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

5.23.2017

An Adorkable Mess

Hubris is a funny thing. Sometimes in conjunction with audacity. It can be seen as a negative thing, or at least depending on how each are wielded, used negatively.

I don't think that my hubris will piss off Zeus and the others of Olympus enough to merit my own nemesis (or maybe we all have an inherent nemesis in each lifetime anyway, who is to say?). 

But I don't doubt that there was more than a little annoyance. 

You see, I did a thing. 

I did a thing that was a lifelong dream of mine. 

I published a book. 

If you follow me on Facebook, you no doubt saw the numerous links for said book. It's a novella. It's part of a larger box set. Sixteen novellas in all.   Initially for the low, low price of ninety-nine cents (it's now up to $2.99 or free if you have Kindle Unlimited).

So now I'm having a moment. Doubt isn't really the right word. I mean maybe it is.

I'm new. I get it. At least new to having people I don't know read my stuff. At least I hope people I don't know are reading my book.  I suspect I went slightly overboard with the sharing in my excitement.

I have thought of apologizing for that, but I don't want to. At least the part of me that doesn't suffer from social anxiety doesn't want to.  The part that does, that is currently medicated, thinks that maybe I went too far and pushed people away.

I don't know how real or raw this post is actually going to get, to be honest. So...you may want to just turn back now. I hear there's a new super hero movie coming out that should distract you from this stuff...

I over think things. A lot.

And.  Actually. you know what? I'm not going there.

I'm going to push this out there on the blog. If you read it cool. If not, also cool.

I don't want to go down the rabbit hole right now of how easily it is for me to go down the rabbit hole of over thinking and how that fucks with nearly every relationship I've been in (and sabotaged some before they even got started). So. No.

I was also going to talk about being an empath. And being someone who believes in polyamory. Both of which I may still revisit.

But for some reason my head isn't in the right space to do that right now. It was this morning as I was getting ready for work. I should have written it down then (or at the very least grabbed the recorder and capture the conversation I was already having with myself).

So...yeah.

On the writing front I'm...well..not blocked. I know what I want to write. I have the ideas. I'm just stalled. I'm not moving and I can't figure out what's stopping me at this point.

Part of it is I really want some feedback on the novella. There are a crapton of reviews on Amazon, but nothing that specifically mentions my piece. I have had a few friends reach out to me directly. And that's very very cool. Don't think me ungrateful. It was great to hear. I guess I'm just looking for that whole published author experience of seeing a review-good or bad (but hopefully good)-out there in the world.  Does is cause there to be some more doubt there about the 'realness'?  I suppose to an extent it does.

Did I mention that I overthink things? It's the hallmark symptom of my social anxiety...disorder? I suppose at this point it's probably a disorder.

Fuck.

I don't know.  My head is swimming a bit. It's like I've had a taste of something amazing and now my brain is trying to edit the memory to make it more in line with all the other shit in my life. And I'm fighting that. I don't want this to be 'normal.' I want it to be special. I want to always remember it as an amazing day. As breaking in to tears when I saw my book on Kindle that was actually placed there by the Kindle store and not side-loaded. The arms of my friend as she hugged me and giggled at how excited I was.

The whole thing...was magic.

And it wasn't a fluke.

Which, of course, I can say...but in order to prove that I have to actually finish the other things I'm working on. And put them out in to the world. Me.  No safety net. Just my words. My stories. And your eyes. All over them.

So that's in then, eh?  Time to write.

I best get to it.

Before I go, though, I want you to know something.

Dreams come true.


Peace out,
-Todd

5.08.2017

Drinking the Kool-Aid Milk

There is a popular idiom regarding 'drinking the Kool-Aid.'  The currently accepted meaning and usage of this is to represent believing with unquestioning acceptance what someone in authority is telling you.  If you 'drink the Kook-Aid' then you follow, almost blindly, whatever is being fed to you.

The reference comes from the Jonestown massacre where followers of cult leader Jim Jones were ushered in to the hereafter upon consumption of cups of Flavor-Aid laced with poison.

I have always had issues with the phrase itself. Partially because it's inaccurate (although "drinking the Flavor-Aid" doesn't really flow off the tongue as easily. I wonder if it was some twisted PR rep at Kool-Aid that subtlely twisted the narrative (but that's the cynic in me).

The second thing that always bothered me is that the phrase has now come to represent merely being a follower. A lemming. If you're going to accuse someone of drinking the Kool-Aid (or Flavor-Aid if you will), then that should mean "HEY! DON'T DO THAT OR YOU WILL DIE!!" At least that's how it should work in my twisted noggin.  Maybe that's why it's always Kool-Aid in the phrase...because it wasn't actually Kool-Aid that was the death delivery system.

Not sure.

What I do know is that I started off this post on a completely different tangent than I had intended.

In looking at my notes, I had written "Drinking the milk vs. Adding More Cereal." And yet, my mind automatically finished the phrase "drinking the..." with the word 'Kool-Aid.' So powerful are idiomatic expressions in our culture.

