Lynnfield MA, 02/09/1981

As you probably know, if you’ve been reading my blogs for long, I have been working on a novel for the last year and a half. You might also know, that the last 6-9 months of that time I’ve been not doing much on it. Back in October, I started a time-travel story in its own separate blog, and as of today (or 02/09/1980) its word count has surpassed my novel’s. My novel has 38,348 words so far (40,000 is when it ceases to be a novella, and becomes a proper novel) and now my time-travel blog, “Without a Tether,” has 38,833 words.
I know this probably sounds like nonsense to many of you, but it’s a piece that I’m really proud of, and now that it is officially the longest thing I’ve ever written, I just wanted to mention that. I hope you enjoy it!

Without a Tether

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February 9, 1981

My grandmother came over to my apartment, and we recorded our film.  I set up the camera, along with a few lights, I wanted to make sure that she was well lit enough that it wouldn’t allow for any doubt of its authenticity in thirty years.  I wrote a little bit of a script for her to read, in order to convince my parents of who I truly am.  I knew my father would be skeptical, and while DNA would be an option, but I wasn’t sure I could get that far without more evidence.

“Hi Maria, Hi Scott.  By the time you see this film, or Michael calls it a tape.  He says it will be a tape, or disk or something by the time you get to see it, but by the time you see this, I’ll have passed…

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I Shot Myself in the Foot

I want to tell you a story, about an idea I had about ten years ago.  I wanted to write a novel about myself as a time-traveler, going back in time in a one-way time machine to the 1980’s.  I wrote the first chapter, I think it was something like 20 pages, and quickly realized that I didn’t know where to go with it.  But I’ve had the idea on the back burner (it’s getting crowded on the back burner) for the last ten years.  Then, in October, I thought, “why not write the same story, but as a blog.”  So I started writing it as a blog.

Not only was it going to a really easy way to hold myself accountable, to try to post in some kind of regular interval, but also, I thought it would be fun, since WordPress allows me to backdate my blogs all the way back.  So I wrote a post from October of 2010, and then the next from January of 1980.  It’s a gimmick, but one that I really like, and one that has helped to motivate me to write.

Now it’s been about 2 months since I started writing, and I’m writing a ton, I have 26 posts with about 100 pages of content up, and more idea, and it’s been some of the most rewarding writing.  I’ve been exploring the history of my family, plaid with some of the tropes of time-travel, made my mother cry (not fun, but noteworthy), and like most writing, the more I do, the more I want to do.

The problem is this.  I have enough content, that I’m at the point where I want people to start reading it.  I have enough, that I’m confident it won’t be like “oh that was a cool 500 word post, too bad that’s it” and someone forgets about it.  My hope is to get readers on board, and hopefully make it slightly more interactive, while it’s kind of a novel being written as a blog, it is still most importantly a blog, and therefore I want it to be seen and read.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, in my fun gimmick, I have backdated all my posts, so that the newest (actually the oldest) post showing is seven years old.  It doesn’t show up in feeds, because every time I add a new post, it gets placed where all the WordPress posts from 1980 do (WordPress wasn’t created until 2005, so there is a reasonable likelihood that my blog looks like the oldest on the site.)

I could abandon the gimmick, but personally, I’m still really into it.  I’m just going to have to fight an uphill battle trying to get readers, but that’s really only the secondary purpose of writing it in the first place, and the first is the creative outlet, and this gimmick is part of that outlet.

As I’ve said a couple times before here, as I continue to write more for other sites, and have my writing appear in other places and publications, this blog is going to transition into more of a traditional blog, and so one of the functions of this is going to become the desire to talk about (and shamelessly plug) the other writing that I’m doing.  It won’t be all of it, but my hope is that you’ll stay interested.

Now, if you’re into time-travel, and you’re looking for a good long-read for your smartphone or tablet, check out my new(ish) time travel blog, Without A Tether, which may be able to boast the ‘earliest’ WordPress posts ever posted!

How I Treat Characters

Nearly all my characters are based on a person, or an amalgamation of people that I know, or wish I knew.  Not always directly based on real people, sometimes I’ll take a particular feature from someone and it becomes its own character, but almost always there is one or more specific people in mind when creating a character.

I’m not sure if this affects my writing in a positive or negative manner, but writing them this way often affects my relationships with those people in real life, even if they don’t realize it.  Writing a character based on them, starts off with my view of them, but then in the process of writing, I try very hard to make the character fully fleshed out, and believable and not a caricature.  In this part of the process, I can come to appreciate people in my life more.  It’s one of the things I like most about writing characters, but that process does get me attached to characters, and that process makes me defensive of them.

