One Year Online: The Birth of a Blog

It has been exactly one year since I started this website/blog and I wanted to commemorate that with a an update on everything that has happened both online and off in the last year.

A summary about the evolution of the blog itself. I started this site to showcase my writing and have a place to muse from time to time. I had no idea at first what I was going to write about or how to even start. Needless to say, I’ve found a groove since then. Some of my earliest posts were simply opinions about what was happening in the world or about books I liked. There were a few flash or micro stories in there as well, but I never really felt like I was doing anything correctly (if there is such a thing). One of the earliest pieces of advice for younger writers is often to start a blog. I’d been told this many times throughout school. “Blog” “Showcase your writing” “Build an audience” etc., etc. I thought it over several times and always convinced myself that there was nothing I could say that anyone really wanted to hear (let alone read). Who would follow my blog? Who would read my posts? Especially if I had no idea what to do? But several years went by and I grew less afraid of what people thought of my writing and grew brave enough to submit some pieces to journals expecting the inevitable rejection (which of course did come).

It was during my Masters program that I found confidence. Somewhere hidden away behind a layer of irrational fear was a confidence in my own work. I created this blog about halfway through that program to eradicate that fear and bolster that confidence. I admit, I am still dreadfully bad at promoting my work. It feels like bragging to me (or egotistical douchebaggery). I don’t know, but I’m working on it. It’s okay to be proud of my work. I’ll convince myself of that one day.

Anyway, I started this blog. I wrote about random stuff I thought was interesting for 4 or 5 months absolutely convinced that no one was reading anything I wrote. Then one day someone visited the page. Then another, then some time later someone followed my page. I began to gather consistent views/readers (I’m up to 60+ followers which blows my mind). I found myself honing my posts to entertain my readers. I began writing a flash fiction piece once a week. (A quick note on my flash stories, I write them and post them in the same night so please forgive any typos.) Then I added a weekly book recommendation. Now I consistently post at least twice a week with a story and recommendation and more people have been stopping by to read and I cannot express how awesome that is. Even if only a few people visit each week and read, I’m thrilled. Honest. I can’t thank you enough. I just hope I can keep writing interesting things for you.

Outside of, but somewhat related to, this site I’ve created a few social media accounts for my writing. You can find me/my work on Facebook, Twitter, and Patreon. I made these to make it easier for people to find and access my work. I realized making it easier to find me is better for everyone. Going back to my terrible self-promotion (I will take any advice on this by the way), I can’t bring myself to create “Patron-only” posts on Patreon. I just can’t make some of my work walled off with a money barrier. I understand that making everything free makes a Patreon account useless, but writing is not about the money. Writing is about writing. It’s about a million other things that I should and will save for another time. I’ve found a lot of cool things through these social media accounts as well. Other artists and writers and cool writing contests. All honesty, Twitter is probably my favorite platform.

Also outside of, but still related, to this blog are my other writing projects. In my post on New Years about resolutions, I mentioned my writing goals for the year. I plan to keep up my story and recommendation a week. That’s 52 flash stories for the year. I know the quality isn’t always consistent and I hope you’ll forgive me for that. I try to write an engaging piece every week but some weeks are better than others. Other things in life sometimes come into play which I’ll get to soon. I also aim to write a few short stories to submit to journals, and I want to finish my book (which I haven’t touched in far too long). These are fairly big goals for my hope-to-make-full-time-hobby. Working a full-time job and keeping a social life and doing other, lesser hobbies really limits the time to write. Some are excuses, some are legit, but I will attain my dream. That I promise.

In October, my first published story came out in Kansas City Voices. It can also be found here. Now, that would make me an officially published writer, which is fantastic. Everyone at the journal launch was extremely awesome about it and all my friends were happy for me, and it is a great start. I’m working to increase my number of publications and hopefully get the first big one (the first book) sooner than later.

Now, completely outside of the site. I rarely talk about myself, but I’m going to try so that you can get to know me better. Many of you are from all over the world (which is super cool). This also means we are total strangers, so here is a bit about me. I completed my Masters degree in September. I got engaged at the beginning of this month and will be getting married later this year. (Which reminds me I have to change my bio….and done. I do like the word fiancee.) So I will be busy with wedding planning, but I made a promise to you and myself to at least keep up the weekly posts. So hold me to it. Let’s see…I’m a huge Legend of Zelda fan and a moderate gamer (my fiancee would disagree and say I game too much). I enjoy movies. I probably like Lord of the Rings too much (if that’s possible). I work at a University because I like learning and enjoy helping others learn and better themselves. I’m not an instructor yet but I will be. I’m not sure what else to say so I’ll move on.

