Training for The S-Class

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If you’re here from my YouTube channel I love you tons + Thank you so much for subscribing/following the blog + shit. I love what I get to do.

Recently one of my absolute favorite series came to an end: Fairy Tail.

So I’m going to talk about it for roughly the next 1200 words.

I started watching back in 2014 with my friends, it is a story about a group of wizards and their guild going on jobs, conquering challenges and growing their bonds with one another. As the seasons progressed like just about everything else in media the stakes rose and here we were in 2017 with the ultimate battle against the greatest evil in the world.

I won’t talk a lot about the plot or the course of the show. Questionable choices were made and it certainly wasn’t a story I would have written but I think I can appreciate it that much more because of that fact. See, when I write I do it to expel demons. There may be happy endings and there may be sad endings but at the end of the day I write to get out what is inside of my soul. Each word I put down corresponds with the way I am feeling at the time of writing. What you see most are the things I want to engrain here forever. The timeless messages that I am always learning. I put them in this public forum so that years from now I can look back on whatever year and remember the ups, the downs and the adventures I was having. I attempt to do so fondly.

That may not always be the case for me. Some things I’ve written have broken my own heart, especially a la The Darling Bones, they have come from a place of heartbreak.

Much of the media I consume mirrors that emotional spectrum. I feel things extraordinarily, I’ve been told. What I listen to and watch reflects those feelings. I can cry at the drop of a hat and I can laugh aloud with next to no provocation. I’ve spoken before about searching within my own writing to make my readers laugh and cry at the same time. There is something spectacular about feeling so joyful that you begin tearing up and giggling to yourself.

Fairy Tail gave me that feeling, reading through the last chapter of the manga I thought back on the ride it had taken me on. My friends and I joked about not caring for spoilers in the series as we were all at different parts because it was all about the ride. We wanted to enjoy the story we were being told.

Enjoy it I did, as I sat in my mother’s house at the end of last month and read the final chapter I began crying and laughing because all of these characters I had grown to love had finally come to the end of their journey. Their tasks were completed and they were able to rest. They accomplished dreams and they formed bonds that would last forever. They fell in love and they grew strong in their love for one another.

It takes a strong kind of magic for a creator like Hiro Mashima, the author, to grasp the attention of any one human and draw them into a world. Like so many people have felt with Harry Potter and friends I found myself invested and attached to so many characters from the story. All of whom I watched grow and change at a time in my life when I was growing and changing as well. By the end of the chapter I realized that I had gotten caught up in the technical aspects of the story like many, MANY people on the r/fairytail subreddit did. I had lost focus for just a moment, on what the story was truly about. I love when a tale can do this to me, rip me out of the fantasy world and sit me back down in reality to look at myself critically.

Therein lies the magic of creation. Every author or musician, painter or creator has this level of power within them, this real life magic that enables us to create something amazing and share a bond with others through it. I have surrounded myself with a league of men and women who do amazing things and there I have found my own guild, much like Fairy Tail.

I realized that the story wasn’t about the fights or the potential death toll. It wasn’t about the way the dragons vanished and the way the demons came to exist. Sure those things were important to the plot of the story but they weren’t what FT was about. I believe that we can put so much focus on defining plotlines and poking plot holes that we forget sometimes that these things were created by humans with imperfections like ourselves. We are just as much Natsu and Lucy as we are Zeref and Hades and even the same, we are still ourselves.

People consume characters that are real and tangible, and while there may not be a lot of reality to a 400 year old dragon slayer lighting a stadium on fire or a 90 year old man bringing his wrath down upon an enemy in the form of light, there is a real tangible desire within the characters.

Each of them, like you and me, are searching for a purpose and searching for someone to share that purpose in.

We are all looking for the next adventure, or the next moment to survive, but I think we are focusing too closely on the plot instead of trying to understand what our story is about.

