10.17.2017

On Being Intentional About More Words On The Page

I am a writer.

Well, scratch that.  Maybe.

I love taking pictures.  For a season of my life I loved writing songs and was even in a band or three.  For another season in my life, I gravitated toward making short films. Most of them were used to win hearts for God. The christian God, that is. But I'm not going to get in to religion here. If you know me, you know I'm not a fan of organized religion. If it works for you, awesome. Do your thing  man.

So, these different creative outlets that I pursue at various point in my life, and seem to circle back to in cycles, lead me to think one thing.

I am a story teller.

With the exception of the photography, though, all of the other story telling outlets begin with words.

Writing.

I am a writer.

I will not belabor the personal road to Damascus I travelled to get to that realization. It is well chronicled on these electronic pages, and permanently etched on my skin (no, for real, I literally have ink in my blood).

I have a friend. She is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author. And she's cool as shit. She is also prolific as balls. I think she has put out something like a book a month this year. It's amazing. And it's good work.

Recently she started teaching a course through genreCRAVE for getting more words on the page.

This has been my issue. I have ideas. Boy, let me tell you do I have ideas. I have no less than 50 (or maybe like a couple hundred) book and story ideas floating around. Scraps of paper, idea journals, my digital recorder. Basically anytime an idea for a story or book or series claws its way to the surface, I jot it down somewhere, somehow.

But I have a hard time circling back to them.

This course I'm taking has helped me figure out why.

You see, I'm a writer.  I have to write. If I don't write something every day, even if it's just a little poem, I count the day a loss. The most amazing things could have happened that day, but the day will always be less than perfect if I don't write at least something that day.

Enter this course. This course helped me realize that I need to change a critical component to my approach for writing. I almost had it right. Almost. I was taking steps. Doing things like writing at lunch. Trying to carve out time after work to write. Making sure I spent time with other writers.

But it wasn't enough.

I hadn't developed the right habit. The write habit.

And I hadn't been given the writing part of me the respect it deserved in my life.

I had been spending my days trying to fit the writing in. Looking at my time and my days and thinking, Well, if I get some time in today, I can probably get in a thousand words or so. That will be cool. 

Only it wasn't cool.

I had a book that I needed to get done.

This course "More Words On The Page" was the key to helping me make the shift.

I realized that I needed to break some old habits and create some new ones.

The fact that I am sitting here now at 5:27AM is a testament to the fact that it is working.

The first and most important habit I had to form (and am still working to cement it) is the one that seems the most obvious from the observation deck.

I had to become INTENTIONAL about  my writing.

Instead of trying to fit the writing in to whatever space and time I had in my day,  I had to make time for my writing. The writing is important. It needs to be the thing I schedule my day around, not the other way around.

Seems simple, right?  Right. Simple, write.

I know that the best time for me to actually carve out a block of time to write, even if it is just an hour a day, is the morning before I have to go in to work. I have a somewhat flexible starting time. As long as I am in the door by about 8/8:30, it's usually fine.

The problem is, I don't always get to leave work on time, or at least the time I plan. The nature of my job means that if I'm planning on leaving at 4:30 and is an IT dumpster fire, I could be staying until easily 6 or 7pm.  This derailed any of the times that I set aside to "write for an hour after work."  Coming home and being exhausted also derailed this.

The TV also derailed this. It seems natural to flip on the ole Netflix when I'm getting dinner ready. And then also natural to watch whatever whilst eating. And continue watching it after I'm done. And the next thing I know, it's eleven o'clock and I'm passed out on the love seat. With no writing done.

Right then.

So morning before work it is.

I tried setting alarms on my phone.

Nojoy.  I'd be hitting snooze and the next thing I know it's 7:30 and I have no time to do anything but get ready for work.   With no writing done.

That left trying to write at lunch. Seems reasonable. I get an hour for lunch. I can scarf down some food in fifteen or twenty minutes and use the rest of my hour to write, right? Sometimes. When I'm not continually getting interrupted by people who start the conversation with I know you're eating, and I hate to bother you, but...  And I think, "Dude. If you know I'm at lunch and the building isn't on fire, can't you just give me sixty fucking minutes?"

Still, this was the best option of the three and the one I went with most often.

Until I started taking this course.

Then there was a subtle but vital shift.

The shift of needing to make a new habit.

Needing to make the writing a priority.

I have an alarm clock that it not my phone. It's a separate alarm that is set to go off at 4:40AM.  I use it when I have to get up for work and do installs. It's the alarm that I actually have to get up out of bed to go shut off. It's the alarm I never snooze through, because I can't miss doing the installs for work when it goes off.

My body is in the habit of waking up and being ready to do stuff when that alarm goes off.

Eureka!

Last week I started setting that alarm and using that as my writing alarm. It would go off at 4:40 and I would be at my writing desk by 5. Oh, that was another thing, no more trying to write on the loveseat and no more using the 'messy office, can't write' excuse. I got a portable laptop desk and stool and that is my writing desk. My brain knows now that when I sit at that desk, it's time to write.

So, last week...every morning...up and writing by 5AM.

And you know what?  I wrote TWELVE THOUSAND words last week.
I had a 12K week of writing. This is over twice what my average writing output was.

I credit the course for that (and there's still six weeks left, I'm stoked to see what my writing routine looks like when I'm on the other side of this thing).

But mostly, I realize it's about realizing that by being intentional about my writing, I'm being true to my nature. And that is super important for all other areas of my life.

Here's the funny thing and also the kind of cool thing. It's one thing. Sort of.

I finished a first draft of a book yesterday.  It's over 20K. I decided to give myself the night off of writing last night.

And I went to bed and didn't set the special alarm.

My regular alarm on my phone went off at 5. I hit snooze and stared at my phone for a good three minutes.

In the end, I got up and decided to write.

I have to be honest, I was worried that if I skipped a day, even though I was done with a book and technically didn't have a work in progress to pound away on, that I could sabotage the habit I had been working to build.

It's much easier to sleep in than it is to get out of bed and intentionally sit down to the keyboard to write.

So here I am, writing.

I'm finding that the most important lesson I've learned so far is that my writing deserves.

My readers deserve it.

And I deserve it.


-ATS


See, writing is literally a part of me now...



10.11.2017

Post Con-Fusion

It's 5:40 AM on a Wednesday. I have been up for an hour. I have an outline for a work in progress that I intended to work on this morning. I was in the middle of a chapter that I started at lunch and had every intention of continuing this morning. But, much like me, it seems the characters wanted to sleep in today. They wanted to just hunker under the covers as the rain danced its hypnotic melody on my roof. The swoosh swoosh swoosh of the ceiling fan keeping time with the rest of the nocturnal orchestra.

So, I shifted gears. I am taking  a course on getting more words on the page. Something that I want to do need to do if I am to get all of these books that are floating around in my head out in to the world. It's not so much that I think the whole world will love and adore them, although I certainly hope that is the case. No, it's more the fact that it's getting crowded up there. I need to get these words on the page for my own sanity as much as anything else.

Sanity, mental health. Seems like it's every where in the news, fake or otherwise.

It was also at a writer's convention I found myself at this past weekend.

Oh. That's right.

I'm a writer.

That sentence seems so innocent, so simple, doesn't it?  Four words, three if you use the contraction.

I am a writer.

A year ago, I might not have believed you -or me-if I had said those words. Well, that's not true. Two years ago,  I definitely would have called bullshit.  Last year about this time, I was actually starting to believe it.

In October of 2016, after attending the Imaginarium convention in Lousiville, Kentucky, I came back to my fairly average existence in Ohio with the understanding, the spark, that I might actually be a writer. Not just someone who puts words on a page, but a real writer.

