Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Return of the Blog - 2016 Year in Review

Dear Conspirators and Ramblers,

Here were all those highlights from 2016 that kept me away from my blog until this afternoon. You probably caught some of this if you've seen my website or follow in insta or facebook, but here we go.

First, here are my top three projects for 2017:
  • A Cord of Three Strands, Book Three in the Tully Harper Series.
  • An album with my good friend Andy (aka Seven River Day). 
  • A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help NASA preserve one of its most iconic locations.
:) Okay, here's 2016.

Boba and Jango Fett and me. Kinkaid School.
#5 "You're teaching again?"

Wacky Wednesday. :)
Yep, but I'm still writing, too! When my friend and fellow writer Angelique texted me one night about an opening in the Kinkaid Middle School (where she teaches), it gave me pause. Was I ready to go back into the classroom after three years away?  I thought. I prayed. Then the second text came in. This time from administration. They were interested in having me on staff. I've been their head volleyball coach for a few years, but I was initially reluctant. Wasn't this taking a step back into my old career?

After some thought, I had a realization that it was actually taking a step forward. At this point I understand my writing process, and, well, I miss school. I missed the structure of the school day, and a supportive school with a great student body only emphasized the point. So I applied. So I'm officially Mr. Holt again, but I'm also Adam the writer. Teaching takes time, but it's worth it, and I haven't felt like either career has compromised the other. So go Falcons and go Tully, too!

#4 - Kickstarter Media
Houston Public Media | "Writing the City"
For my first book, my good friend and editor Kristen convinced me to use crowdfunding to cover the costs. Creating books isn't cheap.

To date, I've raised over $10K on Kickstarter, which then went into cover art, layout, printing, marketing, and shipping those copies to my supporters, too!

This year marked the first time other artists actively pursued me for help with their own crowdfunding campaigns. It has been fun to see others begin that process, and I'm glad to get them started on making their creative endeavors a reality. Here's an audio interview I did about it on Houston Public Media.

Public Poetry Series | Summer Poets
#3 - Reading at the Public Poetry Series - At this point only four of my poems have been published. I haven't pursued publishing them very vigorously since I've focused on the science fiction; however, it's such a delight to read and I've been fortunate enough to be selected to do so at a number of events around Houston.

#2 - Author Visit | Gaithersburg, MD
This was my second year to visit Redland Hills, a middle school near DC. I've developed a great relationship with their school. This year we even skyped before my visit, which added to the anticipation of the author visit. I look forward to making a yearly pilgrimage there to work with their students on learning the craft of writing.

#1 - Santa Monica Music Sessions - (blog entry here)
Andy on guitar, me on drums.
My friend Andy already has one album to his credit (Songs for the Early Morning). Then he and I began writing a song together on a surf trip a few years ago. It sounds way too cool to be true, and I feel like that every time I think about it. After sending sound bytes back and forth and a few visits to Santa Monica for some live sessions, we have an album's worth of musics. To me, that has been borderline magical. I've always loved music but don't play anything particularly well, and only in my wildest dreams did I consider putting out an album.

Well, enter 2017. Andy and I plan to record later this spring.

So what's going on in your world? Hopefully wonderful things. Those are mine, and I'm thankful to God, my friends, my family, my employers for all their support in these endeavors. Drop me a line and let me know how your 2017 is going as well.

Dad, Mom, and I at a NASA Alumni League gathering.
Dad is the vice prez. And Mom makes everything better.
Love and rockets,

Monday, August 8, 2016

We find grace when we push against our imperfections and limitations.

(An unpublished post from earlier this summer)

My voice is and ever will be imperfect. Years ago I took a shot to the throat in a pickup game of ultimate frisbee, and since then there's always been a crackle in my vocal range. When I'm tired or singing tight, my words careen into this crack. On my better days my voice leaps the crackle. On bad days and early mornings, not so much. Do you share an imperfection like this in your life? How do you deal? We find ourselves when we push against our imperfections, our limitations. 


