Friday on History Channel International: Mysteries of the Freemasons

House of the Temple, Washington, D.C.
If you're not doing anything this evening, I saw History Channel International is showing Mysteries of the Freemasons again at 7 PM central time.  History Channel and History International seem to be obsessed with the topic of Freemasonry.  There are a lot of these shows in rotation.  I like this one in particular because it focuses so much on the House of the Temple building in Washington D.C. 

And History Channel has a new show Brad Meltzer Decoded.  I've seen a few of those.  One of them is about the missing cornerstone of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.  Much of that episode is about Freemasons, and much of their research into the topic of where that stone is was done in the House of the Temple Library.   Of course that's probably because George Washington was a Freemason, and he presided as Master over the Freemasons that performed the Masonic ritual over the cornerstone of the Capitol Building when it was laid.  Now you have to remember when you watch, that Brad Meltzer is a great fiction writer--he wrote one on the subject of Freemasonry I really enjoyed called The Book of Fate--so you have to take some of it with a grain of salt. 

So there's still a lot of interesting programming to satiate the appetites of Freemason enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists alike. 

Keurig Coffee Maker: Great Gift for the Java Junkie

Valerie has one of these at her work, and she's wanted one for home for a long time.  She's a tea drinker, and this machine makes great tea.  So we decided to get one as an early Christmas gift--we've both got some time off over the holidays, and thought it would be nice to have during all the time we're going to have around the house.  She's been using it, and then I tried it.  I was a little skeptical at first.  I'm picky about coffee.  I use a French press at home normally--I can make a hell of a cup of coffee, but it takes a while.  But you know, this makes really superb coffee!  And it does it in seconds.  It's like my new favorite thing.  It came with about a dozen sample coffees, and I found several stout brews I really like.  This thing will spit out a nearly perfect cup of coffee in less than a minute. 

Valerie has a basket for it that allows her to use her own teabags for coffee (or you can use your own fresh ground coffee too.)  She made kind of an orange chai tea last night that was fabulous.  If you're looking for a gift for the coffee or tea drinker on your list, this would be a great gift.  I don't know who's enjoying it more, Valerie or I. 

ONE LAST SHOT For B&N Nook Next Week!

Here we go!  Moon & Son Publishing is pleased to announce that One Last Shot should be available for download from Barnes & Noble for your Nook e-reader as soon as next week.  Just in time for Christmas for those of you that took my advice and got yourself a Nook.  I'll post a link just as soon as it becomes available.

For those of you with the Amazon Kindle, the e-book should be available at Amazon.com for the Kindle before Christmas also.   And, of course, the print version will be available at major online booksellers and select stores everywhere in early January 2011.

Enjoy your weekend,

TEC

Lauterer Fraternal: For the Freemason On Your List

Many of us in the Midwest are very familiar with Lauterer Fraternal Supply--that's where we get all our car emblems, Past Masters aprons, rings, etc.  If you enjoy reading about Freemasonry, Lauterer also carries an extensive collection of rare and hard-to-find books on Freemasonry, and as of a few weeks ago, they've added all three of my titles to their inventory. 

So if you're looking for that perfect gift for the Mason on your list, Lauterer is a good place to start. 

Somewhere In America Tonight . . .

. . . in a state-of-the-art book production facility, on a printing press that prints over 1.5 million books a months and runs the length of a football field, a single copy of One Last Shot is in the process of being made--the PROOF COPY!  We're getting close.  Hopefully all will be well with the proof, and I can release it around the first of the year as planned.

ONE LAST SHOT: Coming January 2011

ISBN 978-0-9831156-0-1
I've pretty much gotten everything done at this point, so I've decided to move the release date of One Last Shot up to January 2011.  The electronic versions will be available later through Google Books, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

I had no idea when I decided to become an independent publisher and put together Moon & Son Publishing how much work it was going to be (and how much I was going to have to learn about just about every aspect of publishing.)  But it was well worth the two or three months of near constant frustration, and climbing what proved to be a pretty steep learning curve.  But I've had a lot of help from other independent publishers, from the knowledgeable staff at LSI, from my graphic designer Brion Sausser, and there are a few great books out there for independent publishers that I found invaluable written by Aaron Shepherd.  And of course, Moon & Son Publishing has a great imprint designed by my friend and fraternal Brother, Ray Gordon. 

Back Cover ONE LAST SHOT
ISBN 978-0-9831156-0-1
I don't know if I'd recommend going this route for a first-time author, but if you're planning on putting out a title a year, there are tremendous advantages to going through this pain, and moderate expense.  There's a much better profit margin.  You maintain the control over every aspect of your project--every detail from layout to marketing. 

However, on the downside, there's a lot to learn, there's a lot to do, there's a million steps, and a lot of tiny little details to keep track of.  You'll have to learn about everything from creating a distilled PDF to a certain set of very rigid specifications, to figuring out manufacturing costs and margins, to learning how to convert your book files into a variety of electronic formats.  If you're not a detail oriented person, this isn't the right choice for you.  I've been a business manager and accountant for nearly 25 years, dealing with details every day, and this little project frazzled me a bit. 

But as with all things, it gets easier after the first time.  I'm not deterred, in fact, Moon & Son Publishing has plans on re-releasing updated and revised versions off all three of my previous books in the next year (including electronic versions for your e-reader).  And, of course, now that I've managed to navigate this minefield, maybe I can get back to doing what I really enjoy in my free time.  Writing!

Monday Adventures: No Shortage of Snow or Morons

You know those morons in line in front of you at Starbucks, or the fast food restaurant, that hold up the whole line because they are ill-prepared to order, can't decide what they want, or they're talking on their phone instead of paying attention--or they have other issues?  Yeah, you know who they are!  They really push my patience at times.  I have many words I use to describe them, usually muttered under my breath these days with a little girl in the backseat that repeats everything I say, but I'm not beyond using my horn at times.  But I had a humbling experience this morning--I was the moron.  I was in the moron category of other issues

It was brutally cold this morning.  We were snowed in Sunday.  As usual, it snowed Saturday, and it was no big deal.  We got out Saturday.  But then the wind began to blow Sunday, and out there in the country, our driveway drifted in as it always does, and was covered in over a foot of snow--which is minimal for us, we've seen three and four feet and more over the years.  Last year we had to have a guy come with a bucket tractor--we had more than five feet over the driveway in places.  We knew it was coming, so we parked at the very end of the driveway--snow position we call that.  It's less to shovel to get out the first time after the snow plows come by, and then later we have a guy that plows us out and clears the drive, but I still started the day out Monday stuck in my own driveway three feet from the cleared road.  Valerie just pulls her Chevy Impala right out through it, but my Ford Focus . . . well, Valerie's laughing this morning didn't help me that much with my Monday cheerful mood. 

