I Should Blog More

I should blog more. That's what I keep telling myself, but I've been either very busy or very distracted. Either way, I've allowed far too much time to pass in between posts, and that's upsetting. What better time to get started again than Pride Month? After all, this was supposed to be a big month. The second book in the Stormborn series, The Knave and the Fool, was going to be released for sure. I had a plan. But that plan went to shit.

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Winter Interlude

I feel a little overwhelmed. I've been working on several short stories, all with publication dates in February; I've been building a massive new website for my friends; I'm practicing for the National Counselor Examination for my license; and I've been preparing for the OWFI writing contest and conference. I keep thinking that my tendency to procrastinate had something to do with this.

But there's no time for blame. I'm taking a short break from my daily routine to write a post that Erin recommended. It's an alphabetical list about...well...it's kinda self-explanatory. Without further ado, behold!

26 Things About Me

jack

A — Age. I'm 32 years old. Some people might be hesitant to say their own age, but I think I've earned these years. I'm proud of them. And I think the fact that men tend to be prouder of their age than women is a sad sociocultural construction that needs to be shattered. Speak your age proudly, and fuck anyone who says anything. Be proud of the age you've earned.

Yeah, this isn't gonna be just letters and me talking about me. That'd be boring for me. What? Did you think I blogged for you? Selfish.

B — Biggest Fear. I have a small phobia of decapitation. You may say, It's not a phobia if it's a reasonable fear," but I'm telling you it's totally unreasonable. Like, I get the jitters if I'm up on a step ladder and a ceiling fan is too close to my head. Where the ceiling fan in question is on the lowest setting, and too close to my head" means it's within two feet of my hair. Terrifying.

Adrean loves to joke about how terrified I was on Space Mountain at Disney World because there was so much stuff passing over our heads. I wouldn't raise my arms at all. I should also mention that the guy in front of me did raise his arms, and he was over six feet tall.

Why hasn't a counselor, who knows that specific phobia is one of the easiest-to-treat anxiety disorders in existence (except for blood, injection, and injury phobias), sought treatment for this? Well, I think it's funny. I'd hate to lose that. Also, it's not terribly distressing. I get anxious on roller coasters and around fans, but the fear doesn't actually stop me from doing the fun thing (or the necessary thing, if I happen to be cleaning the bladeswhy are they called blades?!). So it's not a high priority for me.

harley

C — Cats. I love cats, but I have none of my own. I do essentially have one at Adrean's house. A cute little thing called Harley Quinn after the Batman villain of the same name. They're very similar, too, in that the cat is probably a psychotic murderer of small reptiles and insects.

I used to hate cats. When I was little, I had a little dissimulation of canaries. My mom used to keep them outside for me, on my second-floor balcony (the balcony was connected to the back porch by a back set of stairs and a sliding door that went right into my bedroom). One day, a cat got in, opened the cage (it was one of those doors that simply slide up), and ate them all. I hated cats after that.

It took me a while to forgive cats for being predators, but I did eventually. And now, Harley, a quintessential predator, is probably my favorite feline on the planet. She's loud, obnoxious, and needy, but she's so beautiful. If my allergies to those furry beasts were less severe, she'd be in my lap right now, cuddling.

D — Daughters. I have one adopted daughter, aged 23 years, going on 24. She's in grad school right now, and she's a talented artist. I won't say much about her because, unlike Harley, she has a right to privacy. Many people do want to know how a 32-year-old has a 23-year-old daughter. I point you to the keyword adopted." Too many people miss that you don't have to get them as babies.

Can you imagine? At nine I could barely care for a turtle, let alone a baby girl!

E — Everyday Starts With... Waking up. Honestly, that's the only thing that everyday has in common for me. Sure, I shower and stuff, but it's not always the first thing I do! And I've clearly been taking every single one of these questions seriously. They demand attention!

Also, it's the hardest thing I have to do in the mornings. Once I'm up, I want to shower. I feel gross in the mornings, and my morning breath is so bad I can feel it in my mouth like a thick film of oozy, old saliva. I'm also hungry, so breakfast isn't an issue. I'm tired, so coffee will come into play at some point. But waking up? That's the one thing I don't want to do.

Especially now. It's winter, it's cold, it's snowy; and my bed is warm and comfy and I want to stay there forever and ever. Ripping off the sheets is like ripping off a band-aid. I don't wanna do it. So, yes, everyday starts with a struggle to get out of bed and figure out what I'm gonna do with the rest of my day.

I think I'm gonna stop there for now. I'll work on doing these five at a time, but I promise detailed and exciting answers to each of the alphabetically organized question-fragments. Good day to all of you!

Eureka! On Poetry

I was about to try to write a blog post, and then I get this bang. Right in the face! And then I wrote the first poem I’ve written in years. I need to write more poetry, if for no other reason than to practice my prose.

I honestly do feel that there’s a lot that poetry can teach prose writer. Of course, prose doesn’t need meter or stanzas, but even practicing these can help you write better prose. Far more than flash fiction, poetry values conciseness. Every word has to punch imagery and visceral experience into your gut. Every word has to make the text come alive for you. But when you write prose, it becomes easy to forget that imagery and metaphor that paints a scene into something vivid. Without it, prose is airy and bland.

Mastering meter means adding a rare element to your prose: musicality. Musicality modifies the tone of any prose piece, much like a musical score modifies the tone of a movie. Becoming aware of it can help you to add a next layer of meaning to your story. There’s a reason that Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta respects the letter V, and it’s not just because it’s in the title. It’s the character’s soubriquet, it’s the Roman numeral representing the number five (for fifth of November and the room that V was kept in), and it means virtuous vengeful victory. It also looks like the outline of an arrow, the point directed down towards the people. The people are both the target of totalitarianism’s arrow and the direction where the true power in the state lies.

