Todd’s AXS Contributing Music Writer Article Debut

Ringo and All StarrIt was an incredible honor to, first, be accepted as a contributor to Examiner.com subsidiary AXS and their widely published audiences. It was an even greater honor to debut my first AXS contributing article as Examiner’s Dallas Music & Special Events AXS Contributor on the historic sold-out appearance of Fab Four Beatles member Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band in Tyler, Texas, the first time a Beatles member ever making an appearance in Tyler.

With songs being performed from each of the Band’s member’s diverse musical repetoires including original Santana founding lead vocalist and keyboardist Gregg Rolie; Toto vocalist and lead guitarist Steve Lukather; Mr. Mister vocalist and bassist Richard Page; David Lee Roth Band, Joe Satriani and Toto drummer Gregg Bissonette; Kansas, Toto and Bread famed vocalist, saxophonist and flutist Warren Ham; and American multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and music producer Todd Rundgren, the night only grew with pleasure.

The excited and overjoyed crowd exuberantly participated with familiar Beatles classics, “Photograph,” “Yellow Submarine,” “It Don’t Come Easy,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “Give Peace A Chance,” “Don’t Pass Me By,” and “Act Naturally,” combined with tracks mixed expertly together with a refreshing and equally fascinating entertaining set of choice selections of the celebrated All-Starr star members cherished hits, “Rosanna,” “Africa,” “Black Magic Woman”/”Gypsy Queen,” “Oye Como Va,” “Evil Ways,” “Love Is The Answer,” “Broken Wings,” “Kyrie,” “You Are Mine,” “Bang The Drum All Day,” and “Hold The Line.”

As the excitement in the crowd built and the electricity in the air came to a head, everything seemed to just flow over as the packed auditorium joined in with beloved Beatles’ hallmark “With A Little Help From Friends” making the entire evening one continuous magical night!

Here’s a link to the article on AXS.com – Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band Valentine’s Day in Tyler

As Examiner’s new Dallas Music & Special Events AXS Contributor and with this huge honor as my first music article ever, I am really excited and looking forward to covering upcoming Carlos Santana’s Corazon Tour event in Grand Prairie, Texas on March 18th at Verizon Theater.

Check back on this blog for a posting of both the pre and post-event article coverage as we near the event!

Inside Look: The concept and creation of ‘Between the Trees’

Blog - Between the TreesThis story emerged on a sleepy sunny day in Dallas in 2008. My office was located near Restland, one of the largest cemeteries in the DFW metroplex area. There’s a road that goes right down the middle of it. On both side of the road there is a little two foot tall fence like you see around a lot of cemeteries. Where the little road that goes through the well manicured and quite scenic cemetery meets the main road, there’s a gate with stone walls holding the gate in place. The wing walls curve up to six or seven feet at the gates. Anyway, it was around two or three o’clock in the afternoon, you know when you sometimes get that sleepy feeling and want to take a nap. I was driving back to the office from a late lunch and looking out across the gently rolling landscape and fixed on a point between a couple of giant old oaks. As I drove and saw the point clearly over the little two foot fence the taller gate neared. For the brief moment as I passed by the gate, and only looking through the gate between the flanking walls as I passed, I saw a certain, but shadowy figure dart from one tree to the next. In fact it looked like it came out of one tree and went into the other.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t have freaked me out so much. I am a scientific explanations kind of guy. I made a perfect 100 in two semesters of Physics at the University of North Texas. I know what I saw, at least I think I do, and that feeling I had was unmistakable. I saw what I thought was a ghost. The feeling stuck with me the rest of the day, but when it happened I remember distinctly, my stomach just sank, chills swept over me and uncertainty ruled me until I went to sleep that night. I had been in creative writing at the time and I was already thinking up plot material for a number of other stories, three or four. I got busy by writing down what I saw and thinking of how I could write this up without it being in Dallas and at that cemetery. That’s when I turned to Google maps. As I combed across a satellite image of the US I thought about a reason for a central character to be driving by a cemetery and seeing something otherworldly.