A short story that I’ve been working on, and trying to submit is about a man having an affair, and since the man is more in love with the mistress than his wife, I made the decision to base the mistress character on my wife.  She’s everything good about my wife rolled into a character.  As part of the process, I had some friends whom I trust, read the story and give me feedback.  One friend, who’s feedback was very helpful but is a married woman, referred to the mistress as ‘the slut.’ I understood the impulse, the character is having an affair with a married man, but in the characteristics, in her humor, and everything else, it was my wife, so I felt defensive.  This is definitely the downside of creating characters after people that I love.

In that same short story, I based the main character/narrator as far away from myself as I think I ever have.  I basically took my worst impulses, or things that I would joke about but not do, and created this kind of monster of a character.  My goal was that the reader would think “oh this guy is a total piece of shit.”  Again, not the result I got.  I was told by a male friend that he identified with the character and thought that if he was a middle-aged married father that he would have similar desires/behaviors.  I was shocked as this was the last response I had assumed I would receive.

This short story (which my friends and wife have all said they liked) had left very different impressions than I had intended.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but it is something that is difficult for me to accept.

As I’ve said recently, I’m working on a time-travel blog, and again the characters are based on my real life family and friends.  The difference in this one is that the characters are direct representatives of those people.  The narrator is a 26 year old time-traveler named Michael Cole who goes back in time after his family dies.  I plan on using the series to explore my own life from a detached perspective, someone who knows what’s going on, someone who remembers it, but is watching it from the sidelines.  But in order to motivate the character to travel back in time, he has to lose everything.

I called my sister yesterday, and was like “Um… so I killed you in the thing I’m writing right now.”  I don’t know why I assumed there would be some major offense taken by her, but it was hard for me to do (the modern day events occur in 2010 so she’s aware this isn’t some guess at how it’s gonna happen).  Her response was “oh cool.”  Then being my normal over correcting self, I explained to her what I was doing, and she was excited about it.

I think seeing my sister not flinch at the idea of her being fictionally killed, makes me want to do two things in the further edits of the short story I mentioned above.  First, I want to not worry about the perception of the mistress, and wants me to put more of myself into the husband.

For all those writers out there, do you have a method of creating characters that you use?
Readers, do you like knowing characters are based on real people, or do you prefer characters to be purely fictional?

I Don’t Know What to Do

My son is almost a year and a half old, and I’ve started to shift how I behave despite my belief system.  The best example, is I say ‘fuck’ a lot less in front of him than I used to.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with the word fuck, and personally, I don’t care if he says it, but I realize that other parents, and teachers don’t agree with me, and I don’t want to deal with it.  It’s one of those ingrained beliefs that regardless of how much logic, I won’t be able to explain to them in a way that convinces them my son is doing nothing wrong, so out of the laziness of not wanting to have that particular argument, I have reduced my use of the word.  Moral compromise number one.

Yesterday, at the park, my wife and son and I met a couple with their baby, who is a month or so older than my son.  We had brought bubble guns and both children were having fun and interacted in a very sweet manner.  It was adorable, and the little girl’s parents were extremely nice.  At the end of talking with them, the little girls mother invited us to their church.  It was genuine, and having just found out we were knew to the state, it was inviting us into a community in which we may meet other people with kids.  Her intentions were great, and as a result, I find myself tempted to go.  It is a chance to meet nice people, and I think one thing that churches CAN do well is create a sense of community, and I think that would be great for my son.

On the other hand, I don’t want to go to church, in addition to being something I was never interested in, I do think in large part that organized religion is a huge detriment to society.  I have no problem with people’s individual faith, but for some reason when you introduce an organization or governmental structure to it, corruption seems inevitable.

It has been more than 12 hours, and I’ve been weighing it in my mind, back and forth.  I could go, because obviously there are some genuinely good churches, and I could try to just stay vigilante that their teachings align with what I want my son to grow up knowing/believing, but I also like the idea of him not growing up with organized religion.

My wife, strongly believes in Jesus, and yet she has never really been (at least not for any decent stretch of time) a member of a specific church.  Her faith, and her kindness are no less than that of the people I know who go regularly (I find in a decent amount of those weekly or Wednesday and Sunday churchgoers that she is a better person).  I on the other hand was raised Catholic, an institution which I would not recommend to anyone, and I think I’m genuinely fucked up because of it.