It was a pretty mind-altering moment.  I'm sure I blogged about it then too.  Extensively from what I remember.

This past weekend, nearly one year later, I attended the 2017 version of the Imaginarium convention. A writer-centric convention. It was at a different venue, although still in Louisville.

I'm not the same person I was a year ago. I don't think any of us are.

What I found the most fascinating was the fact that as I picked out the panels and workshops that I wanted to attend this year, I had a different mindset.

Last year I wasn't sure if I was really a writer. The panels and workshops I selected really focused on validation. I was looking for confirmation that I was a 'real' writer (whatever the hell that means). And apparently I found it.

This year, I sat in on panels and workshops that were designed to help me improve my craft. I cross-referenced the list of things I wanted to learn that would strengthen my skills as a writer with the people on the panels. I wanted to make sure that I was learning from people that I respect and admired. The people who inspire me. The people who I can look at when I get stuck and say, "What would Monica do?" "What would Tim do?" "What would Gary do" "How would Jack approach this?" And so on, you get the idea. Not that I would actually copy those people. They are my mentors. The people that I look to for guidance.

I am to the point in my writing now, where I know what I need to do. Sometimes I just need a gentle nudge to actually do that thing.

And that's where this conference was cool.  I got to meet those people. I got to interact with them and connect with them on a personal level.

That's what made it real. To know that I inspire someone as much as they inspire me. That's some powerful ju ju right there, my friends.  And sure, there's the normal con-bullshit that comes with every convention, but I didn't even see it, or rather, I didn't care about it.  I looked past it and continued on my mission-get as much learning and information as I can to become a better writer.

Time will tell if I took the lessons to heart or not.  But the fact that I got up 90 minutes before I actually needed to be up just so that I could put words on a page ought to be a indicator that I'm heading in the right direction.

I may or may not have more insights from the con as I go back through my notes and recordings, but now, suffice to say that it was the perfect little booster shot I needed to keep me going on this journey I find myself on called 'being a writer.'

I hope you have an awesomesauce day my friends. And I hope that you embrace that which you only think you might be and go at it with everything you've got.

Peace
-ATS

10.04.2017

Pre-Imaginarium Randomness

In less than 24 hours I will be in Louisville, Kentucky for the Imaginarium Convention. It's a convention that gives a heavy focus to writers in all their myriad shapes and sizes. The convention also plays host to independent filmmaking and gaming, but I'm going for the writing side of things.

A year ago, Imaginarium was the place where I met some amazing authors and made some friends (Jack Wallen among them). It was also place where the floodgate of actually admitting I was a writer was not only opened. That bitch was blown off the hinges. I vowed at last year's Imaginarium that I would participate and complete NaNo (National Novel Writing Month).  And I did.  I also vowed that I would have a book published in 2017. And I did. And lastly I vowed that I do what I needed to do to stay true to my writing heart. And I did. And still am.

Last year I really didn't know what to expect. It was kind of a last minute decision. I floated from panel to workshop without really knowing what I wanted (or in truth, what I needed as a writer).  This year is different. In the year since, I have become more intentional with my writing and with what I need to continue to improve my craft. I feel like that focus is going to give me some deeper insights than even those I garnered last year.

Which, to be honest, has me stoked.  Pumped. Excited. And slightly terrified. Well, only in the sense that the more I learn and do to improve my craft, the more the pressure actually falls on my shoulders.

I am getting to the point where I can no longer say things like "well, I really don't know what I don't know."  Or "If I only knew how to do X, Y, or Z, then I would be a better writer."

But I am learning the things that are necessary to grow my craft. So, in short, I'm taking away my excuses.

The excuses I've been carrying most of my adult life as to why it was never the write time, or maybe I wasn't good enough, or that I couldn't really live my dream as an author.

Those are all out the window now, aren't they?

I'm published.  I have a book out. I have several books in the various stages of creations. I have another one coming out in a box set collection in December.

At this point, it's on me.

Which is the terrifying part.  I mean it's also the cool part.

I'm kind of rambling at this point. I suppose that it is to be expected.

I'm going to cut this short. I need to go pick out the panels and workshops I'm going to attend. I'm sure I'll have more to post from Imaginarium, but for now I bid you a fond good night.

Peace,
-TS

9.29.2017

One Shade: An Interview with Mr. Gray

It's no secret if you've come here at all at least one time that I am a writer. The quality of my writing is, of course, subjective. And soon to be a topic of international debate, if I have my way.

What is NOT  a topic for debate is that I have some amazingly talented friends. And being the awesome friend that I am, I do my best to help them when I can, if I can. That's part of what an artist-any artist-should do. They should lift each other up. It's all about the concept that a rising tide lifts all ships in the harbor, not just yours.

Todd, what the holy hell does that have to do with Mr. Gray? Are you going to give us some multiple shades of gray bullshit??

No. No I am not.

What I am going to give you is some insight and some information on a book I could not put down.

First off, let me tell you this.

This blog post is part of a blog blitz that I joined to help promote this book.  There are some cool things that can happen as a result. Namely three. You can win stuff. My friend gets book sales and new readers. And I get to help a friend and fellow author get more of her work out in to the world. It's  win-win-win all the way around! It's like a threesome of win!


The book is One Shade of Gray. The author is Monica Corwin.  I was fortunate enough to be one of the advance readers for this book and I could not put it down. OK, technically, I wasn't holding it as it was an electronic copy, but I could not turn away from the screen. For four hours I was transfixed.

Not only do I rarely ever do that with books (mainly free time and my undiagnosed ADD are to blame), but I rarely read them as fast as I did. 4 hours. That was the time. I found the time to read it because I didn't really sleep that night. I read. This book.

Before I go to much farther, though, I'd like to do something that I have never done on this blog.
I would like to turn it over to a guest author, at least for a bit.

I've asked Mr. Dorian Gray, one of the stars of this book if he wouldn't mind popping on over to ye olde bloggy blog and giving us a top ten. I at first asked for top ten pickup lines. I didn't hear from him. Thankfully Monica intervened and suggested I ask Dorian to give us something a little more refined.

Here, my friends, is Dorian Gray's list of Top Ten Books and why he adores them so.

Why anyone would want to know my taste in books I certainly have no idea but, I’m happy to oblige. Here are my top ten favorite books.
  1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas I’m also partial to The Three Musketeers as well. You can’t go wrong with an 800-page tome on vengeance, retribution, or atonement.
  2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman In my day, people were shunned for books like this. It was called Blasphemy. Which is why I find the book so amazing. This author’s mind astounds even me.
  3. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling Another amazing fantasy epic that makes me forget how long I’ve been alive while I gallivant around as a teenage boy. 
  4. The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe A classic horror/suspense story set in one of my favorite cities…They call Edgar Allan Poe one of the founders of mystery fiction and Auguste Dupin never disappoints me. I wish we could have seen more of him in Poe’s time. (And no I never met the man)
  5. Dracula by Bram Stoker A classic “monster” book back when monsters were de rigueur and I love how this monster always stays a monster. In today’s society when vampires sparkle this book reminds me that some creatures aren’t worth saving.
  6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury Whenever I think about this book one particular quote comes to mind: “Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds.“ This reminded me of my youth but with far less vigor and more empathy. This book reminds me to live while still caring for the rest of the living. 
  7. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster What is not to love about this classic tale? It makes me warm, happy, and let’s me be outside myself in the same way Harry Potter does for me.
  8. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – This book is one I could have used in my younger years. I adore the short tale. Another book that reminds me to treat others with kindness and respect. After 150 years it can sometimes be difficult. I often see myself and everyone else as “them.”
  9. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig A classic story of travel that makes me want to venture around the world (no matter how many times I’ve been).
  10. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain This is another author I could have met that I failed to. Mark Twain takes a classic “fish out of water” story and elevates it to something much more fun. I enjoy this book when I’m feeling out of my element in the modern world.
I hope this list has given you something to read, or a new author to embrace, perhaps. I have  multiple copies of each of these in my own library and wish the same on every other person in the world.   -D.G.
Wow.

