Steamroller Printing with Magnetic North

This past weekend was the 2017 Portland Letterpress Printers Fair! Artists from all over Portland gathered at the Redd building in southeast Portland to share their craft, support the arts, and have a good time!

One of the main draws to the event is the steamroller printing. Studios entered to create these massive linocut stencils, which are then printed on 4×4 pieces of paper using a real steamroller! These prints are then raffled off with proceed benefitting the Portland Printmakers Alliance. (I bought 12 tickets.)

Massive linocut by the artists at Magnetic North! (Photo courtesy of Walker Cahall)

All week I’d been stopping by Magnetic North, sometimes with planned meetings to see Walker, sometimes completely unannounced. Great people. So when I saw Walker’s picture of the final massive linocut, I knew this was going to be something special. This was sparking my creativity, how should I say, “bigly?”

This is Portland. We make art, rain or shine. For a little while at the beginning of Magnetic North’s printing session, the rain came down, so the canopies went up. It might have even hailed. But it was short lived, and in a matter of no time, we were back up and printing.

A little rain wasn’t going to stop the steamrolling!

The first color the team decided to use for their print was green. (Great choice in my opinion.) Everybody chipped in with a roller, making sure the ink is nice and even.

Green was the first color used.

Chances are, the paint may have been a little thick on the first one, but look at how pretty it was!

Make sure you don’t miss a spot!

Once the linocut was properly inked, you move it over and place it on the plywood guide. The blue tape is for the linocut, the yellow tape is for the paper. You put a cloth over the top so the paper doesn’t get dirty or damaged.

Laid down on the plywood guide to ensure the steamroller delivers an even press!

Look at all the detail, too! I love the succulents theme. It works great with the green, too!

Looks centered to me!

Once everything was lined up, it was time to bring in the steamroller. Sadly, I was not allowed to drive the steamroller, or even get remotely close to the driver’s seat. It was an absolute blast to watch, and I have to admit, it’s a pretty sweet way to make large prints.

The steamroller!

Once the paper is peeled up, you’ve got a beautiful finished product! Thanks boys!

Successful round of printing!

The prints get put off to the side to dry, to be raffled off later!

Setting the print to dry!

After we did a couple rounds of printing with the green, it was time to switch to black.

After a few rounds of green ink, the team switched to black.

If there’s any extra paint on the guide or on the tape around the linocut, it could get on the paper and smudge. We had to take a quick break to scrub off some excess ink with acetone.

Touch ups!

All clear!

In order to keep the paper from slipping, we applied tape to the paper. Smart move!

How about a time-lapse?


Look at that pressure!

The best part about the whole steamrolling process is peeling up the print at the end. You never know what could go wrong (or right) under the press, so the final reveal is always a blast to watch.

Peeling up the print is so cool!

Here’s that beautiful finished product!

Beautiful final print!

As of the publishing of this post, I did not win the raffle and have yet to acquire my own print from the awesome linocut! Nevertheless, I was incredibly inspired by the creativity I saw from all the vendors at the fair and from all the prints being made and sold.

So much fun! Can’t wait to go back next year!


P.S. I want a steamroller! #bucketlist

Happy Hour! Card Game Now on Kickstarter!

Happy Hour!the first bartending card game, is now available on Kickstarter. It’s the latest game I’ve been working on with my good friend, graphic artist Walker Cahall. We’re really proud of it and we’d love it if you checked it out on Kickstarter, but first…

Dinner’s Ready, the first game I created on Kickstarter back in October of 2015 was really a proof of concept for a style of gaming I call “competitive learning.” You’re playing a card game, focused on the competition and gameplay, but the more you play, the more you subconsciously learn about a particular topic. With Dinner’s Ready!, we wanted to teach people about healthy eating and whole ingredients. With Happy Hour!, our aim is to get people familiar with the world of mixed drinks and to start learning cocktail recipes.

tumblr_okv3mm2v4e1rt7qgbo1_500Bars pride themselves on having fully stocked bars and the ability to make “any drink you want.” The problem is, with the limitless possibilities behind the bar, we’re overwhelmed so we inevitably defer to our “go-to drink,” a simple, unimaginative, cocktail. It inevitably involves three ingredients, one of which is ice. If we knew more about mixed drinks and cocktails, maybe our palette would expand also!

