Monday, December 29, 2014

Reminding Yourself to Stay Positive During the Job Search

My semester as an adjunct teaching five English classes is over; I am on vacation, and my main task now is to find a  full-time job. Never in my life have I had such a hard time finding a job, but, then again, this is different. This time, I am seeking a job with a company where I will start my career and hopefully be employed for a long period of time.

However, getting your foot in the door for a professional position is difficult, and it is easy to get discouraged--especially when you have student loan payments looming and living expenses to consider. At times, the task seems impossible, especially when you don't regularly get responses on your resume, or if, when you do, and you go on interviews, they decide to "pass on you" for someone with more experience or who more closely meets their needs in some vague, undisclosed way. Then you get desperate and end up settling for a part-time job or multiple part-time jobs to try to make ends meet, and you start to feel that you have been the victim of a huge lie...

After all, the unemployment rate of recent college graduates between the ages of 22 and 27 in 2013 was 5.6%, and "more than half" of those "22-year-old degree holders" who found jobs found ones where they didn't need a college diploma. When you are stuck in this sort of situation, you start second-guessing yourself and all of the decisions that you made that led you to this point in your life. You think about your options, and you only grow more discouraged, as you are so close that you can see your goal, but you can't attain it, and it is there teasing you, just out of your grasp. 

This is when it is important to remind yourself that, in spite of your current situation, it is worth all of the hard work, and, as a few quick Google searches will prove, the sort of success that many people go to college to attain is overwhelmingly not a lie for most people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013, people with a bachelor's degree or higher had an unemployment rate of 4% or less and a median weekly earning of $1,108 or more. This is in contrast to people with a high school diploma, who had an unemployment rate of 7.5% and a median weekly earning of $651. That is a very clear difference, and with every successive degree that you earn, the income only increases, and thus, going to school is indeed worth it, even when you take into account student loan debt.

According to CNN Money, student loan debt averaged $29,000 in 2013. Based on an income of $1,108 a week, on a standard repayment plan, a single taxpayer with $29,000 in loans would pay $242 a month (in the state of Ohio) towards their student loans over 120 months (Repayment Estimator at If you consider that, according to the Federal Reserve, the lifetime earnings of a college graduate is worth $830,000 more than that of a high school graduate, even if your loans are $100,000, you will earn substantially more money that you would have likely earned if you not going to college (Forbes). The overall financial reward for going is worth the cost of it, and worth the continued effort to find a job that will put you on the positive side of these statistics.

The key, I believe, is to keep trying. Do research and figure out what you are doing wrong. Find all the jobs that you seem remotely qualified to do, and apply for them all. Adjust your resume and write a new cover letter for each new position. Use all of the job boards, but also apply directly through companies' websites. Ask your friends and your friends' friends to see if where they are working is hiring, and if they have any jobs like what you are qualified to do. It only takes one success application and interview process--you just have to make sure that you are in the right place at the right time. And that takes a lot of work, and a lot of applications.

If you are creative, and persistent, eventually you will find the right job. If you stay positive, work hard, and attempt to learn from your mistakes, you will more likely be successful. Of course, that is easier said that done--as I will be the first to admit--but, just like everything else, having the right attitude takes effort too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Considering: A Well-Respected Man About Town

Lately I have been torn. I like teaching, and I like writing, but I don't necessarily have to have jobs doing either. I would do well at those sorts of jobs, but I could do well at lots of other jobs, too. I think the key is to remain open and hope for the best. You also have to be prepared for the possibility that a job won't come your way on its own, and you will have to seek it out.

When doing so, you have to be open to everything that fits, not just one thing or another. Of course, it is okay to have preferences, but don't let your  unimportant preferences overrule what could be good positions with decent companies. Consider taking full advantage of each opportunity, if possible, before you choose one over the others--if you are lucky enough to have a choice. That way, if you have a choice to make, your choice will be well-considered among all the choices, and as a result you will have a greater opportunity to maximize your benefits.

Not all positions are created equal: you have to think about whether or not you truly have the skill-set required for that position, whether you have a realistic chance of getting such a position, whether you have the right amount of experience. You also have to consider whether the position is paying enough, whether the benefits are fair, and whether it's close enough to be a reasonable commute. By comparing each of the positions, you will apply for the ones within a range of how well they fit those needs based on your analysis. This is also true with different types of jobs.

For example, as a teacher, I have no work-life balance, but I have more room to make decisions about how I spend my time, because I only have class and office hours for so much time. After those obligations are finished, I can continue working, or take a break, and work later, or get up earlier, and work and work. The only thing that matters is that you finish your work. If you can do that, then you can do stuff. You can also work crazy hours for like the last two weeks and finish up everything. The key benefit here, I think, is flexibility.

Whereas, having a full-time job with a regular schedule has a different set of benefits. You have to fully commit to the job while you are there, but for the most part, outside of the job, you can do what you want. There are clearly defined barriers. As long as you are available to work when they need you to work, having that type of all-or-nothing separation makes it possible to more fully concentrate on family, friends, and hobbies outside of work. Also, the pay is often better, especially if you have gone to school for long enough, and you are applying for the right types of positions.

I am in a weird frame of mind to be not partial to either teaching or other types of jobs--until I actually have to lean this way or that. That way, when I commit to one, I can commit to it fully and without too many regrets, because I will have considered every possibility, at length, beforehand. I will somewhat know what to expect and how to maximize the benefits, as much as possible.

Whatever happens, I hope that I can continue writing fiction and playing music, and justify doing both, because I enjoy them, and they keep me sane. Further, as long as I can continue doing both in any capacity, I will be happy. In other words, at least I know how I will be spending my free time.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Some [Surprisingly Positive] End of the Semester Thoughts on Being a Teacher

This semester is nearly over. It's not over yet, but it almost is over, and almost is...Well, let's just say I have had a lot of experience with almosts lately, and almost is... Well, it's much better than some of the alternatives.

Teaching five classes has been a lot of work. Undeniably. There have been times I have wanted to give up, thought I couldn't do it even a second longer, wanted to be doing anything else but this. But I have continued pushing myself. I have continued working, and in spite of my self-doubt, my struggles with myself, I have almost made it to the end. I just have to keep working, and soon enough it will be all over.

With 98.5, Mr. Classic and the Saturday Night House Party, on the radio, I am pushing forward. This station has provided my soundtrack as I have sat here, in my office, for days, pouring over my students' work, trying to be fair, trying not to get frustrated, trying to give them honest, constructive criticism--feedback that they will hopefully use to become better writers. I can only hope that some of them will take it. I know some of them have over the semester, and I hope, eventually, those that haven't will see that I am not just pulling stuff out of my ass to fill their time, that I am actually attempting to do something meaningful, and give them advice that they will actually use in their lives, if not sooner than later.

It is now, when I should be most stressed out, most frustrated, most ready to give up and never think about it again, that I am feeling something that I am not sure that I ever expected to feel. It didn't come easily, and I have indeed been stressed out, frustrated, and depressed, but maybe this is what I should be doing. Maybe I am on the right career path, but maybe I just need to figure out a way to make it work for me. Maybe this profession is what I am meant to do for a living. Maybe this is how I should focus my job search.

If you have been following this blog, you know that I have been trying to find a full-time job. It has been a frustrating process, and, increasingly, I have started to think that I am not qualified for anything--even though I have had some responses, and have been on a few interviews. I know this is a part of the process, but that doesn't make it any easier. My bills aren't getting any smaller, and I am not getting any younger.

