February 2015

When I fell out of the habit of regularly blogging late last year, and then decided (kind of) to fall back into it, I wasn’t planning on that being only a once-a-month thing. And yet, maybe that’s what this blog is now: a recap, or re-evaluation, of the month. Twitter (and very occasionally, rarely) Facebook for my day-to-day life, and this for the “hey, that sure was a month” look back.

I honestly don’t know.

But okay, using last month’s post as a model, here’s that recap.

In February, I read just one book, Authority by Jeff VanderMeer. I’m most of the way through Acceptance, the third and final book in his “Southern Reach” trilogy. It’s been a weird ride, and although relatively short, the books have been taking me a little longer to get through than I’d expected.

In February, I saw only four movies. Two of these were this year’s biggest Oscar contenders, Boyhood and Birdman. I found both of them terrific…and both of them disappointing. They were kind of weird movies to attach so much Oscar-night passion around. Boyhood is technically more of a marvel, since there really hasn’t been another film made in this way before. But it’s equally more and less than this gimmick. The way that it was filmed sometimes revealing subtle story beats, unexpected moments, but it also often very little time for character development.

Not that Birdman fares terrifically well in this regard either. It’s a phenomenally well acted movie, and the direction is a great showcase for that acting. But I think it would be a mistake to think the film has anything to actually say about acting. It looks great, and everyone in is good, but it felt really hollow at its center.

Then again, the movie I saw between the two of those was Soylent Green, which was profoundly disappointing. (Spoiler warning: it may very well be people.) Yep, I spent my Valentine’s Day watching a crummy, badly dated Charlton Heston sci-fi movie. On the other hand, Edward G. Robinson — in his 101st and final film — is actually really good in it, so it wasn’t a total wash.

At least the last movie I saw in February was Big Hero 6, which is just a pure delight through and through.

In February, I read thirty-two short stories. I’m keeping to my one-a-day plan, only with the occasional panicked realization that a day is almost over and I haven’t read one yet. It’s been really good, and I’ve encountered some great fiction because of it. Here are some favorites:

In February, my parents were away for a few weeks, and I was house and dog-sitting for all that time. So I didn’t end up doing a lot of after-work activity.

I did finish my online writing course with Cat Rambo, getting a lot of really great and useful feedback on my second of two workshopped stories. (The feedback on the first story was good, too, but I’m a lot closer to revising and finishing the second.) We’re going to continue the group beyond the class, starting tomorrow, so we’ll see how that goes. I have a couple of flash pieces out for consideration right now, three pieces that are expected to appear sometime this year, and overall the writing is going okay. Maybe not gangbusters, but better than in years past.

In February, I went to another KGB Fantastic Fiction reading — there’s even photographic proof this time. I felt like I probably should, given that one of the readers, Mike Allen, recently accepted one of my stories for Mythic Delirium. (I was also a big fan of the other reader, Ben Loory’s, story collection.) So I had to do some schedule-maneuvering to make it happen, but it was definitely worth going.

In February, I went on campus twice, like I have to do three times each semester for work. I haven’t figured out which local school I’ll hit up next, but maybe I’ll wait until at least some of the snow has melted.

In February, I was in a car accident. It was minor, all things considered, and we both just lost side mirrors, but it wasn’t exactly fun. Because it was a collision, and the insurance had to be involved, it took a little longer to get the car fixed than it might have otherwise. But everything seems to have worked out. And while I also unexpectedly had to have a flat tire replaced on the car yesterday afternoon, that’s hopefully the most I’ll need to have fixed on it for a while.

In February, I again listened to some music:

And I think that was pretty much February.

January 2015

In January, I read two books: Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo and Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer. I read the first one for a book club I never actually attended, and the second one just because it was supposed to be good. It’s an unnerving book, almost certainly by design, but I’m currently reading Authority, the second book in the “Southern Reach Trilogy,” so it’s probably safe to assume that I liked it. (Ghost Bride was okay, too.)

In January, I saw seven movies: The Trouble with Harry, The Apartment, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sunshine Boys, Our Man Flint, That Guy…Who Was in That Thing, and Obvious Child. I think the last was my favorite, although Fiddler has some wonderful moments, thanks largely to the central performance by Tevye, and Shirley MacLaine is a (surprising) radiant delight in both Harry (which isn’t Hitchcock’s best) and Apartment (which is great but takes a weird hard turn near the end). Flint is often fun, but was probably better in the ’60s, when the Bond movies it parodies were new. That Guy…well, it certainly has a lot of those guys in it. It’s not really a documentary, much less a compelling one, but it is overstocked with a lot of recognizable and talented character actors, so you can almost forget its lack of real depth for about ninety minutes. Sunshine Boys was the most surprising, because I though I would enjoy it a lot more than I did. It felt fairly dated, and while Matthau and Burns give very good performances, the gist is often, “Hey, these two guys sure are old, huh?” (Burns weirdly reminded me a little of my own grandfather in a couple of scenes, which is not something that occurred to me when the two of them were both alive.)

