The year 7 update – part 2

As December comes around again, it’s time for my annual anniversary update post.  I’ve got a lot to say this year, so I decided to split the usual single post update into two.  The first post went over what I’ve done this past year, and this second post will talk about what I’m planning on doing next year.

So without further ado…

I’ll get directly to the point:  I will no longer be posting content on a schedule after December of this year.

I’ve been writing for seven full years now, and I’ve published over 1450 unique posts to my sites in that time.  I’ve given a lot of thought to what I want to write and how I want to run this site as well:  I’ve written shorter content with a frequent posting schedule, larger content with a slower schedule, and experimented a little in between.  I have published 8 paperbacks in that time frame (counting the first book’s original and re-publication), published 5 ebooks, and I have another book deep in the stages of publishing a paperback.

And all of that has been very exhausting.

Keeping my publishing schedule over the past few years has taken a lot out of me – especially when working on freelance and side projects at the same time.  It’s stifled my ability to learn new skills, carved a swath through my social life, and devoured my free time like a candle lit at both ends.  And after doing some soul-searching, I’ve decided that writing on a schedule is tearing me down more than it’s helping me.  I’ve always been proud of how tightly I’ve stuck to my schedule, and the decision to abandon it has not been an easy one.

So what does that mean for my writing and the site?

  1. I am only suspending my writing SCHEDULE, not my writing entirely.  I will still be writing and posting content to this site, but it will not be every week.
  2. I will be using the extra time I get from not keeping up a schedule to learn some new skills and work on some projects that I’ve been thinking about.  There will be new stuff coming, so keep your eyes peeled.
  3. For those who use Patreon to support me, I have started updating and retooling that campaign and the rewards.  My Patreon will remain up, and those who choose to support me there will get exclusive content and sneak previews of all publicly available content.
  4. I will be moving my audio recordings behind Patreon’s paywall at the $5 level once 2017 begins.  The rest of 2016’s posts will still have audio accompaniments, but it’s too much extra work to continue sharing it for free.  To be clear, I am NOT removing any existing audio from my sites, but I will not be publicly sharing new audio in 2017.
  5. That being said, I will no longer be updating my SoundCloud after this year ends.  Thank you to everyone who has supported me through that site.

Again, the decision to make these changes has not been an easy one to make, but I believe it is the correct one for me right now.

So what won’t be changing in 2017?

  1. I will still be doing open mic nights.  I haven’t been doing them lately because the MC who hosts the ones I usually attend is out on an extended holiday.  I’ll resume my open mic nights at River City and HB Lovedrafts upon her return, and I will keep my eyes peeled for more open mic opportunities in the area.
  2. I will still keep publishing.  I’m not giving up on this 2014 paperback, but it has been very trying.  I also want to publish the 2016 paperback as well as some ebooks next year.
  3. I will keep my eyes and ears open for events in 2017 where I can sell my books.  I don’t want to overbook my schedule, but I would like to do a couple of events this year.

And what will be new in 2017?

  1. MERCH!  Come hell or high water, I want to produce some merchandise for my work this coming year, aside from my books.  My current plans include shirts and mugs, but may include other ideas as I explore my options.
  2. More books.  I’m nearly done with the 2014 book, and I hope to get the 2016 book finished in early 2017.  Following that, I will work on the 5 unpublished ebooks as time allows.

And that’s…about it.  I don’t want to over-commit to too much for 2017, and there’s plenty that I can work on.  And that’s what I still aim to do – work, just in a different way than I have in the past.

Wish me luck.

The year 7 update – part 1

As December comes around again, it’s time for my annual anniversary update post.  I’ve got a lot to say this year, so I’m going to split the usual single post update into two.  The first post will go over what I’ve done this past year, and the second post will talk about what I’m planning on doing next year.

So without further ado…

This year I continued my two-posts-per-week schedule from last year, but all poetry this time (no blog posts or short stories like last year).  I placed a heavy emphasis on audio recordings, and uploaded a recording with every post to my main website, a second post with a recording to Tumblr, and a recording on SoundCloud.  I also reopened my Patreon, and uploaded the poems and recordings to it.

