6.21.2018

2AM AGAIN

If I am ever asked to write a...what?

OK Fine.

WHEN I am asked to write some kind of article or give an interview about how my writing process works, I might just leave out the part where I think it is actually a good idea to down a Watermelon Rockstar at 1AM on a night where I need to be up just 5 short hours later to do what is commonly referred to as 'going to work.'

And yet, here we are.

Oh, but...against all odds, I am actually sitting at my writing desk (such as it is at the moment) giving you a fresh dose of bloggy randomness.

This is quite unique as it's the first (I think) blog post from the new abode.

It's also the first blog post on this blog that I think I have penned from my bedroom (I'm not counting hotel rooms, and neither should you. Vile things, really).

So, for anyone betting on this...official move in date was March first. It is now June 21st.

I'd like to give a hearty shout out to Summer. Welcome, Summer, you wee right bastard!

My daughter, by the way is VERY lucky that her parents weren't some new-agey/hippy types or she might very well have had some kind of name like Summer Rae or Sunbeam or some shit like that.

Which is to say, she's lucky that her father was afraid of what her mother would do to him if he pulled that shit. I suppose it's bad enough that I got to warp the way we spell her first name.

Someday she'll appreciate that.

Maybe.

Holy shit. Writing. So, that's a thing.

I've been nose deep in working on the first draft of 18 Clocks these days. Stealing words during lunch on the Alphasmart NEO2. No, I haven't been lunching on it, don't be ridiculous.

I've been reading quite a bit more these days than I am used to.  It's a good thing. Weird, but good.

Current mood is...hmm. That's a little trickier, isn't it? Let's just say, it's not full on 1996/97 level depression. More of a dip in the road. If you're still in my life these days and you knew me back in 96/97, first of all, I'm sorry. Second of all, wow, are you a fucking glutton for punishment.

Yeah. I mean, things are going well. On paper there is absolutely no reason for the grey film that's covering everything and yet, there is it. I wipe it away, but in that odd post-shower instant condensation science is cool kind of way, it comes right back. I think a large part of it has to do with getting things settled in the house. Once things get where they need to go and I find places in this space for the shit that's mine, I think a lot of it will go away. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

OH. Shit. I almost forgot.

I have put out Shadow Initiate and Ovid's Folly as standalone e-books on Amazon. The cool thing about that is, that between the 2 titles, I've already sold 30 copies. AND, since they are standalone, I can keep them up on Amazon and my author page won't go away. Now when I tell people my things are on Amazon, they can find me instead of getting a heartfelt collection of life lessons from a rookie College referee. I'm going to track that dude down one day just so I have can have him autograph a book To Todd Skaggs, From Todd Skaggs--coolest name ever bro! And naturally, I'll have at least one paperback by then and I can return the favor. We can then each put the books up on our shelf and pull it down when the record-listening party had hit a lull.

Here's the thing, I'm not tired. I should be. And I probably am (I'm not), but it's likely the Rockstar keeping me alert (or what passes for alert at 2AM). I'm going to go ahead and hit the hay.

I will catch you on the flip side my friends!

Peace,

Todd "Not A College Referee" Skaggs

3.22.2018

I Know You Got Soul

Whenever I wander back over to the shelf that is this blog, I think to myself, "man...I wonder if anyone still reads this anymore?"

And then I see how many days (weeks, months) it's been since I put anything of substance (or sometimes just anything) on here and the prescient words of Erik B come to mind...

"It's been a long time, I shouldn't a left you without a strong rhyme to step to..."

Here, let's just enjoy that groove together for a minute.  Very few other hip hop artists of that period put the depth of the philosophy into the amazing lyrics quite the way Erik B did. I need to meet this dude. I have a feeling he and I could seriously shoot the shit for hours and have some wicked mix tape built up by the end of the night (or early morning as the case may be).


Is it weird? I mean that I see myself being friends with and having conversations with people that others see as 'famous' or untouchable in some way?  I guess it might be. I don't know. I just always figured that things would fall into place to make that happen.  If you had told me 5 years ago that my best friend would be someone who was a USA Today and New York Times bestselling author, I might have looked at you a little sideways, but the revelation would not have surprised me. I would have just figured that by having that person in my life, I had something to learn, and something to teach.  And, by the way, that has been the case. As I look at the people in my life now from the outer, extreme circle of facebook acquaintances, to the people who guard my deepest secrets, the universal connector is all of these people enrich my life in some way that I need. I have lessons to learn or lessons to teach, and we're all in the same classroom for this version of the syllabus. 

It's pretty fucking cool, to be honest. If I stop and try to stare directly at what the lesson (and my role in the giving or receiving), I lose it. It flits away until I'm truly ready. And it seems that the times I am truly ready to learn or teach are the time when that is the absolute last thing on my mind. Then it's all of a sudden like, "boom. wake up, bitch. We gots to go to work!"

Jeeeeeeesus, Skaggs, when did you get so philosophical?!?

Somewhere around my 6th birthday.  Every 7 years, my birthday falls directly on Thanksgiving. I was turning 6. My parents were hosting Thanksgiving for the whole famdamily and a bunch of people I was expected to remember 30 years later at a family reunion when they said, "I haven't seen you since you were six years old."  Spoiler alert: I never remembered them, but smiled politely as though I did. 