Sure, I know more about religion than most protestants that I know, but the amount of guilt and conflict I feel regularly is seriously problematic to living a happy and healthy life.  I often feel guilty about things I know that I shouldn’t, and the fact of how deeply embedded in me some of their bullshit is really makes me disgusted with myself.  I haven’t considered myself a Catholic in at least 15 years, and yet, when discussing religion with Protestants (many of whom have annoyingly referred to themselves as ‘just Christians’) I have often said “we’re Christians too, we’re the original Christians” finding myself lumping myself in with a religion that I couldn’t want less a part of.

As I said before, I have no problem with people of faith, and to be honest, I have a great respect for many of them.  My mother is a devout Catholic, and while I have a lot of logical issues with the way she thinks, I think that overall she’s a great woman with a strong moral compass, and I have the utmost respect for her.  Also, I have a goddaughter in the Catholic Church, and while I don’t personally believe in that faith, if I ever were left in charge of her, I would raise her in the religion as I promised to do (luckily she’s 17 and I don’t think that’s really something I’m going to have to do, but I would if it happened.)

My problem is that I don’t want my son being raised with the hang-ups, or round the attitudes that I associate with religion.  I don’t want him thinking sexual behavior is deviant, or sinful if it is between two consenting adults, and there are all of the other obvious issues that many people have with religion, but there are the less obvious.  I think church itself is in many ways a bragging right issue.  I know people, who think they are better than others simply because they go to church, people who are kind of crappy people, but they go show up in a building once or twice a week, and listen to someone else tell them about a book they haven’t read.  I believe, if there is a God, and He (or She) made everything, then why do I have to go to a special building to celebrate him?  Why isn’t all of nature ‘His house?’  Why do I have to go listen to some other flawed human tell me what He means?

I have spent the last 33 years determining my own views on God.  Trying to un-brainwash myself, and figure out what I believe, and I’m worried about bringing my son into that same scenario.  On the other hand though, what if this is one of the good ones?  What if this church is truly not-for-profit, and these people are genuinely loving and good people?  I don’t want to deny him that either.

So, I’m torn.  Because I want what is best for him, and at this point, I’m genuinely not sure what that is.

I Absolutely Love Being a Father

Sometimes, our lives get busy, and we tend to overlook things.  We get into a rhythm and things get done more from rote memory than conscious decision.  This doesn’t mean that those things aren’t important, or wonderful they are just easy to not give much thought to.  Then a curveball comes through, and we are snapped back into the reality of our lives.

Thursday morning before my son or I woke up, my wife left to fly back up to Massachusetts for one of her best friends’ baby shower, and so I have been on sole parenting duty for two and a half days.  I knew for months that it was coming, but I’ve never gone so long without a pair of helping hands with him (14-15 hours max probably) and so I was a little nervous.  Would he sleep well, I had to work Thursday and Friday and needed to get some rest, and so as a pessimist I had all the possible negatives run through my head.

None happened.  The last two days have been the best I’ve had with him at least since I went back to work.  We’ve played, and had pizza, and he’s slept great, and got himself stuck in numerous large toys.  It hasn’t been without him crying, and there have been all the lesser quality everyday baby things (i.e. Diapers) but it’s been a blast.

It reminded me that I love being a father, and I really needed to be reminded!  The thing with a lot of things in our lives, is that the repetition makes us forget, and with things like fatherhood, it’s easy to forget.  I never forget that I love my son, when I look at him, I feel it instantly but that is a different feeling than loving being a father.  And I’ll be honest, I may only love being HIS father, maybe it’s just he’s the perfect kid for me and I’d love it less with another kid, but I love being his father, and for right now that means I love being A father.

This experience has made me realize that when things get busier in our lives, if my wife needs to go take care of things, I can definitely step up.  I think I could definitely do a longer stretch of time, and that it would only make me happier.

These several days away from wife, also made me realize that I love being a husband, in addition to loving her.  I love that I can hold down the fort so she can do the things she needs to, and so she can get a little bit of a rest.

(Now just in case I made it sound like I don’t do much on a normal basis, that’s not really the case.  I change diapers and get up at night regularly, and I think my wife and I are split close to down the middle. Also I realize that getting pizza and not cooking probably sounds much easier than many parenting situations and I don’t for a second think this is as hard as being a single parent.)

