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Open Book Blog Hop – February 22

Welcome to this week’s blog hop. Today the topic is:

What does it take to impress you when you are reading someone else’s book?

I think that I am a picky reader. I have my favorite genres, but I do venture to try others. A book must intrigue me in the first few pages. It’s like the “elevator pitch” of reading. I don’t want to be bored or confused right off the bat. I like when an author adds humor to their writing.

I have to care about the characters. Either by wanting them to survive or prevail, or for them to get what’s coming to them (good or bad). Two examples: I read The Martian quicker than I had read many books before. I wanted to know how the heck he was going to get out of this mess. On the other hand, I started a Robert Jordan trilogy (which turned out to be nine books), but as I was getting to the end of the 3rd book, I realized that they were not going to have time to do everything. I wasn’t that interested in the fate of the characters and I never continued.

I think thatit is easier to talk about why I stop reading a book. As I said before, I don’t like being confused. I’ll also stop if there is sexual or disturbing content. Not my thing.

I’ll often skim long descriptions of characters and places. It has to be relevant to the story—which probably explains why I usually write short stories. Some authors will make me want to read the descriptions. I suppose that is the mark of a great author.

With so many books out there to choose from, I should be able to find something, right?  

Rules:

  1. Link your blog to this hop.
  2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
  3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
  4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
  5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

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music music Monday

Music Monday: Opus 4-Writing it Down

When I started my musical education journey, I didn’t have the advantages of computer transcription programs. There was no easy access to popular sheet music. Other that a few guitar magazines, if I wanted to learn a song, I had to get a recording and learn it by ear. That’s not an altogether bad thing—it’s a skill that is indispensable. And that wasn’t that long ago. Unless you think 40 years is a long time (it’s not. Really.)

When I decided to do my post-secondary education in music, one of my first required purchases was a calligraphy pen. Thankfully, not the feather dipped in ink kind. I’m not that old. We studied older manuscripts, practiced our musical notations, and practiced some more. Take a look at a handwritten musical score and see how much artistic skill is required.

The ink was just the final step though. You don’t want to be writing down rough drafts in permanency. I do suspect that the early composers did. No, for the majority of the time, a pencil—and eraser—are your best friends. If I had to choose, it would be the eraser (sorry, pencil).

Playing and writing are alternating tasks. Play a bit, write a bit, play a bit, erase a bit, and so on. Besides writing down the note’s pitch, you also have to figure out the complicated rhythm you just came up with. Enter the foot tapping. One and-a two-e and…Nope. One and two and-a…One-e and-a, and so on.

Of course, most of the time you know the rhythm; it’s those parts that make your piece sound cool that always give you trouble.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have to make sure I don’t play to much, otherwise I forget the first part. That means I’ll write things down in short sections as I come up with it, and then connect the dots so to speak. If I’m having difficulty deciding where the melody will go, I often jump ahead and try to join them up later. Which leads me to a piece of paper that looks like this:

Notice the arrows? And the scratch-outs?

Eventually, I’ll have a complete handwritten piece ready for the final task. No more ink and splotches, dreading making a mistake (but I don’t want to start over!). Now there are many different computer transcription programs for that. They range from free to not so free to really expensive.  I’ve used Finale, Encore, Sibelius, MuseScore, to name a few. I don’t write enough to warrant forking out the big bucks, so I am currently using the free program MuseScore.

I liked Encore, it was very user friendly and easy to learn, but it was glitchy and the price kept going up. MuseScore has a polished end-result, but it’s has some issues, mainly not being as straight forward as I think it could be.

My book, Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar was put together using Encore, but at some point, I would like to transcribe them into a different program. I don’t want to have to key in everything again, so I need to find a way to convert one program to the other.

Part 5:  Completing the Composition

-Leon


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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readers

Week-end Wrap Up: Feb. 20

Here are my posts this week, in case you missed any:

I came across a few good blogs as well:

https://artistcoveries.wordpress.com/2019/07/19/in-praise-of-the-lowly-pencil/

https://loveinspirelearn.wordpress.com/2021/02/18/how-to-stay-committed-to-your-goals-and-succeed-in-life/

I created a survey last year for my newsletter subscribers. I was told it was entertaining, so if you have a few moments, stop by: Lines by Leon: The Survey While you are there, you can see my latest newsletter: Feb. 17 Newsletter.

See you Sunday–or Monday, we’ll see.

