27th October 2017

I had so many ideas of how to do it like I’m sure most people do. On the 26th I thought of doing it in this sort of little park nearby it. Park might be a strong word. It was a little spot with trees and a little fence and playscape, complete with a solitary streetlight. I could see us being there, coming home after a little light grocery shopping. I brought the ring with me but we came back a different way and there was no way for me to carry the bags and wrestle the little ring free. We always end up with more than we intended. See book store trips from September 2016. I was a little disappointed but it was that night I decided when I’d do it.
We had made plans to finally go up the mountain where the giant cross resides and I figured that was perfect. Because the ring looks better in the daylight and there’d be a memorable locale. Pretty much anywhere in Skopje, you can see the cross on the mountaintop.
Friday morning, we made our way up. Bus ride to the park where the cable cars reside, we rode the swinging things up. My first thought was damnit there are so many people.
We had lunch looking down at the countryside and I was reminded of the woods near my childhood home and all those times I’d sit and wish I had someone by my side. I looked at her and again for the millionth time I remembered how I never thought I’d be this lucky. Throughout my life I’ve gone through waves, for every great person that has enriched my life there’s a legion of others that make me embarrassed to be a person.
Most people I wouldn’t drive ten minutes down the road for.
On the mountain, I noticed an area that wasn’t so densely populated with strangers and I steered her that way. Because sure, I wouldn’t mind being that guy at the airport on his knee but she would. We found a place to sit and in my jacket pocket I’m fighting the little plastic bag the ring was in. I was quietly freaking out because plastic is loud and she’s going to hear and also WHAT IF I DROP IT CUZ THESE DAMN SWEATY PALMS?
IT’S SIMPLE. DO NOT DROP IT.
At the same time I’m thinking about this rock I used to sit on that was in the woods near where I grew up, it overlooked the street and in a way it felt like I was there again, but with her.
Then a new pang of fear: what if she doesn’t love the ring?
The only thing that saved me here was she was occupied by her phone. Finally, I got the ring out of the little plastic baggie. Godamn I should have thought this through.
Spoiler: She loved (and loves) the ring.
She was surprised and she didn’t notice my scrambling or the plastic bag trouble.

I love her. She’s worth traveling across the world for. Again and again. Until we don’t have to leave anymore.

When we finally rode our own cable car down, we waited so long because we wanted our own, our perfect day on the mountain became super perfect when we met this delightful gang of trouble.

But then the bus driver was late, just proof that there’s always a Richard around.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to my love. And to everyone else reading this too. Wait for the love you want, the love you deserve.

What I learned from my writing in 2017

The biggest thing about 2017 was how I sort of stumbled into a more business mindset when it comes to writing. It can be both serious business and a fleeting art like most things it’s about balance. Constraints can fuel creativity and level it up. For example, writing the first draft of my upcoming novel was not what I would call a fun experience. I mean it was and it wasn’t. I drank way too much coffee, thinking that it would spark something more and so in turn I didn’t sleep very well. Looking back it’s crazy because I was hurting myself for… art? That’s insane. You could argue about musicians and heroin or whatever other drug and that’s fine if you think the drugs did it. A person shouldn’t sacrifice themselves so someone else can enjoy something they made. Fuck that. Art should enhance all life, not a select group.
Wow, this got away from me.
What was I saying? Oh, constraints… I always thought outline was a dirty word because Stephen King says so. That’s what works for him. Advice is just advice, the confusing bit is how everyone presents it as fact. You know, like how I just did with the bit about constraints? Everyone is wrong and everyone is also right. I’ve found that outlining is super important to my process. Early on, the problem I had was HOW THE FUCK DO YOU OUTLINE. No one ever says how really. Some go into index cards and sticky notes but I haven’t done it that way. The way I outlined the first Piece of ACOT was fairly simple, I didn’t really understand what acts were and the whole “it’s the beginning middle and end” answer doesn’t fucking explain anything. What is different between the three? Is the end the last bit like the last frame of a movie? Is the end the bit before the end? Is the beginning this or that? And so what the hell does the middle look like? I listed out the events of that short story. And every time the protagonist (Vike) made a choice, I decided that was an “act turn” or “act break”.
So when he decided to try to save the stranger’s life at the Rift is the end of the first act. It might not be clear in the story but that’s what he was doing. When he decided to listen to what the Moth had to say and really believe he could help was the end of the 2nd act. It’s essentially him realizing he fucked up by “saving the stranger” and the end is when he decides what he really believes which results in… well just read it.
The first outline had all those things as bullet points and like the surrounding story points, so just a list of things. Not all of the Pieces were written in a structured manner, the second Piece was mostly just “more action and more cool things”. I’ve since learned more about structure and I apply a little of it but mostly I like having a dash of structure like having a very strong midpoint of the story that works really hard. I’m still really unsure about endings. That is what I worry about most because when I was first thinking about ending ACOT, I couldn’t think of any endings I really really liked. That series owes a lot to the Matrix and the ending of that is really disappointing. What I tried with ACOT was to have something real to hang onto at the very end. It’s all fairly ambiguous but there was something I really intended to say at the end because that story was about Vike and Amnee and how someone can come into your life and be a surrogate for someone else.
When it came to revisit the novel after two years away from it, I was afraid of editing it, of rebuilding it because I knew I wanted to change so much. It was written in first person and I wanted that to change and I wanted to be more intentional in genre and tone. I couldn’t describe the book until a few months ago when I would talk about the first draft it was: “Well it’s about this and there’s this and oh there’s this and this too!” I was figuring it out as I went. I only just realized what the book really is about this month as I restructure and rework the outline. This will be the third draft but this is the sixth or maybe seventh outline I’ve done for this. I’ve torn it apart multiple times.
I’ve only edited short stories before this, so the novel is a huge learning process and I’ve committed myself to taking it slower and trying things. ACOT may be novel-sized, it’s roughly sixty thousand words but it wasn’t written as a novel. It was written as four long short stories, the 3rd and 4th Pieces were originally one and the final two Pieces were written as one as well. Outlining those made it easy to know what I was writing any given day and I’ve applied that to the novel and to these other short pieces I’ve written.
In 2017, I tracked not only the things I wrote and finished but while I rewrote the novel from May through September, I kept track of the daily word count. I have gotten into the habit of tracking things and taking more notes, it all feeds into the business angle which has been very interesting and rewarding. I didn’t think I had it in me.
I’ve also been experimenting more with deadlines. It’s ongoing, I’m not sure how to make all of it work because I want to be realistic but also challenge myself but at the same time there’s so much to do. Again it’s fear because I am afraid to set hard deadlines and then not meet them and I’ll be really hard on myself and that would crash the writing.
2017 was a big year for my development as a writer and I’m looking forward to growing and evolving more this year.