I have come so far and worked so hard that I owe it to myself to keep trying and keep pushing, but maybe I need to change my focus, which I have done, but maybe I have not changed it to the right focus yet. At first, I focused on writing jobs, then I focused on recruiting jobs, then I refocused on writing jobs, and lately I have been focused on whatever seems remotely close. Nothing has really worked out for me, even though I have been close. But, when searching for a job, being close is just as disappointing, maybe more-so, than not being close at all.

It's not that I haven't thought about teaching professionally. For a long time, I didn't believe in myself, that I was a good teacher. Now that is changing, now I realize that I can make a meaningful impact, and that I can do this. I just need to keep working at it, keeping building my skills, keep perfecting my approach, keep seeking a higher level of professionalism and dedication.

Maybe I won't ever make it rich, but that is doubtful anyways. I just need to make enough to pay my bills, and save a little, and with a full-time teaching position I could do just that.

As a teacher, I might get stressed at times, I might feel overworked at times, I might not always like the schedule, but at least I will be able to sleep at night knowing that I am doing something where I can actually directly participate in helping to make the world a better place.

Perhaps not all teachers do that, but some do, and I want to be one of those. I look out at society and the way people communicate, and I can see how I can make an impact. Maybe I won't reach everybody, but if I try, I can reach those that are reachable, and even reaching one person is making a difference. You never know who that one person could turn out to be, or how they could impact our world and make it a better place.

If teaching five classes at three different schools and barely making enough money to make ends meet in one semester hasn't killed my spirit, I don't know what could. Maybe I am delusional, or maybe, just maybe, I am truly cut out for this job. The world does need more good teachers, people who want to teach and want to make a difference through their teaching and not just get a paycheck, and I feel up to the challenge. I am already in the midst of it. What I need to do now is make the best of it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Rant

Why does it have to be so hard to find full-time employment? It would be one thing if I didn't have any prospects, but, the fact is, I have had some interest, have gone on some interviews, and still... Nothing. It's hard not to take it personally.

It's really difficult to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" when you are working hard and trying to make the right decisions and are still falling short somehow. It's hard to have faith in something that seems less and less likely as time progresses. It's hard to continue working hard when it just seems to be taking me back to the same place, over and over and over again. 

Am I just stuck being a mediocre teacher working part-time at three different schools just to barely make ends meet? Am I just always going to be poor and never able to pay all of my bills, save up any money, and purchase a house? 

I know I have probably said this before, but I believe it now more than ever: the American Dream is a lie; it always has been, and it always will be as long as the powers that be remain the same. When you are born into poverty, no matter how hard you work, only the outliers and the extremely lucky make it, and the rest of us will continue drowning, no matter what.

One can only be crushed by disappointment and shame so many times and keep going. One can only be rejected so many times before he just says "fuck it" and walks away.

Monday, November 10, 2014

In Defense of Spotify

In spite of what Taylor Swift thinks, I still think Spotify has a lot to offer music: it might not make the big stars as much money--but it only tends to help everyone else get their music out to a wider audience, which, I am guessing, is the goal for many, if not most, indie artists. That's why more  artists should be finding avenues, like Spotify, for getting their music out to bigger audiences. 

If you aren't concerned about doing it for a living, then it doesn't matter how much money you make, and it actually seems relatively easy to get your music onto SpotifySoundcloud is not bad, either. Or Bandcamp. I use both of the latter two. There is also CDbaby, and lots of others. CD Baby actually seems like the best way to go, now that I look at it a little bit.

AmazoniTunes, and the rest are all doable as well--you just have to be willing to take the time to do the research and find out how (God bless the Internet!). With widely available avenues to record--and even for free (with software like Audacity)--there is little reason not to put your music out there, if you are so inclined. 

If you are mainly recording with live musicians and sound effects, it sounds pretty good once you get the levels right. If you want to do a bunch of electronic shit, buy a synthesizer. I use an old church organ, guitars, a drum machine, a mic, and a small, four-track mixture, which I plug directly into my sound card.

Recording just takes practice and a lot of experimentation. You listen to what you are recording so much that you learn to love or hate your music, depending on how honest you are with yourself. If you hate it--just figure out what you need to do to like it. Then find your right mix, and don't settle for less.

You don't have to spend a lot of money to potentially build an audience. It's kind of like the old method of recording singles for the radio. If you are successful enough, or have enough free time, you can eventually record an album, if you want--but it's not necessary. 

The key, I think, is to take  a cost-effective approach using what means you have available, and not worry about the rest. You might never be Taylor Swift--but that's not necessarily a bad thing (no offense to Ms. Swift).

The processes that worked in the past for indie labels can still be applied today--they just need to be adapted to today's technology. Doing so actually makes them more doable.

Friday, November 7, 2014

[Oh Hell, Here's another one] NEW FLASH FICTION:

The Secret Family Recipe

Duke tried to warn people for years, but the family kept him silenced.

The recipe was passed down through the generations, and millions, maybe even billions, bought and enjoyed those beans—in spite of not knowing exactly what was in them.

The secret was, after all, the gimmick.

Maybe the fact that the family had a talking dog should have clued people in a bit sooner to the fact that they were up to something a bit more nefarious than just making a profit: it’s not pork in those baked beans.


Mr. Kool-Aid’s Lost Weekend

Mr. Kool-Aid struts down the street, boombox blasting Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

The burned out flesh and bones that was the sixties is sprawled out against the railing of its seventy-fourth floor balcony. As the last thread of consciousness breaks,  several sheets of acid slip out of its grasp and fall straight into Mr. Kool-Aid’s top as he is breakdancing for a group of school kids.

Oooh yeeah, he says.

Seventy-four-hours later, one for every floor the acid dropped, Mr. Kool-Aid wakes up in a cell with Zack Galifinakis.

They chat for a few moments and then Mr. Kool-Aid bursts through the wall, running off, his voice echoing in the distance:

Ohhhhhhhhhh Yeaaaaaaaaaahhh!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Life Isn't Simple, But It Could Be

Unofficially, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month. If I had more time to actually work on it, I would make it more official--but I only have a little time to devote to it. I have a little more than 2,000 words, and I am hoping to do about 500-1000 words a week, if I can manage it. This whole "work" thing just seems to get in my way.

Work is not, however, preventing me from keeping my stories in a steady rotation of being sent out. Some of them have been out for a while, some are out for the first time, and some are out for the second. There aren't any that I have sent out three times--yet. If it happens, it happens, I am just going to keep sending them all out until I can find homes for them. I have four more unpublished short and short short stories to send out yet. My goal is to have all fifteen of them out at all times until I can find places to publish them. I will tweak them along the way, and keep experimenting and editing them, until I can figure out what works--what people like, and what journals are best for my style of writing.

I do enjoy teaching--I just wish I could make more doing it. If I could find a full-time community college gig, that would be something I would latch onto and do until a better opportunity came along. Next semester, I am teaching at least two class, but hopefully at least one more. The rest of the hours I am available, I want to spend tutoring. At this stage in my career, I will benefit from both. Tutoring, you get all the benefits of teaching--working with students, getting down to business, talking about writing, editing, using your creativity--without any of the downsides, especially the long hours spent grading and lesson planning. Two is much more manageable in that regard, and three would be the ideal number.

That is not to say that I have given up on other full-time gigs. I am still applying to stuff that seems like I am reasonably qualified for and that don't require too much experience. I could definitely find more time to do it, though. I just wish that I didn't have to sleep. Maybe then I would find enough time in one day to do everything that I want to do. My day would have to be a million years long, and I would have to age really slowly. I don't think I have time on my side there, though. No one does.

