10.05.2018

Lights, Camera...Wait...You're Fogging Up the Lens. Dammit Heath!

Greetings from SkaggleRock and the Gallifrey Annex. It's almost Fall. Well, technically it is Fall, but it's almost that magical 3 weeks in Ohio where it actually feels like Fall and the weather behaves the way it's supposed to in the autumn.

Gallifrey Annex
I'd  like to tell you all a story.

The year was 2016...maybe it was 2015. The only "romance" novels I'd read besides the hastily stowed away copies of Judy Blume (because, you know, they were 'girl's books'), was an excerpt of "Fear of Flying" by Erica Jong that I found in the back of an issue of Cosmo. Needless to say, I only really read it for the naughty bits.

And then I met Monica Corwin. She was a romance writer. Prolific as heck, and further along in her writing career than I could have dreamt of being. I didn't know it at the time, but this author and amazing woman would become my best friend.

Having said that, you may think that what I'm about to tell you is just the rantings of a dude wanting his bestie to make good. And that's partially true.

Here's the thing, though.

Her books are amazing. She has had a mission since the day I've met her--To make Romance accessible to everyone.

And, I'd have to say, she's done it. I've read a good chunk of her books and I have to say, it's the story that keeps me coming back. Sure, I buy the books to support my friend. That's a given.

But here's the key...I read the books because I love the stories and the way she tells them.

And I'm pretty sure you will too.

All of that just to say that Monica has a new book coming out. It's another in her line of Twisted Classics.

This time it's Wuthering Heights that gets Corwin'd.

If you think you know Hollywood or Wuthering Heights, I can tell you right now, you don't.

Check it.


Heath was never my brother. 

Nor my step brother, or any other relation our family tried to impose on us.

He was always just Heath, and at the end he was my Heath. Ten years ago he disappeared, and within three years of his absence he’d taken over Hollywood.

The world my father built.

The world he wasn’t good enough for.

The world he’d been denied when he was told he couldn’t have me.

Now he’s back, and he only wants one thing…to take it all.

Even me.

Hollywood King is Wuthering Heights crashed into the glitz and glam of Hollywood Royalty. A stand alone book with the happily ever after you always wanted for Cathy and Heathcliff.




Wow.
Was that hot or what? I can assure that it's really only a hint of the heat that is in this book. But the heat is like a fine salsa. Sure, it's hot, but not so hot that you can't taste and savor the flavor.

Seriously. I can't wait for that. And if you are like me and you want to get in on this world now, you can check out the first three chapters on the Radish app.

Oh. you might have been wondering what was fogging up the lens.

It's a special cover reveal for the book. There's only a handful of us that get to show you this cover before the book comes out. You may want to have a cold glass of water handy.





I know. It's sexy. If you click through to Monica's website, you can sign up for her newsletter--don't worry, she's one of the good ones that won't spam you. AND...you can get another story set in the Hollywood Kings world before the book comes out. 

Alright SkaggleRockers (look I'm still working on a name here for when there's actually a group of people all in one place that are fans of my books, help a fella out), I know I've given you a lot to take in. It's OK. No, really. Go ahead and get that second glass of cold water. Cold shower? Uh..sure. Might want to leave your electronics on the bed, though. They don't play well with water. 

Have an Awesomesauce weekend, and if you see Monica (or even Heath), tell'em Todd said 'hi'!

Peace,
-A.T.

9.08.2018

The Theater of Semantics

The house lights are down. The audience an invisible mass gathered with a low jumbled murmuring sit restless, somewhere out there in a cloud of black nothingness. A lone, bare bulb hangs down, center stage, trying to cast light somewhere. Anywhere. A slight electrical pulse, a heartbeat of electrons, visible to anyone who might be casting their eyes its direction, the only evidence that the bulb is succeeding in its life purpose.

A lone figure comes out. He heads toward the microphone stand, taking care not to trip on the cable going from the stand to some magic port off-stage. His steps are cautious, but fueled by a purpose. It is a purpose he has either just learned, or just remembered. Having forgotten since the days before he was born. His movements are slow, deliberate, some would say timid. The shyness is not all his. He doesn't want to spook anyone that might be in the audience. Be they eight or eight-thousand.

A finger comes up. The mic is tapped. One time. Two times. The third time is three rapid taps. A loud thumping heartbeat reverberates through the theater. Bump. Bump-bump. Bump-Bump-bump. Followed by a high, piercing tone cut short by gruff throaty hrrmrumph.

"Good evening. Uh. Hello... Is this thing on?"


I can't believe it's been over a month since I blogged. Why didn't anyone tell me it had been that long? Did you guys stop loving me? Did you even miss me?

I jest.

I don't have a good reason for not posting anything in August, I really don't. I could say that lunch breaks were spent working on 18 Clocks which is true. I could say that I've been busy unpacking yes still and adjusting to life with a roommate which, while true is kind of a cop-out. There's very little adjusting needed, my roommate is one of the few people I think I could live with and not actually go nuts. So, there's that. 

Truth is, I just haven't made the time like I used to for the bloggy blog, but I realized this week that I need to. This is a good outlet for me to just get some things off my chest and just clear some cobwebs.

I know there's a great deal I could go off about right now. From the antics of our current tenant in the White House, to the stuff going on with Nike, to any of a dozen things that people are getting shitty with each other over on Social Media.

First though, a moment of silence for Burt Reynolds.

...

Smokey and the Bandit is one of my favorite movies. Always has been.  And other than a 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge, the Trans Am that's in Smokey and the Bandit is really the only other Pontiac I've ever wanted. There is a scene in an episode of My Name Is Earl where Jason Lee and his brother have their moment of nirvana by getting to drive the Bandit's car. I get that. I totally get that.

So, the topic at hand...what shall we talk about? OH, right. Semantics. The way in which something is said and interpreted. It's not an exact science. Well, maybe it is. But it's not one I ever really took. I just like fucking with people sometimes by taking exactly what they said literally. It messes with some people, but to be fair-sometimes people need to be more clear when they ask or declare things.

Case in point, if you have spent more than fifteen seconds scrolling on your bookface wall these past two weeks, you've no doubt seen something like the following:

Can you answer this? There are 5 people in a room, you go in and kill 4 of those 5, how many people actually remain in that room. Comment with your answer and I will inbox you if you're right or wrong. If you're wrong, you have to repost it with the name of the person to whom you lost.

Now,  my response to this on a friend's post (after having passed by it so many times on others') was to comment to the post by simply saying "your answer."

I was inboxed with the reply that I was wrong. And what they thought the answer was. I was then instructed to post it on my wall and see how many other people I could 'get.'  That's dumb. I'm not doing that.

What I am going to do, though, is point out that the 'right' answer really depends on which part of the paragraph you're dealing with.

Let's break it down.

Can you answer this?  Yes, yes I can answer this.  <--this answer.="" bullshit.="" by="" is="" p="" right="" the="" way="">
There are 5 people in a room, you go in and kill 4 of those 5, how many people actually remain in the room. Typo, or intentional admission of a question-mark aside, this is the part of the post that most people get wrapped up in.

So, breaking it down. 5 people are in a room. I walk in. That makes 6 people as of the time I walk in. The question is how many people remain in that room (presumably after I kill 4 of the 5 that were in there).

Barring any motivation for walking into a room and killing 4 people, I have some questions. First, seriously, what was my motivation? Why only 4? Were you burned with acid or something? No, ok. Here's the thing.

Right. Semantics.