Now I'm sitting here at lunch trying to rein my brain back in to what I had originally meant in my notes regarding cereal and milk.

Please bear with me for a moment.

OH! I remember. It had to do with how we approach life in general. Now...I just need to remember what each aspect represented.

I think that in life we are faced with situations. These are given to us like a bowl of our favorite breakfast cereal (or in some cases our least favorite).

We have a bevy of choices facing us when eating cereal. Do we eat it slowly or quickly? Do we savor it? Do we hurry through the bowl to get on to something else that we perceive to be more worthwhile than the acerel I really enjoy like Cap'n'Crunch, I will eat as much of that as possible. Sometimes even more than is actually good for me.

I will eat quickly so the cereal doesn't get soggy. Pro-tip, this also uses less milk because the milk has yet to soak in to whatver cereal you're eating (you all know about that milk bloat that most cereal gets when you leave it sit in the milk too long).

I know I should probably take the bowl to the sink at that point, acknowledging that whatever moment I should be enjoying has reached it's natural conclusion and it's time for me to move on.

And sometimes I do. Usually I will drink the milk before putting it in the sink. Although these days I do that less for the simple fact that I don't drink as much milk as I did in the days of my youth.

Sometimes, though, I do something whacky. I get the cereal box.../i and I add more cereal to the bowl!!

Usually this first addition of cereal is not accompanied by additional milk. It's dumped in there, dry. Whatever milk is in there is in there.

If I plan on having a third bowl, though, I will add milk on the second cereal pour.

I know you're asking yourself what this has to do with life. And truthfully I don't know. I don't even know if it really does.

I just noticed somewhere along the way that there are events in my life I want to drag out and others that I want to be over as quickly as possible. I'll either wind up eating 1/2 of that cereal in one sitting because I can't get enough of it. Or I'll eat it as quickly as possible to get through it (sometimes I won't even drink the milk).

I know. I'm not sure where it's going either and maybe I need to re-visit the whole Kool-Aid thing again. At least that train of thought had some teeth.

No matter. I'm almost through with lunch anyway.

I know you can't tell, but I'm actually writing this on the AlphaSmart NEO2. You see, I have a wild hair that at some point I want to get the FreeWrite. It's supposed to be this awesome distraction-free writing tool. It is an AlphaSmart on roid-rage. BUT...it's also $500. And that's a lot of dough to spend on something that I'm not entirely sure I would really use to its full potential. Enter the AlphaSmart. Also a distraction free writing tool that I got for about $40.

So the current plan is to use the AlphaSmart in the situations where I think I would have wanted to use the FreeWrite. And, if I get to the point where I have an extra $500, then maybe I'll know that I can make it work. If I'm only doing blogs on it, that's just not going to work for me.

This is one of those instances where there is a new cereal I'm dying to try, but I have a cupboard full of cereal, a fridge full of milk, and no money to buy anymore cereal at the moment.

So we'll see how this plays out. After all, I certainly have no desire to drink from the cooler of non-carbonated soft drink in that regards.

And with that, I should probably get back to work.

Peace!
-AT

5.03.2017

Living The Dream: One Week Later

It is one week and one day out from the day my whole world changed.

At least that's what it seemed like a week ago.

A week ago - ok as recently as a day or two ago - my eyes would get a little misty when you mentioned my book.  It's part of a box set on Amazon called Midnight Magic. Filled with 16 tales of urban fantasy, you should check it out if you haven't already.  Go here to get it.

So, eight days later, what's the dealio?

Well...to be honest, the imposter syndrome is starting to creep in just a bit.
Sure...it's only a novella.  And it's self-published.

So...the doubt asks me, "Does that really count?"

And for a split second I wonder.

Did the dream really come true?

Am I actually an AUTHOR??

I look doubt squarely in the eyes.  And as soon as doubt blinks I calmly say, "Fuck You."

I AM an author. I AM published. I AM living proof that dreams do come true.

To be fair, though, there's a portion of the doubt that probably won't go away for a long time. I mean, it would be nice to click on the box set and see that someone had reviewed my novella.  I know that a lot of my friends purchased the set. And some have read my story and given me direct feedback. That makes it feel more real.

I still can't help wondering though, if I belong to the company of authors I find myself in. There's a part of me that thinks that at any moment, someone in the group is going to look at me and suddenly realize that I don't belong. And worse, they'd tell me so.

It's crazy how fast the blanket of what we commonly accept as the real world comes back in to swiftly smother the flames of the dream.  I find that just one week after, I have to be intentional about thoughts relating to the dream.  What's the next book? The next story? The next project?

What am I going to do to continually fulfill the dream of being an author?  I know I can do it. Having done it has proven that. But I have a feeling that it's one of those dreams that I have to keep living.  I have to constantly fulfill that dream.  Right now, the whole author dream is like a little creek running through my reality. I can see it there. I know it's there. I know what it took to make that creek. And I can stop and appreciate the running water.