Additionally, I began regular visits to open mic nights in my area beginning in April.  I did two of them nearly every month of spring and summer, with outings tapering off in the fall.  These were mostly at the River City Blues and Darts Club and HB Lovedrafts in Harrisburg, PA, though I believe I was at the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center’s open mic night a time or two as well.

My goal for the year was to to finish republishing my first book, “A (Wise) Man of Two Faces”, using Amazon’s CreateSpace publisher, and publish three new books of my work:  all of my 2014 writing, the 2015 poetry, and the 2015 blog posts.  Unfortunately, I fell short of those goals.  I ran into multiple significant issues with the 2014 book, and have yet to finalize and publish it – though it is close.  I also did not complete any of the ebooks I meant to pair with these releases.  However, I did manage to republish my first book and both of the 2015 books, which I have pictured below.  They are available through CreateSpace and Amazon.

A Wise Man of Two Faces  2015(1) - rhyme  2015(2) - reason

I also went to three local festivals/events as a vendor to sell my books – two in May and one in November.  I was able to rush and get my new paperbacks done in time for the first two festivals, and I was able to bring the streamline my setup by the November event (pictured below).

Armstrong Winery in Halifax, PA (May):
armstrong-winery

Fort Halifax in Halifax, PA (May)
fort-halifax

Upscale Art Sale in Ebenezer, PA (November)
november

On top of all that, I worked on two freelance projects this summer in which I proofread and edited the dialog and script of visual novel-style video games.  I haven’t gotten clearance from my clients to discuss the one project, but I do have it for the second – Invisible Apartment 3, released by Vysoko Anime Production.  I’m including some game images and links below.  You can follow their producer and developer on Twitter at @BunnyJessican.

ia3-1

ia3-5

ia3-4

 

ia3-3

And between all of that, I had a very busy year – so I’m going to end the first part of my yearly update post.  Check back later this week for the second installment – what I’m planning on doing with my writing going forward.

Language study: you vs we

As this year comes to a close, and an election year looms, I’m expecting life and social media to get pretty heated.  And as I listen to the opinions from The Right and The Left, I hear a common thread in the conversation:  they’re always talking about someone else.  The Right talks about The Left, and The Left about The Right.  The chatter on social media reflects that as well.  They’re always telling someone, “You need to change.”

And I think “you” is an interesting concept.  It implies that the problem is entirely external.  It implies that we ourselves are excluded from responsibility for whatever issue.  And in my not-very-humble opinion…

We aren’t excluded.  We are very responsible.

Let’s take politics as an example.  Heck, let’s get specific and take Donald Trump as our example.  Now regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Trump will have to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate.  If that’s your cup of tea, you’re probably riding Cloud 9 right now.  But if you view that unfavorably, you’re likely asking questions like, “How did things get like this?”

And that’s simple to answer – they got like this because we let them.

Regardless of our opinion of him, Trump is not a dark horse candidate.  He didn’t appear out of nowhere – he’s been a media figure for years due to his show “The Apprentice” (which has 15 seasons).  And if you think that being a celebrity doesn’t mean you can win a political campaign, then you weren’t paying attention to when Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger were elected as governors and Ronald Reagan became president.

Trump is a businessman-celebrity who’s spent the past 15 years or more cementing himself as a Brand in American culture.  It’s no wonder that his campaign is doing well right now.  Regardless of the politically incorrect statements he makes, he seems incapable of derailing his campaign.  It all seems like he’s just being more of The Donald.  And the chatter I hear from opponents of Trump is something along the lines of “You (Trump-followers) need to pull your heads out of your asses.”

But it’s not their fault he’s become the political powerhouse he currently is.  It’s our fault – all of our’s.

The poet Shane Koyczan has text in his poem “Shoulders” that I feel articulates the point of all this so perfectly that I dare not try to paraphrase:

We are facing crisis.

We dismiss the truth not because we can’t accept it, but because having to commit ourselves to change is a scary prospect for anybody.

The most alarming part of the statement ’we are facing crisis’

Isn’t the word ’crisis’,

It’s the word ’we’.