So, six year old Todd didn't really process too much about Thanksgiving. But birthdays. Yeah buddy. I knew ALL about that. And birthday parties! While the tone and timbre of the parties have changed for me over the years, I learned all I needed to know about parties early on. They were awesome. Especially if they were for you. And the more people at these parties for you, the better.

Can you see where this is going?  

Six years old. Birthday boy. House full of people coming over for Thanksgiving.  Only I thought they were all coming over for my birthday.  Most of them didn't even know it was my birthday. So, no cards. No gifts. I don't remember if there was a cake or not. Actually, I'm sure there was a cake for dessert, but it wasn't a birthday cake.  Second worst Thanksgiving ever (But I wouldn't know that at the time. From that day until the first Thanksgiving without my Grammy (early in the 80's), it stood as the worst Thanksgiving ever. 

Pretty sure Todd the Philosopher was loosed into this world about 4:57PM on that Thursday in 1977.

And he's been here in one form or another ever since learning the lesson of "the world does not revolve around you, son." In fact, I think that might have been a direct quote from my father. It brought tears at the time (or more tears, as I may have already been sitting on my bed with the Star Wars blanket and Mickey Mouse and Pluto as knights sheets and pillow case set) when he said that. 

The details are foggy. But that's the way it is with our origin stories, isn't it? Foggy until that moment when a singular detail emerges with crystal clarity and smacks us dead in the eye with a "Oh fuck yeah!! I had completely forgotten all about that!!"

Did I mention that this was going to be a fairly random and rambling post? I didn't? Shit. My bad. I thought you might have picked up on that when I went from 80's hip-hop to 6 yr. old Todd. 

Well, yeah. Rambling randomness is afoot my friends. It's probably a good time to go back to your bookface feeds if you want. 

OH! That reminds me.

I'm getting sick of The Book of Face again. It happens about every three months.  And then I realize that someone will only communicate with me through that wretched platform, so I stay. And then about 2 or 3 years later it builds to the point where I can no longer take the bullshit.  The Cambridge Analytica BS has tipped that scale a bit early. 

Here's the thing. I'm not dumb. And neither are you. Of Course livre visage has been mining all of our data. From the day that it opened up from campuses to the public, its model has been to collect and mine as much data as possible. Why do you think it stopped being a university only app? Because students don't stay students for ever. It's a limited data set. And if they are going to make money selling data, they need a bigger pool. Boom, faycebooook is now open to the public. 

Why do you think it claims it will never charge to use the service? Because it wants as many people as possible.  Games? Advertising? Messenger? Video? Marketplace? Payments?!? Hell yes. All data  points.

Within 2 weeks at the outside the book of face knows everything about our lives it can possible know. Because we give it the information it needs. The information it sells. They don't need to charge, they are making money hand over fist by us using the "service" they provide.  And forget trying to figure out the algorithms to actually make it useful for yourself (like say, as an author trying to gain readers).

Do you know why retail stores move product and fixtures around in a store?  Studies have shown that if a shopper takes more time trying to find something that has moved, they will walk out of the store having purchased more than they intended to, even if they had a list.  I don't have the study that quotes that, but I work in retail. That shit is real. 

All the bitching that happens when something changes on the feed, or your wall? Makes you spend more time. Clicking on things you might not have click on in your old routine. 

All of that is to say that very soon I will be looking at deleting my FB account. I don't need it. It's annoying the piss out of me. And the reason I came back to the 'social' media in the first place is no longer there. 

I'll still maintain Instagram (also owned by the bookfacers, but still somehow less evil at this point), and Twitter. 

And of course this blog.

If you're worried that you won't see these posts because I don't have them on your wall anymore, you can do this, right now.

Hit CTRL+D. On a Mac, hit COMMAND+D.  Almost all browsers will save the URL of the page. 

Save it in your bookmarks. Come by and see me from time to time.  I'll be around. 
Hell, you might see me on the New York Times Bestseller list some day. (Spoiler alert: You totally will.)

And remember, if you get invited over for dinner, or Christmas, or Thanksgiving...be sure to ask your host if there is a birthday boy or girl. If there is, bring them a present. You will be the hero and change their life forever, I guarantee it. 

Until then my friends, I'll see you on the other side.

And remember, it's not where you're from, it's where you're at. 


Peace,
AT

3.12.2018

Unforgettable, And Some Release Day Promo

I'm late with this post. The day got away from me.
I didn't forget.
I swear I didn't forget it was today.
There's no way I could have forgotten.
But, what if I did?

As I'm reading through the newest release by New York Times Bestselling author, Monica Corwin, that question is going through my mind.  As I'm reading Make Me Forget, I thought about how my life would be different if I had no memory of the person I loved.

I feel in to this book with a certain amount of smug envy, I'm not going to lie.  As a kid I always envied the older generations as they talked about going to the movies on Saturday for the latest Commander Cody serial film in the matinee. The closest we had to that growing up was the three year intervals between Star Wars movies.

And then my friend Monica tells me that she is releasing a couple of her books, chapter by chapter, on the Radish app.