That's why life should be less complicated that we, as a society let it be. It can be as simple as it could be, we just have to change our mindset, no matter how much effort it takes. It will be worth it, no matter how much we fail, because, even if we succeed just a little bit, it will make a difference. If every generation tries to make at least a little bit of a difference--you just have to keep the gene pool going--eventually, some future generation with your DNA will get to experience peace. Just ask Geoffrey Chaucer.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Numbness

Numbness. Perhaps it is just my mind's way of dealing with stress, keeping me from getting too overwhelmed by the stress of teaching fifteen credit hours--I don't know. If that is the case, it is working. I am getting through. I am surviving.

It is certainly not what I had in mind for my life. But I am adapting. I am making it work. I am not giving up on anything, just biding my time until something more secure and better paying comes along. I hope to reach a point where I can actually take the time to seek out new opportunities. Perhaps I need to make the time.

Music, as always, has helped me to make it through. I find myself listening and playing an increasing amount. It is one of the few things that breaks through the numbness and reminds me that I still have the muscle in my chest pushing life through my body.

Writing is hard for me right now. Maybe it's due to over-exposure. I am getting better at editing though, so I guess that is a bonus.

That is not to say that I am not working on anything. I do have some surprises up my sleeve, and my second novel is never very far from my thoughts. I have worked on it a little, but obviously it's not my priority right now--although, I wish it was. Maybe someday...

The surprises I can't reveal yet, but I feel like people will be genuinely happy to hear about them when I do feel at liberty to tell people. I find that I need to keep things closer to me, because when I start to talk about them they begin to lose their potency.

Hopefully, the numbness fades over Winter Break, and I can find my creative energies. Until then, I will keep on keepin' on, and hope for the best.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Whole Lot of Dookie

My Dookie is missing. Upon finding out that Green Day was a candidate for this year's class of the Rock n'Roll Hall of Fame, feeling nostalgic, I went for my CD shelf, came up with the case, and... No disc.

I don't know how long it's been gone, where it went, or if I will ever get it back again. I will just listen to my wife's copy.

Whenever I hit play and those first notes of "Burnout" start blasting out of my speakers, it takes me back to the summer of 1994, when I was an awkward, lanky 12-year old, first trying to some sense out of the world. 

I had never really been outside of the rural Ohio hellscape that I saw around me. Trees and fields, nature right in my face. Nothing to do but sit around and dream about the future.

Billy Jo's lyrics spoke to me, to every 12-year old in America, and those songs became the anthems of our lives, as we played that disc, over and over again.

"Longview" was a revelation... I mean, what 12-year-old boy didn't feel bored and horny and fed up with just everything and everyone around them. Right on the verge of teenage angst, I was ready to explode.

And I did. We all did, because that is what teenagers do. We exploded on to the world, developing our own personalities and identities, exploring the world around us and inside of us, Dookie urging us forward, that "fuck you, world!" spirit boiling to the surface and fueling our mission, whatever the fuck it was anyways.

I started playing guitar and making plans for my own band, which would eventually surface as I found like-minded lost souls seeking enlightenment through blistering power chords and pulsing rhythms.

Grunge was already dead, but we were alive, more alive and free than we had ever been, and maybe than we would ever be again. We didn't feel alive and free at the time--hell, we didn't know what we felt. We just knew that we felt something, and it felt right, and wrong, and it swirled all around inside of us, and we tried to make sense of it, and somehow, through the wisdom of songs like "Basket Case" and "When I Come Around", it did in some small way. We weren't alone.

We every successive album, Insomniac, Nimrod, Warning, American Idiot (and the ones that came before, as well, Kerplunk! and 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours--their rendition of "My Generation" is a classic, in my book), our lives continued to be be defined, in part, through them--I mean, how many high school graduating classes didn't use, "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)"as their class song, how many anti-Bush War people didn't rally around "Jesus of Suburbia" during the second Gulf War? These songs spoke to us and spoke for us when we ran short on our own words or didn't have a voice to speak our point of view in a way that others would listen.

While they have always had their share of haters trying to say that they sold out, that they weren't punk, or any of that other crap, they have always been whatever they defined themselves to be, in spite of those criticisms. And that attitude is something that I have always tried to carry with me. Fuck the haters and the critics. What do they know, anyways? What is punk, anyways?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Yesterday's Phantoms

So yesterday I was inspired for a few hours, taking photos with the camera that has been sitting around, unused. I don't know if this is going to be a regular thing, or if this was just a one-time event, but these are the best shots of what I took. I don't have very good editing software, so I didn't make many adjustments (because I couldn't). I really love the light distortion, which gives the pictures a kind of ethereal glow. Obviously, the header picture came from this series, as well. It was the first shot, which I guess kind of inspired the rest.

Current Events

My short short story, "Current Events" is featured today at Flash Fiction Magazine!

Check it out:


Monday, September 22, 2014

Death of A Stapler

Well, I still have my sanity. For now. Honestly, teaching 15 credit hours is not as bad as I expected it to be. 

Having one thing as my primary focus is very liberating, and it still allows me time to continue searching for a full-time job, work on novel#2, edit short and short short stories and send them out to publications, and do stuff with my wife. I can even mostly enjoy my weekends, even though I teach a Saturday class. It's not a good long-term plan, but it will work until I find something better. 

I do like the fact that I am gaining confidence and becoming a more articulate public speaker--two things that I needed to work on anyways. If it didn't require more schooling, I would consider doing it long term, but I have enough debt to pay back.

Another benefit, I think, is that I am becoming a better editor and proofreader. It tends to happen when you have to read and comment on 100 papers every other week, or so. Well, you either become better at it, or your head explodes. Mine is still attached, so far, but, it is only about a third of the way through the semester (how time flies!), so there is still time for that to happen.

The biggest crisis to happen so far this semester--aside from having to wait until the end of the month for my first paychecks, anyhow--has been the death of my stapler. It was a good stapler, which I bought at some point during my last few semesters as an undergrad, and, although I had to fix it a couple of times, it worked well. Unfortunately, it was made from plastic. Next time I buy a stapler, I will be spending the extra and buying a metal one. One meant for high-capacity stapling. One that will last.

Nothing lasts forever, though, I suppose. Of course, that phrase is often used negatively--such as when my stapler first died, and I was particularly distraught about it and cursing the fine people of Office Max--but it can also have a positive meaning, as when you are struggling to make ends meet  and looking for a better opportunity, and you just can't wait for change.

In that case, the fact that nothing lasts forever is a philosophy that gets you through to the next opportunity, the next phase of your life, and hopefully you have learned enough that it is better than where you were before.

Eventually, you will be able able to look back on the times that you struggled and appreciate what you have and realize that, even though things might have been a struggle, it could have been worse. It can always be worse.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Good news!

My flash fiction, "Current Events" is being published by Flash Fiction Magazine! I will keep you posted as to when it is published, which should be on September 29, but, for now, here is a link:

flash fiction

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Somewhat Boring Post, but I am Old and Boring Now

Teaching five sections of English Comp is a challenge. I am constantly on my toes to keep up with my lesson planning and grading, but it is kinda fun, and certainly better than working in a restaurant--even if the pay isn't substantially better. It keeps me busy, anyways. I am still looking for full-time work, and if I have to leave in the middle of the semester then, well... I am not looking to do so, necessarily, but if it happens, it happens.

