Two Musical Weekends

Whew. Finally, things have slowed down long enough for me to write this.

The past two weeks since I had gotten back from the cruise have been nothing short of madcap. I got off the plane to a sinus bug, which graduated to a throat bug, but none of this had stopped me from treating myself to my favorite duo in jazz fusion: Jeff Lorber and Eric Marienthal. Not exactly a duo, but whenever Jeff Lorber takes the stage, his saxman of choice is definitely subject to scrutiny. Not everyone can mesh with the old-school fusion gone modern and make it sound stellar quite like Eric M, though many may try. This time, though, Jeff had showcased music from his upcoming release, Galaxy.. I had the pleasure of procuring that CD, and hope to do a formal review of it over Thanksgiving. Where people have turkey, I have jazz served straight up.

And wouldn’t you know that Dave Koz had stopped in to watch the show as well. That was a surprise, to say the least, but that’s the Iridium for ya. Right in the heart of Times Square, tucked away from the touristy attraction, and speaking right to the soul.

Later that week, Steve Cole’s solo debut at the Houndstooth series.

Now, this was interesting. I’ve first seen Cole in live show nearly three years ago. Back then, I thought he was off his game a bit. This time…well, let’s just put it this way: if I ever thought those words, I had to eat them that night. He brought the Chicago soul onstage in NYC and let it rip. From his hits such as Just a Natural Thang to my personal favorite Got It Goin’ On, he had the over-filled Houndstooth crowd eating out of his hand in minutes. And, of course, he brought the Turrentine, and a deeply underrated track off Spin.

Honestly, when I think of Steve Cole’s records, I have no idea why Spin gets a bum rap. It’s more, for the lack of better words, happy than Cole’s usual city-grit, and has just enough of his usual almost lazy funkiness that colors his sound to mark that album as unmistakably his. It’s more personable, and I enjoy hearing those tracks live most of all.

And then there was Acoustic Alchemy.

Ironically, I saw A.A. the first time under the same circs as Steve Cole: All Star Cruise 2009. And while I will never be able to tell you whether or not I have heard their music prior to that cruise, I will always tell you this: I don’t know how it is that I have gone without that sound in my life. Something about Aart particularly is utterly entrancing, and that is only one of the many albums with that flavor. Acoustic Alchemy had been around for a long, long time, and Greg Carmichael, then together with the late Nick Webb, has created something outstanding.

So when they came back to Daniel Street, after what happened last year (for those who do not recall, their gear was stolen), I had to come. Who cares if it’s less than 24 hours after Steve Cole’s gig? Sleep? Who gives a damn?

Yeah, I know, I know.

I took the camera with me as well, and test-drove it in the Daniel Street lighting. But, after Overnight Sleeper, I put the camera away. Why? The guys were playing off Roseland, and much like on that night on the Celebrity Century cruise ship, I just stopped everything, put everything down, and fully immersed myself in what my ears were hearing.

You know the A.A. sound. It’s a guitar-centerpiece sound with a strong keyboard as delivered by Fred White, and a subtle, even rhythm section. It’s a sound that had stayed strong through decades and still maintains a stronghold over audiences every day. It’s the sound that whisks a person into it and doesn’t let go once you hear it. Age isn’t relevant; if there is a music lover in the audience seeing this band for the first time, they will come back, time and again. The sound is nothing short of pure, undiluted, auditory magic. And Roseland is more of the same captivating string-bending wizardry that you know and love, taken into new melodies and new vibes. The title track has the true A.A. effect: it pulls you in, sweeps you along, wraps around your ears, and before you know it, you’re reaching for the replay button to immerse yourself in it all over again.

And for the record, I didn’t get the record that long ago, so a more in-depth look into it is pending. But it is, like a lot of other A.A. tracks, a staple in my shuffle playlist.

Finally, there was Bob Baldwin and the (slightly early) birthday party. And I have to hand it to Bob on his collaboration; he knows how to build an all-star assembly on stage. Ragan Whiteside on flute, a two-point all-star percussion team of Chembo Corniel and Cafe Da Silva, with Ron Jenkins and Thierry Arpino backing on the rhythm, there was no shortage of talent on that stage. A showcase of Brazil-style countered with the releases from the Re-Vibe album, presented in the easygoing atmosphere of Trumpets of NJ, made for a perfect way to round out the music-chasing of November.

And, as an aside, this was actually the first few times that I have photographed at a show. I still have a ways to go and need to learn the hell out of the camera, but so far, my photos have been steadily improving. Still looking at another couple of lenses and working out the kinks of how to custom-set the modes so I get the minimal amount of interference, but it’s coming along. The best part is – stock images. I have my own stock, and will be able to shoot more now.

Onwards we go…


New Layout, New Things…

If you go to the site now, you will find that I decided to go for a simple three-column layout. I like simplicities, for one, and for two, this actually solves a major issue with the layout: page links. They’re the little list on the right, and they have a new addition too: Where to Buy My Work.