I was chilled to the bone by the time I got to town, and my socks were wet.  I can still hear Valerie laughing as she's pushing my Ford out of the driveway.  "Just get out of the car, Todd, and I'll pick up your Focus and set it on the road and you'll be off.  I can't lift it with you in it."  She's hilarious.  Yeah, I get it, I'm a fat guy now, in a tiny car.  I was thinking a hot cup of coffee on the way to work was a great idea, and I guess I wasn't the only one, because it was busy in the Starbucks drive thru this morning. 

I wait in line, and finally get to the speaker, and I go to roll down the window to order, and discover my window is frozen shut.  I can hear the muffled voice asking for my order, but I can't get the damned window down.  I'm trying to shout through the glass, VENTI PIKE'S PLACE!  But they can't hear me.  I think, I'll just open my door and order, but I'm way too close, and I can't open my door--and I couldn't back up, or pull forward because it was locked in line.  Car ahead of me pulls forward, and I decide just to stay in line and order at the window.  That was a big mistake.  I get to the window, open my door and order.  Well I confused everybody.  I created chaos apparently because I didn't order at the speaker.  You're supposed to order at the speaker!  You didn't order at the speaker?  Why didn't you order at the speaker?  OMG!  What do we do?  This guy didn't order at the speaker.  Customers are supposed to order at the speaker, but he didn't! Why didn't you order at the speaker, sir?

They're trying to give me two mochas and some scones and I'm explaining I didn't order at the speaker, and they just can't believe it's not my order.  This situation must not be covered in the employee handbook or the training videos.  Those registers keep track of the orders in order as it was explained to me, so when you don't order in order, it creates havoc, and there were discussions about how it needed to be handled, and they finally find a solution--ring it up on one of the internal registers.  I'm glad they figured it out finally--I even offered to pull around, park, and come inside and order. But they were determined to figure it out.  I was afraid for a moment they were going to have to call the headquarters hotline in Seattle to find out the emergency procedure for what to do when a customer doesn't order at the stupid speaker!  There might not have even been an emergency procedure, because customers are supposed to order at the speaker in the drive thru--there's even a big sign that says "Order Here."  This whole time I'm hanging half in, and half out of my car.  It takes a long time to sort it out procedurally, and then to finally get my coffee and pay, and the cars behind me are honking and I can see the guy behind me mouthing many of the names I've used over the years as his mochas are getting cold.  At least I'm guessing he was the guy with the mochas and scones because he ordered at the speaker.  I wonder if he got them?  It takes forever, but I finally get my coffee and pull around, and you have to drive right along the drive thru line on the way out--the drive of shame as it turns out. I know all those people are looking me and thinking "There goes the moron that made me late for work.  Thanks alot, buddy!" 

So just remember when you're behind a moron, he may not actually be a moron--it might just be his turn that day.  You may find yourself in his shoes one day.  I learned a lesson in patience today.  And another lesson you might take from this, is when it's frigid cold outside, and you decide to go through the drive thru, before you pull into line and get blocked in, give that electric window a little check first and make sure it isn't frozen shut.   

Of course the simple solution to the problem occurred to me on the way to work with my coffee, and I considered not testing the theory--sometimes it's better not to know.  But I couldn't help myself.  I pushed the button for the back window.  The back window on the driver's side wasn't frozen.  I could have put the seat back and ordered through it.  And as Monday law dictates, when I got to work, I was walking around the corner of our building, and skidded on the ice and nearly fell down.  I didn't fall, but I dropped my damned coffee, and it exploded on the ground like a Venti egg.  I never got even one sip of it.  Pretty much the beginning of a perfect Monday.   


TEC

Henry Ford: Freemason Wisdom To Begin Your Week





"Don't find fault, find a remedy."
~Henry Ford






It's never been difficult to accept credit for something when everything goes right, but it's always been hard to accept blame when things go wrong.  It's much easier to assign blame, than accept responsibility.  But what we often forget is that we learn much more from an error than we do from a success.  A person that never makes a mistake doesn't have the opportunity to learn from it.  They never learn to adapt, change, and try again.  They never learn to look at problems from other angles and see other possible solutions.

It's difficult to be wrong.  It's embarrassing to fall on your face.  It's hard to be laughed at.  But a person that is never criticised never learns to accept criticism and goes through life terrified of the prospect of making a mistake and looking foolish.  They never learn to rise above it.  They never learn to brush themselves off and keep on going with the experience of that mistake behind them, and the wisdom of a valuable lesson learned the hard way.  The secret in attaining wisdom isn't never making a mistake--it's never making the same mistake twice.

TEC

You like this? Check back next Monday for another great quote from a famous Freemason. This may wind up being a regular feature of the Toddz Spot blog


Do We Really Need A New Rooster Cogburn?

Jeff Bridges as Rooster?
Sorry, that's not
Rooster Cogburn.
Here we are living in 2010.  A world where computers can generate just about any image our minds can imagine.  A world where movie special effects can produce just about any scenario a director can think up.  A world where we're using this virtually unlimited creative ability to remake old low-budget TV shows like The Dukes of Hazard and The A-Team for the big screen?  Really?

This is Steve McGarrett
Is it true that axiom that the smarter our computers get, the dumber we get?  Are we truly out of new and original ideas.  I was thinking about this the other night while I was watching the new Hawaii Five-O.  Perhaps that's not fair--there are shows on TV that are fresh and original, like NCIS (which they've now copied and run back to back).  Wait . . . how about CSI (there's like twenty of those now aren't there?).  Okay, the quality of TV may be at an all-time low, but maybe TV is not the best example. 

