May Day

I’m back!

Again!

No, really! I mean it this time. Maybe. We’ll see. I’m such a procrastinator. Or am I just really busy?

I’ve done very little work on the memoir since the last time I posted. I could go into all the details and excuses and complaints, but those are all pointless and you probably don’t care anyway. I’m not even sure I care. Moving forward can be so hard sometimes. I did manage to clean up the introduction chapter. But chapters two and three need to be combined and completely rewritten. That’s my next goal. That and to clean up chapters four and five, which shouldn’t be as great an undertaking.

Hopefully.

I’ve got everything I need for the first half. I just have to put it together, man! Then me and Dad can get started on the second half. I will have this done by the end of the year. I am damned and determined to do so. Nothing will stand in my way. Not even the MCU!

Endgame was so many things. It was awesome and unpredictable and fitting and poetic. It wrapped up the way it needed to, but there seems to be such a finality that I’m not sure where they go from here. It felt like the end in so many ways. And that makes me a sad panda. But it also makes me curious as to the future trajectory. Cause it isn’t going away.

And to everyone complaining about Game of Thrones: shut-up. The episode was supposed to be dark. They’re fighting in the dead of night. In winter. In a slight blizzard. And that Arya moment was totally earned. She’s not some chick that wandered into Winterfell and just so happens to be a great fighter. They’ve been setting this up since the beginning. She’s basically a trained assassin. And she was fighting for her home. And her character is awesome. She’s a badass. The show is coming to an end for crying out loud. Put away your internet bitterness and hatred and overall malcontent and just enjoy the damn thing.

In other news, I read “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair recently. That guy was a socialist. It was a solid read, dark and depressing mostly. It’s about life as an immigrant at the turn of the 1900’s and what it was like working, and trying to survive, under no labor laws. It also went into some detail about the conditions of the meatpacking industry at the time, which actually caused Roosevelt to implement changes. Another reminder, much like “The Grapes of Wrath,” how easy we truly have it in the workforce in comparison today.

But a lot of people won’t agree with that because that’s what we do now. We go out into the streets and complain about how unfair life is instead of taking steps to make it better. America!

This post was random.

See you next time!

New Year Ramblings

I’m back!

I guess. Feels good. Or maybe it will soon. Eventually. Hopefully. I don’t know.

It’s been awhile. The holidays passed and there was a lot of food and a lot of time off work and a lot of napping on the couch and absolutely no writing. I did read a cool little book called “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. It was a gift from my brother. It takes a deep dive into the world of successful people and attempts to find out exactly why they are successful. Hint: it’s not because they’re smarter and more talented than everyone else. Those things are definitely aspects that helped push them along. But it mostly stems from placement and opportunity, being born into a certain time of the world and in a certain place and having chances that most others won’t have.

It was interesting. It really should be renamed to “Life Isn’t Fair: The Book.” However, you can’t deny that they took complete advantage of the opportunities given to them, regardless of how lucky they may have been to be born into a particular situation.

Football season also wrapped up. Thank God I got to see Brady win one more ring. There’s just no better feeling than to celebrate a relatively new year by watching Tom Brady play like ass and still win another championship. If I didn’t get to experience such a thing at least one more time in my life I may have just shit, I can tell you that. There were so many new and exciting things in the NFL this year. We could have seen Mahomes slinging it around in the Super Bowl. Or the old gunslinger, Rivers, maybe finally getting over the hump.

But nope! We got to see a backup from Michigan throw check-downs to a short white guy and an oafish bro with a duh face for three hours and walk away with another victory because Cooks couldn’t haul in two touchdown passes in the biggest game of the year. Thanks NFL! Thanks Rams! I’ll never get those three hours back!

At least the Saints were sitting at home. Couldn’t have happened to a better organization. Nobody likes your dirtbag, arrogant head coach or your dirtbag, cheap-ass team. You still had a lead after the blown call and you couldn’t hold on to it. You got the ball first in overtime and you turned it over. You lost. Get over it. Hopefully this drags into next season and completely sinks you from the beginning. Or maybe that mole on Bree’s face will finally completely takeover and give us our first real-life Bond villain.

Full disclosure: I’m a Panthers fan. If Cam had stayed healthy we would have rolled into the playoffs. Not saying we would have done anything. But the field would have looked a little different.