I fell in to the serialization pit at point. First one chapter. Then the next. And before I new it, I was checking my phone to see if the next chapter has posted.

After the tears and heartache of a few chapters, I had to have the next chapter! If only to convince myself that it was all going to work out between Murphy and Mara.

After all, you can't just forget that kind of chemistry with someone one.

Can you?

I'm going to throw some of the blurb at you now, because I think Monica does a better job than I do of convincing you that you need to read this book. Although, I will tell you that the reason this post is later is because I was busy reading and re-reading, and wiping wet stuff off my screen (eww...not THAT you perv) trying to finish this book.

You really should grab a copy of it so we can have something to talk about over coffee!

And now here's some cool release day promo magic, courtesy of the folks over at Give Me Books!

-AT










He makes me burn.

He makes me ache.

He makes me forget.

Since grade school Murphy Wilcox and I fought incessantly. But one drunk night before my last military deployment changed everything. At least that is what he tells me. Along with the hundreds of scorching hot emails we shared.

Fast forward four years and Murphy is the only connection I have to my past. The only connection I have to the woman I used to be. Amnesia is a bitch but apparently so was I.

**25% of the profit from this book will be donated to the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, in hopes that it can help fund further research into PTSD**






Purchase Links

99c for a limited time

AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU

Available at other retailers soon






Author Bio

Monica Corwin is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author. She is an outspoken writer attempting to make romance accessible to everyone, no matter their preferences. As a Northern Ohioian, Monica enjoys snow drifts, three seasons of weather, and a dislike of Michigan football. Monica owns more books about King Arthur than should be strictly necessary. Also typewriters...lots and lots of typewriters.



Monica's Author Links

3.03.2018

Hashtag Next Chapter

For the past couple weeks, I have been using a tag #NextChapter on IG/Twitter/FB posts involving my move. The appropriateness of that particular phrasing just kind of hit me squarely in the third eye with a nice bout of shakubuku tonight. About 10 seconds ago, as a matter of fact.

But I might be getting ahead of myself here. Don't worry. Happens to me all the time.

First off, this post (not the content, but the actual post) is overdue. It's been over a month since I've posted anything.

Here's what's funny about that, to me. And not funny in a humorous way, but funny in a 'huh, I guess I never thought of it that way.' kind of way.

Thing is, when I first started this blog (well any of them, actually), the thought was always that I would write them for me. To clear the cobwebs out. To get my daily exercise of the writing muscle as I was also working on the elusive book that I'm writing.   And that might have been how this blog or any of my blogs, started.

Somewhere along the way, I think it became something more of a communication. I'm sitting at the dining room table (yes, apparently I now have an actual honest to god dining room), and I'm writing this to you. A letter to a friend.

At least I hope we're friends. Because if we're not, one of us is wasting the other's time. It's probably me. I get that a lot.

I got a text from a friend. It was straightforward. They told me that they missed reading the blogs. That's when I figured out that they aren't just for me, with you along for the ride. I underestimated how much people enjoy them.

In any event, can I just tell you that February was CRAZY. We're talking Jennifer Jason Leigh Single White Female crazy, mmmkay?

In January, the first day of January as a matter of fact, I found out that I would have the opportunity to move from my apartment in Westerville into my grandparents' home in Worthington.  Since then, the exercise of actually leaving my apartment and getting all of my things over here has been a roller coaster of clusterfuckery.

There are probably multiple blog posts lurking just under the surface of my psyche detailing the ups and downs and in-betweens that my mind and body went through with this move. It was a lot more emotional for me than leaving a marriage of 12 years, if that tells you anything of some of the hell that was playing out behind my watering eyes and painted on smile.

But that's not what this one is about.

I'm going to take you out of the moment for a second. I need you do me a favor. I need you to go over and read a post that my friend Jamie wrote. Jamie is a writer. And she's a friend. Nope. Strike that. She's family.  And reading this post of hers nearly brought me to tears (and coupled with what happened Thursday night, I was in tears), but here. See this link? I'm going to need you to click on the link and read her post. And then come back here.

Here's the link:

https://jamieisawriter.com/2018/02/27/i-deserve-good-things-so-do-you/

Go ahead, I'll wait.

No, seriously. I'm not continuing until you go read it. It's important.

Did you read it? You did? You know I can see if you click out of my blog post to go read it, right?

OK. Cool. Now I know for sure you read it.

And no, I can't really tell if you did--we're going on the honor system here. But all the same, I'm glad you did. It is important to the state of mind I have been in lately. In general in my life, and in particular with my writing.

Jamie talks about gratitude. And looking at what you have in your life. With the key refrain being that she deserves nice things, and so do you.

That resonated with me.

Deserving nice things. For the longest time I thought that the nice things, the good life, those were things that someone else deserved. I don't know what penance I was paying and why I thought I needed to wear the hair shirt, but that was the role I constantly found myself in.

And then Jamie's post kind of knocked the sleep from my third eye.

It clicked.

Starting with the move in to this house.  Then her post. Then seeing Ernest Cline on Thursday night.

It all fucking clicked.

I do deserve nice things. It's ok that things are working out in my favor. It's acceptable to be happy that fortunate events are occurring in my life.

That's where I am. Embracing the change.