Because those two letters take the responsibility away from one and rest it squarely on the shoulders of everybody.

The situation with Donald Trump – or any situation – is not one of the exclusive “you”.  “You”, the others, are not the ones that need to change.  “We” do.  We are the ones who need to change.

We sometimes talk about this world as though we’re not a part of it – as though our actions and decisions have no bearing or influence.  Today I’m telling you:  they do.  They will.  Today I’m calling people out on this:  you, me, us – everyone.

Don’t use the exclusive “you”.  It feels powerful, but it’s not.  It’s fearful and frantic.  It’s peacocking and scapegoating.  It’s doing everything it can to deceive us into thinking that the sources – and therefore the solution – to our problems are others.

Instead, use the inclusive “we”.  This is where the real power lies, because by accepting that we have responsibility for our place and situation, we also acknowledge that we are capable of bringing ourselves here.  And by asserting that, we also have to acknowledge that we have the power to change things – to make them better, if we so desire.

Trump got to where he is because we spent 15 years watching his show on TV.  We spent 15 years supporting him through various means – though both action and inaction.  If he is a monster, he’s one we have made.

But that means it’s within our power to change things.  Even if he becomes one of the final candidates, we can vote for another.  We can protest.  We can rally.  We can call him out on his shit, and let others know.  But we cannot sit back and ignore him and hope he goes away.  It wouldn’t work if this were a romantic relationship, and it won’t work in a political relationship.  We need to stand up and do something about this situation, and we do have the power to make positive changes in ourselves and the world.

We can do the same thing with global warming and climate change.  We can do the same thing with racism, with sexism, with classism, and elitism.  We can do the same with any and every problem we are facing as a people and as a species.

We can do this.  And I want you to repeat that, not just for emphasis and effect, but as a reminder.

We can do this.  We can do this.

One more

“One more.  One more, and then I’ll stop.”

James had been promising himself that for the past two hours, and he kept picking up more work.  He didn’t have a choice really – there was just so much that needed to be done.  But this time – this time – he really would take a break.  He would.

He was so sick of this project.  He’d gotten into this industry to be an innovator, to shake things up and make a different.  In the end though, he felt like he was turning into one more robot on the assembly line working his nine-to-five.  Not that those were his hours, by any stretch.  Even the least of his coworkers probably added ten hours a week to that kind of schedule.  He added more.

And they’d done great things, he couldn’t deny that.  He knew what they did made a difference, but at the same time…it didn’t feel like he was making a difference.  James felt like a zombie – he gave his 110%, and the caught what sleep he could before shambling back to work the next day.  He did what he could to keep himself going, but coffee and caffeine could only do so much.

He was tired.  More than that, he was probably burned out.  How embarrassing…

No!  He shook his head vigorously, trying to shake off his doldrums.  No, he was not going to turn into one of those people who whined about working too much, or too hard.  No!  He could do this.  He was going to do this!

The door opened, and James’ boss Sean walked in with a two-inch stack of papers under his arm.

“James!  How are you doing?  I can’t believe you’re still at it.”

“I’m doing well Sean.  I’m almost finished.  What do you have there with you?”

“Some more revisions.  The bosses want us to fit them into Friday’s release.”  Sean handed the stack to James.

“Sean, it’s…” James stopped and checked his watch.  “It’s 1:32am Wednesday morning.  I don’t think we can fit these into the release at the end of the week.  Wasn’t there a blackout period on revisions that went into effect two weeks ago?”

“Yes, but these are just some last-minute, emergency changes.”

“Sean, we’re barely going to make the release date as is.  How in the world are we supposed to fit in more ’emergency changes’ into it?”

“We’ll have to figure that out.  Consider it a testament to their faith in us and our ability to follow-through.”  Sean smiled.

“Sean…we can’t.  I’m sorry, but we just can’t.”

“Nonsense.  We’ve delivered on tighter schedules in the past.  And you’re our best and brightest – I have absolute faith you’ll be able to produce another miracle with this project.”