I was created to do this. This writing, this creating. It courses through my blood and brain every moment I am awake. It is my calling. I can’t turn that off. I was given a level of compassion that sometimes I wish I could shut off, I am able to feel things like they are happening to me. I use these traits to further the plot of my own story, which is driven by my purpose for being.

Every day I am training. I am bettering myself and praying to better those around me with the same spell.

Today, don’t focus too much on the plot. Don’t concern yourself so severely with your next step. Don’t focus all of your effort on continuing forward. Instead, focus on your reason for being here. Why are you sitting at your desk reading this? What put you here? Was it me? Was it a friend? Was it curiosity or luck or happenstance? Whatever the reason, you have an engine behind your plot that is driving you. Find it. Harness it. Continue to pursue that purpose. Don’t fall into the technical bullshit about your battles and your plot.

I live today to be here for all of you. I live to write my books. My plot is just another job, just another meeting, just another period to sleep or shower. In all my down time however, I am training.

I am training because I am not the best I can be yet. I am still an A class wizard.

Soon, I will make it to S class and I want to see you there beside me.

Bonus love to you if you clicked all four of the creator links + subscribed. Tell em I love em, tell em they’re beautiful people.

Why Worry?

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Welcome to September, we are only one month away from the end of Noose Ends, I’d tell you I have something special planned if I did, but I don’t, I’m just out here working on this bridge, trying to make it the best one in the countryside.

I often think about my story through life, how I got from A to B, then to C, and here we are at R, or T, or whatever letter that would best explain where I’m at today. One of my favorite things for no real reason at all, is tracing where I’m at today back as far as I can. I work where I do because of The Fish, I worked at The Fish because of my friend Lukas, I met Lukas through Preston, I met Preston through Choir in high school etc.

Every moment in my life I can trace back to the beginning, I remember the hallmark moments that brought me to sit where I am today. When I think of things in this perspective all of the pressure to succeed and to keep pushing forward seems so much less significant, as if, perhaps I was meant to be here today.

Perhaps there is another Alva Tobias out there somewhere, perfectly painted and created to be a non-stop machine that can work without pause that can accept all manner of ridiculous emotional stress without batting an eye and can continue as if nothing happened.

Perhaps not, that isn’t how we were built.

A few years back I had a blog post in which I mentioned that God built us like trees, not machines. We are organic and sometimes we need to hibernate, otherwise we will wither. We are not a bunch of mechanical pieces that are strapped together for the purpose of production. We need rest, we need breaks.

I go on this rants pretty frequently about how important it is for us to remember where we came from and who we are today. To think hard about where we want to be.

The pressures that come from trying to live your dreams can be insurmountable at first glance, but look at you, you’re doing it without even thinking about it.

What I’m saying here is that I have a tendency to worry.

I worry about how my books sell, how many people see my blog and my YouTube videos and so on. There are some nights that I crawl into bed, exhausted just from the stress I gave myself from worrying about my business and my future. What is interesting to me in all of this, is that my future is happening right now. As I’m writing this, I am potentially cementing something in the future for myself, some kind of success or new opportunity I would not have had if I had not written this blog post. I do the same thing every single day at work, I speak to all kinds of people I may never see again, a handful of them have come in and made themselves at home with me and others will remember me for a while in the least.

Isn’t that the coolest shit?

Our lives are always building. We are always digging paths, building bridges and watering gardens we have planted with every new thing we do each day.

If you’re worried about your future today, I want to let you know, you don’t have to worry.

There might be another version of you out there somewhere, perfectly painted and created to be a non-stop machine that can work without pause and can accept all manner of ridiculous emotional stress without batting an eye, continuing as if nothing happened.

But probably not, that isn’t how we were built. That isn’t how we grow.