At the point in time I walk into the room, there are 6 people in that room. Your possible answers to how many remain after my random killing spree are as follows:


  • 6 People.  Presumably the 5th person I didn't shoot is just chilling there with me and 4 dead bodies.
  • 5 People. The person I didn't shoot bugged the hell out, but I'm still there just lording over my handiwork. 
  • Also 5 people. The person I didn't shoot is still there, but I bugged out, because witnesses, dontchaknow.
  • 4 People.   The 5th person I didn't kill bugs out. And I decide to leave, too. I mean, after all, I just killed 4 people for no reason and a witness got away, leaving the 4 dead people in the room. 
  • 2 People. Me and the 5th person I didn't kill. One could argue that since four people are dead, they are no longer people, but instead are bodies. Anything that made them a person, ended when I took their life.
  • 1 Person. Me. Assuming the 5th person bugged out, and the 4 dead people aren't people (for the reason mentioned just above), I would be the only person in the room. I would assume since I was crazy enough to kill 4 people for no reason and leave a witness alive, that I might want to chill among my artwork for a while. 
  • Also 1 Person. The 5th person. This scenario also plays on the dead not being people, but presumes that I would have bugged out leaving the 5th person with therapy bills and survivor's guilt. 
  • 0 People. Again assuming the dead are longer people, this answer assumes that the 5th person and I went off to have drinks and toast to the fact that those 4 assholes are no longer in our lives. And also to work on our alibi. 
So which answer is actually right? 

All of them. That's the joy of Semantics. Depending on your focus, you can make any of the above answers work. 

Except the bullshit "yes" answer. That's cheap. Of course we can answer the question. To me that's just the lowest form of bait and switch smart-assery. It's almost as bad as the bullshit "Your Answer" that I left in the comments.

Technically I followed instructions. It says "Leave a comment with your answer."  My comment was "your answer." Boom. Done. 

I did that because deep down, I knew there was a trick. But, you can do what you want. You can play the game. If you've paid attention you know the "right" answer that this post is looking for. And you also have several other answers and the justifications for why you chose those answer. 

Now, I am not normally an argumentative person OK, that's a lie, but you can do whatever you want, or come up with your own answer for why your friends are full of shit and randomly accusing you of walking into rooms and killing 4 people. It's all on you, man. As my bestie says, you do you.  

The funny thing about this, is that it's really just a small reflection on life. The kind of life that creeps up on us every day. 

First off...no one has the right answer. Everything that is thrown our way is responded to based on the item we are choosing to focus on. Secret sauce time? So is everybody else's. And the likelihood that you and another person are focusing on the exact same thing in a given scenario, identical though they are, is astronomical. 

Secondly, most of the time, the questions in life are poorly worded and for the most part, bullshit anyway. 

How about this?

How about maybe you cut other people some slack?

And how about maybe you cut yourself some, too?

Oh, and if you happen to walk into a room and I'm in there with 4 other people, how about maybe you don't kill anyone?  That would be awesome.




The last words hang thick in the air. The audience is still a faceless cloud of nothing beyond his field of vision, only making its presence known with a laugh here, a gasp there. 

The echo of his final thought, verbalized, finds its way into to the darkest oldest crevice of the theater. Waiting to be the stuff of a recounted memory years down the line. 

The anticipation battles the heavy silence for his last breath. 

Then a clap.

Then two.

Then seven. 

Then a roll as the claps swell and roll to the stage. Crashing over in thunderous applause.

He sets the microphone back in the clip. A hand shoots up in a meek wave. Gratitude that they didn't boo him off the stage, and a seed of hope that maybe one person out there got it. Got him. 

"Thank you." 

Exit, stage right. 

7.24.2018

Collision Insurance

"Listen to Tommy with a candle burning and you will see your entire future."

Almost Famous is on right now. My bestie is in the kitchen heating an IKEA cinnamon roll.

"It's all happening"

I'm going to put a cork in the cerebral spew that's about to happen at any second (likely with the next Crown and Coke). But the cork for now is because between sentences I am watching a movie that hits both nerves with me...writing and music. Something about this movie hits me in the feels every time. Even more so after the 6 days on the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp tour in 2008.  Holy shit. That was almost 10 years ago.

What's up, Columbus? What's up, Internets?

I feel like there is a muscle that I have used...and was getting pretty good and comfortable using it, and then I stopped using it for a while. And now I'm using it again. Or trying to. Try. That's a fucked up word. But the writing. That's thing. And it feels fucking amazing.

No, my johnson is not the muscle I'm talking about. The pen is.

The last four months have been amazing. Amazing is the crazy word I'm choosing.

I have moved. I moved from the iTapt. The zone I was in after the second marriage ended. Then the iTapt evolved into SkaggleRock. I'm sure I had a post about that. Or a blog post. Or at least I thought I did. You should have read it. It sounded great it my mind, I didn't actually post it.

It's happening.

It's all happening.

Did I mention the brainspewing? That's also happening.

And now, on my bucket list (since I can no longer meet Lester Bangs OR Phillip Seymour Hoffman), I have added Party with real people in Topeka, KS to the bucket list.

I have to get this soundtrack on vinyl.

I think that's the underlying current of my life. Like, you...well maybe not necessarily you, but definitely you. You're in my life. And I feel like you're vibing on the soundtrack. Which is cool, because I am too. But I have to tell you this.  And I tell you this in all seriousness.

The soundtrack sounds so much fucking better on vinyl.

It's all happening.

I'm listening to the author of a book read the book to me on Audible. The book is Unfu*k Yourself  by Gary John Bishop. And I'm about halfway through it.  It's kicking me right between the eyes. It's some serious shakabuku shit happening. So, that along with the fact that I'm exhausted from hoisting boxes all weekend is putting me in a place of weirdness. More than normal weirdness for me.

I love this movie.

Sure, Almost Famous,  but also this movie I'm living. I have for many months now felt that I have just been around the corner from some really awesome shit for some time now. Books to be written. Things to be crossed off my bucket list. A life to be lived. How many of us are sitting around waiting for 'life' to happen without realizing that it happens when we stop waiting?

I couldn't have predicted what this piece would look like. It's barely a piece, to be honest. But it's writing. It's words. It's happening.

I find myself starting the words to a new chapter. There are still boxes to be unpacked. Words to be written. A life to be lived.

I have to say it's pretty awesome to be in this chapter.

Word by word.

Hope you'll hang around to read what comes next.

Shit...

I have some writing to do.

-AT

7.01.2018

Crushing Self Minimizing

I had intended to write this post the other day as it was still fresh in my mind. I had some rather well thought out points that I wanted to make, but time, as is oft the case, decided to be short with me and I only got the first part of the post out.

I am currently taking a writing course and there is a raffle prize up for grabs. To be in the running for the prize, I need to write every day.

To be fair, I should be writing every day anyway, but this just caters to the Obliger in me. So, here are. The post that didn't happen is seeing the light of day.

I'm not sure it's a good thing, though. Maybe it is, maybe not. It does tend to fall into the realm of trying to deal with the dreaded Imposter Syndrome that is a constant companion to me and other creative people I know.

And bless your heart, I know you mean well when you tell me that I really need to be proud of what I've accomplished and that I need to embrace the fact that I am a "real writer."  I know you say it from a place of love, but I need to ask. If it were as simple as just telling myself and the world those things and that my mind, the twisted synaptic quagmire that it is, would just believe it and I could go on happily writing, don't you think I would have gone that route already?

I have posted many times in this very space about the self-doubt and the issues I have had with embracing my identity as a writer, both as symptoms of Imposter Syndrome. One thing I haven't really touched on that I've been noticing in myself lately is self-minimizing.

It plays out a little bit like this in my head. If this is something you do, too, feel free to sing along. I'm sure you know the words.

WOW. I am super stoked. I just put up my novella (book, poem, etc). This is an awesome moment for me. It's up there on Amazon. I'm a real-life writer now!!

(Cue Self-Minimizing)

You know, Todd, you probably shouldn't make a big deal about this. I mean they aren't *new* books. Technically they already came out in a box set. And you're kind of nuts if you think that people are going to pay another dollar to get a story they already got just because you threw together a cover for it. 

or

It's *just* a novella. It's not like a real book or anything.

or

Why am I getting excited about this? My friends are putting out *real* books. It's silly of me to think that anyone will want to read these, or share the links, when there are much better things out there. 


Yeah. It's a bit of doubt and self-sabotage.
I get excited that I have *goes over to check KDP* sold 36 copies of both books combined.
(side note: I really am excited. Yesterday that number was 35. Today it's 36).

