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.

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.

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.

This Heart Is A Gunshot Wound

The last time I stood there,
The rain was falling like my own tears
This is the closest I’ll ever be to you
This is the closest that I will ever be to you
After a few minutes I couldn’t tell my tears from raindrops
The tears shed for our common hurt
The raindrops fell for us that day
and that was the first time in months my mind was quiet
All the questions stopped spinning around my head
Though today they still remain
and I know they will always be there
It’s a result of the choice you made over three decades ago
and like that windshield my mind will never be cleaned

After the war, the one the history books remember,
We both know there were other wars that you fought
You didn’t come back the same
No, nothing was ever the same
When the guns and cannons ceased fire, others began firing
I wonder if they said it to your face
The way similar people said it mine
Did you believe what they had to say?
All I know is they took you and locked you away
I hope it wasn’t the way I imagine it to be
and I wish I could save you from that place
The way I was saved from a similar place
I hate the thought of them feeding you pills
Keeping that beautiful mind frozen in place
I wish I knew how you got out of there…

They say that birds of a feather flock together
Are you the reason I always thought I’d die at 25?
I’ve read the words that you wrote
and I’ve read the ones that Grandma Bea wrote
I wish I could travel back in time
and show you what she wrote about you, shortly before…
She wanted to hear from you, she loved talking to you on the phone
What were you doing those last few years?
Did you buy the gun specifically to end everything?
Was your sister’s wedding too much to bear
because of the girl you wrote about?
How long did you contemplate the choice before you pulled the trigger?

I am the nephew you probably never thought you’d have
and I’m already older than you allowed yourself to be
Your middle name is my first name
and I’m sure that I’m the only one who has visited you in years
Your brother and sisters continue to call you crazy
and I think it makes it easier for them
I’m sure you felt unloved but trust me that isn’t true
In our family, it’s frowned upon to be honest and show any real emotion
Which is probably why we both turned to writing it all down

I love you Uncle Brian but you stole from me
You are but you really could have been my favorite uncle
and you threw away the chance to find the joy that was waiting for you
I can’t begin to describe how my niece’s beautiful blue eyes make me feel
and she’s beginning to fumble around with my name
You missed out on all of that with me
You missed out on all of me
and I missed out on all of you
My mother still gets uneasy around Thanksgiving
Your mother didn’t cook the year you killed yourself
My mother tried to and I think that’s why she doesn’t like to cook
Over 30 years later and the hurt remains
I’m sorry it had to be this way
I’d give just about anything to talk to you and get to know you
You’re the reason I don’t completely curse this blood in my veins
If there is one person that I would get along with
and actually want to be around, it would be you

Years ago when I was much younger, your mother lit up when I asked about you
Even with all the hurt you caused her, she chose to remember you fondly
The choice you made, that bullet, it was a mistake
and no matter how much anyone wants to, it can’t be taken back
I do hope you found peace
but at the same time I want you to know the hurt you left behind
That bullet didn’t just put a hole in your head
It tore through every single person that cared for you
You put it in yourself and now it’s lodged in all of us
and it can’t be removed, it will always be inside of us

There are multiple holes here
I just want the complete story
I just want to know you
Like the way it feels that you know me
Are you really watching over me?

Though the road will be difficult, I believe I can sew the seams of my hopes and dreams

My mind is always focused on a distant land
It’s both a metaphoric escape from the bland
and an actual place on this planet
I wish I there was a way to plan it
but the truth is it is all uncertain
I wish it could be a blanket instead of a curtain

It’s not about what is deserved
So many lines are always getting blurred
I dream of a life that could be earned
and on this path I find there’s much to be learned
I’m such a fragile person and oh so lazy
and I know most would just call me crazy
but that word is used when understanding is lost
Because it takes effort and it’s too steep of a cost
For most of the talking heads I see around me
but it’s not difficult to see what has found me
She’d disagree but she is incredible
and I intend to make it all more than a fable
because it absolutely is more than that
I swear I am learning from the times I’ve fallen flat

Often I find my head in the clouds
Sometimes the voices ring out so loud
and they turn things dark and dreary
When I know I can focus on thinking clearly
The truth is I let too much inside
and every time I feel like I die
A little bit more than the last
but it brightens just as fast
There is strength that is all mine
but often it is hard to find
Difficult to realize the truth of it all
Someone tell me why is it so easy to fall?
I’ve spent so much of my life chasing the easy way
but lately I find myself working towards a better day

The other distant land is this right here
The words you’re reading, the ones I fear
that will never reach the point I want them to
but I’m not sure there’s any other things I could do
I want to make a big splash and earn this dream
but my current life dims the light I want to beam
It’s not so easy balancing everything I want to balance
I get lost in my head, drowning in my own trance
Dealing can be difficult and draining
Too many people are extremely straining
The way I approach things needs to be rectified
and changed so I can bring out what is inside