What I wrote in 2017

I decided to try to be more productive and so I began 2017 with writing down what I wanted to accomplish for the year. Except I did it in smaller chunks, I went quarterly because to plan a whole year out in advance seemed crazy. (Plot twist- I have 2018 all planned out, as far as writing goes and as far as what I can plan on right now)
I wanted to keep track because I wanted to know what I was doing all year. I didn’t realize that the simple act of trying to organize myself would really change my entire mindset on writing.
The first thing I wanted to do was finish A CIRCLE OF TEMPORARIES, which I had originally envisioned as an ongoing thing when it first evolved from a possible idea of separate stories in one world to a focused narrative I had thought of it as a prose answer to TV sensibilities. But along the way it changed again, I realized I had to put those characters and that world away. I couldn’t leave it hanging open for years, I had this vision of it never being finished so I decided to end it and work on something else.
At the start of 2017, that something else was a little novella called THROUGH THE BLUR and I had the idea of going traditional with it and shopping it around with publishers but something happened that changed my life and most importantly my writing life. A little podcast called The Bestseller Experiment, which I found when Joe Hill retweeted his appearance on it. I distinctly remember listening to that episode and laughing at the intro where these two guys tell you what they are trying to do: write, publish and market a novel in under a year. Yeah sure, ‘cause that’s possible, I said to myself. (spoiler- they actually did it!)
Over the course of the first half of the year, as I worked on A CIRCLE OF TEMPORARIES and my short story A VAST EULOGY, I realized something and that was I was afraid. And not just of one thing but a few things. First, I was afraid to have THROUGH THE BLUR be my first professionally published work and put my foot down as a sci-fi author. I love sci-fi but I was afraid of putting that out front because I’m not sure I’m smart enough. The other thing I was afraid of was working on the novel I had started in December 2014 and subsequently finished the first draft in May 2015. I put it aside because I knew it’d need a ton of work and I was scared of that. Because at the time, I hadn’t seen any real advice or anything about actually editing and I was so afraid of looking at that manuscript and diagnosing it.
I don’t remember the episode exactly, but there was a shift in my thinking while I listened along to the two Marks on their Bestseller Experiment writing journey. It really crawled into my head and I began to think, oh this is all wrong. The right way to fully launch my writing career is with this novel, it’s not sci-fi, it’s something else and I really love that and could see a career based in and around that sort of genre mixing. So when I finished A CIRCLE OF TEMPORARIES, I pulled out this novel in April 2017. It’s been quite an adventure since then.
I grew so much in 2017. I finished ACOT and A Vast Eulogy, both of which are available now for you to read FOR FREE!
If you missed the little pop-up, you can subscribe to my mailing list to receive A Vast Eulogy by clicking here.
Also, I wrote two other short stories both of which are unfinished. One is fanfic and will be up for free sometime in 2018, the other is one I hope to sell. I wrote the latter longhand and really loved that experience. Both of those are under five thousand words each. I wrote another short story, perhaps it’s more novella-size, it’s more novella in structure. I’m not sure what’s to come of that just yet. It’s safe and sound in a notebook, marinating.
All in all, I had a really productive writing year and I hope to write even more in 2018. I’m planning to give NaNoWriMo this year, instead of missing it like I have the past few years because I forget to plan for it.
There’s a second part to this post which revolves more around what I learned in 2017 as it pertains to writing. I hope you’ll join me for that one in a few days. Thank you for reading! And if you signed up for my mailing list, THANK YOU.

2017 in review – Five books I enjoyed the hell out of

One of my goals for my reading year of 2017 was to read more new releases and I read 6 books that were released in 2017. It was a big year of content consumption. I read 35 books and here are five that I really loved.

A Life In Parts by Bryan Cranston
A truly lovely book, it grew my respect and admiration for the man and provided quite a bit of inspiration. It was really valuable to get a look inside an actor’s process. A quick read that is absolutely something I plan to revisit eventually. I highly recommend it.

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
This is a captivating novel. It really blurs genres in a way that I haven’t seen before just thinking about it a little bit makes me want to read it all again. I’m looking forward to reading more by her, I have Shining Girls in my next up pile.

Cibola Burn by James SA Corey
This is the fourth in the long running Expanse series, for which the TV show is based, and it’s my absolute favorite besides the first installment. The stakes are higher, or at least they seem to be. I felt like there wasn’t a character or section that I was dreading unlike in previous books. It held me tighter than the second or third books did and that’s what I want. Hold me by the fucking throat and don’t let go. This series is really special to me because I can and do fall right into this mammoth novels which is quite the feat since I don’t really read a lot of longer works.

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard
READ THIS BOOK. The book is as great and as lovely as the cover is. It’s violent and shocking but in just the right way. It’s unforgettable and brilliant. Kat Howard deserves all of the success. She’s great. You should preorder her new book too! Unless you don’t like things that are great.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen
This book blew my mind, truly and completely. I’ve never been one that was ever drawn to Westerns and I thought this was more fantasy than Western, I guess it is but it really doesn’t matter because it’s a perfect book. I can’t wait to read the sequel and the rest of the series.