As a professor in the English department of one of my schools recently told me, I owe the schools my professionalism (which I give them), but not my loyalty (even though it is in my nature to be loyal), because I am only an adjunct, it doesn't pay well, and there are no benefits.

Besides, I would rather write than talk about writing for a living, and teaching writing doesn't leave me much time to do any writing--although, I do try to sneak it in when I am able. When I do get the opportunity, I primarily write flash fiction, since I can usually write a whole story in one sitting (although I do come back and polish them before I send them anywhere). I have sent a few out to publications, and I plan to send out more as I find more places to send them. It probably won't lead to wealth and fame, but I am hoping that by getting some stuff published it will help increase my job prospects. Every little bit helps.

It is ironic that, even after having gone back to school and finally gotten my bachelor's degree, and my master's, I am still very much in the same position as I was before I did these things, which were supposed to put me in a good position to find a better job. I suppose it could be worse, at least I have made it out of fast foot/retail sales, and I guess my future prospects are better, but it doesn't seem like it right now since I am still struggling to make ends meet.

On the radio they were saying that Akron, Ohio has the worst job-growth rate in the country, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that I am having trouble--although, I am increasingly looking elsewhere for employment.

The important thing is that I don't give up. The only way anything is going to change is if I keep trying and keep reaching towards the future--keep doing things to increase my opportunities and hopefully improve my quality of life. Maybe I won't succeed, maybe I won't ever make it out of this rut, but, you know, at least I tried.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Learning and Moving Forward

For my second novel, I am in the process of dissecting two of my favorite novels by two of my favorite authors, books I have read multiple times each, so I can full understand how they work, more so, than perhaps, I do already--I have actually written a paper on one for a linguistics class. Actually, I have written two papers on works by that author, so I am already well familiar with how his style works, more or less. My goal is to immerse myself in these novels so I can draw as much influence from them as I am able. I already have my novel all plotted out, but studying these works will allow me to hone what I have planned already and, when I am actually writing it, use what I have learned and absorbed to write the best novel that I am capable of writing, currently.

One thing that really click for me over the last few months has to do with editing, which I will be able to use, not only when I am editing this novel, but also when I am writing it. I have figured out my process and I feel confident in it, and know that I can produce top quality work, which, even though I believe I could get it published, I am going to self-publish, since one of my goals is to change the way people perceive self-published novels--that they don't all have to be genre fiction in order to draw an audience, and that they can be well-written and intellectually challenging.

My goal as a writer is to produce works of artistic and literary merit, that go beyond mere entertainment and escapism, to push boundaries, to challenge people to think differently and go outside of their worldview and see life from a different perspective.

It feels good to be figuring things out, making decisions, and doing what I have to do to move forward in my life, professionally and personally, and as a writer. Even though I am only a hobbyist, I do take what I write seriously, and I try to push myself constantly to be better than I am, and that will likely never change.

Choosing A Choice

While it is entirely arbitrary to most people, my gut instinct is telling me that, if I am going to take one version of Out in the Garage off-sale, it is going to be the second edition. While that might seem counter-intuitive, I do have what I feel is solid reasoning to support why I would do this, which I guess makes it more than just gut instinct, but, hey, you know, whatever... It really all comes down to the fact that I never should have written the second edition in the first place. I should have just stood behind the first edition and not let what other people think bother me, since there are plenty of people who read it and liked it. While it might not conform to contemporary ideals, that is not necessarily a bad thing, and I have spent much more time reading and studying literature that was written well before I was born, and my biggest influences as a writer were either well dead or quite old when I was born. I studied literature, I didn't go through an MFA program, and, as of now, I don't intend to. Not that there anything wrong with getting an MFA, it is just not my choice. I believe, and have been taught, even by people with MFAs, that the best way to learn how to write is to study how writers you like do it, and then do it, and do it, and do it. So that is what I am doing. When I started writing Out in the Garage, I didn't know what I was doing (and some would argue that I still don't, but hey, whatever, you can't please everybody), and, over the course of writing, editing, rewriting, and editing, over and over again, I, sort of, developed my artistic vision for it, which I then compromised when I decided to rewrite and edit and make the changes that I did to get the second edition. While yes, in theory, the changes were designed to make it more marketable, it was really just stupid and weak on my part. The first edition, for all its faults, is genuine. When I finished it, it felt finished. I just lack the self-confidence to not continuously second guess myself, which I am trying to change. Anyways, I like the first edition, and if I have to choose one (which I don't, really), it is the one that I am going to choose.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thinking Out Loud; or, Battling the Indecisiveness

Thinking about taking off sale one or the other of the two versions of Out in the Garage. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but I feel like I should stand behind one or the other as the official version, as having two versions is probably somewhat confusing for potential buyers, and probably makes me look indecisive.

While I have not sold a lot of the first edition, I have sold some, and it has generated more interest since they both have been on sale. It is also closer to the original idea, and I tend to lean towards it as my favorite version.

The second edition is more focused and cohesive, or, rather, more obviously cohesive, and is more directed towards a young adult market, which, in theory, should help increase my sales, since young adult lit is a popular genre right now.

I made the second edition as a response to criticism about the first edition, but I feel like it was an impulsive, hastily made decision that might have hurt my credibility, or at least the credibility of that first edition, which is bound to not be liked by every one who reads it. That is just the nature of any product in the creative industry. Not to mention, I am not really coming from a perspective influenced by popular contemporary fiction.

However, since I have taken the time to make the second edition, shouldn't I stand behind it, since I haven't really done so, I just released it for sale, quietly, and have not done anything really to promote it. It's not like I have given it a chance to be successful, or have really taken the time to build an audience with it. It is definitely more focused than the first edition, and I have addressed the criticism about the narrative voice of the first person being too unrealistic by changing it to a third person narrative, which was no easy task, mind you.

Technically I don't have to make a decision, but realistically I do, as I feel I will be more successful in marketing and promoting one or the other, but if both are fore sale, one will be a distraction for whichever one I decide to stand behind. The goal here is to learn and grow from what I learn, and I want to be able to take what I have discovered and will discover from this project into future projects.

One thing is for sure, I am not going to have this same issue with my next novel. I am not going to spend ten years figuring it out, and I am not going to re-release it once I have released it the first time, which means that I need to get it right the first time, and I won't be able to do that unless I figure out what is right now, and I can't do that if I don't actively try to promote one or the other version of this novel.

What I think I will do is read the second edition, as I have not read it just to read it, and then make a decision. Perhaps it is time to leave the first edition behind, which is what I am leaning towards doing, as it seems like the logical thing to do. Unfortunately, sometimes, particularly with creative projects, the logical thing to do isn't always the right thing to do.