That was awesome. I have read all of those books. I am nowhere near on the level of Dorian as far as sophistication, but at least our libraries have some of the same books. That's kind of cool.

You know what else is cool? Giveaways. And as another first on this blog, I'm giving you a chance to win stuff.

You can enter for a chance to win one of the following:

  • $50 Amazon Gift Card
  • One of three signed copies of One Shade of Gray for your very only library.

All you have to do is click HERE.  The link will take you to the RaffleCopter site to enter.


I feel I would be remiss if I didn't give you some high level details of the book. I am not going to post any spoilers so don't ask, but here are the relevant details.


One Shade of Gra
by Monica Corwin 
Publication date: September 26th 2017
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance


Synopsis:

My name is Dorian Gray. You might think you know my story? Please. That was just the beginning. Not the end. I’ve lived over 100 years. I don’t know why. I’ve sinned, deeply, but haven’t we all?
Now Sybil is back. Her name is Izzy and she looks the same. Smells the same. Walks the same…but everything else about her is different. Stronger. Bolder. I want her more than ever.
I should keep her safe, and keep my hands to myself. But those dark parts of my soul still linger. I won’t lose her again.

Seriously, reading the synopsis makes me want to read the book again. I've got it on my Kindle, iBooks, and a printed copy is on the way. 

I think I have teased you enough, I'm sorry about that. But if you know me at all, you know I do enjoy a good tease. But I wouldn't leave you hanging for too long.  Here are the links so you can get your own copy of One Shade of Gray by Monica Corwin.

I'm going to sign off now, my dear readers and friends. I think I've given you enough to think about. I would love to hear how right I was about the book. Or, tell me how full of crap I am. Either way, go read the book. Love it or hate it, but read it either way!

And if you want to get to know Monica a little better and get in on some of her other amazing books, you can do so by catching up on any of the standard social media avenues.


Until we meet again, have an awesomesauce day!

-Todd




9.21.2017

In the Raw

*Note: This will make more sense after you read the guest post on the Books By Violet Blog.

Hang tight until then my regular readers. 
For those of you here because of the post on the Books By Violet blog, here's the raw, unedited version of the post that let you here.  -TS

Think of the best sentence in your favorite book. The sentence that made you stop and re-read. That didn’t make you-it commanded you to stop and re-read it. To appreciate its brilliance. Do you have the sentence in your mind?

Good.

Now imagine the book without that sentence.

Would it be the same? Probably not.
Would there be some other sentence that would grab you the same way? Not likely. Is there something about that sentence, a word, a phrase, a hook that if it were modified would make the sentence something you skimmed right over?

The reality is, all of the above probably happened.

Hello there, loyal readers of the awesome Books by Violet blog. I am *not* Violet, but I’m assuming you already knew that based on the fact that there is not actually a book being reviewed on these pages at present.

Once again, I’m here to share some insight that might not cross your mind as you’re reading your favorite or next favorite book.
The thing is, books are written by people. More importantly, a book is written by *readers*. And there you have the tie-in.

Back to the opening. Do you still have that sentence in your mind? Good.

Again, what if I told you that the sentence probably wasn’t in the first draft of your favorite book?

So, how does a writer make a great idea into a great book? The simple answer is, they write it, duh.

But just writing it isn’t good enough, my dear readers. Once the author gets the words out of their head into some sort of workable draft, then the *real* work begins.

The real work is not so simple. Once a draft of a book or story is written, they *keep* writing it. They write. And they then read. And they edit. And they write. And they read. And when, as V.E. Schwab so eloquently stated in her 10-minute writer workshop, when they read the story as a *reader*, then it’s done.

I’m speaking (well typing) of course of the dreaded re-write and editing process. If you want to see a writer weep, ask them what kind of relationship they have with their editors.

No. Don’t do that. Nobody likes to see a writer cry. Trust me on this, it’s not pretty.

The editing process is pretty fresh in my mind because I recently finished a short but intense tete a tete with a professional editor. It was a first for me. She was, however, a bit more experienced. Thankfully she guided me gently along in the process.

In these days of the self-pubbed phenoms, it’s easy for someone to think they can get by and publish without any kind of editing.  I can see both sides.

My first book was published without an editor. This short story that I just finished was done so with the help of a professional editor.

The difference? I am sitting here, in a coffee shop just off of a major interstate thinking about those two pieces. While I am insanely proud of my first published novella, I know beyond a doubt that the short story (which is as yet unpublished) is stronger. It’s a tighter story.

I know many writers and mileage definitely varies in the editor vs. non-editor camps, but I think for me personally if I am to feel comfortable that I’m giving you the best story I can, I will be working with editors.  

Here is the irony. As I’m writing this piece, there is a mish-mash of ideas. I have things I want to say and at this point, I’m just doing best to get the words out. The form that you are reading right now, the piece that Violet posted, isn’t actually what I started out with. I can assure you of that. To prove it, I’m going to do something that I never do. I am going to transfer this file from the NEO2 (basically my idea pad) and post it over on my blog, and you can read it as I wrote it in the first draft.

I can assure you, that it will be nowhere as tight as the version you read on Violet’s blog.

And that kind of is the point. As an author, I feel that I owe it to you, the reader, to deliver the best story I can.

Sure, I have a lot of time invested in writing the story. But here’s the thing, I’m going to write anyway. Sure-it’s easier on the days where the words feel like they are stuck in peanut butter and maple syrup to write knowing that there is someone out there looking forward to reading them, but if you didn’t read them, I’d still write.

That means that the real time committment is on your end. You, as the reader have a massive choice to make. What book are you going to give your time to? I want it to be mine. And because of that, I’m going to do what it takes to give you the best return on your investment.

And if you’re looking for suggestions on what to read, you’re in the right place. I promise you won’t see me TOO often, mostly will be the awesome book recommendations by Violet.

Until next time, my friends, it’s your friendly-neighborhood Writer-Man signing off.

-TS

8.28.2017

The Hardest Part of Writing with a Dash of Folly

I've never been a fan of editing and re-writing.
I know you're sitting there thinking, "Damn Todd. No Way. Your blogs are always so clean and polished with nary a typo or dangling participle to be found. You must surely edit all the livelong day!"

And while it's true that I try not to dangle too much on my blog, participle or otherwise, I don't really edit much. Mostly for typos. Any content editing to this little kaleidoscope of consciousness is usually done on the fly.  I know. I know. I hide it incredibly well. 

Well, I mean, I'm a professional. That's what I do.

You know what else I do?

And by that I mean, you know what else I do now?

Now I edit.

And I rewrite.

Here's the story...I never used to. I mean, not seriously. I would look for misused punctuation and the like, but I rarely took the hatchet of the red pen to my work. I was content to do my in-line editing and revising in the manner that had served me so well in the blogosphere.  I mean, if the 70 view average per post is any indication, I am killing it over here, yo.

I did a piece late last year for an anthology I was supposed to be in. I liked the idea. And I was confident enough to think what I wrote was good. So I turned it in.