Take your stress and think about this:

You are standing in front of a wide river, the current is fast and you know that if you jump into it then you will be swept away. However, you need to get to the other side. Across that river, there is a city with a grocery store, so you can feed your family, or yourself. Within that city also lies your duty. You must pay the tab for keeping the land behind you, you must pay your taxes, you know that if you do not, someone will come along and take what is rightfully yours. You have a number of bills that must be paid, for lumber and metal that you purchased earlier so that you could extend your house a bit. To give yourself or your family more room. With you, you are wearing a heavy brown apron. Inside of it there is a handful of nails, a saw, and a hammer. Your carpentry tools jingle and smack against your thighs as you come to see that there is no bridge where you thought one would be.

What do you do?

Will you venture along the side of the river, looking for a bridge elsewhere, or will you turn to your right and begin cutting down the trees that are there beside you, so that you can get across in a timely manner. You have all of the skills, after all, you are a carpenter and you’ve built your own home.

Are you going to let others take that away from you while you wander along the banks of a rapid river, worrying about how you don’t know the next step?

Or are you going to make the next step yourself?

If you enjoyed this, I’d love if you shared it to Facebook/Twitter and just let your friends see it too. It would mean the world to me, maybe a few of us could meet up and get to building some cool stuff together.

15 Clouds

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This is the final post for this month, which has been hectic and has hit me at my core. Thank you for everyone who has been around + for everybody who I’m getting the opportunity to touch in the future. This thing started as a way for me to speak down to my peers from a place of “enlightenment” but as I’ve written and seen that it’s really been helping people, I have had my ego deflated. It’s nice. Thank you for bringing me back down to earth and reminding me that I was not enlightened about anything. I’m a constant work in progress.

I often go through phases, we all do really. Periods of time in which we change our viewpoints or experience a different side of things than what we are used to. Often times, it can be good, but sometimes it can be terrible. Recently, I found myself in one of those situations. I really looked at my business plan and my relationships with those people I say out loud that I love and the words I said quickly turned into writing on the wall.

I saw myself in fifteen years, alone at my desk with over 30 books released, trying to get ahold of my old friends for the holidays because my work had finally slowed down. I didn’t see myself with a family or with friends at all, in fact. No one else answered. I fell asleep and dreamed about that day. Thanksgiving was rolling around the corner and I had no one to spend the holiday with. So I continued calling. I even searched out the people who weren’t that close to me and I called them, asking for nothing more than someone to spend the holiday with.

Those people all rejected me too.

I sat down on my bed in the dim light of a lonely writer’s studio apartment and in my dream I realized something. If I didn’t make an honest effort, all of those “I love you” and “Thank you” lines I spill so often mean nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

So, dream me laid back in his bed and began crying. The dream didn’t stop there as the ceiling of my apartment peeled away and revealed clouds in a dark sky.

I saw all of my friends one by one who didn’t have this pressure on their backs, who didn’t have these incredibly lofty goals to accomplish all eleven of them were there, images projected into a gloomy sky that played through all of their highs and their lows. All of the things that they had gone through. Marriages that I didn’t attend, holidays I was invited to but blew off because I was working, even though I wanted to be there. I watched all of them rattle down my bones as I laid in bed quaking with sorrow. Children and wives and memories they had made in cheesy dumb places like Disneyland, or the local fairs. I saw all of their proposals and I saw the ups and downs of their lives. I saw so many of them wish that I was there with them. They would call and I wouldn’t answer. I heard their words say that they were proud of me, but their faces said so much more. That I wasn’t there anymore. I had turned my back on those I love for my work.

Then, when the last of my close friends was finished telling me his story, I saw my parents. Much older than they are now, watching television and holding hands, talking about me. They commented on the last holiday I spent with them, which from the sounds of it had been years before. Before I had begun releasing books and before I had begun this whirlwind of words that my life had become. My dad wrapped his arms around my mom and consoled her while she cried over how much she missed me.

Then I saw my childhood best friend, a girl who I have held in high regard for my entire life as she raised her daughters. Her husband sat down at their dinner table and in his hand was something familiar. It was a copy of a book I intend on releasing soon. I saw the cover and the title pages, I saw the way he looked with it in his hands, excited to share a story with his wife. When she slapped the book out of his hands and told him to never bring one of my books into their home again. That I was not welcome there, any part of me.