To write and record an album, you need the right space, and the open floor plan of Andy's house on the side of a hill in Santa Monica fits the bill perfectly. I won't describe the outside. I won't tell you how through the glass doors there's a couch on the deck. I'll completely avoid describing the two palm trees that rise from the sloping yard below, and how they frame the concrete expanse of LAX in the distance, where I flew in just hours earlier. Best not to say anything about the bay window with a view toward the open expanse of the Pacific, invisible under a blanket of fog and smog. No, none of that would be appropriate for a blog with "rambler" in the title. I'll only describe the interior of the house for the sake of this post, because outside the thermometer is pushing 84 degrees, and it would be criminal to mention that California considers this a "heat wave."

"Heat." "Wave."
Coffee stains + a rough draft: "Some Things You Need To Let Go."

Andy has transformed his living room into our recording studio: guitars, amps, a drum kit, Kawai piano, and Kurzweil keyboard, all carefully arranged to achieve sonic perfection. On one wall a movie projector is showing a concert from My Morning Jacket, who I used to confuse with My Chemical Romance, which was as criminal as this "heatwave," because My Morning Jacket is a jam band worth listening to and My Chemical Romance is...not. Either way, I think My Morning Smoking Jacket would have been a
better name.

Our band doesn't have a name. We are June 22, 2016 at Andy's house. He has his guitar. I have a head full of lyrics and ideas and half a voice to sing them. And we record and mix the whole thing on my laptop. This happens for about a week, and by the end of it we have eight songs complete with sheet music. I didn't feel so sure about any of that the first night I arrived.

That night a few of Andy's friends come, and we jam. Well, they jam. I listen. They sound good. Ryan Adams, Coldplay, Ray LaMontagne. If I could play something, I'd join in, but I can't. Not really. I'm the poet mixed in with musicians.

A few more cover songs slide by. Then Andy says that we are going to share one of our original songs with everyone else. He pulls out the sheet music for "Kingdom Come," which we wrote the last time I was in Santa Monica.

For me, this is not easy. I'm jetlagged, nervous, and haven't warmed up my voice. I'm not at home among true musicians, but my life isn't about being at home. It's about traveling a thousand miles for the chance to make music with my friend. So I sing, Andy plays, and his friends join in. Drums, light at first, feeling out the rhythm. Keyboard, looking for the right key, finding it. Andy's voice steady on the harmony. Mine...not so much. Crackling like the pilot light on a gas burner, looking for the fuel to make the flame. Ah, there's the fuel, down in my spiritual reserve. "Sunday Girl": A song that begins with a boy seeing a mysterious surfer girl and ends with him sitting in a church...and closer to God than he expected.

I sing:

Sunday girl

Dancer on a sapphire stage

Sunday girl

Jewel upon the water

Sunday girl

A flame that lit a greater flame (within him)

Sunday girl

And all he wanted was to know her name 

My voice is and ever will be imperfect. Years ago I took a shot to the throat in a pickup game of ultimate frisbee, and since then there's always been a crackle in my upper vocal range. When I'm tired or singing tight, my words careen into this crack. On my better days my voice leaps the crackle. On bad days and early mornings, not so much. Do you share an imperfection like this in your life? How do you deal? On good days and bad, it always helps if I focus on the meaning of the words. I push myself out of my own head, my own self-consciousness. There's a spanish word, duende, the passion that outperforms the performance and the performer. Yes, that is what I'm reaching for in these words. A passion that pushes me beyond talent and training. How else could I ever write a poem, a song, a novel? We find ourselves when we push against our imperfections, our limitations. We find grace, and we let ourselves race across it like the Spirit raced across the face of the waters. I make it past the crackle tonight and into duende and grace.

We finish my song, Andy's song. One of the guys tells me, "It's pretty singable stuff."

I hope to have some of this singable stuff available for your listening pleasure in the coming years. If so, we owe it to Andy's wonderful wife and kids, who let us take over the home for a few days in the midst of this heat wave, to throw down another layer of sound and story on our first album together.

PS -- Andy's solo album is here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pokémon and Race Relations in America

Mom and I were sitting on the benches outside PF Chang's today, chatting about life, the Methodist Church, and the big summer sale at Dillard's, when around the corner came a tall black man. He didn't acknowledge our presence as he passed the entrance to the restaurant and stood a few feet from us, eyes glued to his phone.