And by embrace, I mean accepting it.  It's not easy. But it is really the next chapter.

OH! Right. When I started this bit of rambling, I talked about the next chapter.

So, yeah. This is a milestone event in my life. My last move was over 5 years ago and that was after the second divorce. It was bittersweet.

And in the midst of it all, some amazing things happened. One of those things was seeing Ernest Cline, the author of Ready Player One. If you haven't read that book yet, you need to.

You can read that after this post, I'm almost done and I can assure you once you start the book, you'll want to keep reading and then you'll forget all about me and I'll be sad. And then you'll come back a month later and be all 'oh man, Todd, I'm sorry. I was doing life things and stuff, but I'm back now.'

Like me, I'm back now.

And in the coming week or two, you can look for the following things to show up here:

  • What's it's like to move into your family history
  • A short story about the price of magic
  • A piece on the magic of meeting your heroes, even if you didn't know they were
Along with pieces on what it's like to be a writer, living a dual life as a normal, everyday adult.

Because that's what I am.

A writer, I mean. The normal adult bit is up for debate. 

Until then my friends, have an awesomesauce weekend!!

Love,
Todd






1.31.2018

Picking A Single Thread to Pull

There is something you need to know about a barrel roll. If you are a passenger in a plane that is doing a barrel roll you are convinced that the pilot has lost all sanity and has put your lives in the hands of fate in some misguided hope that physics will not pick this day to blink and that somehow, after what seems like forever, the plane and the contents of your stomach, will right themselves and continue on their merry way.

If you are the pilot performing the barrel roll, you know that exactly all of that is true.

For those of you that might be unclear about the whole barrel roll metaphor, go to google.com and type in 'do a barrel roll' and hit enter. I'll wait.

OK, everyone back on the same page? Good. 

I bring that example up for two reasons. One, I think it's a pretty killer opening for a book I have yet to even think of using it in. And two, my life is in a barrel roll right now. From the outside I'm sure it looks tricky and neat and breathtaking. But there's definitely a different vibe from within the plane.

Thing is, I'm not sure if I'm the pilot or the passenger. I'm relatively sure that I'm the pilot. Which means I started this.  And it means it's up to me to finish it. Assuming, of course, that physics doesn't blink somewhere along the way.

2018 is the year of some major shifts. Not all of these were accounted for when I made my rather ambitious writing goals for the year.  Of course, it is only January and I am in no way throwing in the towel, but I am giving myself permission to not beat myself up over not being as far along as I wanted to be.  I am WAY behind on the Ray Bradbury challenge, but I have no doubt that I can catch up and have 52 stories of varying length and quality for your reading pleasure by year's end. 

So, there's that. Along with that little hiccup, there's the whole uprooting and moving thing. I suppose I buried the lead on that, huh?  Well, yeah. I am moving from my apartment in to a house at the end of February. So, basically I have a month to box up and move things from my little apartment to a larger house. It's a wonderful move for me, and definitely a great thing, but the fact is, it does affect my writing. I feel guilty for taking the time to write when I know I should be packing or doing some other move-related thing. The net result is usually that I freeze and do nothing. Which, to be honest, is much worse. Recognizing the issue is the first step, though, so hopefully I can work through that. 

In other completely random news...there's the whole Mall of America thing. Last year, the Mall had a contest to get some kind of writer in residence for their big anniversary. I applied. I didn't get it. Oh, that's OK. I didn't expect to. I wasn't young enough or hip enough or established enough as an author.  But the bright side is, the story snippet I submitted as part of my application has some workable threads in it that I'm going to pull back in and make a story (or maybe a book or maybe a series). 

It's only a start, but since I feel bad for not having a short story for you this week, I'll give you a taste of what that story started out like. I'm not sure where it will wind up before the year is over, but I suppose we'll find out together, huh?

Enjoy, and have an awesome day!!

-Todd

****

Seth: Sage of the Food Court
By Todd Skaggs

(c)2018; All Rights Reserved


I want to write the story of Seth, and the true magic he discovers at the Mall:

Seth was a child of the 80's. He spent every free moment at the mall. If he wasn't in school or at a meeting of Mr. Hanley's Computer Club, he was at the mall. 

To him the Mall was pure magic. The smell of the t-shirt shop as the press fused some transfer of a Z-28 on a sky blue ringer tee.  The impending brain freeze after too quickly drinking the ICEE (suicide mix, of course). These were all enchanting. 

Nothing, however, rivaled the feelings that Seth felt when he set foot in the arcade. 

It was safe to say that by the time Seth graduated high school, the quarters spent at Funway Freeway could have put a nice down payment on at least the most basic of transport  for his college years. 

None of it was wasted, however. Seth was convinced that it was his somewhat fantastical view of malls that led him here.

Twenty-five years later, Seth was sitting the HR Office in the inner chambers of the Mall of America.  He had applied for the position of IT Operations Manager.  After a grueling interview process, Seth was one of the final five candidates.

All that remained was the online technical aptitude test.

Sitting in a room, Seth looked at the other four.

The competition.

Seth knew they didn't stand a chance. He was a wiz at anything to do with computers. Some called the work he did magic, but he was too modest to call attention to his skills.