In this dream I sat up from my bed, staring at the sky, fourteen of the fifteen images rained down on me as the final cloud billowed above me. Through the illuminated rumble of thunder I watched every relationship I have been in, and that I had potentially wanted to get in unfold. Each one of them ended the same, she was heartbroken because I couldn’t give enough of myself to her. Every single one of the women walked out of my life and I found myself purchasing a studio apartment to live in and to write in. There I tore through another handful of books.

As I watched this vision quest unfold in my dream, I felt my phone ringing, each time checking it with high hopes that it was one of my old friends, or a woman I used to love, or someone that I missed terribly, each time instead… it was my publicist.

She told me that I had missed a bunch of meetings and I was getting cut from my contract. I had gone off the radar for weeks and my career had shut down in front of me.

It was only then that I realized, in my dream and in real life that those scenes unfolding weren’t telling of the past. It was a projection sent to me as time passed alongside me. I had removed myself from the world around me because the only thing I could really focus on were my books.

I woke up from my dream then, panicked, breathing heavily, with tears on my cheeks.

I so often put people into boxes that I then use to organize in my closet. Each memory and story attached to them one fragmented piece of a large cardboard crafter mural. I hide in there when I am afraid of the world and I run from there when I am afraid of them.

I haven’t shared this dream with anyone yet, not even my mother. I couldn’t find the right way to explain it. It was frustrating and deeply saddening to watch myself spiral down and I don’t know what happened to that version of me.

I don’t want to know what happened.

I watched 15 clouds roll past me in my sleep and it gave me answers.

Answers to questions I have been asking for years.

What happens when…?

What if I don’t…?

What if I end up alone?

So many questions about my future and my path are whirling around in my head all the time. It can be so hard to focus some days, but that dream brought me to a conclusion.

I had recently written up a “five year plan” which was more like a twenty year plan to schedule book releases and craft the idea that I have my shit together. (Which, I really do not.)

This plan was going to drain the life out of me and I was so terrified of that happening. I knew that if I followed the writing and the projects to the letters that I wrote them in, at the end of the day it would spell out my own loneliness.

This post isn’t to say that I am going to stop writing, or that I will even slow down. I still intend on doing amazing things with this work, but there is something more important than those amazing things.

My friends.

My family.

My love.

My sanity.

My future.
My hopes.
My health.
My ideals.

My movements.
My projects don’t take my soul. They will not.

While they are maddeningly important to me, and I will give them all of me all of the time, I need to always remember that I have so many people around who matter so much to me. Even when they act like dick heads. Even when I do. When they ask me a million stupid questions, it’s because they want to know how I am doing. When they call in the middle of my work to ask to spend time with me, it’s because I haven’t been around enough. I can’t be mad at that.

There are so many clearly defined lines in our lives, that while being defined, are constantly moving. The best life is one in which we can nestle between those lines and let them bounce off of our borders, when we can be organized and still spend time with friends. When we can work our fingers to the bone on a passion and still see our parents. When we can allow ourselves forty minutes to do something that isn’t “work” because we need to remember, as artists, as creative men and women, that we will always need our loved ones.

They drive us to do what we do.

To write.

To draw.

To sing.

To play instruments.

To build buildings.

To furnish homes.

To cut grass.

To work on cars.

To work on space shuttles.

To fly airplanes.

To be gymnasts.

To be sportsmen.

To stand up and look at the blank canvas of our futures…

To paint.

We could not do these things without our friends and our loved ones. We could not and I would never dream of giving up that love just for the sake of writing books.

I often say that I would be okay in life if I could have a way to write and time to do so, I can be in any position otherwise. I think that is only half true. Writing is such a big part of me, but I could do well to paint too. I could do well to sit down at a table with my best friends and my parents and those that I love and simply be thankful for living another day. I take that for granted, how easy it is to paint with words, that is. I sit down with my friends and family and I watch the sun fall below the mountains casting a brilliant red light onto the clouds above me and I think to myself.