And then a funny thing happened. I was asked to be in a box set. I was asked to write a novella in a genre that I had never really dabbled in before.  

Suddenly I wasn't so confident.

But I wrote the story. And I love it. 

And I edited the crap out of it.

And I hated editing it.

But I realized something. It takes far more confidence as a writer to be able to edit your work than it does to just think it's good without editing. 

It's not.

After editing Shadow Initiate and releasing it in the box set, I realized two things. The first was that I was going to probably need to edit it again before I released it as a stand-alone novella (which is happening this Fall). Secondly, the story I turned in for the anthology last year was garbage.

That's not to say I didn't like the concept of the story. I absolutely loved the idea. I just hated the words I chose to express those ideas.

Luckily for me the release date of the anthology was pushed back.

I had another chance.

Instead of just edits, I took the hatchet to the story. I kept that bits that worked, axed the rest.

And in the end, you know what? I nearly doubled the length of the story and I think it's a much stronger story because of it.

This story also marks another Author Milestone for me. It's the first piece that I have actually sent off to an external editor that wasn't the squiggly red or blue lines in my word processor.   I don't have the piece back from the editor yet, but I'm looking forward to seeing what a set of professional editor eyes sees in the piece. Seeing where her and I agree and where we diverge.

It's all pretty exciting.

Thus..riding high on the wave of editing chutzpah, I have decided to embark on a new tradition.

Todd's "Current Edits" notebook.

It looks a little something like this:




I bought a special notebook today. It will hold something ridiculous like 400 sheets of paper. Which is more than anything I've written. What I found when I was editing Shadow was that I liked to go through the print out and make the changes on the page then transfer those changes to Scrivener.  I know, right?! It's almost like I was developing a true writer's workflow.  Spoiler alert--I was.

How this works is, I will put a label on the cover going down top-to-bottom, left to right with the title of what's currently in the binder being edited and the month and year I started. The amusing bit of folly comes from thinking that in a few years time, the cover will be plastered with labels.

I can't wait.

So, you might be asking, "Todd, what is the first book you're going to edit in this awesome binder?"

Glad you asked.

The first book in the binder is my NaNo spawn from last year, The Treachery of Rainbows.

I'm going to let you in on a secret. I think it might be a good book. I really like the idea behind it. And the feedback I got at the NCOW Writer's Retreat last year when I read snippets of it was very favorable. I was getting good feedback from writers I admire and look up to. It tells me that others think it has the potential to be a good book. 

And yet, it sat on proverbial shelf for almost a year.

Remember when I said it takes confidence to edit?  I stand by that. I think I'm finally ready to face this book and see what we can make of it.

And it's in a spiffy new binder, to boot.

Onward and upward my friends!

I'm off to edit now, have a great rest of your evenings and a kick ass tomorrow!!

Peace,
Todd

8.25.2017

Social Media Jail and a Writing Tracker Update

Just Like Otis in Mayberry

If you have taken the time to actually read through the user agreement associated with your Bookfacing account, first let me offer my sympathies. The thing is beastie and dry and somewhat convoluted.  But, it does detail things that can cause the big Blue F to put the smack down on you, account wise. The punishments range from a virtual slap on the wrist to being banned from the social media site altogether.

I had a friend locked from posting for 'liking' too many posts. Another for putting too many URLs to other sites, so the offenses can run the gamut.

I awoke yesterday morning to find that I had been put in to Facebook Jail. I had, somewhere along the way, violated the terms of service of the book of Face. It was a valid infarction and I own it. What it was isn't as important as the effect it had on me for the next 24 hours.

Because of the violation, I was barred from posting anything, commenting on anything, even hitting the 'like' on any post for a period of 24 hours.

My initial reaction was panic. The reaction immediately following was to see how far reaching this was.

I tried posting. I was taken to a page that would allow me to dispute the sentence. Nope. No dispute. Like I said, I owned it. So, moving on.

I tried liking a post. Nope. There came a little popup that said "You're in Facebook Jail. You broke a rule and now you can't do shit for the next 24 hours, except look at stuff."  I'm paraphrasing, of course, but that was the gist of the pop-up.

I tried posting something from Instagram and sharing to FB.  No joy. That didn't work either. The only thing that worked was Messenger. Which, really wasn't much help for my Social Media jones.

Facebook for the 24 hours would be, in essence, Read Only for me.

There were exactly 3 times that it sucked. But for the rest of the time, I have to admit, it was glorious!

And here's why.

I couldn't respond.

Have you ever done that marriage counseling thing where one person talks and the other person can't say anything for the duration? And then when the speaking person is done, they have to zip it for the duration of the other person's monologue?

In marriage counseling, it sucks. But on social media it was actually pretty cool.  There were a couple of posts that had triggered some snarky responses on my part, but I couldn't say them!! And now, a day later, it doesn't really matter. Whatever it was that annoyed me about the post, is done and gone.

So I spent the day scrolling a bit and thinking, "wow, that's nice" or "oh man, that's sad" or the ever popular "what a douche."  It was honestly no different than what I normally think when I'm scrolling the feed, but now, knowing I couldn't reply, I just looked, had the thought, and moved on. There wasn't really any engagement on my part.

I found that I checked the book of face a lot less during the day, too. I would reach for my phone and think, well...doesn't really matter, I can't reply. So, when I did check it, I would see how many things I actually needed to reply to and used Messenger for that. The long and short of it...1.  1 person that I needed to actually contact directly about something they had posted.

I kept waiting for people to ask me if something was wrong because I wasn't promoting a friend's book or posting geeky shit. But no one did. In truth, I'm sure no one noticed. I'm not saying that to elicit a reaction, it's merely a statement. We are all inundated with so much information on the feed that the reality is, if your friend's list is over twenty people, you probably won't notice if one of them drops off, unless you make it a point to look at their feed often.

In a way, it was kind of cleansing. And it was a lesson in the power of waiting before you reply to something. So often I see keyboard commandos just firing off responses from the proverbial emotional hip and rather than create any kind of meaningful dialog, it just winds up being incendiary and divisive.

I'm done, I've been released from the social media drunk tank and release on my own recognizance and I think I've learned something.

I don't have to immediately reply. In fact, sometimes it's actually the better course of action. As Mark Twain said, it's better to remain silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Tracking the Writing And Things Creatively Productive

I'm doing something extra special today, I'm giving you a twofer.  That's right, you don't just get one Lunchtime Bloggy Blog, but today only, I'm throwing in a second Bloggy Blog mostly unrelated to the one you just read.

So...I've started doing hashtag bullet journalling. Hashtag Bujo, if you will.  Which for me simply means that instead of the daily/weekly/monthy/yearly lists that I would normally make in my Moleskine journals, I'm making graphics and trackers and charts and of course lists.  Now, that's not to minimize it. It is merely to say that I don't exploit the full phenomenon and potential of the bullet journal movement. I have friends that do and they rock the shit out of it. What I do works for me, and that's pretty much the underlying sentiment Do What Works For You. If you don't like it, fuck it. Change it and try something else. That is an underlying sentiment I can get behind for sure.

That being said, I put together a tracker for my August Writing Goals. It looks exactly like this:


A couple of key entries there are the story "Killer Blog" and the pieces for If Music Be The Food, an awesome project helmed by Jack Wallen (check his stuff out here). But, even in posting this, I can see that I had lofty aspirations for August.

August that only has six days including one weekend left in it.  As you might have noticed,  I'm woefully behind on my posts for this blog. In order for me to hit my blogging goal, I'd need two posts a day until the end of the month.   Not sure that's going to happen. But we'll see.

