11.30.2016

Fountain of Awesomeness

There is something very intimate about writing. I don't know how it is for other writers.  For me, though, the words have more power and a deeper intimacy based on how they are written, and sometimes about whom or for they are written.

The draft of the book I just finished for National Novel Writing Month, for example, while sprung forth from my soul, doesn't bear the same level of meaning or intimacy as if I were, to say, paint a love poem on the back of a lover.  Both come from the same place-my muse, my writer's brain, my fucked up head-whatever you want to call it. But both are very different in their delivery, and how they are born in to this world.                

I guess what I'm saying is, writing is as much of a physical experience for me as a mental one.  If Im typing, the keyboard has to feel right (the MacBook keyboards still have the best laptop feel for me).  I'm still finding my ideal typer, but so far the Hermes Rocket is my baby.

And then there's pen to paper.        

I spent two years looking for the perfect stylus to be able to take notes and do quick writing on my iPad.  Adonit had the closest simulation of real pen to paper, but there was always that paper drag that just never quite hit the right way on the iPad. So...I went from that to the LiveScribe system. Real pen. Real paper. And the ability to sync the notes digitally.

Then a funny thing happened.

Yesterday, I was looking at the LiveScribe app on my phone, realizing I hadn't launched it in quite some time. I fired it up and turned on my pen. Nothing.  The battery on the pen was dead. I couldn't tell you when it last worked or last sync'd.

That was the a-ha moment. The moment that I realized that I really didn't have a need to keep digital backups of my notes.  It was just a neat gimmick  Sidebar, if anyone is looking for a LiveScribe pen and some notebooks, let me know--I can hook you up.

Rewind a few weeks back to a gruelingly awesome session of D&D. Evan was taking notes about our campaign with a Parker Metropolitan Fountain Pen (yes, it's probably a sign that I know the brand and type).  It was like watching magic spill on to the page.

There is something so sexy about a fountain pen.  It's just classy. And the fundamentals haven't changed in decades (centuries?).  It's just...(whatever that noise is when you're worked up over something in a good way).  Yes. That.

Fast forward to my birthday. I got a $25 Amazon Gift Card.  So..I ordered a fountain pen.
I got a Lamy Vista with 5 spare cartridges. Don't worry, I'll be ordering the bulb syringe and cartridge conversion kit soon.    And I started writing with this thing last night.

Wow. So fucking amazing.

It's not that the words I wrote were any greater, but there was something more...physical about the process. With a fountain pen, you can feel every letter.

Paper makes a difference. Ink makes a difference. I'm assured I'll find my sweet spot for preferred inks, nibs, and papers.

Things that most of us overlook in our Bic clicking world are suddenly a thing.

And it's awesome.

I don't know that I would write a complete manuscript draft by hand, but I can tell you this--if I did, I'd damn sure be using a fountain pen.

I'll probably be writing more poems and songs with the pen.

I know it seems like a silly thing...and I don't know that I'm doing a good job at the moment about explaining why it feels so much more....real.

There are times when I feel like my writing is pretty much just me bleeding my heart and soul out on to the page.

And the fountain pen is the implement of that soul-letting.

11.29.2016

Of Writing Groups and Drinking One's Own Fluids

In the good/bad column for days, I would mark today decidedly "good."
Work was just the right amount of busy so that I felt productive without feeling like my hair was on fire and I wasn't going ever get caught up.

The grand screw up that was the delivery of my fountain pen was made all better by the notification that said pen was waiting for me.

And today was one of the days of the month that one of the writing groups I'm in meets.

So, yeah. Good day. All the cards are put in to play.  I got to Panera at what I thought was an early time. Pretty much everyone was there.  I still ordered my food. Chicken-noodle soup in a bread bowl, which I then had to place in a real bowl because the bread bowl had sprung a leak. And I got a free drink. And a free birthday scone.  The scone, in no danger of leaching its contents out on to my plate, was set aside for later as I made short work of the soup and its vessel.

As I'm eating, I hear from the table behind me, "Well. You know, she only consumes her own fluids."

Now, I had not been dialed in to the conversation before that point. And I really couldn't focus much after that, because...seriously...what does that even mean? Oh you bet your ass I wrote it down, because, wow.  But yeah...I honestly have no idea where that came from or where it could go.
Full disclosure, later in the evening, I heard the same unidentified voice say something something "bless her heart." So...maybe the consuming her own fluids isn't by choice. Maybe there's something else going on there. Either way, it's messed up.

So, all this potential weirdness is going through my head, Tim informs us that we have a writing prompt.

He's typed up a dozen first lines from books and stories (that I honestly should have read or need to add to my list to read).  The thought is that we take that first line and write a completely different story. There were some great first lines.  I picked one by an author I hadn't heard of who wrote a book I've not yet read.

"It was the day my grandmother exploded." -Iain Banks: The Crow Road

I really couldn't stop chuckling at the line. It was either that or the opening line Andy Weir penned in The Martian, "I'm pretty much fucked."  That one felt too much like how I write my blog, though, so I went with exploding grandmother.

And here's what I came up with...


CMC Writing Prompt; 11-29-16; First Lines

It was the day my grandmother exploded.
If I had to pick the worst day of my life, that would be the day.

Granny didn’t mean to blow herself up. I mean, who actually intends to do such a thing? Oh sure, I s’pose some of them crazy shehites might want to blow theyselves up. But not Granny. She didn’t have a radical bone in her body.

She used to tell us so, “Toby,” she’d say, through a big wad of Mail Pouch, “I ain’t got a radical bone in my body. Hell, ain’t had any kinda bone in my body in damn near twenty years.  Pretty sure that Jehovah’s boy ain’t never been the same.”  And she’d laugh, clear the phlegm from her throat and drench a cricket in the front yard from the safety of her rockin’ chair. All in one gloriously fluid maneuver that only Granny could do. There were the occasional misses, though, marked by years old stains on the front porch.