Happy Hour! was born!

From the beginning, we set out to make Happy Hour! both fun but also somehow an educational experience. We bounced around between different formats of gameplay, styles and designs, and base rules in order to best deliver the information we want to get across. In doing so, we made some tough decisions. We decided to omit the facts on the ingredient cards. We chose to ignore the “preparation method” of each cocktail for the sake of clarity and ease of play. We increased and decreased the size of the bar and the number of orders waiting at the counter. But after every play test, it would always loop back to that feeling: we were onto something special.

happy-hour-handHappy Hour! is the FIRST competitive bartending game that’s not only fun to play, but also teaches you an array of actual mixed drinks! Soon enough, you’ll be a master bartender!

Imagine this… it’s a Friday night and you’ve got three friends in town. In anticipation of your friends arrival, you’ve stocked up on some booze. Around 5 o’clock, commonly known as “happy hour,” you bust out the Happy Hour! card game and set up the bar and counter.

Now it’s time to choose an alcohol: whiskey, vodka, tequila or gin. For the rest of the evening, when any drink is played that contains your alcohol, you’ve gotta whatever drink you happen to be consuming. (Extra points if you pair your alcohol to your side drink.) When a player collects 21 points, everybody else has to finish their drink. Sounds pretty good, right? (You can obviously play the game without this optional drinking rule, but… why?)

Whiskey Sour!

The games typically last 7-15 minutes for 2 people and around 30 minutes for 4 people. That means you can get two rounds in, and (maybe a little north of) two drinks. Not only does that get your evening started for a night on the town, you also have a head start on ideas for drinks later on in the evening!

The Kickstarter page is now up and the campaign will run until February 28, 2017. You can still get the game at the “Early Bird Special” price of $25 (including shipping), otherwise the game is $30 (including shipping). Join the Happy Hour! community by backing the game, following us on social media, and sharing our project with your friends!

At the time of posting, we’re currently at $1263 or 21% of our overall goal!

Thanks again for your support, and I look forward to sharing a drink with you all in Happy Hour!


Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
The Wisdom of Shark Tank 
is a mega-post of the insight I gained by watching every episode of the investment show Shark Tank
Starting A Monthly Newsletter is a look at the inner workings of my new Mystery Tin Monthly e-mail newsletter. (You can sign up here!)
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.

Personal Fire Ecology

Fire ecology is the scientific discipline of fire’s role and effect in the environment and specific ecosystems. In habitats like prairies, chaparral, and coniferous areas, wildfires are essential to vitality and renewal. Maybe Mother Nature’s onto something…

tumblr_mjj9jwkzsh1rt7qgbo1_500I was first exposed to this concept as a child growing up in Southern California, where we frequently witnessed the mountains behind our house ablaze, casting thick black smoke into the sky. In college, I received a call during film studies from my mother asking, “The fire’s over the ridge so I’m standing in your room right now, what would you like to me save?” And just a few years ago, my father and I watched on the news as another fire in Santa Barbara tore through my childhood friend’s home, a house they’d built on an empty lot. They’d sold the house and moved away long ago, but my dad called them on the phone. They were watching the news, too. That beautiful house was going to return to an empty lot.

In high school, I went on trail rides through stretches of freshly scorn earth in the Sespe Wilderness. Absolutely everything had been reduced to carbon, or torched and covered in ashes and soot. It was crazy to see sections of land completely black. The amazing part is the fire, and the extensive damage resulting from it, is a major key in the rebirthing process for the land to return nutrients and minerals to the soil. The current yield wasn’t worth it, so burning it all down and starting over from scratch is natural part of the ecological lifecycle.

tumblr_oj5swzqvsa1rt7qgbo1_500Yesterday was my own semi-annual purge by fire, where I went through my all my boxes of bills, writings, and “random stuff” to organize, record, and get rid of whatever I’m not in an immediate need of. Some people are absolutely terrified at the idea of hours worth of cleaning up your disheveled history of thoughts, but I couldn’t have imagined a better way to figuratively “start with a clean slate” then by purging the useless tokens I’ve collected over the past year. The result was two bags of clothing I’m ready to donate, close to 15 pounds of paper in the recycling (completely making that weight up), and a few of the more special items made a more ceremonial departure in the fires of the furnace.