Does it seem silly? 36 books sold.  Maybe. And if I sit to long and think about it, I won't want to say anything.

I'll convince myself that I would be better served saving the excitement and enthusiasm for when the next book hits. THEN I'll be allowed to get really excited.

And there you have it. Some jacked up inner dialog caught on a loop of somewhere, somehow I don't deserve this joy. That I don't deserve to be this excited over $12.60 in royalties.

But I am.

Have I made any bestseller lists?
Am I able to quit my day job and be a full time writer?
Am I going on a national or international book promotion tour?
Am I guest speaker at any panel (or anything) to do with writing?

No.

Not Yet.

Not Yet.

I add the 'yet' in there because I know I will be. I know that the people that I secretly hope will read and love my books will actually one day do so (and tell me about it).  I know that I will be on a best seller list at some point in my life. And I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I will speak to a group, or even a single person, about my writing and something in that conversation will ignite the spark, set aflame their creative pilot light and their furnace will be up and running, waiting for them to stoke the fires.

I know all of this is going to happen. It's not law of attraction or anything like that. It's just that I've seen it. I just know that it will.

That in itself should be enough to quash the self-minimizing. And yet, it still creeps in. I see it hiding in phrases like "it's no big deal," or "I know it's silly to get excited about this..." or "It's just a ...

The key is to now be on the lookout for it. The more I get an understanding of my patterns of self-sabotage, the more I will be able to fully embrace the me that is here now.

The soon to be bestselling author,
Todd Skaggs

OH...and because I think you'll like these books, you should go over and pick up copies for your Kindle. I'm posting the link to my Amazon Author page because 1--I really like saying "Amazon Author Page" and 2--because you can get both titles there.

amazon.com/author/toddskaggs

And with that, my friends, have a great rest of your evening. I have laundry to put away before hitting the sack.

6.28.2018

Resetting The Why and Crushing Self-Minimizing

Resetting The Why

If I am able to string the words along properly and give some kind of accurate representation on this page that bears some resemblance to the dance they have been doing in my head for the last 3 days, then you may well get two lunchtime bloggy blog posts for the price of one.

And I may again be able to stare down a couple of demons who have been whispering shitty things to me from the shadows of my mind.

There seems to be some kind of romantic notion (good or bad) that springs to mind when you tell someone that you are a writer. Images of  empty whiskey bottles strewn about the room. A glass dish big enough to be considered the murder weapon, littered with butts; evidence of nicotine fueled battles between author and muse. Crumpled sheets of rejected ideas you wished you'd written yourself if only to see where the shop keeper's son stored the dead presidents found in the pocket of the banger, dirt napping dead in front of the store on 2:30 in afternoon on a Sunday in August just before the storms rolled in to clear the stench of piss from the air and the stain of blood from the sidewalk.

The other extreme is equally terrifying. The project board and perfectly detailed notes. Color coded and cross-referenced on a separate print out. Dates and word counts clearly displayed, sticky-notes flapping proudly like the trophy case of the state-champion high school. A subtle nod of intimidation, whether intentional or not, to any who might want to one day throw their own hat into the ring. Dipping their metaphorical and very literal pen into the ink that is both fuel and vessel. Ship and roiling sea.

I won't tell you where I fall on that spectrum. Likely you already have your own idea.

A friend of mine had a setback. Not a minor one. One that knocked the wind out of the sails. One of those 'question the very reason for donning a cutlass and eye-patch and thinking they could make a go of this pirate' kind of thing.  I got a note from them at the time. It said simply, "I need to reexamine my why."

Like many things this particular friend writes, the words hit me in a way I didn't see coming.

Now, to be fair, comparison is death. But you're lying if you say that you don't use someone who inspires you to at least build the guidelines for your own benchmarks. At some point, there is a shift and the milestones and goals are truly your own. The shift from "I want to do XYZ just like so and so" soon becomes, "I want to do XYZ."

But there's always the why.

Why am I a writer?

Not what makes me think I am a writer?, but why do I write?

Why?

The thing that really pissed me off when I started to think about the why was the fact that it didn't seem like too long ago I was just coming to grips with even telling the world that I was a writer. I mean, fuck, man...give me a minute to just be able to say that I am a writer first.

It doesn't work like that.


I'm looking at my words. I'm looking at what I've written in the last 6 months (and it really doesn't feel like much, if I'm being honest), and I realize that I really need to stop and look at my why.

It's time.

And I didn't want to.

Because I already know part of my why. And facing that part in the light of day sucks. It just really...
It just sucks.

I grew up needing to feel like what I did mattered. That it was good. That you liked it. That you wanted me to do more of it.

In one of the hundreds of personality tests out there, I come back as an Obliger. This means that I will put your needs above my own if given a choice. And I did, a lot.

I still do.

And I know that tendency has crept in and morphed into part of my why. Now, having the obliger tendency in itself is not a bad thing. As long as you recognize it and realize that it's ok to actually take some time for you and do things for you before someone else.

That's just it, though. Part of the 'why' for me is because inside me there is still that little kid, unsure, holding out the paper with a space battle drawn in pen, hoping that the person they are showing it to will tell me it's the best thing they've ever seen. But more than that, I want the people I love to tell me that they have read my words. Love them or hate them, I just want to be read.

There. There is it. Part of me writes because I read Stephen King growing up. I read Koontz. I read Tolkien and Asimov.  And Douglas Adams. And Piers Anthony.

And I loved them all. I hung on every word.

As a writer, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't want that. That I don't want someone to fall in love with my voice and my style and to hang on every word, wondering what the next glorious page will hold.

I do. Part of me wants that.

I write because I want to make you happy, and there's a part of me that's vain enough to think that my words can do that. Can bring a feeling, an emotion, and take you to a place you've never been.

I write because there are writers who inspire me. And I want to pay them back for that inspiration. I want to show them that what they wrote matters.

And I want to be that inspiration for someone else.

Yes...it's true. There is a part of me, of every writer that says they would write every day, because to not write is tantamount to not breathing, as dramatic as it sounds. And yes, I would write anyway, even if I knew it wasn't going to be read. But I can tell you that stuff that I write half thinking no one will ever or want to ever read it...that stuff is raw. And it's probably garbage. But yes, I still write.

The other reason I write is because I feel like I'm fairly fucked up in the head. And for me, writing is way I can create characters who may or may not be messed up in the same ways that I am, and I can walk them through scenarios in the story. I can make things happen to them, for them, and by them.
And maybe, just maybe they will get their happily ever after.

Because if the characters in my stories get their happily every after, then maybe I will too.

So..yeah. There's the brutal why. And it's pretty clear that I won't stop writing until either the happy ending happens in real life or I run out of ways for my characters to find theirs. 

I hope you'll come along for the ride.

And, unfortunately, I've run out of minutes in my lunch break (and I just killed the oatmeal cream pie).  The second piece on the crushing self-minimizing will have to wait for another lunch, I'm afraid.

Until then, I hope you'll tell all of your friends about the raw post thrown out on the interwebs by one of your soon to be favorite writers.

Peace
-Todd


6.21.2018

2AM AGAIN

If I am ever asked to write a...what?

OK Fine.

WHEN I am asked to write some kind of article or give an interview about how my writing process works, I might just leave out the part where I think it is actually a good idea to down a Watermelon Rockstar at 1AM on a night where I need to be up just 5 short hours later to do what is commonly referred to as 'going to work.'

And yet, here we are.

Oh, but...against all odds, I am actually sitting at my writing desk (such as it is at the moment) giving you a fresh dose of bloggy randomness.

This is quite unique as it's the first (I think) blog post from the new abode.

It's also the first blog post on this blog that I think I have penned from my bedroom (I'm not counting hotel rooms, and neither should you. Vile things, really).

So, for anyone betting on this...official move in date was March first. It is now June 21st.

I'd like to give a hearty shout out to Summer. Welcome, Summer, you wee right bastard!

My daughter, by the way is VERY lucky that her parents weren't some new-agey/hippy types or she might very well have had some kind of name like Summer Rae or Sunbeam or some shit like that.

