Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I'd get a lot more done if I didn't regularly think that none of it matters.

This should make my wife happy.
I drink when I write.

I don’t do it because I feel like I can only be creative if I’ve got alcohol in my system, although I will admit that it’s much easier to access that part of my brain with some liquid assistance.  I’ll also admit that it’s fun to read something I wrote the night before and be surprised at how good it is.  But, no, I don’t use alcohol as a form of inspiration.  I don’t need it to actually create.

I need alcohol to get past the feeling that none of it matters.

I should point out that this isn’t always the case, but it’s close.  My “writer’s block” isn’t that I don’t have anything to write about, it’s that I don’t think any of the things I’ve got in my head are worth the time and effort.  Is the world screaming for another YA book?  Is my life so interesting that it needs to be shared?  Why would anyone read a review of “Rise of the Midnight Sons?”  Who even reads my blog anymore?

I am so envious of people who can just sit down and write for pleasure that it sometimes make me want to kill them. 

Being content to write for pleasure is a foreign concept to me.  I like to think that, if I were paid to write, it would be easier.  That somehow financial compensation, which also suggests that people are actually reading my work, would motivate me, would convince me that what I’m doing is worthwhile.  And as much as it pains me to say it, I think that’s true.  I think even validation in the form of money would be enough.
But there are very few people who get to do that. 

So how do I explain those who write for fun?  Those who are content to sit at their computer, submerged in the reality of their work, unconcerned about whether or not anyone will actually read what they’re writing?  Who are these people who are happy enough to be able to do that?  Why doesn’t that seem like a waste of time to them?
I suppose the answer is in the question.  They’re “happy enough to be able to do that” because writing makes them happy.  So it’s not a waste of time. 

But that’s not who I am.  I love having written.  I love going to write.  I have a complex relationship

with the actual writing.  I very often don’t see the point in it.  It takes everything I’ve got just to sit in front of my computer and even then whether I actually get any work done or not is a crap shoot.
Instead I could look at our finances.  That’s important.  I can check my work email – I get paid for that.  I can work on my to do list.  I can go on Twitter and Facebook and “talk” to people, which gives me immediate satisfaction.  Writing is hard and it takes forever and I’d like some happiness right now, please.
Or I can play with my son, assuming he’s awake.  I could spend some time with my wife since we never see each other anymore or, when we do, it’s while taking care of our son.  Maybe we could have actual conversations.  Maybe we could have a date.
I know that if I don’t write, I start to get even moodier than normal.  It’s often Nicole’s go-to question when I’m in a funk or acting out (not unlike a child).  “Have you written lately?”  Because she knows that it’s an indirect form of therapy for me.  Even if I’m not writing about myself, the act of creating has a positive impact on me.  But that positive impact is often hard to see until I’ve actually done it.
There are so many other things that have a positive impact on me, though.  So many easier things.
So how do I do it?  How do they do it?  How do I just sit down and write, rest of the world be damned, need for validation be damned, need for immediate satisfaction be damned?  How do I convince myself that this short story, this novel, this column, this review, needs to exist?
Why does this matter?
Happiness isn’t reason enough for me to do much of anything, which is part of the problem.

Happiness is being with my wife and son, but that’s not the only thing going on when I’m with them.  I’m making both of them happy, too.  I’m helping to raise our son.  I’m doing something important, so I don’t question it.  The validation for my actions is right there in front of me.
And maybe that’s why writing doesn’t make me happy while I’m doing it, because doing something solely to make myself happy isn't something I understand.  I need a reason, and without one, I can’t accept doing it.  If I don’t have a reason other than just because “it makes me happy,” then it won’t make me happy.
So I guess that’s the question, then: how do I accept doing something just because it makes me happy?  How do I get past the need for it to be anything more and how do I get past that need being some kind of validation?  How do I just enjoy the experience for what it is on its own?
I have no idea.  Not a one.

It actually feels like the great hurdle of my existence, because I think it’s something that extends far beyond just writing.  Even if it doesn’t, the impact it would have on my work would be huge.

The impact it would have on my liver would be pretty big, too.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

They Always Want More

I would say that the Appleseed was probably less than a month old the first time we heard it.