These types of revitalizing extirpation have become more common for me as I continue to pick up my life and move somewhere else in a smaller and smaller vehicles. Perhaps more importantly, these purges have become a valuable tool in allowing me to reconnect with the cold irons of my creative past. I took the time to read through the scribbled notes about plot lines and jokes. I organized the essays and research materials into their own labeled folders, and I once again thumbed through the photographs, drawings, and paintings in the portfolios I’ve managed to hold onto over the years. Combing through the pages of creative ideas, I couldn’t help but become excited again about all these projects I’d brainstormed up long ago. Short stories. Films. Multimedia artwork. Card Games. Photo series. I’m telling you, there’s some good shit in here!

There’s also some bad stuff in there. A lot of bad stuff, in fact. Starting fresh is harder than it sounds, especially when you’re going boxes you’ve packed and unpacked twice over the past year. The pictures. The love notes. The cards and ornaments. I tucked them all into a wooden box. I can’t get rid of these things yet. I don’t want to. But I know I can’t keep them around. It’s the same with this box of rejection letters I received from law schools. I tucked those, and the copious amounts of paper from the unemployment saga, away in a folder marked, Fuel for the Fire.

tumblr_mudljpeb4u1rt7qgbo1_500But for most of the items in these boxes, I struggle to figure out why I’ve held onto these things for so long? You obviously keep the portfolio of work, but there’s also a plethora of useless trinkets, receipts, ticket stubs, that fill in the cracks around my art. I’ve held onto these pieces of my history because, presumably, I hope someday in the distant future I’ll go through the box, see a placard with my name on it, and be immediately transported back to that place, reliving the best days of my life. And while that’s completely true about many personal totems I’ve collected, I have absolutely no idea what party this crinkled up purple, paper wristband came from. This bead necklace? It’s just garbage now. It’s gotta go.

It’s important for me to keep in mind that just because I’m throwing out that crinkly wristband, it doesn’t mean the party didn’t happen. Throwing away this birthday card doesn’t mean I didn’t have a birthday that year. In fact, the biggest and most valuable moments in our life don’t leave us with a series of collectible trinkets, they leave our entire perspectives changed forever. It’s about everything that happened around the item that’s worth remembering, not the receipt. So I thanked the notes for what they were, then like the others, tossed them into the fire.

tumblr_ni2mvwjbve1rt7qgbo1_500Truthfully, not all is lost either, we do live in a digital age after all. For the notes, I used the app CamScan on my iPhone and took .pdf images of everything before I recycled them (or burned them). Now I’ll be able to go back through the documents, rename them, organize them, and then start creating a list of actions to promote progress or implement them. These are the seeds for the next generation of projects and ideas, rising from the ashes.

Everybody has their own methods when it comes to resetting your system. Mine involves tons of organizing and a little fire. My personal fire ecology. Whatever your recalibration techniques are, it’s important to embrace them as a necessary part of the process. There’s nothing good or bad about how you choose to narrow down your footprint, it just is what it is. If you come out on the other side motivated, inspired, and just a little bit more organized, who can say your process doesn’t work?

Just don’t hurt anybody with actual fire, okay? Thanks.

Did you like this post? Check out some of our other popular Mystery Tin posts!
2017, We’re Off the Blocks!
 “How you start off January 1 is how your whole year will go.”
The A-Z of My 2016 is my year in review mega post of 2016, complete with anecdotes, photographs, and some of my favorite songs and content from 2016.
How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign is a fantastic overview of the nuts and bolts in running a crowdsourcing campaign.
Starting a Podcast (Network) for Under $200 on WordPress is the play-by-play I used in setting up the show MAD Potential (with Ben Mehl) on the Mystery Tin Podcast Network.

Hey Artist, Start a Newsletter!

I love creative people.

