’t resist the colorful “Vegas mode” (yes, it’s really called that) lights, sit down in front of my keyboard and start drumming.

I’m starting to exhaust myself and FAWM hasn’t even started yet (February 1).

 

 

Chasing the Muse at 5 a.m.

It’s 5 a.m. and my head full of song ideas feels like it’s about to burst. The muse is calling quite inconveniently. I’d love to obey and sit in my music studio and start belting out some lyrics while fingering some piano chords. But that would disrupt the household – my husband who is sleeping before getting up to start his work day (at home) and the cats (one cat loves to sing along with me). Even without hubby now working full-time at home during this global situation, it wouldn’t be kind to start blasting music at this hour – lol!

The countdown to FAWM is upon me and I don’t feel prepared. Every song I write to keep my skills limber seems to suck! I have imposter syndrome – lol. I’m starting to feel like Brandi, the leading lady in “She’s Not That Good” (my wip I’m editing and posting bits of here).

I don’t feel comfortable wailing in my studio with my husband sitting in the next room over working. We’re a close couple but I’m used to having the house to myself during the day. Perhaps I should sit and edit my novel instead of music right now. It’s a quieter endeavor I can do any time, night or day, alone or in a crowd. Life was simpler before music. Ha!

This time last year we were building a new home, living in a rental much to be desired but the saving grace was the casita – a separate building I used for my studio. I could blast music any time, night or day. Wow! That was awesome! The best part about that rental house. It was perfect for FAWM.

I woke up with so many musical ideas, but they’re starting to fade. This is really frustrating. But they probably weren’t that good – they just seemed like it at 5 a.m.

At best, I can write this blog post, write notes to myself or work on lyrics, I suppose. But as I read this back, it sounds like one big whining session, and I’m so sorry for that.

But, wait, I’ve started to work on a song using my DAW and headphones and I think I’m onto something. So, yeah, it’s always best to find some way to catch what the muse is throwing your way, no matter the circumstances.

Editing Chapter 1 of “She’s Not That Good”

As I read over chapter 1, I’m pretty sure that neither “Previously” section will stay. But we’ll see. That’s the beauty of making it real–helps the editing process by bringing clarity to your writing.

She’s Not That Good

Chapter 1

“She’s not that good,” a woman on the other side of the cube wall whispers in her stage voice.

I know she’s talking about me. Maybe because I’ve heard those four little words, five if you count she’s not as “she is not,” for most of my life. Plus the fact that I’ve just been told by HR that I have five minutes to pack up my belongings before they escort me out of the building.

“Layoff” they call it, so why all the drama and formal proceedings as if I’ve done something criminal? Is it a crime to not be that good at something, even if it were true? Besides, this is only my first day at work. Who gives you a typing test on your first day of work? Especially in high tech? Unheard of.

A voice clears, and I look up. Has five minutes passed already? Oh, well, it doesn’t matter. I don’t have that much stuff to pack up. Being a temporary employee, a contractor, means I’m used to going from one job to another so I travel light—especially for the first week or maybe even the first month or two. I shut down the company computer, grab my purse, water bottle, personalized coffee cup, and follow my escort through the double doors, out to the lobby, and out on the sidewalk.

I don’t even have a car so I can escape quickly, tamp down my humiliation, or scream and cry in the privacy of my own vehicle. Oh no, today I chose to take BART to work. Fremont is an hour BART ride and even longer by car, so, of course, I took BART.

She’s not that good. Those words reverberate inside my brain in time with my steps as I walk the two blocks to the light rail station. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if whatever it is I’m not that good at hadn’t been somebody else’s idea in the first place. Like, “You know, you’re really good at singing, so why don’t you try out for the school play?”

I would resist using the argument that having a good singing voice does not make one an actress. But they would eventually wear me down and convince me that auditioning for the school play is the only thing to do and that I’d be a shoe-in. I’d rehearse for weeks and finally arrive for my audition, and there “they” would be, those same people who had practically twisted my arm to audition for their lousy play, huddling together, whispering, until finally their so-called whisper turned into a stage whisper, and nobody could help hearing them all say, as if in unison, “She’s not that good.”

I could have told you that. But that isn’t the worst thing that ever happened to me. No, much worse was when I went out with Little Tommy Tongue Twister, as we called him in elementary school. His name alone should have been enough to send me running for the hills. But a friend of a friend convinced me that Tommy was all grown up handsome now that we were all in high school, and had asked specifically that I come to a party he was having at his house while his parents were out-of-town. So, I went to Tommy’s party.