I can still hit another IMBTF post if Jack posts a song Monday.

I can (and will) still write a guest spot for my friend Violet Patterson's awesome blog (check it out here), so we're good there.

Kiler Blog is now in the editor's hands, so I'm at her mercy. Not much I can do about that now.

And then we get to Ovid's Folly. My story for an upcoming Mythology Box set coming out in December. I know, you're thinking Todd...it's only August...why are you worried about that now?

Well, I'll tell you.  November is already booked. And half of the weekends in both September and October are already booked. I need to get a head start on this. I am excited about the story line and want to make sure I give it the time it deserves.  I'm done phoning shit in (obviously this blog is excluded from that, since I feel like I'm pretty much transcribing a conversation I'm having in my head with you, my intrepid reader, and well...that's pretty much like phoning it in, isn't it?).

So...I will make a September Writing Tracker. I think I'm going to make it a two-page spread and include daily and weekly milestones (word counts or chapters or something).

Also...exciting news...I will be putting out Shadow Initiate as a stand alone novella.  I'm pretty pumped about the cover, which looks like this:

It's not my first cover ever (I'm counting the cover on the box set as my first actual cover), BUT it is the first standalone cover for something that's just out there with my name dangling in the wind.

Oh...I almost forgot. I have started editing The Treachery of Rainbows. For those that have been asking about it (Jamie and Monica), I'm sorry to have kept you waiting, and now that I know what it feels like when someone asks (rather insistently) "When are you going to finish insert title here?!?" I promise to stop asking that question (at least in that way).


And there you have it, my friends, your lunchtime twofer.

Here's hoping the rest of your day is awesome and that your weekend kicks much ass.

And remember, be safe out there!

-Todd


8.13.2017

Shakubuku Part Two: Eclectic Booglaloo

I posted on the book of face recently that I felt out of sorts. The gist of it being I couldn't decide if I was hungry, horny, or on the verge of some existential shift that would lock me in closer to my purpose on this earth in this particular lifetime.

I still felt that after eating. So I know it wasn't the hungry part of the equation.  And I'm always horny, or most always. So I can eliminate that as it's pretty much a constant.

Which leaves the existential shift.

That seems more likely.

And after yesterday, I'm pretty sure that's the case.

I'm going to start by saying that part of me wasn't quite sure what to expect with my outing yesterday.  I know full well that the first part of what I'm about to say could paint me in the light of being a tremendous asshole. To an extent, this is accurate. I'm hoping, though, that the realization I achieved  by the end of the afternoon has some redeem quality.  I mean, it did for me, so there's that.

So here goes.

I spent the day yesterday with my best friend. At least he was my best friend when I was in my teens. In my teens-junior high, high school and in to college, I had a handful of friends that I would have easily considered my best friends. If you were at my second wedding, you saw them standing up with me as I was giving the vows. I couldn't pick one best man. I had three.  The funny thing is, the three men up there with me were my bestest friends and various points in my life. Childhood through teen through adult. And I would have done anything for any of those men.

But time and distance and life happens. Now they are all three still very good friends. We can pick up anywhere we left off and go as if nothing happened in the years in between.

Or so I thought.

One of the three has a chronic illness. As I have been getting to know the amazing Styna Lane who heads the amazing Sick, Tired, and Alone channel on YouTube (which you should totally check out because it's awesome), I realized something very important.

Some of the shit that I've been feeling as I've been trying to process how this friendship has evolved can be boiled down to a simple sentence: It's not about me.

There was a key phrase yesterday that brought it all home for me.

"I can feel my body about to hit the wall, so I need to maximize my time."

I realized at that moment that I had been viewing this thing all wrong. The swift spiritual kick to the forehead happened and suddenly my third eye opened.

I have no fucking clue what he (or any of my chronically awesome friends with chronic illnesses) goes through on a daily basis. I'm obese. I can fix that. I have diabetes. I can control that. I have degenerative disk disorder. OK, on that one, I'm kind of fucked, but I have staved the effects of that temporarily by having two of the discs in my neck replaced.

My hitting a wall amounts to levels of social anxiety.I get to the point where mentally I just can't deal with people anymore. But never is it a case of my body going, "Hey man...you had kind of a good run today, but we're gonna just shut down now, cool? Cool."

So here's the shift from asshole to not as much of an asshole.

My friend has this thing. He's always had it. It's genetic. It's a disease. And it's progressively debilitating. And for years, I didn't know how to deal with it.

I.

Me.

I didn't know how to deal with it.  I would see him through the years (we lost touch about 10 years back and started in the recent years to rebuild those channels of communication), and I could see the changes.

And it was uncomfortable for me. Because, at that point, I was still framing our friendship in the context of what it meant to me, for me. Me, me, me.

Man, such a dick move.

The epic magnitude of the dickishness was revealed when he said the thing about his body hitting the wall.

That was the shift.

I realized that since the day he told me, years ago, I had been framing how I saw him in context of the disease and what it would eventually mean for our friendship. And fuck me was that selfish.

Yesterday I was finally able to separate the two again. I put the thing that he has in a box and set it to the side. That thing is not him. It's a thing he has to deal with and live with, but it's not him.

He's still there. He's still my friend. And yesterday was a flashback to 25 years ago. Minus the Dominoes Pizzas and 2 Liters of Dr. Pepper the night before. But it was a day of hitting campus (or Short North), munching on some seriously delicious grub, and then hitting up shops that I didn't even know existed.

I can remember the first time he showed me Used Kids (the one in the basement). I was enthralled.  And I thought he was the coolest motherfucker ever for knowing about that place.

That happened again yesterday.  Rocket Fizz....Big Fun...On Paper...Flower Child...all these amazing stores that are in my city that I just didn't know about and I've got my own personal tour guide showing me all these amazing things. I could see it was something akin to pride that he was able to show me these cool gems.

And more than that, I have my friend back.

But..he's not really back. Because he never really left. I see that now. I was the one that left. I was the one that jumped ship and said in not so many words, "I don't know how to deal with this anymore. I'm too uncomfortable so I'm gonna just put it over here in the 'used to know' column."

I'm thankful that he reached back out to me.  I needed a second chance to be the friend he needs. I still don't know if I can be. But as my dad says, "We do what we can, Hobbes. We do what we can."


8.10.2017

That Shakubuku That You Do

If you have not yet seen the John Cusack staple, "Grosse Pointe Blank," you need to. I won't even go in to all the reasons why. Or the fact that they shot basically 3 different versions of the film and mixed the best scenes from all three versions for the final version we have.  Just trust me on this-you need to see this movie. And by "need to see this movie" I mean this. If you truly want to understand the way my mind processes some of the existential shit that I throw my way, you need to see this movie (see also "Say Anything," "High Fidelity," and "The Matrix.").

OK.  Just bookmark this page, take about 107 minutes out of your life and see the movie. I'll wait.

Cool. Welcome back.  SEE?!?!? RIGHT??  I know. It's ok. You didn't know, but now you do.

Alright. There's a scene in Grosse Pointe Blank that pretty much mirrors what happened to me 2 nights ago. You see, I was a hit man and I was going back to my high school reunion.

No. Wait. That's not right.

Oh, I was going out for beers with one of my super awesome friends that I had known since high school. THAT was it.

I'm going to pause here and let you know that I drank a lot on Tuesday night. The way it was presented to me was that it would be 'going out for a few beers with Skaggs. It'll be an early night.'

It was not an early night.

