The Hardest Part of Writing with a Dash of Folly

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

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

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

You know what else I do?

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

Now I edit.

And I rewrite.

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

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

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

Suddenly I wasn't so confident.

But I wrote the story. And I love it. 

And I edited the crap out of it.

And I hated editing it.

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

It's not.

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

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

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

I had another chance.

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

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

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

It's all pretty exciting.

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

Todd's "Current Edits" notebook.

It looks a little something like this:

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

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

I can't wait.

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

Glad you asked.

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

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

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

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

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

Onward and upward my friends!

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



Social Media Jail and a Writing Tracker Update

Just Like Otis in Mayberry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here's why.

I couldn't respond.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tracking the Writing And Things Creatively Productive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And remember, be safe out there!



Shakubuku Part Two: Eclectic Booglaloo

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

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

Which leaves the existential shift.

That seems more likely.

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

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

So here goes.

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

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

Or so I thought.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Man, such a dick move.

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

That was the shift.

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

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

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

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

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

And more than that, I have my friend back.

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

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


That Shakubuku That You Do

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

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

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

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

No. Wait. That's not right.

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

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

It was not an early night.

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

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

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

So, back to the story.

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

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

"Must be Gary," I thought.

It was.

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

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

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

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

"So.  Has anyone tried to kill you?"


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blew my mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Failing NaNo - 4 Years and Counting

I looked, Dear Readers, and noted that the last time I saw fit to let the words fall from my brain bucket and onto these virtual pages was o...