I'm sure this is going to be great!
Spiderman: The Musical!
Let's look at the artistic and creative world of Broadway.  I just can't wait to see "Spiderman: The Broadway Musical."  Or maybe head to the theater to see a remake of True Grit.  Of course the original is probably one of the most perfect examples of the Western ever made by Hollywood starring one of the greatest actors ever, John Wayne.  How could you improve upon that, and why would you even want to try?  It's not like you're trying to perfect something that fell short last time. 

Now this is, and always will be
Rooster Cogburn. The Duke
Seems that in our modern world, we should be able to do better than to just regurgitate what's already been done before.  Can't we have a truly original idea, or are we just going to continue to plagiarize ourselves until all original thinking is gone forever.  Every time you copy something, it gets fundamentally weaker, and it seems to me we aren't always dealing with the strongest material to begin with.  Consider this while you're watching the new version of The Wizard of Oz.  At least when it comes to remaking old movies, they're remaking good ones.  It would make no sense to remake bad ones, like say the 1982 Disney flop TRON.  What?  You're kidding right?  In 3-D? That's great.  I can't wait to see that. Now will Jeff Bridges be reprising his role in TRON, or is he too busy filming the new True Grit in the lead role of Rooster Cogburn?

Bet you can't see him as Rooster Cogburn now.  "Fill yur hand
you son of a bitch!"  See it just doesn't work, does it?
Okay, so I'm just ticked off that somebody is messing with a John Wayne movie.  But John Wayne dedicated nearly half a century to making films, and True Grit is one of the best examples of his work, in fact, he won his only Oscar in the part. Those movies represent a persons life work, and isn't is just a little disrepectful for somebody to come along and marginalize that accomplishment by trying to duplicate it with little possibility of improving upon the original? 

No wonder people question if America's best days aren't behind her--at a time when so many things are possible for the very first time in our history, it just seems like we're out of ideas about how to use it.

The Beer Summit: A Conversation with Author Todd Creason

Todd Creason is the author of several books about famous Freemasons in American history. A Freemason himself, Todd’s series Famous American Freemasons has become as popular with non-Masons as it is with Masons. He considers writing a hobby, and works as a Business Manager at the University of Illinois. But his books continue to grow in popularity.

I met Todd several years ago in Chicago in a television station green room as we were waiting to be interviewed for a Newsmakers segment for CNN Headline News. It was pretty obvious to me that Todd Creason was somebody that had a very unique way of seeing the world. Within a few minutes, we were laughing so hard a studio employee asked us to keep it down and shut the door. When I saw Todd had a new novel One Last Shot he was promoting, I knew he’d be an entertaining subject to interview. I wasn’t wrong about that. He sent me a copy of the book, and a few weeks later, we met outside of Danville, Illinois in a local bar called The Little Nugget.  I recognized the bar instantly as The Beer Chaser, one of the fictional settings from Todd's novel One Last Shot.


So are you ready to begin the interview?

Isn’t that what we’ve been doing? What have we been doing for the last fifteen minutes?

I was getting some background information so I’d know what kinds of questions to ask.

Oh. I thought we were doing the interview. Maybe I should get some background information from you, so I know what kind of answers to give.

What do you want to know about me?

Would you like another beer?

Yes, I would. Anything else?

No. That’s all I really wanted to know. Bartender! When you get a moment could we have two more over here?

Are you ready to begin now?

Hey, I’m not the one that needed fifteen minutes of foreplay.

Are you going to give me serious answers to my questions?

It depends on your questions.

How would you describe One Last Shot to someone that hasn’t read it?

Brilliant.

I think you’re missing the point here, Todd. Authors use interviews like this to get potential readers interested in reading their books. One word answers probably aren’t the best way to generate that kind of interest.

Very brilliant?

This is going to take a long time at this rate. You promised me you were going to try to give me serious answers.

I did not.  I said it depended on your questions.  Actually, I haven’t been interviewed like this before so I'm a little wound up. This is my very first interview as a novelist. I've done a quite a few interviews for non-fiction, but fiction is handled much differently.  You get interviewed for a non-fiction history book, and it’s very boring interview. Predictable questions. Often it’s done over the phone. Just the facts. The interview winds up in the paper somewhere between the obituaries and the public notices, and usually half the facts are wrong.

Take a deep breath, and tell me about One Last Shot.

Okay. One Last Shot is about a best-selling author, Levi Garvey, who’s going through a mid-life crisis. He’s reached that age where men sometimes begin to wonder if their greatest accomplishments aren’t behind them. Levi just published a really bad book after two knock-out hits, and he’s being ridiculed nationally by critics. He sees his life living in his Savannah, Georgia townhouse on Pulaski Square with his age-inappropriate girlfriend unraveling. He decides to get out of town and figure out where his life is going. That’s what Levi does. Levi runs away from his problems. He decides to go back home to the small town of Twin Rivers for the first time in twenty years, to attend his 25th class reunion, settle his grandmother’s estate that he recently inherited, and hopefully, finally resolve a mistake he made long ago and see his old love again—Tori Buchanan. She’s the problem that caused him to run away from Twin Rivers all those years before. He was in love with her, and he never told her. While he was in college, she got married. It devastated him. He couldn’t take it, so he ran away, and he never went back. But don’t get the idea Levi’s a coward, because he’s not. He just can’t deal with feelings. That’s not that uncommon in men.

In the back of his mind, he’s hoping that while he’s home, and finally dealing with these difficult feelings from the past, maybe something will spark his muse again, and give him an idea for a new book. He hasn’t completely given up on the idea of making a comeback, but he isn’t convinced he can. And of course, the trip does just that, it gives him that idea he was looking for, and as he’s researching that idea he stumbles into a decades old secret. And then everything changes for Levi in very unexpected ways.

It’s very hard to put down, and I’d have to admit, you caught me off-guard. I thought I was reading a story about a man going home again to find himself, and I fully expected a love story when he finally finds his old flame, Tori Buchanan. It was all warm and fuzzy in the beginning, and parts of it were hysterically funny. Next thing I know, I’m on a rollercoaster, flipping pages until 2 a.m.