There’s something inherently fascinating to me about people that create art. Whether it’s painting, music, film, writing, racing, manufacturing, or some other creative outlet, I get a ton of joy out of speaking with people about the motivations and ambitions behind their art. If given the chance, I’ll give my “two cents” about how they can turn their art into their full time job. Regardless of the genre of art you create in, chances are my first bit of advice is to start a newsletter.

In the constantly moving digital landscape of today, the most important thing you can do is to deliver consistently. If you deliver quality work on a consistent basis, people will begin to incorporate your work into their lives. Just as we know what day of the week our favorite television show comes out, delivering your content on a consistent basis will create an expectation of delivery and people will work you into their routines to consume it. Dependability and reliability are essential for building trust. Again, consistency is the keyword here.

That’s where the newsletter comes in, and it’s actually way easier than you think. In the beginning, there’s no need to get bogged down by third-party websites and apps to help you deliver a high quality newsletter to thousands of subscribers. Google allows you to send up to 500 e-mails a day, so chances are that’s going to be more than enough to get started with.

img_6990Step 1: Ask your friends. Unless your artistic talent is a complete secret (why?!?!), your friends will know what kind of art you make and, if they’re actually friends worth having, they want to support you in your artistic pursuit (in the least financially taxing way possible). The easiest thing to do is shoot your friends a quick text message, asking them if you can add them to your new mailing list. Unless they’re a complete asshole, chances are they’re gonna say yes!

In the half dozen times I’ve done this, I’ve never once encountered somebody who didn’t want to be included in the newsletter. People I’ve added without their permission, however, never hesitate to let you know they’re not interested.

Step 2: Build a Spreadsheet. I’m sure the idea of a “spreadsheet” scares the most sensitive of artists, but when you’re starting out, having an organization system for your contacts is essential. The reason I recommend starting with a spreadsheet is because, later in the process when you’re ready to upgrade to those newsletter programs, you can easily upload your spreadsheet into your contacts list. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but you do need to make sure that at a bare minimum, you have their First Name, Last Name, and E-mail Address.

PRO TIP: If you don’t want to manually input contact information, I recommend making a simple Google Form, asking for their contact information, which will dump their answers into a spreadsheet on your Google Drive. Post this Form on a landing page and share the web address on your social media accounts and include a link in the bottom of your e-mail.

Step 3: Pick a delivery day and stick with it. As we went on ad nauseam earlier, consistency is key. Think about what day you’re want to send out your newsletter, and be sure to consider the time you’ll need prior to create and deliver the content. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. I’d also spend some time thinking about “where” your content fits into your subscriber’s lives. If you’re a motivational writer, you may want to consider sending out your e-mail early in the week (when people are motivated) and early in the day (when people need a jumpstart). If your speciality is nature photography, maybe think about sending out your newsletter in the middle of the week, while people are making plans for the weekend. (Bonus points if you can build the expectation into the title of your newsletter like, “MAD Potential Mondays” or “Don’t Die on Saturdays.”)

PRO TIP: With a little searching, you can easily find an extension or Google App that allows you to send e-mails at a later date. Find what works for you!

Step 4: Engage. You want to share your art, you asked your friends if you could share it with them, you found a day that works for you, and now you’ve sent out the first edition of your art newsletter. Congratulations… now get back to work! Now is the most important time to engage with your readers. Ask them what they thought of your art. Ask what they’d like to see in the newsletter. Ask if they’d consider sharing it with their friends. This first wave of support is the most important, you want your readers to share your content, letting the ripple extend beyond your reach. Feed the animals and they’ll feed you back!

Step 5: Monetize. Okay, this is way down the line (most likely months or years), but it’s worth keeping in mind early in the process. When it comes to cultivating an online presence, the most important thing you can have is a robust mailing list. Having a solid mailing list allows you direct access to your readers, which opens up longterm financial opportunities like brand cultivation, selling merchandise to your readers, or advertising space in your newsletter to sponsors. I promise you don’t need hundreds of thousands of fans, in fact, some people (like Kevin Kelly) believe all you need is 1000 true fans.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Instagram: Aaron Morales (@RatxLife)

Let’s say you’re an artist, like my friend AaronHe draws cartoons containing some odd, dark, creative characters. I really like his stuff and one day I can see it on shirts and skateboard decks (apparently he’s already done shirts, so he must be onto something).

