Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year


Happy New Year greetings! As we say goodbye to 2011, I'm reminded of what a great year it was at the House of Tystad. I moved into fiction with Blue Hill, started this blog, and got back into motorcycle riding. I've had a lot of fun meeting new friends and promoting my books through events like Adopt an Indie. When I'm not doing that, I get on the bike as often as I can. I'm very fortunate and I count my blessings every day.

My wish is for you to greet 2012 with great hopes and dreams. May the new year bring you new opportunities, great success, and time with family and friends. Happy New Year.
"In the New Year, may your right hand always be stretched out in friendship, never in want."
Old Irish Toast

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

BlogTalkRadio BBCN Special


I was honored to be a guest of author and blogger Donna Brown on her BlogTalkRadio show last night. She welcomed me and a few of the other "Adopt an Indie" authors to her show for some great conversation. In case you missed it, you can listen to the show on-line or download it to your iPod. Here's the site: BBCN Special

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chicken and Asparagus with Pasta


This is a very basic recipe that can be put together quickly and modified according to your tastes. I cut chicken breasts into cutlets when they're still slightly frozen and that makes the cutting easier. My seasoning is a Rosemary-garlic-onion blend that works well with the chicken. Some may prefer a breading on their chicken for recipes like this, but skipping that step makes this quick and easy, but still very satisfying.

Chicken and Asparagus with Pasta

chicken cutlets
Italian seasoning
olive oil
asparagus
pasta
vinegar
Parmesan cheese

Fry chicken cutlets in olive oil and Italian seasoning; set aside. Boil pasta. Steam asparagus. Toss cooked pasta and asparagus with olive oil and vinegar in pan used to cook chicken; heat through. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve chicken over pasta.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bay Scallops, Asparagus, and Bacon with Pasta


Today I'll be starting a new series of posts on one of my most favorite topics of all... food. We'll visit the House of Tystad kitchen from time to time for original recipes, tips, and general musings on all that tastes good. To get us started, I've chosen something that was thrown together with what was found in the refrigerator. Honestly, this was not planned in advance, but the results were amazing.

Bay Scallops, Asparagus, and Bacon with Pasta

fresh bay scallops
asparagus
smoked gouda cheese
cooked bacon
milk
garlic and spices
pasta

Saute scallops with garlic and spices. Steam asparagus. Boil pasta. Warm cheese and add milk to create desired consistency; add bacon. Mix scallops and asparagus with cheese sauce. Serve over pasta.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

First Snowfall

"The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?"
J. B. Priestley

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Adopt an Indie" Month a Great Success


As the very first "Adopt an Indie" month draws to a close, I'd like to thank everyone who participated in the reading, reviewing, blogging, live chatting, and everything else. It's been a great event and I'd like to let you know that plans are already underway for the next "Adopt an Indie" month taking place in February 2012.

Blue Hill was a featured selection during this first "Adopt an Indie" month and will be featured again in February. One important part of the event is reader participation. Here's a reader review of Blue Hill that was posted last week: click here

If you'd like to share your own review of Blue Hill, feel free to do so on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, or iTunes. Reader reviews are highly influential and are appreciated more than you would ever imagine. Thanks in advance.

Support indie authors and have a great weekend!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Football and the Price of Success

"The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand."
Vince Lombardi

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Blue Hill in the News


Blue Hill has had some great press coverage from the part of the country in which it's set. The Sheridan County Journal Star and the Chadron Record recently published articles about how the story was developed and how real life locations inspired settings in the book. The House of Tystad would like to thank the hard-working journalists who took the time to write such positive articles supporting Blue Hill. Many thanks.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

10 Things Readers May Not Know About Indie Authors


10 Things Readers May Not Know About Indie Authors
by Todd R. Tystad

Modern media has given birth to independent musicians and independent filmmakers and now to independent authors, more popularly known as indie authors.  In the spirit of the indie musicians and filmmakers that came before them, indie authors are now blazing their own trails outside the publishing establishment.  With this new category of artist, readers may be unfamiliar with what defines an indie author.  So, let’s get to know the indie author and why the breed is so rare.  This list certainly doesn’t define every indie author, just as no list could ever define every indie musician or filmmaker.  Every indie author is different from the next and that’s one of the many reasons they’re deemed independent.  Here’s a list of ten things you may not know about indie authors:

  1. The indie author is a dedicated reader, just like you.  She loves books and what she earns from her work is often put back into buying books, often from other indie authors.  She can’t help it because she fell in love with language and the printed word at an early age.  Creating stories and sharing ideas through her writing is second nature and a life without books is unimaginable.  Reading and writing is just another necessary behavior, like breathing, eating, and sleeping.
  2. The indie author is a regular guy who goes to work, comes home, takes out the trash, feeds the kids, and walks the dog.  The difference is that when the day job and the chores are done, he summons up the creative energy needed to spin all sorts of tales with the hope of entertaining his readers.  It takes Herculean strength to create characters, build cities, and poetically describe feelings of passion just minutes after cleaning out the litter box, but the indie author can do all that and more.  He’s really quite remarkable.
  3. The indie author believes that books are a medium that will never grow old.  Storytelling will always be a part of the human experience and books will always be a way that we share our stories.  The form that books take has been changing, but the value of reading a well-written story never will.
  4. The indie author dreams that her main character will overcome every obstacle, slay every dragon, and fall in love in a way that has never happened before.  She has faith that true love will prevail and she knows that if you believe, anything can happen.  All she wants is for you to join her on her journey.
  5. The indie author is a renegade, a rebel, and a force to be reckoned with.  In quiet ways and armed only with language and some carefully laid-out ideas, he will not rest until he has delivered his story to his readers.  He sits for hours composing what he has dreamed of sharing and rejects the traditional publishing rules that tell him it must be done in a certain way.
  6. The indie author is the author you’ll be hearing about in the future.  She’s a rising star.  She knows that even if she becomes successful enough that the next computer will be newer or the paper more plentiful, she’ll still write with the same zeal that she had when she wrote her first book.  Read that first book now so you can say you knew her back when she first got started.
  7. The indie author is not a franchise figurehead leading a creative staff and an editorial team producing books by committee.  The indie author is an individual writer, toiling away in the early morning or late at night creating stories that emerge organically and are handcrafted with the love a parent has for a child.
  8. The indie author is inspired to be a writer, but is usually not inspired to be a marketer.  Since the task of promoting an indie book falls entirely onto the shoulders of the indie author, he must become an independent businessperson (by default and usually not by choice).  Treat him kindly when he visits your doorstep selling his wares.
  9. The indie author is technologically proficient (also by default and also usually not by choice).  Indie publishing requires that he be expert in managing data, formatting, uploading, creating cover art, and interacting with various indie publishing websites.  If not, he must scrounge up the money to pay someone else to do it for him and that can often be a significant obstacle.  He sometimes wishes technology could be set aside so that all of the time he spends on technological proficiency could be used for writing.
  10. Most of all, the indie author is, in her heart, the defender of the independent spirit and the keeper of the faith.  As fresh ideas become more difficult to find, the indie author becomes more determined.  She has refused to be bound by the shackles of the establishment and she has no intention of backing down.  The indie author writes and publishes independently and, through her work, she helps to keep us thinking independently too.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Variety is the Spice of Life

Variety is Good

November 1st marks the start of "Adopt an Indie" month, an entire month of celebrating independently published books and their authors. I'm proud to say that Blue Hill will be one of the featured selections for the event and that I'll be contributing an opening blog post to get things started on Tuesday.

With all due respect to Stephen King and everyone else sitting at the big table, indie authors are an enthusiastic and hungry lot and they've got some big ideas. Like the independent filmmakers and musicians that came before them, indie authors are determined to tell their stories. New technology has transformed the publishing industry and the dust hasn't even begun to settle.

"Independent" is sometimes described as "out of the mainstream." Indie artists have provided variety to audiences that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. If you enjoy a change of pace and are looking for something a little different than usual, remember the artists who are bucking the system and bringing some variety to the party. They're the indies and they believe that variety is the spice of life.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Dogs Are Cool

Pablo
"I strive to be the person my dog thinks I am."
(author unknown)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Good Friends, Good Times

Jacques O'Lantern

One more important point on recreating yourself (October 1, 2011 blog post): Recreation is necessary, travel is often revitalizing, and good food and drink can refresh a weary soul. But there's one thing that I'm certain I can't live without and that's the company of family and good friends.

The House of Tystad has been fortunate enough to have spent some time lately enjoying some of our favorite things with some of our favorite people. The weekly schedule has been tight, but the weekends are reserved for enjoying relationships with people who renew our spirit. I owe a lot to family and the friends I've known through the years and I make a point to savor the moments we get to spend together.

Seasons come and seasons go, but if you don't get out there and carve a pumpkin with the family or hoist a glass with your friends once in a while you may one day regret not doing it. Enjoy your weekend.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Indie Books and Indie Authors


Blue Hill is a Featured Selection for Adopt an Indie Month

I've got some terrific news on how you can learn more about Blue Hill and participate in an event like nothing that's ever been seen before. Get ready to read some great books and meet some great people who love reading as much as you and I do.

In case you haven't heard, there's a revolution going on in the publishing world and the indies have taken over the asylum. Independent authors are now bypassing the traditional avenues to publication and their readers have responded loudly and clearly. Without the layers of corporate control between them, authors and readers are forging relationships that didn't exist before.

One of the best examples of this is events like "Adopt an Indie" month, taking place on-line during the month of November. "Adopt an Indie" month will bring together authors, readers, and bloggers for free books, interviews, live Q&A sessions, and more.

If you'd like to participate, visit "Adopt an Indie" month and put in your request for a free book that you'd like to read and discuss. There's a limit on the availability of each book, so if Blue Hill is all taken please consider another title. Even if you bypass the free books, you'll still be able to participate in the event all through the month of November.

Join me in celebrating indie books and indie authors during "Adopt an Indie" month.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Recreating Yourself


I've written on this blog before about the benefits a person can get from riding a motorcycle. I just came in from a ride on some city streets and country roads and I feel entirely different than I did a couple of hours ago. In fact, I feel brand new.

A close friend once clued me in to what recreation is all about. It's not just simply fun and games. He explained that it's actually re-creation and it's vital to the health of every human being. So when a person finds a form of recreation that they really love and they engage in it totally and fully, they're recreating themselves over and over again. It's re-creation.

My wish is that you can be fortunate enough to find what you truly love in this world and enjoy it not only as recreation, but also as re-creation. Life is short, so let's enjoy it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Get Busy, Part 2

Evergreen, Colorado

A visit to the archives has reminded me that there is no better time to get busy than right now. Beautiful fall weather confirms this and that means my mission for the day is to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. I hope this post inspires you to do the same (from my May 24, 2011 blog post).
The Sunday Night Movie at the House of Tystad last weekend was The Shawshank Redemption (1994). We watched it on DVD and the video quality was amazing. Not all movies made 17 years ago hold up to the test of time, but this one really does. It's a beautiful film that anyone who loves movies really must see. Ask around and you'll be surprised at how many people count it among their favorite movies of all time. If you watch it for the first time or again for the 50th time, you'll be glad you did.