Three out of the five here are by women which sort of lead me to the idea I have for my 2018 reading. I’m not buying any books by straight white men this year. Okay that’s sort of a lie because I have one preordered but that’s it. If I want to be a stronger writer I have to read more than just the straight white male perspective.

This is the final of my reflective pieces on media consumption for 2017. Thank you for reading and following along.

A preview of my most recent published short story

Below is the first two thousand or so words of A Vast Eulogy, a short story about how a young woman while attempting to discover who she wants to be stumbles into another world…

One.

“Renee, you need to come home.” The phone line can mask many things but not the almost hysterical sobs that coat every word.
“We’ve talked about this, mom.” Renee sighs. “Look, okay I know it’s not easy to make friends but your daughter can’t be your only friend. I need room to breathe and figure out who I am. And you know I don’t mean any disrespect, it’s just I can’t. I’m not capable of mimicking your life and I don’t want to.”
“So you’re working in the middle of the night behind a glass window that they claim is bulletproof but we both know they are too cheap to have actual bulletproof glass. What happens when you get robbed and… he has a gun…?” Her mother drops the phone. She can hear her mother sobbing, her head resting on the wall that creates the corner of the modest kitchen. The cracked vinyl floor hangs in Renee’s mind like an echo. The texture of it and the memories of baking cookies and sneaking her vegetables to the family dog, Knob. When her mother brought the puppy home, Renee made a series of sounds and the only one that resembled a word was Knob. She was three at the time. Knob proved to be better than her father but still he couldn’t stay.
They say after high school it’s all downhill and Renee found that to be true, very quickly. Four months after graduating, Knob passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. It was a night that was especially hard for her. The longing for her father was strong and Knob protected her from the nightmares. She knows he took them on and fought for her and didn’t make it. She has a tattoo of his paw print on her hip. Knob is always by her side.
After a few moments, she hears her mother pick the phone up. “You’re doing what you promised you wouldn’t do. You know that, don’t you?”
“No. That’s not what this is and you know it, mom. We’ve talked about this. I’m not dad. I told you I was leaving and why and it’s only temporary. I promise it is. I just have to find my own path.” She can feel the anger rising in her. She wants to scream at her mother, again.
Her mother interrupts. “And you think you’re going to find it at that little shit shop?”
“Mom please.” She’s trying to keep her voice level. She knows that her mother is just worried and isn’t really angry. There’s no reason to snap at her. “Mom, look it’s late and we both know you need your rest. You’ll feel better in the morning. You can call me when you wake up. It’ll be like I’m home. We’ll sit and have coffee and chat a little.”
“Could we do that video thingy?” Her mother’s voice perks up like a child asking for entrance into the cookie jar.
“Yes of course mom. I really have to go. The fog really rolled in, I gotta take it slow on the way to work.”
“Okay honey, you be safe. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“See you later, mom. I love you.”
Her mother returns the sentiment and they click the end call button at the same time. She slides her phone into the front pocket of her hoodie, adjusting it to make sure that it won’t slip out. Then she takes her blue and white rectangle name tag and pins it above her left breast. Again taking the time to make sure it’s straight and level. She’ll have a total of ten, maybe fifteen interactions with people during her six hour shift but it’s the principal of the whole thing.
In the bathroom, she brushes her teeth quickly but efficiently. She swears she did it when she got up but the mention of her father left a bad taste in her mouth and she couldn’t recall exactly if she had brushed or not. The last of the minty fresh toothpaste is exiled from her mouth and she taps her worn out brush on the edge of the sink. Looking in the mirror, she adjusts her tight bun ensuring none of her pesky brown hair has tried to escape.
“Mom really has nothing to worry about. I’m a capable woman.” She’s thinking of the other night when a young skater punk pointed to the Skateboarding Prohibited sign and began to grind along the curb outside her booth. When she came out the rear door and he saw her standing there, all five feet and ten inches of her, he hauled ass out of there. Just another case of “look at the little lady all safe behind the glass.”
She wouldn’t say she’s a big or imposing girl. She’s an athletic twenty-five. Athletic. That’s the word her boss, Randy, always says. He’s nice and means well but his mouth doesn’t exactly have a filter. He hasn’t been rude, only that he says things that most probably wouldn’t. It makes her uncomfortable to have to describe people in detail but Randy, oh no problem at all. He’ll give anyone any detail they want and some they don’t. There was an instance a few weeks ago where a young college girl hadn’t paid for the gas she pumped. And Randy described her down to how her pants fit. “Officer, you know what I’m saying when I say that she had these jeans on that fit squarely. Oh man, the pockets were *nicely* seated in the center of her plump cheeks.” Every adjective gets an exaggerated pronunciation. Thankfully the policeman didn’t favor that sort of talk but Renee believes it was mostly for her benefit.
She smiles in the mirror. Then snaps her head around and rushes through her one bedroom apartment, switching lights off as she goes before scooping up her keys and locking the door behind her. The outside air hits her hard. A push of dense humidity. She likes the first floor apartment, easy to get in and out of. Though working nights is troublesome since she has to sleep during the day when her upstairs neighbor is doing yoga and other exercises while her husband is out pretending to work the job he was fired from weeks ago. The lady, Candice, doesn’t seem to care about much besides her advanced internet yoga.
The fog lays over her familiar surroundings. It’s enough to disorient her but at the same time she’s reminded of early mornings as a child—Christmas and the like—when she’d jump in her parent’s bed and they would hide beneath the covers. She would have to grope around to find their heads and hands. She thinks the world is allowed to hide under a blanket whenever it wants, there’s plenty to hide from.
The engine of her early nineties Ford Ranger turns over easily. The gear shift sticks so she has to really jerk into drive before releasing the brake and coasting down the hill. She isn’t sure why or how she started doing it but she won’t press the gas until the very last second. Just before the rising of the hill. Maybe it’s the freeing feeling she is struck by or maybe it’s a subconscious thing. She can almost hear her father saying, “Coast whenever possible—saves gas. It does.” She slams her hand down on steering wheel, cursing aloud. Again, punishing herself for thinking of him.
The street rises and turns toward the left before forking outward, there’s a light that guards the juncture. Another car approaches from the opposing direction but she manages through the light just as it turns from green to yellow. Now, the road is fixed on another hill that rises deeper into the foggy summer night. A few more twists and bends and she is entranced by the routine of the drive to work.
She takes her eyes off the road for a split second to hit the radio, it has cut out. Ahead of her a solitary street lamp glows into the night and through the fog illuminating a change in the scenery. A change to the road. It quivers and rises as her truck passes under the lamp. The road has blended with an otherworldly entity. And the lamp reveals the entrance into that entity, it forms a tunnel. She doesn’t notice the change because she is preoccupied. Even if she was paying attention she wouldn’t believe her eyes.
The road has become a tongue and the street light is the uvula of an entity that doesn’t call this world home. It is an intruder and Renee has returned the favor, unaware.