I asked him if he’d considered starting a newsletter, and he (like many), simply thought it was too much work. I told him it didn’t have to be too crazy, just one comic and a little paragraph about it, with a call for sharing at the bottom. Again, the guy goes to school and he works nights, so the free time he does get he tries to spend with his girlfriend, his pitbull, or drawing. The thing he does not want to do is spend his hard-earned free time building spreadsheets. I totally get it.

I might have begged him to reach out to his friends and ask if they would be interested in receiving his newsletter, and he did. I laid out the four steps above for him and told him about another artist that I’d give the same advice to…

Week 1: First Newsletter. He sent out the newsletter to his closest 20 friends from his Gmail account. Just one comic on Friday. A few people responded, but it wasn’t a standing ovation his first time at bat. No biggie. Onward!

Week 2: Second Newsletter. The all-important follow up. Successful delivery of the first newsletter shows that you have the ability to craft and deliver an e-mail (good for you!), but when the second e-mail newsletter shows up in your readers’ inbox, their thinking shifts. They recognize you’re serious about this newsletter thing, so subconsciously, they’re gonna give it a tad more attention than they did the first time. Again, a few more people responded, complimenting him on the cartoon and newsletter. He even got a few shares on social media and picked up a few new readers. Progress!15302514_373258299674168_1234013622_o

Week 3: He missed it. Sometimes life gets in the way, or you aren’t inspired, or whatever, but he did not send out his newsletter on the third week. To many newsletters, this could be a death wish. He tried, he got off the ground, but crashed on week three. One could assume in the finicky world of e-mail newsletters that many would have crossed him off the list and moved on with their lives…

But that’s not exactly what happened. In fact, he received a few e-mails like, “Hey! It’s Friday. Where’s the newsletter?” In just two short weeks, he had already worked his way into the Friday routines of some of his readers. Circus clowns only need “that one person” to laugh in order for everything to be worth it. Your newsletter shouldn’t be much different, if it matters to one (other) person, it’s worth it!

He buckled down and got the newsletter out for Week 3. His tribe was content… for now.

Week 4: Back on it. Now that he knew his cartoon newsletter was not only being read, but also anticipated, he got back onto the newsletter game with more fervor than ever. He worked hard on his craft, working long hours into the night. He was being relied upon now and he promised himself (and them) he wasn’t going to let them down. He started promoting, and sharing, and encouraging others to sign up for the newsletter. The rest? You’re gonna have to join his newsletter to find out.

If you’re an artist, consider starting a newsletter. It’s simply another venue for you to display and disseminate your art, but unlike Facebook and Twitter and those message boards you thought would promote you, direct e-mail is the most likely to be opened and acted upon. If you’re knocking on their door, chances are they’re gonna open up for you. And when they do, I hope you’re standing there with your best art in your hands, ready to share.


P.S. If you want to join Aaron’s newsletter, leave your name and e-mail address below and I’ll pass it along to him!

Instragram: Aaron Morales (@RatxLife)

#GivingTuesday: Lahaina Arts Association


There’s nothing more important than cultivating creativity, especially in the form of art. I was more than thrilled to see my dear friend Erin Brothers had moved (back) to Hawaii and become Executive Director of the Maui-based Lahaina Arts Associationrecently voted “2016 Best Community Nonprofit” by the Maui Times. How cool! They offer FREE arts education to children in Lahaina and all over the island.

I’m honored to be helping the LAA with their annual campaign this year, so I wanted to share this blog post with my community a little bit and share with you about the Lahaina Arts Association in hopes you’ll consider donating on this #GivingTuesday.

LAA Annual Campaign Kicks Off on “Giving Tuesday”

Voted “2016 Best Community Nonprofit,” the Lahaina Arts Association’s Annual Campaign kicks off on Tuesday, November 26, a “holiday” known as “Giving Tuesday.” Giving Tuesday focuses on online giving to non-profit organizations amidst the post-Thanksgiving commercial rush of “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” Online contributions will allow the LAA to continue to host weekly after-school art classes around Maui county, as well as supports in-school arts programs for Hana School and Kaunakakai School on Molokai.

