What I Did Last Summer

Everything. I did everything last summer. Want to know why I haven’t touched this blog in forever? Because I was doing everything.

Let’s rewind a bit. I began the summer chugging along professionally in a pretty sweet gig as copywriter/digital content specialist for Asher Agency. To sum that position up: I would come up with ideas for commercial campaigns. TV, radio, digital, print, whatever mediums we were going to use, and then the message or thought behind said concept. From there, I’d work with the other creative team members to shape it up into something that made sense and looked great, and we’d produce it. I’d cast actors, guide the graphic artists, write the actual “copy” or words (spoken by actors or printed on billboards, etc.), get it all produced, and then we’d throw it all out there into the world. The process is truly a satisfying experience, watching your ideas come to life, even if only for thirty seconds at a time or on a clickable strip of banner on someone’s website.

I must’ve been fairly decent at this, because I started getting nibbles. People inquiring as to my future plans. Recruiters asking “Hey, how happy are you at Asher?” Finally, an old compatriot called me up and basically offered me his job as creative director. He described the position to me thusly: “you’ll come up with ideas for commercial campaigns. TV, radio, digital, print, whatever mediums we were going to use, and then the message or thought behind it. From there, you’ll work with the other creative team members to shape it up into something that made sense and looked great, and we’ll produce it. Cast actors, guide the graphic artists, write the actual “copy” and then throw ‘it all out there into the world.”

Huh. So, of course I took it. A corner office with windows? A bunch of new business cards? Hells yes. So I took a new position doing pretty much what I did at Asher, only with more perks and a nifty title. So that was cool.

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Plus, I mean…a place to hang an old Robert August promo flyer (autographed!) and prop my Scottish claymore against a vintage photo of Fred Toenges?! SIGN MY ASS UP!!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

 

My wife and I also decided to sell our house. We had lived, with our two boys (Simon is 12, Rhys is almost 9) in a nice, old (built in 1920) home in the Oakdale Neighborhood in Ft. Wayne. Tree-lined streets, gorgeous old houses…and very narrow, busy streets. No back yard to speak of. Or front yard, for that matter. In other words, charming as all hell but not conducive to bike riding or football tossing or anything else that growing young men want to engage in. So, when the market heated up, Heidi and I jumped at the chance, trading the urban pulse of the ’07 for the serene spaciousness of the ’15. It was a long, hectic process, selling the old house. Folks can be very particular and selective, even in a sellers’ market. It was stressful, especially since we purchased our new (current) home before we’d sold the old one. But in the end we persevered, chalking up another adventure on the Watson Family history. (An adventure that yielded a three-car garage and the chance to hang hockey equipment up without carting it all to the basement after every practice or game.)

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Basically from this…

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…to this.

BUT YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!

 

Actually, that’s not accurate. The “next” part. That’s not how this timeline played out. Sorry. I strive for realism, and that’s…that’s misleading. Clickbait nonsense. No, this is actually something that’s been simmering along for a while now, but in addition to my role(s) at a couple of different ad agencies this year, I had the opportunity to write for a fun, exciting new enterprise. The minds at Bound Publishing have come up with a mobile-specific reader, and are releasing serialized stories on it. One of the cool features of the Bound app (learn more here or find them in the iTunes store) is the ability to expand on the story via sourcebook entries, diary passages, bits of propaganda, etc. from the story universe. If you’ve ever seen the Star Wars sourcebook or any of the supplemental Lord of the Rings or Song of Ice and Fire materials, imagine being able to have those open to cross-reference whilst reading the novels or watching the movies. “Oh! The model that Luke is playing with is an actual Incom T-16…and later, during the Death Star briefing, he talks about bulls-eyeing womp rats in it! I always wondered what the T-16 looked like!” Well, the Bound platform is like that, with all sorts of artwork and specific expanded entries, and I was asked to write the sourcebook materials for a science fiction space epic called Purgatorio. Go get the app and download it and let me know what you think. It’s been a great experience, and the Bound guys have given me all sorts of latitude. It’s been pleasant and rewarding, in a very different way than the advertising life.

http://www.getbound.io

A mobile-based work of expanded fiction, based on a mobile-based FPS game. Welcome to the future, kids.

So a very full summer now gives way to a hectic fall, because, as many of you know, we’re at the cusp of hockey season. And I live with a hockey family. Both kids play, Heidi is a team manager for one kid’s team, treasurer for the other, and I coach the boys and play in my own ASHL beer league every Sunday. From now until April. And it’s awesome. And we wouldn’t change this life for anything. Which leads me to my other big news…

 

WHICH WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL NEXT TIME!!

 

Seriously, I can’t talk about it, but it’s pretty rad. Talk to you later.