Unless he needed to.

Today was the day for him to pull out all of the stops. This was his dream job.


Seth was right about one thing all those years ago. The malls were magic.

All across America, the malls were the local epicenters of the community's magic. This wasn't advertised, of course, as magic wasn't widely accepted as real all those years ago.

From the rural strip malls housing the natural magic of the farming communities. To the open air malls of the West Coast, boasting more of a holistic flow.  The malls were, and are, still the centers of magic in our country.

But there is one mall that stands tall as the beacon. The Mall of America.  The largest mall in the United States is also the headquarters and command center of all of the magical in our nation. 

Seth couldn't know this. 

But he was about to find out. 

And with his new job, comes a new set of responsibilities.  Shoplifters and security cameras aren't the only thing he will need to keep at bay.

Our adventure begins with a simple online aptitude test and culminates in a game of cat and mouse as old as magic itself!


****

1.23.2018

The Molasses Marathon and RBC Week 3: The Magic Virus (excerpt)

This is now the fourth week of 2018.  By all accounts I should be hard at work on my 4th short story in the Ray Bradbury Challenge (and technically, I am. More on that in a bit).

But Todd, if you're working on the 4th story, where is the story from Week 3??

That is a good and fair question. The short answer is, it's in the same place as the story for Week 4 and Week 5 and Week 6.  All four stories are in various stages from outline to draft to oh my god I will probably never let anyone see that!!

I had a bit of a moment last week where things just clicked in to place about this Ray Bradbury Challenge. He was convinced that its impossible to write 52 bad stories in a row.  I'm convinced to prove him wrong. But at the end of the day, even if I do churn out 52 bad stories in a row, I will have still written 52 stories. And there is a good chance one of them will be good.

Week 1 and 2 hummed along pretty well. The stories flowed and had a natural point where it made sense (to me) to conclude. There are apparently more questions that I need to go back and answer in the story from Week 2 (which might grow up to be an actual book). 

Week 3 is going slowly. Obviously by the fact that I don't have a full story for you yet. 

Part of it is my fault. I got caught up in the whole 'make the story the best possible story I can make it' instead of 'pump something out every 7 days.'  And, if I'm being honest, I think that's the point that Bradbury was trying to make.

Can I write a short story every week for 52 weeks? Yes. I can certainly do the quantity and put out a story from 5K-15K every week. I think most people who fancy themselves writers, could. But for me, there was a shift last week. 

I'm looking at this story and my first thought was, how can I end it here so I can post it?  I was in that headspace for all of 23 seconds before the second question hit me. "Do I want to end it before its time? Or do I want to keep working on it, despite falling behind in the challenge (which is really only a personal challenge, I'm not competing).

The answer was clear. Keep writing. 

And I think that's Bradbury's point. Keep writing. Set small goals. Work on a short story a week. Just keep writing. 

Just.
Keep.
Writing.

That has been the struggle lately. There are some major changes coming in my life that will cause me to look back on 2018 as the year I turned the corner on a lot of things in my life. I know they are good things, but they are still huge. I'm trying, sometimes to no avail, to roll with them, but it's not easily. At least it's not easy for. 

So, the whole just keep writing thing is key right now. When I sit down to write lately, it feels like I am trying to run a marathon in a river of molasses. 

Do I have a full short story for you? No. Will I catch up and have 52 short stories by Dec 31, 2018? I have no doubt. 

Like I said, I have 4 ideas that I'm dancing between right now. A paragraph here, a page there. They will be done when they are done.

Today's excerpt comes from a short story that I was originally working on for submission to an anthology about magic, but the deadline came upon me before I was ready to  turn this one in, so another took its place. 

What if, in every lifetime, there were only one person on the whole of the earth who knew the true nature of magic? What if that knowledge comes at a terrible cost? What if that person were you? These are the questions Alistair Smith must answer the day he receives a most peculiar letter...


The Magic Virus (excerpt)
By Todd Skaggs

27 January 2057
Ernest Mann
92C St. John’s Hill
London
SW11 1SH, UK

Dear Mr. Alistair Smith,

Everything you think you know about magic is, I am sorry to say, wrong. Please don’t waste your time responding to this. By the time you read these words, I will be dead. Oh, please don’t be sad for me. Just two seconds ago you were ready to kill me yourself. I’ve lived a good life, but if I were to die without telling you what I know about magic, it would be an incomplete life. Ironically, it is this very telling that will cost me my life.

So, why do it? Why sign my own death warrant? Because, what you know of magic is harmful. And what you don’t know of magic is deadly. Lastly, for purely selfish reasons, I am tired of being the only living person who knows the truth. It is a terrible burden, and you will curse me for sharing this knowledge, just as I have long since cursed the day I received my own letter of truth from the one who sent it to me.

First, the housekeeping. You have a decision to make. You must decide if you are going to continue to read this letter or disregard it outright. If you decide to reject this appointment, you must burn the letter. Under no circumstances can this knowledge be let out in to the wild. The very fabric of our world depends on this simple tenet: Only one person at a time in any lifetime may know the true nature of magic. It is for this reason, that you must also burn the letter should you decide to accept the responsibility.  If someone were to chance upon the letter and read it’s full contents, they would become the keeper and your life would be forfeit.