With each thing I put out there, I'm looking at the water rise just a little bit.

One day, I envision a raging river, teeming at the banks.  The impending flood of the dream fully taking over and washing over everything I know.

THAT will be a glorious day.

As the waters carry me along, I can only imagine that there will be little room for doubt at that point.

And I can't frickin' wait!

Until then, stay tuned there are some fun new projects headed your way from SkaggleRock.

Peace,
Todd Skaggs, author.



5.01.2017

Marvin's Delivers After 26 Years

Admittedly, I should be inside cleaning my apartment. It needs it. The walls are angry with me, I can tell. There is that telltale clutter that perfectly illustrates genius bordering on insanity. Or at the very least, delusions of the creative genius.

I will get to the apartment later this evening.

But it's time to write now. I'm sitting at my little bistro set on what can barely be called a patio. It's 59 degrees and there is a nice autumn breeze. I know it's spring, but this breeze is definitely an autumn breeze.

Here's a bit of what it looks like at the moment.



Nice and cozy. It smells like it's going to rain soon, but I haven't checked the weather app yet to see. That would just put too much pressure on me to try to bang out some half-assed blog post before the clouds opened up. And by half-assed, I mean more half-assed than normal.

I feel like today is actually the end of an amazing week.  So many incredible things happened in the last 7 days that I still am not convinced they are real.

On April 25th, my debut novella, Shadow Initiate, appeared in the Midnight Magic urban fantasy box set. If you don't have it yet, you need to jump on that. After tomorrow it will only be available on Amazon and it will no longer be the pre-order/intro price of ninety-nine pennies.  But I digress.

Published Author.

That's what I became last Tuesday.   I could easily pen a dozen posts on dreams coming true and as many more on the people in my life who directly and indirectly led me here. And I probably will.

But not tonight.

Tonight is about Marvin's.

A lifetime ago, my freshman year in college was spent at a fine liberal arts college nestled in the god-fearing town of Greencastle, Indiana. I'm not sure why DePauw was on my list of schools to go to, but I got in.  I made a mess of the first half of my freshman year and then turned it around the second half.  The economy and lack of grants conspired against there being a second year at DePauw, but that's OK.  One was enough to experience Marvin's.

When I went to DePauw, Marvin's looked like this (I think...it was 26 years ago) :




 To be fair, I think the whole year I was there I only actually ate inside Marvin's one or three times.  It wasn't necessary, nor was it really encouraged. You see, because MARVIN'S DELIVERS!  In the dorms, at 130 in the morning after a long night of....studying...you get the munchies.  And Marvin's delivers. I had the number memorized.  And the order was almost always the same.  Usually though, you checked with your neighbors and friends in the dorm WHO WERE ALSO STUDYING LATE to see if they wanted anything from Marvin's.  And then you ordered. And you didn't have to go pick it up. Because after all of that intense STUDYING, you might not navigate the dark campus streets so well.

That was the thing. Marvin's Delivers.  There were pictures plastered all over the walls of DPU Alum with a big sign stating that MARVIN'S DELIVERS TO and then whatever exotic location all over the world they happened to be at.  It honestly rivals the OSU Alum doing the O-H-I-O everywhere. Trust me, I've attended both Universities. I know what I'm talking about.

We pulled in to the parking lot at Marvin's.  Wait...PARKING LOT? Yes. Parking Lot. From the outside, Marvin had all the markings of a respectable small town sports bar. We could see the many TVs broadcasting their testosterone fueled siren song through the open slatted blinds on the windows.

My fears were assuaged when we walked in. Immediately in the entrance-way we were greeted with walls filled with "Marvin's Delivers To..." pictures from around the world. And for the umpteenth time that week, my eyes filled with tears of joy.

A piece of my history that I didn't think I'd ever get a chance to revisit was wafting over me like the smell of well used fry grease.

The banner that I'm standing in front of was there, at the Marvin's of my DPU days.  Seeing myself in front of it, I briefly entertained the notion of dressing up as Marvin for Halloween, but only like 4 people would get it and 2 of them are out of state and wouldn't see it.


After convincing the young co-ed behind the counter that yes, we really did drive 4 hours from Columbus JUST for a GCB, we ordered. It was like no time had passed.

"GCB, Frank's Fries, extra cheese."

"You know Frank's Fries come with cheese sauce?"

"Oh...I know." I smiled the knowing smile of one who was going to use the extra cheese sauce to dip his GCB in.

"Right on." She said.  "Drink?"

I looked. They didn't serve Pepsi products anymore.  I couldn't order my liter of Dew.  That was the order. "GCB, Cheese Fries, Liter of Dew." I opted for a regular fountain drink (of which I made a suicide, so it was still like a trip back in time).

25 years ago this order was about $7. That night it was $12.57.  Plus the tank of gas, hotel, and other assorted road trip expenses. 