One of many reasons to love the film is its message to "Get busy living or get busy dying." That line of dialogue was taken verbatim from the Stephen King short story "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" (upon which the screenplay is based), which was one of four stories in the 1982 King book Different Seasons. Different Seasons also contains the stories "Apt Pupil" (also made into a film), "The Breathing Method," and "The Body," which was made into the film Stand By Me (an outstanding movie that warrants its own discussion).

As an aside, The Shawshank Redemption was adapted for the screen and directed by Frank Darabont, who has directed other films based on Stephen King's books. He also created the AMC television series "The Walking Dead" (2010-) and is reportedly a close friend of Stephen King.

The case can be made that Stephen King, who is known to be a huge fan of rock and roll, borrowed the idea for the line "Get busy living or get busy dying" from the Bob Dylan lyric "He not busy being born is busy dying" from the song "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," which appeared on the classic 1965 Dylan album Bringing It All Back Home. The lines are strikingly similar and it would make sense that Stephen King would be appreciative of Dylan's genius with the English language.

In any case, the message we get from watching The Shawshank Redemption - probably from Dylan, through King, through Darabont - is that we each need to make a simple decision to either embrace life and live it to its fullest... or be satisfied with the status quo. I won't elaborate on that issue here, but I will say that one of the things that inspires me the most and motivates me to live my life to the fullest is art. Specifically, film as art. And that brings us full circle. Creativity breeds creativity and art fosters art.

Thank you, Bob Dylan. Now I'm busy.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

An Interview with Asa Roth


For this week's blog post, I used my media credentials to get an interview with Asa Roth from Blue Hill. He took some time after football practice last week to answer some questions and here's what he told me.
TRT: Good to see you, Asa. Thanks for taking the time.
Asa Roth: No problem.
TRT: Tell me what's new with you.
Asa Roth: Well, just school and football and that's about it.
TRT: How's football?
Asa Roth: We won the first three games, but we've still got some tough teams ahead.
TRT: You just started your senior year. What's that like?
Asa Roth: Kind of like I can see the end, but it's still a ways off. It's weird.
TRT: Hardest class and... are there any easy ones?
Asa Roth: My hardest class has got to be Econ. I don't know about the easiest, but we have a lot of fun in Team Sports.
TRT: Sounds like a lot more fun than Economics. What's going on besides school?
Asa Roth: Um, my girlfriend wants to go to Rapid City next month to see Miranda Lambert.
TRT: Girlfriend? What's up with that?
Asa Roth: Yeah, Shannon is a huge Miranda Lambert fan, so I said I would take her to the show.
TRT: No, I mean what's up with a girlfriend?
Asa Roth: I don't know if I want to talk about that. (smiling)
TRT: Alright. Fair enough. You know, there are a lot of expenses involved. With girlfriends, I mean. After the concert tickets, there's dinner... and it never ends. Are you sure you've thought this girlfriend thing through?
Asa Roth: (laughing) I still don't want to talk about it.
TRT: Okay, back to football... where's Blue Hill going to end up at the end of the season?
Asa Roth: Coach says we're going all the way to state this year and that's what we're going to do. Blue Hill all the way.
TRT: Sounds great. Good luck to you and the rest of the team. We'll be watching. Thanks for being here today. And say hello to Shannon for me.
Asa Roth: (laughs) I'll do that. Thanks.
Get to know more about Asa Roth in Blue Hill by Todd R. Tystad, available from Amazon.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11


On the eve of the ten-year anniversary of September 11, 2001, I can't help but think back to the way things were a decade ago. I had just begun celebrating some big family changes and it's no exaggeration that my life was perfect. Like many people, I'll never forget the morning of 9/11/01. I was listening to the radio and getting ready for school. And then I heard the news. No one had any idea how everything would change from that moment on.

Working through grief involves denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance and everyone has to travel the journey at their own pace. What I remember seeing ten years ago was that regardless of where a person was in the grieving process, a feeling of national unity and pride was growing day by day. There were occasional moments of friction, but what I'll never forget is seeing an entire country align collectively as if to say, "We're Americans and we can get through this together." We were proud. It's sad to see that today, many of us have lost that feeling.

What I want for my community today and for our country tomorrow is a return to the feeling that we are indeed one family with the same hopes, dreams, and accomplishments that we can be proud of. We pulled together a decade ago and we can certainly do it again. Pride is a wonderful thing and the great thing about our country is that we have a lot to be proud of.

As we begin to observe a tragic anniversary, let's focus on what makes our country great and use that feeling to restore our national pride. We're a very fortunate people and after we grieve together, we can celebrate together. Let's look forward and be proud of who we are and what we can accomplish together.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Blue Hill: Comment or Review


My new book, Blue Hill, is now available from Amazon. If you read it and enjoy it, please consider commenting or leaving a review to let other readers know what you think. Many thanks.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday Night Lights


The annual calendar at the House of Tystad always begins with football season. Summer is over, a new school year has begun, and our attention is now focused on a sport that is absolutely greater than the sum of its parts.

Our shared American culture is diverse enough that a person could conceivably grow up not knowing the meaning of the word huddle or the responsibilities of a quarterback. But cultural literacy requires at the very minimum a proficiency in the basic terms that are associated with the game of football. The language of the game is a part of our shared language, whether the speakers have played the game or not. Football is a part of who we are.

So as we begin another football season, I want to wish the very best to the players, the coaches, and the fans who make the game what it is. Let's not forget that before it's a broadcast program, it's a game played in grassy parks and empty lots in every community. Before it's a high dollar ticketed event, it's a sport that teaches players the meaning of teamwork and character and dedication. Before anything else, it's an endeavor that has taught life lessons to countless athletes who may have not otherwise had opportunities that football provided.