Which is to say, she's lucky that her father was afraid of what her mother would do to him if he pulled that shit. I suppose it's bad enough that I got to warp the way we spell her first name.

Someday she'll appreciate that.

Maybe.

Holy shit. Writing. So, that's a thing.

I've been nose deep in working on the first draft of 18 Clocks these days. Stealing words during lunch on the Alphasmart NEO2. No, I haven't been lunching on it, don't be ridiculous.

I've been reading quite a bit more these days than I am used to.  It's a good thing. Weird, but good.

Current mood is...hmm. That's a little trickier, isn't it? Let's just say, it's not full on 1996/97 level depression. More of a dip in the road. If you're still in my life these days and you knew me back in 96/97, first of all, I'm sorry. Second of all, wow, are you a fucking glutton for punishment.

Yeah. I mean, things are going well. On paper there is absolutely no reason for the grey film that's covering everything and yet, there is it. I wipe it away, but in that odd post-shower instant condensation science is cool kind of way, it comes right back. I think a large part of it has to do with getting things settled in the house. Once things get where they need to go and I find places in this space for the shit that's mine, I think a lot of it will go away. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

OH. Shit. I almost forgot.

I have put out Shadow Initiate and Ovid's Folly as standalone e-books on Amazon. The cool thing about that is, that between the 2 titles, I've already sold 30 copies. AND, since they are standalone, I can keep them up on Amazon and my author page won't go away. Now when I tell people my things are on Amazon, they can find me instead of getting a heartfelt collection of life lessons from a rookie College referee. I'm going to track that dude down one day just so I have can have him autograph a book To Todd Skaggs, From Todd Skaggs--coolest name ever bro! And naturally, I'll have at least one paperback by then and I can return the favor. We can then each put the books up on our shelf and pull it down when the record-listening party had hit a lull.

Here's the thing, I'm not tired. I should be. And I probably am (I'm not), but it's likely the Rockstar keeping me alert (or what passes for alert at 2AM). I'm going to go ahead and hit the hay.

I will catch you on the flip side my friends!

Peace,

Todd "Not A College Referee" Skaggs

3.22.2018

I Know You Got Soul

Whenever I wander back over to the shelf that is this blog, I think to myself, "man...I wonder if anyone still reads this anymore?"

And then I see how many days (weeks, months) it's been since I put anything of substance (or sometimes just anything) on here and the prescient words of Erik B come to mind...

"It's been a long time, I shouldn't a left you without a strong rhyme to step to..."

Here, let's just enjoy that groove together for a minute.  Very few other hip hop artists of that period put the depth of the philosophy into the amazing lyrics quite the way Erik B did. I need to meet this dude. I have a feeling he and I could seriously shoot the shit for hours and have some wicked mix tape built up by the end of the night (or early morning as the case may be).


Is it weird? I mean that I see myself being friends with and having conversations with people that others see as 'famous' or untouchable in some way?  I guess it might be. I don't know. I just always figured that things would fall into place to make that happen.  If you had told me 5 years ago that my best friend would be someone who was a USA Today and New York Times bestselling author, I might have looked at you a little sideways, but the revelation would not have surprised me. I would have just figured that by having that person in my life, I had something to learn, and something to teach.  And, by the way, that has been the case. As I look at the people in my life now from the outer, extreme circle of facebook acquaintances, to the people who guard my deepest secrets, the universal connector is all of these people enrich my life in some way that I need. I have lessons to learn or lessons to teach, and we're all in the same classroom for this version of the syllabus. 

It's pretty fucking cool, to be honest. If I stop and try to stare directly at what the lesson (and my role in the giving or receiving), I lose it. It flits away until I'm truly ready. And it seems that the times I am truly ready to learn or teach are the time when that is the absolute last thing on my mind. Then it's all of a sudden like, "boom. wake up, bitch. We gots to go to work!"

Jeeeeeeesus, Skaggs, when did you get so philosophical?!?

Somewhere around my 6th birthday.  Every 7 years, my birthday falls directly on Thanksgiving. I was turning 6. My parents were hosting Thanksgiving for the whole famdamily and a bunch of people I was expected to remember 30 years later at a family reunion when they said, "I haven't seen you since you were six years old."  Spoiler alert: I never remembered them, but smiled politely as though I did. 

So, six year old Todd didn't really process too much about Thanksgiving. But birthdays. Yeah buddy. I knew ALL about that. And birthday parties! While the tone and timbre of the parties have changed for me over the years, I learned all I needed to know about parties early on. They were awesome. Especially if they were for you. And the more people at these parties for you, the better.

Can you see where this is going?  

Six years old. Birthday boy. House full of people coming over for Thanksgiving.  Only I thought they were all coming over for my birthday.  Most of them didn't even know it was my birthday. So, no cards. No gifts. I don't remember if there was a cake or not. Actually, I'm sure there was a cake for dessert, but it wasn't a birthday cake.  Second worst Thanksgiving ever (But I wouldn't know that at the time. From that day until the first Thanksgiving without my Grammy (early in the 80's), it stood as the worst Thanksgiving ever. 

Pretty sure Todd the Philosopher was loosed into this world about 4:57PM on that Thursday in 1977.

And he's been here in one form or another ever since learning the lesson of "the world does not revolve around you, son." In fact, I think that might have been a direct quote from my father. It brought tears at the time (or more tears, as I may have already been sitting on my bed with the Star Wars blanket and Mickey Mouse and Pluto as knights sheets and pillow case set) when he said that. 

The details are foggy. But that's the way it is with our origin stories, isn't it? Foggy until that moment when a singular detail emerges with crystal clarity and smacks us dead in the eye with a "Oh fuck yeah!! I had completely forgotten all about that!!"

Did I mention that this was going to be a fairly random and rambling post? I didn't? Shit. My bad. I thought you might have picked up on that when I went from 80's hip-hop to 6 yr. old Todd. 

Well, yeah. Rambling randomness is afoot my friends. It's probably a good time to go back to your bookface feeds if you want. 

OH! That reminds me.

I'm getting sick of The Book of Face again. It happens about every three months.  And then I realize that someone will only communicate with me through that wretched platform, so I stay. And then about 2 or 3 years later it builds to the point where I can no longer take the bullshit.  The Cambridge Analytica BS has tipped that scale a bit early. 

Here's the thing. I'm not dumb. And neither are you. Of Course livre visage has been mining all of our data. From the day that it opened up from campuses to the public, its model has been to collect and mine as much data as possible. Why do you think it stopped being a university only app? Because students don't stay students for ever. It's a limited data set. And if they are going to make money selling data, they need a bigger pool. Boom, faycebooook is now open to the public. 

Why do you think it claims it will never charge to use the service? Because it wants as many people as possible.  Games? Advertising? Messenger? Video? Marketplace? Payments?!? Hell yes. All data  points.

Within 2 weeks at the outside the book of face knows everything about our lives it can possible know. Because we give it the information it needs. The information it sells. They don't need to charge, they are making money hand over fist by us using the "service" they provide.  And forget trying to figure out the algorithms to actually make it useful for yourself (like say, as an author trying to gain readers).

Do you know why retail stores move product and fixtures around in a store?  Studies have shown that if a shopper takes more time trying to find something that has moved, they will walk out of the store having purchased more than they intended to, even if they had a list.  I don't have the study that quotes that, but I work in retail. That shit is real. 

All the bitching that happens when something changes on the feed, or your wall? Makes you spend more time. Clicking on things you might not have click on in your old routine. 

All of that is to say that very soon I will be looking at deleting my FB account. I don't need it. It's annoying the piss out of me. And the reason I came back to the 'social' media in the first place is no longer there. 

I'll still maintain Instagram (also owned by the bookfacers, but still somehow less evil at this point), and Twitter. 

And of course this blog.

If you're worried that you won't see these posts because I don't have them on your wall anymore, you can do this, right now.

Hit CTRL+D. On a Mac, hit COMMAND+D.  Almost all browsers will save the URL of the page. 