In January, I read about forty-two short stories. I say about because one of them I actually listened to at an author reading, and because I’m reading stories for both my ongoing fiction class and my web zine, neither of which I’m tracking. I think these were my favorites of the ones I am:

In January, I went to a number of meet-ups and events, skipped out on a few more, saw The Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder on Broadway, and attended a number of sessions of my online writing course. The course is going well, I think. We unexpectedly skipped last week, so it’s been a little while.

In January, I listened to some music:

In January, I sold another short story, a flash piece, which I’ll link to when it publishes. (This month, I hope!) This marks the third story I’ve sold in about as many months, which is nice. More rejections than that, and more stalled stories than not, but that’s par for the course.

Anyway, that’s more or less be my January.

2014 in review

Two thousand fourteen, I think I can safely say, was not my favorite year on record. This is less because it was a terrible year — though it often was that, at least in the news, in the nation, in the greater scheme of things. It’s just that I finished up the year feeling kind of rudderless, set adrift, not exactly happy with the choices that I’d made (or not been making) over the past few (or maybe even ten) years.

On paper, it wasn’t such a bad year. And while of course man does not live on paper alone, there are a few things I’m glad to have seen and done in 2014.

I got to travel a little: for work, to Texas; for writing, to Canada. Both trips were over much more quickly than I had expected, both leaving me a little melancholy upon my return. (I think you could say I still haven’t quite shaken that yet.)

I sold a couple of short stories, one to Andromeda Inflight Spaceways Inflight Magazine and the other to Mythic Delirium. Both are still forthcoming, though I’m hopeful they’ll both appear sometime in the new year. I saw more rejections than acceptances, but that’s the nature of the things. I know I need to write more, even as I know there will be more rejections ahead.

Meanwhile, I keep plugging away at Kaleidotrope, that little quarterly zine I publish. This year, a poem from 2013 was nominated for a Rhysling Award, and I published twenty-two new stories and ten new poems, all free to read. I’ve received some good feedback on the zine, and while I’m not entirely sure where it’s going, it’s something I still enjoy.

I read considerably fewer books than I have in years past, but there were some good ones in the mix. There’s a full list here, if you’re for some reason interested, but I think James S.A. Corey’s Expanse novels were my favorite.

expanse1 expanse2 expanse3 expanse4

Having read them all this past year kind of gives 2014 a shape it otherwise sort of lacked.

I saw some decent movies. I even saw some bad ones I didn’t mind quite so much. These, below, were probably the best ones, though it’s all really subjective anyway.

movie1 movie2 movie3 movie5 movie4 movie3b

And I put together a mix of my favorite songs from the year. (A few actually from this past year. It starts with Bob Seger and ends with Taylor Swift, so you try figuring out this year’s theme from it, ’cause I’m sure not. Also, if you’re one of the “lucky” few who I sent an actual physical copy of the mix with a Christmas card, know that this online version contains one additional, concluding track I hadn’t heard in time to add to the CDs. So, yeah: bonus!

Ultimately, though, I’m less interested in revisiting, or even reminiscing over, 2014 and more interested in looking ahead to 2015. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to get where I want to go, and it’s work I don’t feel entirely ready for — but which I’ll need to do nevertheless. It’s going to take a lot of luck and perseverance.

I don’t know if I’ll have enough of either in 2015, but I have to try.

Status update

I think it’s safe to say I’ve been ignoring this blog for a little while.

November has been kind of a mixed bag for me. Emotionally, I’ve not exactly been at my best, whatever that is, and it’s been tough to find any real interest in chronicling my life, beyond the occasional — well, certainly more than occasional — sighing about it over on Twitter. It’s been tempting to just post the occasional link to my last real entry and say something like “ibid.” or “same shit, different day.” It’s not as if anything has really changed.

In all fairness — to the universe, I guess — it’s probably way too early for things to have actually changed. I can’t really expect overnight transformation in my life…but that, of course, doesn’t stop me from wanting it. That doesn’t stop me from being sad when I look at all the things in my life that I want to transform and feel powerless to ever enact that level of change.

I’ve been re-watching a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer recently. It started out as just this thing I was doing and has taken on the level almost of comfort food. And it’s occurred to me, with something akin to surprise and even a little dismay, that the character I most relate to is actually Jonathan. He’s a likable character, but certainly not a model of healthy behavior. This is a character to whom Buffy says at one point, “You can’t keep trying to make everything work out all at once, with some huge gesture. Things are complicated. They take time and work.” It’s questionable if he ever learns that lesson. It’s a tough lesson to learn. I know I’d prefer if I didn’t have to do so.

