Tag Archives: biography

WHAT’S NEXT?

Have just completed a 10 part series reflecting back on my writing, I picked up the laptop this morning and wondered “Where do I go from here?”

It’s interesting that a question about what to write next for this blog is also reflective of my writing in general. Over the next several week I will be publishing 3 books. Brain Tsunami, Bourbon Mixology (volume 3) and Coffee & Holiday Mixology.

These three books represent the culmination of some really hard work. Normally, this would simply get me working on three new projects (maybe 5). With the successful launch of my Bourbon Zeppelin newsletter, and the launch of a podcast network (abvnetwork.com), I have to be much more cautious about what I am doing to ensure I don’t overextend myself.

Once these are published, I’m going to focus solely on two books. One is a collaborative piece with blogger Evan Haskill. This is more of a research piece… something you can do while watching TV. The other is a biography. I’m not saying who it is just yet, but let’s just say it’s going to appeal to my growing audience of bourbon fans.

I am excited about these two new project. I think both are going to be well received and I look forward to what the future brings.

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Write Steve Write! is a weekly blog by author Steve Akley. Typically it is posted on (most) Sundays and features insight about his writing… though there is an occasional movie review or random thought post. It should be noted it’s posted as a live feed… no editing, no planning beforehand, it’s typed out on Sunday morning and the “publish” button is immediately hit. Apologies for any errors but you get this just as Steve thinks it!

Coming Sunday: More random thoughts on my writing career.

In the meantime, follow check in on Steve in a variety of ways:

Steve’s Catalog on Amazon: http://goo.gl/kJpKcP

The OPUS Blog: steveakley.tumblr.com

Evan Haskill’s Blog: I am a contributor here: thebourbonguyandrye.com

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Sign up for Bourbon Zeppelin (bourbon newsletter): Email Registration

Check out the latest issue of Bourbon Zeppelin: See it here!

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IT’S BECAUSE I WRITE 3/10

This is the third edition of my “It’s Because I Write” series featuring me talking about some of the greatest things that have happened to me since I’ve started writing. So far, I’ve talked about meeting great people via my O.P.U.S. blog and living out a lifelong dream of publishing my own magazine with Bourbon Zeppelin (even if my “magazine” is an online newsletter).

Today I’m going to tell you all about the time I got to meet one of my heroes… thanks to my writing.

I will tell you right away, I am still a “heroes” guy. I know celebrities are people just like us, but, even in adulthood, I’m still the type to get starstruck by someone who has accomplished something of interest to me in the pubic eye. That’s what makes this little tale to much fun. I got to meet someone I’ve always looked up to based largely because I had become a writer.

It all started with a business trip to London for a trade show. This was the winter of 2013, shortly after my father passed away. I was in a small pub enjoying a few beers with a colleague. With our American accents, the waitress asked us where we were from. When we told her St. Louis she had never heard of it. As we were having this discussion, Johnny B. Goode came on the radio. Since we were having the discussion where we were from, and St. Louis meant nothing to her, I thought I would at least make the point it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere by pointing out Chuck Berry was from St. Louis, too, so I said, “Hear this song… the guy playing it is also from St. Louis.”

To my surprise, she responded in her way cool English accent, “You are from where CHUCK BERRY lives? Oh my god!”

What?

A woman who hasn’t heard of St. Louis knows Chuck Berry?

When I asked her about this, she went on-and-on about how everyone knows Chuck Berry and how influential he is.

I thought I would really get her going by saying, “Get this, Chuck is not only still around, he plays once a month at a club called Blueberry Hill. It’s just a small intimate place where you can see him play for about 30 U.S. dollars.”

I thought that would really get a fan going and fill her with envy of how cool my colleague and I were as well as how great of a place St. Louis must be.

Instead, she got me with this line. “That is so great. How many times have you gone and seen Chuck play there?”

Ummmmmmmmmmm……

None.

That’s right, despite being a big fan, I never had gone to see Chuck play. It’s just one of those things where you always plan to do it… but you never actually have the time.

These comments where like a defibrillator zapping my heart. With the sudden death of my father only 2 months before, things had changed in my life. I no longer was going to have eternal “to dos” that never get “to done.” (That makes no sense but sounds kinda snappy, doesn’t it?)