I will soon be registering for SmugMug as far as photos. Two major benefits: I keep original resolution of 300dpi (which is the ideal print resolution, for those not in the graphics world) and – and this may be verifiable – there is a way to order prints through there! Awesome.

In new projects, I will be designing a calendar. Mostly for my own use; if it works out well, I’ll make them available to the public next year. I want to first make sure that I know what I’m doing; print calendars are an iffy endeavor for me, considering that I generally size for commercial printing.

And ohh, Book 6. Now this one is a lot more fun than I thought it would be when I was starting it. Maybe a little bit Law & Order courtroom drama than outright ass-kicking action, but there will be plenty of that as well, seeing as one of my characters had, quite inadvertently, outed himself for what he really is. So did his housemate, although…not completely. Whoopsie? Well, it may have something to do with why Rena walks around like she had seen a ghost.

And speaking of ghosts…

I’ll shut up now. I swore not to do spoilers, but let’s just say this storyline had effectively jumped out of nowhere and demanded to be written. Kudos to my friend T. for steering it in the right direction.

So, my schedule looks as follows:

- Work, then work on Book 6 a little more…take a break? Yeah right. The Muse doesn’t like waiting.

- Acoustic Alchemy at the Iridium

- Bob Baldwin in NJ at Trumpets

- Win NaNoWriMo (one way or another…my sixth win, dammit!!!)

- Debating between Peter White Christmas and David Benoit. Selina Albright or Mindi Abair and Kirk Whalum? Decisions…

- Christmas party Dec. 17th (seeing some friends while I’m at it)

- Chris Botti on Christmas Eve. One way or another, I’m going to that show. I love Chris Botti’s Blue Note show.

And New Year’s…I don’t know. But I know it will be a good one.


A great article at HuffPo

Link Here
If you don’t feel like clicking, Ashley Lauren Samsa shines a spotlight at the fact that we’ve just hit 7 billion people, and that women who don’t have kids and have chosen that path consciously, usually make the choice with some thought.

Yes, it’s been said before, but considering that 7 billion people is well past the sustainability point for Planet Earth, it needs to be said again, and again, until the message sinks in that not having children doesn’t make someone “emotionally deficient” (link to that embedded in the HuffPo article) or somehow lacking something. And believe you me, as a childfree female under 30, I get the patronizing little pat on the head with a “Oh, it’s okay, you’ll change your mind” on a very constant basis. As though I can’t possibly know what I want for myself.

Words can’t describe the urge to wring necks that inevitably surfaces with that sort of commentary.

Look, we’re at seven billion people. The planet cannot sustain that many, simply cannot. Instead of pressuring women to follow the motherhood-and-apple-pie ideal, how about making sure that the children who are already here have a planet to inhabit? There’s less that 1% difference between DNA strains across various cultures and races of human. So whatever arguments of “I want to pass along my genes” and “I want to carry on the family line” – seriously, spare it. With less than 1% genetic difference, I fail to see how one strain or another is somehow superior to any other.

The cultural pressure of women to have husbands and children is universal. The only difference with the US is that the people are very vocal with whom they find “less than”, and no matter how many people want to deny it, or now many human-resource stipulations are in place, family status does play into the workplace, and it goes both ways. A childed individual can take off for their kids’ needs, but their work falls into the lap of someone without children. Who gets the promotion, then? Or, alternately, the childfree person is laden down with an overload of work, under the guise of “Well, (s)he doesn’t have kids, so what’s a little extra work?”

Let’s make one thing clear: not having kids doesn’t mean that someone doesn’t have responsibilities. We all have bills to pay, we all have friends and non-child family members that, on occasion, may need us. We have these things called lives. They’re not the same as the lives of people with children, but they’re still lives and they still require time and effort to maintain.

I’m very much a live-and-let-live individual, and while people profess to be the same, I see a completely opposite reaction when someone close to them chooses a path in life that isn’t popular. The knee-jerk reaction is understandable, but honestly, kindly curtail it. You don’t see many childfree people asking parents why they had children. You also don’t see many childfree people calling parents on regretting having kids (those parents do exist, and much more prevalently than you may think). And, considering that we’re at (and safe to say, past) 7 billion people, it’s ripe time to lay the, “You should have kids already!” track aside.

Remember: a family of two is still a family. It’s just not the family that’s the “traditional” format.


Letters to my Muse (a NaNoWriMo update)

Dear Muse,

You know, I think this is the year that you and I will get along swimmingly. You may have been quite slow in baking up a plot for me, but – and I will not deny a little bit of help from a friend, as well as the friend named caffeine – this is beginning to seriously evolve rapid-fire. I will likely have difficulties as things go along, I may even combine two books into one just to finish the arc with any sort of a decent ending and springboard into Origins, but this is coming out to be a fantastic little arc.

But let’s keep it going, shall we? It’s not as funny a couple of books as #3 had been, but I have to get 20,890 words more. Within about a week and change.