Thinking Can Be Dangerous, But It's Usually Not, and Actually Sometimes Quite Productive, But Not Always, And That's Okay

It occurred to me as I was watching Letterman. He had nothing to do it, it was just what was on the boob tube. I have been watching Lost on Netflix but the storm fucked it up on my Wii and haven't been able to connect. It's not the internet, so I don't know. Anyways, I was thinking, as I have a tendency to do, on occasion, and it occurred to me that I wrote the rough draft of my first novel when I was living in Chicago, when I was working like 50-60 hours a week, so why can't I write the first draft of my second novel when I am working about the same amount of hours, especially since this one has been meticulously planned out already? I believe I can balance teaching and writing, and do both successfully. I will always be busy, but then again, I am always busy, have always been always busy, will always be always busy, always. It's just how I function. I have never been very good at sitting around and not doing anything. Even when I am sitting around, doing nothing, I am actually probably also doing something. Perhaps, I will get one of these two jobs for which I am in the early stages of interviewing, and I will not have to worry about teaching and writing--although instead I will be writing and writing, but it will be different, because my work writing will only help my hobby writing, which will only help my work writing, because I will always be sharpening the tool. Of course, I will also be writing flash fiction and short stories, in addition to my novel, but if I ever want to get good at writing novels, I am going to have to continue doing it on a regular basis. Perhaps I will never make a job of it, but, maybe someday I will. It's not going to happen overnight, and it's not going to happen without effort, but it can happen if I keep putting effort to it, it is not guaranteed to happen, but it can happen because it is a possibility, because I am working towards it, and attempting to learn from my mistakes and grow, and get better as I continue to do it. Anyways, it's time to stop being a student and to start being productive and making money and also putting effort into what I truly want to do. It's time to find a career where I can be successful so I can support my wife and myself, pay our bills, buy a new car, pay off our debt, buy a house... You know, all of that adult crap that every tries to do sooner or later, and I aim to do it more sooner than later. It will be nice to reach a point in my life where I can pursue my hobbies and not feel guilty about it because I don't have something else I should be reading or writing. I guess it has not fully struck me that I am no longer a student, that I am moving on to a new stage of my life, where school might still be a big part of my life, but not as a student. In a way, I am still learning and studying, but it is not the same, because I already have some expertise at the subject, and I have some experience at teaching, and I just need to building my confidence and further develop my ability to communicate these ideas in ways that will reach the students who want to be reached. I am not looking to teach forever--at least not working three part time jobs just to make ends meet--and I am hoping to get one of these two other jobs, but if I do end up teaching full time, I would not be upset about it. Ultimately, I think, it comes down to the fact that where ever I work, it will be my life as much as it has to be, but it won't be my entire life, because I have so much else. I have worked hard to work less but do more and have it be more appreciated by the people who are affected by what I do.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


While I might not be rewriting or re-editing Out in the Garage these days, I am still attempting to hone my publishing and marketing of it, seeing what is working and what isn't, and one area where I struggle still is fitting it into a genre. I started out very generally describing it as literary fiction, but that isn't really working, so, after thinking long and hard about it, I have gotten a bit more specific.

The first edition I am going with coming of age and satire as the genres, since, because of the structure and the additional parts, is more general than the second edition. Even though the genres are still pretty general, they are a better fit than literary fiction or general fiction. Coming of Age works for the genre because it is, on the surface, about a teenager dealing with changes in his life and transitioning into adulthood. Satire is also an accurate description, since, as Wikipedia describes, "vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement." While this was more obvious in the original Escapes version, it is still pretty evident if you read through the layers and don't just taking it at face value. At least I think it is pretty evident, anyways.

The second edition, like the first edition, is still labelled a satire, for the same sort of reasons, but because of the focus, and the structure, the other genre that best describes it is young adult/juvenile fiction -- visionary and metaphysical. Since much of the story is the mental journey of a young adult character through his life, which comes across as a sort of dream-like, altered state of reality, and is written in a way that might appeal more to an adult audience that reads young adult fiction, it made sense for me to label it in this way.

No matter what genre is the most appropriate, both versions are heavily allegorical and can be read as extended metaphors, and, unless I am mistaken, this is not something that many writers are doing nowadays. It is not necessarily uncommon, but it isn't exactly what the academy is teaching, either. I suppose that it would make sense that I would write in such a way, since I am most familiar with literature from the 19th and before, when it was more commonplace. Herman Melville, as many of you are probably aware, is one of my bigger influences, and it would be very difficult to read Moby Dick and make much sense out of it without reading it as being an extended metaphor, and the same goes for much of his other work. I mean, try making sense out of The Confidence Man without reading it allegorically.

While perhaps it is an outmoded way to write, it is what came naturally to me when I was writing it, and writing allegorically, for me, was a good way to make social and cultural criticism and also tell a story that makes sense on a surface level. While I do want my readers to read (either version) allegorically, and I hope that they do, it is not necessarily necessary, either.

In the end, classifying it as one genre or another doesn't really change the novel itself, but readers' expectations on what they are getting, and how they know they are supposed to read what they are purchasing. I am hoping, by seeking out the most specific genre where it fits, I will be able to find the right set of readers, who will read it as it is intended to be read. 

While I can't control exactly how people read it, finding the right genre does help lead the reader in the right direction, and that's all I really can do. I just need to do it more effectively.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Wine+Thinking About My First Novel=Existential Ramblings

It's been a while since I have thought about it. Just the space of time that I needed, maybe? I stare down at my copy of it, and think, the first version is better.  I should never have second-guessed myself. Maybe other people would have written it in a different way, perhaps it would have been more salable if I had written it according to what gets published nowadays--but I don' t give a shit. I used to give a shit, but now I don't. I shouldn't have given a shit, I shouldn't have cared about what random other people thought, but I did. I shouldn't have done the second edition, but I did.

What is done is done. I can't take it back. People will have to decide for themselves. They had to, anyways. It has always been that way, even if those other people didn't realize it, because they were too affected by what other people thought, just like I was. Maybe people truly can't think for themselves. At least most people can't. We are a social species. At least most of us are. Some of us aren't. I am not. I don't give a shit. Okay, maybe that is a lie. Maybe I do give a shit, but I am trying not to. I am in recovery.

The first edition is better, because it is more true to what I wanted to do in the first place. Maybe it is not realistic, but people who assume that is a bad thing assume that it was meant to be realistic. Maybe it wasn't. Maybe I don't believe in realism as much as I want to believe in it, and definitely not as much as others believe in it. Maybe there is no realism, only subjectivism. We can only interpret the real world, not define it. We are limited to our own subjectivity, no matter how hard we try to prove otherwise. Maybe I subscribe to a different point of view, a point of view contingent on the subjectivity of the writer and the reader, where the two can't meet, since two people cannot ever fully connect mentally in the same way as we can physically, because our minds are isolated from the physical reality of our being. 

They aren't really isolated, but it seems that way. We can only see things through our own eyes. We can try to see things through other people's eyes, but we can't truly. We should try, but it is an effort in futility. That's why we should always treat each other as we would want to be treated. That's why we should think really hard before we try to tell people that they are wrong in the way they are thinking, because, they might be wrong according to our point of view, but that doesn't meant that they are wrong, and that we are right. That doesn't mean that we are wrong and they are right. It is all relative.

But what about taking life, you say? That, I say, I don't know. I would like to say that we both can agree that it is wrong, but is it always wrong? Can we know? Just because I think it should be wrong, that I believe that it is wrong, does it make it wrong?

I take a moment to sit back and read what I have just written and realize that I have gotten way off track--or have I? I didn't really have a plan when I set out to write this, so I reasonable can't really say that. It is what it is. I can change it, but should I? Is it better or worse, or just different?

I can answer those questions, but then, I would only be answering them for me and not necessarily for everyone else. That is just the nature of language.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What a Difference a Couple of Weeks Makes

Over the past couple of weeks, I have gone from one part time teaching gig, to three, from teaching two classes, to teaching five. It is going to be a busy semester, but I am looking forward to being able to focus on teaching and writing. Grad school has been fun, but I am ready for it to be over. I have enjoyed my classes, but it's time for me to move on and get to work. 