Pirate Trouble

You guys are in for a treat. For this entry, I’m handing off the blog to a very special guest author who happens to be my 10-year-old son, Simon. His writing is exemplary. It’s…real. It’s natural. It’s conversational. Did I mention he’s ten? Yeah, I know I’m a beaming, proud father, but don’t take my word for it: Simon received an A+ for this story. AN A+!! I limped across the finish line with a “C” in my collegiate creative writing class, so maybe it’s a bigger deal to me than it should be. No matter. That’s my kid. He’s got talent.

Without further ado, please enjoy “Pirate Trouble” by Simon Watson

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Original cover art by Simon Watson (marker on construction paper)

Boom! Splash! A cannonball shot at the ship I was being held captive on. Thankfully, it missed. This is that story.

I wake up sweating in my bed. I hear footsteps.I look at my clock. It is one in the morning. I look at the top bunk.

Kara, my sister, is there in a deep, deep slumber. I walk out to see what made the steps. I step into the living room only to see two bodies laying there. I look closer to see who they are.

Mom and dad. Both with deep cuts on their foreheads.

I ran back to my room and shook Kara so hard she almost fell out of her bed. She woke up both yawning and stretching.

“Hey!” She yelled. I answered with “Shhhh! Mom and dad are…”

“Mom and dad are what?”

“Dead.”

She looked at me with a “I think you’re lying” look.

“Come with me,” I said.

We stepped into the living room, and she gasped. She burst out crying. Tears running down her cheeks like rivers. She put her face into my chest and started sobbing even more.

All of a sudden, a voice came from the front door.

“I’ve got you now! The name’s Blackbeard and you kiddies are comin’ with me!”

Fear was frozen on Kara’s face. Suddenly he grabbed both of us by the arm.

“Ow!” I said. Blackbeard had a strong grip. “Let go!” I said, then kicked him right in the stomach. He stumbled back. And just when I thought things were going good, he tightened his grip on me, let Kara go, swung his fist, and knocked me out.

He must have done the same thing to Kara (I woke up to her yelling and screaming for help.)I had a burlap sack over my head. My hands tied behind my back with rope. Through the tiny holes in the sack I could see Kara. She was tied up the same way I was.Burlap sack on the head, hands tied behind the back with rope.

I looked out the holes again. The sun was out. Had I really been out for that long? Then someone came over an ripped the sack off my head. The sun burned my eyes. I closed them and put them into my legs. Then the same person untied my hands. I put my hands over my eyes. I could finally squint. After about a minute I could open my eyes fully.

I looked up and saw Kara. She was already standing up.

She walked over to me and gave me a big big BIG BIG hug.

“Lets. Jump.” She said under her breath.

“What?!” I said in a medium voice. “Okay, fine.”

“Ready? On three. One. Two. Three. GO!”

We ran and ran but then…we were lifted into the air.

“What the..?” We looked back.

Of course it was Blackbeard, holding us up by the backs of our shirts.

All of a sudden, someone yelled “NAVAL SHIP! RAM THEM!”

The ship jerked to the right. I fell to the ground. The naval ship must have seen us, because they started firing.

Boom! Splash! A cannonball shot at the ship I was held captive on. Thankfully, it missed. A couple of inches lower and my head would have been ripped off.

The next two missed, and the next one hit. And that’s when I said “JUMP!”

We ran and jumped off the side. We decided to get out of the way of the cross-fire so we didn’t get hit. We swam to the front of the naval ship and they dropped down a ladder. We climbed up and the ship sailed away from the pirates.

They dropped us off at an orphanage. A month alter we were surprised when someone came and got us. We now had parents They had a dog and a cat. It’s going out well.

Here Simon’s teacher makes the following note: “I’d end the story here”. Like he’s some sort of stinkin’ editor. THIS IS MY BOY’S ART! HOW DARE YOU! HOW…sorry. Maybe the teacher is right. Nevertheless, here’s the epilogue…

And then I joined the army. My arm was blown off by a grenade. Luckily, I knew someone. A surgical doctor. Dr. Kara. She fixed me up, and later I got married and had two children. One boy and one girl. Josh and Lilly. From there on I had a good life.

Job Love.

So, here it is.  4:39PM on Friday, January 16th.  I’m at my desk.  I’ve done all I can really do today.  This week.  For now.

“And what is it that you do, exactly?” you ask.  Ostensibly, I’m a copywriter.  So that means I’m tasked with providing the written words for any number of different advertising campaigns. Projects carried out by my employers, the highly-regarded Asher Agency.  From the script for the flu bug radio commercial or the miniature screenplay for those Indiana Tech television commercials.  The hashtags on that Subway print ad.  The direct mail piece you got from PHP Healthcare.  That’s me.  That’s what I do.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Just as I discovered in my radio career, each member of a team does more than one thing. “Everyone fights.  No one quits.”   We all have our particular focus, but the overlap is considerable. Each member of the creative team chips in with and develops concepts, comes up with visual ideas and directions, creates via the great crowd-brain-hivemind here in the creative department.  I love that shit.  I truly do.