Save it in your bookmarks. Come by and see me from time to time.  I'll be around. 
Hell, you might see me on the New York Times Bestseller list some day. (Spoiler alert: You totally will.)

And remember, if you get invited over for dinner, or Christmas, or Thanksgiving...be sure to ask your host if there is a birthday boy or girl. If there is, bring them a present. You will be the hero and change their life forever, I guarantee it. 

Until then my friends, I'll see you on the other side.

And remember, it's not where you're from, it's where you're at. 


Peace,
AT

3.12.2018

Unforgettable, And Some Release Day Promo

I'm late with this post. The day got away from me.
I didn't forget.
I swear I didn't forget it was today.
There's no way I could have forgotten.
But, what if I did?

As I'm reading through the newest release by New York Times Bestselling author, Monica Corwin, that question is going through my mind.  As I'm reading Make Me Forget, I thought about how my life would be different if I had no memory of the person I loved.

I feel in to this book with a certain amount of smug envy, I'm not going to lie.  As a kid I always envied the older generations as they talked about going to the movies on Saturday for the latest Commander Cody serial film in the matinee. The closest we had to that growing up was the three year intervals between Star Wars movies.

And then my friend Monica tells me that she is releasing a couple of her books, chapter by chapter, on the Radish app.

I fell in to the serialization pit at point. First one chapter. Then the next. And before I new it, I was checking my phone to see if the next chapter has posted.

After the tears and heartache of a few chapters, I had to have the next chapter! If only to convince myself that it was all going to work out between Murphy and Mara.

After all, you can't just forget that kind of chemistry with someone one.

Can you?

I'm going to throw some of the blurb at you now, because I think Monica does a better job than I do of convincing you that you need to read this book. Although, I will tell you that the reason this post is later is because I was busy reading and re-reading, and wiping wet stuff off my screen (eww...not THAT you perv) trying to finish this book.

You really should grab a copy of it so we can have something to talk about over coffee!

And now here's some cool release day promo magic, courtesy of the folks over at Give Me Books!

-AT










He makes me burn.

He makes me ache.

He makes me forget.

Since grade school Murphy Wilcox and I fought incessantly. But one drunk night before my last military deployment changed everything. At least that is what he tells me. Along with the hundreds of scorching hot emails we shared.

Fast forward four years and Murphy is the only connection I have to my past. The only connection I have to the woman I used to be. Amnesia is a bitch but apparently so was I.

**25% of the profit from this book will be donated to the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, in hopes that it can help fund further research into PTSD**






Purchase Links

99c for a limited time

AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU

Available at other retailers soon






Author Bio

Monica Corwin is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author. She is an outspoken writer attempting to make romance accessible to everyone, no matter their preferences. As a Northern Ohioian, Monica enjoys snow drifts, three seasons of weather, and a dislike of Michigan football. Monica owns more books about King Arthur than should be strictly necessary. Also typewriters...lots and lots of typewriters.



Monica's Author Links

3.03.2018

Hashtag Next Chapter

For the past couple weeks, I have been using a tag #NextChapter on IG/Twitter/FB posts involving my move. The appropriateness of that particular phrasing just kind of hit me squarely in the third eye with a nice bout of shakubuku tonight. About 10 seconds ago, as a matter of fact.

But I might be getting ahead of myself here. Don't worry. Happens to me all the time.

First off, this post (not the content, but the actual post) is overdue. It's been over a month since I've posted anything.

Here's what's funny about that, to me. And not funny in a humorous way, but funny in a 'huh, I guess I never thought of it that way.' kind of way.

Thing is, when I first started this blog (well any of them, actually), the thought was always that I would write them for me. To clear the cobwebs out. To get my daily exercise of the writing muscle as I was also working on the elusive book that I'm writing.   And that might have been how this blog or any of my blogs, started.

Somewhere along the way, I think it became something more of a communication. I'm sitting at the dining room table (yes, apparently I now have an actual honest to god dining room), and I'm writing this to you. A letter to a friend.

At least I hope we're friends. Because if we're not, one of us is wasting the other's time. It's probably me. I get that a lot.

I got a text from a friend. It was straightforward. They told me that they missed reading the blogs. That's when I figured out that they aren't just for me, with you along for the ride. I underestimated how much people enjoy them.

In any event, can I just tell you that February was CRAZY. We're talking Jennifer Jason Leigh Single White Female crazy, mmmkay?

In January, the first day of January as a matter of fact, I found out that I would have the opportunity to move from my apartment in Westerville into my grandparents' home in Worthington.  Since then, the exercise of actually leaving my apartment and getting all of my things over here has been a roller coaster of clusterfuckery.

There are probably multiple blog posts lurking just under the surface of my psyche detailing the ups and downs and in-betweens that my mind and body went through with this move. It was a lot more emotional for me than leaving a marriage of 12 years, if that tells you anything of some of the hell that was playing out behind my watering eyes and painted on smile.

But that's not what this one is about.

I'm going to take you out of the moment for a second. I need you do me a favor. I need you to go over and read a post that my friend Jamie wrote. Jamie is a writer. And she's a friend. Nope. Strike that. She's family.  And reading this post of hers nearly brought me to tears (and coupled with what happened Thursday night, I was in tears), but here. See this link? I'm going to need you to click on the link and read her post. And then come back here.

Here's the link:

https://jamieisawriter.com/2018/02/27/i-deserve-good-things-so-do-you/

Go ahead, I'll wait.

No, seriously. I'm not continuing until you go read it. It's important.

Did you read it? You did? You know I can see if you click out of my blog post to go read it, right?

OK. Cool. Now I know for sure you read it.

And no, I can't really tell if you did--we're going on the honor system here. But all the same, I'm glad you did. It is important to the state of mind I have been in lately. In general in my life, and in particular with my writing.

Jamie talks about gratitude. And looking at what you have in your life. With the key refrain being that she deserves nice things, and so do you.

That resonated with me.

Deserving nice things. For the longest time I thought that the nice things, the good life, those were things that someone else deserved. I don't know what penance I was paying and why I thought I needed to wear the hair shirt, but that was the role I constantly found myself in.

And then Jamie's post kind of knocked the sleep from my third eye.

It clicked.

Starting with the move in to this house.  Then her post. Then seeing Ernest Cline on Thursday night.

It all fucking clicked.

I do deserve nice things. It's ok that things are working out in my favor. It's acceptable to be happy that fortunate events are occurring in my life.

That's where I am. Embracing the change.

And by embrace, I mean accepting it.  It's not easy. But it is really the next chapter.

OH! Right. When I started this bit of rambling, I talked about the next chapter.

So, yeah. This is a milestone event in my life. My last move was over 5 years ago and that was after the second divorce. It was bittersweet.

And in the midst of it all, some amazing things happened. One of those things was seeing Ernest Cline, the author of Ready Player One. If you haven't read that book yet, you need to.

You can read that after this post, I'm almost done and I can assure you once you start the book, you'll want to keep reading and then you'll forget all about me and I'll be sad. And then you'll come back a month later and be all 'oh man, Todd, I'm sorry. I was doing life things and stuff, but I'm back now.'

Like me, I'm back now.

And in the coming week or two, you can look for the following things to show up here:

  • What's it's like to move into your family history
  • A short story about the price of magic
  • A piece on the magic of meeting your heroes, even if you didn't know they were
Along with pieces on what it's like to be a writer, living a dual life as a normal, everyday adult.

Because that's what I am.

A writer, I mean. The normal adult bit is up for debate. 

Until then my friends, have an awesomesauce weekend!!

Love,
Todd






1.31.2018

Picking A Single Thread to Pull

There is something you need to know about a barrel roll. If you are a passenger in a plane that is doing a barrel roll you are convinced that the pilot has lost all sanity and has put your lives in the hands of fate in some misguided hope that physics will not pick this day to blink and that somehow, after what seems like forever, the plane and the contents of your stomach, will right themselves and continue on their merry way.

If you are the pilot performing the barrel roll, you know that exactly all of that is true.

For those of you that might be unclear about the whole barrel roll metaphor, go to google.com and type in 'do a barrel roll' and hit enter. I'll wait.

