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Let me say right off that this blog post has nothing whatsoever to do with clothes, or the small rooms in which the tidiest of us keep them. It’s about work–my work, to be precise. I’m a designer, a writer, an illustrator, and a teacher. In most of those arenas, my job entails working to others’ specifications–making other people’s dreams come true. In some cases my clients know exactly what they want, and they just want my hands and computer skills. In others, though, my job is less giving my client what they think they want than it is showing them all the things they might want if they knew those things existed.

In short, I am paid to Think Outside the Box, to Dream Up Amazing Things, to show my clients things they don’t want so they can have a better idea of what they DO want. I am paid to take risks, to court certain rejection not occasionally but every single frigging day.

And I’m okay with that. Really I am. I understand that when I walk into a client meeting I will walk out of there with (if I”m lucky) two of my three dynamite ideas rejected out of hand–and it will probably be my favorite two. I understand that I am working in pursuit of another’s dream, creating another’s vision. That’s my job. I’m used to it. I know the dangers of falling too deeply in love with a concept–any concept. It’s likely going to get shot down–and the more I fall in love with it, the more likely the idea’s quick death on the boardroom floor is.

And yet sometimes it still happens. I go to the initial client meeting. I listen to their thoughts and ideas. I take notes. And then, at some point in the process, I am struck by lightning. I know–I just know–that I’ve got pure gold in my concepts. I hurry to the next client meeting on eager feet, clutching my concepts in my sweaty hands (not really–sweat is hell on comps, and these days it’s all about email and pdfs in my world, but you get the idea).

I present my work. And my clients look at each other out of the corners of their eyes and I know that, like Michael Bolten, I have perhaps been watching too much of the wrong thing. I have allowed myself to dream the big dreams, rather than the necessary ones, that my comps reflect me more than they reflect what my clients wish to say about themselves. There I am, singing in a rich, ringing voice of being Jack Sparrow on Tortuga, Forrest Gump on the bus bench, Scarface, Erin Brokovich, when what my clients want is a nice, tight little addition to their edgy little rap.

And so I put away my braids and beads, the crashing ocean and the blue, blue sky, my deskful of cocaine, and God-help-me my Erin Brokovich suit, and I re-set my sights on crafting a nice, tight little addition to their edgy little rap, because I am a professional, and i truly do know that my job is creating art and designs that will help my clients reach their dreams and goals. It’s not about me. Some days, I am a gun for hire.

But this video is for the other days, the days when I stride into meetings with a concept that goes giving my clients what they think they want, and shows them the world they might have instead. Sometimes they want it. Sometimes they don’t.

And this video captures that experience perfectly–so perfectly, in fact, that I suspect Michael Bolton may have spent some time as a designer. So for all those people who have ever wondered how a designer feels in a concept meeting–and for every designer who has ever been there–this video is for you. Play it proudly.

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Today’s the last day to download Past Lives: A Journey free. Tomorrow, November 24, we’ll have a complete change of pace, when Redeeming Stanley: Redeeming Stanley: A Savage Little Tale of True Love, Old Gods, Bitches, Bestiality, Burnout, and Above All, Payback becomes the free download. Stanley’s been popular since he first met the public way back in 2009 (and won Audiolark’s Best of the Best e-books award, incidentally). Stanley is, of course, available in paperback and Kindle (and for free from November 24 to 28!), but he’s also available as an audiobook from Audiolark. He’s not free there, regrettably, but he’s still a darned good deal. So go on, download…download…

Available in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon

November 19-23: Past Lives: A Journey
This is a tiny little collection of short stories that grew out of a series of past-life regression exercises. The stories are poetic, evocative, and thought-provoking, from the girl trapped in the desert to prove a point to the mistress who has discovered too late that relationships can be transforming to the milkmaid who lacks the courage to fight back to the woman who discovers that she has lost something she never realized she had–and in redeeming her present rewrites her past and her future, these are stories about love, what it means, and how we find it, lose it, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, discover it again within ourselves.
Reviews Download FREE November 19-23 (it’s always free to Amazon Prime members)