James leafed through the stack that Sean had delivered.  These weren’t last-minute, emergency changes – several of them would require that they rework sections of the project that had already been completed.  A couple of them even invalidated the work he’d done tonight.

“Sean…” James began.

“Now, now,” Sean tsked.  “You’d best get to work.  I’ll see you in the morning James,” Sean said, moving towards the door.

That was it.  That was IT.  He’d had enough.  James stood up.

“Sean, I’m need to take a break.”

Sean turned around, “What do you mean?  You need to get to work man!  They’ll be time and time a-plenty for breaks after the Friday release.”

“Sean, I’m taking a break,” James said moving out from behind his desk.

“James, you can’t.  We just got a new stack of updates.  We need everyone to give it their all if we’re going to make the release date.”

James looked at Sean.  He’d been with the company for five years, and worked under Sean for two of them.  They were friends – they’d even gone out for drinks on occasion.  He liked Sean.

He walked past Sean and stopped in the doorway.  Slow and deliberately, he unclipped his security badge from his collar and put in on the shelf next to the door.  Turning around one last time, James said, “Sean, I’m taking a break.”

And then he left.  It was the best damn decision he ever made.

A Christmas story

Mark wandered the streets of New York, neither knowing nor caring where he was or where he was going.

He’d flown in to see Lisa for Christmas, and planned to spend two weeks with her.  They’d done this every year for the four years they’d been together.  But within three hours of his flight landing, she’d broken up with him.

“I’m sorry, but things haven’t been feeling right for a while now.  I meant to say something earlier – I really did – but I couldn’t figure out how.  And even though you’ve come all the way out here…  I’m sorry, but…it’s over.”

It was an understatement to say he felt crushed.  They’re spent four years together…and to have that fall apart…  He knew things hadn’t been good, that they had things to work on.  But he always thought there’d be more time.

“I guess I have all the time in the world now,” Mark thought, “but I have no idea what to do with myself…”

What should he do? He couldn’t go home, not after spending all that money to fly out here. Plus, going home early felt like admitting he was a failure. He dealt with those feelings often enough, but as low as he felt right now, he refused to feel sorry for himself. But what in the world should he do? He needed to find a place to stay, at the very least.

He needed time to think. He looked up. He didn’t recognize where he was, but he recognized the feel of it: the crowds, the people, the energy… “OK, let’s do this,” he said, hefting up his luggage.

He’d brought two pieces of luggage with him. The first was his suitcase, filled with two weeks of clothes, a bathroom travel kit, a spare change of shoes, and anything else he thought he might need for the two-week trip. But in the second piece of luggage, he carried his heart and soul.

He’d loved Lisa – he really had. But neither she nor any lover before her could ever replace music in his life.  Many tried.  Lisa had tried, but she never understood why he preferred performing in front of a crowd, however small, over parties and other social gatherings.  They were alright, but they were nothing when compared to making music.

He rarely went anywhere without his instrument, and had it with him in New York.  So he looked around for a few minutes to find a good spot, and set up.  When he was ready, he removed his heart from its case and began tuning the strings.  And once the two of them – man and instrument – were in sync, he began to play and sing.

He played a song of Christmas snow – light and fluffy.  He played a song of Holiday gift-giving, bright but mysterious.  He played a song to the longest night of the year, full of cheer and merriment in the face of darkness.  He played a song to drive the night away.

Then Mark closed his eyes and played the song of his relationship with Lisa.  It was a song of heartbreak and regret.  It was a song of nostalgia and remembrance.  He played of the day the two of them met.  He played of the first time they made love.  He played of hundreds of memories, until the ache in his fingers bothered him more than the ache in his heart.  Then, he stopped playing and opened his eyes.

The crowd had stopped, and they were staring at him with bright, tear-stained eyes.  “I got dumped tonight,” Mark said, a bit choked up himself, “and I had to get that off my chest.  Thank you all for listening.”

And they cheered, and applauded, and hooted and hollered.  Some threw money into his open music case.  After he’d set his instrument aside, some of them came up and gave him hugs.  Some told him things like, “That was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard,” “You’re so talented,” or things like that.  He listened to them, and thanked them all with an honest, if tired, smile.

