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.

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.

Halfway into 2017

At the beginning of the year, I decided to sit down and write what I wanted to do for the year with my writing. I broke it up in quarters. I’ve compiled a rather chaotic document that has the goals and what I accomplished, month by month. I didn’t know it at the time that the mere act of writing it all down and keeping track would inspire me to EXCEED my goals. I’ve done more writing this year than I have in awhile. A long while. Perhaps ever.

Last year I began thinking more and more about my writing career. A Circle of Temporaries is an experiment and one I learned a lot from (I’m going to write about that once it’s all available for consumption, which is REALLY soon!). I’ve learned about what I’m good at and what I struggle with and I know I’ve grown immensely over the past year. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I want from my writing career and how to best approach it. I have a rough idea of a plan and how to approach it. For example, at the beginning of the year I was sure I was going to revisit a dystopian sci-fi novella that I have in 2nd draft and finish it then look into shopping that around. But then I thought about how I want to launch myself. Do I want to start with that?

The answer is no.

The plan is, without going into too much detail, to release my debut novel next year. Independently. Because it’s mine, I wrote it (am writing it, still) and I want to decide the cover and all the other aspects. In this day, it’s incredibly easy so why not? Creative freedom is priceless.

Before the novel fully shows itself, I hope to have a few other things published. Maybe not in ways I have previously published…

 

Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve been enjoying A Circle of Temporaries. If you’ve yet to dive in, now’s the time: the final pieces are so close! Check it out here.

Five Years in a Flash – 03 Lungs

I love smoking. I’m not sure if I should make that past tense or not because I’m not sure how to feel about it now. I don’t miss it. But I always fucking loved it. Was it the taste of death? I don’t know. Was it how it always kept me on the outside of things? People always look down and cough from 100 feet away. I always took offense to that. After quitting, I understand. Having quit, the smell and everything is so loud and noxious.

Another thing that is very interesting is how easy it is to judge a smoker now that I’ve quit.  It’s something I have to remind myself to hold in and cast away because it’s really easy to say “hey you should quit.” And next to impossible for most people to actually do so.

But at the same time I find it incredibly hard to wrap my head around the difficulty people have quitting when they have reasons to quit—actual motivating reasons like small children.  I know I would have never quit for just the money side of things because why give up something that you like and benefit from to save money?  That’s ridiculous.

Oh, you got hung up on the use of benefit there? I use it loosely there but in a way it is true. The act of smoking is a curious thing because more and more it’s out the outside of acceptable. In Connecticut, there’s like one place you can still smoke inside of.  To smoke is to get away from what you’re doing. They say smoke break but what they mean is life break. You have to physically break away from whatever you’re doing to smoke and that’s nice. Rough day at work? A quick smoke can alleviate a lot of that. For me, I know it was a shield. A lit cigarette can and does keep many people away. I suppose that says a lot about me.

But after giving up drinking, taking better care of myself snowballed. That’s the point. One thing leads to another. And another. Years of hurting myself with another and another and another and I figured out how to help myself with another and another and another.

The biggest thing that helped me quit smoking was when I pulled a muscle between my ribs. It felt more like chest pains than a pulled muscle and since it’s right there between the ribs, every breath is a pain. There’s a poem I wrote during the week of the chest busting pain (Yes, that’s how I described it to the doctor, he didn’t get it and I was sad.  Still am.) that I never published because it was going to be part of the abandoned third poetry collection. I just didn’t feel it necessary to do a third like I did for the first and the second.  But writing that helped me along the way to quitting. There was another poem I wrote that helped. I could list thing after thing but it all comes down to: I wanted to quit.

Too many people make the resolution to quit and by March they are sad and feel terrible about themselves for not sticking to it. The calendar doesn’t care about your false ambitions. If you don’t care then no one else will. But sometimes it helps if someone else does care and you can see yourself through their eyes. Seeing yourself through the eyes of someone that doesn’t mean anything to you doesn’t help. But if there’s someone, hell it could be your dog, that you care about deeply then it should be easy to see through their eyes.  It was and is for me.

It’s easier to hurt yourself when you feel unloved.