Anyway. I think I’m done rambling. For now. I’m starting back on the memoir soon. Keep you posted! 

Book Review - The Grapes of Wrath

It’s always an amazing feeling when you crack open a new book with no expectations and by the end it becomes one of your favorite novels. That’s precisely what happened with me upon reading “The Grapes of Wrath.” Steinbeck’s opus about the Joad family and the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930’s is haunting and eye-opening. It’s a window into a very specific time in American history where what we were converged upon what we would become.

“The Grapes of Wrath” is a lot of things. It’s a road narrative and a farmers gospel and a manifesto of the disenfranchised working class of the 1930’s. But these descriptions don’t do it justice. It’s about families being forced off their land, land settled by their ancestors, and pushed toward California with the promise of work. It’s about the dehumanization of a people suddenly thrust into the realm of not knowing where their next meal is coming from, or if it’s coming at all. It’s about men who just want to work for a living wage, but find themselves needing permission to do so.

Steinbeck is an amazing writer. According to the introduction he spent more time researching than actually writing, knocking out the narrative in 100 days. Clocking in at over 600 pages that is indeed impressive and inspired. Maybe even a little crazy. The dialogue feels incredibly authentic, meaning it would be a nightmare of red and green in a word processor. And the ending will have you feeling some sort of way, especially the final paragraph. For me it fit within the nature of the story and how it was told.

I’ve seen some buzz online about how “The Grapes of Wrath” is an allegory on the destructive power of capitalism and how it’s relatable today. That’s not a sentiment I buy into. The current issues of immigration and wage gaps facing America are, in my opinion, not even close to what Oklahoma farmers went through during the Dust Bowl. It actually feels insulting to compare the two. Nevertheless, people are entitled to their opinions. I just wish more research and thought went into it. But this is the internet! Receptacle for word vomit!

Anyway. Read “The Grapes of Wrath.” It’s amazing and might just change your perspective.


Memoir Update

Nine weeks ago I wrote a post about the next ten weeks and the goal of getting together a rough draft of the memoir. My hope was to have something I could tighten up and maybe release by the end of the year. But, unfortunately, my best-laid plan is not going to come to fruition. I’m not going to make my self-imposed deadline.

But that’s okay! Dad and I are roughly halfway there. We were going strong and then lost the entire month of October to weather and work and a bunch of other excuses I could throw into the air. My ambition got the best of me as it usually does. I pushed myself too hard and expected too much in too short a period of time. No worries, though. If not for that ambition I probably wouldn’t even be halfway there.

I recently took a couple of long weekends in an effort to catch up. That included a talk with Dad in which I was in a foul mood and distracted due to a water stain on the ceiling of my living room. There was also a three-hour block one morning where I wrote over 2000 words. So, needless to say, I had mixed results. But such is life.

Maybe I’m running against the wind here(Bob Seger reference!). It seems that every time I try to implement some kind of writing structure or strategy for myself it never pans out. Maybe I’m just not that type of writer. Maybe I need to just accept that my style is always going to be a bit unorthodox. Regardless of all that “inside baseball” stuff, I’m going to spend the remainder of this year shaping up what I already have. I haven’t gone back and read anything I’ve written to this point, so that should be an adventure. And then, hopefully come January, Dad and I can resume our talks. Stay tuned!

Book Review - Morning Star

The Red Rising Trilogy was a Christmas gift from my brother last year. He thought it would be something I’d enjoy reading. The first two were alright, not really my cup of tea. I already hated the main protagonist, Darrow, about fifty pages in. I didn’t care for the premise of an entire class system separated by color. Not color as in race, color as in crayons. It seemed a bit hokey. And there seemed to be a lot of pointless details and funny names and inconsistent world-building.

But I’ll read anything, even if it’s just for research. Then I got to the third book, Morning Star, and I’ve never been so happy to be finished with a trilogy. It was a bloated, overwritten mess. Darrow still sucks as a character. Every time he launched into one of his speeches I immediately began skimming as he shouted out the same self-righteous word-vomit as before. All of his crazy plans come spontaneously off the top of his head and they all work, which is frustratingly shallow story-telling.