That is precisely what I wanted to do. Thank you. I wanted the reader to think they were reading a heartwarming story about a man battling through a midlife crisis as he tries to climb back to the top of his profession after suffering a horribly embarrassing setback. Make the reader feel like they were reading something off Oprah's "must read" list. Then just about the time the reader is getting comfortable, and waiting for the romance to start, I toss in the grenade, and blast everything all to hell. I don’t want to give too much away about the book, but as you know, it gets pretty ugly, and Levi has to come to grips with aspects of his personality that he’s long tried to forget, and never really wanted to face.

You’ve got a real knack for humor. It’s obvious in One Last Shot, and I follow your blog too, and it’s pretty funny as well. Did you ever consider writing a humorous novel?

I’ve thought about it. In fact, I had a really weird idea for a book just like that, and I even had a title. It was called Train Wreck: A Love Story. But it didn’t work for me. I filed it away finally.  I like books like that, but there aren’t many authors that manage to pull it off, and it became obvious to me that I wasn't one of them. There’s no shortage of these zany, satirical novelists, but unless you’re Kurt Vonnegut, by the end of the book that humor has become pretty threadbare, and there’s little substance holding it together. Books have to be more than just quirky and witty. There has to be story there that’s built on a little more foundation than just novelty to maintain a reader’s interest--at least it takes a little more than that to maintain mine. But I think humor is important no matter what kind of book you’re writing, because it’s such an important part of who we are. We love to laugh. And people can find humor is just about any situation.

I’ve often heard that first novels are autobiographical. Is that true?

Well, there’s a lot of me in the book, but there’s not a lot of me in the character of Levi Garvey. He is my age, but that, and a few interests of his are about the only things we have in common. The only reason I made Levi and I the same age is because I’d just spent four years writing three non-fiction books on famous Freemasons back to back, and I was tired of researching. I needed a little break from the library. If I’d made Levi ten years younger than me, or ten years older, I’d have had to do a lot of research. What high school was like during that character’s time, what songs were popular, what items of news were in the papers. I figured, screw that, me and Levi are the same age. I remember the 80s well, so I didn’t have to spent much time researching that—I was there. And that’s the same reason Levi loves old movies. I do too. And 80s metal. I do too. Again, I stuck with interests I knew so I wouldn’t have to do a lot of research. So I’m basically just a lazy researcher. I had a good story, and there was some research I had to do to support the story, but I stuck really close to what I knew well when it came to the characters.

When did you start considering yourself a writer?

I haven’t yet. I’m an accountant that writes. I don’t think I could ever write full time. I’ve taken vacation time off before, thinking I’ll have a chance to work on a book or an idea, and that whole week or two will pass, and I’ll get almost nothing done. Writing for me is a form of relaxation. I get all wound up at work, and going through the daily routine, and in the evenings, when everyone in my house goes to bed, writing is how I unwind. And I love doing it—as a hobby. It’s simply recreation for me. That, and I'm one of the fortunate few that really love my job.

Do you ever hear from your readers, and what kinds of things do they say?

I get a lot of emails from readers of the Famous American Freemasons series. They fall into two categories usually. The “hey, you got this tiny little detail wrong in chapter four” pile, and the “boy, I sure loved your book” pile. And of course, there’s that fringe group that likes your book, and wants you to read over their 1,000 page manifesto and tell them what you think of it. That gets a little odd sometimes. There are a lot of crazy people out there that write. Usually in all capital letters and no punctuation. I get my share of crazy Freemasonry conspiracy theorists too. One actually showed up at my first book-signing at a Waldenbooks in 2007 and accused me of being a high-ranking member of the Illuminati, which dissolved in 1776 by the way. He was escorted from the mall by the mall police.
But overwhelmingly, my email is positive. People like the way I write, and what I write about. I’m told my books are easy to read, and they like the way I tell history as stories. Even writing history, I didn’t want to bore readers with dull dates and details unless they are important to the man’s story. And they love the short chapters. In fact, I’ve gotten a lot of emails that have called them “great bathroom books” because the chapters are so short. I guess my chapters are the perfect length for taking care of that kind of business. I always respond the same way. “I’m planning on printing the next volume on two-ply.”

You’re a popular writer amongst Freemasons. You want to talk about that a little bit?

I think of all the experiences I’ve had in my life, joining a Masonic lodge has been the most inspirational. It’s been a real driving force in my life. It’s different for everyone, but in my five years, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve made some of the best friends I’ve ever had. I’ve done things I’d thought about but never thought I’d actually do. When I started writing these books, most of the local members didn’t even know who I was since I was so new to the organization. But they got behind my book, actually, they got behind me, and they pushed this book because that’s what we do for each other. We’re all brothers. In all honesty, they didn’t care if that book was good or not. It was something I did, and they wanted to help me with it. As it turned out, it was a good book, and I wrote another one which most of my readers think was even better than the first, and I’ll write one more too. But if I live a long and active life, and I’m active in Freemasonry for the rest of my life, I’ll never be able to put back into that fraternity what I’ve gotten out of it. And if it weren’t for my brother Master Masons, I wouldn’t be here talking with you about my novel right now because I would have never gotten around to writing it.

We’ve been talking here a long time, and we met once before in Chicago, and I think that’s the very first completely serious thing you’ve ever said to me.

Well, they’ve done a lot for me. Freemasonry’s purpose is to make good men better. I don’t know that I was a particularly good man when I joined, but I can say without reservation, my experiences within this fraternity, have made me a better man. And I've still got plenty of room for improvement.  What I’ve experienced over the last five years has been both humbling, and uplifting.

What do you mean by that exactly?

I wrote my books about famous Freemasons as a new Mason myself, with the singular goal of bringing attention to the remarkable fraternity of Freemasonry and its long history in America.  My experiences in Freemasonry have been so life changing I wanted to tell a story about other men that experienced those same things and how their lives impacted our history.  I've only scratched the surface of the stories I could tell about these famous Freemasons.  My books have done that, but they've also brought a lot of attention on me, and sometimes, I'm not real comfortable with what's come with all that attention.  I sometimes wish people would focus a little more on what I've written, and a little less on the guy that wrote it.  Maybe it’s time for another subject.

Sure. What books do you think have influenced you the most?

Oh, brother. Are you kidding me? Is this where I list off ten or twelve of the greatest book in literature I’ve never read, or read and hated to demonstrate how deep and intelligent I am?