“This program is fantastic!” One parent declares, “Our kids do not have art offered as part of their ‘regular’ school so this is the only way to expose them to the arts.” Art scholarships, no cost art education, art materials and supplies, and student exhibitions are handful of the benefits the Lahaina Arts association offers to the keiki of Maui.

The Lahaina Arts Association relies on grants and arts funding to provide FREE programs. Unfortunately, this funding may become unavailable in the future, so individual donations are needed more than ever. All donations to LAA, online or in-person, are tax-deductible.

“The Annual Campaign is the most important fundraiser of the year,” says Erin Brothers, Executive Director of the Lahaina Arts Association. “It allows the LAA to budget out spending for local art programs in the new year, as well as gauge the organization’s ability to further expand into new opportunities for local Maui artists.” It is through the generosity of our community that LAA can provide these crucial programs to children who otherwise may not have access to the arts.

Donate to the LAA’s Annual Campaign Today!

Find Your Funk, Save the World

There is nobody like you, and there will never be anybody like you again. Nobody will have your same idiosyncrasies, your same experiences, your same dreams, passions and personal ghosts. Your uniqueness is what gives you your very existence. It’s what gives you your… funk.

As you mature and advance through life, you discover more and more that the barometers by which we’ve traditionally measured success are, quite frankly, ineffective and outdated. Experience is more valuable than your college GPA. Earnings are more important than extra credit. Social impact is more important than our collected accolades. You are the result of what happens to you.

The good news is, a majority of life’s choices are yours to make. You, and you alone, determine what happens to you. To live a fulfilling life, you’ve got to be authentic. Billionaire Chris Sacca calls it your “unapologetically weird self.” Be honest with yourself. If you feel the music in you, sing your fucking heart out. Dance while you’re in line for coffee. Tell jokes. Swing from trees. Play harmless pranks. Go on adventures. Make people smile. Have deep political conversations in different voices with vegetables you found in the organic food section because their stems are hysterically shaped like mouths and they oddly resemble the caricatures of a couple that lives together but kinda secretly hates each other’s guts… sorry, I got carried away there. My point is, whoever you are inside, the real you… that’s the funk, baby.

Perhaps the most important part about being your authentic self is that it’s okay for you to admit to your problems and failures. Failures are the best lessons that life can give us, and to hide them is to disregard the greatest teaching moments. Falling down is painful. Defeat is humbling. Loss is enlightening. How we respond to these moments, the darkest, hardest moments of our lives, gives us insight. These moments give us the most important emotion of all: empathy.

Empathy is the bridge of emotional connection that we build with one another. The bridge gets built through shared experience. Brick by brick. We are able to empathize with our best friends because we’ve been through so much with them. We’ve witnessed their decision making so we understand their thought process in dealing with a situation. We relate to strangers (or new friends) through our own previous experiences in the same or similar situations. If you’re a surfer, you can always empathize for another surfer that gets straight barreled by a double overhead. But empathy, true empathy, only comes about as a result of authenticity. You can’t lie your way past authenticity; it’s too honest.

If you do your best to bring honesty and true empathy into every situation, you’ll feel good about whatever you do. You may even find yourself drawn to helping others, drawing on the wisdom you’ve gathered from your own experiences to solve the difficult problems of others in a way only you know how. Look at Steve Jobs. Look at President Obama. Look at Dean Camen. Look at the hit, primetime reality television show Undercover Boss. Empathy can truly change the world.

Be authentic. Do what makes you happy. Find your funk, and save the world.


Check out this blog post if you haven’t read how I’m changing the world, aka. Saving Bees!

What Am I Selling?

No matter what your blog’s area of focus is, everything from creative fiction writing to business blogs, before you can sit down to write a good blog post, you need to nail down exactly what it is you’re selling. It could be a product. It could be a service. It could be your perspective. Whatever that thing is that you’re selling, that’s the starting point to creating.

So what am I selling? Depending on the venue, I’m selling something different. During the day, I’m selling Tung oil and beehives. For Mystery Tin Games, I’m selling Dinner’s Ready! But here, on the Mystery Tin blog, it may be a little bit unclear what it is I’m selling.