OK, everyone back on the same page? Good. 

I bring that example up for two reasons. One, I think it's a pretty killer opening for a book I have yet to even think of using it in. And two, my life is in a barrel roll right now. From the outside I'm sure it looks tricky and neat and breathtaking. But there's definitely a different vibe from within the plane.

Thing is, I'm not sure if I'm the pilot or the passenger. I'm relatively sure that I'm the pilot. Which means I started this.  And it means it's up to me to finish it. Assuming, of course, that physics doesn't blink somewhere along the way.

2018 is the year of some major shifts. Not all of these were accounted for when I made my rather ambitious writing goals for the year.  Of course, it is only January and I am in no way throwing in the towel, but I am giving myself permission to not beat myself up over not being as far along as I wanted to be.  I am WAY behind on the Ray Bradbury challenge, but I have no doubt that I can catch up and have 52 stories of varying length and quality for your reading pleasure by year's end. 

So, there's that. Along with that little hiccup, there's the whole uprooting and moving thing. I suppose I buried the lead on that, huh?  Well, yeah. I am moving from my apartment in to a house at the end of February. So, basically I have a month to box up and move things from my little apartment to a larger house. It's a wonderful move for me, and definitely a great thing, but the fact is, it does affect my writing. I feel guilty for taking the time to write when I know I should be packing or doing some other move-related thing. The net result is usually that I freeze and do nothing. Which, to be honest, is much worse. Recognizing the issue is the first step, though, so hopefully I can work through that. 

In other completely random news...there's the whole Mall of America thing. Last year, the Mall had a contest to get some kind of writer in residence for their big anniversary. I applied. I didn't get it. Oh, that's OK. I didn't expect to. I wasn't young enough or hip enough or established enough as an author.  But the bright side is, the story snippet I submitted as part of my application has some workable threads in it that I'm going to pull back in and make a story (or maybe a book or maybe a series). 

It's only a start, but since I feel bad for not having a short story for you this week, I'll give you a taste of what that story started out like. I'm not sure where it will wind up before the year is over, but I suppose we'll find out together, huh?

Enjoy, and have an awesome day!!

-Todd

****

Seth: Sage of the Food Court
By Todd Skaggs

(c)2018; All Rights Reserved


I want to write the story of Seth, and the true magic he discovers at the Mall:

Seth was a child of the 80's. He spent every free moment at the mall. If he wasn't in school or at a meeting of Mr. Hanley's Computer Club, he was at the mall. 

To him the Mall was pure magic. The smell of the t-shirt shop as the press fused some transfer of a Z-28 on a sky blue ringer tee.  The impending brain freeze after too quickly drinking the ICEE (suicide mix, of course). These were all enchanting. 

Nothing, however, rivaled the feelings that Seth felt when he set foot in the arcade. 

It was safe to say that by the time Seth graduated high school, the quarters spent at Funway Freeway could have put a nice down payment on at least the most basic of transport  for his college years. 

None of it was wasted, however. Seth was convinced that it was his somewhat fantastical view of malls that led him here.

Twenty-five years later, Seth was sitting the HR Office in the inner chambers of the Mall of America.  He had applied for the position of IT Operations Manager.  After a grueling interview process, Seth was one of the final five candidates.

All that remained was the online technical aptitude test.

Sitting in a room, Seth looked at the other four.

The competition.

Seth knew they didn't stand a chance. He was a wiz at anything to do with computers. Some called the work he did magic, but he was too modest to call attention to his skills.

Unless he needed to.

Today was the day for him to pull out all of the stops. This was his dream job.


Seth was right about one thing all those years ago. The malls were magic.

All across America, the malls were the local epicenters of the community's magic. This wasn't advertised, of course, as magic wasn't widely accepted as real all those years ago.

From the rural strip malls housing the natural magic of the farming communities. To the open air malls of the West Coast, boasting more of a holistic flow.  The malls were, and are, still the centers of magic in our country.

But there is one mall that stands tall as the beacon. The Mall of America.  The largest mall in the United States is also the headquarters and command center of all of the magical in our nation. 

Seth couldn't know this. 

But he was about to find out. 

And with his new job, comes a new set of responsibilities.  Shoplifters and security cameras aren't the only thing he will need to keep at bay.

Our adventure begins with a simple online aptitude test and culminates in a game of cat and mouse as old as magic itself!


****

1.23.2018

The Molasses Marathon and RBC Week 3: The Magic Virus (excerpt)

This is now the fourth week of 2018.  By all accounts I should be hard at work on my 4th short story in the Ray Bradbury Challenge (and technically, I am. More on that in a bit).

But Todd, if you're working on the 4th story, where is the story from Week 3??

That is a good and fair question. The short answer is, it's in the same place as the story for Week 4 and Week 5 and Week 6.  All four stories are in various stages from outline to draft to oh my god I will probably never let anyone see that!!

I had a bit of a moment last week where things just clicked in to place about this Ray Bradbury Challenge. He was convinced that its impossible to write 52 bad stories in a row.  I'm convinced to prove him wrong. But at the end of the day, even if I do churn out 52 bad stories in a row, I will have still written 52 stories. And there is a good chance one of them will be good.

Week 1 and 2 hummed along pretty well. The stories flowed and had a natural point where it made sense (to me) to conclude. There are apparently more questions that I need to go back and answer in the story from Week 2 (which might grow up to be an actual book). 

Week 3 is going slowly. Obviously by the fact that I don't have a full story for you yet. 

Part of it is my fault. I got caught up in the whole 'make the story the best possible story I can make it' instead of 'pump something out every 7 days.'  And, if I'm being honest, I think that's the point that Bradbury was trying to make.

Can I write a short story every week for 52 weeks? Yes. I can certainly do the quantity and put out a story from 5K-15K every week. I think most people who fancy themselves writers, could. But for me, there was a shift last week. 

I'm looking at this story and my first thought was, how can I end it here so I can post it?  I was in that headspace for all of 23 seconds before the second question hit me. "Do I want to end it before its time? Or do I want to keep working on it, despite falling behind in the challenge (which is really only a personal challenge, I'm not competing).

The answer was clear. Keep writing. 

And I think that's Bradbury's point. Keep writing. Set small goals. Work on a short story a week. Just keep writing. 

Just.
Keep.
Writing.

That has been the struggle lately. There are some major changes coming in my life that will cause me to look back on 2018 as the year I turned the corner on a lot of things in my life. I know they are good things, but they are still huge. I'm trying, sometimes to no avail, to roll with them, but it's not easily. At least it's not easy for. 

So, the whole just keep writing thing is key right now. When I sit down to write lately, it feels like I am trying to run a marathon in a river of molasses. 

Do I have a full short story for you? No. Will I catch up and have 52 short stories by Dec 31, 2018? I have no doubt. 

Like I said, I have 4 ideas that I'm dancing between right now. A paragraph here, a page there. They will be done when they are done.

Today's excerpt comes from a short story that I was originally working on for submission to an anthology about magic, but the deadline came upon me before I was ready to  turn this one in, so another took its place. 

What if, in every lifetime, there were only one person on the whole of the earth who knew the true nature of magic? What if that knowledge comes at a terrible cost? What if that person were you? These are the questions Alistair Smith must answer the day he receives a most peculiar letter...


The Magic Virus (excerpt)
By Todd Skaggs

27 January 2057
Ernest Mann
92C St. John’s Hill
London
SW11 1SH, UK

Dear Mr. Alistair Smith,

Everything you think you know about magic is, I am sorry to say, wrong. Please don’t waste your time responding to this. By the time you read these words, I will be dead. Oh, please don’t be sad for me. Just two seconds ago you were ready to kill me yourself. I’ve lived a good life, but if I were to die without telling you what I know about magic, it would be an incomplete life. Ironically, it is this very telling that will cost me my life.

So, why do it? Why sign my own death warrant? Because, what you know of magic is harmful. And what you don’t know of magic is deadly. Lastly, for purely selfish reasons, I am tired of being the only living person who knows the truth. It is a terrible burden, and you will curse me for sharing this knowledge, just as I have long since cursed the day I received my own letter of truth from the one who sent it to me.