I love being part of a team.  That was one bright spot in my radio career: even when things got dodgy,  I knew my teammates (the other  members of our on-air staff) were there with me.  As with any team, when everyone pulls together and does the impossible? Well, like Captain Mal says:  that makes us mighty.

But there are other perks here in advertising land.  For example:  I’m sipping a Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout from a pint glass at my desk  During business hours.  Things have certainly changed since the ol’ Don Draper days.  Folks don’t keep bottles of scotch or rye at their desks (Okay, some do.  Seriously.  But we don’t flaunt it, don’t partake all damned day.  We save it for the Friday of a long week or for special occasions. Everyone here is a professional.  We act like it.  That’s what we rule.  The stakes are just too high nowadays, the demand for quality too great to be achieved by a bunch of drunks.)  It’s still nice to unwind at the end of a busy week.  Feels good, man.

As I sat here doing maintenance/cleaning house on my email inbox, I rediscovered the following exchange which sums things up so very nicely.  See, last week I wanted to tip my supervisors off to the fact that I would be missing the first hour of so of the workday this past Monday (the 12th) for a routine doctor’s appointment. I start by sending this to my bosses, Dan and Kelly.  They’re both brilliant guys.  Geniuses.  So goddam smart and creative. Anyway, here’s what I said:

 


From: Turner

To: Dan, Kelly

re: Doctor’s appointment

Hey, fellas.  I have a doctor’s appointment Monday morning early, so I’l likely miss the traffic meeting.  Just wanted you to be aware, and not freak out and think “He’s finally done it!  Run off to live the life of a hobo, riding the rails of this great nation.  Sleeping in box cars, eating soup right from the can.  Fare thee well, strange tattooed man!”

 
Or whatever.
 

 

My first response was from Kelly, who I imagined chuckling, his shoulders convulsing as he typed.  He said simply:
 

From: Kelly
To: Turner
CC: Dan
Re: doctor’s
 
LOVE IT!!!

 

Three exclamation marks.  THREE!  And then Dan chimed in:

From: Dan
To: Turner, Kelly
re: Doctor’s appointment
 
All the while listening to Box Car Willie’s Greatest Hits on a Sony Walkman he picked up at the Salvation Army using batteries stolen from the countertop wire rack display at a 7-11 near the train yard in Waterloo, Iowa.

 

See what he did?  He continued the story! That’s fun! He could’ve ignored it, or sent an “Approved” message.  He didn’t.  So I expanded…

From: Turner
To: Dan, Kelly
re: Doctor’s appointment
 
Not “technically” stolen.  I left an old silver dollar my pappy gave me, and the promise to return once I’ve made my fortune.

 
(But really, I‘ll be at the doctor’s.)
See, I wanted to underscore the fact that I would be at the doc’s.  Dan’s warm response:

From: Dan
To: Turner, Kelly
re: Doctor’s appointment
 
Perfect. Be well. Don’t let the Doc poke and prod too damn much.
 
Now, the thing is, those guys could’ve handled my note in a couple of different ways.  Their response could’ve been very matter-of-fact.  “Okay.  Let us know when you arrive at the office on Monday.”  Or even “make sure this time is covered under office coding procedure vis-a-vis your timesheet.”  They could’ve responded with a terse “OK.”  Or, they could’ve been complete dicks and fired back “In the future, clear any and ALL delays or time away with us ahead of time.”
None of that happened.  Instead, they treated me like a valued employee.  Someone whose continued happiness within the company framework was important to them.  It was amazing.  It was…new.  To me, anyway.
Don’t get me wrong:  I’ve had a bunch of great supervisors in my professional life.  Radio, pawn shop, parts department, ice rink…wherever I’ve found myself employed.  But the stakes are just…higher?  I don’t know.  It’s just weird.  In a good way.  My sister-in-law works for Google out in Mountainview, CA. In the past, she would tell me stories much like this and I’d scoff.  I thought that there was no way that a worthwhile company would play it so fast-and-loose with employees.
One of these two is a friggin' VP.  How about that?

One of these two is a friggin’ VP. How about that?