None of that mattered when they brought it to the table.


You will notice the receipt. This required special dispensation from the shift manager sitting behind us in the corner booth. No one at Marvin's is allowed to keep their receipt.  If a receipt is lost and recovered by a drunk college...er...a student who has been STUDYING all night, they can come up and claim they never got their food.   I had to promise not to leave it behind.

After toying with some of the fries for a bit, I dove in.
This look is not staged. It's the real deal. That is literally how happy I was. I had lost count this past week of how many times I was living in a moment that I never thought would happen.  Is having a GCB on the same scale as becoming a published author?  For me, in some ways, yes. What you see here, and it's a lesson I am reminded of over and again, is someone truly living in the moment. 

I am experiencing bliss and living in that moment.  If you asked me a year ago if I thought I'd ever have a GCB again, I'd tell you no.

But I did.

And it was every bit as amazing as I remembered.


And the sadness in the basket above at it being gone wasn't really sadness anymore. It was the knowledge that I had thoroughly enjoyed something as simple as a burger and cheese fries.

Marvin's Delivers to Westerville!

Peace,
-AT

4.25.2017

Waking Up In My Dream

The little doggy nails across the hardwood floor rousing me from my stupor.

Dog?

I don't have a dog.

What the?  Am I dreaming?

Dream.

Oh. Wait....

TODAY IS THE DAY!!!

April 25th, 2017 is the day that I became a published author.
I have a book. A novella, if you will.  It is one of 16 stories that are available in the Midnight Magic Urban Fantasy Box Set.

If you haven't ordered it yet or have no idea what I've been talking about, you should totally go check it out here:





I was asked to be in this set back in December. And to be honest at the time, I wasn't sure what I would even write about.   I had never written anything that could be considered "urban fantasy." I felt like I was completely out of my element.

Thing is..I had a dream.  A dream of being a published author.

And this was a way to make that dream come true. 

No one was going to hand me a publishing deal.
No one was going to rifle through my stacks of half-written manuscripts and say "Wow. this is something we want to publish, if you write it."

It's the "if you write it" bit that I focused on.

Nothing was going to happen with this dream if I didn't write. And re-write. And edit. And give it to people for feedback.  And re-write some more.

So I did. And now, 5 months later, I have a book.

And you can read it. 

And your Aunt Tilly from Poughkeepsie whom I have never met can read it (and she should, because I heard she really likes urban fantasy).

The thing with this set that's pretty amazing is that you're not just getting my book. You're getting work from 15 other authors. I'm am in some serious company that by all rights I really don't deserve to be in.   

It is a blessing to be a part of this set, with these amazing people.

I'm proud of the work I did for Midnight Magic.

I would really like for you to check it out.

After you do, if it's not too much trouble, can you leave a review on Amazon?  It doesn't even have to be about "Shadow Initiate." It can be about any of the other awesome stories in the set.

I am wafting in that realm where I've suddenly realized that my dreams have come true. I'm not going to lie.

It's an addiction. Now that I've crossed that line, I know that this is something I can do, because I did do it.

I wrote a book.

That book is published.

My friends, I am living the dream.

And you helped. Each one of you that reads this blog. Each one of you that gave me a word or seven of encouragement along the way. Each one of you that pre-ordered. Each of you that goes out and purchases the set today. Or tomorrow. Or next week.

I can't thank you enough. 

I don't know what's going to happen next, but I know this...I'm going to keep writing.
And now that I know that I can, I'm going to keep publishing.

Now I'm going to go to a little happy dance for a little while.

If you hear a very loud squee from Northern Ohio, it's probably just the sound of a writer getting his first book published.

-AT  



4.20.2017

In The Bag

There are a few common threads throughout this blog if you read it long enough. One of these threads has to do with my obsession...er...quest for the perfect bag. And if you couldn't see, I made the word perfect in that last sentence surrounded by air quotes. So, if you don't mind, when you read the word perfect in this post, can you go ahead and make the air quotes? Perfect.

The main debate with bags is backpack vs. messenger or shoulder bag. At least that's one of the main facets of the debate. To me, it's not really an issue. I have found my perfect laptop backpack. This is the bag that I take with me when I'm traveling for work. I can fit a crap-ton of things in it. There's pockets for days, a separate matching pouch for pens or AC Adapters, and an all-weather cover.  It's the Everki Titan, if you're wondering. It's a perfect little beast.

I have a separate smaller back pack (a Hurley that I got cashing in a gift card). This is the bag I use if I'm in the mood to carry a backpack, but want to carry the minimal kit.

As for messenger bags, I have found the perfect bag when I'm doing the full-on writer's kit. It's the STM Velo 2 (Medium) Messenger bag. It truly is a great bag.  It would honestly be just fine as a minimal bag, but the problem is (as with the Everki Titan), if I'm carrying a bag that has a larger capacity to carry lots of crap, then I want to put a lot of crap in said bag.  I could get the smaller Velo 2 for my minimal kit, but something about that seems weird. 

