Saturday, January 15, 2022

YouTube and Old Music: Where Memories and People Meet

Do you ever get lost reading YouTube comments? No, not those. I don’t read those either. I’m talking about the other ones. The good ones. [And yeah, there is a book-related comment at the end.]

There is a fantastic YouTube channel if you enjoy old music. I’m talking stuff from the 1940s-1960s. It is curated by Jake Westbrook (that’s the name of the channel as well) and he collects songs for different moods. Last fall, I discovered him and listened not only to the “Vintage Autumn Music” but thoroughly enjoyed his Halloween playlists. One of the best, interestingly, was his Thanksgiving playlists. He’s got ones for Route 66, summer, and many others.

What I particularly enjoy is reading the comments. If you need a dose of goodness, check these out. More often than not, the commenters praise Jake for the curation, but more importantly, they praise the music. Some are from younger people who never lived when this music was on the radio or TV. They marvel at how good the music remains and lamenting modern music.

A particularly nice sub-set of these comments are from folks who have lost parents or grandparents or other family members. The commenter usually relates a memory this music evokes. One really got to me. It was of a grandchild who played these vintage songs as the grandparent was bedridden. The music calmed the older person, letting them get lost in their memories as they passed from this life into the next.

Cut to more modern music. I’m a huge fan of Frontiers Music. This is a great record label that releases new music by new artist who still like melodic rock as well as older artists who no longer have a home in the big music companies. Think Enuff Z’Nuff or LA Guns. Their hashtag is their motto: #RockAintDead.

Anyway, yesterday, the weekly email featured videos of new releases and one of them was for The Alan Parsons Project’s (with a full symphony) song “Don’t Answer Me.” I LOVED that song as a teenager. It was prompted me to buy the album.

Yet, I hadn’t heard it in a long, long time. Naturally, I clicked on the link and heard a newer rendition with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Oh my was it gorgeous. But that prompted me to return to the original and it’s fantastic pulp-style video.

But it was in the comments associated with the original 1983 version that I again got lost in. Unlike Jake Westbrook’s playlists, I was among the generation who experienced this song when it was new. Now, so many of the comments relate to “I’m 21 and I just found this song and it’s so good” kind of vibe. Or, as you can imagine, ones in which younger people discovered the song in the mom’s stack of CDs or their dad recently passed away and this is the song that helps the commenter remember a recently deceased parent. I went down an Alan Parsons Project rabbit hole, but I also experienced the memories of all the commenters. It was a wonderful trip.

But then I got to thinking about books. While there is certainly not a YouTube for books, where is a site for comments like this? Where is the site where grandchildren can talk about how they read their grandfather’s favorite book as he lay on his deathbed and the grandchild realized how good an old book was?

That is a site I’d love to visit.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Writing Without Paper: Introduction

Can you be a writer without using paper?

I’m a writer and I use a lot of paper. I make notes on yellow legal pads, I make lists of character names on a giant spreadsheet printed out on an 11x17 tabloid-sized piece of paper. In the past, I have used hundreds of note cards to map out a story. Those note cards would then be pinned to the cork board in my office. And don’t get me started on post-it notes that I’ll use to jot down random pieces of things for the story and post them on monitors, laptops, keyboards, or the desk.

Then there are the drafts. Yes, I know there are folks who write and edit within whatever word process they’re using. I can do that, too, but more often than not, I prefer to print it out and read it that way. Sure, I format the manuscript to be single spaced and I print on both sides of the paper, but still, if I have a 300-page manuscript, that’s 150 pieces of paper.

Suffice it to say, when I’m writing a novel, I simply use a lot of paper. This amount goes up and down depending on the length of the writing project. For shorter pieces, I usually don’t have all the background stuff, but I still have the various drafts with all my marks in green ink.

Late last year, I got to thinking if there was another way, a paperless way, to brainstorm, write, edit, format, and publish stories. I came up with a qualified answer: Yes, I think so, but certain equipment and apps would make this job easier.

Equipment and Apps

First off, I needed a new iPad. Mine was a second generation that basically did nothing for me other than allow me to read comics and ebooks. If this was going to work, I needed new tech.

I purchased a refurbished 2020 iPad Pro with a second generation Apple pencil. Wow. Is this thing amazing. Granted, when you’re coming from a 2012-era iPad, most anything is an upgrade, but I’m particularly impressed by the fact that I can get an entire ‘piece of paper’ on the screen at the same time.

The pencil is super cool and seamless. There is no visible lag at all. Among the coolest things: a simple double tap on the pencil changes the function to the eraser (while another double tap shifts it back to the pen). Thus, without even changing your hand position, you can write, make a mistake, erase, and start writing again in seconds. Tres cool.

I paired my Bluetooth Apple keyboard with the iPad and use the device as my primary means to write. But I do not plan to take the iPad to the office (yet) so I compose in Google Docs. That way, I can sync my Chromebook and bring it to the office. It’s rugged and a single unit so it’s been my preferred in-the-office personal device for over two years now.

When it comes time to edit the completed file, I use GoodNotes. Not only does it allow me to edit PDFs. It’s really neat to have the iPad in my lap, pencil in hand, and just read and edit the text. It’s pretty much paper-like, but still digital.

This app is good for general note taking. So far this week, I’ve worked on two short stories, completing one and more than halfway through the second. As such, I don’t necessarily need a notebook with character names, etc., but when I start a new novel, this will be the place where I store said notes. It syncs to my phone so when I’m out with my Chromebook, I’ll have my notes. Granted, I can’t use (nor would I have) the pencil with the iPhone, but that’s no big deal.

Here’s a screenshot of page one of the completed short story.

From there, I’ll be able to make those changes in the manuscript and nary a piece of paper will be needed.


While I have not yet published anything, I already know how to do that part. I’ll spell it out in a future post.

I have an entire process flow, but I want to test it first, work out any kinks, before I share it.

So, am I the only one who is writing without paper? For you other paperless writers, what are some of your preferred tools and apps?

P.S., Happy Birthday, David Bowie. Still miss you.