That’s before I worked for a company that “got” it.  Like Google does.  Like Blizzard and Microsoft and a dozen different advertising agencies do. And it struck me that the best companies, the ones with a pulse, the ones that know what the hell’s happening out there…they’re great for a reason.  And it ain’t the amount of money they bring in (although that certainly helps matters) or the number of people they employ.  Its because if you work for them, they want you to be happy. (My wife works for a software engineering company that has a ping-pong and corn hole room for de-stressing during the day.  It’s no surprise that they’re a company that’s growing exponentially, hiring and building.  They’re going to be massive.)  Ye gods, what a great concept.
May you all be so lucky to work for such an enterprise some day.  Cheers.
(By the way, I recently signed up for a Behance account, sort of like an online portfolio.  If you’re curious about some of the stuff I’ve been lucky enough to have a hand in, check it out at https://www.behance.net/turnerwatson)

For My Next Trick…

My blog entries have become rather scarce of late.  Yeah, sorry about that.  Things like work and children and a thousand-dollar-a-day coke habit tend to wreak havoc on my writing schedule.  The other main distraction has been, well…writing.

Quick backstory: I’m a failed screenwriter.  Okay, that’s harsh.  I guess I could say that I’m a successful screenwriter, as I penned two screenplays and entered them into the Project: Greenlight competition around the turn of the century.  One of ’em made the Top-100 (out of over 4,000 entries) but it still wasn’t enough to garner any interest from studios or, just as importantly, from agents.  Agents that COULD potentially get interest from studios.  In other words, I never became a professional screenwriter.  The scripts sat there for a while before a couple of different friends mentioned that I should turn them into novels.  So, that’s what I’ve been doing with my spare time.  Transforming what I now know to be very amateurish screenplays into (hopefully) readable and sell-able book manuscripts.

Will I run into the same difficulties getting published as I did trying to get the stories optioned for films?  Probably.  Will I decide to e-publish them, hoping that people will shell out $2.99 at Amazon or Barnes & Noble for a Kindle or Nook version?  Truthfully, I’m still working that all out as I strive to polish this baby into something resembling a presentable final draft.  But I thought I’d let you read a little sample, since you’ve read all my other silly stuff.  This excerpt is from the opening of Chapter Seven of my novel “Dead Air.”  It’s a fun little murder-mystery set in the good ol’ days (the best days) of radio: the Mid-90’s.  The main character’s name is Trey, and he’s pretty much me.  (But you probably would’ve figured that out.)  Please excuse the formatting.  WordPress is great, until you want something to read like an actual “book.”

Thanks for reading, guys.


 

Night-shift jocks keep bachelor hours.  Into the station around five for production duties, checking voicemail, show prep.  Staying after, sometimes as late as one or two in the morning for additional prod or putting together show elements for the next night.  A solid five hours of actual on-air time.  All told, it makes for some lengthy worknights.  Of course, when the jock is done at work, the party is just getting started in his or her favorite haunts.  Dancing, karaoke, live music; they’re all on tap until last call.  Then there are after-parties, breakfast at IHOP, etc.  The point is that sometimes a night jock doesn’t crawl into bed until near sunrise.

That’s why the digital, birdlike scream of my phone at 7:38 a.m. was so damned cruel.

Trust me, I realize that the simple thing to do would’ve been to turn the ringer off. Permanently.  Doing so would’ve saved me all kinds of heartache.  But as much as I resisted being a responsible adult, the fact of the matter was that most real-life decisions are done during the day.  If I was going to be fired or promoted or there was an emergency staff meeting or my mom had finally left dad for that old sailor buddy of his or whatever, I would have to hear about it during the bright, clear sunshine of midday.

7:38 in the morning?  That’s early even by the standards of real, God-fearin’ people.

Alarming.  That’s what it was, no pun intended.  By the same logic I employed in keeping the ringer on, I knew that if the stupid thing rang, it  meant trouble.  It meant that something mighty important was going down, or better damned well be; otherwise my ass was staying in bed.  I yanked the cordless handset out of the cradle and barked a non-standard ‘good morning.’

“WHAT?” I demanded of the caller.  It was Jim, who wanted to know if I had been listening to Doc’s show.  He knew damn well I was doing no such thing.

“No, Jim, I sleep.  Now.  I mean, I sleep in the day.  I was asleep.”  My brain slowly came online and my words started making more sense.   “Did he play that ‘Wheel of Scrotum’ bit again?  He knows what he’s doing.  I wouldn’t worry—“

I stopped.  My spine became rebar.  I sat upright on the edge of my broken-in old futon.  The expression on my face must’ve been classic: the look of someone who has mistakenly backed over their girlfriend’s cat.  On Christmas.

“Jesus fucking Christ…”  I muttered.

“Yeah.  Yeah. I’ll be right there.”  I hung up without saying goodbye.  It had always annoyed me when people did that in the movies, yet I didn’t even give it a second thought.  Not that day.

“God damn it.  No.  Please.  Not Janice.”  That was as close to a prayer as I think I’d ever gotten.