And once the crowd had thinned down and died out, a woman about the same age as Mark approached him.

“That was amazing.  I’ve never heard anything like it,” she said.

“Thank you very much,” Mark replied with a smile.

“Was that true?  Did you really…get dumped tonight?”

“Yes,” Mark sighed.  “Yes, I did.  That’s why I came out here to play:  to get a few things out, and think about what I was going to do over the rest of my trip.”

“How long are you going to be in New York?”

“Two weeks.”

“Oh, nice.  The city’s great this time of the year.  Where are you staying?  Maybe I can make some recommendations on things to do while you’re here.”

“Right now, I don’t know.  I was supposed to be staying with my girl- with my ex, but that didn’t work out.”

“Oh God, I’m so sorry.  That sounds awful.”

“Yeah, but I’ll be OK.  Things have a way of working out,” Mark responded, beginning to pack up his things.

It was long, quiet couple of moments before she spoke again.  “Well, it’s not much, but I have a couch that’s free at my place.  I mean, if you’re interested.”

Mark stopped and turned around to look at her.  She seemed nervous, but in a way that felt safe – like she’d seen hard times herself, and wanted to do something when she saw a stranger going through them too.  He had a good feeling about her.

“Sure, thank you.  I’d like that,” he replied.  “I’m Mark.”

“I’m Hannah,” she said, offering a handshake.  “it’s nice to meet you.”

“It’s nice to meet you too Hannah,” Mark said, shaking her hand.  “Thank you for being so kind.”

“Oh, not at all.”

Mark finished packing the last of his things and turned to face her.  “Lead the way.”

She smiled shyly, and started walking.

“Oh, wait,” Mark said.

“Hmm?”

“Merry Christmas Hannah,” Mark said, giving her his best smile.

She stared for a moment before responding in kind,

“Merry Christmas Mark.”

The year 6 update

This past week was the 6th anniversary of beginning my online writing.  And per tradition, here is my yearly post updating all on the state of the blog and myself.

I:  The year in review

This year I decided to publish two posts a week starting in March –  a blog or short story on Tuesdays and a poem on Thursdays.  I did this to experiment with larger styles of writing while still putting out poetry.  Additionally, I decided to focus predominantly on larger styles of poetry as well – both to stretch myself, and to get away from my recent focus on short forms like haiku and limericks.  While I did slip a few shorter poems in this year, I kept up with both of my goals, and I’m proud of the work I posted this year.

I also spoke last about wanting to write more side content in other areas of writing, as well as having important matters in my personal life that I’d been neglecting.  The bad news is that I still have not done much towards the goal of side content, aside from the short stories I’ve published here.  The good news, however, is that one of the biggest personal issues was resolved this year – I got a new job in July that pays me very well, and that’s been a HUGE load off of my shoulders.

While I have not made much progress on the writing front, I have made some strides in another, unexpected, direction:  performance.  I started reading my work at open mic nights earlier this year, and even was one of the featured poets at a special art night at a local business this summer.  I was also invited to and performed at the 5th Haiku Duel in the Bowery in New York City this past November.  And while I’m on hiatus from performing at the moment, that’s because I’m currently taking an improv class to help improve my stage-work.  If everything goes as planned, I’ll start performing again after the New Years.

II:  Plans for next year

First and foremost, what’s in store for the blog?  Well, blogging posts will be ending at the end of December.  I’ve said it a couple of times throughout this year, but I’m really not enjoying this style of content.  Additionally, I spend significantly more time on blog posts than poems, which doesn’t give me as much time for some of the other things I want to work on.  So, no more blogs after December – except maybe as a special treat.  But starting in January, this blog will go back to being a full poetry blog.

Secondly, I have a few more books to publish.  The publishing contract on my first book ran out this year, and I am currently in the process of republishing it through Amazon and CreateSpace.  This will be a republication of both the paperback and the ebook – though it will be the first time the paperback is available through Amazon.  The ebook previously was listed there by my former publisher.  (No hard feelings with them though.  I’m happy with the work they did on book one – I just like using Amazon and CreateSpace as an online store.)

