12.25.2016

Random Meanderings

This blog...way back when....used to be called Radom Meanderings.  It was a place where I could let my proverbial hair down and spout any old bullshit that happened to bypass the filter between my brain and my mouth.

I'm going to be honest, I've had some really good bourbon and whiskey tonight.  So this Christmas edition of Cooking for One is going to more closely resemble the Random Meanderings of old. If there is any sort of rhyme or reason from start to finish, I assure you it's completely unintended.

First things first. Here's a road map to Todd, if you will. If you think you know me or want to know me, here's the key.

In order from 'closest representation of the 'real' Todd' to 'just some words I wrote.'

Live Conversation (if we're friends, or you're not acting a shit):  I will be the most real when I am in the same room as someone. If I can feel you (those damn empathic nerves) or see your eyes, you have a better shot of actually learning what makes me tick.  And no, it's not a little steampunk heart powered by a rare element from a faraway planet. I mean, I don't think it is. I'm not really sure what they did actually do during that open heart surgery in 1997. I do know that there is a nice combo teflon/gortex patch in my chest. So, I've got that going for me.

Blog (this thing what you're reading now): I tend to be a little more raw here than anywhere else online. I figure if you are one of the 30 people that regularly make your way over here, then you deserve a little more of a piece of me. Thoughts, feelings, vulnerabilities, dick and fart jokes will all find there way on these pages. I make no apologies. You all clicked through the warning.

Facebook: Pics and witticisms.  Not a bad snapshot, but very rarely does it have the depth of my actual thoughts, hopes, and dreams.

Instagram: The picture book version of Facebook.

Twitter: Mostly my poems or links to my writing stuff.

So...I guess the lesson is...let's hang out.  Which is ironic, since I'm largely an introvert. I crave being around people the same time I crave my own space. It's rather a fucked up internal dynamic.

Speaking of fucked up, looks like 2016 claimed another one.

Here's where I get in to trouble.

Yes. Admittedly, 2016 has been an INCREDIBLY shitty year for the deaths of so many talented people. And that's sad.

But here's the thing.

I can't be mad at 2016. I can't curse it. I can't hate on it or wish it dead. I can however click an iconic blue LIKE thumb when people DO do those things.

But I don't hate 2016.

And here's why. Here's a little of what happened in my life in 2016, that make me thankful that I actually lived through that year (up to now, that is.  How horribly ironic it would be if I died in my sleep after posting this. Although it I bet it would kick ass for blog page hits. But...back to the matter at hand).

None of these things on this list should be a surprise to my regular readers. In many cases, there is a least one blog post that dives deep on each item on this list. And no...that's not really a way to trick you in to re-reading past posts. It's more that I'm buzzed right now and I know I probably explained it better back when I wrote about it.

Why I loved 2016


  • North Central Ohio WriMos:
    • I fell in with a writing group and stopped feeling like an outsider, and started feeling like a member of the group. This was a second group in addition to the Columbus group I'm part of.  This group held a writing retreat where I truly felt like I came out of the writing closet so to speak.  The things I've learned by being a part of this family have done more to bolster my confidence and craft.
  • Strong Friendships with Mentors
    • I have some friends who are writers. Damn good writers. 2016 was the year I strengthened those friendships.  I could write a book on what it means to have strong friends and people who inspire you creatively. And I might. But I am grateful for them every day. They know who they are because I remind them as often as I can. 
  • I Admitted that I was "A Writer."
    • 2016 was the year I stopped saying that I wanted to be a writer. It was the year I stopped saying, "I do some writing in my spare time."  It was the year that I declared in no uncertain terms that I am a writer.  Period. No qualifiers or explanations. I'm a writer.
  • I Finished My First Draft of a Novel
    • As a writer, I've written a shit ton. Blogs. Journals. Poems. Stories. But I have always been plagued by that troubling 'first novel.' On November 23rd, 2016, I typed "The End" on the first draft of my first novel. 
  • I Finished and Hit 50,000 Words for NaNoWriMo
    • I made a serious effort at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2015. I hit the wall at 23,000 words. 27.000 words shy of the 50,000 word 'goal.' This year, I finished it. With the help and support of some very close friends as well as the NCOW group.  I smashed the goal. And finished my first draft of my first novel (as mentioned above). Look for 'The Treachery of Rainbows' in 2017. It's going to happen. 
  • I Started Writing Poetry Again
    • This one may not seem like as big of a deal, but being a poet was one of the first things I would say to describe myself. I have always been a poet. Much like being a writer, though, 2016 is the year that I fully embraced that title. Not just one who writes poems, but one who knows that his heart feels a little more intensely than most. And that extra intensity is a gift. It's what drives me to put the words on paper. 
  • Imaginarium Happened
    • Imaginarium is a conference heavily geared toward the craft and lifestyle of writing. Through some fortuitous breaks, I was able to go this year (when I previously thought I would not be able to). And that weekend-long conference was one of the final juggernauts that tore down the wall of denial. After meeting the people I met, learning the things I learned there, and living the things I lived that weekend, there was absolutely no way left for me to deny that I was a writer.
  • My Love of Typewriters Was Rekindled
    • A very good friend reintroduced me to a very old love of mine. Typewriters. I will forever be grateful to her for that. It's something so simple and innocuous, but that physical presence of typing on a typewrite fills me with an indescribable joy. And through this process, I met some amazing people that I am now pleased to call friends.
  • I Will Be Published in 2017
    • One of the final huge milestones for me in 2016, made possible by all of the things listed above (and covered in-depth in previous blog posts), is the determination to be published. To get my words out there.  To make a difference in someone's life by the words that come from mine.

