The Story Behind, ‘The Hill’

Laptop Writer 1Last week, I posted a short story I wrote called, ‘The Hill‘. The story of a girl living with in an abusive home, who befriends a young man living in the apartment building across the street. I thought I would share my thinking process and how I finally got to putting words down to create this little love story.

I had three main inspirations that lead me to create this story. So, in the order in which they influenced me. Here they are.

In my early twenties, I had a two bedroom apartment with a roommate. Because of my job and band, I preformed with at the time, I was always coming and going from my apartment at all odd hours of the day and night. I recall, quite vividly, times that I or my roommate and I, stood outside our apartment and could hear the physical acts of violence taking place in the house across the street. It would be so loud you could hear yelling and objects breaking. I remember saying to my roommate, “I am glad they don’t have kids.”

It was such an oddity for me to have experienced such a thing that the image of that house across the street and all the, What Ifs, in my mind at the time really stuck with me.

Over the years, I played with the idea of what if they kids. What would that be like for them. From that, the story really started to take shape.

In trying to develop the characters, I would say the Sidney Poitier movie, ‘A Patch of Blue‘ was a big help. The age difference between Gordon Ralfe (Sidney Poitier) and Selina (Elizabeth Hartman), along with all the conversations that take place between the two characters as they get to know each other through out the film was a huge influence on me. It really helped me develop the characters of Jack and Jill. Even thought I saw this movie way earlier in my life, I only found myself turning back to it after I decided there was a story here for me to write.

Lastly, the nursery rhyme, ‘Jack and Jill’. This hit me early on when I started actually writing. These characters needed names and the story really needed something to tie the whole thing together. I started thinking about how I wanted the story to end. Something sweet that implied hope. Jack and Jill just popped in my head as I thought about it. How the characters “took the exit and followed the ramp up to the top of the hill, where he pulled in the the restaurant’s parking lot.” enforces the whole rhyme.

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.

The first draft of the story and a bulk of the writing, I wrote in a web application called Write Box. Being able to change the background color to black and the text color to green really helps my Dyslexics eyes see what I am writing.

After the first draft was written, there were three subsequent drafts of edits and modifications, all done with Google Documents. Google Documents allowed me to share out the story to friends and people who’s opinions I trust when I am looking for feedback or advice.

That’s how I did it. I hope you enjoyed the story.

Brennan’s Texas Comic Book Wall


Recently I was contacted by Brennan from Texas. He sent me a picture of his new comic book wall using the directions from my IKEA comic book hack. Brennan had the following story to share with us about this comics and his new comic book wall.

After most of my comics got destroyed in a flood about 6-7 years ago, I stopped collecting. But my parents found a box of stuff I stashed away in their garage and it turned out, most of my favorite issues and cover art were inside. Growing up, I was a bigger fan of the B-list Marvel heroes, guys like Dr. Strange, Moon Knight, Iron Fist, Black Panther and Black Knight. So naturally, I wanted a relatively inexpensive way to display them. After doing a little online research, I came across Youseph’s site and liked the results I saw.

There’s an IKEA near where my folks live in Dallas and I bought 16 frames for under $40.00, picked up some black card stock at the Hobby Lobby and some Command Picture Hanging Strips, so that there wouldn’t be any damage to my walls. I chose 16 of my favorite covers from the 40 or so books I had left in my long box and my girlfriend helped me hang them up in the office.

She loves them, I love them. The result was perfect. Now we’re thinking about hanging up 16 more in another part of the house! If it wasn’t for Youseph’s site, we’d have probably spent a lot more money. Thanks for the smart and effective tip!

If you have a comic book wall using the IKEA hack found here, please contact me. I would love to see how it turned out for you.

Wet Shaving

Safety Razor
Safety Razor

Shaving is something that has historically never been an enjoyable experience for me. Shaving cream always dried out my face and shavers like The Gillette MACH series of shavers dull to quickly and cost way to much to keep replacing the blades. But then I learned about  “Traditional” wet shaving.

Basically, a friend of mine turned me onto this guy on youtube who taught me how to shave like a man. In fact, my friend likes to say “he’s probably single-handedly taught half the internet to shave”. That’s how good we all think he is.

Earlier this year, I logged onto Amazon and picked up a traditional shaving brush and soap. I also picked up the Merkur Double Edge Razor. Also known as a safety razor. Your grandfather probably had one. The blades cost a fraction to replace compared to Gillette’s cartridges. The resulting shaving of using a safety razor while wet shaving is amazing. Closest shave of my life. Shaving is no longer a chore either. I actually look forward to doing it in the mornings.

My new found joy and enthusiasm in wet shaving has resulted in writing a post for the website, Sharpologist. Which is run by the same guy who made the youtube videos that have taught the internet how to shave. I hope you will all check out my post there and maybe learn about wet shaving while you’re at it.

The Memory Palace

Memories, remembering, and how thought and the recall of thought works for people is something I often find myself thinking about a lot. I think this is because at one point in my life I needed to be on antidepressants and they really messed up my short-term memory. So, I find myself thinking about how people remember things and recall things.

The first time I started thinking about how the brain and thoughts work was early on in school. I was told by my music teacher that the human mind can only handle seven independent things/thoughts at one time. If you add an eighth in the mix, one of the other seven will no longer be available to you.