Nah, twern’t no way Granny would do such a thing as get herself blowed up.

But it happened.  I was up in the hayloft of the barn. I was supposed to be cleaning the saddle room, but the dust dancing lazily in the sunbeams coming through the loft door were much more interesting. Besides, it’d be two more days before Granny checked my work. I’d be sure to have it done by then.

A feller only has to pick his own willow switch one time to learn that you don’t cross Granny.

My back was toward the house when I heard the commotion.   I turned. Maybe I had taken a little too much of Granny’s chaw and was a little leaf drunk from the tobacc’r. Maybe that dancing dust tripped me.

I don’t know quite how it happened, to be honest.  All I know is that I woke up in the hospital.

Paw had come in from town. Ain’t seen him in a good five years, so I knew it had to be serious.

“What are you doing here?”  I could tell my words hurt him, but...well, good. It wasn’t any worse than what he deserved for making momma leave. And when he turned tail, Granny took me in. Granny was the only family I’d cotton to, and he knew that.  Things must be bad if it was him here instead of Granny.

“Am I dying?”  I asked. There was still a ringing in my ears. I had to nearly shout to hear myself. Hell, I could be dying. Maybe this is what dying felt like.

“No son, you’re” reaching for me, I could tell he was trying.

“I ain’t your son” I said, jerking away from his hand.

Recoiling like he’d been snake bit, “No, Toby. You’re not dying. You’re going to be fine. You slipped and fell out of the loft. “

“Where’s Granny? How come you’re here?”  Struggling to raise myself up, found plastic tube hindering me, which was a discovery I made right before the eight knives stabbed in my sides and I collapsed.  It hurt to much to scream. A mild whimper was all that I could muster.

“Son...um...Toby.  Your grandmother exploded.” Placing his hand on mine as he delivered this news. I was too exhausted from my earlier attempt to sit up.

I heard the click of the timed morphine unit before I realized what was happening. My arm, where one of the plastic tubes was, felt like someone was holding an icecube right at the point where the tube entered my skin. I saw a thick, clear liquid making its way down the hole, following the ice cube.

Then, as though a switch had been flipped, my whole arm warmed up. I felt floaty.

As the walls started getting furry and melting in to the floor, I heard the man that pretended to be my father on my birthday and Christmas saying to me, “Get some rest Toby. You’re going to need it.”

And then the black dreamless void.

-fin-


I didn't get all of that written in the allotted ten minutes, so I finished it on the fly with this blog. Because, that's what blogs are for, right? Write. Er..right.

Right.

Did I mention I got a new pen?? I'm loving it.  It's a LAMY Vista. German made. And it's got a great weight and feel. So smooth.  I'm looking forward to getting the converter so I can move away from ink cartridges. Figure I'll do that when I go through these 5 extra cartridges that came with it.  Either way, it's something that makes writing by hand a joy in which to partake. Which is cool, actually, because I have a crapton of poems, and hopefully a few songs floating around in ye olde brain bucket. Along with my journals.

In any event, I'm pumped, to say the least.

And with that, I'm posting this word count of 1400 up to the NaNo site, doing some analog blogging with my new pen, and hitting the sack.

Peace out my friends!
-a.t.

11.28.2016

Two Questions And A Gassy Lambchop

You might be sitting there asking yourself, “Dude...you won. You hit your word count goal for NaNoWriMo. Why the heck are you still writing?”

And that’s a good question.

Or you might be sitting there asking, “Why are you writing another flipping post about NaNo? Jeesh dude. Move on. We need some insight in to why sheep farts aren’t blowing holes in to the ozone layer.”

An equally good question.

The first will be a bit easier to address in this forum.  Yes. I finished my first draft. And yes, I hit my word count of fifty-thousand words. Both of these are true.  Thing is...I finished my first draft before I hit my 50,000 word count. So, while I could have easily said that I hit my goal and purpose for participating in National Novel Writing Month, it would only be half of the answer.  Just as hitting the fifty thousand word count is only part of the answer.  Sure...to be deemed a ‘winner’ by the magical word counting applet on the NaNo site, you have to hit and submit 50,000 words.

Here’s how I’m looking at it though. It’s “National Novel Writing MONTH.” Not “National Novel Write until you hit 50,000 words undefined period of time.”  And this year, I’m all in. Including today I have 3 more days to write. I’ve already written a couple of poems and a daily list of reminders to live by. So I’ve got a couple hundred words on the day so far.

And then there’s this. Whatever this might happen to wind up becoming.

One of the goals of NaNo, at least for me is to develop the habit of writing. It has to be a habit. It has to be something that you train to do. Something that you practice. Like any sport, you have to practice when it is the absolute last fucking thing on the planet that you want to do.

You make time in your day to write. And that time is to write.  That time doesn’t get hijacked for laundry or dishes or Facebook. That time is to write.

But Todd, what if I don’t have anything to write about? What if I can’t?

THAT is the time you MUST write. When you think you have nothing to say. When you think you can’t possibly type another word in that manuscript. Write.  Fine, don’t put another word in the manuscript. Write a poem. Write a love letter.  Coincidentally, I have proven today that both a poem and a love letter can be written to pizza.  I mean, sure, I don’t want to marry a pizza , or know one biblically, but I can’t imagine a life without pizza. Some people in my life are like that too, but dude...pizza.

Sorry, where was I?

Right. Write. Seriously. Write.

