4.20.2017

In The Bag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drop me a line and let me know!


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

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

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

Perfect!

-AT

4.16.2017

The Danger When Dreams Come True

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

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

It comes down to one thing.  Accountability.

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

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

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

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

Fast forward to 2008.

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

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

Dream come true, right?

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

And it was fun for a week.

Contrast that to the writing thing.

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

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

But at that point, it was on me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that's cool.

Until the dream comes true.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that comes true in nine days. 

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

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

The only thing that will get me there is writing.

And I'll do that.

Because I'm a writer.

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

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

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

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

Peace,
-AT


4.09.2017

A Dialog With The Universe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was at 5:47pm.


Today.

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

Who knows?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the workshop. OH MY GOODNESS, YO!

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

AND IT WAS AMAZING.

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

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

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

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

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

In short, to making my dreams come true.

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

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

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

So, back to the Universe smiling at me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magic.


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



4.04.2017

The Ninety-Nine Cent Dream



If you follow me on any other social media (first of all, thank you), you will recognize the above (and below) image(s).

This is the cover for the urban fantasy box set that I am thrilled to be a part of.  There are 15 other amazing authors at various points in their writing career, including USA Today and New York Times Bestselling authors!

I am in some incredible company.

So why call this post the Ninety-Nine Cent Dream?

Because, for ninety-nine pennies, you (yes you) can take an active role in making a dream come true.

Dreams are pretty amazing things. Almost like a virus. When you catch wind that someone has a dream, it sits there and you wonder...wow. that's interesting. What's that going to look like if they reach that dream? What's next?

And then, just like that, you're caught up in it.  You're watching this person go after their dream. Maybe you're watching them thinking they'll never make it. Maybe you're rooting for them to blow the doors off of the dream. Or, maybe you're watching and waiting for them to fail.

Because if they fail, then they have proven that dreams don't come true. And when we have evidence that a dream doesn't come true, then it's ok that our dreams are sitting up on the shelf getting dusty.

But...I ask you this.

What if they make it?  What if they succeed? What if they fly higher than anyone thought possible??

That's when it gets good.

And you know what? If you're reading this blog right now, you're watching a dream come true.

A little kid from Westerville, Ohio who started writing in spiral bound notebooks when he was in elementary school is about to become a published author.

It has been nearly a forty year process.  And I'm not going to lie. There were times that the dream got put back up on the shelf. Covered under layers of dust, regret, self-doubt and time.

Then something happened.

The writing woke up.  The creativity refused to be in hibernation.   Poems, lyrics, blog posts and all manners of my dream brain flexing its muscles.  Like a cat stretching after a long nap in the lazy afternoon sun, it was time to start pouncing on things.

A series of coincidences starting with being invited to an engagement party (and more miraculously, overcoming my social anxiety and actually going). At that party meeting a dude that I connected with on a friendly level. Like I knew I could hang out with him and have a beer and shoot the shit. It wasn't until ten minutes before he and his family were leaving the party that  I found out he was an actual honest to god published author. Yeah. Kick in the head there.  And then, his persistent emails to me for the next three months telling me about a Columbus writing group.

This snowballed in to meeting up with members of another writing group which included even MORE amazing an inspirational people.

So now, two years later, I am on the cusp of being a published author. I am sure my heroes, Asimov, Bradbury, Adams, Shakespeare and the lot are giving each other high fives and simultaneously shaking their heads in pity as another writer enters the fray.

A writer. Soon to be a published author.

This is literally the dream. This is how act one of the dream unfolds. I said last year that before the end of 2017, I would be a published author.  In twenty one days from now, that will be a fact.

I hear people say all the time, they don't know how they got there. Like suddenly their dreams had come true.

That's not me. I can tell you every step. Every decision. Every fork in this long and winding road that brought me to here is etched in my soul in indelible ink.

And I can say with all honesty that those of you that are reading this blog are a big part of that journey.  As a writer, I write for me.  As an author, I'm taking the next step and saying, "Here. I wrote this for you. It started out for me, but I'd like you to have it."

That's where the ninety-nine cents comes in.

The other authors in the set and I are doing a big pre-order push on Amazon today for the box set.
And if you're going to get it anyway (and I hope you are), I would ask that you head over and order it today.

The main reason is this. The pre-order sales numbers help give us visibility and add to our 'stickiness' on Amazon searches. So that if someone just searched for 'Urban Fantasy,' we would have a greater shot of being in those search results based on the pre-order sales.

I know it doesn't seem like much, but ultimately it's about ranking. And part of this dream of being an author, for me, involves just being an author. Full time.

Things like this are the first step.

So there's my pitch.  For 99 pennies you can have an active role in making sure this dream unfolds to its full potential.

And how many times in your life can you say that you play an active role in fulfilling someone's dreams.

Whether you click on either of the images or this link (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XXKFS3J) to go order, or if you're just sitting on the sidelines, or waiting until later, I thank you.

Thank you for the role you played in me getting here.

And thank you for letting me tell you a story.

If you like my debut novella, SHADOW INITIATE in the box set (or if you didn't), leave me a review.

Either way, I'm going to keep telling stories and living this dream that we've just unfurled.


Peace,
Todd




In The Bag

There are a few common threads throughout this blog if you read it long enough. One of these threads has to do with my obsession...er...ques...