By the end he’s basically test-tube Hitler. He’s an abomination created in a lab that succeeds in rallying millions behind his cause only to have most of them die. He’s also entirely too emotional and needy to lead any kind of resistance with any kind of success. He constantly laments death and the human cost of war, then has a chance to be a martyr to save millions. He chooses the opposite, which goes against everything he’s been characterized at since the first chapter of the first book.

I was behind Pierce Brown, the author, for the first two. He seemed like a good, talented writer. I just didn’t care for the subject matter. After Morning Star I’m convinced he’s a total hack. There is a scene lifted straight out of Good Will Hunting that is so egregious it’s practically plagiarism. He slips in the term “Bye, Felicia” somewhere in the middle of the story. Remember when that was popular for five minutes? He crams in so many pointless details and ridiculous naming conventions it’s like he trying to prove how creative he can be, how good of a writer he is.

But, C. M., isn’t that how you write a good book? No. You write a good book by telling a story.

If Brown had any balls as a writer he would have killed off Darrow at the end of the second book, Golden Son. He had a perfect opportunity. That would have allowed the third book to be told from the point of view of Sevro, Darrow’s best friend and the best character in the series by far. Darrow could have acted as the martyr he should have been as Sevro took up the resistance and finished what test-tube Hitler started. Sevro had more of a claim anyway as he was torn between two colors, two worlds, whereas Darrow knew nothing of a higher society until he was ripped out of his lower one.

Just my thoughts. I could go deeper but I’m ready to move on. Time to cleanse my palate with a classic read.

Things on my Radar

I read. A lot. Anything you put in front of me. Books. Articles. Blogs. Nutrition labels. Grocery lists. Cereal boxes. Underwear packaging. Anything. When I was signing all the mortgage papers at the closing of my house I attempted to read them all. If you’ve ever bought a house then you’re familiar with the phonebook size stack they present you with and how impossible it would be to read them all without taking a week off of work and moving in with the broker. I tried. I might be a little crazy.

I read at the same rate in which my dad listens to the news. I’m always telling him to stop doing so, that he’d be happier. I wonder if it goes both ways? I wouldn’t be happier if I stopped reading. I guess, sometimes, you just do the things you do. Coincidentally, most of my reading has come in the form of news articles. Being an opinionated guy from an opinionated family, these are the things on my radar lately.

You cannot escape the Kavanaugh drama in Washington. It is relentless and internet-consuming and exhausting. Sometimes you just want to look at puppy pictures and not constantly be reminded about how fragile the psyche of our elected officials are. Here’s the truth: it’s embarrassing, but not for the reasons they keep giving you. It’s embarrassing that the so-called “leaders” of this country are holding a person’s feet to the fire over something that may or may not have happened in high school under the influence. Really? If that’s the new standard then everyone up on Capitol Hill needs to be swept away because there’s not a soul there that didn’t do something they regret when they were young.

People grow up and change. I don’t give a shit about party lines. Hell, the party system in America is one of the biggest problems we have. It discourages individuality and critical thinking. Everyone needs to have a mind of their own. If he’s right for the Supreme Court, put him in. If he’s not, move on and find someone else. Don’t give me accusations and he said-she said drivel from thirty-four years ago.

Al Roker has also caught my ire, but it isn’t necessarily his fault. I’ve always found him to be an affable, lovable man. He would probably make a great neighbor. But I’ll be the first to admit that his presence and purpose baffle me on many levels. But that’s an entirely different rabbit hole altogether. What I’m referring to specifically is the reception he received on the Today show following his return from surgery. You see, ole weatherman Al had emergency surgery on his thumb and was back at work the next day and his coworkers just couldn’t believe it.

“Only Al Roker would come to work the day after having surgery!”

It was thumb surgery! He’s a TV weatherman! His job is to stand around and update the weather and pretend like Hota Kotb is an interesting person! He’s not moving boxes all day or typing away on a computer! He should have been back the next day! The man could literally have both of his thumbs removed and it wouldn’t affect his job performance at all! And am I the only one still disturbed by the fact that he lost all this weight but still has a fat-guy head?

Does anyone remember Jersey Shore? Remember The Situation? He was the guy that was real proud of his abs. That probably describes most of the douchebags on that show. I’ve honestly never seen an episode. Anyway, he’s going to prison. Yep, for tax evasion. So let me get this straight. You made a boatload of money being a narcissistic, irritating, Italian caricature of a man? AKA: being yourself. And then decided not to pay your taxes? And then further decided to falsify documents? Makes sense. I expected nothing less. Have fun trying on those dresses for Tiny down in cellblock D.