You can contact me from the “Contact” page on this site, or you can leave comments on any post (including this one) or story. I’ll respond as quickly as I can. You can even ask more questions about me (yes, that’s my face in the browser tab). My two favorite colors are blue and green, just in case you were wondering. I encourage everyone to like or comment on whatever they enjoy here. I really wouldn’t mind getting to know some of you either. I’ll take advice on how to improve the site too. I’m still pretty new, but I think I’ve made little changes over the last year that have improved it a bit. I’ll also take advice on how to be a better self-promoter (feel free to promote for me if you feel so inclined and enjoy my work). If you like a story and would like to read more about it, leave a comment. There are a few flash pieces I’ve written on here that I plan to expand on.

I think that’s enough about me and my year-in-review. Thank you so much for reading. I wish you every happiness this year and all the ones that follow. If you ever need me, I’ll be here writing. Until next time. Happy reading.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. This is probably the most popular of Vonnegut’s novels. First published in 1969, the story follows Billy Pilgrim as he jumps around through time and space involuntarily. Vonnegut became an influential American author because of his dark comedy and satire of society. Like many other books often found on the “Banned Books” list, Slaughterhouse Five is a provocative novel that opens your mind to viewing things from an otherwise unknown perspective (and in an excellent way).

Vonnegut has written 14 novels, a plethora of short stories, a handful of plays, and several non-fiction pieces. I first discovered Vonnegut when I came across a video online of him giving a lecture about stories and story progression. He hilariously simplified it so any story ever written fell into only a few categories. I had no idea who he was when I was watching it, but I remember enjoying the lesson. Of course, I’d heard of Slaughterhouse Five since it is considered an essential read, but I hadn’t considered reading it just yet. I eventually did read it, and enjoyed it greatly. I quickly followed it with two of his other novels: The Sirens of Titan and Breakfast of Champions. The latter may sound familiar.

By the end of the third consecutive book, I’m ashamed to admit I was tired. I greatly enjoy Vonnegut’s work, but I can only take so much at a time it seems. This states more about me I think and in no way diminishes his work. Books have power and can greatly impact people. Reading too much of one genre, style, etc. is like training one muscle when working out. Yes, working out is good, but you need to train the entire body to be healthy and fit. This is one reason I try to recommend a variety of different books.

I will eventually read more of Vonnegut and have several more of his novels in the “To Be Read” pile. If you’ve never read his work, give it a shot. Slaughterhouse Five is one of his best and is definitely a good one to start with. Happy reading.

Bound in Leather

Tobias lay reclined reading when a small group hustled by. “This place on fire?” he called at them without looking up. Disturbing the quite of the library’s atrium was one of his greatest annoyances. Though the designated quite floor was an unspoken rule among all on campus, it was a well-respected one and he meant to enforce it when necessary.

“Someone brought a screen in. Something big happened. Come look for yourself,” Jessie paused long enough to yell back at him. He looked up in time to see her sunlit hair whip around a corner.

He returned to his book but his thoughts trailed elsewhere. Whoever brought in the screen was an idiot. They would be expelled on the spot if they were found out. Anyone found near it would spend three weeks digging with restricted meals. The cost was great, which was why Tobias found himself tempted to check it out and see what was so important that they’d risk bringing one in. It’d been a few weeks since the last expulsion. He’d at least get some entertainment out of it. If they were stupid enough to break a strict rule like that, they deserved their consequences. Perhaps he could find a spot on the edge where he could slip away if any instructors happened by. He marked his page and left the book in the chair. The open area magnified his footfalls. No one else was nearby when he picked up his pace.

A small crowd had formed and the perpetrator magnified the screen so everyone could see clearly. Tobias stayed back and observed the group. He wasn’t going to risk his neck for a good view. He’d worked too hard and too long to make it here. The entrance exams nearly killed him, and he planned on graduating because a Leather meant access to anything. As a kid, Tobias saw a man attempt to access the Chancellor’s private section on the fifth floor of the city library. He’d never seen anyone even look at the door before, but the man simply walked up and opened it like he was the Chancellor himself. The guard almost didn’t know how to react. It was only a moment, but Tobias remembered seeing the man pull out a small, leather-bound book with a University insignia on the cover. The guard let him through without question. That was the moment Tobias decided to attend University. He’d get his own Leather. With it, he’d be able to research Morgellons Disease without restraint. No doctor could brush him off again.

