There was a time, not too long ago, when to have a well-rounded liberal education was considered a good thing. I grew up in such a system. My education in areas of health, careers and financial management was non-existent but I could read and speak a little in three languages, knew a little Latin and dabbled in music and poetry while studying towards maths and science A-levels. That was the point at which things started to change for me.

I was blessed with a Maths teacher who was somewhat of a genius mathematically but not very gifted as a pedagogue. He expected us all to understand instinctively what was needed to solve problems. For the A* students that was no problem but most of us struggled. For me, it fell apart with integral calculus and that, I was told, was essential for A level Chemistry. Without Maths and Chemistry my best subject, Biology, had to be dropped much against my protests and those of Mr Howard my Biology teacher. Why? Well, in those days one science A level was apparently no use to anyone when it came to University entrance so when I dug my heels in and refused to give up A level Music and have extra maths homework I was reassigned to taking English and French midway through my second term.

I suppose I had these difficulties because I was a bit of a polymath which was fine up to year twelve (sixth-form we were called then) but afterwards you had to think about University and careers. Had my Maths teacher been more imaginative I could possibly have conquered the little block I had on integral calculus; at that time I could do it mechanically but didn’t understand its application to real life problems. I would have completed my science courses as planned, but I didn’t. In such circumstances I would probably have gone on to study music therapy, which needed science and music, or psychology which fascinated me then and still does – or even both – but as it was I was left with arts subjects and no ambition.

The whole experience was demoralising and I dropped out for a while after passing those exams. What followed was two years in the retail trade, then a four year degree in teaching and a lifetime drifting through the education system in various incarnations, cover teacher, class teacher, college lecturer and peripatetic music teacher. It was a good career but it never set me alight. I spent my free time variously scribbling poetry, stories and scripts, making musical arrangements for guitar, writing songs and composing my own serious “classical” music.

So many years later, I regret nothing. I did what I had to do and followed the paths I was told to follow by my elders and betters. Now I find I am still torn by many interests; history, politics, science, the environment, animals and nature – not to mention a spiritual side I usually keep under wraps. I am content if not happy. In this life nobody can be completely happy if they are aware of the plight of others. We all experience loss, which we learn to accept, and horror at terrible events, which is perhaps harder to cope with. I have fans who listen to my music on internet radio. I sell musical arrangements and compositions worldwide. I have just published my second novel which, until last week, was selling and being read. I have four books of poetry under my belt and I am working on several projects when the cats allow me some free time.

Why do I write this now? Well, as an author, I am daunted by the importance of genre and tropes. I see specialism is not confined to the sciences now but has filtered through into the arts too. Authors are expected to use pen names when they write in different genres. This is a process that is all about selling and targeting readers. The great writers of history did not confine themselves in such an unnatural way. Shakespeare wrote tragedies and comedies. He toyed with history and the paranormal. Edgar Allen Poe dabbled with detective fiction, science fiction and poetry although he is remembered for horror. Oscar Wilde dabbled in horror, moral tales and poetry although he was best known for satire, wit, and the theatre.

Take a look at my page at Author Central if you want to see diversity:

Lisa Gabriel on Author Central

If you travel over to iTunes and look me up there you will see my music is not particularly specialised either:

Lisa Marie Gabriel on iTunes

It’s just that sometimes creative people need that bit of freedom just to BE. The selling is something we would hope, often in vain, that others with entrepreneurial abilities might do for us and in this day and age that becomes less and less likely. So please forgive the polymaths of the world, the multi-genre authors and the fusion musicians. We are not trying to deceive you, we are just who we are. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter, Ostara or whatever else you like to call it and may your God/dess bless and keep you whoever He/She is.

The best-selling album of all time in the United Kingdom is Queen’s Greatest Hits, a compilation album that was first released in 1981. According to authorities in the music business, as of February 2014, this album had sold more than six million copies, of which only approximately 124,000 were from downloads – the rest were vinyl, CD and other media. Now if I wanted to advise a young guitar student of mine  how to succeed in the music business I could look at all the reasons why Queen are still in that coveted number one slot and enumerate them into a prescriptive (or proscriptive) thirty point list. I could say that you have no hope of succeeding in the business unless you do all these thirty things. I would be wrong and I would be laughed at because in music what succeeds and maintains success long after hype and payola have ceased to artificially boost a band’s reputation and sales is PERSONALITY.