-Leon


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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readers writers

Friday Review Share — Stevie Turner

Today it’s the turn of Friday Review Share to support Indie authors.  Please leave a link in the comments to a review you’ve had on Amazon or Goodreads for one of your own books.  A link to the review and a description of the book would be great (or the review itself if you like), because let’s […]

Friday Review Share — Stevie Turner
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funny friday humor

Funny Friday-You Don’t Know How Much You’ve Got Left Till’ it’s Gone

Sound familiar? That’s my very loose paraphrase of a Joni Mitchell lyric. It came to me the other day (Sunday-but that really doesn’t matter) when I ran out of sriracha. I knew I needed more earlier, but I thought I could manage a few more weeks. And it was going great. Every time I used some-on eggs, potatoes, in ramen (which BTW, I learned how to make this year. Well worth the effort) – I always had some left, until the tell-tale SPLORCH-PLLLLH! Sound indicating that my luck had run out. How long did this streak last, I wondered? I couldn’t remember the last time I had bought some. The label was quite worn and faded, but upon careful examination, I was able to locate the best-before date.

July 2016. Wait! What!?

So apparently, the best-before date is just a serving suggestion. That stuff don’t go bad…That got me to thinking, “Why am I not sick?” No, actually I was thinking about what else we have that runs out when you least expect it.

  • Propane tanks: When barbequing, you never really know what’s left-until you check on your burgers and they are half cooked. Don’t want to trade in a tank that still has some? Always have an extra tank.
  • Plastic wrap: I looked at my roll and I thought that I needed some soon, so I bought the rolls x 3 at [insert name of favorite big box warehouse store]. That was years ago, and I’m still pulling out wrap from the old one.*
  • Batteries: Stock up and forget about them, they’ll slowly lose charge until you need them, of course.
  • Ice cubes: You always have too many until you don’t, and it’s always the slightly musty one in the ice tray.
  • Lightbulbs: Why are there so many different kinds and why do I have everyone but the one I need?
  • Dental floss: When do you know you’re out? When you pull out a piece about the length of your thumb and you hear the Ziiing!
  • Toilet paper: There is always a roll underneath the sink, right? Please be right. If I could just reach…a…little…more…
  • Change: Who carries change these days? But I need to pay for parking and I only have 2 quarters.
  • Air: You know, like the stuff in your tires (OK, that one was a bit of a reach).
  • Wine: Sometimes you just need a glass. Just not happenin’ today.

In regard to point #5-I’ll give you a moment to count-here is an apt Miniscules cartoon from earlier this year:

-Leon

*At the time of writing, I was still extracting wrap, but two days ago I finally got to the end of the roll. The last few inches/centimeters/cubits turned out to be a foggy, semi-translucent, nom-clingy sheet, which I thought to be a little anti-climactic. There should be a prize, or at least a printed “TA-DAH!”


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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thoughts writers

Amazon Ads: Here, Mr. Bezos, take my money and run.

Now that Mr. Bezos has stepped down, I’ll do a little bitching.

Are creating Amazon ads making you want to bang your head on the wall? No? Then you’re not doing it right, I guess.

It took me almost two weeks to get an ad running on Amazon. Now, this wasn’t my first attempt–several had run recently–but this time was quite frustrating. Everything has a learning curve, and Amazon’s ad platform is no exception. Reading through the tutorials and the FAQ’s gives you a cursory knowledge, but by no means does it cover all you need to know.

I did other research online, there are many others before me that have done the legwork and produced good lessons. Still doesn’t make it any less confusing. I’m sure my rambles here won’t be any different.

It all comes down to getting your ad to show on a customer’s search page or on their Kindle. You do that by winning a bid–like an auction–against other ads in your genre. Highest bid wins and gets shown, reader sees it and hopefully clicks on it and buys.

I was doing an online course where one author was quoting that when he started his adds, he was getting 200 000+ impressions/week @ pennies/click, which translated to a very cheap advertising campaign and high sales. After digging deeper, those statistics were from 2016. Four years makes a lot of difference when it comes to competition.

I would love to be able to win a bid to have my ad shown to potential readers for > $0.10 when I create my ad, most of the suggested bids for each of my keywords* run from $0.50 to more than $1.00. Which means if someone clicks on my ad, I pay Amazon–let’s take the lower amount– $0.50.

Let’s break it down for profit. I get ~$0.60 if it is read on Kindle Unlimited (approximately, because just like the ads, the royalty structure for KU is not easy to grasp), so I make $0.10. So, I do a lot of free promotions for this version. If it is bought as a Kindle eBook, I make $2.00 – $0.50 = $1.50. That’s not too bad. The problem is that not everyone that clicks the add will buy. It would be nice to have 100% conversion, but that is never going to happen. Even 50% is a lofty goal, in reality it is around 10%. I also have a paperback option which is a higher royalty still.