We both watched him out of the corners of our eyes. He pivoted a bit to his left, then his right, then stopped completely. After a few moments of hesitation, he looked up with the shine of victory on his face. He pumped his fist - "yes," he whispered - and wandered off in the other direction. My mom said, "Was he...playing that Pokémon?" We both grinnged and guessed the truth.

Yes, Mom, I said, he was playing that Pokemon Go, which has already surpassed Twitter in usage in one week of its release. Unbelievable, unreal.

And yes, this is the strange, indelible moment that springboards augmented reality forward into our everyday lives. It happens next to the benches at PF Chang's, which I wouldn't dare approach without a Poké Ball.

No, I take that back.

On second thought, I'd love for everyone to leave their Poké Balls at home. I love me some technology, surely you know that, but I'd prefer to see people running in the parks, kids making up their own games in the backyard, rather than wasting their time tethered to the end of a technological leash all summer. Maybe have a pokemon party here and there, young and old friends alike, but if you find yourself sneaking behind a local food truck trying to catch imaginary monsters, you're probably overdo for a chat with your mama on a sunny afternoon.

If you assumed this story had anything to do with race relations in America simply because I mentioned the man's race in the first sentence, well, it didn't. But you can turn that assumption into an action or a prayer. We could use plenty of both, with, maybe, a few pokemon inspired fistpumps in between. Grace and peace, Adam

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

A Big Publishing Update

The Santa Monica music sessions were wonderful. There's an upcoming entry about it scheduled for this Friday. It's called "We find grace when we push against our imperfections and limitations."



Please let others readers know. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Ten years ago today / Tomorrow has a spot waiting for me.

This week I planned on writing a retrospective of this blog's most viewed posts, starting with the first Lone Star Rambler post, but a brief email exchange I had with an old friend made me change my mind.

It started with a simple email to my friend Mark, who spearheaded our climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro ten years ago June 21, 2006.
"Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." Our last view of Kilimanjaro. Clouds part. The mountain emerges.

Ten years! A decade. What? Time flies. I wrote him an email that read exactly like this:

And he responded exactly like this:

While I was wistfully drinking coffee on a Saturday morning and giving in to nostalgia, my friend is pressing forward, planning his next adventure, and saving a spot for me. From this a new thought arose: there is a time to reflect on the past, but not if it impinges on the present or the future.

While I'm inclined to revisit these old memories, such as my first days at L'Abri in Switzerland, I'll simply embed them in my posts the next few weeks and move on. Feel free to click on them if you haven't read them. But me, I'm headed to Santa Monica tomorrow to make music with one of my college roommates. And my third book has gained needed momentum the last few weeks, as has my involvement with the folks at Writespace.

So how can I best celebrate 20,000 blog views this week? By quoting my good friend:

Amazing. Good times. Good times.

Now it's time to throw my laptop and some jeans in a bag. Andy and I are rocking his garage this week.

Like Mark, he has a spot saved for me.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

20,000 page views - a celebration!

This blog hit 20,000 page views a few days ago, and just after it turned four years old! From my first posts about quitting my teaching job to adventures in Switzerland to surf trip and poems and novels updates, the blog has been a trusty companion, my first platform for publications. Thanks, little buddy. :) So, this week, to celebrate those two things, I'll be revisiting a few posts from Christmas past. Do you have any particular favorites? Please reply to this blog, message me, email, text, what have you, and let me know.

The author pictured with himself at the London Museum, striking a classic U2 album cover pose.
It's a crazy week to try and do this. I'm headed to Santa Monica tomorrow to work on some music with my good friend Andy, aka Seven River Day. You can find his last album here. More about that at a later date. And I finally have solid momentum on A Cord of Three Strands, the third Tully Harper book.

All that goes to say, please stay tuned to the blog this week, and if you read or hear something you find aesthetically pleasing or meaningful, please let me know!

Grace and peace,
and happy birthday, blog.
- A