When I spoke to my wife later that night, I told her to buy some tickets to the next Chuck Berry show at Blueberry Hill.

The next night, when I spoke to her, she confirmed she got the tickets for Chuck Berry, but then she said, “You know that one guy you like, Dick Dale, he’s playing there a few weeks later.”

Whooooooaaaaa!

Dick Dale? The King of the Surf Guitar. The guy who was friends with Jimi Hendrix. A guy I would pattern my own writing career off of (stay independent, retain the rights to everything you create, don’t let others make decisions about your work for you). The guy who can play the guitar like no other. The man who created the sound of one of my all-time favorite movies in Pulp Fiction with his song Miserlou.

Yes, that Dick Dale.

So the wife and I agreed to also get tickets to see Dick Dale as well.

At this same time, I had already started to write a book about my father. Ultimately, it would become the book, Life with Akester (my Dad’s nickname) that included a biography and some of the favorite stories I had collected about him (I always wrote these crazy stories about the stuff he would do… and then share them with friends and family, including him. This was the best of those).

Since I was going to be writing the book, I thought I would write Dick Dale to make sure it was okay to write about the experience of the concert in this book about my father. His wife Lana responded and put me in touch with their lawyer. I was pleasantly surprised to have their representative quickly sign off on my idea.

I continued to email back-and-forth with Lana as the show grew near. We would share personal stories about our lives… me talking about my father and her talking about things from the life of her and Dick (I’m not going to share personal correspondence, but it was really cool).

The night of the show was incredible. We got there early and ended up in the front row (there is no assigned seating at Blueberry Hill).

In his late 70s, a multi-time cancer survivor, the guy can still rock. The band has no setlist either. Dick Dale just starts playing and his band follows him with whatever he’s doing.

Dick Dale.JPG

One of the many great shots I got of Dick Dale playing that night

The show ended with Dick playing Miserlou.

I’m not kidding when I had goosebumps watching that guy play that song. It goes fast… and then faster… and then explosively fast. I’ve seen a lot of shows in my life, I don’t think any moment from all of those shows tops watching DD shred that song.

After the show I got to meet Dick and Lana. He’s a cool dude and she’s a sweetheart.

DD Guitar.jpg

I got a bunch of items signed that night, including this mini Dick Dale guitar

My book came out a few months later. I shared the story of grief and how a couple of things, like the Dick Dale and Chuck Berry shows truly helped me at that time. I was so down. The enjoyment of those shows demonstrated you could still have guilt-free happiness even in the face of something as traumatic as losing your father.

I stayed in touch with Lana and Dick for the next year or so after that. We even exchanged Christmas cards later that year, but, over time, the communications became further-and-further apart. I wanted to maintain contact with them, but never wanted to force communication so finally it just kind of faded away.

My enthusiasm for Dick Dale and his work has faded a bit, though. The guy is still a hero of mine and I would love to see him play again one day.

All of this came about because I write!

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Write Steve Write! is a weekly blog by author Steve Akley. Typically it is posted on (most) Sundays and features insight about his writing… though there is an occasional movie review or random thought post. It should be noted it’s posted as a live feed… no editing, no planning beforehand, it’s typed out on Sunday morning and the “publish” button is immediately hit. Apologies for any errors but you get this just as Steve thinks it!

Coming Sunday: We’ll be continuing on with my “It’s Because I Write” series next week!

In the meantime, follow check in on Steve in a variety of ways:

Steve’s Catalog on Amazon: http://goo.gl/kJpKcP

The OPUS Blog: steveakley.tumblr.com

Evan Haskill’s Blog: I am a contributor here: thebourbonguyandrye.com

Sign Up for Steve’s Newsletters: Email Registration

Twitter: @steveakley

Instagram: @steveakley

What’s App: Steve Akley

Untappd: steveakley

INTERVIEW STYLE INFLUENCERS

Right now, a lot of you are in-tune with the O.P.U.S. interviews I am doing on Tumblr. If you aren’t familiar with this series of interviews, I suggest you check them out. They are just good fun. I ask acquaintances I’ve met through social media random and funny questions.