If my Irish Math is correct it was 10 or something pints. Which, if you're converting from the metric system (as you do), it wound up being a fuckton of beer. Way more than necessary for a 'few beers/early night' scenario.

Honestly, though, the way the night was going it pretty much had to go the way it did.

I said as much on the recording I made at 1:30AM (AFTER the early night/few beers situation). I talked in to a digital recorder for 30+ minutes after Elijah brought me home because I wasn't really in a state to sit at a keyboard and watch letters pop on to the field of white, but by the same token I didn't want to forget any of the awesomeness either. So, I talked to the recorder (which basically translated to my neighbors as the 'crazy dude in Apartment 2 talking to himself...again!).

So, back to the story.

The title of this post was almost "That's Not Appropriate, Gary" based on how the night started.
And I have to be honest here, I really wasn't sure what the hell was going to happen based on the first Uber ride to kick off the evening.

Rachel texted me and said "Gary. Silver Accord. Three Minutes."  Standing on the corner 2 minutes and 43 seconds later (looking dapper AF, I might add, in my Save Ferris shirt), I see a silver Honda Accord zoom by and turn in the alley PAST my drive.

"Must be Gary," I thought.

It was.

7 minutes later, Gary got it together and came back around. And waited IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET for me to get in to his car. Thankfully it wasn't a Fourth Friday or we'd be talking about Gary in the past tense.  Well, I mean, I guess I kind of am. But you know what I mean. I mean he'd be dead. People don't play on Fourth Friday in Uptown.

So...we're on our way...and I'm giving Gary some alternate routing that will make his life easier.

He's doing the standard chit chat. I'm doing the standard being polite but wishing he'd shut the fuck up. I find out he's retired. He golfs. I'm like his 9th Uber passenger or some shit like that. WAY more than I really EVER need to know about any Uber drive (or so I thought).

And then he drops the bomb mack daddy Fat Boy of all conversation openers.

"So.  Has anyone tried to kill you?"

Um.

I had to pause a beat to make sure I heard the question, correctly. Apparently I did.  But I didn't answer. And Gary just let that question hang in the air like a fart at a funeral.

As I'm giving my nervous chuckle followed by the "well...not that I know of. I mean, not lately. Why do you ask?" I have all sorts of questions going through my head such as:


  • Why the fuck would you think that's a good conversation started with a stranger??
  • Oh my god. Am I going to die in an Uber and become some bullshit cautionary tale that no one will ever read because it will be some HuffPost click bait thing with an overly dramatic headline like "Just When You Thought Uber Safer Than Lyft - You'll Never Guess What Happened!!" ??
  • Gary, please for the love of God say something. I don't want to die in the back of a silver Honda Accord with an empty box of tissues and an Buckeyes hat. That is NOT how I'm supposed to go out.
After an eternity, he continues. Apparently one of his other passengers had a wife who tried to poison him with anti-freeze. Gary is loving telling me this story and I'm still kind of freaking out. Thankfully I'm pretty sure Gary couldn't find my house again.  

The other reason I thought I was going to die in that ride (other than the very basic question which practically implies impending doom), was the fact that Gary did NOT have his cell phone mounted. He was holding it. Which meant he kept looking down.  I really didn't want to die in a silver Accord, but so many things just added up to this being my last Uber ride ever. Probably my last anything ever.

Turns out it wasn't. I made it. But damn...I thought it was touch and go there for a while.

I'm going to spare you the play by play of the evening. There were beers. There were apps. There was Keno (and there were Keno winnings). There was catching up about what was going on in each other lives. There was chatter about a couple of upcoming books I'm working on.  And there were beers.
Lots of beers. I might have said that. And then there were more beers.

As the night wore on, some of the regulars came in and out. And there was a big buff dude at the end of the bar. Looked like The Rock, Jr. No joke. And (I know this is going to sound weird), but he smelled good. My first thought was,  "damn he smells good. I wonder what that fragrance is and if it would smell that good on me (because, you know, chemistry)." 

My second thought was...Son of a bitch. I know him.

So, never being bashful after a few beverages, I asked him. Well. I told him. "You look familiar."  

He said that he got that a lot.  And then he asked me my name. And I told him.  He lost his shit.
And I lost mine because I knew I knew that dude! And I did. Steve Ferrell. In the hizzous. 

There were some crazy conversations as we caught up.  And things fell in to place. 

And in the back of my mind for what was easily the 7th or 8th time that night I thought to myself, "There are no coincidences."  I am not going to go in the depths of the conversations, because it's not my story to tell. But suffice it to say, neither of us were the same dudes we were in high school. 

Somehow we got to talking about how I didn't drink or do any illicit substances in high school. And I recounted the story of my first Senior Football party. I was a freshman, but I was invited because I was the athletic trainer and a couple of the upper classmen took me under their wing. We're at this party and someone offers me a beer. I decline. They offer again. I decline again. The peer pressure starts. Then, Todd Huber puts his arm around my shoulder and looks the dude offering and says, "Skaggs said he didn't want it. Leave him alone."

It was one of those defining moments for me. I don't know if he caught shit for it or not. Hell, I don't know if he even remembers it. But I'll never forget that. 

Steve asked me if I ever told him. I told him I never did. I said, 'that was my moment. I have no idea if it was his or not.'

And Steve said the most profound thing to me..."What if he needs to hear it? To know he made that kind of an impact in another person's life? Life's all about ebb and flow. And sometimes you need that positivity when it's on the ebb."

Blew my mind.

We also shared some similar issues with our cardio-vascular engine.  Other things that were just too wild to be a coincidence. 

And then the night was winding down.   More beers with Rachel and her dude at her place before the Uber was called to pick me up to go home.

A black Suburban pulls up and I'm thinking, "Now, if I'm going to die in any kind of vehicle, it's definitely going to be a black Suburban."

Elijah introduced himself.  A box of pens and a Foo Fighters album went in the back seat. I climbed in the front.

As if there were not already enough moments of pure shakubuku this evening, the ride home with Elijah sucker punched me right in my third eye. 

He found out I was a writer (because I told him). His fiancĂ© is a writer.  He's a musician.  He's the #3 Uber Driver in the city. We talked about Gary. He agreed that you should NEVER have a murder conversation as part of an Uber ride.  And then we talked about universal consciousness.

You know, that thing that I'll spend hours talking about with anyone? That thing where I fully believe we are, each of us, the creator experiencing its creation. Yeah. That thing.

I told him that in this lifetime my mission was to be creative. And through that expression of creativity, inspire others to be creative and to find their creative centers (because I fully believe we all have them).

THAT was the 1-2 punch from the universe.  The whole night, the universe was peeling back the curtain and daring me to keep looking.  And by the end of the night I was fully convinced beyond a shadow that this is just a construct. It's a cosmic diorama made with our mom's Naturalizers shoe box and shitty construction paper and a pair of left-handed scissors that we grab by mistake because we're not paying attention.

I am still kind of in a daze. I had to wait a day to make sure that his was a true daze and not just me being hungover.  I mean, I think I am still a little hungover, but it's not from the alcohol.

It's from drinking from the deep chalice of gratitude that the universe has been holding out this whole time for anyone who would stop and drink.

Cheers.

-ATS


7.31.2017

Neither Good Nor Bad

I looked to see how long it had been since I had actually posted something on the blog.
I wasn't expecting to see that it had been over a month.
There's no way I can make that time back up.

The time I should have been writing. Sharing. Getting the crap out of my head.  Because, between you and me, there's a lot of it still up there that's stopping some of the other words from coming out. So...that's a thing that needs to change.

And here we are.