 

Two.

A bright light shines through the windshield, washing Renee’s face and waking her mind from a slumber she doesn’t recall entering. Yawn and stretch. “Oh fuck! I missed work.” She shuffles around for her phone but it’s gone. It’s not in her pocket. Quickly she unbuckles her seatbelt and leaps out of the truck, searching under the seat and around the truck.
The ground feels softer than it should. She looks toward her feet and almost falls backward. “Sand. What the—”
The truck is neatly nestled in a small sand dune. One of many that she can see. The view is brilliant. The urge to panic is knocked away by bewilderment. Sand rises and falls and glides and glitters under a somber blue sky with a falling sun. The light is quietly bright, the kind that speaks of evening to her mind. Morning sunlight is often too loud and inviting. This light, early evening light, is more of a soothing light that lets you go about your business. The morning sun is one that makes demands. Often, the demands are awful.
*How can anyone say life is awful when there are views like this?* She shuts her eyes gently and inhales deeply. Letting the calm take hold of her. There’s no use for panic.
She scans the land, looking for some landmark, a place to go. The question of how she arrived here doesn’t cross her mind, it might later but now she’s too enchanted by the view to care about what has happened. She’s locked in on what’s about to happen.
Quickly, she kicks her sneakers off and tosses them in the bed of the truck. The sand is delightful between her toes. It’s warm and fine, not coarse. After a few steps toward the horizon, away from the truck, she reconsiders leaving her sneakers and turns back to scoop them up. Her pointer finger rests in the left and her middle finger holds the right. She tells herself, okay and suddenly a loud crash seems to float through the air toward her. She wonders if it’s possible for someone to throw sound because that’s what it is like. Seconds later, another crash. It’s not thunder, she knows that much. It’s something… else.
The truck begins to shake and the ground rumbles with it. The sand dunes are shifting around her. Renee tumbles backward and gasps as her truck is swallowed by the sand.
The sun sets. Renee looks toward the light source and sees it’s not setting, it’s being hidden. A mountain is forming between her and the sun. The desert goes dark. The mountain is enormous and she knows it’s impossible to climb. She has no desire to try but she’s not quite sure how she knows or why she feels this way. It’s just something that is not meant to be conquered. It’s not sinister, though it is the source of the crashing pulses. She isn’t sure how she knows that either.
She wonders if it is trying to speak to her.
The outline of the mountain is beautifully illuminated by the falling sun. She turns around quickly realizing what it is trying to convey—within the clutch of darkness is where she should be focusing. Darkness hides a lot. The light isn’t an answer to her query but a distraction.
She looks away from the mountain, squints her eyes and finally is able to see. There is enough light beaming around the mountain to show her that the desert does have an ending. The horizon is shaded like the space between the two pages of an open book. The spine holds it all together. The horizon isn’t where the sky ends and the land begins. It’s where two ideas fold into each other.
She sees and is walking toward the truth.
*Land is below your feet and sky is above.* She thinks of this while stepping across the horizon. She has one foot on the sand and one on the sky but the blue sky isn’t really what she thought it was.
The sky is an ocean and the sun has fallen behind the solid ground. It shines through the cracks and the crevices. Gravity follows her like a stray dog. She looks back, gazing on the flaws of the solid ground, remembering fondly nights spent staring up at the stars.
“I’m never going to look at the sky the same,” she says with a smile, wiggling her toes in the shallow water.

 

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2017 in review – I love TV and Sense8 and the Wachowski’s

Over the last few years, I’ve really noticed a shift in my habits and hobbies, I guess you’d call it. Growing up I loved movies and I’d say I still do but there’s a different kind of relationship now. And I’ve begun to understand that my relationship with film/cinema isn’t the same as a lot of the more hardcore movie people. I have no connection, no romantic feelings about going to a theater. The memories that stand out the most aren’t pleasant and the movies I love the most are ones I never saw in theaters. But I have vivid memories of TV shows, and over the past decade I’ve really formed lasting emotional connections to TV shows, in a way that film has never ever come close to. It’s probably been more than ten years at this point but decade just feels good.
Late 2005, I have this foggy memory (as most of them from then are) of staying up all night, bloodshot eyes and no desire to face the inside of my eyelids and so channel surfing seemed fine at the time. It was just before sunrise and I got lost in this scene upon a rooftop, it was raining and they were dirty and bloody. I wrote it off and almost changed the channel because it seemed like a soap opera but in that moment I understood that drama was important. It was a rerun of an early episode of Angel and I don’t think I’ve been the same since then. They aired the reruns in order, two by two and I watched the entirety of Angel twice over before seeking out Buffy.
Just for the record, Wesley’s journey from season 3 of Buffy all the way into the end of Angel is the finest character arc. It’s the benchmark.
I could write here about staying up late and learning how to “function” on five hours of sleep when I discovered Lost in 2007. Or the late night I found Hannibal on TV, I caught the end of the pilot and how I hated myself for writing that one off as well.
Wait, I just found the pattern. Revelations happen late at night for me and I’ve spent the last ten years or so working in those hours.