The way this applies to music and my drumming, he told me, was that when you are drumming you are using all four of your limbs behind the drum kit. Your arms and legs. Each one is doing something independent of the other. That is four things your mind is tracking. You are also keeping time in your head and anticipating what is coming next. That is six things. The seventh thing I find myself doing while I am playing music is just either looking around and being observant of the other musicians. Sometimes I’m thinking about random things such as what I am going to make for dinner or what is on the agenda for work tomorrow. That’s my seven things at once. The brain can’t handle anymore than that. This point gets proven over and over again with me during band practice whenever anyone hits a note that is not correct, or plays something different. This by default makes me drop whatever extra thing I am thinking at the time to focus on the change in the music. Sometimes I won’t be as lucky and forget what I was thinking. Sometimes one of my legs or arms will quit working and the drum beat I will be playing will sound wrong. So a lot of discipline goes into being focused and prepared for something unexpected when I am playing music with my band.

In the past I have talked about how much I like, and use, the Getting Things Done (GTD) work methodology developed by David Allen. It’s great for keeping tasks and projects, both work and personal, organised in a way that allows you to get things completed quickly and efficiently. But the thing that makes GTD so great is the fact that it frees up your mind to allow you to have ideas. Unlike remembering things, having ideas is something the mind is great at doing.

“Your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them.” – David Allen

By being able to put your tasks down in a system that you trust allows you to focus on your next action rather than spending your time worried about the overall project. It really is a life changing way to work and get things done. If you have not looked into before, I highly recommend that you do so.

The latest thing I have been learning about almost contradicts GTD in a way. The Memory Palace is an ancient way of remembering anything. By having a house for all your thoughts that are triggered by distinct locations within the house of your minds eye you can recall any kind of information. See the videos below to better understand what I am talking about.

Self Publishing Steps

When I self published my first book ALL THAT MATTERS I learned a lot of stuff as I went along about self publishing. I wrote down a lot of these things to make my todo list for my next book MIRROR THROUGH TIME a little bit easier for me self publish. I want to share that todo list with you today to see if anyone thinks I am leaving something out.
  • Finish Writing Book (so close)
  • Have the book sent to an editor to be edited
  • Have a cover designed
  • Consult with a PR firm
  • Have an audio book made
  • Have a physical copy of the book made
  • Have Review copies of the book to give out.
  • Contact as many book review blogs as possible to review my book (currently have a list of 300 and growing)

So what do you think? Am I leaving anything out? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think I should add or do differently.


sodaI admit it, I am and addict. My addiction, soda pop.

I love soda. I love how it tastes. I love how it makes me feel. As soon as I have finished one bottle, I am jonesing to open the next one.

Soda is my drug when I need a fix. It’s my cigaret when I need a break. It’s my coke when I need a hit. It is my one true addiction that I just can’t break. It is my vice.

I have read in the ‘4 Hour Body’ book that diet soda can prevent weight loss. That anything more than a can of diet soda a day will mess with your goal to loose weight and it is true. I have been tracking my weight daily since I started the Slow Carb diet and it’s clear that my recent plateau is a direct result of the diet soda I drink daily.

I have already started to ween myself off this insane addiction and it already feels like an uphill battle in the cold of night. With all the ingredients in diet soda like Aspartame, Phophoric Acid, Potassium Benzoate, Phenylketonurics, and Phenylalanine there is no way this is healthy for anyone on the planet. These two dollar words on the side of my diet soda bottle are probably the reason why I am addicted to it like heroin in the first place.

Green TeaTo get off this addictive nectar I am taking a couple of approaches. The first one is just a slow ween off. Everyday I am going to slowly reduce how much diet soda I drink till I am off or at least get down to 1 can of diet soda a day as recommended by the ‘4 Hour Body’ book. (The author of wich admits to be a huge addict of Diet Coke and states that reducing how much he drank was very difficult.) As I ween myself off of diet soda, I am going to supplement my caffeine needs with green tea. Green tea is great antioxidant and good for your metabolism.

As far as my weekly cheat day goes, I believe I am still going to drink a lot of soda. But on my cheat day I have always drank real sugar soda like Jones Sada, or Pepsi Throwback. The ingredients in these sodas are fewer and you can actually pronounce them unlike the ingredients in diet sodas.

Writing A First Draft

When I sit down to write the first draft of a book, I like to create a document for each chapter. So in whatever wordprocessor you choose, start by creating a new document and save it as ‘Chapter 1’.  Then using the the outline you created earlier, copy the outline for chapter 1 and paste it into your new ‘Chapter 1’ document.

Lots of people have their own ideas and techniques on writing. I just like to write using the outline as my guide. The key word there being ‘guide’. While you are writing chapter 1 your thoughts and writing may go in a whole other direction. Some aspect of the story may grow out of your typing organically. That is perfectly fine and I encourage you to follow that flow. I find that a lot of my writing is till very organic and spawns lots of ideas. But by the end of it, I have touched on all of my outlined points. If something I have written was not a specified in my outlined point and it turns out to be really good I will add it to my outline should I ever need to reference the chapter I put it in.

Remember that your first draft should just be used to get your ideas out. To write the story. The first draft for me is more of a brain dump. Ernest Hemingway said “The first draft of anything is shit”, and that is how I treat it. Not until the second draft do I scrutinize over everything letter, word, and comma.

As far as words are concerned and how they should be used, I will not waste your time. The truth is that far greater writers than I have written wonderful books on how words should be used. I encourage you to seek out at least one of these books and read it before you start writing your first book. My personal favorit is ‘On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft’ by Steven King.