Do I have shit floating around in my head? Yeah. Probably.  But it doesn't appear to be anything earth shattering at this time. I mean it's the normal stuff. Bills, organizing my apartment, wondering how long before our president gets us in to a war. You know, normal shit.

Part of what I like to do when my head gets in this space is go down to the Farm.  Most of you know by now that my family farm in KY is my all-time super special place where I can go to recharge my soul.

And it still is that. Mostly.

The past few times have been a little weird. Not good weird or bad weird, per say. Just weird.

We have a family living in the farm house. And that's cool. They are a great couple. And they are fixing up the house and taking care of the land. It is truly a win-win scenario for all of us.

But because of it, I have to shift my expectations when we go down there. We aren't staying in the house anymore. There's a family there. We are staying in a twenty-eight foot camper that Dad got. It's cool. It's got electricity, running water, and a working toilet. Not to mention it could sleep 3 comfortably-6 if you got cozy with your bunk mates.

So, it's cool. But it's also a little weird.  I guess weird might not be the best word. Perhaps a better word is different. It's different down there now.

Which is why I have to reset my expectations when we go down there.  That is the part that's taking time for me.

We came back a day early. It's fine, it worked out. I have stuff that I need to do in the apartment (like get this desk moved and get my office organized).

This was kind of a ramble, sorry for that.

But,  I'm writing. Which is cool.

And speaking of writing, there is some news on that front.

I just got a second royalty payment from the Midnight Magic box set...so...WooHoo!! It apparently was not a fluke. So--yay me!

Also, it looks like I will be in another set coming out in December. I don't want to give too much away, but it will be another urban fantasy centered around a modern update on the Medusa myth.

I'm looking forward to getting that one out in to the world. I am also working on a cover for Shadow Initiate so that I can release that as a stand alone novella in preparation for the series that will be spawned from that world. So, again, I'm pretty excited about those things!!

There are more neat things on the way. Just gotta get a few more cobwebs cleared up and get back to wording.

Have a great rest of your day, and I promise it won't be so long before my next update.

AT

6.13.2017

Giordano's, A Tale of Family

There are so many amazing little nuggets that happened in the 2 1/2 hours between 6:15 and 8:45 tonight that I'll likely forget something. And then I'll probably owe Ross even more money. Or pizza. Or Beer. Or a Get Out Of Going To IKEA free Card--although he might not go for that last one after hearing Alex talk about their cinnamon rolls. 

Lest you think this is some weird FanFiction about the time Ross and Rachel were on a break and he went to IKEA, let me stop you. It's not. Although...excuse me a moment...*gets pen and jots a few notes down* Right. Where was I?

Ah. Yes. 

My Second Favorite Pizza in the Whole World (so far).

The funny thing is, my two favorite pizza joints in the world (so far) could NOT be more diametrically opposed. Growing up in Westerville, there were a few local mom and pop shops. My favorite was Rofini's. Thin crust with the pepperoni that cooked up in to little upside down dart cups of grease. If you want to get down to brass tacks, it probably wasn't great pizza by any means, but I loved it. It always reminded me of Westerville. Even as an adult. I love Rofini's.

Loved.  It's gone now. Owner's decided to sell after 40 something years (or so it seemed).  I will never forget Rofini's.

But, since it closed up, my number two favorite pizza joint in the whole world (so far) became my Number 1. And it's fitting. They apparently already had the boxes ready for the transition.


Now, I have made no secret of my love for this amazing pizza pie. Hop back in time to a post from March 2016 to get the full Giordano's in my life origin story (http://www.toddskaggswrites.com/2016/03/it-was-twenty-years-ago-today.html).

Regular readers of this blog will know that I don't usually do things in any kind of order on these pages, it really is a stream of random meanderings. Tonight is no exception.

As I was driving home, I came up with a dozen great opening lines, but the line I wrote down at the bar tonight was, "Shit, now I owe Ross money."

I knew this past Sunday as I was heading to brunch that something special was happening. I saw people in red shirts go in to Giordano's. I got excited. We were close enough to lunch that I could've easily had a light breakfast and a heavy lunch. But Tim (probably not his real name) told me that Sunday was a training day only and that the "real" opening would be Tuesday. And by "real" he meant the soft-opening which is where the restaurant gets used to dealing with public types and not just the people on the payroll. Role playing is over and it's game on.

Fine Tuesday. I could wait.

Then Tuesday came. Which, if you're reading this the day I wrote it, is today.

I was leaving work today and thinking, "You know what? Sure. I have tasty leftovers in my fridge, but dammit, Giordano's is opening today."

Giordano's won.

I grabbed the Alphasmart Neo2 and headed out the door. I knew it would take at least an hour from when I ordered my pizza and I figured it would be some great writing time.  Little did I know it would be so much more. 

I got there and walked in and was instantly greeted by the awesome Candice Lee. She had put her order in when they put their name in for a table (which...is a great pro-tip. The pizza takes an hour. Put your order in when you give them your name and you'll be ahead of the game). We talked for a bit and then it was my turn to give my name. 

Shit. What was my name.

PIZZA.

No. That wasn't my name. 

Todd.

My name is Todd.

Oh crap. She asked me how many.  One.

She said would be a 40 minute wait or I could go right to the bar and order and eat there. 

Bar it is.

I bopped back to the car to get my phone, my idea journal, a hard copy of a story I'm working on, and a pen. I knew there probably wouldn't be room for me with the Alphasmart, so I went totally analog.

I quickly glanced the bar.  Wedged between the disinterested whatever the hell they call goth girls when they grow up and a tattooed couple was the dreaded corner stool.  

You know the stool. It's the one stool that always gets shoved in to someone's knee or used as a buffer to keep people from getting in to the bar.

But fuck it man, there was pizza to be had. 

I asked the bald, ginger bearded dude with two full sleeves if the seat was taken. He gestured to the stool as if to say, "clearly it's empty, but Wednesday might have something say about it."

I looked at grown up goth and she nodded indifferently.

Awesome. Wedged in there, the hostess handed me the menu. The bartender came over and asked if I needed a minute.

A beer? Yes I need a beer. I said handing her the menu.

I ordered a Guinness blonde. No doubt influenced by the signs they had for it over the bar. 

Guinness in a bottle? she asked me? 

Um. No. A Blonde. Guinness in a blonde...er...um. Guinness Blonde.

They didn't have it, but they had Goose Island 312 on tap.

Sold.

And I put in my order for food right away. I knew what I wanted.

Garlic Fries and a small, stuffed, pepperoni. Stat.

Stat, of course meaning in about an hour. You can't rush perfection and the bake time is 30 minutes by itself. 

I have a confession. I'm something of an introvert. BUT...in social situations. I often insert myself in to conversations with (I think) hilarious and sarcastic side comments about the common situation I find myself in with complete strangers.

If they give genuine laughter back my way, I keep going. If they give that 'pity smile for the homeless guy' grin to me, I shut down. 

I don't remember the comment that got me in with Alex and Ross....oh...shit. Yes I do.

One of the managers came around canvassing and asking about our experience. And, as often happens, no one assumes I'm actually out alone. 

From there conversations happened. Coincidences and moments of "no freakin' way!!" soon followed. And what I find hilarious is that it was a good hour before we even exchanged names.

I'm gonna sit on a few of the memories, since I'm still basking in them right now (it was really that cool of an evening).

Let me throw some food porn your way, though, during the basking period.

Beer is proof that God loves us, per a one Mister Benjamin Franklin. Goose Island 312 is as much a confirmation of that theory as anything. 



 Started off with an app roasted garlic fries. They are every bit as delicious as you think they would be. And they came out quick. I offered some to Alex and Ross (before I knew their names).