Yes, that’s exactly right.

Ok, we’ll give it a try. I grew up reading a lot of different books, but I loved Sherlock Holmes stories and Stephen King novels. I still read both. I think Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series was a big influence on me. I started reading it in the fourth or fifth grade when the first novel was printed as a serial in a science fiction magazine, and it took him nearly thirty years to finish the entire story, putting a book out every five or seven years. So for decades it was always part of what I was reading, and I was always waiting for the next book. Funny thing is most of his regular readers aren’t even familiar with it. The Dark Tower Series was like the back-story of every other mainstream book he wrote. It was like the story behind the story, and those of us that are familiar with it could see brief references to Roland Deschain’s Dark Tower world in books like It, and Needful Things, and Insomnia, and many more. King’s mind never seemed far from it. I liked that idea, and believe me, there’s a story behind the story of Twin Rivers too, but unlike King, if I have the opportunity to tell that story, I’ll probably finish with it rather than start with it.

These days I read mostly garbage, but there are several writers I enjoy in particular, and I’ll pick them up when I see they have a new book out. I like Jeffrey Deaver. I like John Sanford. I like Dan Brown. I’ve read all the Harry Potter books. As far as classics, one of my favorite books is Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. And you can’t go wrong with Tolkien either. Oh, and I almost forgot Horatio Hornblower. I love the Hornblower books by C. S. Forester.

Do you have a writing ritual? Many writers do.

I listen to Vivaldi, sip herbal tea with a vanilla candle burning, and begin writing after meditating for thirty minutes.

Really?

No. I write five or six nights a week starting at 8 PM which is my little girl’s bedtime. I’m distracted at least a dozen times by my dog, Roxanne, who begins harassing me for treats the minute my wife Valerie goes to bed. I’m usually listening to talk radio as I write. And when I’m writing, not researching, I’m often enjoying a few cold beers as I’m doing it. I work until midnight or one in the morning, and then go to bed. I don’t require much sleep—about five or six hours a night is perfect for me.

Now there’s another part of that process when I’m writing that takes place much earlier in the day. Every day when I’m actively writing, I walk my entire lunch hour, and I think through what I’m going to write that night. Plan it out. I do that while I’m driving to work and going home too. By the time I sit down that evening at 8, I know exactly what I’m doing, where I’m going, and exactly how I’m going to write it. Most of writing for me isn’t the actual writing, it’s all in my head, and I’m just plopping it down on paper.

What are your current projects?

I’m researching the third volume of the Famous American Freemasons series. That book will be the last one in that series. I’m working through the storylines of two possible future Twin Rivers novels. One is set in 1920s Twin Rivers, and that would be a great story, because it’s based loosely on a real story I read about in the archives of the library. The other idea I have takes place just a few months after One Last Shot ends. It just depends on which project comes together first. Ideas have to perk for awhile with me.

Would Levi Garvey be a part of that second book you mentioned?

He’ll be around, and Tori too along with most of the characters in the first book. It’s a small town, you can’t get away from that. But I’m not sure how important Levi will be yet, still working on it, but I don’t see him as being a major character at this point. But it’s possible he could take a role in the final outcome. Or better yet, Tori might.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Editing. I absolutely hate it. When I’m done with the last page of a book, the idea is purged from my mind, and finished in my opinion. I’m ready for the next project, which I’ve usually got in mind even before I finish the current book. The weeks and months revisiting, revising, and editing is absolute torture. Fortunately, with One Last Shot I had a really tight story, and there wasn’t much revision, it was just correction and minor fixes. But it still sucks, but you can’t get away from the importance of it if you want a good final product. And to be perfectly honest, I really hate this kind of stuff too.

Being interviewed?

All the promotion could go, and I wouldn’t miss it. I don’t like selling books. I love writing them. But there’s no sense in writing books if nobody reads them, and to sell them, you’re always promoting them. You’re speaking. You’re doing interviews. You’re talking about it on your blog. You’re writing articles for publication. There are book-signing events. It’s endless. You see, when I wrote my first book, Famous American Freemasons I did it because I wanted to tell a story of America, and a story about the kinds of men that Freemasonry has attracted over its long history in America. The Masons loved my book, and they got behind it and pushed hard on it, and I thought that was wonderful. They opened up doors, got the book reviewed, got it written about, publicized it. And it became a great success. But in my perfect world, I’d write them, people would automatically buy them, and I’d never have to leave my man cave. Maybe one day I’ll get there on name recognition alone, but I’m sure not there yet. I guess if you’re going to be a writer, book-hooking is part of it, and I suppose if I want to keep doing it, I’ll learn to be the good little book-hooker, and quit whining about it.

Nice phrase. Book-hooker?

Yeah, my wife came up with that. You knew what I was talking about though, didn’t you? That’s when a writer sells himself to sell a book. I find it very unsavory, but I’ve learned I have to do this if I want people to read what I’ve written, and it gets easier over time.

Like being a hooker?

Are you speaking from experience?

I knew that was a mistake as soon as I said it.

I’m sorry. You opened the door.

You talked about that aspect of promotion in One Last Shot too.

Yeah, I don’t think Levi Garvey liked that part of it very much either. That is something Levi and I have in common. He wanted to sit at his roll-top desk, in the library of the Garvey house on the edge of town, and just write great books. That’s it. And that part of Levi Garvey is very much me shining through the fiction. I was a little na├»ve when I started this. It never occurred to me I’d sell more than fifty copies of my first book, and I figured my mom would buy thirty of those, and they’d sell the other twenty copies off the counter at the local gas station. When it took off, it never crossed my mind people would want me to talk about it, or that I’d have to actually promote it. And every time, it makes me a nervous wreck whether I’m speaking or just signing copies. Of course you know that, we met when I was a nervous wreck before one of those gigs on national television.

Yes, we did. Do you still do that?

What? TV interviews? Certainly not. I kept thinking I’d get better at it. I didn’t. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. If you ever see me on television again, it will be on David Letterman.

Promoting one of your best-selling novels?

Unlikely. I’d probably be one of his Stupid Human Tricks segments. I can belch the Star Spangled Banner. It’s impressive. Wanna hear?

No, I think I’ll pass on that one. Do you ever get writer’s block?