I smoked my first cigarette while listening to Gift by Taproot and I listened to the album again when I smoked my last cigarette. It was something the then current drummer, Nick, suggested I do. It was odd. The way my mind travelled with every inhale. Both the first and the last were stale terrible tasting cigarettes.

Some days, I miss it. I don’t miss the smell or the taste, I miss the act. I’m not sure exactly what it is. Maybe it’s just the quiet moment to reflect. Maybe it’s the fidgety nature, my hands want to be doing things—moving and shaking. Maybe it’s just that when things are gone the brain wants to miss them. Maybe it’s just my body missing the chemicals. I don’t think about it too much. Most days I don’t think about smoking or drinking at all. Or anything else I used to do to myself.

Every day I think about Aleks and about writing. It’s a simple life.

And it’s mine.

Five Years in a Flash – 02 Liver

(ICYM the first part – click here)

Not only have I fallen in love but we’ve stayed in love. That’s an important difference. And when someone you love mentions something no matter how small it should be heard and considered. In the autumn of 2012, I was well into the idea of writing a small collection of poetry to release as an ebook. But I needed something, a reason that these poems would exist together. I didn’t realize it would come together the way it did.

From the moment I entered my 20’s, I expected and was waiting for a moment that resonated and made me feel like a man. I was resistant to the idea that it just happened. There’d have to be a catalyst. Like love, man isn’t a word to just throw around—when speaking of manhood, that is.

Towards the end of 2012, two albums came out that greatly influenced my book of poems called My Enveloping Reflection.  Not only that, they influenced and inspired me. Since we’re talking about throwing words around—inspire is another one.

To clarify: inspiration is nonexistent if you do nothing. You can’t say something is inspiring. That would be like dipping your toe in the tub and saying you went swimming. If the inspiration was real you’d do something with it.

The aforementioned two albums are House of Gold and Bones Part 1 by Stone Sour, which features heavily on the idea of manhood and what it means to be/grow into a man, and Spreading my Wings by World Fire Brigade which is Sean Danielson of Smile Empty Soul and Brett Scallions of Fuel singing their fucking asses off. It’s brilliant.  Buy it now.

These things were in my ears heavily (along with the new Taproot) towards the end of the year when around November, Aleks asked about my drinking. I told her, and I really believed it too, that I needed it. I was drinking to fall asleep every day, which can be helpful to an extent and I think it was when I first did it to fall asleep during the day. I work at night so I sleep during the day. But a couple beers quickly advanced to more and more and more until I was at the point that I’d sleep 5 hours and wake up still buzzed (that may be an understatement) and drive an hour to work.

I forget what her exact words were but they were enough to stick into my head and get me to really think about it. Do I need it? The doubt was enough to make me curious if it was all in my head. So December 31st, 2012 I had one beer left in the fridge. I told myself that that was it until I DESPERATELY needed more.

At that point I had already written a few of the poems that would make it into my poetry collection but when January turned I felt a new question burning inside of me. The question of–am I going to quit? Is this it? So I wrote about it. And that poem is in the collection too.

In hindsight, I think drinking was an attempt to stir up some manhood because from an outsider it looks like that’s a requirement. And it was never about getting drunk, I never liked that. I think that the source of my substance abuse is not linked just to drugs or alcohol. But an urge to get away. That’s the only way I describe the feeling I feel when drinking. It’s not about getting drunk and sloppy. It’s about where the bottle can take me. Take me away, take me wherever you want. I just want to go.

I’ve come to this thought over the past week. I’ve been sober since the start of 2013 but last month when I was in Macedonia for Aleks’s birthday I had a couple beers with her. Mostly I was curious if I was “cured” or whatever. But the same urges remain. And the urge to get away is there still. But it’s not a symptom of hating my life because I don’t. It’s similar to wanting to be swept away by a good book. Let me just get away for a second and feel like somebody else. Maybe it’s a screwed up sort of empathy like Will Graham from Red Dragon experiences. I don’t know. I just know the away thing seems the most right of anything I can think of.

I do know and understand that drinking isn’t for me. And instead of pushing my luck, I’m going to stick to that.