I'm a football fan. This is the time of year that I wait for. It's a brand new season and anything is possible. See you at the game.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Finding Peace, Part 2


The House of Tystad has gone back to school. Carefree wandering has been set aside and replaced with the familiar routine of the school schedule. My resolution for the new year is to make a point of finding time each week for peaceful recreation. I'm revisiting the archives to remind myself how important that is (from my May 23, 2011 blog post).
I was looking for peace. I just took my dog Pablo the Chihuahua out for a walk around the neighborhood and, between the exercise and the near-death experience brought on by an angry Irish Setter on the loose, I think we both got a lot out of it. Pablo got some serious cardio and a newfound realization that he isn't nearly as intimidating as he thinks he is (a hard life lesson for a Chihuahua). I got to breathe in some fresh air and feel an important connection to nature and the value of life... my own and my dog's.

One of the most peaceful people I've ever known was a religious man, a man of the cloth. He was the leader of his congregation when I knew him and I count him among the most influential people I've ever known. He used to say that his most spiritual moments came not in a house of worship and not among other people, but late at night when he took his dog outside for a walk. He said that having that time alone with his dog, walking in the darkness, he was able to reach a point of having an honest and satisfying conversation with God. Those moments gave him peace.

I'll never forget that lesson, that we can sometimes be surprised where we can find our own peace. My friend clued me in to the idea that we need to pay attention to the moments that come unexpectedly and allow us to look deep within ourselves and realize who we are in the world. And that these moments can bring us true peace.
Here's to each of us finding those moments on a regular basis.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

An Interview with Todd R. Tystad


Australian author and blog writer Patti Roberts recently interviewed me for her book blog. I'm posting a portion of the interview below. You can read the entire interview on her site: Patti Roberts Book Blog.

Patti Roberts is the author of Paradox - The Angels Are Here, a book that's had great reviews. Patti's blog hosts a Bloggerthon and my new book, Blue Hill, is one of the books featured in the September edition. You can find out about some great new books and even win a free copy of Blue Hill. You can learn more here: September Bloggerthon.

Up Close and Personal with Author Todd R. Tystad (interview excerpt)

If you gave some of your characters an opportunity to speak for themselves, what would they say? I plan to let my main character, Asa Roth, write as a guest blogger on my blog sometime soon. I think he'd like to talk about how things that happened the summer before his senior year in high school changed him and how he's been dealing with that. I think he'd also mention his girlfriend, Shannon, and talk about how fall football practice has been going.

Is this book part of a series? Yes, I've already started my next book and it will begin right where Blue Hill ended. My plan is for a three or four part series following the life of Asa Roth.

Read the entire interview at: Patti Roberts Book Blog.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Blue Hill Available Now


I am happy to announce that Blue Hill is now available on Amazon.

Many thanks to everyone for their support. I hope that the story of Asa Roth will be satisfying and captivating enough that you'll have an interest in Book 2. I've already started the process and I'll tell you now that it will begin right where Blue Hill ends.

In the meantime, let me leave you with this thought: Reviews on Amazon and other sites (like GoodReads) are worth a lot - more than you would imagine - and I would appreciate even one sentence or two if you like what you read. Anything you have to say would make a huge impact on potential readers. Thanks in advance.

Thanks again and please let me know what you think.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Blue Hill


Blue Hill is now just days away from publication. The target for release is next week and be assured that there is no one more interested in seeing this baby out on its own than me. It's been a long wait and we're almost there.

Thank you for your interest and thank you for reading my blog.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Looking for the Moments, part 2

Downtown Los Angeles

I've been doing a lot of driving around lately and I just remembered something I've always believed to be true about creative inspiration. It seems to me that it's just as easy to experience those significant moments in time when out driving as it is out walking or doing anything else. I don't know about you, but I think it's just a matter of being aware and ready when they happen. Here's what I mean (from my May 30, 2011 blog post):
So make a point to enjoy some art. Listen to some music and later, watch a movie. Visit a museum or check in on a website that brings art directly to you. There are countless moments that are waiting and won't be discovered unless you make the effort to look for them. No one knows what you can create until a moment moves you to inspiration. Make art a part of your life, watch for those moments that speak just to you, and respond in kind by creating something that provides someone else a moment that they'll remember. It's all a matter of consciously looking for those moments and then making them relevant in your life. Just keep looking.
So how about you? Is there a pattern to those significant moments that inspire you, or do they just happen when they happen?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Building Blue Hill


So here's the short version of what's going on: The book is done and is now being formatted for Kindle. That should be done soon and the moment it is, I'm going to publish a preview edition available to blog readers like you. Eventually the cover art will be done and when it is, I'll have an official release.

Thanks for following the saga and I hope you enjoy Blue Hill when it's finally in your hands.

Blue Hill
by Todd R. Tystad
Asa Roth is 17 and lives just outside of Blue Hill, South Dakota.  After a motorcycle accident changes him in ways he doesn’t understand, he begins to think that unexplainable things that are happening might be happening for a reason.  With the help of his brothers, his best friend, and a girl he can’t stop thinking about, Asa tries to figure out the person he’s becoming and where his life is taking him.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Two Wheels to Clear Your Mind

Conestoga Lake
"If anyone ever tries to tell me that because I ride a motorcycle I need to see a psychiatrist, I'm going to tell them that I don't need to see a psychiatrist because I ride a motorcycle."
TRT

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait


Out of concern that you might think I've been slacking off with this blog, I decided that I'd better say hello and let you know what's up. I wish I could say that it's been a summer of vacation and adventure, but the truth is, I haven't really been out of the house much. There's new fiction on the way, my friends, and it will be ready for you next month.