I think for me, one of the ways I knew I was a writer  (as opposed to someone who just writes, because there is a difference), is that if a day goes by where I haven’t written something in a creative vein, the day feels wasted. Lost. Like there was some bucket of potential awesomeness wasted. Like my muse is looking down on me and shrugging her shoulders, turns to the other muses and says with exasperation, “Sheeeeeeeeeyot. I have NO idea what his problem is. I’ve been popping nuggets of inspiration in his brain bucket all day, that muhfu’er is trippin.”  I mean... I have to imagine my muse is a cross between Samuel L. Jackson, Pauly Shore, and Sigourney Weaver (circa “Paul”).

So, that’s why I’m writing. On a day where I have already typed ‘The End’ on my first draft of one of my works in progress.  And why I’m writing after having technically won NaNo.  Because I need to write.

I would love to be able to wake up tomorrow and tell my job that I’m not coming in. I would love to sit at the kitchen table and write out checks to pay off all my debts. I can see myself licking the envelopes and affixing the stamps. I’d take the stack to the post office, because it’s more dramatic.  I’d post every single one of those bills, paying off the final payments. I’d drive home from the post office, throw some gear in the car,  and head down to the Farm.

I’d go in to town for supplies. I’d come back to Ohio for writing events with NCOW and CMC. I’d probably squat on someone’s couch for the Month of November, if they'd have me.

And I’d LIVE to write.  As opposed to now, where I write to live.

I see that so vividly that I know some form of that is going to happen at some point in my life. There are other things that I have seen vividly, too. Not sure how true those will be. Kinda hoping the one about losing my legs passes me by. But the one about sitting on a rocking chair on the front porch rocking while the woman I love sits beside me is one I could stand to see come true. I never see her face in the dreams, but I know she’s there. Wonder if I’ll see her face in the dreams when I meet her? Who knows (I can already hear my dad whispering, “The Shadow knows...”)?

And there you have it.  Almost 900 words toward my daily word count.

OH. There was another question, wasn’t there? Well...to be fair, I don’t have much knowledge of the destructively flatulent properties of domesticated livestock, but I believe I read somewhere that there is a particularly high concentration of methane in the farts of sheep in Australia and because of that, the ozone layer is noticeably thinner over that region of the globe.

As to why another post on NaNo?  Simple. I wanted more posts on NaNo last year. I needed to hear from other people who were struggling, but making it work. People who were determined to hit their count no matter what. And if there was a healthy dose of profanity and wooly toots along for the ride, so be it.  But I didn’t have that. I didn’t find it. I didn’t find those nuggets of fortitude in the posts of my friends who wrote.

So...in the (highly terrifying) event that there is someone like me out there, I want them to have these kinds of posts.

These, “Yes, NaNoWriMo can suck your soul dry, but you’ll come out a writer” kinds of posts. Call in paying it forward. Call it padding my word count. Either way, it’s creative writing. It’s something that is now in this universe that wasn’t there an hour ago when I sat down in this (amazingly kick ass) pizza joint 3 blocks from my house.



Whatever you choose to call it, I call it writing.

Peace,
-a.t.



11.25.2016

Participation Trophies Don't Get You Published

Fuck You Nano: Day 25

I want to give up. And not really ‘give up’ per se. What I mean is, two days ago I hit the point in my draft where I was actually able to type “The End”

It was a first for me. I really tried to drag it out, I’m not going to lie. I tried to make it so my final word was RIGHT AT 50,000.

That didn’t happen. Fuck you, NaNo for that.  My story was done telling itself at about 46,500 words. So...seven days left in NaNo (five now) and the novel I’m working on is done. I mean...the first draft is done. I know there are at least four or five more edits and revisions before it’s actually readable by someone who doesn’t share my family tree.

But it’s done.

The story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.  It’s a milestone, to be sure. This is a rush, though. I mean...I wrote a fucking book. OK, so I wrote the first draft of a futhermucking book!!

BUT...for the second year, I didn’t hit 50,000 words for NaNo. So...here I am. I’m writing. Poems. Songs. Blog posts. Story ideas for books I want to write at some point in my future. And hey-now that I have actually finished a draft of a book, I know that I CAN actually finish one.

I never really knew how much that would mean.

When you grow up thinking you are a writer, there isn’t really the thought that you might not be able to finish something.

I have about 1500 songs (and by songs, I mean lyrics to songs where only about 10% actually have music written for them) and countless poems from all through my life. My most prolific period was during my first marriage. My driest was during my second. Which is neither here nor there.

But a song lyric and poem have a natural flow. They have a natural resting place where it doesn’t make any sense to write anything else.

Blogs, too, are the same. There is a natural flow. I’m sitting here. I’m typing my thoughts. At some point I get the realization that I no longer give two shits about what I’m writing. And if I’ve hit that point, it means that you, the reader, probably hit that point about two-hundred words ago. So...boom. Peace Out. -a.t.

And post.

So, I guess it never occurred to me that it would be a struggle to finish a book.  In hindsight, that was a sentiment riddled with hubris. I mean, I'm a writer, of course I can finish a book. What do you mean I might not be able to?

I learned that the hard way last November when I started writing The Treachery of Rainbows. I got to about the middle of the month. I was sitting somewhere around 23,000 words. And the whole thing just stalled.

I am sure there was some life stuff going on there, too.

But story wise, I looked at my characters and I realized that they were just circling the bowl. The words were empty and I didn't know, let alone really care, what happened to them at that point. So I stopped.

I gave myself a pat on the back for starting a book. A real book. And I gave myself a pat on the back for sort of sticking to NaNo. At least for about 2 ½ weeks.

And that was it. I gave myself a fucking participation trophy.  But I still didn’t have a finished book.

I would never walk in to that Airport bookstore and see half of a fucking draft that I wrote half-crazed on caffeine and delusions.

Fast forward twelve months. I had an idea for a book for NaNo.  A different book. One that I hadn’t even started.  NOT the book that I DID start and had shelved for a year. Because….damn dude...that’s hard. Finishing books is hard. Starting books is easy. I could probably start two or three for the month and hit fifty-thousand, and maybe not actually EVER finish one.