Since Fringe ended, TV for me hasn’t been the same. My heart remains broken over the cancellations of things like Terminator and Caprica and Hannibal and it just seems there isn’t as much to get really invested in. I have to make it an effort to not rewatch Lost every year. I think I’m close to ten times that I’ve watched it all. I stopped counting. The show I rewatch every year now is Mr. Robot. I have a full fledged review of the latest season forthcoming so I won’t waste time here about that one (spoiler – season 3 is hot fucking fire). Actually, I do watch The Expanse over as well, it’s almost time again for that!
As for 2017 specifically, I’d like to talk about two shows that actually are both Netflix originals. First being the life changing and utterly beautiful SENSE8.
I would follow the Wachowski’s anywhere. I’d fucking storm the gates of hell with them.

>>Shit is about to get real so if you want, now is the time to turn back, X out the page in your browser.<<

Still with me? Cool.
Sense8 is perfect and by perfect I mean it’s a flawed masterpiece made by perfectly flawed humans for every other perfectly flawed person to ever walk the Earth. The first season I loved but I understand it’s not for everyone, I get it. They were figuring it out, we all were. Season 2 is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
UNLIKE ANYTHING I’VE EVER SEEN.
I can say and I’m going to say that it’s because of the Wachowski’s that I write stories, I mean not solely but whatever. And I can also say that it’s because of the Wachowski’s that I’m happier in the skin I reside in. It’s because of them I want to write stories for all people, stories about people that don’t look like me.
Every single episode of season 2 of Sense8 has everything you could ever want. Somehow they managed to craft those episodes in a way that allows a huge emotional victory and often a devastating twist or loss. I was cheering and crying and all sorts of things every single episode. My favorite is Lito, his journey has been fantastic to watch, all the highs and lows are incredible. The show is a gift. I’ve gotten so much from it. Season 2 is everything I could ever ask for. It’s feel good TV with a healthy dose of intrigue and sci-fi.
And it’s almost similar to Firefly in how terrible Netflix has treated it. They waited forever to make a decision on renewing it after the first season. And next to no time to cancel it after season 2 aired. It’s almost like they WANTED to kill it on the first day of Pride Month.
But they can’t take the show from me. It’s part of who I am.
And I am not alone.

It might be like going from breathing fire to building igloos but I don’t care. The other show that made a big impact in 2017 was The Punisher. Before this one dropped, I had about zero faith in the Marvel TV landscape. The Defenders was okay. It was about three hours too long and like I don’t like the guy playing Luke at all. I was ready to be super bummed about my boy Frank being dealt the short stick but NOPE. It exceeded even my wildest dreams.
The acting is on a level I didn’t expect and I didn’t ever expect to be in tune with it as much as I was. While watching I was locked in and actually “fell for” story twists I don’t think I would have otherwise. Because typically I’m pretty cynical about those type of things.
I think I first fell in love with the Punisher years ago because he was an adult that was allowed to unleash his rage and as a kid I had a lot of trouble with anger and Frank Castle sort of took some of it from me. As an adult, I find it all ridiculous and I’m so glad that they took the character and story as seriously as they did. Jon Bernthal is incredible. So much so that I kinda feel bad for hating Shane on The Walking Dead.

Other highlights of my TV watching life in 2017:
*The entire season one of Mindhunter. Watching this with Aleks was especially entertaining because we don’t really get a chance to watch more serious things and being able to see her really dive into something that challenged and satisfied her intellectually was a complete joy.
*Season 2 of The Leftovers is brilliant. Skip season 1 and just watch season 2. Seriously, do it. If you really dig it then maybe go back or just press onward. I have heard plenty of people just watched season 2 and 3 and had limited difficulties. Season 3 is on my to do list but the timing has to be right.
*I can’t remember if I started it in 2016 or 2017 but I know I finished it in 2017; Person of Interest is great fun. I’d say it’s worth watching just for Amy Acker but I could say that about anything with her. She’s incredible (they better give her something real to do on The Gifted, not just worried mom)
*If you’re not watching Speechless you’re missing out on so much happiness.
*Lastly, I’m so fucking stoked that Sterling K Brown is getting so much recognition these days. I’ve been hoping for good things for him for years and it’s happening. In the biggest way.

This has been long but I’m not apologizing, every post won’t be this long. I just really love TV.
Thank you for reading, if you’re reading this.

2017 in review – my favorites in film

In a year over stuffed with big blockbusters that became huge hits and also quite a few that bombed harder than anyone could have predicted, it’s very easy to get lost in that sea. I’m sure there’s little movies that I’ve missed, the truth is I feel I’ve really waned on movies. It might sound odd but often I feel it’s an investment I don’t get much return on. Especially these days when film-makers are lingering around 3 hour runtimes and mostly it feels like they just keep hitting snooze on their alarm clocks.
Everyone raves about Wonder Woman and that’s great, I enjoyed it for the most part and I totally get what everyone was grabbing onto but it was too long. It’s over an hour before something wonderful happens. One could argue, that the movie doesn’t really start until then… when the robes come off and she crosses No Man’s Land. It took me two days to watch the movie, that doesn’t equal a great movie to me.
I thoroughly enjoyed Alien Covenant even though the twist ending went the wrong way, he should have been turned instead of replaced. All of the signs were there, they told you the swap would happen, it would have been a lot better if the audience is like “he swapped with—” but then at the last second pull the rug out.
Similarly, Logan and Get Out were worthy of the hype and sure plenty of room for nitpicking there but the emotional weight of both eclipse any issues. I’m not sure anything outshined the impact of Logan, for those of us who’ve been following along all this time. And the beginning of Get Out before you are let in on the thing is the best suspense and anxiety I’ve ever experienced in film.
The reasons I feel I’ve fallen out of love with movies, is something I unpack a little in the following post about TV but before that, let’s talk about my favorite movie of 2017!