Queen, when they first burst in on the music scene in the 1970s, had already been going for some time doing all the important stuff that people told them would help them succeed. They were not brand new and they did their share of emulating former stars too. That is called serving an apprenticeship and it is pretty vital to success in the business; likewise The Beatles played many live shows in Europe, played covers and changed band members before they got their break courtesy of Brian Epstein and “made it”. Eventually there comes a time when the band gets tired of doing the same-old-same-old received wisdom that never works and they say:

“Sod it! We are going to do…”

That is often the point at which A&R men sit up and say:

“Hang on just a bleedin’ minute…”

Then they get the push and they break out big time.

It helps to have an exciting hook line, an amazing voice up front like Freddie Mercury, a fantastic skilled guitar player like Brian May and all the rest of the talented lovelies in Queen but to be radical and not to slavishly copy is the secret to lasting success. This is what Queen did. This is why they are still selling downloads to the grandchildren of the first generation of their fans. This is why, amongst all those money making published bands, they will never be forgotten.

When it comes to writing, is there any need these days of that long, long list of rules the publishing houses put together to account for half a dozen mega successful genre authors? My belief is that the market is now far more new and exciting than it ever was. Many of the classics break many of these “rules” and my belief is that the new “classics” will break them too. If your sole interest as a writer is to get a toe in the door of a genre publisher then follow them however you have no need to do this if you self publish. In self publication there are few rules although there might be a few guidelines:

  • Have a good story
  • Tell it well
  • Be original, sparkling and personal in your writing
  • Don’t apologise for description, scene setting or adverbs, just use them tastefully
  • Strive for balance but allow your words to have a life
  • Write fewer words rather than more but make every single one of those words count
  • Read
  • Edit
  • Re-read
  • Edit
  • Read aloud to a friend
  • Edit
  • Let a friend read the proof
  • Edit
  • If you can’t spell or punctuate get a PROFESSIONAL to do the final edit
  • Publish
  • Promote
  • Eat if you are lucky and sell a book…
  • Write another book

It may be that you will not be all that successful as an author, maybe that is not in your karma for this lifetime, maybe you will have to content yourself with a day job BUT you will be a writer because you love to tell your story in your own words.

whitby 123

Good luck, be brave, be original!

Creativity, Content, SEO and Balance….

(Mewsical Musings)

Well, don’t you just love it when you make a blog post that disappears? It just illustrates the point above. With internet publishing you will probably spend twice as much time on the nitty-gritty of trying to get noticed as you do on the main purpose of creating and sharing ideas….

I am a musician, and the democratization of the publishing process via the internet is the promise of a foot in the door! In reality, it is a hard slog, especially when you are doing it in your spare time and others are doing it as a job. I would rather just make the music, post it somewhere and let it sell itself, but it ain’t-a-gonna!

Take Sibelius for instance (www.sibeliusmusic.com) a great site which is presently in a ferment (or torment) of upgrading which has left the little guys to flounder. Under the previous system your peers could vote you into prominence as a composer and arranger on the Top 10 board and there was the commission board where you could bid for work. On the new site the Top 10 is now a degenerate mess of unchanging hymn and anthem arrangements from one store which has so many meta tags in its store heading that it takes as much space as 4 usual store ads!

Now eventually the overworked technicians may address that problem, but in the meantime what was one of the largest shop fronts for new compositions on the web has stalled. Stores manned by those already in the publishing industry are getting vastly more coverage than those manned by independents although the fees are the same. The scent of SEO manipulation, or of friends in the business at Avid? Who knows? Anyway, I am happy to muddle along selling a bit here and a bit there and one day, who knows, I might just cover my rent! They say “let us know if you think it is unfair” but nothing has changed so far in respect to Ave Maria Top 10s or some stores’ over-exposure at the expense of others.

What I was greatly pleased to discover however is that http://www.Amazon.com have selected some of my guitar books for distribution. This is both a surprise and an honour. My books have no ISBN, so I could not put them up, but Amazon have taken a “punt” on me and that means something!

Here are some links….

http://www.amazon.com/Songs-Reef-Octo-Pieces-Young-Guitarists/dp/B002AD9FPQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243587362&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Traditional-Tunes-Flute-Fingerstyle-Guitar/dp/B002AD9G3M/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243587362&sr=1-2

http://www.amazon.com/Traditional-Christmas-Carols-Guitar-Ensemble/dp/B002AD9FZG/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243587362&sr=1-4

http://www.amazon.com/Traditional-Christmas-Carols-Guitar-Solo/dp/B002AD7NNW/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243587362&sr=1-5

http://www.amazon.com/Traditional-Christmas-Carols-Guitar-Solo/dp/B002AD7NNW/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243587362&sr=1-5

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