For now, the minimal kit is in a Swiss Gear from Target. Although that might change. I recently came in to a bag that is little nicer and might class the joint up a bit. So, we'll see how that works out. 

I guess I should specify what I mean by Full Kit versus Minimal Kit.

Full Kit is typically if I'm going to be away from home or in a situation where I might want to be creative with absolutely no clue what I want to do. It's stuff that I would normally have at home, but not necessarily in arm's length. I have to go out of my way to get some of this stuff when I'm home and want to be creative with it. 

The Minimal Kit is essentially a day bag. It's the shit I'd take writing out at Panera, etc. It's essentially identical to what  have in arm's reach when I'm writing at home. 

The kits break down a little bit like this with a bit of wiggle room in my choice of gear that would occupy each kit. 

Full Kit
  • STM Velo 2 (Medium) Messenger Bag:
  • Roterfaden Organizer
  • Storm Trooper Moleskine Journal (Writing Journal)
  • Pocket Journal (ideas, etc)
  • Fuckton of assorted pens
  • Macbook Air + A/C Adapter
  • (sometimes) Alphasmart NEO2
  • Fountain Pen Case
  • Papers (usually whatever I’m editing at the time)
  • Bottle Opener Carabiner clip
  • Carmax
  • Earbuds (BOSE are my faves and fit my ears the best with no fatigue)
  • PNY Battery pack/Apple Lightning Cable
  • “The Messiah’s Handbook” Richard Bach
  • “How to Love” Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “Zen and the Art of Writing” Ray Bradbury
  • Writer’s Emergency Deck
  • Story dice


Portable Field Recorder Kit (Could go in either bag depending on anticipated need, but normally kept in “full” kit)
  • Tenba Cable Duo 4 Cable Pouch:
  • Tascam DR-05
  • Table Tri-pod
  • Batteries
  • Memory Card
  • Apple Ear Buds



Minimalist Kit 
  • Bag Varies (Swiss Gear bag from Target; Jack 15" Laptop bag)
  • Roterfaden Organizer
  • Storm Trooper Moleskine Journal (Writing Journal)
  • Pocket Journal (ideas, etc)
  • Earbuds (BOSE are my faves and fit my ears the best with no fatigue)
  • Macbook Air + A/C Adapter
  • Fountain Pen Case
  • Papers (usually whatever I’m editing at the time)
  • Bottle Opener Carabiner clip
  • Carmax
  • Writer’s Emergency Deck



Now, let's be honest. I'm a writer.  All I truly need is a writing implement (such as a pen) and something on which to write.  And it's cute that you think that. 

And I get that. I don't need all of the crap in either bag. And that realization is something I've been working on. A carpenter can build a house with the most basic of tools, but they are going to have tools that work better. 

An illustrator could make a masterpiece with a charcoal briquette, but they would produce better work with the pencils and tools they are used to.

That's what part of it is, comfort. Sometimes I carry the full kit because I don't want to be out somewhere with the intent of being creative and thinking 'Wow....this would be so much more productive if I had X or Y.'  There's enough doubt some days without sabotaging myself by thinking I left the right tool at home and that the creative time is wasted.

The minimal kit still sounds like a lot. It's not. But it is exactly the right kit to allow me to work on anything that I currently have in progress as well as start an idea completely from scratch. 

I think I'll be doing the minimal kit for a while. If I find there's something I wish I would have had on multiple writing field trips, I'll look at adding it to the kit. 

I'm not sure that any of this was actually even remotely interesting, but it's on my mind. And this blog is a place for my mind to offload thing. Maybe I'll get ambitious and do a video for one of these posts coming up. 

Do you have a favorite bag? Do you break out what kinds of things you're going to take based on where or what you're working on?  

Drop me a line and let me know!


Until then, have a most perfect afternoon!!  OH...WAIT!!

You might know, I have a book coming out as part of the Midnight Magic box set. If  you haven't ordered it yet, could you help a fella out?

Here's the link to pre-order: https://books.pronoun.com/midnight-magic/  Thanks!!

Perfect!

-AT

4.16.2017

The Danger When Dreams Come True

FAIR WARNING: This is going to be another blog post containing some musings about dreams that I probably have no business posting.  If you're cool with that, read on. If you're not, that's fine too. I'm still going to write it.

You may have noticed that I'm on a "dreams actually do come true" kick lately. I understand that you might be sick of reading about it. Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal to you or maybe I'm blowing this whole thing out of proportion. After all, it is only a novella. It's not like a real book or anything, right?

Wrong.

Well, I mean yes. It is a novella, not a full-length novel. But it is my novella. And it's being published on Amazon (and Google Play, and iBooks, and Barnes and Noble, and Kobo).

There are a dozen things you could say to minimize this moment. But why would you?  Seriously. Why would you minimize the joy someone feels for making a dream come true?