I’d like to think that I am a creator, and the product of my creativity is what I’m selling. Even as I’m writing it down, it feels too vague of a mission to gain traction and readership (at this point in my life). Are the products of my creative efforts in photography, art, podcasting, screenwriting and blogging solving real world problems? Dinner’s Ready! does. Tung oil does. But what about my blog? What problems am I fixing in the written musings on the Mystery Tin blog? Why have you read this far?

I think you’re here for entertainment. I think you’re here for inspiration. I think you’re here to laugh and most importantly, I hope you’re here on the off chance you might even learn a little bit. And I think you’ve read this far because you may feel the same way about some of your own endeavors. 

Okay. Let’s see, that sounds easy enough. My target audience is comprised of people seeking out a good story with a take-away moral cleverly tucked in between the laughs. That doesn’t sound like an easy egg to crack.

Perhaps my goal is to contribute to a growing community of creative storytellers across many intellectual genres; art, technology, politics, writing, science, comedy, all beautifully sharing with one another the delicacies of their crafts and supporting the successes of one another. A journey of creative discovery, taking place on the digital pages of the Mystery Tin blog. Learning! Now we’re getting somewhere.

So why would you come back to this blog rather than any others in the community? What could I possibly teach you that you couldn’t find better somewhere else? The easiest answer is that it starts with good, interesting content from my perspective on my own circumstances. My writing needs to be decisive and actionable. Recalling casual hikes and posting pictures of my lunch isn’t going to build a community. Empowering other artists through the life lessons gleaned from my personal experiences should be underlying theme of the best posts on my blog.

The other essential key to a successful blog is consistency. I set my watch according to the releases of my favorite blogs, television shows, and podcasts. Why can’t the Mystery Tin blog be that beacon on someone else’s list of important weekly events? Honestly, there’s no reason it can’t be.

Entertaining stories with a takeaway lesson… I can sell that.

What are you selling?

Stacking The Deck

As someone who is doing his best to be constantly creating, I am always looking for avenues to share my work with people, and hopefully make a little cash at the same time. I host an entire podcast on this very idea, but I wanted to take a minute to rattle off a few of the easiest ones you can get started off with. You know, if you were into this kinda thing.


For The Mystery Tin Podcast Network, we have a website with an RSS feed that delivers our entire content. The individual podcasts are broken out into their own feeds listed in the iTunes Podcast Marketplace. If you’re doing any kind of podcast, you need to be on iTunes. With millions of people listening to podcasts now, that’s the #1 place they go to subscribe. The “Top Podcasts” and “New & Noteworthy” sections of the iTunes podcast marketplace is where advertisers find their shows. You need to do everything you can to get in there.

Outside of advertisers, iTunes makes a strong point how the podcasts will always be free. One possibility of making money from your podcast is to post it on Youtube also. It is true that most people listen to podcasts from their mobile device, but don’t count out the amount of listeners that will find you on YouTube. If your listenership is active and vocal on your YouTube videos, Google will ask to advertise on your podcast and start cutting you checks. (Before you jump to conclusions, the payout is less than $2 for every 1,000 views)


There’s obviously a few simple venues here. You can blog, preferably daily, to earn money through advertisements. You can start a newsletter and raise a few dollars by finding sponsors. Or if you’re a long form author, you can take the direct route and self-publish through Amazon’s Kindle or one of the print-it-yourself sites.

I’m planning on self-publishing the book I’m working on currently. The part I’m looking forward to is having it available in my own online store, but with a special caveat: each book purchased will come with personalized, handwritten dedication page inside the book’s .pdf. It’s immensely personal yet remains entirely digital. Your readers will be gladly toss in a few extra bucks for that.


If you’re a good photographer, don’t be afraid to let people know about your work. If you’ve taken a photograph that features a product, person, place, or something else with an Instagram account, tag them in your picture! It’s not selling out, it’s showing up. Especially when they notice your post and like it!