What Happened to Monday

It’s a Netflix original film, starring Noomi Rapace and Willem Dafoe (I’m not sure why they paid him when his role literally could have been filled by anyone— and that’s my one nitpick out of the way). This is a dystopian sci-fi action romp with more than it’s fair share of flair and fun. Most of the dystopian sci-fi genre is dark and dour and fucking mind bleachingly sad, I felt only a hint of sadness in this one. There’s some fairly dark elements about the terrible future but that’s not the focus of the movie. The focus is Noomi Rapace and how much she rules.
It’s just plain fun. Too often popcorn movies try too hard to be something else, something more. This one felt like someone saying “hey I want to have a good time, you wanna have a good time with me? Okay let’s go!”
There’s this really fantastic fight scene about half way through that puts a lot of bigger films to shame.
Also Noomi Rapace rules. Wait, did I say that already?

Other highlights include:
**Mark Ruffalo Hulk-smashing all through Thor Ragnarok. He’s a gift. Thanks, Joss.
**Seeing IT in that tiny theater with the sound allllllllllllll the way up with Aleks (we also saw Thor together cuz she rules, yes more than Noomi)
**Tom Hiddleston’s Metal Gear moment in Kong: Skull Island (gas mask and green mist, he absolutely should play Gray Fox)
**Neill Blomkamp’s OATS STUDIOS short films
**I haven’t seen it yet but Blade Runner 2049 looks incredible. Though it might take me a week to watch it.
**The Infinity War trailer.
**Last but never ever least, Keanu Reeves slaying everyone in John Wick 2. If I ever write a movie, I’m sure that I’ll write a part just for Keanu Reeves because he’s fucking Keanu Reeves. His movies stay with me while everyone else’s seem to leave.

And we’re out of time, don’t say you missed the rhyme.
Next up we have TV, hope you come back to see me.

This is the 2018 I am making…

It’s officially one week into the new year, and yeah I’m still reflecting on the past year but I wanted to stop for a minute and share some of what 2018 looks like for me. If you’ve been following along at all, you know that I have a novel in the works and whether you know it or not I had planned to release it in May 2018. Well that isn’t going to work anymore.
Over last summer I hammered away at a 2nd draft that while writing it, I was I immensely proud of, and I am still proud of it but also… it sucks. Except it doesn’t. I see writers saying that a lot but it’s not true. Because I can see how it can be better, I can see how I can make it better. It doesn’t suck, it just needs work. A lot more work than I thought it would need when I was writing it so I’ve pulled the throttle back on my plans. You see, my original plan was for this book to be off with an editor now and I’d be knee deep in writing the sequel. That doesn’t work because if I had started work on the sequel based off of the 2nd draft of the first book then I’d not only have to change one book but two.
Perhaps the biggest factor is money. In order to present this thing properly and professionally I need much more money than I can afford at the moment and in the foreseeable future. The priority here is getting my fiancée into the country, which costs a small fortune— more than I plan to spend of the initial release of the book (to put it into perspective) but it’s looking to be more like a blessing. This being my first novel I’m still learning and rewriting this thing is a learning process because it’s not at all the same as editing a short story. If the May release window was still possible then I think I may have rushed everything together just to meet that date. I don’t have to release it then. What I have to do is be smarter about money and work on putting out the best novel I can.
I do think I can still release it in 2018 and that’s where the big goals of the year come in. My plans for January are pretty busy. Lightspeed Magazine opens for submissions next month and so I have about a month to get this short story done (if you would be interesting in beta reading, let me know) the idea is to sell a short story or two to help fund the book launch. That makes more sense to me than begging for money and I don’t really have time to run a Patreon community or something similar.
Speaking of time, if there’s one thing that sort of fits a New Year’s Resolution, it’s time management. I suck at it so much and need to get better, I think this busy year will probably help me quite a bit.
To put it all in nice list, here are my 2018 goals(in no particular order):
**Finish new sci-fi short and begin submitting it
**Continue writing and working on novel
**Be more consistent on the blog
**Continue the application process to bring fiancée into the country
**Travel across the world, collect fiancée and bring her home
**GET MARRIED
**Be happily married
**Switch shifts at work
I was going to put a lot of those things as one bullet point but I wanted to illustrate how big it all is. To put it into terms that are easily understandable, it’s like having three full time jobs.
Similarly to how I felt like a “real” writer last year while I was collecting rejection letters, all of this makes me feel like a true adult. Rather than a pretend one. It’s all exciting and terrifying and overwhelming and so many things, as soon as I focus on one I’m feeling another and then another and it’s like a finger spinning a globe, scraping across all of the countries in a flash.
Here’s to a BIG year!

As always, thank you for reading.

2017 in review – my favorite albums part 2

If you missed part 1 – click here!

This whole list is not in any particular order, except for maybe the last one on here is last for a reason. But this half of the list is seemingly bigger, with meatier releases but that could just be a psychological thing going on in my own head. Anyway here it is:

Elder – – Reflections of a Floating World

This was special because I wrote most of the first draft of my forthcoming novel to their last release, Lore, and here we are two years later and I’ve gone back to that novel with new Elder to listen to. I described this one to a friend as taking the scenic route versus Lore which is more like taking the highway. There’s more room for reflecting here (get it?) and it seems a lot bigger. Though, as I write this, I’m not sure which one I like more. Of course they have more albums, it’s just easy to compare the two most recent.
This is one that I think the back end of the album is much stronger than the first half. Mostly because I think the first track goes on too long. I’m clearly still poring over this one, even after months of steady listening. I can’t think of a stronger compliment to give to a piece of music.