"When you have the next one..."

Or some variation thereof.

It's like when you get married and at the reception people start asking about when you'll have kids.  You have your first kid and as soon as you're able to pull your head above water, people start asking you when you're going to have more.

Appleseed is not quite 14 months old and we are constantly learning new things about this process.  The idea that we know enough to have a second child makes no sense to me, although I can see how it would be easier, but only if that second child existed in a vacuum, without an older brother that also required care.

Generally speaking, people seem to ask about a second (or third) child before mentioning what I gather to be completely inaccurate information regarding children with no siblings.  I know more than a few only children and all of them are great people.  They're social, they're as well adjusted as anyone else, and they're good friends.  This idea that only children are somehow inferior or damaged because they never had siblings strikes me as ridiculous.  The family you're born into is sometimes secondary to the one you create.

It's strange that only children have such a stigma about them.  I suppose, perhaps, a bunch of horrible people
have been only children, although I just Googled it and Hitler was the 4th of 6 children, so having brothers and sisters isn't exactly a cure all for badness.  It makes me think that perhaps this urban legend of the mentally unstable, emotionally broken only child is a way of making sure that people have more than one.

This is not to say I'm against having more kids.  The other day I thought about the fact that Appleseed will be
out in the world on his own really, as soon as he goes to school.  I suppose technically he is now.  But it occurred to me that a sibling would be a partner.  A sibling would be another person he could count on, maybe another person to watch out for him and that he could watch out for.  A sibling could be me (and Nicole) when we aren't there.  Maybe not that directly, but at least a reminder of his parents, a reminder of what we'd say or do in any given situation.

And a sibling would be a friend.

But the idea of having more kids freaks me out.  I often refer to Appleseed as "my favorite baby," but is that no longer true when we have a second kid?  How do you divide up this feeling, this affection?

Here's the other thing: many, many people have described Appleseed as "sweet."  Seriously, if I had a dollar for every time someone told me how sweet he is, I'd have a lot of dollars.

Now, part of that is his nature.  He's fairly easy going toddler (he was a fairly easy going baby).  Not many things upset him and those that do don't upset him for long.  He's able to be happy in almost any situation unless there are a lot of people around.  He has all the wonder of a toddler without all the angst, if that makes any sense.  So describing him as "sweet" seems pretty obvious.

But there's also a nurture element at work and I'll admit I feel strange even writing that.  But it's true.  We
heaped so much positive reinforcement on Appleseed that it adds lift to his already happy demeanor. Happiness is a pretty easy thing to squish or to ignore, but we don't do either.  There is a lot of joy in this house and I have no doubt that it takes root inside Appleseed.  I know that we are nurturing that sweetness to the point  where everyone who comes into contact with him notices.

What happens when all of that time and energy is suddenly divided?  If helping my child to be the best version of himself he can be, doesn't that mean I need to be the best parent I can be?  And how can I do that if my attention is split?

These are, of course, all hypothetical, high level questions.  The reality of the situation is that something like money will probably play just as big a part in all this.

In the end, part of me feels like I'll miss all the time I get to spend with Appleseed now if I'm taking care of another kid, too.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Montage of Heck and Guns N' Roses

I saw "Montage of Heck," the documentary about Kurt Cobain, and for the most part I really liked it.  It is, at moments, devastating, although not so much because of Cobain but because he was once a child and we know how his life ended.  Show me anything about children these days and you've got me.

Being a parent is hard.

Anyway, one of the things that stood out to me was how often he and his wife, Courtney Love, mentioned Guns N' Roses.

In theory, some of that would have come from the urban legend that has become the confrontation between Cobain and Axl Rose at some MTV awards thing, but I realized that said confrontation involved Cobain jokingly (in a dick move, I have to say) asking Rose to be his daughter's god father, which meant he was a father by that point.  Yet he mentions Guns N' Roses before that.

So why?  Why are Guns N' Roses a big enough deal to get mentioned more than once?  He never even mentions any of the other Seattle bands more than once (if at all).

It reveals two things about Cobain.