First, the housekeeping. You have a decision to make. You must decide if you are going to continue to read this letter or disregard it outright. If you decide to reject this appointment, you must burn the letter. Under no circumstances can this knowledge be let out in to the wild. The very fabric of our world depends on this simple tenet: Only one person at a time in any lifetime may know the true nature of magic. It is for this reason, that you must also burn the letter should you decide to accept the responsibility.  If someone were to chance upon the letter and read it’s full contents, they would become the keeper and your life would be forfeit.

There are some facts you should know that may aid you in your decision.

If you accept this mantle, your life will never be the same.  That is neither good nor bad, merely the truth. You will never be able to go back to not knowing.

The position is terminal. Once you accept it, your mortal coil is intertwined with the truth. And should you share the secret with another, the truth is then bound to them and your life is over. Not figuratively, literally. Once the knowledge is shared, the previous keeper will walk this earth no more.

Magic always demands a price. The price you will pay for knowing the truth of magic is love. If you continue on to the second page of this letter, you will never again know the wonder and mystery of love. That is not to say that you will not live a full and rich life. You may still, but it will be a life without love. 

You are now at the point where you can destroy the letter. If you do so, I will know by the fact that I am still alive. And I will begin the search anew for the next Keeper. 
I would caution you to turn back now, but to do so would be for purely self-serving reasons. I have no desire to shake loose this mortal coil, but I am being told by the Magic that the time has come. It seeks a new Keeper. 

The Keeper that it has led me to is you. 

The decision is yours. Read the next page or don’t. You must now choose. 

Sincerely,
Mr. E. Mann

***
(Page 2)

If you are reading this page, know this-you are bound to the truth of magic and it is bound to you. If you choose to share this knowledge with anyone, you do so with the full understanding that upon receipt, the title of Keeper will be passed to the person with whom you have shared and upon full understanding by this person of the knowledge, you will sacrifice your life force to the Magic. 

All your life you have likely subscribed to either one of two notions. The first is that Magic is the stuff and nonsense of fairy tales. That it is completely fictional and that it’s place in our world is relegated to those things which serve to entertain us, not educate or serve us in any meaningful capacity. 

The second of these notions is that Magic is real. Whether you have seen it personally, or simply choose to believe it so, you know that deep in your heart spells and wizards and witches and dragons and faeries and the lot of them are all real. 

I know which of these you do believe, sir, but that is neither here nor there at this point and serves to add no momentum to our dialog.

The truth of the matter is Magic is real. However your perception and exposure to it is completely wrong. You, along with the entire human race since time ab initio, have been deceived. This deception has been perpetrated and disseminated through people known as the Holders. Each of the Holders exist separately and know only one small piece of the truth. Never have the Holders assembled in one place and put the whole truth together. Were that to happen, the results would be catastrophic. Holders are chosen by Magic and given gifts throughout their lives. Some mistakenly call these gifts inspiration. The Holders live their lives wanting to share the joyful side of magic. 

They are the authors, poets, writers, filmmakers, witches, and any who believe that magic could be real. This seedling is given to the Holders from an early age. Like any plant, sometimes it takes root. Sometimes the plant does not make it past the first harvest. Should this seed grow and blossom, it is then shared and spread with others. In this way the love of the benevolence of magic spreads. Much like a weed spreads and chokes the garden.

Then there are the Keepers. In every lifetime and life cycle of the earth, there is one human who is the Keeper. The Keeper of Truth is the one soul who knows all of the pieces of the truth about the nature of Magic. The single soul does not have the power itself to act upon this truth. In this way, the terrible secret of what Magic is remains unknown to the masses. The terminal binding of the Keeper to this truth is the reason that the knowledge is not known to any but one. 

In almost every instance, the candidate for Keeper was one who was originally chosen as a Holder, but for whom the glamorous notion of magic did not take root. For this Holder, magic always held a dark and serious side. This Holder fosters the belief that magic was dark and costly and that it always demanded a sacrifice.

Seventy-five years ago, that Holder was me.

Today it is you.

You have, I am remiss to say, passed the point of no return. As you continue to read, the enchantment cast on this parchment continues to bind the words to your soul. With each word passing your eyes, the bond grows stronger. By the time you reach the end of this missive, you will be fully bound to Magic. The infestation will be complete.

There is one major truth about Magic that you must know immediately and that others may not know--ever.

Magic is a virus. And you, Mr Smith, are now it’s sole carrier on the planet. All with whom you come into contact will be infected. Some will be only mildly affected, others will be terminally impacted by your touch.

In the days to come there will be additional packages forwarded to you. Legal documents, books, journals, and the like. Several secret societies will also be informed of the transference.  

Know this, there is not one single person on the planet you can trust with this truth. What you truly know of this disease you must keep to yourself.

As the sole Keeper, there is much you must learn. There are those you must teach. 
But above all else, above anything that you do, you must remain steadfastly silent about the truth nature of magic. 

I am confident I have chosen wisely, and for this I am truly sorry for the burden that is now yours.

Sincerely, 
Ernest Mann


***
I set the letter down. 

“Well, that’s just fucking great.” 

I didn’t need this. I really didn’t need this. Not now. I thought for a long second about who may go to elaborate lengths to send me a letter by post. The postal service was expensive. This letter had no return address. It was sent certified and there were two pages. Whoever it was, they were racking up quite a bill just to fuck with me.

And why? It wasn’t my birthday. It wasn’t my anniversary. The last of the cheating whores had seen to it that there wouldn’t be any more of those. When I filed for divorce this last time, that was it. After filing 3 times, I lost my license to marry again. No more tax breaks or medical breaks.

It was worth it though. If I had to spend another month married to that bitch, I would have been filing for widower’s benefits. And that was a lot more paperwork than the divorce. And a longer investigation process, too. 

I looked at the letter sitting on the coffee table in front of my sofa. It was glowing. Honest to shit, it was glowing. The pages that had been a stark white as I was reading them had shifted to a pulsing, bright amber hue. Was that smoke?

“Shit!”  I grabbed the pages and envelope from the table just as the flame sprouted from one corner of the paper. I ran in to the kitchen in to the sink and turned on the faucet.

“Mr. Ernest forget to do his research. Apparently he didn’t know I didn’t have a fireplace.” I said, to no one in particular.

I felt my mouth drop as I looked at the smoldering envelope in the sink with freshly written words, “Of course I knew. This was just more fun.”

I had about three seconds for the reality of what I had just seen to set in before the entire part and parcel gave one last exhale and was completely consumed by fire. 

Christ on a cracker.  I need a drink.

I made my way to the shelf that housed my liquor. A nice stiff bourbon sounded great right now. It’s been sounding good for about 7 months. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve had any bourbon in the house. 

“Rum it is,” I said reaching for the half full bottle of Sailor Jerry. I turned, heading for the ice box, hoping like hell I hadn’t burned through the cola I picked up last week.  

“Thank fuck,” I said as I saw three cans remaining. The way I mixed my drinks, Three cans of soda was about 8 or 9 full drinks. 

Assessing the rum and the soda situation before me, I thought to myself, Yup. Should be about enough to pass the fuck out. I can convince myself this was all a terrible dream after I make it through tomorrow’s hangover. 

Sounded like a good enough plan to me.

I was three drinks in before the full weight of the words of the letter hit me. Either that, or the weak-ass rum was starting to do its thing. 

I couldn’t hold off any longer. Everything in the letter rang true, but I had to know. The best lies 
contain truth and because of that, they ring truer when shouted from the rooftops. I was too drunk at this point to go to the roof, but I could at least test the truth of the letter.

I shuffled down the back hallway to my bedroom. I knelt by the bed. Anyone walking in would think I was saying my bedtime prayers. I had long since given up on a god that kills babies for sport and puts dictators in power for its own sick amusement. No, I wasn’t praying. I reached one arm under the bed and started feeling around. Ammo box. Nope. Pistol safe. Nope. Shoebox. There it was. 