Megan Fox is a Slut, because She Winks Like a Pornstar: Or Why I Lose Every Facebook Fight I Get Into

I try (and sometimes fail) to not be a troll when getting into Facebook arguments.  If I decide to engage someone with a differing opinion, I try to give a thoughtful and reasoned argument defending my opinion.  Inevitably, I do not get the same in return.

“That’s just my opinion.”

If you get into a Facebook argument, you will absolutely hear this thrown out there.  What it is, is a statement saying, “regardless of how obviously it may seem that I’m wrong, I can’t possibly be wrong if its just my opinion.”  It’s the equivalent of a little kid being like “your superpower can’t beat me, because I have the superpower to get any superpower including the one to beat yours.”

Unfortunately, we have the phrase “everyone’s entitled to an opinion,” which is while is technically true, does seem to be over extended and taken as “all opinions have equal weight and merit” which is absolutely not true.  If you have no evidence, or data to back up your opinion, and you are given evidence and data on the opposing opinion, yours is inferior (at least until some time at which you can provide some substance).

The sideways argument/crossing streams.

I call the it sideways arguing, when you’re having a discussion about A, and instead of A your discussion partner, or argument opponent, or whatever you want to call them, keeps straying off topic but thinking it’s still valid.  We’ll take the classic debate of “Should pizza have pineapple on it or not?”  One person argues that the sweet contrasts well with the other more savory flavors on a pizza, and the other states that pineapple doesn’t have the proper texture for a pizza topping.  As the debate wages on, one side sees they’re ill-equipped to continue, or to win, and says “well, I just think pepperoni is the best topping.”

What the fuck does that mean? What does that have to do with this argument?

In the confusion of this totally sideways argument, the person who said it, thinks they’ve won the argument, or at least gained new ground, because they’ve baffled their opponent, when really it’s like you’re having a civilized discussion, and they whipped their dick out, you just don’t know what is going on anymore.

Too stupid to lose.

I know, that in this I sound like a condescending douche (and at times, I certainly can be) but hear me out on this one.  Often times when engaging in a Facebook argument, you’ll pummel someone over the head with information, and reasoned arguments, but you’re not factoring in whether or not they’re intelligent enough to understand that to any third party reading your conversation, you have one handily.

The absolute stupidest argument that I ever got into, was when I saw a (former) Facebook friend post “Megan Fox is a slut!” and I assume there were some emojis, but it’s been at least five years so I don’t remember.

My response, because as many of you may know, I hate the word slut in most common usage, and this was definitely and offender, was to ask “why is she a slut?”  The response I got was baffling, and should have been my cue to stop the discussion in its tracks, but I didn’t.

“Because she winks like a pornstar.”

It was, and still is, such a stupid argument, that my brain hurts thinking about it.  Of course, I tried to use logic to back out of it and get to a better place in the argument.  I asked “what do pornstars wink like? Does she breath like a porn star? Does she eat like a porn star?  I think the only thing that matters is whether or not she has sex on camera, as to her comparison to a porn star.”  None of that worked, because for some reason there was no connection, no light behind the eyes, saying “hey this is a dumb argument” on the other side.  I let this particular argument go back and forth for hours before eventually my wife told me to unfollow the post, so I wouldn’t see any further arguments.

Because I engage in Facebook arguments.

Ultimately, it is ALWAYS my fault, that I lose an argument, or that I get frustrated in the argument, because ultimately, I decided to engage in the argument.  After years of doing this, I have not learned that Facebook arguments aren’t ‘Debate Club’ and we’re not awarded points for well made arguments, and in the end there is no sportsman like shaking of hands.  In the end, someone stops responding.

I wish I could say, that while I continue to engage, at least it’s a new argument partner every time, but even that isn’t true.  I let myself engage with people whom have shown no desire to have an honest or thoughtful discussion or argument, and for some dumb reason I always think “well this is too obvious for me to lose,” and yet I always lose, because I even engaged in the first place.

I think I have a compulsion, because not checking the arguments, not responding, all comes with it a deep stomach ache, which is then only worsened when responses do come.  Hopefully, by writing this, I will allow myself to stop engaging in these arguments, but I think I know that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

As a last thought, I should mention, while I do sometimes engage in arguments that others would consider to be trivial, I do usually see a moral obligation to engage and defend a moral standpoint.  Even the Megan Fox example, to me was important.  And no, I haven’t really engaged in the pineapple pizza argument, because I do not see the moral necessity.