This has been on my mind lately. It's really the dark side of dreams.  But I see it all around. Not really for this. Everyone that is close to me has been super supportive of this happening. And in truth, the only one really trying to steal some of the amazingness of the moment is my own stupid doubt. Not to worry, he's currently in a food coma from Easter dinner.

Look around you, though. When someone is having success. When they are making their dreams come true. There is always someone that will minimize the moment.

Why?

Well...I can't speak to the other people that do it, but I've been giving it some thought in my own life as it pertains to being 9 days away from being a published author.

It comes down to one thing.  Accountability.

Before I wrap that in to this current life situation, let's take a trip back to 1989.
A junior in high school gets his first guitar. He's been hanging around other musicians and somehow thinks he will eventually be a rock star someday.  He's really kind of a mediocre musician at best, but he hangs around with amazing musicians hoping something will rub off. This cat is pretty good with penning lyrics, but singing and playing an instrument isn't really his gig. I'm passable on guitar. I mean he is passable on guitar, but nothing stellar.  Still, he considers himself a lyricist and poet. And even had a brief rap career (highlighted by a performance at a high school pep rally).

In college, he still fooled around with guitar. He was in a band, but always thought if he made the big time, he would really just be along for the ride, and not actually a direct contributor to the band's fame.

Did he dream of playing to sold out auditoriums? Hell yes he did. After playing shitty campus dives, the drug of playing in front of an audience was in his system. It probably still is.

It's terrifying and electrifying all at the same time.

Fast forward to 2008.

This same cat (OK, it's me). I won a contest. A chance to go to Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp (look at blog posts from August 2008 to get the full story).

So...I had a dream of being a rock star. And for 6 days, I was. I was a rock star. Tour bus, chauffeur picking me up from the air port, hotels, personal guitar techs.  The whole nine yards. For 6 days I was a rock star.

Dream come true, right?

Wrong.

It was an opportunity of a lifetime. But as for a dream coming true, I wouldn't put it in the same bucket.

The dream of being a rock star was not the same kind of dream as the dream of being a writer/author/inspiration to someone else.

There are two main differences. Technically they were both dreams coming true in the strictest sense (which really just leaves astronaut at this point), but it was how they came true that makes all the difference in the world.

The two things...well, and a third thing that may or may not be a subset, anyway. The three things crucial (at least in my twisted mind) to having it really count as a dream come true are:

  • Work
  • Risk/Ownership
  • Accountability
So...the rock star dream really kind of failed on all three fronts.  I didn't work for it. I entered a contest. The 'dream' came true because someone pulled my name out of a hat. This is the main reason that it really was merely a wonderful opportunity, but not a dream come true. Also...I didn't take any risk. Again, random chance pulled my name. And because of this, I don't have the belief that I could replicate it.  Based on where I am in my life, and my musical skill/talent (or lack thereof), there is figuratively (and more than a little bit literally) no way I would ever find myself in a band with Dave Ellefson, Gilby Clarke, or Glenn Hughes and playing sold out shows in Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Francisco, or L.A.   It's a Rock and Roll Fantasy. 

And it was fun for a week.

Contrast that to the writing thing.

I have been writing all my life. Writing for school, writing for fun, writing to try and impress girls...you name it. Writing is at the core of who I am. It is as entwined with my identity as those wild eyebrows that I occasionally have to trim so I don't look like the Geico cavemen.

Yes, I am friends with the person putting together the box set coming out on April 25th. And  yes, she asked me to participate.  Was it a random drawing? No. At least I don't think so. Was it someone further along in their writing career and giving an unknown a chance to break in to the industry? You bet your ass it was.

But at that point, it was on me.

I had to create the story. And it was in a genre I had never written in, I might add. So...I had some work to do.  

I did the work. Oddly enough, it really wasn't like any of the ways that people romanticize authors. Except maybe the writing in my underwear. For some reason rolling right out of bed, grabbing an energy drink on the way to keyboard and writing before my brain had the chance to talk me out of it worked out quite well.

I am taking the risk. There is a HUGE fear that everyone that reads this story will hate it and that the 7 people that Beta Read it for me are just being nice because they like me as a person.  But I'm putting it out there anyway. I like the story. I'm taking ownership of it. Like it or not, it's my story. And on April 25th, it's in your hands.

And now for the shittiest part of a dream come true. I mean when a dream truly comes to fruition.

When a dream comes true, it is no longer a dream.

I'll let that sink in for a moment. I know it sounds like an obvious thing, but you should read the sentence again.  It goes deeper than you think, says the philosophy major.

You see, dreams are these amazing ethereal things. Goals that we day dream about when our boss is bitching about his TPS report. 

"Someday I'm going to get my poem/story/novella/novel/screenplay published and I'll be a real writer. Someday I'll be able to make a living with my writing, TPS reports be damned!"

And that's cool.

Until the dream comes true.  