Additionally, I would like to publish paperbacks and ebooks for my 2014 and 2015 content.  I’m not sure yet if I’m going to split 2015 into two books, but that looks likely – one will have this year’s poetry, and the other will have the blog posts.  I’ll keep you posted on that.  But as of right now, one of my goals for next year will be to release 3 to 4 new books.

Thirdly, I WILL work on additional content.  This will probably consist of short stories and flash fiction, and I will probably publish these to my Patreon page – both as a way to hold myself accountable, and as an excuse to get my Patreon back up and running.  I also started doing some audio recordings of my work earlier this year and posted them to SoundCloud, and I may do more of them (possibly even an album).

Fourth and finally, I will put a focus on getting my name out there.  This includes not only performing here in Harrisburg, PA, but also submitting stories to writing contests and blogs.  This has always been one of the weakest areas of “my brand” (I hate calling it that).  But if I want to make a living from my writing, and I do, I will have to step up my game, get out there, and make some noise.

So…that’s where I’m at right now, and that’s what I’m planning to do going forward.  What do you fine folks think of my plans?  Was there anything you were especially excited about?  Was there anything you were looking for that I didn’t mention?  Please leave a comment, and let me know.

Thanks for six wonderful years everyone.  Here’s hoping there are plenty more to come.

Connections

We’ll see each other again, right?  This isn’t goodbye forever…right?

Those words had haunted David for the last several years.

They were often the last thing on his mind before he crawled into bed at night.  They were usually his first thoughts of the morning.  They stayed with him through the nights when he didn’t sleep at all – whether because of impending deadlines or insomnia.

People always tell him, “There are plenty of fish in the sea,” and he’d grown to hate that expression.  They weren’t wrong, but those words – and the people who spoke them – felt so callous to him.  It was like they expected him to suddenly wake up and stop loving her – like he could turn his feelings off just like that.  But he couldn’t, and he wholly, helplessly loved Laura.

He was obsessed, and he knew that too.  You don’t spend years haunted by a memory and call it anything but obsession.  But understanding what it was didn’t make it any easier to understand what he should do with those feelings.

He tried moving on – it didn’t work, but it did make him feel like an ass when he had to end relationships because he loved a memory more than his girlfriend.  He tried drinking – and that made it worse.  Drinking gave him a series of misadventures he was glad he didn’t remember, as well as a legion of headaches he wished he could forget.  He tried burying himself in his work, but it just made him feel dead inside.  Only Laura, or the memory of her, made him feel alive.

Pain was an interesting way to measure “feeling alive”, but it was all he had these days.

They had met in college, and spent more than a year a friends before spending two as lovers.  But when graduation came and they had to head out into the real world, life took them in two completely different directions.  Laura headed to Boston to work on her Master’s.  David had gone to the West Coast, where the corporate culture proved agreeable to him, and he made a name for himself.

He didn’t mean for them to drift apart.  He’d always planned to call, to text, to…something.  But there’d always been one reason, or another, and he put it off for another day.  He put it off time and time again until the delay became a question he was terrified to answer.  And he never heard from her – and his own doubts and insecurities filled that silence as well.

Believing she’d moved on, David tried to move on too, and failed miserably.  And in a moment of desperation, he sent her a message, expecting the worst.  But the unbelievable happened:  Laura replied.

Hey, I’ve missed you.  How have you been?

And slowly, their relationship picked up again.  She’d finished her Master’s and was teaching at the University of Vermont.  Her father had passed away, but her mother was still with her.  She’d never married.  Little by little, they bridged the distance of those years apart from one another.

And recently, they’d agreed to meet.  David was flying in to Burlington, and would stay the week.  His nerves were a mess the entire trip.

She’d told him she’d meet him at the baggage claim.  David made a bee line for it as soon as the plane touched down.  He waited impatiently for his luggage to arrive, and anxiously scanned the crowd for Laura.  He looked and looked, but he couldn’t find her.

I’ll wear blue.  You won’t miss me – unless I find you first.

He felt a tap on his shoulder, and turned around.