It finally dawned on me to have it along the Tennessee-Mississippi border and to make it about bootlegging, why I can’t be certain, it just did. The main character, Brandon Fitts, is a young, late twenties-ish returning soldier from the Iraq War. He served four tours and had saved a lot of his pay from there, being single and without an immediate family. When he got back, he wanted to use the money and build himself a little house and automotive shop on a piece of land his grandfather had left him so he could work on cars and live close by his work. It was a dream until he ran short of the money to complete the shop.Turning to his racketeering, no-good uncle Alfonse Dumont, who has his hands in every dirty dealing business in the county, because he has no where else to turn, Brandon seeks help and assistance just to finish his shop and lead an honest life fixing cars. His uncle was sure to lend him the money he needs, but only if he’d come to work for him running moonshine across the border. Enter the two sheriffs, John Brady in Tennessee bent on stopping all bootlegging from coming through his county, and Sheriff Jerry Lemmon in Mississippi on the take so much he’s willing to do literally anything to keep the cash cow’s milk flowing.

With the help of a newly deceased Bacchus Road cemetery’s caretaker ghost, Otis Creamer, Brandon and his girlfriend Shelly discover most of the souls in the cemetery are trapped there and bound to an unrest on earth because of Brandon’s uncle, who put them there before their time. As the good sheriff begins to suspect Brandon in the disappearance of the caretaker Otis, the clock begins ticking and Brandon must find a way to reveal his uncle without getting caught by him before he’s framed for Otis’ murder.

Writing this up was extremely fun, learning about the history and googling the maps of the area, trying to incorporate as much reality as possible really made it take shape and I pieced it in all along as I went. Oftentimes that’s how it happens. Just kind of takes shape in plausible ways that sound like they make sense in the natural order of events. Then, once it’s all together and each scene gets worked through, the story gets a final polish. Easy as pie.

Inside Look: ‘Tiger Poppy’ from concept to short story to film

Poppy flowerOriginally, the whole idea of an action packed action adventure film never really crossed my mind while taking creative writing at community college. It was more of an assignment project. We were supposed to just come up with an idea for what would end up being our main feature work for the semester. I was really stumped. All I could see in my mind was an image from a photograph I remembered from an issue of Time magazine from 1991. It was of a sea of red poppies in a giant field. One stood taller and out from the rest right in the middle of the frame. Right there in the middle. One poppy. Somehow, this had made it through all the years and stuff that’s happened since then all the way to that moment in 2007 in creative writing. It was vivid and it was there. In my head, but clear and there. It was what I would build a story around.

Then came the research. Oh, the research. As I started to research poppies and, subsequently, Afghanistan, where most poppies come from, I realized there was an intrinsic tie to our presence there that I could not dismiss. My main influence in fiction to date back then had been a favorite author Clive Cussler. He had been entertaining me with his Dirk Pitt series for over three decades and it made sense to me to use it as a template. While Dirk and Clive are nearly always nautically based, I was more of an avid hiker and mountain lover and that worked perfectly with Afghanistan and poppies. So, also being big on Tom Clancy, especially ‘Line of Control,’ also set in the Himalayas, this is where ‘Tiger Poppy’ was ultimately born. Along with the research, came a lot of additional background material.

In developing the character, Colonel Brandt Essex, I wanted a strong name. After searching through lists and syllable combinations and seeing what worked for others, I settled on the name. I am a moderate follower of etymological sources so names have meanings and meanings shape character. I wanted a sword to cut through the plot and get to the solution, hence Brandt Essex. Dr. Beverly Zimmerman, in 2007, was created oddly with the shapeliness and blond curly locks of Elly Mae from the Beverly Hillbillies in mind, but with the intelligence of my sophomore Animal and Human Biology professor at University of North Texas, Dr. Zimmerman. Hence the name Dr. Beverly Zimmerman. General Frank Dornan is a mash-up of a neighbor I almost built a fence for named Frank who had this soup-strainer handlebar moustache, while Dornan is just a researched name not used very often that would afford me some added originality, but yet seemed familiar still. Afar Azar begins with an ‘A’ by no coincidence. When I started looking up male Afghan names and their meanings, I was determined to have a simple yet menacing sounding, and more on the uncommon side of things name and Afar and Azar were the first two that I came across. I could have gone with something later, and in most cases I did and do, but, it is what it is.