The first, which is talked about in the documentary, is his ambition.  For all of Cobain's supposed slacker aesthetic, he was very ambitious.  While he never intended to be famous the way he was, he did want to succeed.  He wanted his band to do well.  He probably just wanted to be able to make a living making music.

But ambition has a way of moving the goal posts.  Truly ambitious people aren't satisfied with their initial goals.  And that's what makes the Guns N' Roses comments so interesting.

Nirvana marked the end of what we called "hair metal."  It was the end of all those cheesy 80s bands with no substance and rather bizarre style.  The music and the message mattered now.  The image did not.  I believe CC Deville, guitarist for Poison, actually answered the question "what happened?" regarding his band's decline in popularity with one word: "Nirvana."

Nirvana redefined popular rock music.  Hair bands were over, grunge had arrived.  But there was one band who was still topping the charts, and who were decidedly not grunge: Guns N' Roses.

It would be easy to make the case that these two bands represented two ends of the popular rock music spectrum.  Given Cobain's ambition (and Rose's), it's easy to see why they would dislike each other, although it is a little surprising that Cobain would have been so upfront about it.

But that last bit is informed by the second thing it tells me about Cobain, something that's actually only
touched on in the documentary a bit, which I think is a mistake.

Cobain represented a new type of masculinity.

Rose represented an old one.

Rose was (and probably still is), at the very least, a sexist homophobe.  He sang about women as objects and he derided men who didn't behave in a manner he viewed as masculine.  He was the worst part of those who have male genitalia and he was often glorified for it.

To Cobain, he would have been the enemy.  He was the old guard, the disgusting, horrible old guard that was digging in and refusing to budge as the new regime took hold, a new regime that wasn't hung up on outdated definitions of masculinity, that believed in equality.

Rose also seemed to live his life without thinking, something Cobain was probably at least a little envious of.  Even if Rose was a horrible person, there's something liberating in that, particularly for someone who gives a great deal of thought to every little thing.  I say this from experience.

They were opposite ends of the white, male, rock star spectrum, playing tug of war with pop culture.

And Rose won.

It's not that Cobain killed himself that proves Rose's victory, because Rose himself would more or less go into hiding and has barely been seen since (that's actually an interesting parallel that deserves more thought, the fact that, with Cobain dead, Rose basically fell off the face of the earth, as if he no longer needed to exist).  No, the proof is in the rock stars we got after that.  Even during the high point of the "alternative" period, who do you think someone like the lead singer of, say, Creed takes after more, Cobain or Rose?  And what did we get later on?  Nu Metal.  The pendulum was quickly pulled back where it was in the pre-Nirvana days.

I think we've seen some balance restored since then, thankfully, in part because of the impact Cobain had on youth culture.  I think the rock bands of today are formed by the Nirvana fans of the past.  And I think we're seeing them behave the way Cobain would have wanted, or at least in some watered down version.

Still, it's interesting to think of Cobain and Rose as the ying and yang of rock n' roll, and what that type of music meant to white dudes of the world.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The ever evolving mom/child, dad/child relationship

That's about right. (found here)

The Appleseed and I have the perfect relationship.

I am the apple of his eye, the sun in his sky, the absolute best person in the world.  He gets excited when he sees me when I arrive to pick him up from daycare.  He laughs when we have breakfast and dinner.  He brings me a book and sits in my lap so I can read it to him over and over and over again.  I follow him around the house as he goes exploring.  Even with all the fighting he does when I try to change him or dress him, it's still wonderful.  I am A#1 in his book...

...unless Nicole is around.  Then I become a distant second.

But here's the thing: I'm okay with that.  And I'm okay with that in no small part because I see what it's like for Nicole.

The Appleseed loves his mommy and it's wonderful, but when she's around, he is demanding as hell.  The idea of me really taking care of Appleseed by myself on the weekend is a bit insane, but he won't let it happen for more than a few minutes.  At some point, he'll realize that mommy is somewhere in the house, and he'll go find her -- that's assuming he even lets her leave.

On those rare moments when Appleseed doesn't want to wander the house, I can sit on the floor in the living room while he plays with his toys.  I just kind of hang out, maybe mess around on my phone, while he plays for a bit.  It's never a long time, but it gives me a break.