With all of the great feedback and encouragement that I've had after publishing the short fiction collection, I decided to try out some new material. I already had the story in mind, but it took me a while to get things moving because I wanted to find the right format and what educators refer to as "voice." Once I settled on what I was comfortable with, it's been an enjoyable process. I'd like to say that it's been like a vacation, but that would be stretching things a bit.

So another week or two and what I'm working on now should be done. My plan is for this to be Book 1 of a three-part series. I don't want to reveal too much too soon, but I'm hoping that you'll like what you see when it's ready to go. I don't enjoy waiting around myself, but sometimes it's well worth it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ebooks


For those who are interested in ebooks, this post is for you. For those who aren't, get ready because the train has already left the station. Amazon announced in May that - after less than four years of selling ebooks - their company is now selling more ebook titles than paperback and hardcover books combined. And that's a lot of ebooks.

Amazon also sells the Kindle, their enormously popular reading device. But not everyone is reading on a Kindle. There are free Kindle reading apps for PCs, Macs, phones, and the iPad. More than half of the titles on Amazon cost less than ten bucks, many are less than a dollar, and thousands of titles are free for the downloading.

One of the great things that's happened with the explosion of available material and the way the reading public has embraced ebooks is that writers are now coming up with new ways to tell stories. There are ebooks with audio and video content, hypertext links that allow the reader to explore outside of the main text, and more. Critics say that all of this works against the idea that books are meant to engage the imagination and not mimic other media. Yeah, whatever.

Whichever you prefer, ebooks or the old tried and true, there's no denying that ebooks are here to stay and storytelling will never be the same. If you don't believe me, drop in on Pottermore at the end of the month. Harry Potter will be happy to see you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Google+


In case you haven't heard, there's a new kid on the block that has a whole lot of tech folks talking. Google had a stealth launch of their new social network at the end of June and they're serious about competing with the reigning neighborhood cool kid, Facebook. It's called Google+ and it is an amazing thing.

Like Facebook, Google+  allows users to share news, photos, videos, and links in a "Stream" with friends. The key difference is that Google+ users can arrange friends in "Circles" so that news and content can be shared publicly with everyone, or just some "Circles" and not others. There's also chatting, video chatting that accommodates two to ten people at a time, and "Sparks," a feature for exploring special interest areas in conjunction with the +1 button that's been added to every inch of the Internet.

Part of what's made Google+ such a hot topic the past two weeks is that it's been an invitation-only site. Google+ says that they are still currently in "field trial" mode and are "throttling" access so that they can build the service slowly and steadily to avoid bugs and other problems. The word on the street is that it will be full-speed and open to everyone by July 31. So if you haven't yet received an invitation, you don't have long to wait to try it out.

As with all social networking sites, the issue of user privacy inevitably comes up. I won't wade into that murky water, but please remember the most important rule in life... nothing shared on the Internet is ever private. Ever.

So with that, I hope you have enough information to know if you want to give Google+ a try. It's a lot less cluttered than other social networking sites and, in many ways, a lot more attractive. If you decide to jump in, let me know what you think. I'll keep a circle open for you.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day Greetings


Happy 4th of July! It's great to take a break from everything else going on in the summertime and celebrate the country we live in. Between the barbecues, the community events, and the fireworks, be sure to take a moment to think about the real meaning of the holiday. Happy birthday, America.

The truth is, today will be pretty much like any other summer day at the House of Tystad. We're dedicated to grilling and community events on a regular basis and, with the exception of the firecrackers going off outside, today will be like most of our summer days. So to make today stand out, I propose the following for us and for you as a way of celebrating this special day:
  1. Take some time to think of our men and women in uniform. Our military doesn't take the day off and we wouldn't have it off either if not for those who have given us so much. Thank you.
  2. Take some time to think of your pets. Protect them from the sounds and the heat that can endanger their health.
 Happy Independence Day. Enjoy yourself and this great country we live in.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Coming of Age in America


I was outside walking Pablo around the neighborhood a couple of days ago when I came across a moment in time that's stayed with me. I could see a boy, about 12 years old or so, mowing a lawn and being directed by a man who looked like he was probably the boy's father. Nearby, two other men stood watching. As I passed by, I figured that this was the boy's first time mowing the lawn. The smile on his face and his careful attention to the task told me that it was a moment that he would remember for a long time.

As I came near one of the two men watching, I said hello and commented that it was a great moment when a young man can take over the job of mowing the lawn. The man smiled and agreed, adding that the boy had been looking forward to it for a long time. There was pride in his voice and it made me happy to have come across something so simple and yet so profound.

In America, we don't have a singular rite of passage that formally marks a young person's transition into adulthood. We've got church confirmations, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Quinceaneras, and Sweet Sixteen celebrations. Getting a driver's license or registering to vote might be as universal an experience as you can find. But I think the real coming of age happens in moments like the one I witnessed.

Families live together and care for each other and deal with the good and the bad, sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis. Washing the dishes, changing the baby, and mowing the lawn are the things that families do together. You can care for the people around you whether you're young or old. But when you can take over a family responsibility and make it your own, you're really growing up. And that's what I had the privilege of seeing as I was just passing by.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Motorcycles: Mind, Body, and Spirit


It's been a while since I've been on a motorcycle, but this week I decided to get back into it and got myself a bike. This apparently surprised a few people who didn't know what an interest I have in riding. It had never come up that I've owned motorcycles in the past and, at one point, had only two wheels to get around all of Los Angeles. To explain myself, I'd like to offer the following perspective.

As background, I should tell you that I've never been an athlete, but I've always been around athletes. Not having the physical proficiency to compete in anything more than a clumsy round of golf, I will confess to always having envied my friends who played sports and especially the ones who played them well. I knew what an athletic pursuit looked like, I just didn't know what total mind and body focus felt like.