Pulling it out, I took off the lid and set it aside. Photographs from a lifetime ago and letters and concert tickets filled the box. I rummaged around until I found what I was looking for.  My hand wrapped around a crystal.  I pulled it out of the box, my fist clenched tightly around it. I had closed my eyes as soon as my fingers touched it’s smooth, unforgiving surface.

I opened my eyes and looked at my closed fist.

There was no delaying this.

Opening my hand, I focused on the center of the crystal.

It was glowing.

Fuck me sideways, it was glowing. 

“No no no no no no no. Fuck me. No!”

I didn’t know if the words were in my head or coming out of my mouth at this point.  I wanted to throw the pale blue glowing crystal across the room. But I couldn’t. I was transfixed.

Not only that, but I now possessed magic.

Again.

This wasn’t supposed to be possible. Once the Council of Mystics stripped you, it was done. There would be no way that you could ever again possess magic. To do more than a common card trick would bring death.

Well, I suppose that was true. I would die, according to the letter, were I to share this secret with anyone. The truth. The truth of magic was destined to kill me.

But that wasn’t the same thing. The Death Penalty associated with what was called “recharging” on the streets was a swift and deliciously public death by vivisection. The crowd watched the magic flow out of you like so many embers of ash dancing playfully above a pile of burning leaves in the fall. 

I waited for the knock.

I waited for the call.

I waited for the electronic notification.

I waited for the Council to send word and to fetch me so that they might do their worst.

I waited for something. 

I waited for anything.

And nothing came. 

Except the darkness born of too many artificial spirits. 
****

1.15.2018

Turn And Face The Strange

Disclaimer: This post is not really for you. It's for me. It will quite likely be disjointed and random and provide too much information in to the way my mind works through stuff. If you want the rainbow-farting unicorn/everything is awesome all the time Todd, you probably shouldn't read this. This might shatter any preconceived notions you have of me. That guy hangs out a lot on Facebook. This post deals with an epiphany that I suffered last week, and to be perfectly frank, sorting things out in this blog is cheaper than therapy. And the other side of it (the side that is for you) is this.  If you recognize yourself in anything I've put down here, then you know one thing--you're not alone. 

Still with me? Great.  Let's begin.

I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
And every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test


The above lyrics were taken from the David Bowie classic, "Changes," which first appeared on the album Hunky Dory, released December 1971, one month after I was born. 

There are a handful of songs that hit me straight in the soul. Songs where if I sit and contemplate their meaning and how the lyrics apply to me, they will reduce me to a blubbering blob of a dude. 

This is one of those songs. The rest of the song is amazing and hits me just as hard, but this first verse just sums up everything to a tee. 

I know I mentioned the epiphany on Facebook last and hinted at a lunchtime bloggy blog to dive into detail, sorry about the delay, but here is said blog.

The epiphany I suffered last week was this little bit of a mind fuck. From a Facebook post that went mostly unnoticed:

Cognitive dissonance...social anxiety...emotional dissonance...that feeling that this is all somehow not where I’m meant to be.
As those have come up in my life in the past, I have used them as a warning that I have strayed off the path and am not doing what I’m “meant to be doing” in this lifetime, so I alter course and change.
But what if those are actually my indication that I’m about to breakthrough and hit that next level?
All those times I turned away, I could have been so much closer to the purpose.


So..yeah.  That's my pattern...I'm chugging along thinking I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing and there's that weird little thread getting tugged. It's annoying at first, so you think you can just do a quick tug and everything will be fine. Next thing you know, you have unraveled several rows of your favorite shirt, or scarf, or messenger bag. 

And that is a very uncomfortable feeling. That feeling like suddenly everything is wrong. Or maybe it isn't everything. Maybe it's only the little things. Maybe it's the little fact that your wife for the last 3 years never said goodnight when she was going to bed and you were downstairs working on something. Or the fact that you write and pour your heart out and she rarely, if ever, gave unsolicited feedback of any kind on your writing. Or the other wife who told you that you had a knack for lyrics, but you probably shouldn't try singing because something was just...off. 

Those are, of course, hypothetical examples and in no way, shape, or form, still cut deep and sting nearly 20 years later. 

Back to Bowie:

I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
And every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet

That's kind of me. At age 45, I published my first book. Seriously...what was I waiting for? It's easy to oversimplify that question, so I won't insult anyone's intelligence, least of all mine. A large portion of that was timing, so I'm not sure that entirely counts. 

I'm going to cut to the chase here. The song is called Changes.
And let's be honest, I suck at handling change. Small changes I'm generally OK dealing with. The Big Pharma sponsorship package I'm ingesting probably helps the most with those little course corrections that occur on a daily basis. The bigger ones where I have an expectation of something (realistic or not) are harder to deal with. Plans getting cancelled or altered. Unexpected bills. Things like a laptop dying for no reason. 

I put on a good game face. But those things seriously fuck with me. When that happens, then I tend to do a deep dive and start overthinking everything that's going on in my life. I start putting attributes and reactions there to things that are completely in my fucking head because there is no external proof to validate what I'm thinking!.

It's the ultimate mindfuck and I do it to myself. 

I am in a time of change in my life.

I will be moving in the spring of this year. I hate moving. As good as I know this move will be for me, I still find myself finding reasons why this won't work the way I expect it to. It's dumb. I know that. It's completely irrational, but it's still back there, just floating in the back channels of my mind. 

That's not the only change though, I've become more focused on what I want to do with my writing this year. I have set goals. And I'm working to achieve them. That's a change for me. Because the more I put myself out there, the greater the risk of being exposed.  Being exposed for a shit writer who probably shouldn't pick up a pen if he can at all help it. Now, I don't think I'm actually a shit writer, but that question will always be there. I don't think I'm alone in that. I know plenty of other artists who go through similar doubts. 

Here's the one that really kind of messes with me (and I'm sure I've talked about it on this blog ad nauseam), but here it is.  What if I'm good? What if I'm really, really good at this writing thing? What then?  Then I don't have any excuses. Then I have to put in the hard work that I know it takes to write the books and get them out to the world. Then I have to struggle with that question of at what point to I become a full time writer/author?  Fear of success is a thing, too.

But here's where I had the epiphany.

In the past when I had those gnawings in my brain that my life wasn't where it was meant to be, that I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing, I changed course. Marriages (yes plural) weren't working? Maybe I'm not cut out for marriage.  I am now one marriage/divorce away from needing to study paleontology and dance with my friends around a fountain in New York.  

I look back at just how many times I changed my direction because of that nagging feeling. 

And I was starting to get it, quite recently (times of big change tend to trigger it). As I was looking at my life through a bourbon flavored period of reflection, I realized something. I don't want to change course. The writing is going the direction I want it to go. The people in my life are the people that need to be in my life, so I'm not ready to shuffle that social deck of cards right now.

That's what got me thinking...what if that feeling doesn't mean 'turn away.'  What if it means, instead, 'hey...dude, you're close. This is your subconscious early warning detection system and that awesome life you always dreamed about is right ahead of you!! Press on, for godssakes, press on!!!!'

That was the mindfuck. Thinking back to all of the times I turned away instead of pressing through. Instead of going to the other side of the fear. And yes, I know that the experiences I went through made who I am, and I'm not discounting any of that. 

I don't know if that I pressed through those odd feelings I would be in a different place now. I probably would. Would it be a better place? I can't really say. I'm not a Time Lord. And even if I was, I could never go back on my own timeline.

I guess the long and short of it is, I should have listened to that little nagging thread earlier on. NOT because I'm not happy with how my life is going now, but because running away from the things that scare me or make me uncomfortable is never going to get me where I want to be. 

I also recently remembered, that when your favorite sweater has a little loose thread, you can cut just that piece of loos thread off and keep going. 

Huh. Who knew?

Lights, Camera...Wait...You're Fogging Up the Lens. Dammit Heath!

Greetings from SkaggleRock and the Gallifrey Annex. It's almost Fall. Well, technically it is  Fall, but it's almost that magical 3 ...