Actually, in addition to the teaching gigs, I have another job prospect, a career opportunity, which is perhaps somewhat of a remote possibility, but it is something that I would be thrilled to do with a company where I would love to work. I don't want to jinx it by saying too much, and I don't want to get my hopes up, but, it could realistically happen. I believe that I have a shot at it as much as anyone else who might be up for it. It would definitely change my life in a really good way.

I have really enjoyed my flash fiction class. I believe that I have figured out my style and that I have written some strong stories. It has been a good experience, and I like my professor and my class. I have gotten some helpful advice that I know I will continue to use as I venture out on my own and see what happens.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Job searching is... hard. And frustrating. There are many ways I could describe this process, but these seem the most fitting.

I supposed it wouldn't be as difficult if I had more direct professional experience in the area where I am trying to find employment, but, really, I am not getting very many responses, in general, so it really makes me second-guess myself and my skills, knowledge, and intelligence... Am I just truly not qualified for these jobs? Am I just destined to work whatever crappy job comes along? What the hell am I not doing that I need to do? What am I doing that I shouldn't be?

Sometimes I just think it's the system, and that it is set up against me, since I don't know anybody, and I didn't grow up anywhere particularly special. But maybe that's just an excuse. Maybe I am not trying hard enough, or maybe I need to focus my search in a different particular area.

But through all of my schooling, I have never been led to believe anything but that I am a capable, talented writer. I have always seemed to have a natural knack for it, and I have always been willing to put in the work to further develop my skills. I have never been discouraged away from writing--indeed, quite the opposite. Particularly in my journalism and my creative writing classes, but also in many of my English classes, and even by professors who have reputations at being tough, I have been encouraged to keep at it.  

Maybe I am just not patient. Maybe it just takes more time. Maybe I need more schooling yet. I don't know. I am not going to give up. I don't know if I am even capable of it. I suppose that's why I have a white whale tattooed on my forearm.

Friday, July 11, 2014

In An Alternate Universe, About Now...

The Riot of 2014

It was the collective impulse. As soon as the shock started to wear off, the people camped outside the gates started storming it, Bastille-like, and soon, his mansion was on fire. Nearby, all around the area, groups started to gather, and quickly they became one giant, pulsating mass. “Off with their heads,” the blob cried, “off with their heads!” and the ringing of the guillotine echoed all the way to Sandusky. Once again, the river was burning.


Distractions are great, but 
our problems are greater.
We attempt to escape from 
them, but they are right 
around the corner, always 
on our scent, on our trail, 
just waiting for an  opportunity 
to pounce on us and 
bring us down, begging.

We attempt to make ourselves 
oblivious. We care about things 
just so they will mentally lift us 
out of harm's way--even though 
it is only in our minds and our 
problems are still ever present, 
haunting us, giving us that
 tightening in our chests. 

We are out of breath, lost in 
romances of endless races 
and places that are as they 
seem on the surface.

Maybe if we follow far enough
 into these fantasies we will 
finally escape, but we haven't yet. 
Maybe we just have to keep 
trying, to keep pushing,  to keep 
moving forward, but it is all more 
in our heads that we realize.

Society, culture, religion... It is all 
there to fill our time while we are 
on this dusty rock--whatever 
it is, whoever we are.

Maybe these things aren't 
distractions, after all. 

Maybe they are lenses 
from which we view the world, 
and no one is any more 
right or wrong than any other. 

For as much as we are 
sure of, we are unsure. 

For as much as we 
know, we don't know. 

Can it ever be 
other than that?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Out in the Garage now for sale as eBook

The second (and final) edition of Out in the Garage is now for sale at Smashwords, and pending review, will be for sale shortly at Amazon, where it is now also for sale in print. The recommended price is $1.99 for the eBook edition is $1.99, and $6.99 for the print edition--although Amazon currently has it listen for $6.29.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independent's Day!

It's Independence Day, but it is also, for all intents and purposes, Independent's Day, as well--since I am indeed an indie author!

The second (and final) edition of my first novel, Out in the Garage, is now out for sale on Create Space! Right now it is in paperback only, but, in the next day or two, it will appear in both print and digital formats in other online markets. Perhaps I will eventually get it distributed to some indie bookstores locally, as well.

This, as I have said, is the final edition of my first novel. How it has turned out is how it is going to be from now to the end of time. I am happy and excited, and I believe it is at its best ever, and I hope people will give it a chance, since the changes are a direct result of feedback that I have received from people I trust. It has come a long way in the past ten years, and I am glad to be moving on to the next project, which is really already under way--it is now, officially, though.

To make sure I don't change my mind and try to go back or whatever, I am moving straight into the next one, diving in head first. It is a much different book, in both the story itself and in the way I am coming at it. The first one I just started writing without any plan, and this one I have planned very carefully. We'll see how this helps. My goal to to be publishing it this time next year, which I believe is entirely reasonable. I have learned a lot and I am going to hopefully demonstrate it with this project.

I am not going to specifically state which project I have decided to pick up and get under way. As you know, I have a huge backlog of ideas from which to choose--although, some are further along than others. It will be kind of a surprise  to everyone when I announce which one, which will be much closer to the time that it is finished. For now, I will simply refer to it as novel #2.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Basic Human Rights Vs. Corporate Profits

While I understand the outrage about the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, I am not surprised by the decision, and neither should anybody else be surprised, either. Some of justices have a clear corporate agenda, and whenever it comes down to limiting or extending corporations' rights, they are probably going to extend them. I believe economist and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has the right idea: it is time for the people of the US to take a serious look at the constitution in order to clearly define that corporations are not people, and that spending money is not a form of speech. There are other serious problems that also need to be addressed, so perhaps it is time to go through the constitution and rewrite and modernize it. It is the surest way to guarantee everyone basic rights, which are becoming eroded as we sink further into oligarchy.

In the Constitution, there should be provisions that clearly define and guarantee basic human rights so that everyone has access to food, water, shelter, and healthcare. How can anyone enjoy the Declaration of Independence's "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" if s/he is struggling merely to exist? By ensuring these rights in the constitution, it will ensure that people will have access to meet their basic survival needs and will limit corporation and government interference with meeting those needs. Corporations will always find a way to make money, and it should not be more important than ensuring that everyone has their basic needs met. If people want luxuries, then they can find ways to make money to afford those luxuries, but these basic rights, including healthcare, are not luxuries, and should not be weighed against corporate profits, because in our current system, corporate profits seem to win out, every time.

I know the idea of universal healthcare is scary--mostly because of reactionary propaganda from corporate and private interests--but it is the right thing for everybody.  Everyone deserves access to healthcare, and no one should have to go into debt just to get the care that they need. Perhaps we can base our healthcare system more on the French system, which has been considered the number one healthcare system in the world by the World Health Organization since 2000. This peer-reviewed article by Dr.Victor G. Rodwin describes the French system as a "combin[ation] [of] universal coverage with a public–private mix of hospital and ambulatory care." The article goes on to state: "In France, the commitment to universal coverage is accepted by the principal political parties and justified on grounds of solidarity—the notion that there should be mutual aid and cooperation between the sick and the well, the active and the inactive, and that health insurance should be financed on the basis of ability to pay, not actuarial risk." In other words, the French don't leave their sick behind, they help them get the care that the need rather than just let them get sicker, or die. While the French system isn't perfect, it is better than the one that we have. It attempts to strike a balance between public need and private interests, which is what, ideally, a government institution should do.