There is no better easel.

Mean Shadows is available for Pre-Order Now!!

Facebook +Twitter: @alvatobiasbooks

Mapmaking

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Here we are, friends. At the end of yet another journey. I have so many stories to tell you yet, but first… I want to tell you how this all started. It began last year when I was speaking with my friend about his not wanting to watch a television show because it reminded him of a past girlfriend. I knew that feeling. I felt the scars on my heart where the wound had been made and I thought to myself about how terrified I still was of so many things. So I sat down, late at night, and began working. I wrote and drew and painted and screamed. I cried and I begged for mercy. I considered giving up this fight so many times, and just when I knew I was on the verge, I would push one more time. I would swing my blade one more time. With the final push, I realized I had made ground and I looked down at this map I had made for myself. I took solace in the quiet moments. Where there was nothing hunting me. Where I was hunting nothing. I’ve made a thousand campfires and eaten whatever I could gather. I have starved and I have bled this year. I have cried and I have ventured out, and though I still have dragons to slay, I am so much father than I was a year before. This journey is far from over, friends, but I will be travelling alongside you until one of these beasts takes my life. That much, I can promise you.

Life can be difficult to navigate. It seems like every day we are in a new place with new faces and new scenarios and new quests that we must complete. That being said, it is about the adventure and not the destination. Those who complete it will be gifted with bounties of all kinds, but what we will truly take away are the sounds of laughter with friends, tight hugs from family, the bite of the cold rain on a bad day. The exhaustion that comes from navigating these mountains and valleys and these joys and sorrows. My mind is often complex and difficult to keep under control. At the first sign of danger it pushes me to flee from anything that could harm me.

This includes so many things, being let down by friends, rejected by a woman, owning up to the fact that I work myself to death. It comes when I send off for a story to get published and must wait in anguished silence as I ponder the contents of their return letter, or, on the worst days, the silence that they send me. I take a deep breath when I post a new blog post or poem because I’m terrified that people won’t like it. I’m afraid that people won’t like me and won’t be kind to me. I’m scared that I will lose my job and I won’t be able to get a new one. I’m scared of the dark. I’m scared of myself. I’m scared of being in the desert on my own. I’m scared of waking up one day and losing someone that I love.

I am afraid of so many things, and that was why I set out this year to do battle.

I have lived for far too long with this idea in my head that I can be bested by anything at all. That simply isn’t true.  It isn’t true for you either, there is nothing that can kill you. You are invincible until you allow yourself not to be. By that, I don’t mean to shelter yourself and to hide away from every hint of adversity. I’ve tried that route to, and to my surprise it did more damage than getting knocked down in a straight fight.

What I’m saying through analogy, is that I don’t want you to sit and hide from your pain or your fear or your anger. Embrace all of those things. Use them. Transform that emotion into energy to write or sing or dance or work. Use it as fuel for the next blaze of enjoyment and life that sparks within you. Use it as ink, fill up your pen and begin drawing a map.

Before any traveler leaves the comfort of their home, they will always be sure to carry a map.

This year, I have been working harder than ever before to map things out. To find the highs and the lows, to become intimately familiar with all of my misery and all of my elation. It has done more for me than any other tactic. I have amazing friends, I have a compassionate and deeply caring family. I have a job where I find comfort. I do what I love for hours every day. There is nothing in my life that says to me “You are afraid. You will be unhappy.” Yet, there are days when a dragon is bellowing into my ear and screaming “You are full of fear. You will never make it out of this alive.” I travel through that every day.

Within the laughter of my friends and the joy my family brings me, the security my job and my passion lend me, I have managed to forge an armory of weapons to hunt this dragon. But more on that later, because weapons will do you no good when you don’t know where you’re going.