Once the dream comes true, it is no longer the dream. It is no longer the pie in the sky imaginary cure-all.

Once the dream comes true, it becomes part of your reality. It may not be part of someone else's reality, but it's part of yours.

On April 25th, 2017 I will be a published author. Prior to that date, the only way you could read my 'works' was on this blog, or if I had sent you something to read. Or, if you were part of one of the writing groups in which I shared my work.

After the 25th, though, all of that changes.  People that don't know me from boo will read my work. They'll love it, hate it, or not give two shits about it. And it will all be out of my hands. 

When that happens, I have no choice but to face the reality of the situation.  I will be a published author. And dreams come true. It will no longer be a dream for me. It will be a reality. I'm accountable at that point. 

I know that this novella isn't going to be the story that allows me to be a full-time writer. But it is the first step of many that will lead to that goal.  

The bitch of it is, as amazing as it is...that dream can only come true once.  And when it happens, all of the other dreams related to writing are also no longer dreams. At least not in the sense they are now.

I have a dream of being a published author, having complete strangers read and (hopefully) be moved by my words.

I have a dream of being a best-selling author. Both nationally and internationally.

I have a dream of inspiring others to be creative and find their passion (as I have found mine).

And some of the ancillary dreams that go along with it...book signings...having someone come up to me and tell me I'm their favorite author, or that my book(s) changed their life in some small or not so small way.

But you see....all of those start with the dream of becoming a published author.

And that comes true in nine days. 

Therefore by proxy, the rest of them actually cease to be dreams in 9 days. At that point they become goals.  They become these real things that are now tangible things that could happen in my life. Because I've already proven that dreams can come true.

If I want to make those goals come true, I will have to work. I will have to take risks. I will have to take ownership of my works. And I will have to be accountable. There is no contest I can enter that will make me an international best-selling author.  

The only thing that will get me there is writing.

And I'll do that.

Because I'm a writer.

And as addicting as it was to play on stage in front of hundreds of people at a sold out concert at the Fillmore East in San Francisco, it was infinitely more amazing being able to fill out my Author Profile page on Amazon and being able to put my name in the search box and find the box set that my novella is a part of.

When dreams come true, we can either be content or hungry. If you're hungry, then you realize that the only difference between a dream and reality is the amount of work you're willing to put in to making it come true. Dreaming takes zero effort. Making the dream a reality takes more work than you think possible at times. But it's possible. I know that now. Because in 9 days one of my dreams comes true.

And if one dream comes true, it stands to reason that they can all come true.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some more work to do.

Peace,
-AT


4.09.2017

A Dialog With The Universe

I am no longer a man of religion. I may be again one day, but for now I observe a healthy distance from most things that would fall in to the bucket of religion, or rather 'organized religion.'  My reasons for this are the topic for another blog post and are neither here nor there today.

Nor am I man fully of science. I recognize the role of science in this world, but I recognize there are things beyond the cold formulas and precise calculations that reduce the universe to a series of equations.

Rather, I am somewhere between. I would call it spiritually optimistic. I believe and hope that there are things in this universe, these universes, beyond what both science and religion can explain.  Maybe magic is a word that fits.  Those of a purely religious bent might consider this magic to either be the work of God or the work of Satan.  While those on the science track would say that it is a thing that has a logical explanation, we just have yet to determine what that is.

Maybe they are both wrong. Maybe they are both right.  The beauty and built in catch-all for religion is that the system is set up so that someone always knows more than you. Ultimately ending with God working in his mysterious ways. And the beauty and built in catch all of science is that there always has to be an explanation and if there isn't, confirmation bias explains away most of the universe's mysteries.

I'm not here to dump on either one of them today. If you fall in to either of those buckets, good on you. You do what you need to do to make it through the day. You do your thing and I'll do mine. I'd appreciate the same courtesy, though, of you not dumping on mine.

Here's a post I put on Facebook 14 hours ago, after what I can only describe as a life-changing day.

I am sitting in my silent apartment in awe of the waves of gratitude washing over me.

Today the Universe ushered me over to the curtain and waved its hand in a Vanna White-esque motion. It said, "This is what you think is happening in your life."

Looking around to make so no one was watching and that I was fully engaged, the Universe motioned for me to come closer.

Pulling back the curtain, it said, "This is what it means."

It was beautiful. I was part of something amazing and beautiful.

And my soul hasn't stopped weeping with joy and gratitude since.

That was at 5:47pm.


Today.

Was it a religious epiphany or a deep thought of neurons and synapses firing in a way they had not previously fired?

Who knows?

That's not really the point. The point is, for me, it was a moment of clarity.  The immediate thread that led to this started two weeks ago with a text from a friend. The gist of the text was, "What are you doing on the 8th? Because I'm kidnapping you. Be ready at 7AM. And bring stuff to take notes."

Cryptic, but not nearly as surprising as it might seem, given the source. I didn't question it. I had no doubts about it.