“What’s this?” Professor Anders shouted at the huddle near the screen. Tobias was surprised no one attempted to flee. They all seemed willing accomplices.

Professor Anders approached the screen, ready to confiscate it, then stopped. Whatever was being viewed caused him pause. After a few endless seconds, a someone in the group asked, “What does it mean Professor?” Anders offered no answer. He only stared at the screen. Tobias finally made his way close enough to see what was being shown. The audio was turned on low, but he caught the faint stream of words describing the event.

On the screen was a building similar to the one they were standing in except half of it was rubble. It was a University. A scroll along the bottom of the screen repeated: THE UNIVERSITY AT HENDELRY HAS BEEN STRUCK BY A MISSILE. THE SOURCE OF THE ATTACK IS UNKNOWN AT THIS TIME. Tobias felt fear trickle through him from his lungs to his intestines where it pooled, building as his mind ran every possible scenario. Every possible consequence of this moment.

“Professor,” Jessie said, “All Universities are bounded, right?”

Professor Anders finally snapped out of his stupor. “Correct,” he said, “All sixty-three Universities and their surrounding cities were proclaimed demilitarized and to remain untouched by any result of battle included in the war. This was first enforced in full with the Gilandria Accords over two-hundred years ago.”

“Then how could this happen?”

“The nations have been at war perpetually in some form for nearly two millennia. Whoever has broken the Accords has tipped the scales. Despite any allied stance, the nation responsible will have the attention of the other eight. Once they discover who built that missile, whoever it belonged to will be a pile of ash soon.”

“A Plasmic Distortion Bomb?” someone from the crowd whispered.

“They’re forbidden. They wouldn’t…”

“Universities were bounded. Is anything forbidden now?”

The crowd’s murmurs began to grow.

“That’s enough,” Professor Anders demanded. “Universities will remain bounded. Everyone return to their quarters and await word from the headmasters. I’m sure they will have all information in hand shortly and will put your minds at ease. No truth comes from speculation. Put away any thoughts you have on this event until the facts are found. Now go.”

The crowd slowly dispersed. Tobias found himself drifting with a small group headed in the general direction of his rooms. Solitude dominated him. Three years had passed since he had felt like this. He knew its embrace all too well. For the first time in his life, a thought flickered across his mind that a Leather could not provide the answers he sought.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter. This is the first biography that’s made it onto my book recommendations list and I feel it is a good alternative to outright recommending The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, or any of his other tremendous works. I say this because anyone who knows me knows that I have a slight obsession with Tolkien’s works, which in turn made me feel like recommending his work was a cop-out as far as a book recommendation goes since his magnum opus is so popular.

So instead of writing a very lengthy recommendation on LotR, I am going to discuss the man himself. Humphrey Carpenter is an excellent biographer and definitely does his homework. He is also the only biographer (that I know of) to have gotten permission from J.R.R. Tolkien himself to write it. He therefore had access to a lot of material any other biographer then or since wouldn’t, making this biography one of the best out there about this man. It covers nearly the entirety of Tolkien’s life. From birth, into the wonders of childhood, through the Great War, and beyond into academia and fatherhood (not to mention the parts about writing a few books that caught the world’s attention). I found the time at Oxford the most interesting, but I’m biased toward academia myself. And despite being a non-theologian, I did find Tolkien’s faith and resolve toward it a bit inspiring considering the conflicts it caused among family.

I won’t cover any details because I don’t want to spoil anything in this great insight into the man behind the epic, but there is a good deal about his friendship with C.S. Lewis. I have no doubt that you will learn much about more than just Tolkien from this book. So if you like Tolkien, or just like biographies/history, give this one some consideration. It’s good to read a little history from time to time. It’s like a glimpse into the past.

Life At A Glance

She didn’t ask. She just sat down and I didn’t say anything. She brought a large latte with her and on the side it read Sarah. She looked like a Sarah. I eyed my book but couldn’t focus on the words so I stole images. Her drinking coffee. Her hazel eyes focused on her book. She was cute. Her hair matched her eyes, but there was a tint of red. Perhaps she had dyed it once. Maybe her parents had red hair. Maybe her children would have red hair. Maybe they would be our children if I could find the courage. She would look lovely in a wedding dress. Her smile was captivating, but she wasn’t looking at me. A man came over and gave her a kiss, and they left. That’s all it took. One moment we were happy, then we were strangers, and she didn’t seem to care.