Quick story: I once met a girl during my brief community college stint that was quite attractive and seemed interesting. Then she relayed to me how big of a Jersey Shore fan she was and the attraction immediately died. If that makes me wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Hurricane Florence

I’m writing this in the middle of Hurricane Florence. Okay, not really. There have been a few bouts of high wind and an ass-load of rain, but overall it appears more in line with a severe thunderstorm than a life-threatening hurricane. Not to diminish what’s happening at the coast, they’re getting pounded. But here in central North Carolina it’s a bit of a far cry from what we were expecting. Or, at least, what we were told to expect.

I’ve been tracking this thing all week just out of sheer curiosity. I’m not a prepper or a worrier. I figure that if something is going to rip through my area and destroy houses and uproot trees and I get caught in the path, it was just meant to be. Buying bread and batteries and water doesn’t keep Mother Nature at bay. It’s just more crap to lose in a flood. I also have nowhere to go, so riding it out is an inevitability.

It started out as a category five and was projected to roll straight through NC, from the coast to the mountains. But with every subsequent day it appeared to get weaker. And all the forecasters kept telling us to ignore the declining categories and instead focus on the storm surges. If the storm surges are the most important part, then why do we even have categories? Then by the end of the week it had become a category two and was going to now hit the coast, move south, and curve back northwest, basically sending the storm around us. We’re basically getting the edge of a tropical storm at this point.

But man did they spend the week projecting the apocalypse. It worked. People ransacked the grocery stores and the gas pumps. The only thing I was worried about was getting my yard mowed so that the damn grass wouldn’t be knee-high by the time the storm passed. It just seems to me like the media wanted Florence to be the next Katrina or Harvey, which is a terrible thing to want because those were catastrophic events. Do you really want some hurricane leveling NC just so you’ll have something to write about? So you can get that ad revenue from them website clicks? Disgusting intentions.

And now I’m watching the LSU-Auburn game and every commercial break these local news clowns come on the air to tell me it’s still raining outside. Solid journalism.

The Next Ten Weeks

I’m always surprised at how much I miss writing after taking a week away. In the past I’ve taken months away, even years, and it’s always jarring at first. Eventually you move past it and find other ways to fill the time. But it’s been such a consistent part of my life this year that coming home from work and not “getting back to work” can best be described as unusual.

Part of the reason for the time off is that I got behind schedule. Life gets in the way. I had to really scramble to get back on track and, in doing so, burnt myself out a bit. I wrote nearly 3,000 words over a three day period which is a breakneck pace for me. Dad and I both have yards to mow and the weather hasn’t always been great recently, making it hard to find the time. Our last talk was a follow-up that took place under the roof overhang while it poured down rain.

It’s also the busiest time of the year at my day job. I work in a warehouse and spend my time on my feet walking and lifting and pushing and pulling. My job is not a sedentary one. Couple that with 5am workouts and I’m dragging ass by the time I walk through the door into the glorious AC of my house. After making dinner and sitting down to eat I’m often tapped-out. Sometimes I can gut my way through it, but it just becomes too much at times, physically and mentally.

But I’m good now. We’re still crazy busy at work, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. The plan is to wrap up the process over the next ten weeks and get a solid first draft of the memoir that I can work on polishing. That takes us to around Thanksgiving, which is right where I wanted to end things. The 50’s and 60’s was a bit of a trudge, but we made it. Now we’re into the 70’s, where Dad has shown excellent recall. It’s the decade where he got his license and started working and found independence. As always, good times await!

Online Dating

I’m taking a break on the progress reports this week to discuss a topic that’s really twisted me in all sorts of directions over the past three years. Online dating is fascinating and horrifying. One minute it can be an interesting, new-age form of connection technology. And the next it can become a soul-sucking, lowest common denominator shit show. Let it be known that my experience is strictly through free apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Plenty of Fish. I’ve never sunk any money into it. Those that have paid for online dating services may see things in a very different light. When a person’s hard earned pay in involved there’s a natural tendency to take things more serious. That being said, these are my personal thoughts.