It's Christmas (just checked the clock, yup. Still Christmas).

And I found out today that some of the poetry I've been writing has been helping a friend (whom I just really met and got to know in 2016, another tick in the plus column for 2016). This friend is going through some shit that's not really mine to talk about. But she reached out to me and told me that my poetry was helping her get through it.

I cried.

Yeah. I'll own it.

You see...one of the reasons I write is to work through shit that's going on in my mind, my heart, my soul. Some of it is rainbows and unicorn farts. Some of it is darker shit. But the only way I know how to work through it is the words.

It's always been the words. Whether it's poems, lyrics, stories, screenplays, the thousand-words of a photo--it's always been words. That's how I work through shit. I used to keep it to myself.  Somewhere along the way, I shared a poem. Or a story. It was probably to impress a girl.  And it resonated.  I figured out that yes, one reason I write was to work through my own shit. But what if another one of the reasons I was a writer was to help someone else work through their shit?

I had this conversation with a writer and cherished friend whom I adore dearly this week. And I told her that one of the things I was looking forward to in my writing career was sitting in a bookstore somewhere, doing a signing and having someone come up to me and tell me how much my book meant to them. I got a little misty talking about it. I have read so many authors in my life who have moved me in ways I can't describe and who have helped me...well...helped me live, that I want to be that for someone else.

I want someone to read my books or my poems and be moved by them the same way I was moved as a reader.

So...today, in talking to a friend, she told me just that. That my poems were helping her. That it was just like I was writing what was on her heart.

And I cried. She helped a dream come true for me without even knowing it.

So that's where we are.

Christmas night. Bourbon and whiskey are flowing.

And I'm grateful.

Grateful for the gifts I have been given in 2016. Grateful for the chances that await me in 2017.
Grateful that I am self-aware enough to know what I need from and what I have to offer to those in my life.

It truly is a wonderful place to be.

And as a writer, it makes for a hell of a story.

Merry Christmas to my friends who celebrate it, and a joyous day filled with love and gratitude to all.

love,
-a.t.


12.21.2016

Hey - What's Going On?

I think I'm a little crazy.

Sometimes I fall down the rabbit hole of amazing televised dramas. Last year a sleeper of a brilliant show called Sense8 hit Netflix and I was hooked. The Wachowski's and JM Straczynki teamed up for a 12 episode mind-fuck that honestly affected me deeper than anything since the first Matrix movie and deeper still than the Vorlons in Babylon 5.

So, yeah. I was hooked.

And then life happened. I would talk about it when it came up with people who had watched it. And then...I find out there's a Christmas Special coming out in 2 days AND they are doing Season 2 next year. So...I do what any obsessive fan would-I binge watch the first season. Sleep be damned.

Rewatching it, I'm viewing it through a different light. No spoilers if you haven't seen it. And seriously, if you haven't, you should.

I caught a line about Dr. Strange that I missed the first go round.

But I picked up on something.  THIS time I know what's happening to the sensates.  They don't. And the first time I watched it, I was figuring it out along with them. Knowing what they're going to discover before they do puts a powerful spin on the series and reveals the rabbit hole to go deeper than I had originally thought.

So, Todd. What does a kick ass show have to do with you thinking you're crazy?

Well, plot device, I'm glad you asked.  I have long since thought that if someone has the wherewithal to question their own sanity, then they are probably not going insane.  I am not a doctor. I did not google that or find it on WebMD or wikipedia.  It's just something I've always believed.  Right or wrong.

And to be fair, it's a rather self-serving hypothesis. It keeps me calm when I think I'm crazy.

Honestly, I still think I am, to some degree. All of the creatives I know are crazy. Or broken. Or in most cases, both.

I'm probably in the latter category if I'm being completely truthful. There are days. Nope. Scratch that. There are hours and minutes of every day where I look at the life I'm stumbling through and think to myself, This is not my life.  These things aren't real. In my life, I'm a successful writer. I'm friends with the writers I look up to (THIS piece of the 'dream' is actually something that lives in both worlds, so I'm pretty lucky there).