And that’s kind of when it really hit me.  What made me think I could start AND finish a brand new book when I had the half-written husk of a book already sitting on the shelf? A book, I might add, that I liked a hell of a lot more than the pissant of an idea I thought I could sustain for a month of writing.

Fuck you, NaNo.

Fuck you for making me THINK about my craft. For making me actually sit down and figure out where the story was going. For having to plot (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD--PLOT) out where the story needed to go.

And for the little nugget of realization that the story I was working on wasn’t just one story, it was three. THREE. THREE BOOKS. ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS?!?!?

I couldn’t finish one book last year. What made me think that I could actually write a series?

So. I did the only thing that made any sense.

I dusted off that book. Saying to myself that the 23,000 words I wrote last year were last year’s words, I reset the counter to zero.

And, 46,500 words later, the story was finished. The first draft. My first real I’m-not-fucking-around-I-actually-believe-I-am-a-writer book of a book now had a finished first draft.

So, I guess when I say ‘fuck you, NaNo,’ what I really mean is thank you.

If it were not for NaNo and for my writing groups, I probably wouldn’t be in the situation of having a finished first draft of a novel seven days before the end of NaNoWriMo and trying to find shit to write about to hit my word goal for the month.

Um. Yeah. So...let’s see where this thing goes from here.

boom, Peace Out
-a.t.


11.24.2016

A Grateful Heart

This week has been a real up and down of a shit show, and it's only Thursday at that. Tomorrow is one of the busiest days of the year for my team. A team that supports a nationwide retail chain of computer and electronics stores.  The second busiest day, if you're wondering, is a toss up between Summerween and Jayne Day.

But today, my friends, is a day when people all around our great country post what they're thankful for on Social Media for a day before going back to posting about cats and dicks, er politics,  and recipes.

This day of giving thanks also happens to coincide with the anniversary of the day I fell in to this world, in this particular meat sack.

And I have to be honest, I wasn't really sure how the day would play out.

You see, I finished my first draft last night. My first draft of my first real big-boy book.  Finished. As in, typed "The End."

And then by daughter dropped off a six of one of my favorite beers (New Belgium's Snapshot) as an early birthday present.

Today's my birthday.

I woke up this morning about 5 AM. Still riding the euphoria of finishing the first draft.

And then (cue trombones making 'wonh, wonh' sound), I had to remote in to work. Our office is closed. Our stores are closed. My building is locked. But we still have processing to do in order to make sure that the company is ready for Black Friday (which is tomorrow).

That's a busy day for us.

But that's tomorrow.

Today I worked until about 1. I got cleaned up and headed over to my parents' for Thanksgiving.  I asked earlier in the week if I could bring anything and was told not to, since it was my birthday, I just had to come over and eat and celebrate.  So that was the plan.  (I later learned that my brother was slightly bummed that I didn't bring the White Castle stuffing).

I showed up. I ate. I celebrated. My family was there. It was pretty groovy. I ate way too much and almost didn't save room for the Miracle Whip cake (which...is probably the most amazing chocolate cake you will ever eat). But I powered through.

And then when the festivities die down a bit, Dad pulls me to the side and tells me some news about the Farm. The Farm which is pretty much the center of my soul.  And it was pretty amazing news. I'm not going to go in to too many details here until things are fully squared, but needless to say, I was speechless. There were tears in my eyes. Tears in my Dad's eyes. It was pretty amazing.

So...here's the thing with it that got me thinking.  Sure, it's been a titty-twister of a jacked up week, but there have been some amazing things that have happened to me recently.

And the ones that have touched me the deepest are the ones I never saw coming in a million years.

I look at my friends. I look at the people whom I hold dearly in my heart. I look at my family.  I look at each and every 'happy birthday' that over 120 people posted to my wall on Facebook today and I can only think one thing.

How the fuck did I get so lucky? What the fuck did I do to deserve all of this amazingness in my life?

Ok...technically, that's two things. But if I'm being honest, they are hyphenated thoughts.

I look at the 'The End' that I put on a story last night and think of the people who helped me get there. Sure, I did the heavy lifting,  but it is a completely fair and valid statement to say that I wouldn't have made it nearly as far as I did without the support network.

And for that I am truly grateful.

Therein lies the key. The grateful heart.  When I stress about shit. Or start overthinking the fuck out of things (as I am wont to do), I try to shift to the things in my life that I'm truly grateful for.

And when I start making that list, it's huge.

If you're here reading this, I'm grateful for you. by reading this and maybe sharing it yourself, you are helping me fulfill a dream. I am a writer. I am a poet.  I would write anyway, make no mistake about that, but the fact that I can write knowing that someone will be reading it, and might find something inspiring between the lines is pretty awesome.

The fact that I finished a draft of a novel is something I'm grateful for.

The fact that I'm still writing in spite of that because I want to win at NaNoWriMo is something I am grateful for. And that I have not just one, but two groups standing behind / beside me as I do so is completely rad to me.

I could ramble on, but I'm going to go wallow in this tryptophan glaze for a bit.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends!

-A.T.

11.23.2016

Four-thousand short, twenty-three thousand ahead

I typed two words for the first time on any novel I've ever started (and there have been a few).

Want to see them?  Here they are:

THE END

Yeah. I was a bit bummed because I didn't get to go up north today and do some writing with my NCOW family.  Sitting at home on the love seat trying desperately not to stream episodes of Arrow wasn't going to cut it for a Birthday Eve activity either, so I got my shit packed up and headed to Panera.

Not the Panera on Polaris where my C-bus writers' group meets, but the one that Tim hated for a write-in.

To be honest, this week it wasn't bad at all. I like it better than the Polaris one because it's bigger. And it's closer. So it might become my go-to spot when it's just me.