Not long after he spiked the punch with some rum his parents brought back from a Caribbean cruise, he pulled me into the closet and started sticking his tongue down my throat. Later, he had the nerve to say, “She’s not that good” when his friends asked why he never saw me again after that. After a while, kids at school saw me coming and would say, “She’s not that good is coming down the hall.” I wanted to die.

I began making plans to attend college far, far away, but every application came back saying the same thing, “She’s not that good.” You’d think I’d getter better at choosing what I was good at, but people misled me. My essays in English class would garner an “A,” and my teacher would convince me I should pursue a journalism degree. But after meeting with a counselor who had run me through the paces, he had written on my application, “She’s not that good.”

Which brings me to today and my first day of work where I had to take a writing test, a typing test, and a math test. The HR lady calls me into her office afterwards, and reads the note written on the results. You guessed it. It says, “She’s not that good.” So why not test me before they tell me I have the job? It makes no sense to me, but, then, these temporary positions never do.

It’s not that I want any of these things. I didn’t want the part in the school play, Little Tommy Tongue Twister, the journalism degree, or the job today. The problem is I don’t know what I do want. But I have a feeling that once I figure that out, they’ll stop saying, “She’s not that good.”

Some people say I should be a fiction writer. Maybe they see in me some creativity and accomplishment. I’m flattered by that, because you see, I’m not a complete loser, although it may sound like that to you at this point. The problem is, I’m good at a lot of things—I’m just not good enough to excel in any of them.

I write good papers, I love history, and I got an “A” in my history classes, so people concluded I’m an intellectual and recommend I become a lawyer or a historian but even I can tell I’m not that good.

To make myself feel a bit better after that job debacle, I check for any messages about the other jobs I applied for when I first returned to California. You know, the hand modeling job. Everybody says I have beautiful hands, and even the rest of me passes for attractive, but when I seek those modeling jobs, I hear the usual, “too short,” “too tall,” “too fat,” “too thin.” I’m starting to feel like Goldilocks never finding the one that’s “just right.”

I call my mother’s land number, expecting to get the answering machine (yes, she still uses one of those) and I’m surprised when she picks up. “I thought today was your surfing day.”

She keeps saying stuff like, “I’m starting over,” when she suddenly begins pursuing all of her “childhood” dreams. One day it’s hang gliding, then it’s drama class, and now it’s surfing. Okay, so maybe it isn’t exactly sudden. I suppose that’s to be expected now that she’s alone after my step dad died of a sudden illness. And my brother, or rather half brother joined the Marines.

“They used to call me Gidget,” she says as if that claim alone justifies her latest desire to start surfing. Or maybe after losing her husband, she realizes how short life is and is determined to make all of her dreams come true. But I know she won’t stick with it–she never sticks with anything to be very good at it. No wonder I have the problems I have. But she keeps insisting I not follow in her footsteps, “Be a novelist. That’s who you are.”

“Like everybody else?” I say. Who isn’t a novelist these days? My mother is the one with deep desires to be an author, ensconced in her office in some quiet New England village, and when it doesn’t pan out as quickly as she thinks it should, she jumps on other so-called dreams, although I really wonder if she ever dreamed of being a surfer.

She wanted to give me the pen name she always wanted. “Constance Brocade–can’t you just see that on the front of a romance novel? Isn’t that the perfect name?” Only her name is Debbie so she decided to name me Constance. I would have died before I would let anybody know my name was Constance. Thankfully, my grandmother stepped in and out of spite, my mother named me after her favorite drink—Brandi. I’ve always suspected that’s what she was drinking the night I was conceived. Maybe that would have been okay if our last name wasn’t “Redwine.”

“What’s the problem, mother?” she would ask her mother. “Brandi isn’t any worse than Sherry” and that always shut her up. Sherry was the daughter of my grandfather–the daughter we never talk about.

“No surfing anymore. It’s not for me. I think I’m going to start photography next. I can be on the beach without hurting my knees. Don’t wait until you’re forty to follow your heart, Brandi. Do it now while you’re young.” Forty? More like mid-fifties.

“Did anybody call for me? You know the hands modeling people.” I give them my mother’s phone for these jobs because

  1. It keeps her off my back (if she thinks she’s doing something “important” like this, she doesn’t look closer into my life)
  2. It keeps recruiters happy because they love to call people
  3. I may or may not lose my cell phone
    (a) It’s been known to happen
    (b) there might/might not be a message in that.

Anyway, phones of any kind are intrusive, and the idea of texting makes me crazy. I know, I know. I’m nothing like the average young person the media tells me I should be. I did tell you I don’t really fit in with people, didn’t I? I’m an introvert and even texting seems intrusive. If you must reach me, send an email, and I’ll get back to you when I’m ready.