Not to sound like a Talking Heads song, though, there are times when I DO look around and think My god, what have I become?

And then it hits me.

I haven't. I haven't become anything yet.  I AM BECOMING...but that process is still ongoing.

This world that feels real some days and like a bad high school musical set piece on others isn't my true world. It isn't my true self.

It's my chrysalis. And it would seem I'm still in my transformation, because I haven't shed its trappings yet.

But back to Sense8, many of the people in the cluster thought THEY were going crazy, too. Then they found themselves in these lives...these places that were both foreign AND familiar.

I know this feeling often. There are times when I'm going through the day to day stuff and I shift from POV to Third-person.  It's the weirdest fucking thing when it happens, because when I'm in third-person, I can see other alternate timeline versions of me. Sometimes they are from this timeline and haven't yet manifested.

I don't know. it honestly made more sense in my head. And I'll probably revisit it at some point, because I think it's a think. Like there are times when I am grounded in this reality, but have memories or feelings from the other realities. it's a bit trippy when it happens, but it's somehow calming, too. To know that in an alternate timeline, I'm already a successful, best-selling author. And I know that it's possible to move things from one timeline to the next, to adjust them. To clean them up (because alternate timelines are messy by nature).

Which, of course makes me sound like a crazy person. But I'm not, because I think I might be. Right?

Alright, before someone calls Dr. Metzger,  I'll sign off now. I need to talk to Jonas about a few things anyway.

Peace
-a.t.



12.15.2016

The Muse and the Verse

It's funny, but I've considered my self a poet long before I considered myself a writer. I know it seems redundant, but in my brain, somehow it was (and still is) a separate thing.  Like all poets are writers, but not all writers are poets.  But that's not entirely what today's lunchtime bloggy blog is all about.

I posted a poem this morning. This poem:

Please don't ask me
to explain what it is I see
in you that inspires me.

I could no more explain
why seeing a sliver
of sunlight peek out
from the cloud of a stormy sky
makes me smile.

Much like your smile,
It is the warmth and 
the radiance I see
that always fills me with
the hope of a brighter day.

-a.t.


And shortly after posting it, I got a text from a friend. She asked me if my poetry was about someone in particular, or nameless. It's not the first time I've been asked that question.

I answered her honestly. As I have when others have asked.

It's a little of both.

For the one this morning, it really was both. There was a particular person I thought of at first, but as I continued writing it, I thought of others that also inspired me. So the poem became something that encapsulated that feeling when the encouraging smile of a good friend can serve to lift my heart and spirits.

Many writers and poets (and creative types in general) talk about a muse.  Is a muse a lover? A friend? Someone you see from across the room but will never know?  Tough to say. In some cases, for me, it's all of that.

Allow me to describe my muse...

SHE
She smiles, and I know that all is right with the universe.
She greets the day with me, a warm embrace for a cold world.
At nights, lost in deserts of carnal delights, she takes me to the edge of oblivion
She is my best friend in a world where friendship is grossly undervalued
She is openly, brutally honest about my creativity, but never mean
She wants to help me grow, her passion the fuel when I am low on much needed steam
Her eyes are oceans that I would gladly drown a thousand deaths in for just one glance
Her soft, supple curves are unexplored terrain, would that I could be the cartographer
She provides me with enough space to help me believe that I don't need her 
And hugs me close to remind me that I would sooner stop breathing as to let her go
In her arms I feel the depths of love that I have never felt before
And in her absence, I still feel anchored to the homeland that is her heart
In her presence I pray that if I am dreaming, that I die in my sleep only to be in her arms forever.
She is everything that I never knew I needed, nor thought that I could ever deserve
She is mine. And I am hers

-a.t.


Now you might be asking yourself, "just who is this mystery muse in your life, Todd?"

That's just it. I couldn't tell you. The image painted above is not about a single woman that I know or have known. It is the most amazing qualities from a few women who have anchored themselves in my heart. I can read the above poem and recall someone different whom I love or have loved with all of my heart. And the image shifts and changes.

I have found that when I think of a specific person as "my muse" then I tend to project the verse on to that person. Which...in most cases isn't the best approach. I have several muses, to be honest. There are many in my life who inspire me on a daily basis and without their love and support, I'm convinced that this blog would be the only outlet for my creativity that I would dare subject the rest of the world to. I cannot hope to thank them enough for the role they have played in releasing my creativity. All I can hope to do is to pay them homage and make them proud by what my creative efforts yield.

So, are my poems for/about a specific person or someone nameless?  Both. They are the words for you, to read and to think about who in your life would elicit the same feelings and emotions.  They are also the words that, when the stars align, I would write on my lover's back (in some kind of edible ink, perhaps cherry or bacon flavored).

I have found that the poems that have moved me the most as a reader are the ones where I can see myself in the situation.   My all time favorite poem is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The that moves me the most about this poem is that for the narrator, the struggle is real. Which road? I could take one, vowing to come back and take the other one one day, but we all know that won't happen. So...which one?  The one that not many people take.