When you read the O.P.U.S. interviews you may think these weird questions are the result of a person who simply doesn’t know what they are doing in interviewing people. Actually, that’s wrong. I know exactly what I’m doing with those interviews. I think they are not only fun, they are incredibly insightful into the true person.

In terms of my credentials, I’ll estimate I’ve done over 500 professional interviews for publication in my life. I’ve interviewed over 150 CEOs for my Small Brand America series of books which feature small companies competing against much larger, better-funded competitors. In my full-time job I write all of our sales-related newsletters, all of which incorporate interviews with sales reps out in the field to share best practices.

I would say that while I have my own style, which varies greatly by the type of interviews I do, I do draw from three professionals… Bob Costas, Howard Stern and Marc Maron. These three are each perfection in very different ways.

First, Bob Costas. He’s the ultimate in preparation. I realize he’s probably got a staff that does all of the research, but to Bob’s credit he devours what they find. His preparation in taking all of that research in and then not even needing cue cards to retain what someone did in the third grade is amazing. I have to say, out of the three here, my style is least like Bob’s in that I’ve always kind of shied away from research. I like the idea of going in fresh and not taking a look at what others have done before me. This isn’t because I don’t think there is merit to doing this, it’s just that I know I can’t do it as well as Bob so I like the discovery what’s unique about a person in by asking probing questions. I do try to connect with a person like Bob does which really does help them open up.

Second is Howard Stern. Man, this guy is divisive. Many people automatically hate him and perhaps rightfully so. I’ve always had a sophomoric sense of humor so I have to say I’ve always like Howard. The good news is I have matured as I’ve gotten older and so has Howard. His show isn’t what it once was, but that’s not to say all elements of offensive material have been removed.

Even if you can’t get over the goofy stuff, you should hear his interviews. Howard isn’t confined by time constraints so when he talks to someone it’s a free form discussions that really helps you get to know the person. I hate talk show interviews with their 4 minute format designed more to pitch a movie than learn anything about the person. A 90 minute interview with Howard and you walk away really knowing the true person beyond the public persona.

Perfection!

The last person I like to hear conducting interviews is Marc Maron. If you aren’t into podcasts, you might not know Marc but he has a podcast entitled WTF. Now, by the name alone you may think he’s another Howard Stern… he’s not. I will say he’s a bit of a cantankerous old guy who probably likes the shock value of calling his program WTF, but if you get beyond the first minute where he’s kicking off the show, his interviews are unbelievable. I would say what makes Marc great is the fact this guy, you presume is a grumpy old man based on the show intro, is just so smooth in the interviews. It truly is conversation. What I also like is he comes at it from a fan’s perspective. If I was interviewing the stars he gets (Marc gets everyone by the way, Barack Obama recently was on), I would handle it in the exact same way.

One of the aspects I didn’t like at first, was the fact he just riffs for like the first 10 minutes before he starts talking to a guest. I used to wonder why he did it… now I love it. His approach to the show is exactly what I would want to do someday. The guy is just the best.

Those are the three main influencers for me when it comes to interviewing. I’m no where near any of these three gentleman in terms of success, or style, but I’m going to keep practicing.

Check out those O.P.U.S. interviews and see if you can see the influence of these three!

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Write Steve Write! is a weekly blog by author Steve Akley. Typically it is posted on (most) Sundays and features insight about his writing… though there is an occasional movie review or random thought post. It should be noted it’s posted as a live feed… no editing, no planning beforehand, it’s typed out on Sunday morning and the “publish” button is immediately hit. Apologies for any errors but you get this just as Steve thinks it!

Coming Next Week: I have no idea what I’m writing about next week, but it will be something.

In the meantime, follow check in on Steve in a variety of ways:

Steve’s Catalog on Amazon: http://goo.gl/kJpKcP

The OPUS Blog: steveakley.tumblr.com

Sign Up for Steve’s Newsletters: Email Registration

Twitter: @steveakley

Instagram: @steveakley

What’s App: Steve Akley

Home Phone: I’m not giving you that!

FACING THE DEMONS

Last week I told you I had a big day coming up. One I had been avoiding for over a month now. It was time to visit Architect of Passion, the biography I had been working on which ended up getting lost in the “flash-drive-ageddon” incident I blogged about here a few weeks back.