There are some facts you should know that may aid you in your decision.

If you accept this mantle, your life will never be the same.  That is neither good nor bad, merely the truth. You will never be able to go back to not knowing.

The position is terminal. Once you accept it, your mortal coil is intertwined with the truth. And should you share the secret with another, the truth is then bound to them and your life is over. Not figuratively, literally. Once the knowledge is shared, the previous keeper will walk this earth no more.

Magic always demands a price. The price you will pay for knowing the truth of magic is love. If you continue on to the second page of this letter, you will never again know the wonder and mystery of love. That is not to say that you will not live a full and rich life. You may still, but it will be a life without love. 

You are now at the point where you can destroy the letter. If you do so, I will know by the fact that I am still alive. And I will begin the search anew for the next Keeper. 
I would caution you to turn back now, but to do so would be for purely self-serving reasons. I have no desire to shake loose this mortal coil, but I am being told by the Magic that the time has come. It seeks a new Keeper. 

The Keeper that it has led me to is you. 

The decision is yours. Read the next page or don’t. You must now choose. 

Sincerely,
Mr. E. Mann

***
(Page 2)

If you are reading this page, know this-you are bound to the truth of magic and it is bound to you. If you choose to share this knowledge with anyone, you do so with the full understanding that upon receipt, the title of Keeper will be passed to the person with whom you have shared and upon full understanding by this person of the knowledge, you will sacrifice your life force to the Magic. 

All your life you have likely subscribed to either one of two notions. The first is that Magic is the stuff and nonsense of fairy tales. That it is completely fictional and that it’s place in our world is relegated to those things which serve to entertain us, not educate or serve us in any meaningful capacity. 

The second of these notions is that Magic is real. Whether you have seen it personally, or simply choose to believe it so, you know that deep in your heart spells and wizards and witches and dragons and faeries and the lot of them are all real. 

I know which of these you do believe, sir, but that is neither here nor there at this point and serves to add no momentum to our dialog.

The truth of the matter is Magic is real. However your perception and exposure to it is completely wrong. You, along with the entire human race since time ab initio, have been deceived. This deception has been perpetrated and disseminated through people known as the Holders. Each of the Holders exist separately and know only one small piece of the truth. Never have the Holders assembled in one place and put the whole truth together. Were that to happen, the results would be catastrophic. Holders are chosen by Magic and given gifts throughout their lives. Some mistakenly call these gifts inspiration. The Holders live their lives wanting to share the joyful side of magic. 

They are the authors, poets, writers, filmmakers, witches, and any who believe that magic could be real. This seedling is given to the Holders from an early age. Like any plant, sometimes it takes root. Sometimes the plant does not make it past the first harvest. Should this seed grow and blossom, it is then shared and spread with others. In this way the love of the benevolence of magic spreads. Much like a weed spreads and chokes the garden.

Then there are the Keepers. In every lifetime and life cycle of the earth, there is one human who is the Keeper. The Keeper of Truth is the one soul who knows all of the pieces of the truth about the nature of Magic. The single soul does not have the power itself to act upon this truth. In this way, the terrible secret of what Magic is remains unknown to the masses. The terminal binding of the Keeper to this truth is the reason that the knowledge is not known to any but one. 

In almost every instance, the candidate for Keeper was one who was originally chosen as a Holder, but for whom the glamorous notion of magic did not take root. For this Holder, magic always held a dark and serious side. This Holder fosters the belief that magic was dark and costly and that it always demanded a sacrifice.

Seventy-five years ago, that Holder was me.

Today it is you.

You have, I am remiss to say, passed the point of no return. As you continue to read, the enchantment cast on this parchment continues to bind the words to your soul. With each word passing your eyes, the bond grows stronger. By the time you reach the end of this missive, you will be fully bound to Magic. The infestation will be complete.

There is one major truth about Magic that you must know immediately and that others may not know--ever.

Magic is a virus. And you, Mr Smith, are now it’s sole carrier on the planet. All with whom you come into contact will be infected. Some will be only mildly affected, others will be terminally impacted by your touch.

In the days to come there will be additional packages forwarded to you. Legal documents, books, journals, and the like. Several secret societies will also be informed of the transference.  

Know this, there is not one single person on the planet you can trust with this truth. What you truly know of this disease you must keep to yourself.

As the sole Keeper, there is much you must learn. There are those you must teach. 
But above all else, above anything that you do, you must remain steadfastly silent about the truth nature of magic. 

I am confident I have chosen wisely, and for this I am truly sorry for the burden that is now yours.

Sincerely, 
Ernest Mann


***
I set the letter down. 

“Well, that’s just fucking great.” 

I didn’t need this. I really didn’t need this. Not now. I thought for a long second about who may go to elaborate lengths to send me a letter by post. The postal service was expensive. This letter had no return address. It was sent certified and there were two pages. Whoever it was, they were racking up quite a bill just to fuck with me.

And why? It wasn’t my birthday. It wasn’t my anniversary. The last of the cheating whores had seen to it that there wouldn’t be any more of those. When I filed for divorce this last time, that was it. After filing 3 times, I lost my license to marry again. No more tax breaks or medical breaks.