I actually prefer being sober, which I found to be immediately surprising since I spent so much of my younger years the opposite. For most of my life I felt out of control of everything which could be a symptom of all the drugs and so when I let sobriety sink in I was floored by how in control I felt.

I’m not giving that away.

Five Years in a Flash – 01 Heart

Time flies. You know it and I know it.

For a couple weeks now, I’ve been thinking about how this month is the 5th anniversary of Taproot’s latest album—The Episodes. Five years. Whoa.

Immediately, I found myself recounting everything that has happened in my life since that day and since I’ve found some success being open and honest online in the past (yes, over the past 5 years) I figured I’d write this and really put all my thoughts together. There’s really a lot.

Five years ago, I was a different person and I can define that person with one sentence. It’s something I made a habit of saying especially when asked about when I would quit smoking.

“I don’t want to prolong this suffering called life.”

I absolutely believed that. I didn’t feel capable of anything of real value and merely existing is exhausting. It was around this time I came into contact with a few people that began to show me what I didn’t want from life. Like really really show me. Which was very important because it all prepared me and let me see, really see, what I wanted.

My girlfriend and I consider September 2012 our anniversary but it was before that. It was the summer that I knew she was different, rather what we were building was different. I had made note of her difference long before the summer broke in.

For most of my life, I was entranced by the idea of love. Everyone is so quick to use that word like it will make something out of nothing (Protip: It doesn’t). I think what I was feeling over those summer months was the arrival of love, real love. But to jump into using that word would have put me in the category of people I never want to be lopped in with.

I’ll never forget saying it for the first time. It just came out. There were moments that week that I had thought about saying it but… overthinking is a plague, man. When the words did touch my lips there were unexpected to both of us. It was September 2014, and I went to visit her. You see, we live on opposite sides of the world.  And yes we’re still a couple. Yes, we are going on five years. FIVE YEARS.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking.

There are marriages that don’t last that long. How can a long distance relationship last that long? An across the world relationship last that long? And I have a theory about that. It’s one word. But it’s a big one, I hope you’re sitting down.

COMMITMENT.

I know. I know. It’s scary and all that. At least you’re in good company, Chandler Bing was scared of commitment too.

So many people see love as the end-all. Like OMG I’M GONNA FALL IN LOVE AND… DONE! But no, it’s not that way. Just because you put a ring on the finger don’t mean its set in stone. Fingers get messy. All kinds of different ways.

To say: ‘I love you’ is a promise. It’s a statement too. But it’s nothing if you don’t put the period at the end of the sentence. If you’re ending it with a question mark, I guess you can’t be faulted for not committing. But in most cases, you put the period at the end, right? That’s the commitment part. The period. To place a period at the end of a statement is to say: ‘I commit to this sentence.’ Without a period, it’s just a really poor collage of words. How is it meant to be taken? Are we alive or just breathing?

Is it a flat-line or a tumble-weed?

What you can’t see from looking at this blog is pile of unfinished, partially developed writing projects that were born over the past year or so.  I’ve read a lot about writing from various sources on the internet.  There are so many people out there helping one another but the problem is most talk/write with such confidence that it’s hard to remember it’s advice.  I suppose that’s just humanity seeping in because most don’t want to be seen as someone who doesn’t know what they are doing and/or talking about.

I have the ability and the knowledge to write fiction and I have flexed that muscle and developed that muscle over the past year.  What I wasn’t expecting is how much I’ve had to learn how I write.  It’s not about learning to write or how this or that works, it’s about how I work.

Ideas are a dime a dozen and an idea is only one piece of the puzzle.  It’s like the punctuation of a sentence, just because there is a period doesn’t mean a sentence came before it.  It could just be a dot or a mole or a pimple.  For example, the story I’m entrenched in now was born from a dream I had at least a year ago.  When I woke I wrote this fractured poem that sat on my hard drive and my mind until it clicked with other components to form a world and a coherent story.  Maybe after it’s out there in the wild I will talk about it more.

It’s exciting how close to finished it is…

A CIRCLE OF TEMPORARIES – Coming Early 2016

 

Excerpt sooner, probably.