 My pizza. This is a small. They teased me. The brought it ALMOST to me and then the bartender stopped it. I was sad. She said they needed to make sure it was mine. I told her that it looked like mine.


 It was mine.  This is a SMALL. 6 sliced.  I ate the slice you see plated. And one more slice. Yes. 2 slices. Of a SMALL. So dense and amazing.

 

So...my bill was a little higher than I had thought it would be (damn Goose Islands...) BUT...I was there on the first night they were open to the public. With pretty much a restaurant full of people who have been waiting over a year for this place to open. Mainly because we have all been to Giordano's at least once.

Except the lady who came in just before my pizza game out.

She was on her way to buy a bottle of wine, and saw that Giordano's was open. So she came in and came up to the bar, taking the stool previously occupied by grown up goth That's not fair. She wasn't really that goth. But that's the first thing that came to mind. 

Anyway...young miss professional asked for their wine selection and picked something of the white grape variety.

My pizza came out. Remember, it's a small. For just me. And she asked if I had ever had the pizza there before.

Here? Um, no. They just opened 3 hours ago. I had it in Chicago. Pretty much along with the entire restaurant full of people and the 20 outside waiting to get in.  I offered her a slice of heaven (if you know me, you know what a huge gesture this was--offering pizza to a stranger. OK...if you really know me, you know I'm a sucker for a nice smile and so that's no so odd.) But....dude. Pizza.

And she said no.

She was there for a glass of wine.

Even Jane and Todd (another couple we met that night) were stunned. Apparently Jane had gone so far as to already beat me to the punch and offer her a slice of my pizza before I did. You read that right. The bond with Giordano's lovers is so tight that they will go so far as to offer strangers a slice of your pie.

She still politely declined.  

Now...I'm going to level with you. I have a very hard time trusting someone that comes in to a pizza place-ANY PIZZA PLACE-and just gets wine. That shit just didn't make sense.

Sure, she said she was full. Maybe.  Maybe she had some kind of weird pizza intolerance. OR...maybe she was an alien. Which...if that's the case, seriously, rock that shit. I'm wearing a Stan Lee shirt for crapssakes!! If anyone is going to be in to the whole alien thing, it's a geek like me.

But no. She did not fall prey to the sweet deep dished siren and left after one glass of wine. 

Incidentally, she is the reason that I owe Ross.

But that's a story for another time. 

Peace,
-AT

5.27.2017

Living Life Through Transition Lenses

With the exception of a brief stint between ages 14 and 22,  I have worn glasses since I was 5 years old.

Never in that time, have  I worn what are commonly referred to as "Transitions Lenses." These are the types of lenses that automatically transition from a normal sense to a polarized sunglasses-type lens when you go from indoor lighting to outdoor lighting.

I know there is some sciency thing behind it, but my observation on them has been this.

The don't work very well

Invariably what happens is that for a period after coming in from the outside, the lenses are still in 'sunglasses mode.'  Which, other than looking like hungover rock star, really serves to be an annoyance. Maybe not. Maybe I'm projecting how annoyed I would be if that happened to me.   This, coupled with the fact that they are usually priced out of my budget (but that's neither here nor there), ensures that they are something I will most likely never get when I re-up on my glasses every few years.

This weekend kind of feels like I've been handed a pair of transitions lenses, metaphorically and metaphysically speaking.

My uncle has a country place that no one knows about. He said it used to be a Farm, before the motor laws. And on Sundays I elude the eye and hop the turbine freight, to far outside the wire where my white haired uncle wait.

Sorry. When I talk about the Farm, I almost always use the phrase, "My family has a Farm in Kentucky." And when I say that phrase out loud, in my head I hear the opening verse from Rush's "Red Barchetta."  I can't help it. It's something I have done ever since I heard the song because I can see my family farm so clearly when I hear that song.

So...where was I? Oh yes...the Universe slapping on some Transitions Lenses.

I came down the Farm this weekend. It is my first trip down since October. Maybe longer. Point is, too long.

This weekend's trip is what Dad and I call a "down and back." Down one day, back the next. Normally to get the full Farm experience, we stay 2 nights. But I'm going back to Ohio tomorrow.

Only I'm not making the trip with Dad this weekend (he made a solo trip last weekend as I had other commitments).  But it's not a solo trip. My daughter came down with me.  It has been literally years since she made the trip.

My hope in asking her to come with me on these trips (or even with me and Dad) is that she starts to regain that connection to the land and to our heritage and ancestry.

And, I also hope that like me, this becomes a place where her soul can recharge and just experience the nature all around.

Based on the conversation we had this evening and the fact that she is snoring soundly in the next section of the camper, I'd say mission accomplished. Although I'm sure it will take many more trips to be certain. And I'm more than ok with that.

So...here's some of the weirdness. You might notice I mentioned a camper and not the farmhouse.

A little backstory.
After Papaw passed away (almost 20 years ago), my dad and his brother and sister made the determination that Mamaw probably wasn't ok to be out here by herself. It was a lot and without Papaw, the land seemed expansively empty.  She moved close to my aunt and uncle. This left the land and the house standing empty. Enter a friend of the family.  Kenny and his family moved in. The did renovation work on the farmhouse and they took care of the land. All this while Kenny was working and building his own dream house from the ground up.

Fast forward past the bits where Kenny got his house built and his family moved out of the farm house, leaving it to stand empty until Dad and I started coming down here some few years ago. Fast forwarding to the part where Kenny's son is now grown up and looking to start a family.

The farmhouse is perfect for them. He can continue to grow his skills in the construction business while doing some, quite frankly amazing, remodel and renovations to a place that I've known since I was 6 years old.

Ultimately it's a good thing. For everyone. It's the perfect place to raise a family. The land is not getting neglected. The house won't fall in to disrepair. And we get great caretakers who care about this land and this farm as much as Dad and I do.

And as cool as that all is (and it is, trust me), I still feel like my lenses haven't quite fully adjusted to the change.

I'm typing this blog sitting at a table (which converts in to a Twin bed) in a 25ft. pull-behind camper.

It's a nice camper.   It looks exactly like this:

There are 2 twin beds, a bunk, and a full size bed.  There is a stove, oven, 3/4 refrigerator and freezer, bathroom, shower, and storage out the wazoo.

So...this camper is now where Dad and I (and whomever comes out with us) will stay.

It's taking some getting used to, but I have to be honest, it feels more natural than I thought it would.

The place still feels close to my soul. That hasn't changed. This is still the center of who I am. And as my daughter said of it, "for the first time in a long time, I'm not worried about anything. I definitely needed to come down here."

Amen.

I'd have enough on my plate if that were the only transition I was dealing with. But...you know me...as is my nature,  I've opted for a good olde fashioned pile-on.

Another weird transition is the fact that this might actually be the first post EVER of ye olde bloggy-blog that I have posted WHILE STILL AT THE FARM.

Yes. While my cell phone doesn't actually work down here (no worries, I have what I affectionately call my burner phone), there is now wi-fi.

Tapping in to wi-fi seems weird. And I've only done it sporadically since we got here. I mean, after all, I come here to unwind and unplug. Hard to do that if I'm still scrolling through the feed. So...again...I came in and the lenses still haven't shifted yet.

It's all going to take some getting used to. I think it's good change, or ultimately will be so. For now, though, it's just a weird transition.

Peace,
-Todd

On Being Intentional About More Words On The Page

I am a writer. Well, scratch that.  Maybe. I love taking pictures.  For a season of my life I loved writing songs and was even in a band...