When I started riding motorcycles, I experienced for the first time in my life being completely and totally engaged in an activity, both physically and mentally. I finally knew the state of being that gave such pleasure to my friends who had been playing sports. Operating a motorcycle and sharing the road with other drivers - especially in L.A. traffic - is a challenge that requires the ultimate level of concentration and coordination. And it's totally invigorating.

So now that I am, as some might say, old enough to know better, I still choose to ride a motorcycle - and I ride it safely. It truly is as satisfying as anything I've ever experienced. Riding a motorcycle is not for everyone. But for me, it's like playing in the championship game every time I ride.

Friday, June 17, 2011

10 Reasons to Love Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

It's summer vacation time and that means time to let loose and have some fun. And when I think of fun, I think of Los Angeles, California. Whether you live in L.A. or are just visiting, you can always find something fun to do. Here's a list of ten places I love in L.A. (in no particular order):
  1. The Hollywood Bowl: Tucked in a canyon, this outdoor amphitheater has concerts all summer long.
  2. Dodger Stadium: Home of the Los Angeles Dodgers. You get the idea.
  3. Griffith Observatory: Recently renovated, the art deco building is home to exhibits and a new planetarium theater.
  4. Topanga Canyon: Topanga State Park is perfect for hiking and mountain biking.
  5. The Getty Museum: "The Getty" is an art museum with locations in west L.A. and Malibu.
  6. Mulholland Drive: Sitting at the top of the Santa Monica mountains, this roadway divides the "city" from the "valley" and has some amazing views.
  7. L.A. County Museum of Art: Located on "Museum Row," this is the largest art museum in the western U.S.
  8. Leo Carillo Beach: A state park with camping, surfing, tide pools to explore, and more.
  9. Catalina Island: Only a one-hour boat ride from Long Beach, this island has scuba diving, golf, island tours, camping, resorts, and best of all, no traffic.
  10. Festivals and Community Celebrations: You can find some sort of celebration going on practically every weekend in L.A. My personal favorite is the Sunset Junction Street Fair, being held this year on August 27 and 28. The musical lineup is as eclectic as the audience. Plus, if you get hot or tired, you can always stop in at El Cid and sit on the patio for a while.
If this whets your appetite for some Southern California fun, try my favorite resource for the roads less traveled in L.A., Hidden Los Angeles. You'll learn about places to go and things to do and you may even find a discount offer to save yourself some cash. Hidden Los Angeles also has a Facebook page that's easier to scan than the website. Have fun and let me know what you decide to try.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Trader Joe's

It was only a matter of time until I felt a need to bring up the name of my favorite store in the whole world... Trader Joe's. (Sorry, IKEA, you're too far away to love on a regular basis.) For the uninitiated, Trader Joe's is a nationwide chain of specialty grocery stores that started out in southern California in the late 1960s. They carry far fewer items than a regular grocery store and most of what they have is sold under one of their own brand names. Items with the Trader Joe's label contain no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, contain no MSG or trans fats, and are made from non-genetically modified ingredients.

I have a long, long list of favorites at Trader Joe's, but my current must-have is something that I'm eating right now. They're called aebleskiver and are more commonly known as Danish pancakes. They're round instead of flat and they are unbelievably tasty. I've never made them myself, so the fact that I can get them in the frozen food section at Trader Joe's means that I don't have to. Paired with some Trader Joe's mango chunks (also sold frozen), they make a breakfast that you won't forget.

I've written in this blog about the many things in life that can provide a person with inspiration. Added to my list of music, film, and a walk with the dog should be aebleskiver with mango chunks. Honestly, I can't think of anything I'd rather have for breakfast. Thank you, Trader Joe.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Super-Duper 8

It's summer movie season and, as you may know, I have been counting the minutes until the opening day of Super 8. There have been so many times in the past when I've been caught up in the hype leading up to a big movie's release and then, after seeing the flick, was disappointed and wished I had my money and my two hours back. This is not one of those times.

I don't remember the last time I have so thoroughly enjoyed seeing a movie in a theater. Super 8 was so brilliantly done on so many levels that there really isn't anything not to love. I wouldn't even think of revealing anything about it, so I won't go into details. If you're planning to see it, go sooner rather than later and definitely stay for the credits. And that's about as much as I want to say.

So let me know what you think and join me in my quest to find something else this summer that can compare to Super 8.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Good Reads

I just came across a very cool website called Good Reads. It's a site where you can share book titles, discuss books you've read, form books clubs, and do all sorts of other things. I'll admit, it caught my attention because a good friend of mine wrote about my collection of short fiction. But it's a great site regardless of what you enjoy reading.


So if you like to read and you like to discuss what you've read, check out Good Reads.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cool Jazz and Bellinis

Pablo

Just so no one gets the idea that I'm sitting around doing nothing, I feel obligated to provide you with an update. It's not all cool jazz and Bellinis on the patio at the House of Tystad, even when it's summer vacation. In fact, it's been all about taking-care-of-business for an entire week and there's no telling when authentic rest and relaxation will become available, given the hectic schedule around here.

During my attempts to tackle several different projects at once, there are constant interruptions and infrequent trips to Super Target that stand in my way. Of course, taking Pablo out for a daily stroll isn't an interruption, but rather a pleasant diversion. Our current 99 degree heat was foreseen and today's walk was over and done with by 10:00 a.m. Even the early morning heat left Pablo tired and listless and he told me just moments ago that he's having second thoughts about going out at all tomorrow. Completely fine with me.

Perhaps the most challenging obstacle this week is the excruciating wait for Friday, the opening day of Super 8 - the new J.J. Abrams/Steven Spielberg movie. The tantalizing television commercials and theater trailers have convinced me that we're about to experience Spielberg-style filmmaking incubated in the mind of one of television's most creative thinkers and delivered with state-of-the-art effects and maximum decibels. What more could we ask for in a summer movie? I'll be there Friday morning right when the theater opens.