As someone who views the world a little differently myself, the thought of taking the road less traveled and how much of a difference that can make is powerful.  The words, so simple, are amazingly transformative.

I want people to feel that.  When I'm writing a poem of love, I want you as the reader to feel that love. To transfer it. To adopt it. To attach it to something in your own life experience that makes you feel that way.

And the most precious gift you can give me, is to tell me that I put words to something you have only felt, but have yet to describe.

If it's a poem of longing, or loss, I want it to be a salve for your own longing and loss.

My love, longing, sadness, anger, joy...all here for you. Did I write the poem for  you? Did I think of you as the words danced happily under my fingers, with gentle key-tappings bringing them to life in the pixelated universe of the ether?

Absolutely.

That's the beauty of the verse. When it's infused with just the right amount of magic, it is always about the reader.  Every poet knows that the ultimate gift is for the reader to get lost in the words.

I have been writing poems for over 30 years, but they have largely been for me. Thanks to some encouragement from some incredible people in my life (friends, family, and amazing authors), I have ventured forth to share them.  My heart on my sleeve, or on the page, as it were.
To share these has definitely been to embark on a road less traveled for me.

And that has made all the difference.

Yours always,
-a.t.


12.14.2016

My Writer Brain

I used to think I was crazy.

I still might be, truth be told. But the difference now, I don't think I am.

I can't remember how far back writer's brain goes, but it's been with me for a while.  

I only quite recently identified it as my 'writer brain.'  Part of that, I'm sure, is because I only recently considered myself a real writer. Not in the way that Pinnochio considers himself a real boy, but only after he actually IS a real boy. 

But that's a whale of a tale for another time, I'm sure. No...the writer brain is a brain within my actual brain. I don't suppose it will actually show up on any CTScan, but I know it's there. 

It usually shows up at the most inopportune of times.  Hey...I know you just woke up to pee...and ooooh...hey, bummer about that whole coughing up icky nasty phlegm at 2:30 in the morning thing, but what if you wrote a little story that went something like THIS!

And just like that, it's off to the races. Now instead of crawling back in to bed and sleeping off the night (and day before) of vacation drinking, my brain - the writer brain - has taken control of the car and is driving us to who knows where.

Thing is, I guess that's fine. In controlled doses. Like...say...a writer's retreat.  Or...an overnight at a haunted farmhouse. 

There are times, though, that it's not so OK after all. 

Like today.

HEY! Look...I know you're in the middle of a crisis with one of your stores, but do you know what would make a REALLY good book?  THIS!!!  And bammo! Just like that I've got Notes opened and minimized on my desktop so I can flip back and forth and do some writing.

The latest piece I'm working on is a romance novel. Or at least that's what writer brain is telling me it's going to be. I can't really say for now. All I know is that I need poems for this book.  In order to tell it the way that writer brain thinks it needs to be told, there needs to be a lot of poems. I don't want to ruin the surprise, but if I manage to actually pull it off the way that writer brain has in mind, it's going to be epic.  Or at the very least, as epic as a first romance novel by a traditionally sci-fi novelist will be.

And what are the dangers of writers brain? I mean, it sounds like a good thing, brah! You can get your ideas and get them hashed out, whenever. It's win-win!

Only, it's not win win. Because of writer brain, I find myself studying people differently in a conversation. Which, in turn, has me speaking less. So invariably, I get the 

"What's wrong man? You look down." from non-writer friends and family.  

And I have to explain to them that all of the emotions and facial expressions that I normally wear on the outside are trapped inside for a bit while interacting with characters that writer brain is introducing me to.

Not only that, but I find that it sometimes creeps in to real life. I'm pretty sure it led to some awkward interactions in the past. And probably will again. But it's not really my fault if I sometimes make entire backstories for people who do something as amazing as walk in to a room.  Or, I get like six words, like "She only consumes her own fluids" and I just HAVE to know the rest of how that story goes. Or, hell, even what led UP to that story. Because I'm almost positive there IS one hell of a story there. Or...that lady is batshit crazy.

That's the thing about writer's brain, it's always trying to take something a make it a story.

I can't really shut it off, either. It just happens. 

Before I actually figured out what was going on, I straight up thought I was cray. Especially since my writer brain has a voice. It sounds like a Cerberus of Morgan Freeman, The Rock, Christopher Walken, and Betty White. Which...is fine as long as the heads are talking one at a time. But when they all start talking, it sounds like a bad SNL skit narrated by God.

It sometimes leads to non-adult type thoughts, too. Like Hey...you really should skip work and stay home and write.

Writer brain does not know jack shit about paying bills. Nor does it know about jobs. And relationships. Writer brain inherently knows NONE of those things, but somehow acts as a conduit and those things come alive on the paper. I have to admit that the whole process of writing (recent plotting aside) is like that. At some point when the word hit the page, they've already been run through at least 4 different scenarios and played to the crowd in my head.