Companies such as Hobby Lobby should not be able to dictate what healthcare coverage people can and cannot get. Corporate and business interests need to be limited, since their primary concern is not for their employees, or even for their customers, but instead it is for making a profit. As long as the people who own a stake in the company are making the amount of money that they feel they deserve, that's all that matters. That is not to say that corporations shouldn't exist, it just means that there should be more options and opportunities for people to survive outside of them. We can have a democracy, and capitalism, for that matter, and limit corporations--especially when they have an undue influence on how society functions at the detriment to a growing segment of the population. Not every facet of society needs to be for profit.

Changes that benefit society as a whole are not going to happen unless our social framework is restructured so that it supports social progress. The constitution was not intended as the be-all, end-all document for all of time, as is evidenced by the fact that you can make changes to it. Instead, it was intended as a model from which to base a workable social framework, and if that framework is no longer supporting everyone, it needs to be extended. Let us not continue to keep making the same mistakes: let's guarantee all rights for all people and not just a select minority who can afford it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Always on My Mind

Searching for a job is never an easy task, especially when you are searching for a career. Most people--or, rather, many people, at any rate--go to college and study a particular field in order to establish a career in that field. I started out studying journalism and then made the switch to English, but the goal has always been to establish a career as a writer, as I have a natural affinity for writing and I do it all the time anyway. I have always been able to adapt to new styles and improve my writing with every class that I have taken, and I enjoy talking about it and influencing others to become better at it. This is probably why I have gotten into teaching, which is--or, at least, can be--an honorable profession. I am relatively new at it, and I still have a lot to learn, but it is something I can see myself doing.

However, it would not be honest of me if I said that it was my main goal, since my true desire is to be a professional writer. That is not to say that I don't like teaching, or that I wouldn't do it as a professional, it just means that I have the passion, and indeed, the determination, to be a professional writer, and I intend to follow through with that goal until I reach a point where I truly cannot move forward.

If I had been more diligent when I was younger, and had not let outside influences distract me and turn me away from my goal, I would be further ahead now. As a student journalist, I was published weekly in the entertainment pull-out of my (award-winning) college newspaper. After my first semester as a correspondent, I was promoted to entertainment reporter, and then had some problems in my personal life that distracted me from my career goals, and the semester after I became a reporter, I was back to correspondent again. It was no failing on my part as a writer, but I felt like I had failed. Instead of working through my problems and not giving up, and pushing through the hard times and focusing on school and working as a student journalist, I took a break. Not because I didn't want to continue working towards my goal, but because I needed time to get my life together before I continued on my path.

Out in the "real world," I worked and struggled to make ends meet, trying to figure out how to make the best of life. During this time, I met my wife, spent a couple years in Chicago, and reaffirmed what I had known all along: being a writer is a part of my identity. I went back to school, older, more mature, and more determined than ever. Changing my major to English, I not only graduated, but ended up going on to grad school, working the whole time, balancing my personal life, my school work, and a job, and I struggled, but the kind of struggling that makes a person stronger and more capable of succeeding, because, even when it was difficult, I didn't crack and give in to the pressure, I continued working and pushing, and, even when I didn't want to or didn't think I could do it, I did it anyway. From my effort, based on my writing skills, I was selected as a graduate assistant, and now I have gotten some real professional experience as a college instructor and am one creative writing workshop away from a master's degree, and I am at a crossroads.  

There are many different possible directions but only one direction to go, and I have to decide what is best for me--but not only me, but also my wife, and my future family. While, in many ways I am further ahead than I was five years ago, all my effort is moot unless I can transform those personal and professional developments into something concrete. I don't need to be rich, but I do need to meet my needs, and life isn't cheap.  I need to earn enough money to not only cover my basic living expenses, but also my student loans, and my debt--and not just mine, but also my wife's. I feel stuck, because I believe that I owe it to myself and to the work that I have accomplished so far to pursue a career in the area that I have chosen to study. I have been offered a part-time teaching position at my school, and I would happily accept it, but I realistically need a better paying job in order not to slide further into debt and poverty. I might be able to subsist with the part-time position if I can find a second part-time teaching position in the area, but I am still not that experienced as an instructor, and my main goal is to become a professional writer.

Even though I will shortly have a master's degree, and I have taught writing, and have written for a widely distributed publication (even though it is a student-run newspaper, it still has a wider circulation than many small town newspapers), I have no professional-level writing experience, and there doesn't seem to be any entry level writing positions available (anywhere). Every position I see needs at least 2-3 years of professional experience. Even though (I believe) I am fully capable of doing many of these jobs,  and, even of the ones that I seem to meet the criteria that are listed, the employers don't seem to want to give me a chance even if I might be more highly skilled than someone with more experience. 

If I can't convince an employer to hire me full time, I need to make the best of what I can get, and work to achieve my goal, somehow. I will take the part-time teaching position(s) and at the same time devote myself to freelance writing and getting published. I will work towards becoming a better, more experienced writer and instructor, and will continue working towards my goal, and hopefully earn enough money to subsist. 

It's either that, or just give up on trying to become a writer and/or an instructor, and just take whatever best-paying job I can get.

Somehow, I can't bring myself to do that. Not yet. Not until I know that the gates are closed, and that no amount of effort will help me get passed it. Of course, I will probably be dead before that happens.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Stories Added to FICTION page

These stories I have published versions of on here and on the FICTION page in the past. "Starving America" has been published on the FICTION page for a while. I have done a little rewriting to both "The Big City" and "The Unicorn", but both have been previous published here, and "Killing Boredom" is an alternative version of the story, "The Backwoods Incident", from my collection, Tales from the Fringes. The "Killing Boredom" version also appeared with a different ending in my undergraduate writing portfolio. Finally, a version of "Bed Head" was originally published by 50 to 1.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The In-Between Days

The sun is peering down through the trees in my backyard and highlighting the small strip of grass where the fire pit is still the focal point, a remnant from last night.  I close my eyes and am present with the roasted marsh mellow heaven overtaking the cold slime of insect repellent.  Stars are twinkling through the dome of orange security.  There are laughs and smiles and cold beverages, around me I hear the conversation over the slightly muffled music that is peeping out from my office windows that overlook the patio and backyard.  My eyes blink open and I am overlooking the day-glow, listening to the Amboy Dukes.  Although I fucking hate Ted Nugent as a person--he is entitled to his beliefs, as I am mine--I do like this one album by this, his first band.  He was just the guitarist then so his ideology doesn't really filter into it because someone else was primarily responsible for writing the songs.  It is kind of a bluesy concept album called, Journey to the Center of My Mind.  I just finished an outline for novel #2.  It's pretty comprehensive and complex, so I am definitely glad that I took the time to workout the framework before I actually start to write it.  I am keeping this one close to me, so you probably won't hear a lot about specific details--at least not until it is closer to being finished.  My goal is the publish it next summer.  It's definitely a summer time kind of novel.  I will tell you it's set in the city, during a specific time period very near the present.  It is based very solidly in literature that I have read and studied, and I am very confident that I can pull it off.  It is well-thought out and well-structured, and once I actually do start writing it, it is going to go fast (well, hopefully).  I also sketched a possible design for the cover.  I am working on the entire concept, from the beginning.  Instead of thinking of it like just words on a page, I am envisioning the entire physical art object.  In the next week, or two, I also still have to finish proofreading the Second Edition of Out in the Garage.  I sit here trying to find a focus, but my mind just continues to roll about in its own direction, towards one of the infinite number of future possibilities.  I think about being productive, and finding the means of doing so.  I have promised myself that I am not going to get desperate, because I at least have a job in the Fall, even though it's not full time.  If I can stay more relaxed and confident through the process, I won't be so stressed out, and I'll be more likely to make a good impression on potential employers.  But it's Sunday, so I am not going to think about it again until tomorrow--even though it still continues to press on my mind as a blur that I try to focus even though it is an impossible task.  While my professional world is in stasis as I look for a role to fill, I am going to continuing working on this hobby.  I am finally reaching a point in my life where I can kind of justify doing so.  In that way, I am also excited for my last class since it is a short short story fiction writing workshop.  It's like the cherry on top of my college career (at least for the foreseeable future).

