10.31.2017

Of Newsletters and NaNo

Tomorrow it begins.

National Novel Writing Month. The month that seems to be much like the Olympics for published and non-published writers alike. Regardless of the thousands competing world-wide, the field of competition is actually two: You and Your words.

I shall be competing for the third year in a row. The first year, I stalled at 25K words. Last year I finished six-thousand words over the 50K word goal.

This year I set my personal goal at 75K. Seventy-Five Thousand words. I don't know that my actual book will be that long that I have plotted out. There's a strong chance that I will write the book I planned on writing for NaNo and then move on to writing the second book in the Shadow Initiate series.

Several of my friends are asking me when I will finish The Treachery of Rainbows, so I may shift gears as I know that piece needs some serious re-work, too.  And, side note, to all of my author friends. I promise to try never again to ask you when a book is coming out. After the "strong words of encouragement" I got from some close friends about the lack of movement on Treachery, I get it.

I'm going to apologize in advance for my absence in the next 30 days. I really do want to hit this goal. So, I know that you're all cheering me on, because I have it in my head that you're anxiously awaiting my next book (whether that's the case or not. Shhh...don't spoil the fantasy).

And speaking of awesome news, exclusive story content, and behind the scenes looks at this journey to live my dreams, have you signed up for my newsletter yet?

If you haven't, you totally should.  Just fill in the information below. I use MailChimp for now, so you'll be taken to their page and probably get a confirmation email.

It's cool. I'll wait here.

Subscribe Now to My Twisted Zen

* indicates required

Cool? Cool.

So, Todd, what the heck can we expect, and are you going to spam us with bullshit/?

For the spamming part of the question, no.  I'm not going to spam you. For the most part, you will receive the news letter once a month. It will be a pleasant peek inside the mind of yours truly. I know that sounds like what this blog is, but in addition to that you will also get some exclusive content that isn't posted anywhere else. Character sketches, short stories, extra chapters, deleted scenes.  Think of it like the extras disk in that blue ray pack you got.  And if you don't dig it, you can always unsubscribe. No harm no foul. We'll still be best buds. I promise.

OH...and...in addition to the regular newsletters, I will also be sending out special announcements (like if there's a new book coming out or other awesome projects I'm part of). Those won't be too hot and heavy, but they are part and parcel with the newsletter.

Just think of it this way, you don't have to bother with that pesky Facebook or remembering the check the ole bloggy blog for news of your soon to be favorite author. No, not Stephen King-although good choice. I meant me. Sigh. Ok.

I really need to get back to work. I have a busy month ahead.

And you should know one thing. I don't know when you come here to read this, but I do draw support knowing that you do. I love living out my creativity and I hope in some small way that inspires you to be creative, too.

Hang tight, I've just heard from the tower and we are cleared for takeoff.

See you soon!
Todd

10.23.2017

The 10th Annual Typewriter Meetup



I'm tired. I'm not going to lie. My body is doing that thing where, after a short period (48-72hours) of intense emotions and peopling, it wants to just shut down and recharge. I tried to let it last night. I figured out that I had enough laundry that I wouldn't need to spend any time last night working on the whole clothes in the washer-clothes in the dryer-clothes get put away thing.

It's a little over 12 hours since I got home from the Chestnut Ridge Antique Typewriter Museum Annual Meet-up, affectionately known by all who attend as "Herman's."

Once a year, Herman Price, who has probably one of the single largest collection of antique typewriters, opens his home to us crazy weirdos who still love typewriters (or just discovered or re-discovered their love for the machines) to come together for a weekend of presentations, swapping/buying/selling typers, and of course, making memories with people who are part of this tribe.

Last year I was on shaky footing and didn't feel like I fit in. I came home with one typewriter last year. This year I came home with five. And I came home with some awesome memories.


The Machines
All are good machines and good to type on. Also, all are considered 'portable.' A term which may changed over the years


  • Underwood-Olivetti Lettera 22; late 50's model
I have been wanting a Lettera 22 for a while now. Pretty much since I knew that's what Leonard Cohen wrote on. I know it sounds silly, but there are worse reasons to covet a particular model. I really wanted an olive green one, but this blue one fell in my lap for a price I couldn't walk away from. When I got it home to type on, somehow it didn't feel quite like I thought it would. I know that it needs a little cleaning and a new ribbon. Once it's up to speed, I might feel a little differently toward it. In short, I know it has something to tell me. I just need to let it speak when its ready. 
  • Hermes Rocket; 1956
This is the second Hermes Rocket in my collection. I love the design and feel of the Rocket.  This guy needs to be cleaned. There's a slight issue with the ribbon holder that I need to look into as well. I may be cleaning/fixing this little guy and helping him find a new home. I don't know that I need two Rockets just now. We'll see how this plays out. 
  • Sears Chieftain (a.k.a. Smith-Corona Sky-riter); 1950's
This little guy is light and smooth and will drop easily into a laptop bag. He needs cleaning and a new ribbon and then I'll figure out where I stand on him.
  • Olympia SM3; 1954
I fell in to this little beauty because no one bid on her during the silent auction. I have to admit. Out of the typers that I picked up today, she is by far my favorite. The heavy think ka-chunk and the pistol sharp report when the striker hits the paper is just...well, it's what I typerwriter always sounded like in my head. In short, a new ribbon on her and she's poised to become my favorite machine. 
  • Olympia SM3 Deluxe; early 1950's
This beauty was a steal at $26. I picked her up at an Antique Mall on the way to Herman's. Monica said that I would be a fool not to pick up the 'Cadillac of typewriters' at the price they were asking. So, I did. And after I got her home last night, I see that my choice was justified. I'm not sure what's different yet between the 3 and the 3 Deluxe, but I will be putting a fresh ribbon on her too and taking great delight in finding out.


The Memories
It was fun to have quite a few people on Friday night tell me how much fun I was going to have at Herman's. As though it were my first year. These are people that I talked to last year. But last year, I didn't really go out of my way to interact.  I just mostly hung around Monica and was 'Monica's friend' when people saw me. I was a bit shy and didn't want to be the guy asking stupid questions. 

This year was different. This year I was Todd. I made memories and after a year of talking to many of the participant's online in the Facebook group, I was fully ready to engage and enjoy myself. 

It was a wholly different experience. Last year was great, don't get me wrong, but this year was moreso. It was definitely an enhanced experience full of some truly magical moments. 

There are so many things that I got to be a part of this year from being in this tribe that merit their own posts. One was being asked to take a Vari-typer that is part of a special collection and project. That whole thing will get its own post. As will the experience of getting a private screening of the movie California Typewriter. Talk about a religious experience!

Yes. I am tired. Yes. I wanted to sleep in one more hour this morning.

But I am a dreamer. And a writer. And my dream is that  you're sitting here reading this and thinking, "damn-I want to get in on some of that typewriter love!"

To  which I say, "See you at Herman's!"


-AT


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

Stuck

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