I’m going to take you deep into my own mind today, detailing what it was like to face something I had personally been struggling with. You may find my own this look into my brain so disturbing you may begin to question why you even follow me here and on social media. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. As a service to you, my reader, I’ve included a quick guide at the end with steps to unfollow and block me on most social media platforms.

So we begin…

I always feel like if I’m lucky enough to have you here reading my posts I don’t want to assume you know anything about what I’ve written in the past. Even if you have been a loyal reader, I’m not going to be so presumptuous that I’m just figuring you know everything that’s happened in my life to get me to this post. So even if you have read the background of what I’m about to get into, you’ve slept since then, so you might want a little bit of a refresher.

So here goes…

Architect of Passion is a biography. My first foray into this type of writing, though, I did a whole book on my own father, called Life with Akester, which included some biographical writing in it. (This was actually a hybrid, part biography, part funny stories and part about me dealing with his sudden death.)

Greg Schredder, the person I write about in Architect, is an incredible person with an unbelievable life. He’s ran in circles with some of the best known celebrities, he’s made millions, he’s lost millions, he’s on a mission to save the world (not a cliche here, I mean he really is), he’s got these great stories which easily translate into a book. I could go on-and-on. It’s even a funny story how Greg and I connected, but I will save for the book.

Getting his life story down involves me interviewing Greg for hours at-a-time on the phone (he lives in Hawaii). These are marathon with several clocking in over eight hours. In August I had taken a backup of Architect, but in September Greg and I had one of our last phone calls to go over the draft on a page-by-page basis to ensure it was presented exactly how he wanted it.

With the book now being so close to being complete, I started putting some other finishing touches on it as well. Greg had gathered all of these great photos from throughout his life. This involved a lot of digging and even going to a storage unit where he keeps his professional papers. I incorporated the photos in and then I wrote two additional sections. One was a post-script conclusion from me. There was simply the need of the “voice of the author” telling what was going on with Greg and the need to make a few points which will be better clarified in the book then here.

I also added a quick story called the Legend of La Paz which had nothing to do with the book. The book is a linear look at Greg’s career from childhood at the way to present day. As we followed Greg’s life, there would be times when we would deviate from the topic and it wouldn’t become an interview anymore, it would be simply two guys talking. It was during these times Greg would share these incredible funny stories about his fascinating life. If he was Steve Jobs and I was working on an 800-page biography I’d probably want all of these.

That’s not what this project is, and even if it was, I’d probably not be the writer to tackle this project. Greg and I had these discussions many times. He’s not that type of person, though. He’s an old-school, “my handshake is my bond” type of guy. Even though I was telling him the complete story of his is worthy of the “Steve Jobs treatment” I was his guy, the person he trusted to tell his life story, even if I was doing the condensed version.

The Legend of La Paz was just one of those fun stories which didn’t tie back to the book but gave the reader a sense for what it’s like knowing Greg Schredder. It was simply one of the many fun stories he shared.

After adding the photos, the conclusion and The Legend of La Paz, I had one of my editors go through the whole thing. She did a great job, going through it for me on a printed copy which I through away after making the edits.

The plan was then to get one last thing from Greg, a piece he wrote called “Special Acknowledgements” where he went through his whole career and simply wrote about, and thanked the people who had helped make him a success on the way. Once that was done, I would incorporate it into the story and then Greg and I would review it one last time via a proof copy of the book. I wanted to get a copy of the book into Greg’s hands since we had already been working on it for almost a year at that point.

By October, I hadn’t heard from Greg for about a month. I reached out. He was busy working on this project, like I stated earlier, which may help save the world. He would get me the info soon. In November, I heard from Greg, he said, we need to revisit the book and write a few additional chapter. He had such great things going on. If it all comes together, “I’m buying you a Cadillac” he told me.

The funny thing about Greg Schredder, that statement from him is like a signed contract approved by the Supreme Court. I have no doubt, if Greg hits it big with his latest project, one day there will be a Caddy sitting in my driveway. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but it will be there.

With all of this excitement happening, it happened.

IT!

Yes, the “it” being that flash drive which blew up in early December. I lost 98% of my files on there. There were a few odd files which weren’t affected at all. Small files like lists of ideas for future projects. Any large file, like a book, or photographs was lost, though.