Side note--another benefit of writing groups is someone to watch your stuff while you go pee O_o.

Oh..so..yeah. I worked on a few chapters tonight and came to that spot just before the ending chapter that I wrote a week or so ago and I was like....

Hey.  Um. HEY!  I think I'm done.

No. Seriously.

Done.

So, I went back to where I had saved the ending chapter, and typed "The End" and Instagrammed and Facebook the fuck out of it...because

HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS I ACTUALLY FINISHED A FIRST DRAFT OF A NOVEL!!!!!

No. Seriously. I'm excited. I mean, I know I hide it well, but I'm completely jazzed here.

And if I were to leave it at that, I would "lose" NaNo. The goal in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is to hit fifty-thousand words.

As it stands, I'm at around forty-six thousand words. Or about four-thousand short of the goal for the month.

Only I'm not.

Not really.

You see, LAST November for NaNoWriMo, I started a little Novel I called The Treachery of Rainbows.  Now you might be asking yourself, "Hey, Todd. Isn't that the name of the novel you're writing (oops, you JUST FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT OF) for THIS Nano? "

Yes. Yes it is.

It's the same book. This year, I decided to continue what I started but couldn't finish last  year. In other words, I ponied up and said, "I'm finishing this fucker."

And, as a result, I have a first draft to play with that's nearly 70,000 words.

I am under no illusions about it.  It needs some serious edits and assembly to correct where I went sideways a few (dozen) times as I was writing it.

But the point is, the first draft is done.

I did it.

I'm sitting in the middle of a Panera and looking around and none of my family, friends, support, writing groups....none of you are here.

but you are all here.  you were all here with me as I typed, "The End."

And that, my friends, is a gift beyond measure.

The little girl in her spacesuit puffy grey winter coat can't be more than 6 or 7. She eats her macaroni from the bowl with her fork. Laughing as she leans across the table to feed her daddy a bite. She's laughing. I see the back of his head. He's laughing. I can't hear them, but I can see the love.

That has nothing to do with me finishing the book, but it's happening right now. At the same time.

I know that I will do some more writing this month. I'm going to hit fifty-thousand. I have a couple other works in progress that I can shift to and work on.  I'm not worried about that.

For me, I've already hit the biggest milestone of my career.

I have goals.  I have hopes and aspirations for my writing.

I want my books on the New York Times Bestseller list.  I want my books on the airport bookstore shelves. I want you to stop when you're buying your $7 bottle of water on the way to gate and see my name on the cover and I want you to smile.

And while those sound like big milestones (and they are)...they are not the biggest milestone.

You see in order for me to hit any of the other milestones and hopes and dreams, I had to hit this one first.

The biggest one.

Finishing my first first draft of a novel.

And I did that.

I am riding kind of an emotional high right now, I'm not going to lie.

Just...words....and stuff.

Alright. I think it's time to pack up and head home.  I'm sure I've got some poems that need written before I head to bed.

Peace out, my friends

-A.T.

11.21.2016

Of NaNoWriMo and Writing Groups

I’m not really sure if I hit a wall this weekend or not.
All I know is that I smashed my goal to hit the 40,000 work mark. And by ‘smash’ I mean that choked out about 400 words past that 40K wall.

But I’m not going to bore you with just  talk about National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo as the hip call it) (or NaNo as the hipper but probably just lazy call it).  If you’re wondering, I fall in to the second parenthetical bubble. Because words.

There were some really cool things that came from the writing event that I attended this weekend. All over the country (nay, world?) there were planned NaNo events coinciding with the theme of “Night of Writing Dangerously.”

Now at this point, you’re probably saying But Todd, you said you weren’t going to bore us with NaNoWriMo talk. 

And no. That’s not quite what I said.  What I said was just.  Meaning that there would be talk about NaNo, which might bore you AND talk about other things you might find equally non-interesting.

But since this is my blog, and since I need to step away from the Dystopia of Sector 23 for a beat or two, I’m choosing to get my words in by dumping them in to this bloggy blog post full of dumpy goodness.

So...this is my 6th year of thinking about participating in National Novel Writing Month...see...too fucking long.

Again, from the top.

I’m not really sure if I hit a wall this weekend or not.

OK. Not so far top.

So, this is my sixth year of thinking about participating in NaNo. And my second year of actually committing words to the cause.

In a weird turn of events, this might be the first year I actually complete NaNo!

Now...I blame the participation last year and this year as well as the probably going to hit my word count goal (and actually finishing a book) to the same thing-Writing Groups.

I happen to be friends with someone who is friends with horror author, C. Bryan Brown (insert amazon link here).  Only, at a barbecue we were both at that she was hosting, she neglected to mention that fact. She just introduced me to Chris.  Chris was funny. A smart ass. And he liked beer. Not sure why I went all past tense there, he still is all of those things.  It wasn’t until Chris was packing up his spawn to leave that I found out he was a published author.

I knew other writers, but a published author was like a unicorn.

He told me of the magical writing group he was part of. Only, in retrospect, he really undersold the balls out of it.  He sent out a couple of emails and told me when and where they were meeting. Something conveniently came up.

Until the time it didn’t. The time I showed up. And realized I was sitting at the table.  A table in Panera on Polaris Parkway with multiple published authors. I was intimidated, awestruck, intimidated, and wondering how the fuck I would fit in.  This emotional plinko happened for a few meetings. Until the meeting that it didn’t.

There was a transition, and I’m not sure when it happened that I became part of the group.

I was in a writer’s group.

With actual writers. Which by proxy probably meant that I was an actual writer, too (But that little bit of self-actualization didn’t occur until almost a year later).

Chris wasn’t just a unicorn. Motherfucker was a ...well....some mythical beast that is actually of two different worlds.