Nicole never gets that.  If she's there, he wants to be engaged.  There is no break time for mommy.
From here.

Yes, I'm second fiddle when she's around, but even when I'm first fiddle, I don't get it from Appleseed like this.  There's a nice balance between us.  It's not that he's not needy with me, because he can be, but he can also be totally independent, an option Nicole rarely gets.  As bad as I may feel sometimes when Appleseed ignores me for his mom, I realize how exhausting this must be for Nicole.  I actually think I've got the better part of this deal.

I'm kind of glossing over a few things.  As needy as Appleseed can be, he's also become more independent, or, more exactly, less absorbed by the moment.

There was a time when I would pick him up from daycare and it was everything to him.  It stills happens now, but there are days when he gets excited to see me for about 10 seconds before he wants to go back to playing.  I don't even have to sneak out in the mornings anymore.  He might not be aware of it, but in his head he knows that I'm coming back.  He doesn't have to see me all the time to know I'll be there.

The same goes for Nicole.  It used to be that when Nicole got home from work, Appleseed would get super excited and practically ran to her.  It was the best part of his day.

It still is, but now it lasts about ten seconds, before he's ready to go back to playing.  He gets really excited, then he runs off to play with his toys.

But that's during the week and the weekend is a different creature all together.

On the weekend, he has his mommy here and it's very hard for her to get any time away from him.  It's not that she particularly wants to be away from him, but there are things to be done around the house, things that she wants and needs to do that are much easier when she doesn't have a one year old up in her business.  If she even leaves the room, he gets upset, although Appleseed doesn't ever really get upset, not in the traditional sense.  Upset for him, I guess.

He doesn't do those things for me and it's actually wonderful.  I suppose it's a simple matter of degrees, like he needs to be with Nicole, but he wants to be with me.  That's not to say that he doesn't want to be with Nicole, too, but there's still a need component there, or at least what he thinks is a need component.  And that's why he gets upset when she walks away, even if she's just down the hall.

After 13 months, this might be the first time I haven't felt any jealousy towards my wife with regards to our son.

There are probably moments now when she feels a little jealous of me.

It will be interesting to see how this dynamic continues to evolve.  For now, I'm just going to try to enjoy it as much as I can.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A very late SFWC 2015 recap

In my defense, Appleseed (aka my son) is walking now and shit has gotten real.

I suppose the main question to ask after a writing conference is whether or not I got out of it was I was hoping I would, in which case the answer is a qualified "yes."  It's only qualified in that I was only able to meet with 5 agents during the agent speed dating, but 3 of the 5 requested sample pages, which is a pretty good rate.

(Small, probably inappropriate digression: Of the 2 agents who weren't interested, 1 was bizarrely confrontational about it, although said agent was the same way towards the person ahead of me in line, so I have to assume s/he was the same towards everyone.  It was really strange.  I realize they were into their third hour of speed dating, but I would guess they get most of their best leads from such things.  In fact, I know a lot of agents will only accept submissions from either referrals or people they meet at conventions.  Anyway, the other agent who wasn't interested was great, telling me up front that she wasn't interested, but then asking me if I had any questions about anything agent and/or publishing related.)

Anyway, I wish I'd been able to meet with more agents, particularly given the cost, but the ones I met with I really liked (aside from the exception).

It took me a week to finally send the requested pages.  See the aforementioned shit getting real.  I also wanted to make sure the pages were as good as humanly possible.  The strange thing is that one of the samples was to be for "Reqliaury," a book I literally started rewriting two weeks before the conference.

I managed to get all three samples out and within a few days I heard back from two of the three agents:
thanks but no thanks.  I was disappointed in the one for "Master of the House" because I really like that agency, but these things happen.  The agent who read the sample of "Reliquary" was very nice about it, complimentary of what I had written, but just not a fan of what I was doing.  So that was actually something of a win, given that I had no expectations for that book (but now I have to finish rewriting it!).

This leaves one query remaining (actually, I'm sure there are others still out there, but those are just query letters, not samples).  I really liked that agent, so my fingers are leaving a mark they're crossed so hard.  She asked for the longest sample, too, so maybe this is a good sign.