No. I don’t really believe that exists. I think it’s an excuse writers use. There are times I don’t want to write. There are times I’m not in the right mood. There are times when I get stuck, and have to back up and figure something out. But blocked? Never. Of course, what I do isn’t literature or high art, and I don’t view it as a gift. I see it as a skill. A learned skill not imparted upon me from the heavens above. I tell stories, and I get better at it through practice. I keep it simple, and I tell it straight forward. But in all fields there are temperamental personalities that see what they do as a talent always dangling on the whims of their muse. A gift from God that could be snuffed out by the slightest change in the writer’s Karma. I think that’s complete bullshit. Some of them are famous, and others are aspiring. I’m still on the aspiring side of the equation, so maybe I’m not the right one to express my opinion on that. Maybe I’m the one full of bullshit. But I’m not going to delude myself. People always want to convince you that what they’re doing, no matter what that is, is much harder than it actually is. I think writing is time consuming. I think figuring out how to tell a story can be challenging. It’s hard work, just like any other job. But it’s a skill that is learned, it’s not a gift. If it were a gift, writers wouldn’t get better over time, and most do. If it were a gift, wouldn’t an author’s first book be as good as his last?

That’s a good point. In closing, do you have any advice for writers?

Just do it. Write. Figure out what you want to write about, and write about it. Set some time aside every day, and work on it. If you’re rusty in rhetoric, take a class and brush up. If you don’t know how to use a colon or a semi-colon properly, then either learn, or do as I do, and avoid using them all together. If you’re too lazy to learn, then find a good editor. Personally, I’m not a big fan of creative writing classes. I took one years ago, and it took me years to shake off the experience. If you want to learn how to write like other writers do, or tell stories like other writer’s do, or how other writers construct plots, and use symbolism, then by all means, take one of those classes, or join a writer’s group. If you want to develop your own voice, then brush up on your skills, and do it your own way.

And when will One Last Shot be out?

It's looking like January or February of 2011.  Keep on eye on my website toddcreason.org for the announcement, and of course, I have a running commentary about it and many other subjects on my Toddz Spot blog toddecreason.blogspot.com

Thanks, Todd. That was a great interview, and you didn’t torture me nearly as badly as I expected.

We could start over. I have prepared a few questions you might ask me.

Oh no, I’d never be that dumb. What was that you said in your email? If you’re going to battle with skunks don’t let them pick the weapons?

Actually, that was a famous American Freemason that said that, and a native of Danville, Illinois. His Masonic lodge, Olive Branch, is still in existence in Danville today. Uncle Joe Cannon offered that bit of wisdom. Uncle Joe became one of the longest serving and most powerful Speakers of the House of Representative in our history. They called him “The Iron Duke of American Politics.” Oh, and they also called him “foul-mouth Joe.” You think I’ve given you a few headaches tonight, Uncle Joe Cannon gave Teddy Roosevelt nightmares.

I have a tough time remembering that you’re a historian too.

I’m not. I’m an accountant that studies history, and writes books.




~Allison Jarrett

Nook E-Reader Update Version 1.5: Could It Get Better?

This photo has nothing to do
with the article at all.  But it got
you here, didn't it?
Now I was already a big fan of the Nook, but in a word, yes, the Nook did get better with this update.  The Version 1.5 update has made its debut, and I'm impressed--I didn't even realize I wanted half the stuff that was included with update Version 1.5, but some of the enhancements of the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader are terrific, and make it even more enjoyable to use.  I dropped into the B&N, saw the update was available on my Nook, and dowloaded it via Wi-Fi.  It took about ten minutes to download and reboot.  I'll give you a few of the highlights:

Turn the Pages Faster

As it was before the update, you could turn the pages faster than you could with a real book (if you try to turn pages that fast in a real book, you'll tear them out.)  Now, when you turn a page, it's nearly instantaneous.  Now, if you're like me, and sometimes you get sleepy when you read, it can cause a little confusion, because it changes so fast you think it hasn't so you turn the page again, and next thing you know, you're all confused.  I'm sure I'll get used to it. 

This photo does . . .  this is
a Nook!

Organize Your Library

The new Shelf feature is very nice, and it takes only a few minutes to organize your library like you want it.  I basically split my titles up between "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction" but you could be much more specific than that.  You could organize then by genre, or author, etc.  However you want.  It's a great feature, and makes it easier to find your books.  If only my library shelves at home were organized like this, because I can never find anything I'm looking for there. 

Battery That Goes On and On and On . . .

As it is, I'm lucky if I have to charge my Nook once a week.  But the battery life has been improved in this version.  More is always better.  One new thing is that the Nook will turn itself off after 72 hours on standby, so if you put your Nook down for a month instead of a day, you won't go back to it and find it dead as a hammer.  It was a good idea. 


This photo does not . . . do you
see the pattern?

Password Protection

 Previously the Nook didn't have Password Protection.  It does now, and you can set it up two ways.  You use a password each time you turn it on to unlock it.  That's kind of a pain for me.  I'll probably set it up the other way--password protection for any downloads.  That way, if somebody does swipe my Nook, they won't be able to rack up my credit card with Barnes & Noble downloads.   More security on a portable device like this is always a good thing.

Sync Feature

The Nook always kept track of what page you were on in each of the books in your library, but you can get Nook applications for many of your wireless devices, and even your PC.  Before this upgrade they didn't sync.  The new Nook 1.5 software will sync wireless with your other Nook programs. If you forgot your Nook, and were reading something from your library using your PC or cell phone, your Nook will know what page you left off on when you get home.  It's a very handy feature. 

And More . . . 

How about this one?
What do you think?

There are a few other bells and whistles with the update, including some enhancements to the online functionality, but these are the ones I thought were the best.  Basically, the enhancements to the Nook make an already impressive e-reader even better.  There is some argument over which e-reader is the best, and although the Kindle might have a slight advantage on the hardware side of the equation, the Nook I think has far surpassed any gains you get there in functionality and ease of use.  It's easy to use, and made not for the gadget aficionado, but for the reader--the really serious reader.  And this software update I think takes the Nook far beyond the Kindle. 

Ludwig van Beethoven: Freemason Wisdom To Begin Your Week




"The barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, 'Thus far and no farther.'"