And said unnamed - yet described in such a way that you’ve already picked one out - Chris wasn’t just in the Creative Minds Columbus writer’s group. Nay. He was also in the NCOW group.  North Central Ohio Writers, or North Central Ohio WriMos, depending on which Facebook page you hit first.

Mr. C.Bryan Brown, being the social particulate that he is, decided to host a gathering of local writers in which writers from both groups could meet, eat, and fall in love with each other’s desserts. It was the debut of the now famed eclair cake (and no joke, multiple wedding proposals, but I’m a proper gentleman-I need to be wooed first).

Somehow, from there, I managed to curtail my INFP nature long enough to be somewhat social (demented, and sad, but social nonetheless).  From that, I managed to connect with a few of the Northerners through Facebook.

I made my way to an event in Ashland. And another. Each of the events, I felt mostly like the outsider that was being tolerated because I was Chris’s friend.

Until the day I didn’t feel that way.

And somehow I found that I, too, was one of those unnamed - yet described in such a way that you’ve already picked one out-mythical creatures. Like Chris, I was in two writing groups.

Writing Groups.

If you are interested in ANY way, shape, or form in improving your craft, then the most sound advice I can give you (because clearly I AM in a place to give advice to other writers), you need to get in with a Writing Group.

Different groups have different foci. Meetings/gatherings are at different times, some are online.  There really is a myriad of different groups. I would venture to say that the only way you could not find a group to suit your needs/styles/dessert preferences would be if you just didn’t fucking try.

And that’s where you do yourself a disservice.

I have seen my own writing grow by leaps and bounds.  Because of my Columbus group, I decided to give NaNo a legitimate shot.  And I made a run for it.  Hitting a wall of about 23,000 words. I fell short for many reasons, the main one being I didn't write.

Now, I’m in two groups. the NCOW group is a machine when it comes to NaNo. Almost daily write-ins and events to help keep authors motivated and focused. And there is (way more than enough) fun thrown in the mix that it’s not just show up, write, count words, bang your head against the keyboard.

I would say that there are two reasons that I’m sitting here with 9 days to go in NaNo over the 40K mark with a more than solid prospect of  hitting the word goal and crossing something off my ‘personal goals as a writer.’

  1. I’m writing.   No amount of participation in a writing group is going to count for diddly if you don’t actually write. I mean, it’s kind of a thing you have to do if you want to be a writer--you write.
  2. Involvement in Writing Groups.  


So...and don’t worry, we’ll get back to item number two on our list in a moment.  I just need to spread some gratitude. I am ridiculously lucky when it comes to groups.  I have had very few groups that I have been involved in where the ‘experts’ in said groups weren’t willing to help encourage and grow others. And I soaked that up. I never try to assume I know more than anyone in the group, but if there was something I had a question about, or something I could offer, I did. I am grateful for three groups in particular that have been like a mentorship program to me -  Help Portrait, Creative Minds Columbus, and NCOW.

So, back to Involvement in Writing Groups.  NaNo can make you feel more isolated than you normally might as an author. I don’t have any issues sitting here in Uptown Westerville at a pizza joint with my earbuds in banging away at words. I’m around people, but isolated. There’s something about NaNoWriMo, at least there is/was for me, where the heaviness of trying to hit those word counts can force a kind of isolation or creative hibernation. Like, I want to be social, but fuck, I need to get another 1000 words in before the calendar cycles forward another day.

This is where the writing groups help. At least in my experience.  You’re at an event, a write-in, for example. And everyone there has the same goal--to get some futhermucking words on the page (or screen, or journal, or phone, or whatever medium their soul bleeds upon).  So there’s no need to explain to someone why you’re not talking. Or why, so overcome with emotions that you’re not ready to process, you go downstairs and complete all the word sprints alone sitting on a couch with your words, and your heart laid bare.  I mean..I’m guessing there’s no need to explain something like that, if it were to have happened.

Point is..you still get something of a social interaction with a group of like minded people who sometimes look at you and chant ‘one of us’ in a really creepy British Children’s Television show mascot sort of way.

And it’s awesome.

It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve felt in a long time.  I know that every single person in each of the groups I’m in wants me to succeed. Wants me to just blow the shit out of those publishing charts.

And you know what? I want to same for them.

But more than that, I want for them what they deem their measure of success. If it's the USA Today Bestseller list, I'm in! How can I help?! If it’s 150 people reading a blog post about NaNoWriMo and Writing Groups (this goal might be drawing from real life) or if it’s seeing their books in an airport newstand (again, that’s me)...then the support is there.

The encouragement, tough love, friendship....all of it.  It’s a family. Both of the groups I’m in are. It’s just a really amazing thing.

And I know that I wouldn’t be passing the 42K mark (like I will tonight - with this rebel writing), if it wasn’t for the love and support of my families.

Family-plural.

My bio-fam is always in my corner. Seriously....how motivating is it when your dad tells you to finish your book, hopefully while he’s alive, but if he’s not, at least read it over his grave?  Screw that, I’m gonna have several books done by that point.  And besides, he's having his ashes scattered. That's a lot of damn reading. Ain't nobody got time for that. Best just finish the books while he's alive and let him read them himself.

My friends, who are really my extended family-or at least that’s how I see them on most days-also have by back. And their support reminds me of this constantly.

But it’s the writing groups that not only have my back, but aren’t afraid to give me a  swift gentle kick in the ass if I’m selling myself short or bullshitting as to why I’m not doing something (like...you know...writing).

Here’s a final pro-tip.  Or...well...a tip from me that I’ll still give when I actually am a professional writer.

If you’re dealing with people, keep their heart in mind. Good life-ing and having good relationships fostered in your life comes from approaching the relationships with the other person’s heart in mind.

When it comes to your writing, that has to be from your heart.  I have found that there is a nugget of my true self in everything I’ve written. As such, it’s a piece of my heart.  And that’s a big deal. It’s insanely tough to actually lay your soul bare, bleed it on to the page, bind it up and hand it to someone and wait for their reaction. Like Here, I died a little bit so I could show parts of my soul to you.