Funny enough, the best part of SFWC for me was probably the Twitter aspect of it.  I made a lot of Twitter friends.  Perhaps this is the new way of doing things.  At the very least, it is for those of us who didn't stay at the hotel and had to drive back to the 'burbs at the end of each day.  I wasn't making a lot of contacts in person.

I do feel like I've missed the boat on that a little bit.  I am nothing if not an awesome drunk and I feel like that's a talent which could have positive effects, were I ever in a position to take advantage of it.

One incredibly frightening thing I had reiterated to me at SFWC is that self-publishing isn't going anywhere.  It's not that I dislike self-publishing (I've done it), it's that the signal to noise ratio is just so crazy.  In a lot of ways, publishing house have become filters for books; they take the masses and supposedly disseminate only the best.  Granted, that translates to "only what sells" so it ends up being something like the AOL of books, but still.  No one has time to sift through every book published by every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the internet, so we depend upon publishers to sift through the bad stuff and give us the good.

But if you have the chops, self-publishing can be a real thing.  And there are plenty -- PLENTY -- of business that can help you, for a price.

Self-publishing scares me because it feels like such a commitment, one you're making completely on your own.  I don't know if I have the time, energy, or know-how to properly self-publish, let alone the money.

Anyway, all in all SFWC was good.  Maybe I'll start getting a little more social in writing circles after this.

...that would be something.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Feeling Guilty About Nostalgia

noun: nostalgia; plural noun: nostalgias

    a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

By its very definition, nostalgia suggest that you wish things could be the way they were before, or that you could go back there, back to that time that must have been better than the time right now.  I mean, why would you long for something that's worse than what you've got now?

Parenting makes nostalgia feel wrong.

A memory came back to me recently, or, rather, came to the forefront, as it was never missing.  It's a nice memory, one that I've never really considered before.  I can't remember ever really wrapping myself in this memory, ever really taking the time to think about it and revel in its embrace.  It was always there, I'd just never given it the time.

I lived at 1716 Edgemont St. for four months before Nicole moved in.  I knew, or hoped, that would be the case when I moved into that apartment.  Nicole had helped me find it, after all, and my goal had been to find a place that she would consider to be Nicole friendly.  She was also my impetus to move at all, as she'd shown me that I could actually get a one bedroom apartment for the price I'd been paying for a studio.  Besides, the studio I had been living in was and always will be tied to my single days.  Nicole and I were serious by this point; it was time to grow up a little bit.

The apartment was the top floor, corner unit.  It had clearly been two apartments, a studio and a bachelor, that someone had combined into a single, one bedroom apartment.

The living room had been a studio at one point as evidenced by the hole in the wall that once housed a
This is a murphy bed, for those who don't know.
murphy bed.  It was the wall that separated the room from the kitchen and that hole was the perfect size for an entertainment center, or a TV stand, which was the extent of what I had.  Still, it was nice to kind of have the TV, DVD player, etc. back inside the wall and not taking up what little space there was in the room.  My old futon was across from the TV as a couch.

Since it was a corner unit, both exterior walls for the living room were made up of windows, tall windows that let in a ton of light.  It was particularly great at night when the lights from the street light up the apartment; it was instant mood lighting.  In the summer time, these windows were all that kept me from expiring, as the cross breeze alleviate the heat just enough to keep me alive.

The bedroom was set parallel to the living room with the kitchen and bathroom in between. It contained perhaps the most interesting aspect of the apartment: the bedroom closet.  It was a big box that they had attached to the wall.  It was a stand alone storage box that they'd just stuck in the corner of the room and attached to the walls.  It was completely out of place and it didn't even go to the ceiling.  There was probably a good four feet between the top of the closet and the ceiling.  We used that as storage.

The cats used it as a launching pad to jump into bed.  We called them Kitty Bombs.

A note about my bed: I bought it for $1100, which was the most I'd ever spent on anything in my apartment, let alone a bed.  I had, up until that point, but sleeping on the aforementioned futon.  But now I was in a one bedroom apartment, not a studio, so it made sense that I should have a bed.  Besides, if this was really going to be a Nicole friendly place, it should probably have a comfortable bed.