Architect of Passion was the tough one. I had really wrapped up most of what I working on so I was able to recover files through Amazon of my other work. I lost everything from Architect, though, that I had done after my August update.

My response: avoid it.

For the next 5 weeks, that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t tell Greg, I didn’t open my preserved file from August. I can’t tell you why. There was just something about it that was too painful. Work which I considered complete was lost. Wiped away in a moment of my own stupidity. That file represented everything bad that happened in the loss of my flash drive.

At Christmas Greg called, emailed and sent me a card with a calendar. I sat in my shell like a frightened turtle. This past Monday my company was closed in honor of Martin Luther King Day. I circled that date as the day I was going to address it. I would reach out to Greg, I would open that dreaded file. Here’s a timeline of the day for me.

4:30 a.m. – Wake up at the usual time, even though I’m off of work.

4:30 – 5:30 – Not ready to get started on the book so it becomes time to check-in on social media

5:30 – 7:00 – Let’s not look at that file yet, after all, it’s time for a walk.

7:00 – 7:30 – Quick check back-in on social media.

7:30 – 8:00 – Hey, I was just walking, I better take a shower before I get started.

8:00 – 9:30 – Rather than getting started on Architect, let me get this quick OPUS interview with Courtney posted on tumblr and then I need to promote it a bit on social media.

9:30 – 10:00 – A quick game of hide-n-seek with Leo and a check of what’s on TV.

10:00 – I sit down to get started, but a wave of fear grips me, maybe I can “nap off” these feelings.

11:00 – Time to do this. Let’s take a look at the file. You know what? You really need to have a proper lunch to write. It’s early, but I’m off today, I’ll take a quick lunch break. “Then it begins,” I tell myself.

11:41 – I sit down at the computer and open the file. I scan through it and see everything missing. This is real. All of that work is gone.

11:42 – I walk away. (insert your own expletive here…I know I did. Use a bad one. I mean a really bad one. I know I did)

11:42 – 12:39 – Self-loathing.

12:39 – 12:53 Composed an email to Greg about what happened and sent it.

12:53 – 2:33 – Rewrote The Legend of La Paz. I may have even improved what I initially wrote, at least as I remember it.

Okay, this was going to be all right. I was in a better mood. The rest of the afternoon, I put Architect away, knowing I could take on the demon and 2016 would mark year two I would be working on this project but it’s going to be great.

I was so euphoric about getting started on rebuilding Architect, I reached out to fellow author Jenna Brownson about a potential joint project we might be working on and I wrote a post for Evan Haskill thebourbonguyandrye blog (it’s worth a read). It was a fairly productive afternoon.

Later that day, I got a message from Greg. He understood, we would have this book rise from the ashes. I had also requested the photos he had already sent but he told me he didn’t have them and we’d have to wait until he could get all of them back together.

D’oh!

I did suggest checking the sent file since he had emailed them. I’m pleased to say on Friday I got 26 emails from Greg with the photos.

Architect of Passion is on the way back, baby! Look for it later this year. I sure hope so. It’s been quite the journey!

STEVE’S QUICK GUIDE TO UNFOLLOWING AND BLOCKING HIM ON SOCIAL MEDIA

This guide is designed to assist you in taking two steps to remove Steve from your virtual life via social media: unfollowing and blocking.

Step 1

Wait a second, you are actually reading this? You were really going to examine unfollowing and blocking? I had a traumatic experience. It isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person, I agree, but it was tough nonetheless.

Guess what, you aren’t unfollowing nor or you blocking. In fact, for reading this I demand you RT something on Twitter or Like AND Comment on a photo on Instagram, you know, as a way to make up for almost senselessly removing me from your social media world.

Unfollow and block.

Ha!

I don’t think so!

________________________________

I will have to say, this blog has evolved over the last several weeks. It’s gone from a weekly 200 word post to a much more detailed account of behind the scenes of my writing. I don’t know where it will end up. I prefer the 200 word quick updates… the audience clearly prefers the detailed read. For now, I’m giving ’em what they want with these long accounts of what’s going on with my writing.

