Troy Blackford – Author

Troy Blackford is an author of short stories – Strange Way Out, medium stories – Critical Incident, long stories – Through the Woods, and blogs regularly at, these are his good things.

Good things to read.

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King.  If we’re choosing three things, then this is a good place to start. My favorite of Stephen King’s ‘Dark Tower’ novels, this story combines all the madcap culture clash of “Star Trek IV’ with all the dark, twisted insanity of… well, Stephen King. The second book in a series of seven, people who enjoy awesomeness should surely read this book.

The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker.  The Ste(ph/v)ens keep the brilliance coming with my second book pick. This is a non-fiction work by a master linguist and cognitive psychologist, delving into the mental aspects of language: how we use it, how we are able to use it, and what the way we use it tells us about our minds and ourselves. More than a little of this information can be useful to writers, but all of it is interesting and relevant to anybody who has the power to speak.

The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie. So hard to choose just three books to recommend, but that is the name of this particular game. If you haven’t given Ms. Christie’s books a try, you’re really missing out. I strongly recommend this tale, of a murder spree and a killer taunting a world-class detective as the bodies pile up. It’s incredibly well-crafted, surprising, and above all – awesome.

Good things to watch.

The YouTube Channel of ‘The Lonely Island’ – These three ‘Dudes’ are famous for putting something into a box and doing something else in their pants, but they have so much more on offer. Videos the trio made back in 2001, years before they got hired at SNL and when they were just youngsters living together, doing what they love are still to be found online. Classics like ‘Stork Patrol’ and ‘Ka-Blammo!’ never fail to disappoint, and you can’t go wrong with their newer stuff either. Fun extras like Jorma’s ‘Spin the Globe’ song (done for a travel magazine article) and others lurk inside the nougaty wad of digital shorts and music videos you can find there.

Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Why should I have to explain this? I was three when it came out, but unlike many other series of its time, this show gets played regularly on television on a daily basis still. Like ‘M*A*S*H,’ there is a timelessness to this show that transcends many of its televised peers as it was depicting a time period other than the one that produced it. Unlike M*A*S*H, this show is set well in the future from its production, and the optimistic outlook on the future of human nature is a great, uplifting thing, right when you need it. Also, some of the episodes have premises that are downright creepy. Always a good thing.

Rejected Pitches on Above Average Productions YouTube Channel.  Who the hell would ever agree to make ‘Look Who’s Talking,’ ‘Back to the Future,’ ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ or ‘Jurassic Park?’ That’s the premise of this witty, original web series, created by Dan Klein. ‘Home Alone’ is ‘house torture porn.’ ‘Look Who’s Talking’ is assumed to be a horror movie. Three smarmy film executives sit across from people like Steven Spielberg, wrinkle up their smarmy noses, and question the intelligence of award winning director after award winning director. Not to be missed.

Good things to use.

Asus/Google Nexus 7. This fancy little seven-inch tablet runs the latest version of Android, and lets you do everything you need to do and more. In fact, for the last few months I’ve been writing my books on the little bugger, using a $25 bluetooth keyboard the size of a DVD case. Maybe that’s not the best use for the thing, but if you want to invest in an eReader, this would be great for that purpose alone, let alone all the other things you can do with it. Audiobooks are great for times when you can’t be physically holding a book, but your mind is free and clear to be filled with stories or ideas. Audible lets you run an app on your smartphone that allows you to speed up the narrator, as well. I pump books directly into my brain at triple speed with this whenever I’m working on a dull task, doing dishes, or cooking – and it makes me a better person.

Coffee.  Use a crapton of coffee at all times. I would be asleep right now if it weren’t for this socially-acceptable stimulant.

Connect with Troy on Twitter, @TBlackford3.

Shannon Thompson – novel and poetry writer

Shannon Thompson is an author who has written in the longest and shortest forms and her affinity for cats may only be topped by the love of coffee.  These are her good things.

Good things to read.

The Stranger by Albert Camus. It’s a classic novel which defines existentialism. Our emotions are challenged, and the writing reminds us of what we find normal and connecting within society. It’s a perfect example of confronting a norm, while also bringing out understanding and sympathy from the other side.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer–a novel told from nine-year-old Oskar who loses his father in 9/11. The story follows him as he tries to solve the mystery behind what it all means, while also using history (from his grandparents) to compare present day to. Very challenging and emotional read. The novel, not only has words, but pictures that will become a part of the soul.

Poetry (specifically Edgar Allen Poe, Sylvia Plath, and/or Billy Collins) I think it’s important to read both fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, because every genre brings something new into the light, and these three poets always bring me comfort, content sadness, and understanding, even if I have a moment of ambiguity towards why.

Good things to watch.

Casablanca.  It’s not only a classic; it’s honestly my favorite movie of all time. I’m a HUGE fan of older movies, because I find the writing and the story to be the most important part (rather than the graphics) and I’m always astounded by the subtle genius behind it all. Pay attention to everything Bogart says, or you might miss a beautiful instance.

A Little Princess. A little girl is dropped off at a boarding school after her father is enlisted in WWI. She’s from India, and she brings mystical stories to the others, while reflecting the reality of her life. It will return your childhood to your present-day life.

Big Fish. A reminder of the exaggeration of stories being an art form of love.

Good things to use.

Journals. I believe journaling can be one of the most important activities people can take part in. Write down what you’re feeling and learn why you feel this way. I have a strict rule of never returning until one year has passed, but that’s my personal preference.

Coffee. I need it to survive. Honestly. But it’s also comforting, energizing, and has recently had many health benefits discovered.

Kittens (Pets)- Cuddle up with that fuzzy one and make your day that much better.

Shannon is on Twitter and Facebook where you can keep up with new about her new book – Minutes Before Sunset – which comes out in May.

Tammy Strobel – writer and photographer

Tammy Strobel’s is a writer and photographer at Rowdy Kittens, a site about going small, thinking big, and being happy. She’s written three books and teaches classes on writing and photography.  These are her good things.

Good things to read.

This I Know by Susannah Conway.

The Best Care Possible by Ira Byock

On Writing by Stephen King.

Good things to watch.

Oprah’s Next Chapter is inspiring and interesting.

I’m fine, Thanks is a sweet documentary.

I can’t wait to watch Tiny; it’s a story about living small.

Good things to use.

The camera in your phone. I love iPhone photography because it enables me to capture everyday magic.

Zassenhaus coffee grinder. We recently purchased this coffee grinder for our tiny house and love it. It’s beautiful, durable, and it has a 25-year warranty.

A Fitbit. Get outside and start counting your steps.