In short, I was open to whatever this event was.  And that has been the key. I realize now, that the openness has been the key all along.  The place I am in my life now, at this moment, is due in large part to me being open to what the Universe was giving me.

Fast Forward to yesterday. At 7:12AM I get the text, "Here." Heading out with my cooler, food bag (I was in charge of road snacks for the kidnapping as it was a three-hour trip one way), and my writing bag, I got in the back seat and settled in. Anxious and excited to see where the day would lead. I knew it was going to be a day of learning and awesomeness. This was confirmed by the next sentence spoken to me. "That's your mocha there, and here's a breakfast sandwich."

Seems like a little thing, but it speaks to the thoughtfulness of my co-kidnappers. There is a small list of people that I would consider to be directly responsible for where I am as a writer (and a human) today. And two of those people were in the car. Kidnapping me to an event that would, again, improve my skills as a writer.

About an hour in to the journey, My face was hurting from smiling so much. I was listening to the two front-seaters sing a surprising amount of show tunes (the driver controls the play list). It was a good start to a great day.

Now, if you know me at all, you know that an hour is a long time for me to go without creating any sort of mischief. So, I pulled out a notebook and a Sharpie and made a note for passing cars. I mean, that's what you're supposed to do when you're being kidnapped, right?

My kidnappers never saw the note, but I'm sure this isn't what they expected it to say.

I'm not sure how many drivers on 71-Southbound saw this yesterday, but I hope those that did smiled.

The rest of the drive was fairly on point with a standard road trip (that was anything but) with three great friends. I found out where we were going thanks to the joys of social media, but it didn't matter. I was still as excited. Since I had already done my make-up and hair before being picked up (as I was the last), we switched seats so Monica and Carma could do theirs, not that either of them needed it.

Which meant the play list changed to DJ AM and his amazing "12 Days of Mixmas" set on Power 106 (RIP AM).

We got to Transylvania University (no joke) with minutes to spare and found a parking space and headed up to the workshop.

So...even without the workshop the day would have been amazing. Let me just put that out there. A road trip with two kick ass friends, lunch at Five Guys, and thrifting, Half-Price-Booking, and a frantic search for a wallet all make for an incredible Saturday.

But the workshop. OH MY GOODNESS, YO!

It was on Dialog (beyond He said, She said) with international Bestselling author, Tiffany Reisz.  

AND IT WAS AMAZING.

I took 7 pages of notes and mentally found myself going back through my stories and realizing ways to make them stronger.  Moving forward, I expect my dialog to kick ass after the lessons I learned.

The big take-away (one of the biggies, anyway) was that dialog should only be used for two reasons.
  1. To move the plot forward.
  2. To give us insight in to the character (character development)
That's it. And the third use (a.k.a. the exception to the above two) is if it gets a laugh.

I learned that the only dialog tag you need is 'said.'  If it's good enough for Elmore Leonard (who said that said is the only dialog tag you need), it's good enough for me.  Now, that doesn't mean I won't use others, because I'm not quite to Elmore Leonard's level yet, but still-it's a goal.

I also learned to not make Harrison Ford sad. Some things you can type, but you can't say.

By the end of the 90-minutes, my head was swimming, but I knew that I had tools to make my writing even stronger. To further my goal of becoming an international bestselling author.

In short, to making my dreams come true.

And I realized as I was sitting there that this was another milestone. This day was another moment that I would look back on and know that it was a key component in living my dream.

I looked at the two people that I was spending the day with and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were two of the three people that were directly responsible for where I am today in my writing. No. Not just in my writing, in my life.

I won't bore you with each of those milestones, and I won't embarrass them by mentioning every single thing each of them did to help build the author you see before you (because I can list, in detail, every single moment..the clarity is somewhat disturbing in an awesome way), but suffice to say that it is with no sense of hyperbole that I say that I would not even be close to where I am without these three people, two of whom I spent an amazing 12 hours with  yesterday.

So, back to the Universe smiling at me.

On the way home, I was driving as I was really too amped up to sit still in the back seat (and largely because both Monica and Carma had been up since the ass-crack O'dawn).  

And I started smiling. Carma asked me why. So I let the waves of gratitude wash over me. And I told them both, live and in Technicolor, why I loved each of them and how much they meant to me and how I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would not even be close to the writer, author, and person that I am today if they were not in my life.

And then I apologized. Because I told them that I was in no way, shape, or form done with leaning on them.

Monica said,"Good. I'm sure Stephen King has people that he leans on."  Of all the authors she could have picked, she picked one of the ones that I have looked to from an early age.

You see, when the Universe puts these amazing people in your life that get you, it delights in reminding you so. Maybe just to see if you're paying attention.

There's probably a bible verse or a scientific theorem to explain that kind of thing. 

But to me there's only one word for it.

Magic.


Have a wonderful day my friends, and don't be afraid to open yourself up to the magic all around you.
-AT



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