The more you share your work with others, the attention you’ll receive, and that’s what sponsors are looking for. Brands are looking for their biggest supporters to turn into even bigger supporters. If there’s a company you love out there, take pictures and tag the company. You’re living in the worst case scenario, a zero sum game. Best case scenario? They reach out to you for content. Now you’re cooking with gas.


If you’ve got a few irons in the fire, you’re gonna need to alternative giving each of them their proper amount of attention and promotion. The attention is the hard part, the promotion is the easy part.

Give yourself some time to sit down and schedule out your social media activity all at once. Promotional tweets and Facebook posts, blog posts, etc. can all be scheduled in advance, with your real time live-tweeting happening around them. Changing up the copy will help keep your readers from getting “brand fatigue” but if you can schedule out a week of automated sales messages, you can focus on the attention part of your art.

What other tips, tricks, websites, life-hacks, or magic tricks have you discovered in your delivering own creative endeavors? Share them below!


Friends Doing Awesome Things: Zack Dupont, The Dupont Brothers


I’ve met a lot of musicians in my life, but none quite like Zack Dupont. We met back in college and I was instantly drawn to his openness and honesty. Not just in his word, but more importantly, in his art. (I mean, look at that hair!) He was never trying to be something he wasn’t. His music is refreshingly honest, fun, and often plucks at the heartstrings, eliciting a smile in solidarity.

Zack and his brother, Sam, are together known as The Dupont Brothers. They’re making great indie music, the kind you listen to on a beautiful summer day with a cheap, half-empty beer in your hand while sitting on a blanket in the grass next to your sweetheart. It’s the music that puts a smile on your face. It’s the kind of music that makes this world a better place. Here’s their Soundcloud page.

The Dupont Brothers currently have a Kickstarter campaign for their new album, “A Riddle For You.” I love what I’ve heard so far and (when I get paid this weekend) I’ll be a backer. I think you should, too, but why not click around and hear some their music.

One of my favorites as of lately is “Empty Cases.” Watch a live performance of it on their Youtube page here.


Saying “No” to Projects

As an eager entrepreneur, you’ll be asked for your opinion/participation in a number of projects. Initially, it’s a good idea to say “yes” because you have no idea what that project could lead to down the line. You never know which opportunities could open the door to another, better opportunity. You just don’t know, so you just can’t risk it.

I was recently approached about joining with some guys in starting another record label. A local Portland musician has a growing following and an awesomely loyal group of his friends and confidantes want to help push him over the edge into stardom. They’d heard about my experience in the music industry, KMD Music, and my eclectic skill set, and they wanted me to come on board.

I was flattered, so my immediate response was “I’m in.”

tumblr_nh8cywxuI21rt7qgbo1_500Then reality set in. Where was I going to find the
time to run a record label? I’m finding it hard enough to keep my ducks in a row as is. Based on my experiences with KMD Music, there are a ton of things I would do differently if I had the chance. This could be that second chance, but more importantly, if I was to make those changes, I would need that much more time to ensure I did those things correctly. And what about the things I’ll be learning about, and dealing with, for the first time along the way? Is this learning bell curve really something I should commit to right now?

When you say “yes” to something, you are promising your best involvement at any cost. That’s why they ask you. You will execute on your tasks to the best of your ability, but what if your ability isn’t what it should be? I know music. I know music business. But I don’t know Portland’s music scene. And I haven’t been active in the music industry for almost ten years. A startup podcast network is one thing, but running a record label in a music scene I’m completely unfamiliar with is an entirely different challenge. Quite simply, it’s asking for failure.

It’s not that this new record label is going to fail per se (although statistically speaking…), but my real hesitation is more about a failure to achieve my own standards of work. I, like you, take pride in my work and always strive to put my best effort into something I put my name on. Your best work requires your full attention, desire, and commitment. If I don’t have a full blown desire, I can’t be confident in my work product because I won’t give it my full time and attention. It all starts with desire and passion for the project.

So I’ve come up with a good barometer for involving myself in new projects. I have to believe, in my core, that my best work will benefit the project in a way that only I can provide. If not, I gotta pass.

So I’m saying “no” to the record label project for now. Do I feel bad about it? Kinda. Will I regret it? Probably. Am I interested in hearing about the next project? Absolutely.

When have you had to say “no” to a project?