I really loved that apartment, even if it was on the fourth floor and the elevator was the size of a port-a-pot, which made moving in a form of legal torture.  For the first nine months, we had to park on the street, and when Nicole got a job working nights, I got up in the wee morning hours when she was done so she could pick me up and we could go park her car together, then walk back to our building, as I didn't want her walking alone late at night.  Then I'd go back to bed for a few hours before getting up for work.  It was a banner day when we finally got parking.

Like I said way up there at the top of this thing, I lived in that apartment alone for four months.  It was the last place I would live alone.  Nicole moved in that August and we have lived together ever since.

But the memory that's been coming to me lately is from the time before that.  It's a false memory, actually, or rather a symbolic one, in that it represents an idea of a time in my life.  It's the memory of my first night alone in that apartment, no doubt bolstered by the memory of any night I spent alone in that apartment, of which there weren't many.

It would have been warm.  It was summer in Los Angeles, after all.  The windows would have been open.  I didn't have blinds, so light would have been pouring in from street lights, buildings, and parking lots.  The apartment was just off Sunset, so there would have been plenty of street noise.  I walked around with all the lights off, just enjoying the sounds of the city, enjoying the moment.

I would have felt so great in that moment.  I had a new place with an actual bedroom.  I had a new bed.  I had a girlfriend.  I was pushing thirty and life was getting better every day.  It was a fantastic moment in my life.

But it was one without my son, one where I was technically still single.  I feel guilty when I feel nostalgic about such things.

I'll admit that there are times when I would love to have moments like that, moments of what can best be described as enjoyable nothing.  An hour of time like that would go a long way.

But I wouldn't give up anything I have now for that, so even that twinge of longing makes me feel bad.  The greatest thing I've ever done is to be a dad.  Nothing has ever been better than this.

Not that I watched it much, but there was an episode of "How I Met Your Mother" where the guys were talking about fantasizing about women and the one married guy said that he couldn't do it, because he would end having to create an elaborate story that involved his wife dying so that he would be single again to have sex with this theoretical woman.  The other guys gave him grief for it, of course, but that's exactly how I feel.

I feel like longing for the past is a betrayal of my present and I never felt that way until I became a father.

Ten years from now, I wonder if I'll feel bad about feeling nostalgic for this moment.

I hope so.

Because that will mean my life is even better than it is now.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

It's Irish Whiskey Season!

A while back I decided that "whiskey seasons" was a thing.  Bear with me...

I noticed that I was drinking bourbon more than Scotch in the summer time.  My reasoning for this was pretty simple: I only drink Scotch neat, and in the summer time I like to have something at least chilled a little bit.  And since I sometimes drink bourbon on the rocks, voila!  Bourbon became my drink of choice during the summer.

This got me thinking about which whiskey was best for each season.  Winter came to me first, because the holidays always involve things loaded with spice (cake, cider, etc.) which naturally made me think of rye.  So winter was rye season.  This left me fall and spring.

Spring was pretty obvious, too, because there's a holiday ostensibly dedicated to Irish whiskey.  Scotch fell to the fall, then, which actually worked out nicely, as I've become a very big fan of Scotch and my birthday is in the fall (which is usually when I splurge on a really good bottle).

And there it was: whiskey seasons.

My next step was to go a year only drinking whiskeys from that particularly season.  My bourbon summer continued.  Fall came around and I drank Scotch.  Winter came around and I drank rye.  Now it's spring, now it's time for Irish whiskey.

My seasons are broken out in a more practical fashion than the calendar.  I mean, theoretically, winter doesn't start until December 21st, but that's not really true.  My seasons broke down like this:

Summer: June, July, and August -- Bourbon
Fall: September, October, and November -- Scotch
Winter: December, January, and February -- Rye
Spring: March, April, and May -- Irish

Now, you might be thinking "Kyle, this is weird, why are you doing this?"  And I would say to you that I am easily bored and I like to try new whiskeys.

Besides, since I would love to someday open a whiskey (and wine) bar, I can consider this research.

Now it's time for some Irish whiskey.