“I’ve told you, Brandi, those hands were meant for sitting at the typewriter pounding out novels.”

“Mom, nobody sits at a typewriter anymore. Computer, you mean, and no, I’m not going to be a writer.”

She’s used a computer for years but when she talks about writing, she switches into another era and imagines herself banging on the keys like some writer from a film noir movie from the nineteen forties. Maybe we’re more alike than I’d like to think. We both resist modern technology in subtle ways.

“Well, why not? You used to lock yourself in your room and read every book under the sun. Why wouldn’t you want to write one?”

It’s true–I love books–real books. Books you can hold and pages you can smell and even lick, if you were of a mind to do it. I also love reading them. That’s where I escape my normal life. Like allowing myself to dream of a career in music—that’s my real passion.

Music–I love listening to it and singing it and whenever my mother left the house thinking I was in my room reading, I was playing my keyboard–the music keyboard I had finally stood up for myself and insisted on. When it comes to most things, I swallow my desires and won’t ask for them. But the keyboard is important, and I did speak up. But somehow having done that, revealing so much of my inner being, I hate to play it in front of my mother. I can’t just sit there and pound the keyboard and fail–not in front of her.

But one day I asked her about music, I love so much, and she just doesn’t understand. “Mother, did my father love music?”

She turned to look at me with such pain in her eyes. I felt sick inside and was immediately sorry I’d asked. And that’s why I usually didn’t ask my mother questions about my father. For a few moments, she sat there in silence, glaring, then abruptly she said, “Actually, yes. You’re so much like your father, and it’s my job to fix that.”

And then she got up and started creating one of her not-so-famous one-pot dinners, making it clear that the conversation was over, rattling pots and pans, turning on the radio to some melodrama–never music. Besides, drama is totally her thing.

All of my feelings of not being good enough disappeared when I was snuggled in Miguel’s arms. With Miguel, I felt like the most beautiful, brightest, and loved person in the whole world. The problem was this didn’t happen nearly as often as I would have liked. My mother did everything in her power to keep us apart.

“You’re too young to get serious, Brandi,” she’d say.

I had a feeling that no matter how old I was, I’d be too young. Somehow my mother blamed being young on the fact that she had gotten pregnant with me so young–as if she would have been so much more if I hadn’t ruined her life. And if she hadn’t started dating at fourteen, she wouldn’t have gotten pregnant at twenty-five. Yeah, I know. I don’t see the connection either.

That’s why I hated summers most of all. You didn’t expect that transition, did you? Anyway, during the school year, there were many more opportunities to sneak off with Miguel. In the summer, she kept an eagle eye on me, and it was more difficult to come up with a way to sneak off with Miguel. Besides, he worked in his father’s landscaping business for the rich people in Mexico during the summer and his mother was just as hawk like protecting her son from me as my mother was “protecting” me from Miguel.

Miguel’s mother warned him about girls like me, that I could trick him into settling down before he was ready to, before college, before he had a chance at making a life for himself.

My mother’s real problem with Miguel? He was Hispanic. My mother once said, “How could you marry a Hispanic? Your kids won’t look like you.” As if that was the number one important thing about having kids. They should look like you.

How ironic that as much as my mother swore she wouldn’t be anything like her mother, when it came to me, she parroted her mother word-for-word. How do I know? She told me these same stories about how her mother treated her when she was a teenager.

My mother wasn’t our only obstacle. Miguel’s mother was afraid he’d never become the doctor he so desperately wanted to be. “You have a long row to hoe,” she’d say. “You can’t afford to settle down now, mi hijo,” she’d say.

I knew that Miguel would be a wonderful doctor someday, but what I loved most about Miguel was his poetic heart. He wrote songs and played them on his acoustic guitar. He’d call me and tell me to meet him at the park and there he’d be laying on the blanket on the grass, with the guitar in his arms, and he’d start playing and singing the song he said he had just written for me. Then he’d put the guitar down and pull me into his arms, kiss me, French me with his amazing tongue and before I knew it, he’d be on top of me. I’d feel how hard he was when he rubbed against me. My desire mounted until one of us would pull away.

As much as we wanted each other, we were also afraid. Afraid of the power of our feelings, afraid to have sex, but afraid not to at the same time. We were afraid for our futures because neither of us wanted the same lives our parents had. At least Miguel had the support of his mother. She wanted his future as a doctor maybe even more than he did. If it were all left up to Miguel, he’d play the guitar, but his mother would say, “Mi hijo, you’re too smart to be a musician. You can’t waste your gift.”