It was worth it though. If I had to spend another month married to that bitch, I would have been filing for widower’s benefits. And that was a lot more paperwork than the divorce. And a longer investigation process, too. 

I looked at the letter sitting on the coffee table in front of my sofa. It was glowing. Honest to shit, it was glowing. The pages that had been a stark white as I was reading them had shifted to a pulsing, bright amber hue. Was that smoke?

“Shit!”  I grabbed the pages and envelope from the table just as the flame sprouted from one corner of the paper. I ran in to the kitchen in to the sink and turned on the faucet.

“Mr. Ernest forget to do his research. Apparently he didn’t know I didn’t have a fireplace.” I said, to no one in particular.

I felt my mouth drop as I looked at the smoldering envelope in the sink with freshly written words, “Of course I knew. This was just more fun.”

I had about three seconds for the reality of what I had just seen to set in before the entire part and parcel gave one last exhale and was completely consumed by fire. 

Christ on a cracker.  I need a drink.

I made my way to the shelf that housed my liquor. A nice stiff bourbon sounded great right now. It’s been sounding good for about 7 months. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve had any bourbon in the house. 

“Rum it is,” I said reaching for the half full bottle of Sailor Jerry. I turned, heading for the ice box, hoping like hell I hadn’t burned through the cola I picked up last week.  

“Thank fuck,” I said as I saw three cans remaining. The way I mixed my drinks, Three cans of soda was about 8 or 9 full drinks. 

Assessing the rum and the soda situation before me, I thought to myself, Yup. Should be about enough to pass the fuck out. I can convince myself this was all a terrible dream after I make it through tomorrow’s hangover. 

Sounded like a good enough plan to me.

I was three drinks in before the full weight of the words of the letter hit me. Either that, or the weak-ass rum was starting to do its thing. 

I couldn’t hold off any longer. Everything in the letter rang true, but I had to know. The best lies 
contain truth and because of that, they ring truer when shouted from the rooftops. I was too drunk at this point to go to the roof, but I could at least test the truth of the letter.

I shuffled down the back hallway to my bedroom. I knelt by the bed. Anyone walking in would think I was saying my bedtime prayers. I had long since given up on a god that kills babies for sport and puts dictators in power for its own sick amusement. No, I wasn’t praying. I reached one arm under the bed and started feeling around. Ammo box. Nope. Pistol safe. Nope. Shoebox. There it was. 

Pulling it out, I took off the lid and set it aside. Photographs from a lifetime ago and letters and concert tickets filled the box. I rummaged around until I found what I was looking for.  My hand wrapped around a crystal.  I pulled it out of the box, my fist clenched tightly around it. I had closed my eyes as soon as my fingers touched it’s smooth, unforgiving surface.

I opened my eyes and looked at my closed fist.

There was no delaying this.

Opening my hand, I focused on the center of the crystal.

It was glowing.

Fuck me sideways, it was glowing. 

“No no no no no no no. Fuck me. No!”

I didn’t know if the words were in my head or coming out of my mouth at this point.  I wanted to throw the pale blue glowing crystal across the room. But I couldn’t. I was transfixed.

Not only that, but I now possessed magic.

Again.

This wasn’t supposed to be possible. Once the Council of Mystics stripped you, it was done. There would be no way that you could ever again possess magic. To do more than a common card trick would bring death.

Well, I suppose that was true. I would die, according to the letter, were I to share this secret with anyone. The truth. The truth of magic was destined to kill me.

But that wasn’t the same thing. The Death Penalty associated with what was called “recharging” on the streets was a swift and deliciously public death by vivisection. The crowd watched the magic flow out of you like so many embers of ash dancing playfully above a pile of burning leaves in the fall. 

I waited for the knock.

I waited for the call.

I waited for the electronic notification.

I waited for the Council to send word and to fetch me so that they might do their worst.

I waited for something. 

I waited for anything.

And nothing came. 

Except the darkness born of too many artificial spirits. 
****

1.15.2018

Turn And Face The Strange

Disclaimer: This post is not really for you. It's for me. It will quite likely be disjointed and random and provide too much information in to the way my mind works through stuff. If you want the rainbow-farting unicorn/everything is awesome all the time Todd, you probably shouldn't read this. This might shatter any preconceived notions you have of me. That guy hangs out a lot on Facebook. This post deals with an epiphany that I suffered last week, and to be perfectly frank, sorting things out in this blog is cheaper than therapy. And the other side of it (the side that is for you) is this.  If you recognize yourself in anything I've put down here, then you know one thing--you're not alone. 

Still with me? Great.  Let's begin.

I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
And every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test


The above lyrics were taken from the David Bowie classic, "Changes," which first appeared on the album Hunky Dory, released December 1971, one month after I was born. 

There are a handful of songs that hit me straight in the soul. Songs where if I sit and contemplate their meaning and how the lyrics apply to me, they will reduce me to a blubbering blob of a dude. 

This is one of those songs. The rest of the song is amazing and hits me just as hard, but this first verse just sums up everything to a tee. 

I know I mentioned the epiphany on Facebook last and hinted at a lunchtime bloggy blog to dive into detail, sorry about the delay, but here is said blog.