~Ludwig van Beethoven





Who creates the barriers that stop us from living our dreams?  Who creates the barriers that prevent us from attaining our full potential?  Does society limit us?  Are we limited by our lack of education or money?  Or do we create those barriers ourselves?  Do we lack the faith to pursue those things we really want and create our own obstacles?

Imagine what we might accomplish if we truly believed we could not fail.  What might you try to do if you believed success was eminent.  If you look at the lives of truly successful men, you will see a common theme many times over.  This idea they possessed that they would inevitably succeed--that they couldn't possibly fail.  It was that passion and belief that fueled these men through all the difficulties along the way, and finally delivered them to the place they knew in the beginning they would eventually reach.

What do you want to do?  Do you truly believe you can?  Then why aren't you doing it today?

~TEC



Todd E. Creason is the author of Famous American Freemasons: Volumes I & II where you'll find many other great stories about famous Freemasons.

ONE LAST SHOT: Sample Chapter 2

I'm going to take a few days off to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday.  Here's another sample chapter of my novel to keep you entertained. 


CHAPTER 2


Gryphon Tea Room
Savannah, Georgia
“Something seems to be on your mind today,” Ray Billings said casually, looking at Levi over the top of his teacup with his dark gray eyes. The cup looked tiny in his massive hands.

Levi said nothing at first. The remark surprised him since it was unlike Ray to pry. Ray set his teacup down and leaned back in one of the trademark orange wooden chairs of the Gryphon Tea Room. The chair creaked under his massive athletic build. In the morning light streaming through the front windows, his badge gleamed brightly from the pocket of his perfectly pressed khaki shirt

Ray, who was in his mid-fifties, kept his head shaved clean, but his most defining feature was a handlebar mustache, which he kept waxed and curled up at the ends—the kind of mustache not seen much anymore. Ray crossed his arms over his chest, looking confident that his assessment was correct.

“Why do you say that?” Levi replied.

“Levi, don’t bullshit a bull-shitter,” Ray said with a chuckle. “I’m a trained observer with more than twenty-five years experience. Little gets past me, as you should well know. When I pull over a teenager, I can tell by his mannerisms if he has beer in his trunk. I’m so good, in fact, I can usually guess how many.”

Levi grinned. Ray was good. He was often mystified by his friend’s powers of observation. He’d often thought of himself as Watson to Ray Billings’ Sherlock Holmes.

“You’re a wise man, Officer Billings. What gave me away? What little hint did I give you that something is wrong? ”

The giant man smiled broadly. His size and demeanor were intimidating, but when he smiled, all that melted away in an instant. He had a face people instantly trusted, a trait that served him well in his job.

“It was pretty easy, actually. You probably could’ve figured this one out yourself,” he said, chiding Levi.

“Really? So easy even I could’ve figured it out? Oh, please, share.”

The great observer thought for a moment about how he would reveal the answer.

“How long have we known each other, Levi?”

“I met you shortly after I moved to Savannah ten years ago.”

Gryphon Tea Room trademark orange chairs
“Has it been ten years since that night I caught you and that young lady in your car in the parking lot of the Crystal Beer Room? Come to think of it, you never did tell me what you and that girl were doing in that car.”

Levi grinned. “Nothing, thanks to you.”

“I believed your story.”

“That’s what you say now, but it sure didn’t stop you from running me in back then. And, by the way, I maintain the same story I told you then—I had no idea that young lady was a hooker.”

Ray shook his head, smiling at the memory, and continued, “And on that following Monday, I run into you here.”

“And I was thrilled to see my arresting officer again so soon. Of course, you invited yourself to join me at my table,” Levi said, sarcastically. “And you ate all my damned scones.”

Ray ignored him. “We get talking, and we become friends. And since then, we’ve met here just about every Monday”

“True,” Levi said. He had no idea where Ray was going with this.

“I’d say we’ve missed maybe one or two Mondays a year when you’re off on speaking engagements or frying chicken with Paula Deen on her show or signing books somewhere.” Ray often teased him about his celebrity. “So we’re talking about what? Five hundred Mondays all told that we’ve met here at the Gryphon?”

Levi nodded. “You’re pretty close.”

“And yet, when I came up behind you today and said ‘good morning’ as I always do, you jumped a damned foot. You didn’t expect to see me here on our regular meeting day. Now I know you come up here a few times a week, but your reaction means either you didn’t know it was Monday, or you are so preoccupied with something else you forgot it was Monday.”

As with Holmes and Dr. Watson, when the answer was revealed, it was always more obvious than expected.

“True,” Levi said, smiling and shaking his head.

“So what’s bothering you?”

Savannah Scottish Rite Temple looms above
Gryphon Tea Room
Levi’s smile faded. There were few men on earth he trusted more—maybe none. Ray had started out as a jack-ass cop, but he’d wound up as a friend and later a brother. Levi glanced down at his gold ring which featured a red stone with the gold square and compass emblem embedded in the stone. Ray wore a Freemason ring just like it. In fact, two stories up from where they were sitting at the Gryph, in a lodge room in the Savannah Scottish Rite Temple, Ray had raised his new friend a Master Mason. Levi had since become a 32° Scottish Rite Mason as well.

“I think life is about to change for me,” Levi said. “I’m forty-two years old, and I’ve been successful, but I’m hemorrhaging cash, and I think the cash cow is about to dry up.”

“Ah,” Ray said, “what a strange day. We’re on a topic we never discuss. We’re talking about your books—right?”

The strength of their friendship was based on the fact there were some things they never discussed. One topic that seldom came up was Levi’s books. Ray always got the feeling Levi wasn’t completely comfortable with his celebrity. Even upstairs, amongst his Freemason friends, Levi didn’t want to be known as “the famous writer.” He bristled every time someone introduced him that way or brought up the fact he was a published writer. Ray didn’t understand Levi’s reaction, but he respected his privacy.

Levi’s past was another topic they never discussed. Levi was very adept at steering conversations away from his history. Ray had picked up a few things over the years since Levi had occasionally let comments slip. For instance, Ray knew there were problems with his parents, and that Levi hadn’t been home in nearly two decades. And, of course, there was a ten-year gap between the time Levi had graduated from the University of Illinois and when Ray had met him—a blank slate about which Levi had never dropped even one hint. Ray knew he could find out more if he wanted to, but again he respected Levi’s privacy.

