Music and Rubber Bands

Rubber Bands


The other day I was cleaning out an old drawer in our back room. The drawer itself wasn’t old but what I found inside was.

I was looking for rubber bands and I was frustrated that I couldn’t find them. They had to be somewhere. I just saw them and in times like this I’m usually convinced that the lost item is playing a little hide and seek.

The drawer was in one of those out of the way places I rarely travel to. Kind of stuck in the corner, hard to get and sadly forgotten.

In other words the third child in a family of six.


Object of Yesteryear

Placing my rubber band search on hold I dug a little deeper curious what I might find. I knew the moment I moved on I would probably never inspect this particular drawer again.

I had to capture the moment.

As I pulled the drawer to the end I found, nestled deep in the dark, a lonely cassette tape.

During my youth I didn’t have the type of access to my favorite songs the way we have today. I had to be creative and the type of creativity needed came in the form of a cassette tape, a recorder, a radio station and patience.


My Generation

Today’s youth may have us beat when it comes to technology but when it comes to patience my generation owned it.

Allow me to explain:

  • In my day if I wanted a variety of favorite songs all I needed was a blank tape and my favorite radio station.
  • Of course there was always a worry that the tape would end during a great song but one had to travel the road of risk in order to reach paradise.
  • Once the tape was full of random songs a tape editor, or dubbing as I use to call it, came into play.
  • Mine came by way of a boombox complete with two cassette holders. It was there that I searched for my songs hoping to find a few treasures.
  • Sometimes I’d run into problems. The DJ would interrupt. A commercial would get in the way or a little static kissed the air.
  • Why did I go to such trouble you ask? Power. The power to listen to my favorites whenever I liked.

Rubber Band 2

A Tiny Problem

As I stood in front of the drawer curious what I would hear I realized I had a problem. Did we have anything in the house that would play it?

Immediately I headed to the garage.

Luck clearly shined that day as the tiniest little player I swear I ever saw sat between a cracked flower pot and a tube of glue.

After removing a handful of dead bugs I hurried inside with hopes of locating a battery.

The battery fit. The player was alive. I placed the cassette inside and pushed play.


Time Travel

Rubber Bands 1

The room suddenly filled to the winter of 1985. It was one of our worst winters I remember as the weather report gave away the biggest clue.

Songs soon filled the air with Don’t You Forget about Me, Money for Nothing and ZZ Top’s Sleeping Bag.

I listened to a list of canceled concerts due to ice and snow. Yes, Seattle wasn’t the best place for harsh weather.

The new 1986 Ford Mustang was coming to you this spring and The new Coke was everyone’s favorite.

Rubber Band 3

Well….I liked it.   

It was a junk tape full of raw random songs, weather reports and news about Reagan and Gorbachev.

It was a time where so many things had yet happened. A time long ago captured perfectly on a tiny forgotten silly looking object.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with this little treasure. I’ll probably keep it. It’ll probably get lost and in a decade from now I’ll discover it all over again.

When I do that wintery day of 1985 will come alive……again.

Rubber Band 4


Happy Friday Everyone!!!

How I became a better Beta Reader

Beta Reader

Note: This post is not about an Elven Prince. It simply made me laugh, plus the dude can act. What’s not to love.  🙂


My Summer Reading

Beta Reader 2

Last summer a writer friend took up my offer to beta read her novel. I hadn’t done this for a long time and my nerves were showing.

Worried I’d do a poor job I wondered why I offered to begin with but a promise is a promise.

I didn’t tell her my concerns. My hope was that my ability was fine. It was nothing more than nerves. My biggest concern was my writer’s mind. What if I took ownership?

What if I couldn’t do it?


Beta Reading and other failures

There is a thing that I call the switch. It’s the ability to turn the writing portion of my mind off and see the story the way the author meant for it to be. One of the tricks to beta reading is to trust the author.

But what if I couldn’t find the switch?

After reading the first chapter I saw a problem. It wasn’t her story or her writing. I loved the idea and her writing was strong. The problem was me. I found myself taking the pen out of her hand and making her story my own.

I began to see her characters in my writer’s mind. I wanted to make them my own and place them in my voice instead of hers.


Walking Away

Beta Reader 1

I continued for three chapters until I forced myself to stop. I came back to it later in the day and read my notes. Immediately I was angry.

The suggestions I gave were the type of notes I would have written to myself had it been my own work. I could already tell the type of characters I wanted her to create and the direction of the story I wanted her to go.

But this was her work, not mine. I was not beta reading, I was creating.

I gave myself a few days to think it over. I made her a promise but what if it was a promise I couldn’t keep?

Three days later I tried again.


Finding the Switch

The mind is a mysterious piece of magic and the magic I had hoped to find at the beginning finally found its way to the surface.

Somehow in those three days I found the switch. Her characters were no longer mine. I wasn’t trying to force her story in my direction. I was now able to read through the eyes of a reader and help the way a beta reader should.

Soon I was able to spot weak areas that needed strengthening. Suggest where depth and explanation lacked but most of all single out scenes that were perfect.

I quickly learned that the author needs to know what is working as much as what isn’t. Looking back one of the surprising things that I learned was how to improve my own writing.


How to improve by Beta Reading

When I think beta reader I think of assisting the author not the other way around. But in many ways her scenes helped me.

In some of her scenes I was curious how she would write her characters in or out of certain situations. In some cases I was certain she had painted herself in a corner only to realize she did it for a reason.

Jennifer’s style taught me to entertain in ways I hadn’t thought of before. Her way of writing allowed me to see story telling in a different light.

Talking to her afterwards she mentioned how reading and critiquing strengthens our own writing. I always knew that but I was unaware how much.

Now I do.


Finding time to Beta Read

A long time ago I worked in a fancy restaurant where the chef had a favorite saying – Always add flavor.

In a writer’s world we have one too: Always learn.

Beta reading not only helps the author it helps us, the reader. Find time to do this. For me I did a chapter a day during lunch and as you can see it was a perfect match.


Thank you Jennifer for a fun and rewarding experience.

Beta Reader 3