So what have I been doing lately? You know, besides re-watching old Joss Whedon shows?

My writing is going okay. I’ve sold two short stories in the past month, which is a good incentive to keep writing more. I’ve had more than twice as many rejections as that, of course, and the writing isn’t going easily. But this at least feels like an area of my life I know how to make better. There’s going to be a lot of work involved, which would be easier if I had anything approaching a real work ethic, but I feel better about writing right now than I do about a lot of other things.

I’ve also decided in the new year to take an online writing class with Cat Rambo, which I’m hoping will help me with the craft somewhat, and maybe even get me out in the world a little. I’d been eyeing a couple of other workshop classes, like this one or this one, but Rambo’s seemed a good match for where I feel like I am as a writer and where I want to get to.

Meanwhile, I have been trying, with mixed results, to get out into the world and meet new people.

I’ve gone to a write-in thing held by the Gotham Writer’s Workshop a couple of times. It’s a free-writing exercise, akin to the sort of thing I do most Sundays with friends, but this time with strangers. (And with a $20 price tag, admittedly. Though there is conversation, snacks, and wine.)

I went to a science fiction/horror meetup in the city, where they were showing Nightmare on Elm Street for the 30th anniversary. It was a lot of fun, even if I did only really get to talk to one person — she and I may have been the only ones from the sci-fi half of the meetup group — and even if I did leave before they actually showed the movie. (They showed a lot of other content, including part of a Bollywood remake, but after three hours, I had a train to catch.)

I went to the Fantastic Fiction reading at the KGB Bar in the East Village, where I felt very awkward. Seriously, the readings themselves were great — Nancy Kress and Jack Skillingstead — but I think I said all of two words to anybody else in that very tiny bar. (And that was, “Oh, okay,” when Ellen Datlow kindly gave me a folding chair, I think just to get me out of the way.) I might go back, but I think I’d need more than a couple of beers for courage.

I went to a British film and TV meetup at a bar in midtown. (Have I mentioned how I was once the president of the Penn State Monty Python Society? I do have Britcomedy-fan street cred.) The bar was loud — people sure do drink for a Thursday night — and we didn’t all get to really talk over dinner, but they seemed like a nice enough group of people.

I also skipped out on a book club when, five minutes after I’d turned up, they lost their venue, and I decided to forgo another late night in the city with another meetup that was showing this.

That was all in the past week. (With the exception of the write-in, which was the two weeks before.) None the huge, life-changing gesture the dumb (but likable) Jonathan part of my brain has been looking for, but it’s kept me busy, I guess.

I went to see a live taping of A Prairie Home Companion with my parents last night, too.

Oh, and I also registered for both next year’s Readercon and World Fantasy Convention. But those are a ways off, so.

Finally, the search for an apartment doesn’t go terrifically well, not least of all because New York rental prices are ridiculous and the process is so complicated. But I’m off from work all this week, and I’m going to go look at a place tomorrow afternoon. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that I like it, can afford it, and won’t get locked out by another renter. Though it might take a minor miracle for that to happen.

All of this maybe makes it sound like I’m meandering towards happiness, and maybe eventually I am. But it’s a slow, long and lonely meander, and, like I said, a mixed bag of a month. I’m going to have to think long and hard this Thursday about just what exactly I am thankful for.

I’m not really at my best lately, but I’m working on it.

Random 10 11-7-14

Here again, like a broken (but not unpleasantly skipping) record. Last week. This week:

  1. “A Talk With George” by Jonathan Coulton
    Don’t live another day unless you make it count
  2. “Somedays” by Paul McCartney
    I laugh to think how young we were
  3. “Get Off of My Cloud” by the Rolling Stones, guessed by Occupant
    He says I’ve won five pounds if I have his kind of detergent pack
  4. “Stone Rollin'” by Raphael Saadiq
    It makes an old man throw away his cane
  5. “People Got a Lotta Nerve” by Neko Case
    It took half your leg and both your lungs
  6. “Last Stop: This Town” by Eels
    Can you take me where you’re going if you’re never coming back
  7. “Sometime in the Morning” by the Monkees
    And you’ll realize how much you never knew before
  8. “Sympathique” by Pink Martini
    Je veux seulement l’oublier
  9. “Party in the CIA” by Weird Al Yankovic, guessed by Occupant
    Everyone so cloak and dagger
  10. “The Wind” by Cat Stevens
    I let my music take me where my heart wants to go

As always, good luck guessing the lyrics!