November 24-28: Redeeming Stanley: Redeeming Stanley: A Savage Little Tale of True Love, Old Gods, Bitches, Bestiality, Burnout, and Above All, Payback
This little book right here is the reason I sometimes am startled to find myself turning up on Alternative Porn Sites. I think it’s the “bestiality” in the title. Which is warranted, but it’s the sort of warm, fuzzy bestiality that sort of slips by, only later provoking a double-take and a “Whoa, did she really go there?” Why yes, this book does indeed go there. It’s a fun, unlikely story about a collection of characters who really should have mutual restraining orders–old gods, the born-again christians who try to Save them, self-described Babe Magnet and armchair explorer of the female psyche Weldon Frame, The Freak, Satan, the Whore of Babylon, the Coppess (body by Frigidaire) and some trucker in a Peterbilt and a gimme John Deere cap. It won a “best of the best e-books” award back in the day, and has continued to sell steadily ever since. Also, reviews keep popping up from time to time, so word on the street is that it’s still a fun, funky, “guilty pleasure” sort of book, ideal for anybody who has discovered that she’s been dating in the shallow end of the gene pool, decides to stop, and learns that sometimes things can get a little messy. But funny. Book clubs like this one. I think you will, too.
Reviews  Download FREE from November 24-28 (it’s always free to Amazon Prime members)

November 27-December 1 Good on Paper
Once upon a time, a king named David got the hots for a steamy little number named Bathsheba. Lucky for David, Mr. Bathsheba was busy being one of David’s best generals, so Bathsheba was home all by her lonesome…

See where this is heading? Of course you do.

So does Sarah Conrad, reluctant Bible scholar and unwilling paramour of televangelist Pastor Jimmy Jay Rayburn. It’s a destination she knows well. But the destination is only the beginning. Sarah doesn’t wind up sleeping with an aging “man of God” by accident. Eldest sister Elaine’s minister husband isn’t divorcing her on a whim. And middle sister Elizabeth doesn’t vanish in a fit of pique, leaving a dead dog, a roomful of blood, and Sarah and youngest Conrad DJ behind.

The Conrad children survive by keeping up appearances. But it costs them. When family patriarch Dan Conrad is diagnosed with terminal cancer and the children come home to help appearances are no longer enough, and tensions rise. When somebody winds up murdered the Conrads are forced to unravel their past in order to survive their present.

Set on a family farm in a fast-disappearing slice of America, Good on Paper is first and foremost a story in which to lose one’s self–readers consistently comment that they “couldn’t put it down.” But beyond that, the story raises questions. How do we determine who is “good?” How do we decide what is real? Do we respond to the victimization of others, and if so, how? How do we integrate a painful and abusive past into a vibrant and creative present and future? Above all, this story leaves readers wondering, with DJ Conrad, “…what it is about our family, our church, our society, that allows abusers to not only survive, but thrive.”

By turns infuriating, hilarious, magical, frightening, and lyrical, the Conrads’ story captures the paradox lying at the heart of abusive relationships, as well as the courage, honesty and humor that the Conrad children use to survive.

Tracing the Conrad children’s journey to healing and resolution makes for a powerful and haunting read, one that should appeal to a many, particularly those interested in understanding how the pain of an abusive past can become the fertile soil from which a rich, meaningful future can spring.

Reviews  Download FREE November 27-December 1 (it’s always free to Amazon Prime members)

So that’s what’s happening–don’t be shy about downloading, and if you like the books, we’d love it if you’d post a review or response on Amazon–or even write about it here! I’ll be reposting this from time to time, to just keep everybody updated on what’s going on, free-wise. Happy holidays!

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  • Red Tash–buy her books!

    Hi, Zack.

    I’ve heard about you.  Yeah, you.  The teenaged boy with the wisecracks, right?

    Your friend’s mom, Sherry, told me about you.  You with the snarky comments & the funny retorts.  Sherry said you’re a really great kid.  But why did she mention it, you ask?  She said you noticed one of my books on her Kindle.  She said you thought it was a horror novel.