Yes, this means that NaNo is going well. And, what seemed like a plot that’s just trawling along had evolved into an interesting direction, almost to the point where the segue into the Origins arc, which tells the back stories to some of the favorite characters, and which also gives a major basis to the arc that will follow, will have to be told in a mostly-flashback sort of style. That is to say, I would have the bulk of the “past” story get told as one of the characters in the present day and time is exploring it.

Maybe? Possibly?

It definitely has room for thought.

I’m wondering how to tell some of the sub-characters’ stories, truth be told. It’s not a matter of leaving anyone out, but it’s a matter of telling it well. That and the character of Jason Watson is interesting enough to dig into a little further, no? :)


On Expanding Ventures

This is a little bit of new territory, I will confess, but I think it’s a good thing that I’m doing for my business: learning photography.

The way I see it, it’s something that had to happen. As a graphic designer, I use stock photography taken by others, usually via a stock-pic exchange site like iStockPhoto. Far as the artists’ photos, I ask the artists themselves, or their management. But, and especially when it comes to live shots, it comes to working with fellow photographers. While often a great thing, it also puts into question copyright.

Now, I credit photographers when and where I can. But a lot of my work usually comes with a stipulation that I keep my logo, or the photographer’s name (or logo, sometimes) off the finished product. So how would I deal with the copyright issues then?

There hadn’t been any issues that had cropped up so far. However, it’s something that’s perfectly avoidable and something that would also give my creative side a whole new outlet. Solution: do my own photographing.

For those of you who have been on my Facebook page, you may’ve seen the virtual whoop of delight when I caved to temptation (and business requirements!) and bought my camera, a Nikon D5100. I figured out pretty damn quick that kit lenses have major limitations, and high-octane lenses are exorbitant enough to make me think twice about changing day jobs. However, I did receive an early Christmas gift in the form of a Sigma lens that I’ve had the chance to shoot with before (hat-tip to the awesome MJ Jones, who had provided me with the opportunity to shoot with it), and that’s a start.

I am still getting used to the cam itself. The one flaw in the D5100 is that it’s “user friendly” – and yes, it’s a flaw. The camera settings are pre-set by choice of scene, which is great, except that concert photography is a gamble. You don’t know how well the stages are lit, and that can and does make or break the shot. This renders most “scene” modes useless, unless you study each one and work through them on a trial-and-error basis. The thing is, I want to shoot manual, but doing so in iffy lighting (and not yet with my good lens) is a challenge.

But I’m learning. That’s the best part. There’s always something to learn.

And yes, I’m doing plenty of reading. Photography and graphic design always go hand-in-hand, and as I improve, I want to be able to see where I’m going to need more  work.

Truth be told, though, I’m pretty damn excited about it. I’ve always liked to tool around with images, so taking my own, to me, is a perfectly logical next step in Getting Better At What I Do.


NaNoWriMo Update – Wrapping up Week 2, and other, non-writerly things

The end of week two is bringing me closer to the half-point mark, and I will confess myself pleasantly surprised at both my time management and my story management. The plot had come out of this place in the recess of my brain which I wholly attribute to the years that I had spent in college studying legal procedure and jurisprudence. That and, considering part of my day job is knowing about trusts and estates….yeah. Slight spoiler there, considering another main character had kicked the bucket, but there we go.

And I’m definitely ahead of schedule. I will be able to, if I keep writing at the pace that I’m writing, to wrap it up on November 24th. And that would make me very happy indeed, because it means that after the writing frenzy is done, I can use the Thanksgiving Week to actually relax.


Which will be awesome, really, but I learned from the misadventure of Book 5: finish quickly, and the rest can always be edited. This manuscript I aim to wrap up in full by December 31st.

In other news, music! Music everywhere! I had a wonderful time seeing Jeff Lorber Fusion on Monday, and will write about it as soon as I get back from Steve Cole’s show tonight, and the incomparable Acoustic Alchemy tomorrow afternoon. Lots of music for Christmas…just the way I like it.

Shout-out to my people in NY and everywhere, and to everyone who, like me, is in NaNoWriMo.


NaNoWriMo Update – Week 2

Or, as I call it, the “preliminary block” phase.

Gods, if it weren’t difficult before, I’m certainly getting there now.

I got the storyline down somewhere at the end of Week 1. I like the story; it may expand a little further, develop the subplots some more at a later time, and I definitely need to inset a few kicking-ass scenes there, but it can happen at a different time. This is taking shape to be more of a mix of neo-political, in addition to the usual high-flying action my books are rife with, and while I desperately wish I could watch some Law & Order for inspiration, my time home is limited, and my to-do list is overwhelming.

But! The plot is there. While it’s in bits and pieces in my head, it exists. Which gives me hope.

In non-NaNo news, I got my good camera at last!! Now to get it a decent lens and a 16GB SDHC card. People, order some graphic design from me!!!! Commemorative orders welcome. I want to earn something for my photography supplies here!

Oh, and have a widget.


It’s coming along… :)