So basically, with a low conversion, I usually wind up paying more in fees than I make in royalties. I know that advertising and marketing are essential to book sales and all advertising costs money. I would be satisfied to break even since I’m just starting out. Where are those bygone days of $0.05 clicks?

With all my rambling, I still didn’t get into my dealings with customer support, which was the impetus for this this post.**

-Leon

*That’s another topic.

**That’s another topic as well.


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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cartoons humor Weird Wednesday

Weird Wednesday: Cartoons (again)

I post “The Miniscules” on Instagram @lines_by_leon every Monday, but I’ll put them here on Wednesday as well.

One thing I can kinda draw are books…
See?

Monday’s “Miniscule Monday”…

Last week, I introduced a new cartoon. It didn’t have a name then. Let us welcome:

The Untitled

Continuing the childhood game theme:

Ooh, fancy border.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” If you are thinking that the humor has a familiar weirdness to it, you wouldn’t be mistaken. Any idea of the target of the homage?

Thanks for stopping by!

-Leon


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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music music Monday

Music Monday: Opus 3 – Decomposing Composition

Before you musicians start to complain about the accuracy of the notation, don’t. It bugs me too. There’s not very much correct with this. And at one point, we all wore the music staff / piano key scarf or tie and thought it was cool, so no one can complain.

How do I compose? Probably the wrong way and the slowest way ever… I wish I could say that I can hear the music in my head then play it or write it down. I can’t. Not even close. The lucky ones can. I can’t even play the same thing twice in a row sometimes. I generally know if I want the next note or chord to go up or down, and sometimes I know what pitch it will be, but all my ear-training has failed me, or I never quite had it in the first place.

Ear training? How does that work? If you know someone who says they have perfect pitch, it means that when that person hears a note, they know what it is, and if they play a musical instrument–which they probably do (it would be a waste not to)–they know where to play it. For everyone else, we have to train our ears to recognize notes, usually based around a starting point. Relative pitch, I think it is called.

 I’ll give you an example. Most people can sing a major scale. If you think you can’t, I’ll get you started. Do, re, mi… See? You know that! I’m not going to go deep into music theory because I’m not that cruel. I just want to impart a bit of knowledge. The space between two notes is called an interval, and each interval is given a name:

Do to Re = Major 2nd

Do to mi = Major 3rd

Do to fa= Perfect 4th  …etc.

How is this used? If I make the note G, Do (we can do that), then A is a major 2nd above, B is a major 3rd, and a perfect 4th above is C, etc.

In a perfect composer’s world, I could play a note and know that the next note I want is a major 3rd higher. I then would know the exact note to play or write down. In my world, sometimes I can tell, but usually I need to play it to make sure if it sounds the way I imagined. If it doesn’t, then I try a different note. I know if the note needs to be higher or lower, which narrows down the possibilities. But it would be nice to know for certain the first time.

So, how do I get started? Sometimes I’ll hear a melody in my head, and I’ll play a few chords or notes to get started. If I can hear where I want the next note(s) to go, I’ll try them out. If I get stuck, then some random notes or changes can give me more ideas. I call this “try it and see” method, noodling. The difficulty happens if you play too much at once to remember, and even though it sounded good, it may be hard to repeat it in order to write it down.

My musical theory isn’t forgotten in all this. I know that certain chord progressions work well together, it’s good to stay within related scales, and that melodies usually need to flow smoothly without large leaps. But I’ll ignore those rules if what I hear is what I want. Take that, Theory!

Then the fun begins. Before I get too far into a composition, I have to make sure that I remember it, which brings us to:

Part 4:  Writing It All Down


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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poetry

A Poem: Winter

After reading two posts:

I remembered a incomplete poem I had started. So, since it was stupid cold outside yesterday, I finished it.

Winter

If you have never seen the hoarfrost cling
To wires, fences, posts, and trees
If you have never witnessed heavy snow
On every tree branch hanging low
If you have never watched the ice floes beat
Upon frigid shores too cold for feet
 
Ventured across a frozen lake, I’ve done
With sundogs adorning the low noon sun
I’ve trudged with snowshoes on wind-blown drifts
Even biked by snowy cliffs
Shoveled walks and pushed out cars
Watched breath become a frozen cloud
When others dare not go outside
I’ll fear not, I will not hide
 
I do often dream of warmer climes
But I sure would miss the wintertime


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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thoughts

Week-end Wrap Up: Feb. 13

Here are my posts this week, in case you missed any:

I came across a few good blogs as well:

Stuart Aken always has beautiful pictures and great writing prompts

And, I always enjoy Sally’s posts but I couldn’t pick just one.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-laughter-lines


Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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