The Contortionist – – Clairvoyant

One of the surprises of the year for me. Years ago, I had checked out their previous release because someone had compared them to Periphery but no, not my thing. Way too much deathcore going on and so I wasn’t really paying attention this one. I think I was bored when I tried this new one, there wasn’t anything new in my ears for a bit and I didn’t feel like getting lost in Bandcamp. I’m really glad I did. This is probably the finest prog album I’ve heard all year. The deathcore sound is all but gone. It’s an incredible album, stunning start to finish. And it seems to be endlessly listenable. This one has only been out for a couple months now so it’s hard to really put it up with other things. I’m sure I’ve already got twenty or so listens in. It’s so good. Especially “Absolve” and “Relapse”, I could listen to those forever. Very pleasing.
Another one that’s great to really listen to and obsess and scrutinize every detail or just put it on and let it float.
We all float down here.

Ed Sheeran – – divide

I wasn’t expecting to like this as much I do. Mostly it’s that itchy anti-mainstream voice in the back of my mind, it’s one monkey on my back I haven’t been able to fully dispose of. This album has one of my favorite and most memorable album openers I’ve heard all year. Put the fire up front, don’t make people wait.
I didn’t get around to listening to this until late October, when I was in Macedonia with my fiancée. By the power of music and the human mind, it’s permanently tied to her (like I am) and every time I hear “Galway Girl” I see her and hear her dancing and humming as she leaned over the table to move her Monopoly piece.
And after listening to it on laptop speakers for a couple weeks, I listened with my Klipsch earbuds and whoa, it’s like a different album. There is so much going on in these songs, it’s exceptional. The hype is real.

Mick Gordon – -Prey OST

I played the demo of Prey and loved it and there’s one song that plays when things really go through the roof, action-wise and that made me check out the soundtrack. It’s incredible and easily my favorite music to write to. Whenever I needed a boost, whether it be of inspiration or just a word count boost, I’d put this on (if I wasn’t already listening to it) and I’d almost always surpass where I was looking to be. It’s short but oh so sweet.
I’m worried about playing the game now because I’ve written to this so much.

Linkin Park – – One More Light

If there’s one thing I’ve learned to count on, it’s that Linkin Park will stretch and bend expectations and I’ve come to love that. I especially loved on this cycle that they trolled the fans that want them to go back to their early sound by releasing songs called “Heavy” and “Battle Symphony”, and I confess I didn’t like them much on their own. But putting them in context of the album, yeah I enjoy them much more. The album as a whole is much simpler listening experience, it’s free of the bells and whistles and other add-ons. And within that realm, they really shine. “Sharp Edges” if you listen to only one song from this, make it that one. I fucking love it so much. It’s hard not to cry and that’s not because… but because of the song.
When I finished listening to this for the first time, I immediately felt that excitement of “I can’t wait to hear what they do next.” And now, there’s so many other thoughts that have all but destroyed that one. For most of the month of June, I was knee deep in the 2nd draft of my novel and most mornings on the way home from work, I’d listen to Hybrid Theory because few things inspire me on the level that that album does. And after work, often it’s hard to get my butt to do anything but doze off. It’s a symptom of working in the middle of the night, the body wants to sleep at night, often it can feel like I’m trying to paint the sky red with a paintbrush. And so when July 20th came along, everything came to screeching halt. It’s difficult, still, to get my head around it all and I know that I’ll be thinking and most likely writing more about how it has and will affect me. Especially when it comes to the way that particular day went for me. There’s still so much to unpack.

Thank you for reading.

Next in my 2017 in review series is about movies, which came out a bit differently than I expected. I set out to write a review for one movie and instead I review my movie viewing experiences and opinions of the past year. It’s all encompassing. Look for it in a few days!

2017 in review – my favorite albums part 1

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my favorite things of 2017. I’m starting with things that released in the calendar year, there will be categories that are devoid of new releases. This is the first half of my favorite albums, the second half will have more recognizable names but for the most part I don’t partake in a lot of massively known music. I spend a lot of time dredging through Bandcamp.com searching through tags and I’ve found some really exceptional things there. Some made this list:

Circa Survive – – The Amulet

Their last, Descensus, was fantastic, arguably their finest effort to date and knowing that, it was a pretty safe bet The Amulet would pale in comparison. After such a high there’s usually a slump but apparently no one told these guys. The Amulet is enchanting and easily their most addictive collection of songs. I especially love the cohesion here. This isn’t a collection of songs, this is a well crafted 43 minutes of sonic love. It’s so well put together that at first glance and many subsequent listens, it seems to have an underlying story- – it doesn’t. Though that didn’t stop me from writing my own (check back next year for that).
If I had to pick one album to represent 2017 it would be this one.

OHHMS – – The Fool

This one I was eagerly anticipating, having loved their EP Cold and then the track list was released, revealing a concept around Tarot cards. Tell me, what’s not to love already? While Cold was two long soundscapes, The Fool is a driving force which I wasn’t expecting. The songs are still long but there’s more variety here, more intention, much like how every turn and reveal of a Tarot card is different, each song here varies. The short intro track eases you in, the suspense builds before slamming that first card (song) down providing plenty of reason to, at the very least, nod along. I really like how right when I thought I understood what was happening and what to expect, the fourth track comes as lovely curveball. Oh, and that closer? So good, so satisfying.
Can’t wait to see what the future holds for these guys. A truly stunning debut full-length.

Envy on the Coast – – Ritual

What a surprise this was. I had come to terms with the idea that I’d never hear new material from these guys again. It’s a short EP but it’s perfect much like their two full-lengths. Endlessly enjoyable. Few things are this much fun. And the shoegaze-y closing track is fucking incredible. More of this, please and thank you.