So I created a map. Every day I awoke to a pained world that was full of strife and doubt. I awoke to a room that I was raised in, or a room I was renting and I looked at myself. I saw the doubt and the fear etched into my face with wrinkles that wouldn’t go away. I stayed up late at night, every night searching for a plan. A way to defend myself from the monsters that haunt me. I found it through experience, see… this year was intended to be a journey. It was meant to stress me out. So I knew I would be facing many ups and downs I wasn’t used to. I unrolled parchment and began tracing the things that made me happy. A tree outside my parent’s bedroom window in the morning that filtered out the sun. The crisp air of fall. The small messages and gifts that are given to me by friends and family. I took everything that made me happy and secure and drew it out. I placed it on this map and the daunting unknown space began to get filled in.

Then, with trepidation I began thinking and experiencing the things that hurt. Rejection. Sadness. Anger. Bitterness. I found their sources and began to map them down too, finding every shitty hole in this universe that I could fall into and painting big, red X’s across their surfaces, telling me to never go there. The shadows that bristled at my spine began to ease away when I produced the map. They saw that it was bountiful with good thoughts and feelings. They saw the mountains that had been made of my small accomplishments and began to whisper pride into my ear. Then a family member or a friend would come to me and tell me that I was doing good work, that they hoped I would be well, and the dragons and demons quit their whispering. They saw the running waters of the rivers that I had filled with determination and they whispered to me that I would fail. That no matter how much work I put forth, I will never go anywhere. That I won’t help anyone. Then someone from outside my circle would tell me how much help I have been to them, and those demons screamed in pain from behind me. They saw the forests that I had mapped for shade, so that I could cool myself when my anger overwhelmed me. They whispered to me that I was a fool. That my anger was just. It never was. I was reminded of this because I snapped on a friend some weeks ago, and she broke down into tears. I knew immediately and the demons cheered, but they were silenced when she came to me and I apologized for what I had done. Then, they found the deserts where I would go to parch my soul of jealousy, my biggest opponent and my most fearsome dragon was waiting for me there. He spoke to me, he didn’t whisper. He was unafraid. He would rake at me with his claws before my weapons were drawn. He would tell me that I was a fool. That I knew nothing. But the desert itself had proven otherwise. Written in the sand here a handful of hints and clues that I never took the time to see. I watched as more and more demons and dragons and monsters fell by the wayside as I ventured forward. I carried the kind words of friends and family and strangers. I pocketed every glimpse of hope that I could see and I pressed forward until only a few dragons were left. I set out, and I had my route to find them, because I had drawn a map.

This year I have battled harder than I ever have before. I have written down so many of them in these passages and they are here for you. In the future, when dragons rap their claws against our doorframe, know that I am here. I have fought and I have lived.

I have mapped out my future, and in it, I am alive. All that it takes is that you grab your pen, your paintbrush, your computer or your arms and you start drawing. Do whatever it takes. Create a map of the places you can go to recuperate, where you can go to fight, where you can go to resupply. When you’ve done that, you can begin your journey. I promise you it will not go as you expect it to, but it will be worth every bloody, sweaty step forward, because you will come out on top. I know, because I will be fighting alongside you every step of the way.

Thank you for coming this far with me, next year will be another battle. I am glad that you are on the front lines, too. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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@alvatobiasbooks

We Made Art

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With last week’s poem, I mentioned my Journalism teacher who was also one of my English teachers. Both of whom were major players in my love for books and writing in my later years. Both of whom I hold an incredible amount of respect for. respect and appreciation for always pushing me and never letting me give up. This week, I have a poem inspired by an old friend who I shared discussions about art with. The painters we loved, the ones we hated. The ones we thought were pretentious. Things between us ended pretty badly, but I hope that you’re still making art. If you’re reading this, I hope you’re smiling too. I hope you didn’t give up.2016.6.29- We Made Art.jpg —

If you like this poem, share and like this blog. If you want more, please follow me on Twitter @alvatobiasbooks! It is totally worth it, I promise. 😉