One might be inclined to call this a muse. I don't think that's quite accurate. To me, a muse has a form. It's a person. It's a place. It's something or someone who inspires you to write.

Writer brain just says, "Hey dude...you were gonna write anyway, heres some things to spice it up a bit!"

About the only thing that can derail writer brain, for me,  is fatigue. I've nodded off 3 times during the writing of this post.

Which tells me that the Diatribe of the Writer Brain part deux will have to wait for another time. 

Or, you know, when I get up to pee tonight.

peace out (albeit it hastily),

-a.t.


12.06.2016

Dude. A Romance Novel? WTF?!

If you and I are friends on Facebook, congratulations. I like to think of my self as marginally hilarious, insightful at times, and a closet poet with the heart of a true romantic.

Now, I know what you're thinking.  Todd...dude. We've read your poems. There is NOTHING closeted about it. And what's up with all the links to the romance books??

I'm glad you asked.

I have on numerous occasions espoused the amazing talent that I have been in the proximity of by virtue of the different writing groups I am in. These people are crazy good at their craft. And the genres they write in run the gamut. Science-fiction, speculative fiction, historical fiction, horror, gore, suspense, thriller, and romance of varying shades and sizes.

As I drove to work yesterday, I was struck with a story idea about a poet.  In thinking this story through, I realized that while it may not be a romance novel per se, it would definitely contain more of that genre's trademarks that nearly anything I've ever written (because I'm told that dirty texting doesn't really count as writing romance, but whatevs).

Seriously, though, even the novel that I just finished the first draft of has more of a relationship between two of my characters than I had originally thought would be the case.

And there are three women, in particular that I hold partially responsible for this.

First off is Violet Patterson.  I met her in the first writing group I joined here locally (Creative Minds Columbus).  It took me a few meetings to actually look at what she had written. When I started reading it, I was pretty much hooked. I'm working through her collection, starting with the Emerald Seer series.  I would say that the seeds of my reading romance novels openly were probably sown by devouring these titles.

Next up is Carma Haley Shoemaker.  She is the leader of another writing group I fell in to about 8 months ago. Wanting to support my fellow authors, I picked up copies of her books. I wasn't sure I was going to read them. The covers are very overtly 'romancy' and, well, I'm a dude. As much as I hate gender stereotypes, they are out there. And then I started reading the books. And started digging the relationships as they were building with every flip of the page. I may or may not be the target audience for Carma's work, but that won't stop me from reading it.

And last but not least there is Monica Corwin. I first met Monica the same night I met Carma. It was at a gathering of local writers hosted by another writer, C. Bryan Brown. The night itself was kind of a blur. I just remember feeling terribly out of place with these real writers. Imposter syndrome strikes again. But that is not the topic of this post. And besides, I got better.

As I did with the other writers in my group, I Kindle-stalked them.  Something strange happened when I read Monica's works, though. Starting with the Revelation Series.  It's billed as a Paranormal Romance series. Again, I thought that I wasn't really a Romance Novel kind of reader, but something struck me as unique about her approach to this story. And it was something I've seen carried through in everything of hers that I've read.

It was Monica's mission. It is her goal as an author to make Romance accessible for everyone. In every interview she gives, in every bio she has, on her sites...it's as plain as day.

It's a pretty lofty goal. And I wondered if that meant everyone who liked romance novels to begin with or everyone everyone.  My background with romance novels prior to this year was slight. I would flip through romance novels looking for the naughty bits, gain enjoyment from those, and pretty much be done with it. Excerpts and abridged versions in Cosmo served those erm...needs just fine.

But knowing that my friends wrote these novels, I wanted to do them the respect of reading their work. As it was meant to be read and not just something to fap to (and sure, I could bookmark the fun bits later and go back to them).

Funny thing happened as I read the first book in the Revelation series.  I finished it. I got done and went to flip the next page. Only there wasn't a next page. I talked to Monica shortly after and started asking her what happened next?  She smiled and told me to read the second book.

So I did. And I had some of my questions answered. I had some characters I loved. And some I just didn't trust. Again I was left with the same question. What happens next? Only this time, there wasn't a third book yet. I was stuck. I had to wonder what had happened to Katherine. And just how pissed was Bianca? And seriously...Gwynn??

And then it hit me...Dammit. She did it.

I was fully engaged in this world. I had gone through two romance novels and was jonesing for the next book. I needed to know how the story unfolded.

I didn't care that it was a romance novel. You could have slapped any genre you wanted on it and I would have read it. A genre that I didn't think I would really call one of my favorites is slowly inching its way up.  And that realization has illuminated a few things for me.

Genre labels don't matter if you're engaged in the story.