Just imagine—your piece of literature could be the subject of this level of academic scrutiny! All you have to do is acquire the invaluable ability to alliterate adeptly.

Practicing poetry-writing can help you develop good habits. For example, you’ll step into a new scene immediately concerning yourself with setting and how it affects the emotional mood of the scene. You’ll focus on using words that add to the mood that you’re trying to create (e.g., “The prince rode a stallion”—not mustang—“into the ballroom," but "the prince rode his mustang over the cliff."). You’ll learn to use consonance to modify the mood when something different happens (e.g., from “the princess lowered her head in greeting” to “the knight’s dagger clinked against his belt buckle when he ripped it from its sheath.”). You’ll do this all the time, and not for only a few sentences while you’re specifically trying to make a point!

Clearly, I want to follow my own advice—and I have in the past! But I want you to do it too! I’ve seen it do wonders for others’ writing. And if nothing else, you learn more about the most ancient form of writing known to man (aside from tax records and vulgar graffiti).

Take a course online, like one from The Great Courses. This one, “Lives and Works of the English Romantic Poets” with Dr. Willard Spiegelman, is a good start and a study of one of the most influential periods in history of English literature. Then take a college course and go further! Or, just look stuff up on YouTube or Wikipedia. Educate yourself.

Until you get there, I’ll start you off with “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins.

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Drink! Drink!

I went to Starbucks this morning for my regular cup of coffee. Iced, because although it's cold out, I've never been a big fan of hot drinks, and people make fun of me when I order coffee at “kid's temp.” I usually use the drive-thru, but the line was out into the street, so I decided I'd go ahead and park.

Time for coffee!

A photo posted by Jack Burgos (@jack_burgos) on

Inside, I say to myself, This is a perfect time for an Instagram photo! So I took one, titled it “Time for coffee!” then I realize the barista is ready to take my order. As I wait, I'm hanging out by the bar playing with Instagram—realizing that my account is still linked to my old Twitter account—and I keep hearing the barista next to me yell, “Drink!” about once every 20 seconds. The guy is fast, no doubt trying to burn through the ever-growing drive-thru line.

I thought it was funny, so I told him, “I don't have my drink yet! I can't!”

He laughed.

Then I did that thing that I do where I explain the joke. Not because I think he needs it explained to him, but because I love explaining things. I do miss teaching. Not teaching at the middle school level, but teaching in general. That's why I applied to work as a part-time faculty member at Tulsa Community College. I miss pedagogy, and psychoeducation during therapy sessions just doesn't fill my need. If I get to teach a class in the Spring semester, I think I might explode for joy. I'm not quite expecting it, but I'm really hoping.

I'm coming to love mornings. I don't feel at my best so early in the day, but I do feel more positive when I'm up and the sun still faces east. The day seems full of possibilities. And, when night comes, I feel tired and sleep well.

I've been combing YouTube for sleep relaxation videos, specifically guided meditations that I can do while lying in bed. They hearken back to when I was young and joined my mom in her metaphysics groups. I used to fall asleep during meditations. The leaders of an angel-worship group my mom once belonged to would say that falling asleep would prevent me from fully experiencing the visions that the angels were giving me. Now, that group is defunct. Its leader either ascended to another plane of existence or had a nervous breakdown. Who can know?

Either way, telling an overworked teenager not to sleep when you sedate him with music and calming imagery is a little like telling a dog not to lick himself. My dog'll stop, but he'll start again after a few minutes. More importantly, I felt really nice during those meditations.

Last night I found one that had me observe the space in front of my eyes. Then the soft-spoken narrator told me to clear the area and write two long sentences on a blank space with a brush. He asked me to do it again before I was done writing the first set of sentences. The rest of the meditation was more relaxing, but I wasn't a fan of how quickly the man moved from one set of instructions to the next. Ten minutes later, I was out. I don't remember a thing after that...at least until my Fitbit managed to nudge me awake at 8:05am. So the meditation did its job, but I'll keep searching for one that doesn't softly inform me that my imagery time is up before moving onto the next task.

By noon, every person at Starbucks will have been forced to drink (something/anything) some 585 times. No breaks. None of them will have had time to go to the bathroom. One of them will say, “I've had to pee for the last four hours!”

The barista who had been shouting “Drink” at the drive-thru staff followed my joke by saying, in a booming, deep voice, “I don't care! Keep drinking!”

I laughed.

This is a good morning.

We Have Our Broken World

As I begin writing this post, it is July 10th at 11:59pm. And we are done making all decisions regarding Broken Worlds. As of right now, you should've received either an email from us regarding whether or not your story will be published within the pages of Broken Worlds on July 31st. If you haven't received an email from us, please let us know through Facebook, Twitter, or my contact page

Thank you to everyone who submitted. At the end of the day, we had so many great pieces that declining some was utterly painful. Unfortunately, we had to draw the line at how many pieces we could accept. (Actually, I skirted a little over that line. Which might've been bad.)

Future updates on the Broken Worlds anthology will be published through this website, the A Murder of Storytellers website, and all of our respective social media platforms. So make sure you're following A Murder of Storytellers on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and all those other places. And while you're at it, follow metoo. I always have important stuff to say.

Okay, that's not wholly true. Every once in a while I have important stuff to say. But you don't wanna miss those times!