So...as a writer, dealing with other writers, remember that.

As a reader...please keep in mind that it’s not always as easy to do the soul-letting a some would have you believe.

And for crapssakes--if you have ANY interest in writing (or you know you’re a writer and feeling lost). Do these two things:

  • Write. every. single. day.  (Even if it’s a list of the shit you really want to write about tomorrow).
  • Find a group of writers who will help you grow and whom you can help grow.


You’ll be amazed at how your craft grows.

Have a wonderful evening my friends.

-A.T.

Speaking of kick ass authors I know, you should check them out.  Here's some friends of mine from each of the groups I'm in and links to their Amazon profiles:

C. Bryan Brown
Monica Corwin
Tim McWhorter
Violet Patterson
William Rayst
Carma Haley Shoemaker

I'll add more to the list and continue to share the amazing works of my friends and fellow tribespersons as I boook-stalk them :-)

11.13.2016

Keep Writing

There are times on this blog I say that I'm really writing this for me (and inviting you to come along for the ride). This might be one of those times.

I just hit 23,924 words in NaNo this year. I will count this blog post toward my daily word count today, so that total might be higher. But rather than get in to some weird edit loop...you know what, nevermind.


Twenty-three thousand, nine-hundred, and twenty-four.

That's almost a thousand more than I really hit last year.

Last year I started a book called The Treachery of Rainbows.  This year I am continuing to write that book.

This is, historically where I get stuck. So, this is a note of encouragement to Future Todd.

KEEP WRITING
It's going to be late. You're going to be tired. You're going to look at the word average and think that it's OK to skip a day.  Keep writing.  Even if it's ten minutes to midnight and you don't think you can form a thought, keep writing.  You did Box of Doom. And so far, you have proven that you can easily hit 300-400 words in ten minutes if you don't puss out. Don't puss out.

KEEP WRITING
Work is busy. Dude, I know this.  You work for a retail company, and while not on the retail side of the company, you still have to make sure shit flows. And that's cool.

But you're not writing because it's a neat hobby. you're writing because long ago you realized that the words in your head had to come out. To make way for more words. Because there will always be words. And if you don't put them out on paper, or screen, or a journal that nobody will ever read until after you are dead, the words must still come out. It's how you're wired. Work is work. It pays the bills. Writing is writing. It feeds the soul. Keep writing.

KEEP WRITING
There will be a natural tendency to compare yourself to others. You are friends with some amazing writers and authors.

And you have a bit of a confidence problem.

You think that because you can only do the smaller challenges, or not type as quickly, that you are not as good as them.  Here's the secret--it's not about them. Their word count is their own. And has fuck little to do with you.

You will never write the stories that your friends and fellow writers can and will.  But the secret is--they will never write the stories that you can and will.

Don't give up when looking where they are.  Just as you see them, their path and their success, there is someone looking at you and thinking, "Wow. How does Todd do it?  I'm never going to be able to do what he does."  You need to keep writing. For you, and for the people watching you.

KEEP WRITING
There are people watching you. Always. You opened a can of worms by posting your word counts. And your goals. And guess what? It's too late to stop that. You did it. You started it. Own it. OWN. IT. The minute you stop, the people who are hoping you fail-and you better believe there is at least one person watching you and waiting for you to fail-but the minute you stop, those people win. And fuck those people. They are hoping you fail because it scares some people when they meet someone who so clearly knows what he wants to do in his life. Keep writing to shut those fuckers up.

KEEP WRITING
Just as there are people waiting for you to fail, there are people who are waiting for you to succeed. You've already made a short list of them. Your inner circle that has been rooting for you from day one.

Would it surprise you to know that there are more? There are people who only see you from time to time, or who see your posts about word counts and have never met you in real life. They are rooting for you too.

Why? Because you are bringing something new in to this world. You are creating a story that has never existed the way you are telling it.  You are bringing something new, and shiny, and creative, and you are giving it up to the world.

You are saying, "Hey--I made this thing. And it makes me happy to have made it, and hopefully it makes you happy to read it."

Making that thing is beautiful. Making something from nothing. Something physical that started as an idea in your beautifully fucked up head; that my friend, is magic.


KEEP WRITING
What it comes down to is this. You NEED to write. You need writing in your life like oxygen. The most important reason to keep writing is self preservation.  If you don't write, you die. It may take decades for your body to catch up, but you will have known the death. You have been on the brink of feeling it before. Don't go back to that place. That place was dark, and it sucked. Just keep fucking writing.


And there you have it, Future Todd. I don't know when you're going to get to the point where you feel like giving up. It might be tomorrow. It might be years from now, but Present Todd, sitting here in this moment knows that you can do it. And seriously, you better. Present Todd has not published any books that he can see in Airport news stands, so clearly that's on you bro. And the only way that's going to happen is if you keep writing.

-AT



*UPDATE*
Oy!! Future Future Todd. Listen up. Here's another reason to keep writing. You see, I wrote this post as a way to encourage you..er me...er us to keep going when things got bad. So, on a whim I added it to our NaNo count (because it is writing, and more importantly-it is writing about writing). And when I added it, it put us at about 165 words shy of hitting 25,000 words.

Halfway. Adding another one-hundred and sixty-five words to this letter of encouragement would cause us to tip the halfway mark for National Novel Writing Month.  Two days before the actual half way point.

So, it occurred to me that if I followed my own advice and keep writing that we might actually be able to hit this.

And seriously, how motivational would it be (will it be, will it have been) to know that by following my own advice, I hit a goal that we hadn't hit before?!?!