I'll pull from my geek background to give some detail on what I mean by that. There is a pretty strong arc of love interest issues in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Put in book form, it could be called paranormal romance. But in watching Buffy, I didn't mind. The romantic elements didn't jar you out of the world in which you were immersed. It fit with the story. Reading the romance novels I've read lately, it's not always about him grasping her heaving love orbs through her silk blouse which was soaked with anticipation.  There's a story. In the good romance novels, regardless of sub-genre, the sexy stuff happens when it fits naturally with the story.  And that's cool, it just makes it another facet in the relationships we're watching unfold.

Leave your pre-conceived notions of romance somewhere else.

This one is aimed at me. The first romance novel I really read was an excerpt of Erica Jong's Fear of Flying. I later went back and read the whole novel. And I guess that could really be considered more erotica than romance, looking back. Otherwise, I didn't really read much in the way of romance or modern romance, I should say. I'd consider a good collection of what Shakespeare wrote as romance, but I was not versed in the contemporary authors. So, my idea of romance had always been the books that had the covers of Fabio on a stallion galloping on the beach, luxurious locks flowing in the breeze.

Most of what I've read by my friends doesn't really fall in to that at all. I'm fortunate that my friends care about story and plot.  As a result, it makes their works enjoyable to read.

Lastly, and this is the big one, we all could use a little more romance in our lives.

Seriously. Have you looked around?  The world needs works of fiction where the characters actually care for and fall in love with each other. And if there's some sexy time too, hey, bring it on. That's part of life.  I think what I'm finding that I enjoy about the romance novels I've read recently, is that I can just read them and feel good. Sure, sometimes things go terribly sideways and you have to battle your way in to and back out of the underworld, but there's also some feels good stuff in there, too.

The world could use a little more romance. And fellas...I'm going to let you in on a secret. Your lover reads romance novels.  And how cool is it to be able to connect with that person you care about?

It's pretty cool.

So...there you have it. A rather long winded answer to why I've been posting so many links to romance novels.

Now here's the short answer. Oh sure, I could have put this first, but I really wanted you to read the rest of that.

The short answer to why I post the links, and share the pages, and put up the info on contests is this. I belong (belong) to a community of amazing writers. The vast majority of us in this community want to get our work out to the world.  Any time my friends come out with books, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm going to be pushing for them. Because I know that when I have my first book come out, they're going to do the same for me-whether or not I ever share a single link to their Goodreads page or not.  It's the support. It's the community. It's the family.

And to be blunt about it, you need to read their stuff. It's good. I enjoyed it, and I'm just crazy enough to think you might enjoy it too.

And when you visit those pages, and enter those giveaways, tell them Andrew sent you.

Happy Reading my friends!!

-a.t.


12.05.2016

Stop Looking For the Big Moment

This started as a Facebook post, but I found it getting quite lengthy in my mind before I even started typing.

So, here we are. Another bloggy blog for your night capping late night finishing off that bottle of moscato (or in my case Redd's Wicked Blood Orange) before passing out-I mean going to bed-getting up and doing the whole thing over again.

I'm giddy.

I'm not drunk. Although I can see where you might draw that conclusion. After all, I can count on 2 fingers the number of times the word moscato has actually been used in one of my blog posts. And I just did.

I feel compelled to apologize for pausing to go change out my laundry. It's something I call the Cooking Show Conundrum*.  Anyway, I'm back.  Where was I? Mos-oop...nope. Gotta keep that at two for now.

I'm giddy for a few reasons.

I'm giddy for a group of friends (family) from my writing group that I truly think of as friends and not just writers that I see sometimes.  And I'm pumped that I have some fun gift ideas for them. And that the supplies for those gifts came to my doorstep. And then I needed to sketch out those ideas (because prior to about 7 o'clock tonight, they were just words on a page next to a name).  I loved the sketches. It made me excited to start working on the gifts.

THEN...as if the evening wasn't already going in an awesome direction, I found a new miniseries on Netflix called Hip Hop Evolution.  And immediately flashed back to my Kid Chill days and my first introduction to Hip Hop. And then as I grew in to the genre, the digging I did to find out how the genre started.  But to see all that laid out.

And then....and then and then and OHMYFUCKINGGODTHEN to see Grandmaster Flash demonstrate his technique of marking the records with the crayons to always line up to the start of the break. Holy shit. That was awesome! And it made me realize that Baz Luhrmann probably loved hip hop as much as I did because what he portrayed in the Get Down did NOT hold back any punches. I'm watching interviews and real news footage cut in with the guys that spawned hip hop...and it's like supplemental footage to the Get Down. Mad props to BL for that.

And then my awesome friend Nikki tags me in a blog post by Chris Brecheen who writes the awesome blog Writing About Writing (And Occasionally Some Writing) that I quote and/or steal pics from on an almost daily basis. And I comment because, the post is awesome and I can totally see myself shooting the shit and having drinks with the dude...and he likes the comments! It was similar to the fanboy feeling I had when started reading books by the authors in my writing group.

