Halfway through 2018!

Earlier this year I posted my goals for the year, here they are again:
**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

Soon after posting this list it changed, such is the way I suppose. I realized quick that the short story was really flawed and wasn’t working. I could make it work but seeing as I’m not a huge fan of short stories, I felt fake putting so much into writing something I don’t enjoy. I do like writing them but reading them is often a chore. I probably just haven’t found the right collection or writer. So that story is safely tucked away until I decide it’s time to revisit. There is an idea worth revisiting there, character is the problem.
I finished the third draft of my first novel on June 10th 2018. I believe I can complete the thing by the end of the year and be querying agents before 2019. I’m not backtracking with it again by rewriting from the jump like I have before. The foundation is set, time to go into the smaller details.
As far as the blog is concerned, I’ve been more active than I think I have in a long time. Not sure I’m consistent, more like haphazardly posting things. It might be an accidental pattern. The problem is when I get sucked into a draft, I don’t think about the blog.
The rest of the above bullet-points are all under one umbrella, I just didn’t want to have one bullet-point because it’s far from one item. The things I have listed above don’t even begin to cover it. Her and I have decided to wait until the spring because getting married in the winter sounds like a fucking drag (that’s an understatement). The first stage of the paperwork should be finalized somewhere around September and by then we should have more of a timetable/plan for the rest of the things that feed into us finally being together for real. In a nutshell, I’m getting married next year!
Oh and the job, um… hopefully next year for that as well. I’m waiting on that as well.

This is the halfway point of the year and I think I’m doing okay with it all. There’s always room for improvement. I’ve written somewhere around 80,000 words so far this year. At the end of May, I did try to go without a “zero day”, as in words written. I didn’t quite make it a full month so new goal is to start with July 1st and try to go the rest of the year without a zero day. It does seem to inspire me, trouble is when there isn’t a focus on a project I get distracted. Not that I’m feeling guilty. The focus remains on the novel and I think I did need a break.
Let’s break down my new goals:
**No more Zero Days!
**Finish novel by year’s end and…
**Begin querying agents
**Blog more consistently
**Revisit, revise and release A CIRCLE OF TEMPORARIES

That last one is a bonus. I think it’s possible but I’m not sure exactly how much work that needs, seeing as I have yet to examine it as a whole. That’s slated for next month, after I do another pass of the novel before sending it off to be read by some people.
I am experimenting with scheduling things and so far so good. It’s just a little strange working on secondary projects. Especially since I feel so close with the big one and I have big plans for it. Hopefully I’ll be able to share some of that sooner rather than later.

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.

 

It’s like a whirlwind in my head

I’ve wanted to write a book since I read Jurassic Park in the fourth grade. It was the thing that replaced the teddy bear (His name was Blue Bear) I took everywhere. I took that ratty little book everywhere I went. Read it four or five times that summer, I remember imaging my name on a book cover and how that made me feel. On my own creative journey, there was something larger that happened to me about five years later.

I know it wasn’t release day but it was a few weeks later. My sister had ballet class and the only way to get my mom to bring me to Strawberries (the precursor to the current FYE) was to tag along. I can vividly remember sitting in the back of my mom’s minivan fighting with that fucking plastic wrap, discman in my lap. I can call back that memory and I often do. I remember being hit by that smell, the new CD smell of:

Linkin Park’s debut Hybrid Theory released October 24th 2000

My sister had ballet class at this ladies house, across the street was this little pond. I am still there, still right in that car looking out at the pond, seeing the moon glisten from above onto the murky water, hearing the first notes of Papercut. (Important records have important memorable opening notes, see Taproot’s Gift)

It’s like a whirlwind in my head.

I didn’t understand what I was feeling for the duration of that album or what it was I was feeling whenever I’d listen to it from that point onward but I learned what it was a few years ago.

It’s a call. Deep inside of me I could feel it but couldn’t put it into words until I was really creating things. Even from that young age of 13 I wanted to make things and make people feel how I felt when I listened to that album. Part of it is about being heard but it’s more than that. For most of my life I’ve felt alone, completely alone and I’ve never really known how to express that. LP showed me I wasn’t alone and I didn’t need to worry about finding the words. In a way, it was like they were saying they have my back. And that’s the other side of it, I don’t just want to make things so people don’t feel alone. I want to make things and make people feel things because I fucking owe it to everyone that has helped me. I owe LP. I owe it to my fourth grade teacher. I owe it to friends and family I’ve lost. Even if it’s just one person. If I can make something that helps just one person then that’s it. I’ve done it. Debt paid.

I remember sitting there listening and feeling weightless. Everything I held onto and didn’t know what to do with was gone. It all lifted away. I was clean. I was real. I wasn’t what was wrong. I was okay.

I had a fairly troubled youth. Some of it was definitely my own doing, my own creation but I know at least early on it was in response to the things I kept inside. Because you learn by example and that was my example. But everything changed for the better, internally, when I found music. I couldn’t say the things that troubled my mind. The music said it for me.

In my teens, I started writing poetry and rap lyrics. Without Linkin Park I don’t think I’d be writing. At least not the way I do. Any time I hear Mike’s voice I get chills. I’m fairly certain there’s an alternate timeline where I’m rapping. Though I know I wouldn’t last long in that life. I’d be like…

This was incredibly hard to write. But not because it’s a sad memory, it’s a memory that stays. I call upon it a lot. When I have a bad writing day or I don’t feel like I’m doing anything. You know, when the doubt really creeps in. I put Linkin Park on. I may be writing prose but I’ve learned from music. I learned about passion and pacing from music.  It will always inspire me.

I remember I had a poster of Chester in my bedroom, it was a pin-up from Hit Parader magazine. And it just so happens, I had one of Chris Cornell next to him. I suppose reunions are usually tear-filled.

 

 

 

“We’re holding onto something that’s invisible there.”

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.