I guess you're wondering why I called you 'Future Future Todd.'  You see, once I posted this, Present Todd no longer had a hand in this, but when I found out that I was so close, I came back and kept writing!! But because it was after this was posted, technically Future Todd was the one that made the updates,  so now, as you're reading this you are the Todd from the future of Future Todd who is doing the updating on this little note. So you are both Future Todd and Future Future Todd.

And with that, because we decided to keep writing, Todd, we hit 25K in NaNo for 2016.

Kick ass, brother!  Now we're on the back side of this thing and it's time to turn it on and rock it out!!


-AT

11.11.2016

Who By Fire

Growing up, I knew I was going to be a writer. At least on some level I knew. My heroes were not sports figures. OK. There was also the slight chance I was going to be an astronaut or a radio DJ.

My heroes and inspirations, though, were masters of the written word. Isaac Asimov (The Foundation Series; I, Robot), Douglas Adams, Tolkien, Stephen King (IT, The Stand, pretty much everything else), Dean Koontz, Arthur C. Clarke.  Really, it’s quite a list and that’s not really the point of this post.

Then in the early 90’s I saw a movie that changed my life, or at least my outlook on life. It was a Christian Slater movie called Pump Up The Volume about a highschool kid who was way cooler than I ever was who had a pirate radio station.

I was aware of the Concrete Blonde song Everybody Knows.  I believe it was used in the trailers for the movie, but I had known and loved the song already.  What I didn’t know was that it was a cover.

I didn’t know it was a cover until the movie.  And in that same movie I heard a song that wrecked me like no other.

If It Be Your Will by Leonard Cohen.  I had never heard of Leonard Cohen before that movie. I didn’t know it was possible to record a song where the pain of every beautiful lyric was laid bare on vinyl.  

I had to have that song. I had to have more Leonard Cohen. In 1992/93, I was friends with a guy who owned a local record store. I walked in one day and just started talking about Leonard Cohen. Turns out he was a fan, too. He filled in my knowledge gaps and my catalog gaps. And soon I was past casual listener. I was a fan. If he had a hand in it, I had to have it.

But we still could not get the album that had If It Be Your Will. It was from an album called Various Positions and it was no longer in print in the US.

So...being the dude he was, my record store man made some phone calls.  A week later I was holding the CD in my hand. Imported from Denmark.

When I got it home and played it, I wept openly.

Cohen was first and foremost a poet. The singing came at the pressure of his friends.  And I for one am grateful to those friends.

There is something so raw in his words. They have always touched my soul like nothing I have ever read.  I have many times in my life felt like the loser. The outcast. The weirdo.  Sometimes I still feel that way.  But Cohen’s words captured the beauty of those feelings in ways I never could.  

There is a part of my soul that fancies himself a poet.  Leonard Cohen is the poet that inspires me.  His words let me know that it was ok not only to feel the pain, but to write about it in such a way that others would feel it too. That emotions, whatever they may be, were never a bad thing. They only became bad things if you kept them bottled inside.

It is no wonder then, that when I heard the news of his passing last night, that I openly wept. In front of my computer screen for an hour. Listening to his music. Seeing his face. Seeing the mischievous smile.

I saw Leonard Cohen in concert in 1993.  It was at the State Theater in Detroit, Michigan.  My soon to be wife and I were given tickets to the concert as a wedding present.  We drove the 4-ish hours to Detroit in her Geo Metro with busted windshield wipers.

I saw perhaps the best concert of my life. Tears down my face many times that night as I was moved beyond words. I was watching a man who had inspired me to embrace my inner loser. Be the beautiful loser that I am.  And in a beautiful crowded theater, he was doing the same to hundreds of others.  

Riding the wave of emotions from the evening, we drove back to Columbus in a crippling rain storm. This would have been OK, if the windshield wipers of my soon-to-be-wife’s car had actually worked. There were many times I was driving blind.  Not really able to see where I was going. And we stopped and tried to make shitty repairs with gas-station wiper blade refills.  We made it him, but barely.  I think that trip home from Detroit might have been someone trying to give me a sign, but it wasn’t one I figured out until seven years later.

Mr. Cohen, you shall be missed. And I will one day have a green Olivetti Lettera 22 on my desk. I don’t need it for my poetry, but it somehow seems a fitting homage to the man who inspired me in ways that no one had before, and I fear no one yet will.

Thank you Leonard, for your words, your beauty, your pain, your awkwardness on stage.  And your humanity.

You will be greatly missed.


-A.T.

11.01.2016

Rogue NaNo

I know that it's probably not a good indicator that I'm already doing a renegade post to get my word count in on Day 1 of NaNoWriMo, but I couldn't bear the thought of not actually making some sort of progress.

I picked up the novel that I had started during last year's NaNo and was excited to work it through until the end. I had figured out a way to continue to track work counts and had even worked out where I wanted the story to go, thanks to a couple of NCOW Plot-ins last month.

I had decided to set time aside at lunch today to write.

That was a bad idea.

Fine for blogs, not fine for a piece that I'm picking back up after 23,000 words looking to add another 50,000 words to it before Dec. 1st.

So...here we are.  A renegade blog post.

And 290 words on top of my current piece.

The prospects of writing tonight push me well in to the late night range. And I suppose I'm OK with that.

I need to find my stride.

And the bitch of it is, we're doing mandatory OT this week.

Going in to our busiest month of the year which also happens to be the month of NaNo.

I am not going to lie. My head is split between two worlds right now. The world of the story and the world of everyday life, paying bills, and all that other bullshit.   And my head isn't really fully in either world right now.

I'm gonna have to figure it out if I'm going to stay on target for my word count.

But for now, the rainbows will have to wait. It's apparently time for me to get back to work.

-A.T.

The 10th Annual Typewriter Meetup

I'm tired. I'm not going to lie. My body is doing that thing where, after a short period (48-72hours) of intense emotions and pe...