Next week we’ll take another look at OPUS. This time I’m going to share some of the funny questions I’ve been asking people and why I ask them.

In the meantime, follow check in on Steve in a variety of ways:

His Catalog on Amazon: http://goo.gl/kJpKcP

The OPUS Blog: steveakley.tumblr.com

Sign Up for Steve’s Newsletters: Email Registration

Twitter: @steveakley

Instagram: @steveakley

What’s App: Steve Akley

Home Phone: I’m not giving you that!

 

 

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR 2016?

With Architect of Passion, the biography I am working on in a hold status until I can get some time with Greg Schredder the subject of the book, my biggest news for the week is my future plans. I really want my next project to be something totally different. I’m considering the idea of a research project focusing on updates for some of the celebrities of the 1980s.

I have no idea if it would work. After all, I’m not sure I can track down these people. Nor I am sure they would talk to me.

But…

As a person who grew up in the 80s, I have a fascination with this era and it would certainly be fun to check-in on some of the people who exploded with fame during that time and we haven’t heard from them since then. And fun is why I write so I’m at least going to give it a try.

We’ll see what happens. I’m going to give this one a shot starting in December.

LOOKING AHEAD (JUST A BIT)

With my three projects for 2015 finally winding down, I’ve just started to look ahead just a bit. Before we see what I’ll be up to for the balance of 2015, let’s do a quick recap of the trifecta of books I’ve spent this year working on:

Bourbon Mixology                                                                                                                        

Status: Published (Picked up a copy here: Bourbon Mixology)

It’s true, the first one is officially out there having been published earlier this week. This one truly looks special with it immediately selling right out of the gate.

Here’s a look at the cover:

Bourbon Mixology II Cover

Pa’u Hana 

Status: Final edits being done

My first novel is complete and I have five people reading proof copies. I’ve got notes from two of them, still waiting on the other three to get me their thoughts. This one should be out in October.

Here’s a look at the cover:

Pau Hana Digital Cover

Architect of Passion        

Status: Rewrites complete

A few weeks ago I spent 6 hours with Greg Schredder, the subject of this biography going over some changes he requested. I have finished those rewrites and now am awaiting some information from him to complete the rewrite. Once I get that done, I’ve got final editing to complete before getting it published. I’m guessing this will go on through October and we will get this one out in November.

Here’s a look at the cover:

Updated AOP Cover

So what’s going on for the rest of 2015?

I’ve got two things I’ll be working on, though they won’t likely be published until 2016. This first is a short story blending of fact and fiction. It’s called Brain Tsunami and its the story of my brother-in-law. This past summer he went on a bike ride and came back home with a gash on his head and no knowledge of what happened. I’m pleased to say he’s fully recovered and doing great, but he still doesn’t know what happened. I’m going to publish a short story with some different, and fun scenarios of what might have happened.

Here’s a look at that cover:

Human guidance and memory loss due to Dementia and Alzheimer's disease as a group of three dimensional roads shaped as a human head and brain tangled in a confused direction mind function concept.

Lastly, I have yet an untitled piece I am probably going to be working on. I have a rum company which has been reaching out to me for a few years now wanting to get into one of my Small Brand America books. With no plans in the works to have a sixth edition of this popular series focusing on small brands competing against much larger competitors, I think I am going to propose to them a book focusing solely on them… their history, the owners and their facility. Should be fun if they like the idea.

That’s it for now!

MARATHON REWRITE SESSION

Yesterday, I was finally able to spend some time talking to Greg Schredder the businessman whom I am collaborating with to write Architect of Passion, his biography. He’s had a rough draft in his hands for a while but busy schedules have kept us from going through his suggested changes.

Yesterday we spent 6 hours and 8 minutes on the phone going over the changes he is suggesting. I don’t think I’ve ever been on the phone with anyone for 6+ hours before!

The changes ran the gamut, from wording he didn’t like, to new stories he remembered as he was reading to clarification to some of the facts. While this is going to equate to some significant work, in the end it’s going to make for a great project.

Greg’s had an unbelievable life. He’s had some of the greatest successes imaginable along with some of the most unbelievable failures. In between he’s rubbed elbows with some of the biggest names from the world of celebrities.

I’ve got to get busy writing because you are going to want to read this!