In the meantime, it's back to work. Stephen King says that he has a goal of at least 2,000 words a day. I figure that if I can exceed that, get Pablo outside while it's still cool, and see Super 8 before anyone reveals what happens, it's all good.

Stay cool.

Friday, June 3, 2011

KZUM Radio

KZUM fm/KZUM.org
Today I'd like to tell you about something that's near and dear to my heart and that is one particular local radio station in Lincoln, Nebraska. I've been a fan of radio for my entire life and I tend to avoid corporate radio, preferring to support the folks who do things the old school way. It's hard to compete with everything else that's out there, but there is one little radio station in the middle of the country that's been fighting the good fight since 1978.

KZUM is heard locally at 89.3 FM and - thanks to live streaming - on the web at KZUM.org. Staffed entirely by volunteers, it's Nebraska's only independent radio station and offers what is perhaps the most eclectic variety of music, news, and discussion you'll ever find in one place. Here's a short list of some of my favorite shows (all times listed are Central Time):
  • Friday 6:00-8:00 a.m. - "Morning Breath" (a variety of music)
  • Friday 8:00-10:00 a.m. - "Turtle Island" (World Music)
  • Saturday 3:30-5:30 p.m. - "Mundo Latino" (Latin Music)
  • Monday 7:30-8:00 a.m. - "Canine 360" (a talk show about dogs)
  • Monday 8:00-10:00 a.m. - "Dance Bands" (Big Band Music)
  • Monday 1:00-3:00 p.m. - "Buenos Tangos" (Tango Music)
And last, but certainly not least, KZUM plays the Blues in all its varieties every weekday afternoon from 3:00-6:00 p.m. On any given day, you may hear classics from the archives, brand new recordings, or interviews with Blues artists. Every day is something different and that's why I love it.

You will not be disappointed with what you'll hear on KZUM and I highly recommend it for anyone who has an interest in music of any type. Visit their website at KZUM.org for the program guide and you'll certainly find something you'll enjoy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wrap It Up

Today marks the end of the month and this seems like a good time to wrap up some brief odds and ends... sort of like the monthly housecleaning that you do whether it needs to be done or not.

  1. I'd like to mention my collection of short fiction. It's called Seven Moments in Time and it's available as an ebook at Amazon.com. If you decide to check it out, please let me know what you think. Also, please know in advance that Ellen is not a real person and I'm not a middle-aged wife of a politician.
  2. Please feel free to leave comments about my blog posts. I'll try to respond to every comment because I believe it's good manners and besides, I'm obsessed with that sort of thing.
  3. You can "follow" my blog or "subscribe" to email updates that are sent to you whenever I post something new. Look for the appropriate links within this page.
  4. If you're into Facebook, you can find me there and "like" my page by clicking: Todd R. Tystad
  5. Finally, I would love to know how my readers in Canada, Japan, Germany, Malaysia, Ireland, and Israel found this blog and what they think about it. Please let me know what's going on in your part of the world and maybe I can make Ellen more Canadian in the next book.
That's about it. Join me again tomorrow when we'll begin a new month with some new posts and I promise that I won't mention bug spray or Ellen for at least the month of June. But I'm watching you, Canada... I'm watching you.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Looking for the Moments


So anyway, back to creativity breeds creativity and art fosters art... and then you couple that with the idea that we need to pay attention to the moments that come unexpectedly and allow us to look within ourselves and realize who we are in the world... (See? These blog posts really are connected in a thoughtful and coherent way after all.) I come to this salient point: We've got to pay attention, especially to the people around us and to the world we live in. If we don't, then we've become busy dying instead of becoming busy living.

I've heard from friends who mention moments on a farm, moments alone on a deck with a cup of coffee, and moments watching mammoth trees swaying in the breeze. These friends know exactly what I'm talking about and we've shared those moments through this blog. The shared theme in these moments is nature and, although I like to poke fun, nature connects us all - even though I prefer to experience it from the inside of a large picture window. Nature always presents itself, we just have to be paying attention.

Nature may be God's handiwork, but I really am partial to her young and hopeful apprentice, humanity. From the dawn of time, people have been creating art. I'd like to believe that art nourishes us with an unspoken message: "Here is some art. Enjoy it. Now, get out and create some more art of your own." And this, I believe, is just as important as enjoying and responding to the moments we experience in nature.

So make a point to enjoy some art. Listen to some music and later, watch a movie. Visit a museum or check in on a website that brings art directly to you. There are countless moments that are waiting and won't be discovered unless you make the effort to look for them. No one knows what you can create until a moment moves you to inspiration. Make art a part of your life, watch for those moments that speak just to you, and respond in kind by creating something that provides someone else a moment that they'll remember. It's all a matter of consciously looking for those moments and then making them relevant in your life. Just keep looking.
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, written and directed by John Hughes, 1986)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Making the Most of Summer Vacation

Communing With Nature in the Tystad Backyard

Summer vacation has long at last arrived at the House of Tystad. With it has come all of the hopes and excitement of a season almost entirely unencumbered by schedules and deadlines, to-do lists and routines. Following the traditional school schedule allows both students and adults the pleasure of casting off the shackles of a long and demanding school year and joyfully transitioning to a well-deserved break from the ordinary. Every day of summer can and should be a new adventure, so long as the sunscreen is plentiful and the bug spray is DEET-free.

The creative mind runs wild with the possibilities of what a summer day can hold. Nature enthusiasts plot their paths through the forest, sporting types pump their bike tires and arrange backyard ball games, and homeowners from coast to coast dig and mow and till until nightfall. It's nothing short of breathtaking to think of an entire country's populace coming alive under the warmth of the summer sun.