Outrun the Sunlight – – Red Bird

This is one of my favorites to write to, it’s great to focus on or to let float into the background. For fans of Pelican and the like. I find it much more engrossing and interesting than their previous release. Great to unwind to, whether it be with headphones or just filling the air around you as you read or study or what have you.

I, the Mighty – – Where the Mind Wants to Go / Where You Let It Go

I’ve been following these guys for a few years and there’s always been a feeling I’ve had about them. Each release there’s massive moments of greatness and I’ve enjoyed each one but there’s always been a sneaky, lurking feeling like they are so close they can see it. I can feel it and I can see it too. We are all so close. When this one came out, I let it lie because I was worried that they’d never get to the point I want them to reach. The point that they have been so damn close to…
and then I listened to it:
Wow. This album exceeds my expectations. It’s a drug I can’t let go of, though I’d really appreciate it if the world around me would stop intruding right when “Symphony of Skin” comes on. These guys have outdone themselves. This completes what feels like a trilogy to me. Satori was the introduction of a lot of ideas and sounds and Connector took everything a little further while also experimenting with new ideas and now, this one puts a cap on it all. They’ve mastered these sounds and ideas. Watching these guys grow and these releases flow outward has been incredible. “Where the Mind Wants to Go” has one of the smartest choruses I’ve heard this year. I could go on and on but I’ll just stop now.

Thank you for reading! I hope you found something new to listen to. Come back in a few days for part 2.

My Christmas Spy

Christmas is tough, it changed out from under me. My parents always went above and beyond, not only the call of duty but their means for Christmas. I remember asking my father when I was quite small, how Santa could get up the chimney when there was this avalanche of presents that engulfed not only the fire place but most of the large tree in our living room. He just smiled and ruffled my hair. It was always jaw dropping, because it had to be, my parents loved seeing the looks we, my siblings and I, had when we first were allowed up the stairs on Christmas morning. While they loved the looks on our faces and my brother loved the seemingly endless stacks of pancakes my mother made and my sister loved all of it (she’s excitable, in general). I loved the hunt for my Christmas Spy.

Every Christmas Eve, we’d gather up carrots and cookies to put out for Santa and the biggest glass of milk, he always brought us the best things so we had to treat him and his crew right. Once the little table was all set and we put our  notes to Santa up, I’d ask my Christmas Spy, Blue Bear, where the best spot would be. I don’t know what started this or how I came up with it but it was the ONE time I’d let him out of my sight. Blue Bear was my teddy bear, it wasn’t until I was older that I realized I had no memory of him being blue. I took him everywhere and did everything with him, he was faded and dirty and he probably stank but he smelled and looked like Blue Bear to me. My best pals were him and my other main stuffed animal, Paws, who was a little brown pup. I had matching little bracelets for them and me, they were our communicators so if we ever got separated we could still be in contact, like when I’d leave for school I’d tell them they could reach me anytime. And so once a year Blue Bear would go on his special mission, and with his wrist band he was going to communicate back to us if anything happened.

Every year I’d find a new place in the living room for him to sit and see what Santa was up to. I needed to know. I needed to know why he didn’t ever finish the cookies. I needed to catch just a glimpse of him through my friend’s eyes. Most of all, I needed to know how he went back up the chimney after blocking it with presents. I never learned any of those things. I got something better.

While my brother would pester mom about pancakes and my sister would be loud about whatever she was being loud about, I’d be looking for Blue Bear because he was never where I left him. Santa always hid him.

One year we got this huge set of cardboard blocks and they were built into a castle-like structure in front of the TV, I think Luke, our golden retriever, knocked into it by accident and BLUE BEAR!! Are you okay, buddy? He was and I was, too.

Every year it went the same way, we’d go upstairs, coax mom and dad out of their bed so we could be granted access to see the Christmas sights. We’d all open our stockings, I’d go back to hunting for Blue Bear if I couldn’t find him, alternating between looking and talking to my wrist where the bracelet communicator was. They were cloth bracelets that fastened with a buckle, colored a light green with orange embroidered patterns . I thought it was the coolest fucking accessory and I couldn’t believe I found three of them at a yard sale, just the right amount! How could anyone want to get rid of something so cool?

After the stockings, everyone would go off doing their own thing for a little as we waited for grandma to arrive. I’d stand at the front window, waiting, counting every second because Christmas didn’t start until grandma pulled into the driveway. Then it was real, then it was true– she was everything.

I know she heard me before she came up the steps and she would always try to top my excitement. Once she was settled, she’d sit down and ask me about Blue Bear because she was invested too. He was also her Christmas Spy. There was one year that I couldn’t find him and I was worried that Santa finally had enough of the game and took him prisoner. While my parents pushed it off with “he’ll turn up,” grandma took it a step further and told me that I’m getting older so Santa’s gotta take it up a level every time or else it’s no fun.

Hours later as we dug through that year’s avalanche of gifts, Blue Bear was found wrapped up under the tree just like any other present, with a little rip in the paper over his eye so he could still see what was going on. Santa respected the mission. Nothing else that year compared to finding him and seeing that smile on grandma’s face as she watched me hug my friend.

I don’t remember if he spied for me year the grandma passed away. I don’t really remember much of that Christmas besides it wasn’t Christmas without her. Nothing made sense after she left, that’s how it was described to me: “Grandma left to be with Jesus.” Which made no sense because if she left to be with Jesus she would have said so. She didn’t say anything. She was gone and we all had to go clean out her house. But that house wasn’t the same either. It was frightening. It didn’t have any of the magic that I had felt every time I’d be there previously. It was shocking for me to realize how much I depended on that magic.

When my father sat me down to inform me that all the holiday mascots (that’s what they are, right?) were untrue, I don’t remember feeling much of anything. The magic was already dead. The magic of Jesus took the magic of Santa and everyone when he took my grandma away from me to live in the fairy-tale land.

Christmas still isn’t Christmas.