So...that.  All of that led me to an epiphany of sorts.

Stop fucking looking and waiting for the big moments to happen.

Life. The really awesome part of life is not the big moments.  It's the thousands of little moments that happen every single day.  Seriously. I'm happy. My heart is happy. I'm swimming in a bubble of gratitude, happily scrolling past the bullshit and stopping to put little SM (social media, pervs) hearts on posts that make me smile.

I was smacked in the head (more Gibbs, less Glenn) by the fact that tonight has been full of those little moments for me.

That is a true blessing.  When so much of the world is going to shit. The ability to spot and relish in the thousand little moments while so many are standing around waiting for the big moments, is truly a gift.

Here's another little secret.  The thousands of little awesome moments that happen every single day are like bread crumbs. If you learn to recognize them, share them, and draw comfort and joy from them, then they will lead you to the big moments.

It's a weird glitch in the wiring of the universe. But in the grand scheme, it's a little thing.



Have a fantastic night and a better Tuesday morning if I don't talk to you before then.

-a.t.


PS. Scroll Down for the Cooking Show Conundrum































*The Cooking Show Conundrum
There's always that ONE fucktard of a contestant on the cooking show that blows it.  It usually goes like this.

FUCKTARD
Well Chef, what your sampling here is a raspberry, yak-testes sorbet in a bovine afterbirth reduction.

ANY JUDGE
(gagging on the deceptively pretty dish)  And what made you decide on this dish. 

FT
Well, it's a two part dish. The sweetened Squid sauce with apple butter really helps drive that home.

DIFFERENT JUDGE
Where's that dish?

Invariably the contest says they screwed it up or didn't have time to make it, so they completely scrapped the idea.

At which point at lease one of the judges says that they wish they'd had that dish to try. And the contestant is left feeling like shit. Point is, if the recipient doesn't need to know, don't tell them. Or else they'll get stuck on what you could have given them. And that's not good...for anyone.

12.04.2016

Dear Future Todd - Bookmark This

Dear Future Todd,

Hi, it's me. Well,  you. That is to say, us.

I'm not sure when you're going to be reading this. If you listened to yourself (that is to say, me) then you've bookmarked this or copied it off somewhere for periodic review on  your rise to the literary cosmos.

I want to paint a picture for you. Just in case you have trouble remembering what it was like all the way back here in 2016, before you became the best-selling author that you most assuredly are.

It's December 4th.  Typical Ohio Sunday morning. You're in that 2 bedroom funky apartment you lived in on Vine St.  There are dishes in the sink-fallen soldiers in your battle to make the world famous eclair cake that gained you favor and marriage proposals among the ladies (and a few men). I wonder, as I write this, if you followed through on any of them? Story for another time, I suppose.

You have laundry in the washer and the dryer. Still needs to be done, folded, put away (or at least neatly stacked in the laundry basket until you wear it).  You are still working at Micro Center as the Lead for their IT Operations team.  You like the job and the people. It's a good fit helping to solve problems.

Your apartment could stand with a good solid day of purging and cleaning.  And like most people, you have bills that you struggle from time to time to pay.

In short (and please don't hate me for using this), you have a pretty typical life.

Now, that's the bad news. Or at least the whatever news.

Here's the thing that makes all of that fade in to the background.  You, my friend, are a writer.  Now, i know that you know that as you're reading this. You have a healthy body of work sitting on the shelf behind you in your office. I know as you're reading this that you've seen several of your titles in Airport book stores (I can't wait to read about how that felt--don't forget to write that down).  And you've been on the Bestseller list.

Today, my friend. Today is one of the milestone days that contributed to all of that.  Before I dive too deeply in to that, I want to you to give pause to how amazing 2016 was for you, as a writer.

Read that last bit again.  As A Writer.

Oh, sure, as shitty as 2016 was for celebrity deaths and the deaths of some amazingly talented and wonderful people, 2016 was the year that you got your head out of your ass and declared that you were a writer. You went from telling people that you liked to write to telling people that you were a writer. There is a subtle yet distinct difference that I sincerely hope we have not forgotten.

It was the year you met an amazing group of writers from Northern Ohio. We could write countless posts and thank yous to them individually and collectively to their impact on our career (and if you haven't thanked them all by now, fucker-get on that).

And...most importantly...2016 was the year you finished the first draft of a little piece called The Treachery of Rainbows.  From where I am sitting in 2016, I think it's going to be a series. And based on some feedback I have received from some of the readings I've done here and there, it's going to be huge.  I'm dreaming big. And you're really going to need to tell me how close I am on that vision.

This Sunday in December is a Sunday you need to remember. If you have forgotten it, then I'm glad I did this.

This Sunday, Todd, is the Sunday that you took two years worth of work and put it all together.  It's the day you put everything together.