Friday, June 20, 2014

Not Looking Back In Anger, Mr. Gallagher

It's time.  To break out of this rut.  This book, which I have put more love and thought into than any other project I have ever done.  

It has been ten years, and I have thought about it, and reworked it, and thought about it, and reworked it...and finally released it, only to second guess it and go back and start reworking it again.  

I don't regret doing so, and I hope people really give it a chance and like it.  

I just want people to read it and like and get roughly what I was doing with it, and see that I have room to continue growing as a writer and that I can accomplish something that has been a long and challenging commitment.  

It might not be much, it might be nothing on the grand scope of life, but it is my little something, and I hope that people see that and appreciate it.  

It is more compact, and I have thought through every stylistic and creative decision and made sure that I have incorporated every good idea and taken each to its furthest extent.  

When I have the money, I am going to buy a bunch and give them away to family, friends, and whoever shows interest.  

I am going to make sure that anyone who just appreciates reading and storytelling and local artists who are working hard for no money trying to make something concrete and physical out of brainwaves and determination, I am going make sure those people get copies.

Whatever happens, will happen, and I am not any longer going to live in the past, and keep over-thinking it.  

It's time to be done with it and to move forward and to commit myself to a new job and a new career and a new project. 

It's time to move forward, into the unknown, out of my comfort zone, out of anxiety and second-guessing, and going back to the same old wreck.  

It's time to challenge myself in new ways, with new ideas, and new commitments.  

It's time to transform my goals from impulses into realizations.

The best way to get excited about the future, even the mundane, everyday, ordinary, reality that life becomes, is to close your eyes, dream of some possibility, and figure out how to make the abstract concrete.  

You never know what can happen.  

Sometimes dreams come true in unimaginable ways, and you just have to embrace however it happens, and enjoy it while it lasts, and have no regrets.

The difference between people who enjoy life and people who are miserable is that the people who enjoy life know that it is all a state of mind, and even in the worst circumstances, if you have survived with a pleasant state of mind, you have made it.

It's not easy.  It's really not.  I struggle with it every day.  But just because it is a struggle, it doesn't mean that it is not worth the effort.

You can't control every circumstance in life, in fact, you can control very little, but you can control you, and so that's what you have to do.

That's what I am trying to do, anyways.  That's all I have every been able to do, or really, anyone can do.  That's just life.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Giving in to Insecurities and Paranoia, or Finding Peace

"He gazed up at the enormous face.  Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark mustache.  O cruel, needless misunderstanding!  O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast!  Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose.  But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished.  He had won the victory over himself.  He loved Big Brother."--George Orwell, 1984

Through my schooling, I have begun to realize that there is no objective Truth--at least not in the way that most people understand it--and that all truths are others' narratives where they seek to understand life and the ways of the universe, and perhaps some are closer than others to some sliver of understanding.  I have realized, to some extent, that it is absurd that we continue to live by others' narrow conceptions of life while feeling miserable and powerless to do anything for ourselves because everything seems so far out of our control.

But that lack of control is an illusion, it is a fundamental part of the status quo--that subjective truth that the major lives by--because it is how social order is maintained.  If people realized that truth is malleable--that they are living by others' conceptions of life and not their own, and that they can create their own conception of living based around their needs and not others'--they would realize that it is possible to change their lives and to live the way they choose.  

Of course, it is not as easy as all that.  The status quo has a powerful effect on people, feeding them lies about morality and nature, feeding them things to desire in order to distract them from their actual desires, making them powerless, by choice, to make any significant changes.  The shackles are there because we place them on ourselves.  

In spite of these shackles, there are changes that need to be made.  Instead of each going off in our own direction, however, we should work together to create our own conception of the status quo, and bring about a new, more encompassing version of the social contract, one that leaves no one out of it. We need to strike a balance between our individual needs and social needs, and not allow anyone to have too much authority over either.

Otherwise, we are going to destroy ourselves, or let ourselves be destroyed.

Somebody is going to attempt to create change, and instead of meaningful change, they are going to create chaos and further erode our freedoms.  Your finger might not be on the trigger, but if you sit by and idly watch as everything unfolds around you, your complacency allows that trigger to be pulled, and you are every much as deserving the blame as the person actually pulling it, because you did nothing to stop it.  If more people don't stand up and fight for what they believe, and what they really believe and not what they have been lead to believe, then it will be too late.

It might already be too late.  We might just be trapped in a cycle that will only be increasingly more difficult to escape  The void might already be below us, and all we have to do is look down to realize that we are already falling into emptiness...

But wait...  Is that merely me projecting my own insecurities, my own conception of reality?  Are things really that way, or am I just paranoid, insecure, and feeling betrayed by my intelligence?  

Even though I have worked hard, and struggled, but never-the-less supposedly succeeded in doing what I was told would help me get a better job and earn a living, and pay off my bills, buy a house, a car, etc., pursuing "the American Dream", it has gotten me none of those things, so far, and I only seem to be getting further and further away from them.

It has all seemed to turn out to be a lie that has been perpetuated so that more people would go to college, so the administrations, filled with people with business degrees, could justify their large salaries and the turning of the institutions of learning into for-profit businesses that feed off of government-sponsored student loans, putting those who they are seeking to control, under control, since being in debt places limitations on you that are hard to get past.

It doesn't seem like I am projecting, but then again, a crazy person supposedly doesn't know he is crazy.  Maybe I am truly crazy and out of line, and just need to accept reality as it is and not as I think it should be.

Maybe, like Winston Smith, I just need to accept that there are forces that are more powerful than me, accept my powerlessness and their power over me, and just move forward, and take whatever job, and do it, and do it, and do it, until I can't even remember what the hell my problem was in the first place. 

Or maybe the zombie apocalypse is already happening, and most people have already lost and the only real way to survive is to think for yourself.  Maybe that means that you will never succeed in their conception of the world, but maybe that is okay.

Maybe it is okay to have a different value system--one that is predicated on empathy and sound judgment rather than on just following what you are supposed to do unquestioningly.  Maybe true freedom is a state of mind, and that you can break free from the shackles and live the way that you wish to live, regardless of what it seems like everyone else around you is doing.  Maybe it is all about how you perceive reality, rather than how reality is.  Maybe you do have control over it, and by selecting a better narrative, you can have a better life.

Perhaps you do need a job to survive in the world, but that job doesn't have to be your life.  It doesn't have to control you, and you don't have to place your soul on the altar of some artificial value system.  Maybe the best thing to do is to find a job that allows you to have a balance between your life, and your job function, so that you can dedicate yourself to that job function when you are performing it, and leave it behind at the end of the day.  Perhaps, it is all about finding a balance and finding a state of mind that allows you to be at peace with yourself and the world around you.  Maybe that is maturity.

The real battle isn't you versus others, you vs. society, you vs. sin, you vs. whatever other outside force that may or may not be real, but you vs. yourself.