    Well, kudos to you, Zack.  First of all, for being interested in books.  I’m not being a smart aleck at all, either.  That’s a lifelong habit that’ll only continue to serve you.  Even if you go through periods of being more interested in video games or girls or beer, eventually you always come back to books.  I mean, when was the last time you looked up cheat codes on twitter?  How to meet girls on Pinterest?  Maybe you’re too young to be researching beer, but someday, kid, you might want to learn how to brew your own.  Oh, the places that Kindle can take you.

    But enough about you, let’s talk about me.  😉  Let’s talk about the Wizard.  Remember him?  This guy?

    Meet the wizard–he’s free! Click here to download.

    Kinda scary?  Good.  He’s not a bad guy, this wizard, but he’s sure wrangled a few.  He’s a bit aloof, an observer of men, more than a participant of our culture.

    Who is he?  What does he want?

    Well, in the first Wizard Tale, The Wizard Takes a Holiday, he just wants to kick back and watch a movie.  There’s a whole horror film fest going on, and he wants to take it in.  Instead, he ends up herding magical toddlers and dealing with misplaced trolls.  Such is life in rural Indiana, my friend.  Such is life.

    Click here for more of the Wizard.

    The second wizard tale is quite a bit longer, but it’s still a short story, not a full-fledged novel, and definitely not even a novella.  It’s called “The Wizard Takes a Fitness Class.”  Scary, huh?  What, are you telling me you enjoy gym class?  What kind of sicko are you?  Of course the story’s scary, I mean, it’s got zombies in it.  Demons, even.

    Okay, okay, so it’s really not that scary of a story.  More of an ironic zombie story.  Did you know those existed?  No?  Me, neither.  Not until this very moment, but I think it’s a fair label.

    And it’s only fair that there’s a good balance between humor and horror in every tall tale, isn’t there?  I mean, there’s the thrill of fear, and the comfort of a good laugh.  Too much of one or the other, and story just won’t fly.  Pure terror gets boring without anything to bump off of, doesn’t it?  And we’ve all seen a comedy jump the shark as the bits attempt to go more and more over the top.  By the end of the show, it’s not funny anymore, just absurd—maybe so absurd it is funny, but unless you’re aiming for absurdism, you should probably always keep that balance in mind.

    Now don’t let me tell you what to like, Zack.  If you want to like the absurdist, then go for it.  I like it a bit, myself. There’s nothing like a zany madcap romp.  I love a story with heart, though.  A nice, big, squishy, bleeding, torn-apart-and-staining-the-carpets-as-it’s-tossed-by-the-mouths-of-dogs heart.

    Ewwwww…squishy

    Sorry, Zack, I couldn’t help myself.

    I hope you enjoyed “The Wizard Takes a Holiday.”  It’s only 1500 words, so in the time it took me to write this post, I could have written a whole ‘nother Wizard Tale.  A short one, anyway.  “The Wizard Takes a Holiday” is a freebie, and the sequel is only $.99 on Amazon, or free via Smashwords with a coupon code through the end of July.

    Meet Roller Deb–

    And if you liked those, let’s talk about a little gal named Deb who’s about your age.  She skates away from home and joins a fairy/troll roller derby league.  Sure, it might sound like a “chick book” to a fella like you, but plenty of guys have liked it.

    (If I can wrench the keyboard out of Red’s grubby little mitts for one minute, Zack, I’ll give you a link where you can read more about Roller Deb here.)

    Axel Howerton calls it a “tale of rockin’, rollin’ and full metal fantasy! I love this damn book.” Scott of Indie Book Blogger gives it five stars, and reader John Hundley also gives it five stars, noting that “this is an action book.”

    But enough about that, Zack.  I’ll let you get back to your reading.  Have a great summer, man!  I hope to hear from you.

    Here are some links, if you’re interested:
    http://RedTash.com

    Amazon profile
    Barnes & Noble
    Other platforms/paperbacks
    Facebook
    Twitter
    Pinterest
    Goodread
    s

     

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