The epiphany I suffered last week was this little bit of a mind fuck. From a Facebook post that went mostly unnoticed:

Cognitive dissonance...social anxiety...emotional dissonance...that feeling that this is all somehow not where I’m meant to be.
As those have come up in my life in the past, I have used them as a warning that I have strayed off the path and am not doing what I’m “meant to be doing” in this lifetime, so I alter course and change.
But what if those are actually my indication that I’m about to breakthrough and hit that next level?
All those times I turned away, I could have been so much closer to the purpose.


So..yeah.  That's my pattern...I'm chugging along thinking I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing and there's that weird little thread getting tugged. It's annoying at first, so you think you can just do a quick tug and everything will be fine. Next thing you know, you have unraveled several rows of your favorite shirt, or scarf, or messenger bag. 

And that is a very uncomfortable feeling. That feeling like suddenly everything is wrong. Or maybe it isn't everything. Maybe it's only the little things. Maybe it's the little fact that your wife for the last 3 years never said goodnight when she was going to bed and you were downstairs working on something. Or the fact that you write and pour your heart out and she rarely, if ever, gave unsolicited feedback of any kind on your writing. Or the other wife who told you that you had a knack for lyrics, but you probably shouldn't try singing because something was just...off. 

Those are, of course, hypothetical examples and in no way, shape, or form, still cut deep and sting nearly 20 years later. 

Back to Bowie:

I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
And every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet

That's kind of me. At age 45, I published my first book. Seriously...what was I waiting for? It's easy to oversimplify that question, so I won't insult anyone's intelligence, least of all mine. A large portion of that was timing, so I'm not sure that entirely counts. 

I'm going to cut to the chase here. The song is called Changes.
And let's be honest, I suck at handling change. Small changes I'm generally OK dealing with. The Big Pharma sponsorship package I'm ingesting probably helps the most with those little course corrections that occur on a daily basis. The bigger ones where I have an expectation of something (realistic or not) are harder to deal with. Plans getting cancelled or altered. Unexpected bills. Things like a laptop dying for no reason. 

I put on a good game face. But those things seriously fuck with me. When that happens, then I tend to do a deep dive and start overthinking everything that's going on in my life. I start putting attributes and reactions there to things that are completely in my fucking head because there is no external proof to validate what I'm thinking!.

It's the ultimate mindfuck and I do it to myself. 

I am in a time of change in my life.

I will be moving in the spring of this year. I hate moving. As good as I know this move will be for me, I still find myself finding reasons why this won't work the way I expect it to. It's dumb. I know that. It's completely irrational, but it's still back there, just floating in the back channels of my mind. 

That's not the only change though, I've become more focused on what I want to do with my writing this year. I have set goals. And I'm working to achieve them. That's a change for me. Because the more I put myself out there, the greater the risk of being exposed.  Being exposed for a shit writer who probably shouldn't pick up a pen if he can at all help it. Now, I don't think I'm actually a shit writer, but that question will always be there. I don't think I'm alone in that. I know plenty of other artists who go through similar doubts. 

Here's the one that really kind of messes with me (and I'm sure I've talked about it on this blog ad nauseam), but here it is.  What if I'm good? What if I'm really, really good at this writing thing? What then?  Then I don't have any excuses. Then I have to put in the hard work that I know it takes to write the books and get them out to the world. Then I have to struggle with that question of at what point to I become a full time writer/author?  Fear of success is a thing, too.

But here's where I had the epiphany.

In the past when I had those gnawings in my brain that my life wasn't where it was meant to be, that I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing, I changed course. Marriages (yes plural) weren't working? Maybe I'm not cut out for marriage.  I am now one marriage/divorce away from needing to study paleontology and dance with my friends around a fountain in New York.  

I look back at just how many times I changed my direction because of that nagging feeling. 

And I was starting to get it, quite recently (times of big change tend to trigger it). As I was looking at my life through a bourbon flavored period of reflection, I realized something. I don't want to change course. The writing is going the direction I want it to go. The people in my life are the people that need to be in my life, so I'm not ready to shuffle that social deck of cards right now.

That's what got me thinking...what if that feeling doesn't mean 'turn away.'  What if it means, instead, 'hey...dude, you're close. This is your subconscious early warning detection system and that awesome life you always dreamed about is right ahead of you!! Press on, for godssakes, press on!!!!'

That was the mindfuck. Thinking back to all of the times I turned away instead of pressing through. Instead of going to the other side of the fear. And yes, I know that the experiences I went through made who I am, and I'm not discounting any of that. 

I don't know if that I pressed through those odd feelings I would be in a different place now. I probably would. Would it be a better place? I can't really say. I'm not a Time Lord. And even if I was, I could never go back on my own timeline.

I guess the long and short of it is, I should have listened to that little nagging thread earlier on. NOT because I'm not happy with how my life is going now, but because running away from the things that scare me or make me uncomfortable is never going to get me where I want to be. 

I also recently remembered, that when your favorite sweater has a little loose thread, you can cut just that piece of loos thread off and keep going. 

Huh. Who knew?

2AM AGAIN

If I am ever asked to write a...what? OK Fine. WHEN I am asked to write some kind of article or give an interview about how my writing p...