It's the day you actually assembled your first draft.

Your first real first draft. Of the first real novel you've written.

In case you can't remember how this feels, let me tell you.

We had to wipe the tears from our eyes as we read this.
You looked and saw the page count sitting at 188 and wondered in amazement, who actually snuck on our computer and did the writing. Where was this writer-person hiding?

And the gratitude.  The sheer gratitude you feel right now.  The list of people that you need to thank, and hug, and try not to cry as you whisper the most heart-felt, "thank you" you felt in a long time.

You may be tempted, Future Todd, to think that you did all of this. That you put in the work. You did the writing. You came up with it. It's all you.

I'm going to remind you of something.  It's not.

Michelangelo painted murals on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. And they are truly beautiful works of art.  But ask yourself, could he have painted those if the Sistine Chapel was not there?

Maybe. Maybe he would have done some form of those paintings somewhere, in some fashion, but to truly shine, the building had to be there.  The foundation had to be in place to provide him the canvas.

So, too, did you need your Sistine Chapel.  You painted the picture with your words, but so many people were there for you, providing the foundation for your mental brushstrokes to dance across the page.

Future Todd...this is an amazing day. I know you are living the dream right now, just as I am dreaming the life as I write this to you.

I look forward to the day when we read this with a fond tear in our eye as we remember where we came from and what this moment actually meant to us.

Love you man,

-a.t.


12.03.2016

Probably Not The Last

I think I might have hinted (or said outright) on Facebook earlier tonight that there are probably a couple of more posts left in me about my experiences this year participating in the National Novel Writing Month.

Feel free to tune out now if you must. I won't take it personally. I know that I tend to geek out about things. And when I really get in to something, it's hard for me to dial back the filter from fire-hose to kitchen sink.  I've never been very good at regulating that kind of thing.

Today was the TGIO party with the North Central Ohio Writers (Wrimos) group I am part of. It's a final hurrah to say 'way to go people who bleed out on to the page for other people to read and do so in a concerted effort during the month of November.'  Or, you know, a thank god it's over party.

There are raffles and prizes. A secret santa gift exchange.

In short, it was a blast. 5 or so hours of  joy spent with my family.

Family.

It's funny. That word gets used a lot. And barring any deep philosophical discussions (that frankly I'm kind of too tired to go in to at the moment), I must say that I use it here with no careless disregard. It's not some superfluous modifier. It's truly how I feel about the people in the group.

That's one of the things that made today a little bittersweet for me.  During the month of November, there was an event, or write-in, or something going on for NaNo almost every day of the month.  Several times a week at least.  Starting with the middle of October, my Saturdays were crafted around the fact that I would be driving up to Mansfield, or Lucas, or Ashland, or some other place that I prayed Google knew the best way to get there.  Today that ends.

I mean, I know there will still be the regular NCOW meetings and I will do what I can to make the during the week ones and definitely hit the Saturday workshops. But, it'll be...different.

There is a camaraderie with writers who are doing NaNo.  The late nights. The normally overdose levels of caffeine consumed that for some reason, during November, do NOT send the author's heart in to overdrive. The cheers for hitting word-counts. All of these things are part and parcel with making the public declaration that yes, I am doing NaNo.

It's a race. Sometimes consisting of word sprints (which may or may not be repackaged in to a tiny slice of Satan's Nutsac called the "Box of Doom"), sometimes its marathon writing sessions. Some finish. Some are better writers for having made the attempt, falling short of the mythical 50, 000 word count goal. Last year, I was in the second group. This year, I finished not only the first draft of my novel, but I was able to hit the word goal for NaNo.

So...we'll see where this goes.

I can say with a high degree of certainty and accuracy that I would have neither finished my novel nor won NaNo, if it hadn't been for NCOW-its amazing ML (municipal liaison), and its awesome people. Some would argue that I would have finished sooner or stronger if I didn't take the time away from my writing to drive to and from the events up north. And, sure, 140 minutes is a lot of time to write.

But I went to the events to write. They were on my calendar. I knew I was going up there to write. So...when I got there, when I wasn't being blamed for stealing cookies or being dubbed the King of All Fuckery, I was writing.

Had I stayed home during those times, I would have filled that extra drive time with something that I am almost positive would not have resembled writing in any form. So...the miles and time on the road were part of the equation. The beautiful equation that resolves itself to being NaNo.

I'm tired, and the extra caffeine in my system from last month, is starting to fade like me.

I had more to say on family and now it feels great to have a writing family, but I'm tired. So, as promised, this probably won't be the last post like this.

Until then, buy a book from a local author. If you don't know one, ask me. I know many, hitting multiple genres, and they are all talented as balls.

I need to head to Dreamland now to restock on words.

Goodnight my friends,
-A.T.



Stuck

I'm going to off today's triumphant return to the lunchtime bloggy blog posts with a little haiku. This isn't a completely orig...