Yes, Tinder has the reputation of being a hook-up app. But that’s really only true for men if you’re in the top 1% of good-looking guys or have no standards. I don’t fall into either one of those categories. I’m also picky about who I spend my time with because I’m a busy guy in my thirties and a firm believer that time is the most precious commodity we all have because we’re not getting any of it back. So let’s not waste each other’s. I don’t care how attractive you are if there isn’t much of a brain in your head. If I want to stare at vacant, hollow pretty people I’ll just go on the internet. I get the same effect and don’t have to drop $80 on dinner.

My foray into Bumble was brief because everybody just seemed to use it as a platform to gather more Instagram followers. And Plenty of Fish is a wasteland of gratuitous cleavage, duck-face, and unrealistic expectations. So I’ll keep it to Tinder because that’s what I’ve used most often.

It’s a simple enough concept; you swipe right on profiles that grab your attention, left on those that don’t. And it immediately becomes dehumanizing. We are so much more than a handful of strategically chosen happiness photos and a few words about the person we think we are. It’s the equivalent of lining up a row of whores at the brothel and making your selection. If one says “no” you just move on to the next, and so forth, and so forth. The nuances of connection and understanding and empathy are nonexistent. Human interaction is not a game, it’s a survival mechanism.

When you get past the shocking lack of humanity, you soon discover that profiles are riddled with old photos and lies. That picture was taken five years ago. How do I know you’re not missing an ear or living in a car? A lot can happen in five years. If you went to Spain three summers ago but have spent every weekend since eating Cheetos and watching Real Housewives of Who-Gives-A-Shit, then you are not a traveler. How can you call yourself a “gym rat” when it looks like you missed the exit driving to the gym and settled for Krispy Kreme instead? It’s false advertising.

I’m not a particularly shallow guy, never have been. If you’re intelligent or artistic then I’m usually interested. But there is a double standard that draws my ire every time I happen upon it. It’s called heightism. It’s when women dismiss a guy outright if he doesn’t meet a certain arbitrary height criteria she has convinced herself she needs in a man to be happy. It’s the same thing as me saying “no fat chicks,” which I would get destroyed for.

I've managed a few dates here and there, some fun, some alright, and some uncomfortably awkward. The problem is that people are different over text than they are in person. Humor doesn’t always translate the same and chemistry doesn’t always carry over. Often times, though, the trick is actually getting the date. Ghosting is far too common and completely rude. You’re having a nice, flowing conversation and then they cut off communication like they’re quitting smoking cold turkey.

Women do have it more difficult in online dating, I’ll secede that point. Men are aggressors, typically leaving ladies with a lot of matches and messages to sort through. I’m sure they have better things to do than answer Johnny Asshole’s copy & paste message he sends to every woman. But that doesn’t stop some men from interpreting it as an ego bruise and losing their shit at some poor girl that doesn’t even know who they are.

And the dick pics. C’mon, guys. Nobody wants to see that. You’re making the rest of us look like apes.

And therein lies the biggest issue; ego. One minute it can be a huge boost and the next entirely deflating. And I’m guilty of it. I’m guilty of all the things I just pointed out. I’m a part of the problem. The last time I left the scene I vowed never to go back. A month later I was elbow deep again because I felt defeated. I didn’t want to admit that I was a failure at dating. But I am. Dating is an artificial social construct that doesn’t mesh well with my personality. It got the best of me but my ego refused to admit it. I was back in for all the wrong reasons, and that’s not healthy behavior.

I guess it boils down to intentions. I’ve always viewed relationships as partnerships with the goal of making each other’s lives a little bit easier, as opposed to a little more complicated. Maybe that’s too much to ask of the spectra of online dating. Maybe I should spend more time around bookstores.

Like Water

I tested out my new approach toward the memoir this week and I was amazed at how well it worked. The words flowed like water. I was knocking out 600 in an hour, which is a crazy pace for me because I’m typically fairly deliberate with my words, sometimes a little too much that I tend to think instead of write. But this was bang, bang, bang.

It’s always a great feeling when you progress the way you envision. It so rarely happens the way you expect. Knocking out 2300 words in a four day span with all the other responsibilities of life surrounding me is either maturation, an outlier, or a damned miracle. But I’m not one to rage against the tide, so I move forward and continue to build. It’s the most surefire way of conquering something in this world.