To go a whole summer without seeing each other felt unbearable. That last night we were together when Miguel and I snuck off to the beach and he built a campfire and serenaded me by singing romantic Spanish songs, the scent of the ocean and the crashing waves and Miguel all mixed together were more than I could resist and that was the night I gave my virginity to Miguel. I was sorry I hadn’t resisted his charms when he sent me the following email message:

Brandi,
I’m sorry to write this in email but I can’t look at your beautiful green eyes and say this. The facts are I’m going to Mexico and then college, right? And with medical school for four more years after that, well, we can’t get serious for years. To say “let’s be friends” would be insulting to both of us. I’ll never forget you.
Miguel

Yes, email. Not a text, thank goodness. He was never into texting either. But, still, to break up with me in an email? Okay, so it might have been a teeny tiny step up from texting. After all, email was more like a letter. A Dear Jane letter or, as it turned out, a Dear Brandi letter. It was still the coward’s way out. He pretty much admitted to that by saying he couldn’t look into my eyes and break up with me.

To say I was heartbroken would be an understatement. How could he do this to me? It just didn’t sound like Miguel–he must have caved under parental pressure. First his mother would start in on him and then when he joined his dad in Mexico, he must have said something to make Miguel do this to me–to us.

Part of me thought that he’d change his mind once he was back here–college or not–and that gave me hope. Another part of me was scared that no matter what he might feel for me, something bigger in his life was becoming more important and that I never would see him again–at least, not the way we had been before. Oh sure, I might see him on my way to the beach or at a party, but never as a couple.

I cried for days and all the while I heard that little voice say, “You’re not that good.” I was good enough to be a high school sweetheart, but nothing more serious. There must be something more to this than college. Maybe white girls were okay to play around with before marriage, but a Hispanic girl would be his choice for a wife.

He was off to UC Irvine, but I wound up at San Jose State a year later than everybody else in my class. The words I read when I got that letter said it all, I just wasn’t good enough.

4 Weeks ’til #FAWM2021

Today, the first Monday of the new year marks 4 weeks until the beginning of FAWM. And I think, for me this year, that means creating an album of remixes using some Latina House samples I’ve purchased from Sonic Academy.

Remember that TV show “Semi-Homemade” where Sandra, I think was her name, took some sort of dish already kinda made but then added her own touch to it? Well, that’s the kind of cook I am. In fact, I’m discovering that I’m also really digging the concept when it comes to music. At least for now.

So for the next 4 weeks, I’m going to be preparing for that. Gathering my samples, translating/rewriting lyrics, etc. for song ideas. That means I won’t have time to continue editing SNTG during the week. Instead, I’ll be posting my chapters on this blog over the weekend. Stay tuned for Chapter 1.

In the meantime, here’s a piece of a song that I’m working on remixing. Next step: recording the lyrics in English.

Previously on “She’s Not That Good” (Version 2)

Or, as as the third book in the cruise series (see Real Women Wear Red and Chasing Moondoggie), I could start out with this version of “Previously…”, especially since it is more connected to the hook (see Write Naked, Chapter 18 “The Right Hooks and Warm-up Jabs”).

But this version also seems more about catching the reader up than really explaining the hook (why she thinks “she’s not that good.)” That’s what chapter 1 (coming up next) does so maybe neither version of “Previously” is needed. But it also features the “Sandy Brown” character as the heroine instead of a secondary character. I must have changed my mind about her early on and would have to make a lot of edits to keep this character as the heroine. But it was supposed to be her book back when my agent asked me to write a 3-book series. So maybe it should be her book and that’s why I stalled on finishing it.

We’ll chat more about this later.

She’s Not That Good

Previously…

Not that long ago, okay, maybe a year or two or three… I boarded a ship bound for the Caribbean and the first thing out of my mouth was, “My name is Sandy Brown and I’m addicted to Coppertone.” I kid you not. The weird thing is the person I said it to turned out to be my mother. How did I know that when I boarded that ship, I’d stumble across my birth mother and we both loved to wear red.

Okay, so maybe I had a bigger chance of loving the same color as my mother than actually finding her on a cruise ship.

And I fell for a guy named Troy, practically the first guy I met after my divorce from Cliff, as in “jumping off a cliff” when I married him in the first place.

But that’s not all. Oh no, later I take another cruise with my mother and Millie. Have I mentioned Millie yet? Oh she’s quite a hoot, just another random woman I met on that first cruise. Anyway, this time we cruised Hawaii. I know, gorgeous, right? So then I fall for this guy named Adam Troy. I should have known that wouldn’t work out.

Okay, that’s enough catching up for now. But, oh, yeah, there’s one more thing you should know about me. That hangup I had from high school about not being good enough, yeah, well, it’s ballooned into unbelievable proportions now. But more about that in the next chapter.