Ray leaned back in his chair, sipping tea as he listened to Levi’s story about the declining quality of his three books. He knew Levi was getting to the crux of the problem.

“The book I just published, Thou Art with Me isn’t very good. My agent tells me it will sell, but another crappy book will put me out of business for good.”

Ray finally leaned forward and looked Levi square in the eye.

“So you wrote two good books and one bad one. Write another good one,” he said simply. “Try harder. Spend a little less time chasing tail and a little more time writing books. I mean, that was the problem last time, right?”

Levi looked at him blankly. He’d just heard this same lecture from Wanda. When Levi didn’t say anything, Ray suddenly understood the real problem.

“Ah, I get it. It’s deeper than that, isn’t it. You, Mr. Garvey, are going through a mid-life crisis. You’ve reached that age when you begin to think your best years are behind you. You think you’ve already reached the peak of your craft, and everything to come will pale by comparison. Y0u don’t think you can write another good book.”

“Another good book?” Levi snorted. “That’s the problem, Ray. In all honesty, I’ve written only one good book. I spent years thinking about But for the Grace of God before I wrote it. I don’t mind saying it was a great book. The second book was a variation on the same theme—a cheap knock-off. The third book was another carbon copy. Every incarnation of that same theme has been a little weaker than the one previous. In truth, I’ve had only one brilliant idea and one good book. I’ve been plagiarizing myself ever since.”

Ray nodded. “You’ve been half-assing it because you never really believed that first book was anything but a fluke. You’ve been riding that success for all it’s worth. That’s why we don’t discuss your success—you don’t think you deserve it. And now that you’ve ridden it as far as you can, you realize it’s time to either put up or shut up, and you’re scared shitless. You don’t have another idea, and you aren’t convinced you’ll ever have one.”

Levi was stunned. Ray had nailed it.

Ray leaned forward and took a scone off the table. He took a large bite, then leaned back and chewed it as he eyed Levi. There was a long pause as Levi waited for more, but Ray had said what he wanted to say.

“So what do you think I should do? You can’t buy book ideas at Wal-Mart.”

“Well, think about it,” Ray said. “How did you get that first book idea? You said you thought about it for years. Where were you? What were you doing? What was the one experience you had that got you thinking about writing a book? You weren’t a writer when you got that idea, but once you got it, you couldn’t stop yourself from thinking about it. You were just going through life, and that one thing stuck. Right?”

Levi thought for a moment, then slowly nodded his head.

Suddenly, Wanda was there, her words echoing from their conversation an hour before—“Maybe you need to go back to the place where you got that first idea.”

“You’re a good friend, Brother Billings,” Levi said.

“Did I help?” Ray asked.

“Oh yeah,” Levi admitted. He reached for his Panama sitting the edge of the small table between them and picked up the newspaper he’d bought from the machine outside. “If you’re not doing anything, why don’t you come by tonight and bring a few beers. We’ll sit on the porch.”

“Sounds good. I’ll be there.”


One Last Shot will be released by Moon & Son Publishing in Spring/2010.
Copyright 2010 Todd E. Creason. All rights reserved.



Treat Yourself to a Good Read Over the Holidays

The nice thing about the holidays, is the quiet time, where you can sit down and enjoy a little time alone with a good book, and maybe a nice cup of cocoa in the front of the fireplace (or perhaps more realistically as you read at the kitchen table, sipping a beer as Spongebob Squarepants drones on in the background).  I read a lot more fiction this year than non-fiction--it's usually just the opposite.  In fact the last few years, I've read very little fiction, so I'm a little behind on my favorite authors.  Here's a few titles that stand out in my mind as being particularly good. 

Charles Finch is definitely on my favorites list--terrific author.  I've read two of his novels in the last few months (he has four at this point).  His first novel A Beautiful Blue Death was nearly impossible to put down.  His second book The September Society was a little different, and a bit slower paced, but well crafted.  They're just great reads, especially if you enjoy the era of Sherlock Holmes--the foggy gas-lit streets of London.  Finch weaves great stories.  I hope he continues with these.  Try him out.

You can hardly walk by a book rack without seeing Stieg Larsson's books.  It took me some time to finally get around to reading it.  So often books that receive that much hype are usually disappointing.  I'd have to admit, it took me some time to get into The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and I'd nearly put it down before I finally got caught up in it.  It did wind up being a very good book.  It's a little longer than it needs to be, but it's worth the effort.  I haven't read the other two yet, but they're definitely on my future reading list. 

This is one of those cases where they made a pretty crappy movie out of an excellent book.  And if you actually thought that movie was good, then read the book, because it's way better.  Shutter Island is chilling, and impossible to put down from the first few pages.  Some of Lehane's books I like, and some don't do much for me, but this one was outstanding.  I just loved it, but it one of those books that's probably best to read over lunch rather than right before you go to bed.

This is a newer series by Michael Connelly.  I finally got around to it.  It's a great character, and a real departure from Harry Bosch--Mickey Haller is a defense attorney that truly believes in justice.  The Lincoln Lawyer offers up a great plot, interesting characters, and all the twists and turns Michael Connelly is known for.  A very quick read.  You may remember this new character's name if you've read Connelly's Harry Bosch series--they're half-brothers.  Harry and Mickey will eventually get together in a couple books as this series continues.   

And C.S. Harris' Sebastian St. Cyr novels are good too.  I was a little behind in the series, but I've caught up this year.  I'd read the first two when they were originally released.  I would have to say some of the books are better than others, but they are all well done and worth reading.  Like Charles Finch's books, they take place in 19th century London. 

This is the short list.  I actually discovered a lot of new writers this year (at least new to me).  I get stuck in a rut sometimes, but I did a pretty good job of expanding my horizons somewhat.  If you try and like C.S. Harris, and Charles Finch, be sure to check out  Will Thomas.  His books seem destined for Hollywood.  They are fast paced, action adventures.  They are a little less realistic 19th century, and a little more escapist, bordering on the edge of what might be called steam punk fiction.  It's a little bit like James Bond in Victorian England. 

Enjoy your quiet time if you get any this holiday season.

TEC