Elsewhere I attended a continuing education class this week on the use of essential oils in cooking. It was fascinating stuff. They take herbs and spices such as oregano and rosemary and basil and condense it into an oil form, completely natural, and use a mere drop during cooking. Seems absurd, right? Well I tasted a few dishes and it works. In fact, there’s a whole culture around the use of essential oils. Everything from digestive issues to muscle soreness to allergies has a simple remedy that loads of people swear by. They also integrate citrus fruits and even fir. Fascinating ideas.

Afterward I traveled down the street with a co-worker to get some ice cream at this tiny creamery I’d never heard of. The inside was a total throwback with décor that seemed straight out of the 50’s. I also had the best banana pudding ice cream of my life, homemade, full of wafers, and absolutely glorious. Small town America, that’s where the real greatness lives.

Perspective

It’s always a rousing moment when you find perspective. That’s exactly what happened to me this week at work. I was going about my day early on around 9am and then it hit me! BAM! I knew which direction to take the memoir. Just like that! No second guessing. No talking myself out of it. It was the right decision at the right time.

I’ve been taking notes and talking with my dad and doing research for about a month now, just getting as many words on the page as possible. But I had yet to find my angle. I wasn’t sure how to approach the material. It has to feel authentic to him and to me, as well as anyone who may read it. Early on these first few chapters have felt like reading a history book of my dad’s life thus far. They were informative, but something just hasn’t felt quite right.

Then an epiphany! In order for this to work it has to be just as much about today and it is about the past. What I mean by that is how the information is gathered and told is just as important as said information. We’ve been getting together every Saturday and talking on the front porch, which is really a deck, and I’ve been taking piles of notes on everything he says and does. Every detail matters and when that fact hit me, it was pure euphoria.

There is nothing better than having a revelation about a project when your mind is elsewhere. That’s what creativity is about. Those first few chapters will have to be altered, but I’m glad I’ve recognized it early instead of three months in. Good times await.

Living Like A Writer

I took three days off of work this week to relax a bit before our busiest time of the year hits at work. It had to be now because there won’t be another chance until sometime in October. It builds slowly starting in August and then explodes and I’m left dragging ass back home every day for three weeks, just trying to catch my breath.

But it’s cool. It happens every year. I expect it. I’m used to it. I even enjoy it because it keeps me busy. There’s not much thinking involved, just moving forward. And given how unusually steady it’s already been thus far, I’m expecting big things. Fingers crossed I don’t pull a muscle.

During my time away I delved deep into research on my dad’s memoir, burying myself in family history. I visited my Aunt and Uncle who have possession of a lot of family memorabilia and antiques, working my way through those. Then we jumped into a full genealogy that my Uncle has spent years assembling. He showed me stacks of marriage certificates, birth and death certificates, military discharge paperwork, last will and testaments, and a slew of other historical documents.

I even learned about Matthew McCauley, great-grandfather of mine seven times removed. He emigrated from Ireland, fought in the American Revolution, and donated 150 acres of the land on which UNC Chapel Hill is built. He was even involved in the laying of the cornerstone of the Old East, first building of the university erected. I even drove out to the McCauley Family Cemetery in Carrboro, NC, to snap some photos and document my findings.

The time off has proved to be really wonderful. I’ve lived like a writer, one that makes a living at his craft, lost in constant research, putting together the next chapter, no other responsibilities, just the work. I’ve also slept a lot, which leads me to believe that I’m sleep deprived during my normal weeks, something I should probably work on rectifying.

It’s been eye-opening and fun, but it’s back to normal on Monday. My goals are all in front of me. There’s no better feeling.

Off and Running

I knocked out the introduction to my dad’s memoir this week and it has definitely reinvigorated my love for writing. There’s always been a tendency with me to take extended periods of time away after completing a project because I usually burn myself out with an unhealthy, hectic pace. I’ll consistently talk myself out of moving forward, believing that I need just a little more research or just one more day to relax and think.

“Ashbrooke City” is a perfect example of this habit. I never had a solid writing schedule, just writing whenever I found the time or when the spirit moved me. Sometimes I would get home from work around five or six in the afternoon, write until three in the morning, get three hours of sleep and then go back to work. I would also binge write on the weekends for twelve hours a day. It wasn’t uncommon for me to take weeks off in between writing sessions. I did that for three years. It’s probably the reason it took so long to write the damn book. If I had been more consistent I might have completed it in half the time.