Once I had the names of the good guys, the bad guys and some supporting characters – the cast – then came the part of plot development. For me, this comes pretty easily, as long as I have a central kernel to start with. Back to the picture. That single bloom rising above all the rest. Why? I asked myself. My main character had to be a hero, had to save the world somehow. That’s when it hit me. The poppy makes people invincible. So how does this get the Colonel involved? It had to come through the General. General Dornan is to Brandt Essex as Admiral Sandecker is to Dirk Pitt – only better. Gen. Dornan is active duty, in fact Pentagon Four Star. Colonel Essex is active duty, also. This makes the missions more, say, official. Since the missions are official, why not throw in some covert CIA action?

In the short story, the plot is pretty linear. It moves along a timeline and is limited to 30 pages. The entire story ended up being just 28 pages. The film by contrast is 93-110 pages of script, depending on the edit. Obviously, for the film many more scenes and a few more characters were added. In fact, a whole added dimension based off of a character suggestion my 26-year-old son made really contributed to the needed extra plot. He noticed the short story had all Afghan bad guys and all westerner good guys and it seemed imbalanced. He was right. I had made a point to educate my readers with cultural aspects of some of the people and locales in the Pashtun villages and the story was lacking a bad element among the good guys. Born from this was the character of Ben Turrick, the laboratory mole in the mission that had been planted by the same guys they ended up chasing. Without giving away too much, let me just say it doesn’t fare well for our Mr. Turrick.

All in all, I am some excited with the success of the short story and the film script, and by success I mean it flows well and is page turning, the real success will be if it does well among audiences, of course. That’s why I am where I am with it today. ‘Tiger Poppy.’ I’ve decided, is being written into a novel and released only after the short story appears in the first volume of ‘Selected Short Stories.’ Then, after appearing as a novel, and with a campaign of advertizing and marketing promotion, then the script will be in place to produce into a feature film. In the meantime, another one of the stories, ‘A Piece of Bread’ will be produced into a short film, which I feel moderately confident can be done with ease on budget, time and resource.

Lastly, ‘Tiger Poppy’ is finding its debut as one short story of ten released in Volume I of ‘Selected Short Stories’ – a four volume set – hopefully released and marketed through self-publishing on Kindle Direct Publishing.

Hooray! Upcoming Publications!

We’re not quite sure of the exact timeline – tentatively by this coming Summer of ’15. Soon, each of you very elite select early fans can most definitely enjoy looking forward to a special fan exclusive preview of the first installment of a four volume collection of Todd Lowery short stories!!!  In this long-awaited first volume, The Brandt Essex Adventure Series will be making its publication debut. Among these first three stories written in the series to date will be the highly prized and peer-reviewed Tiger Poppy already written into a feature length film script! Following Tiger Poppy in the volume will be the next two stories in The Brandt Essex Adventure Series – The Sultan’s Choice and Geo-Catch!, bringing the current list of Brandt Essex stories up to date (when it’s all said and done there could be as many as twelve or more!). In addition to these you can also expect to see: Assassin for hire story – The Green Fez; Thriller favorite, backwoods moonshine running ghost story – Between the Trees; History-trekking and barely make it out alive ghost story – Ranch 111; Gripping urban crime-noir story – A Walk in the Park; Timeless medieval Spanish Inquisition chronicle – Isabella’s Desperation; Deeply revealing and emotional thriller – A Girl in the Sun; Medical psychological murder mystery – Vitreous Humour; and lastly, heaven-hosting philosophical sci-fi – Transit of Mars.

As you can see, Todd’s been really busy building up a battery of works for your reading pleasure fulfillment in Volume I. Depending on the response he gets and his own personal desire, some, if not many or all of these short stories may find their way to novel and film as Todd gains momentum and traction in the industry. Just know this one important and special thing for sure about yourself as you read. You are seeing the world debut notice of his emerging work for the very first time. This is truly historical. So, if you want to be a part of history, here’s your chance! Feel free to leave a comment or question.

‘The Art of Adventure’ is Well Underway!

This is the sounding board for the Todd Lowery Books and Film fan and blogging Community. Here is where you can let Todd and the Todd Lowery Fan Community-at-Large know what’s on your mind, what you think of some of the stories and films, ask questions and find out more about your favorite new up and coming installment to the Todd Lowery Collection, any novel and collection publications and upcoming film production including dates, reviews and content overviews. Todd personally invites you to please leave a comment.

Here’s a link to Todd Lowery Books official website: www.todd-lowery-books.com