And so, in keeping with the long-standing summer tradition of all proud citizens of Los Angeles - or, in this case, proud Los Angeles expatriates - we shall vacate the House of Tystad and go to the movies. Exercising our God-given right to spend time in a darkened and air-conditioned movie theater is one that must be cherished and practiced frequently, especially during this all-too-brief season of the summer blockbuster. Matinee prices are simply Hollywood's whispered message to come early and come often.

So, out of our way, joggers. Step aside, sightseers. Our showtime draws near. And we need to get this out of the way before it's time to light the bar-b-que and contemplate which Netflix movie we'll be watching tonight. There's only so much summer, you know. And you've got to make the most of it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Get Busy

Evergreen, Colorado

The Sunday Night Movie at the House of Tystad last weekend was The Shawshank Redemption (1994). We watched it on DVD and the video quality was amazing. Not all movies made 17 years ago hold up to the test of time, but this one really does. It's a beautiful film that anyone who loves movies really must see. Ask around and you'll be surprised at how many people count it among their favorite movies of all time. If you watch it for the first time or again for the 50th time, you'll be glad you did.

One of many reasons to love the film is its message to "Get busy living or get busy dying." That line of dialogue is taken verbatim from the Stephen King short story "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" (upon which the screenplay is based), which was one of four stories in the 1982 King book "Different Seasons." "Different Seasons" also contains the stories "Apt Pupil" (also made into a film), "The Breathing Method," and "The Body," which was made into the film "Stand By Me" (an outstanding movie that warrants its own discussion).

As an aside, The Shawshank Redemption was adapted for the screen and directed by Frank Darabont, who has directed other films based on Stephen King's books. He also created the AMC television series "The Walking Dead" (2010-) and is reportedly a close friend of Stephen King.

The case can be made that Stephen King, who is known to be a huge fan of rock and roll, borrowed the idea for the line "Get busy living or get busy dying" from the Bob Dylan lyric "He not busy being born is busy dying" from the song "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," which appeared on the classic 1965 Dylan album "Bringing It All Back Home." The lines are strikingly similar and it would make sense that Stephen King would be appreciative of Dylan's genius with the English language.

In any case, the message we get from watching The Shawshank Redemption - probably from Dylan, through King, through Darabont - is that we each need to make a simple decision to either embrace life and live it to its fullest... or be satisfied with the status quo. I won't elaborate on that issue here, but I will say that one of the things that inspires me the most and motivates me to live my life to the fullest is art. Specifically, film as art. And that brings us full circle. Creativity breeds creativity and art fosters art.

Thank you, Bob Dylan. Now I'm busy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Finding Peace

Pablo

I was looking for peace. I just took my dog Pablo the Chihuahua out for a walk around the neighborhood and, between the exercise and the near-death experience brought on by an angry Irish Setter on the loose, I think we both got a lot out of it. Pablo got some serious cardio and a newfound realization that he isn't nearly as intimidating as he thinks he is (a hard life lesson for a Chihuahua). I got to breathe in some fresh air and feel an important connection to nature and the value of life... my own and my dog's.

One of the most peaceful people I've ever known was a religious man, a man of the cloth. He was the leader of his congregation when I knew him and I count him among the most influential people I've ever known. He used to say that his most spiritual moments came not in a house of worship and not among other people, but late at night when he took his dog outside for a walk. He said that having that time alone with his dog, walking in the darkness, he was able to reach a point of having an honest and satisfying conversation with God. Those moments gave him peace.

I'll never forget that lesson, that we can sometimes be surprised where we can find our own peace. My friend clued me in to the idea that we need to pay attention to the moments that come unexpectedly and allow us to look deep within ourselves and realize who we are in the world. And that these moments can bring us true peace.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Speaking Freely


In case you haven't read the news, those anguished cries heard from every corner of the world yesterday weren't from the big Rapture No Show. They were, in fact, from the huddled throngs crying out after reading my first blog post and left wondering what, exactly, the stinking blog will be about. If it's not about cats, weight loss, bass fishing, home improvement, or the new rules of dating, then what else in the world is there left to write about? David Sedaris already called dibs on smoking and you would think there's nothing left to be said.

Well, I've come up with a few topics that should serve as a preview and a tantalizing appetizer for all that is yet to come. You can look forward to discussions focused (or at least haphazardly focused) on movies and music, the good and the bad that comes with that antique novelty known as radio, food that can be had both at home and in certain restaurants, and one of my favorite topics of all, Los Angeles, California.

If a blog post is made during the late hours of the night, it might be about a certain earworm or two with a plea for suggestions of an alternative that will flush them out. If prodded, I might even discuss Batesland, South Dakota. So rest assured, there really are topics that have been left entirely untouched by Perez Hilton and TMZ.

So join me when you can, read as often as you'd like, and feel free to post your own comments and suggestions. Also, please note that this is a non-smoking blog. That makes my task here all the more challenging. But if I can pull it off, I will have beaten David Sedaris at his own game.

Cheers.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Free Speech


There's an old axiom that says with free speech, you get exactly what you pay for - and that's the case with many of the blogs that I've read and things that I've said. Please be forewarned: This is not a blog about cats, it's not about weight loss, and it's not about bass fishing or home improvement or the new rules of dating.

This is my blog and I will make a promise to you right here and now that I will be dedicated to providing you with much, much more than you pay for. It's not outside the realm of possibilities that you may even encounter a moment of zen on rare occasions... or at least something new to tell your friends when prefaced with, "You will not believe what that guy said this time."

So join me, please, on a journey through time and space and the free speech that allows any crackpot with a computer and an Internet connection the opportunity to make a complete fool of himself.

Cheers.