But you live and you learn. With my dad’s new memoir I’ve adopted a writing schedule that I absolutely love. One hour a day is all I ask of myself. One hour a day. Every day. No exceptions. No excuses. I try to hit at least 500 words per session, but if I don’t there’s no beating myself up, which has been a problem for me in the past. When I get to the weekends I can do more because things lighten up a bit. It’s really working for me thus far.

Typically I’m up at five every morning to workout. From there I have a day job throughout the week that keeps me away until after five most days. So by the time I get home I’ve been on my feet for twelve hours because I work in a warehouse. After carving out some time to make dinner and take a breather, I can sit down to write, usually around eight at night. And of course there are other responsibilities to take into account. It’s all a balancing act.

My secondary goal is a chapter per week on the memoir. If I can maintain this pace I can be done with the first draft by early November. I have no doubt I’ll get there. It’s been too much fun to think otherwise.

Onward!

It was a long week, but a revealing one. Sometimes you just have to move on, from ideas, from expectations, from people. I’m very proud of “Ashbrooke City.” It’s my first novel. It’s the project I’ve spent the most time on. It will always be the book that taught me how to write books.

But it can no longer consume my life if I’m going to meet my next self-imposed deadline. I’ll never stop supporting it. I’ll continue to try new marketing techniques. But I have to move on creatively. Content is King. And in order for me to produce new content I have to compartmentalize, which is a new concept for me. But I’m up to the task. I wanted all this and now I have to juggle.

My next project is much different. It’s personal and, hopefully, relatable. I’m not building a world from scratch or crafting characters from my own observations. It’s the true story of a man who has led a fascinating life through an era of human history in which things tend to change as fast you can blink, and the opinions that come along.

It’s a memoir about my dad. And boy does he have opinions! On everything. Even things he knows nothing about. It’s a project I began way back in early 2010 but had to abandon due to circumstance, and because I just wasn’t ready to fully tackle it. But now I am. And I couldn’t be more excited! To one day, when I’m his age, have a document that reminds me of him and the things he has seen and done would mean the world to me. Like a reference, an idea that can live forever.

I’m aiming for the end of the year. Fingers crossed.

Artistry

What does it mean to be an artist?

It’s a question I broached with a friend of mine this past week who is an artist herself. She’s quite the talented painter. I was curious if she saw things the same way. She seemed to but, admittedly, it’s hard to get in a word when I reel off about artistry. I think about it far too often, over-analyzing every minute detail.

But maybe that’s part of being artistic.

Whether you write or paint or dance or play music or woodwork or do anything creative in life, it all breaks down to the same core essence: expression. And there is a lot of fear and insecurity that come with any form of expression. Translating your inner-self, your soul, is difficult because the words are never right or the canvas is never big enough or the movement isn’t graceful. You’re bringing imperfection into the world; imperfection that is a deep part of you. There’s vulnerability in that.

But it needs to come out. That’s why we do it. It’s already inside; it just needs a path forward. In doing so you’re inviting other people into your world, most of whom won’t understand you, and they’re going to bring their own cynicisms and insecurities and issues along. And then questions are going to arise in your mind.

Is this good? Is this right? Am I saying what I want to say? Am I saying anything at all?

And there are no correct answers. There is no shortcut or quick pass. It’s all a journey into the unknown. And those are equal parts exciting and terrifying and mysterious and confusing and beautiful and horrible. And you always come out different on the other side. Every single time. It might be miniscule, but you are not exactly the same as when you started, for better or worse. Because a piece of you in now manifested in the physical reality. It’s still a part of you, but now others have access.

Something to think about as I gear up to tackle my next project.

Routine

It’s always strange having a holiday in the middle of the week. For someone that gets up around 5am Monday-Friday, sleeping in on a Wednesday felt odd. In fact, I overslept and felt kind of rough upon waking up. My body just isn’t used to it. I’m typically hitting the weights or starting a run or practicing some yoga no later than 6am, not sunken into the sheets at 8am. My system was rebelling against me, and it let me know the moment I opened my eyes, sore and lethargic before I ever moved a muscle.

But I quickly recovered and had a pleasant day off. I managed a lot of reading, a trip to the grocery store for supplies, and a simple hot dog/kielbasa cookout with my parents. Those dogs were loaded down, the more the merrier. And it was quite tasty. I did find it interesting that the first thing my Mom looks at in the grocery store is price, while the first thing I look at is ingredients. Is it a generational thing? Or is it a gender thing? Maybe it’s just an individual preference. I am a self-proclaimed ingredient snob and it’s possible to avoid a lot of harmful additives if you look around, but it’s going to cost you.

Because being healthy in America is far more expensive than the alternative.

The night before, on July 3rd, a collection of co-workers and I hit up Outback Steakhouse and then a movie. I was the only man of the group, and if you’ve ever been out with a bunch of women it’s hard to get in a word edgewise. The stream of chatter is constant, unlike men who tend to let things breathe. But they were all very lovely and quite entertaining. And the food was good, grilled chicken loaded with sautéed mushrooms and bacon and cheese. And free bread! Love that free bread!

The movie, though, was another story. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was dumber than I thought capable. The acting was fine. The dinosaurs were fine. But the plot somehow managed to be more absurd than the prior film, and not in a clever way but rather asinine. No spoilers here but they make a decision at the end of this film that everyone should be shot for making, for the good of humanity.

They continue to chase the original Jurassic Park which still holds up today, twenty-five years later. I remember seeing that one in theaters in 1993, the year I turned ten. Good times.

Book Marketing

I met up with my best friend the other day that I had not seen in nearly a year. Circumstances sometimes keep people apart. Life gets in the way. Time flies when you don’t have much free time. There are a bunch of other excuses I could throw against the wall, but nearly a year is far too much time to be separate from someone you consider your closest ally and sometimes writing partner.

We went for Mexican food. I had the Pollo Tapatio, a chicken dish with roasted mushrooms and onions and some sort of cooked rice in cheese. It was phenomenal because it was food and I’m a human vacuum. Great service. Our waitress had the most adorable smile and couldn’t have been kinder. We had a fun time catching up.

Side note: Tapatio is what people that hail from Guadalajara, Mexico call themselves. I thought that was interesting.

“Ashbrooke City” is dedicated to this friend of mine that I met up with, so of course I had to bring him a copy. Then he asked me to sign it, which really makes me uncomfortable for some reason. Then he told me to get used to it because if I ever find any success as an author it’s going to be the norm. He’s right, but I apparently have issues with being important.

It’s like I want everyone to read everything I write and love it. But I don’t want them to tell me. I probably need therapy.

We briefly touched on book marketing, which I have yet to engage in but will soon. He has the marketing mind I wish I did. His suggestion was to start local, which makes sense. Hit up all those people we went to high school with for starters, and then branch out. It’s a solid foundation, but I haven’t done Facebook in seven years which makes it hard to really touch base with those people. However, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

I do know one thing: it’s all about getting eyes on “Ashbrooke City.” Building a reader base, even if you have to hand them a copy of the novel for free is the most important thing. I’m battling obscurity. I need to give people a reason to buy the next one.

And so it begins...

Everything in life really does seem to come full circle. I had a blog years ago that I updated regularly for about three or four months before I abandoned it completely. Its subject matter was all over the place which was in perfect sync with my mind. I wrote about my brother's wedding and my time on the jury of a federal criminal trial and the process of writing my first novel, among other things. There were funny pictures and clever quotes and even a book review.

It was all very obnoxious. Thankfully the only people who read it were family. They've been shaking their head at me for years, so it all came very natural to them.

Well, I'm back! And this time I have a reason for being here. The internet was struggling for a while, but things are about to pick up. Call it a feeling in the air.

I wrote a novel! And it's good! And I needed an "Author Website" to help interact with potential readers. I say "potential" because I don't have any at the moment.

But that’s alright. It’s a journey and good literature will always find an audience. In today’s world of social media, which I will admit is exhausting and aggravating, you’re never more than a click away from a new experience.

My aim is to be that experience.

This isn’t a test. This is not an experiment. I’m not going anywhere. I spend most of my days talking to myself, so I might as well jot some of it down somewhere. This seems like a good place. My intention is to update every Saturday.

What’s that? You don’t think I can do it?? You double-dog dare me???

You’re on, Internet!